What Saith the Scripture?
Gospel Ministers Ambassadors for Christ
by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College
from "The Oberlin Evangelist" Publication of Oberlin College
March 12, 1856
Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
Text.--2 Cor. 5:20: "Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God."
An ambassador is an agent or representative of a government. In ancient times,
they were employed only in regard to matters of war and peace. In those times, commercial
relations were of small account, compared with what they are now. Now it is common
to sustain ambassadors at all the foreign courts, to look after those numerous relations
that obtain between nations at peace with each other. No such thing was thought of
in New Testament times. Our Savior speaks of ambassadors being sent, but it was only
to "offer conditions of peace." In this sense, God sends His ambassadors
to guilty men.
The Church, and especially her gospel ministers represent Christ on earth, and are engaged to do His work. The world being in revolt against its own Maker, Ruler and Father, He sends His ministers as ambassadors to plead with men to be reconciled to God. Ministers are divinely appointed and commissioned for this express purpose. Holding their credentials from the Lord Jesus Christ, they are authorized to offer men free pardon on condition of unqualified submission to God's will and acceptance of pardon in the name of Jesus only. I need only say, on this point, that a duly appointed ambassador holds such relations to both parties, that, while acting within his commission, his acts bind the government he represents, as truly as their own acts can do. His business is to keep within his commission and instructions, and report what he has done. Then his action is conclusive upon his employers.
I. Sinners are not reconciled to God.
II. But what is implied in being reconciled?
I. The text assumes that sinners are not reconciled to God.
This is, of course, true of every sinner. It is indeed only an identical proposition -- a mere truism -- only another way of saying the same thing. Sin is transgression of God's law, and, of course, is opposition and not friendship towards God. This is the very idea of being a sinner. To say that a sinner is unreconciled to God is only to say that he is a sinner. The being a sinner, implies an unreconciled state.
It is plain that God looks on sinners as being unreconciled; else how should He call on them to be reconciled? I am aware that sinners often say, "I have nothing against God," but this only shows that they know not what spirit they are of. They really act towards God as if they had the utmost reason for disliking Him; and if they were carefully to search their own hearts, they would find real enmity against God -- a spirit that loves to find fault, even where there is not the least occasion.
It is a simple and notorious fact that sinners are at variance with God. There is not another fact on all the face of this world's history more patent than this.
II. But what is implied in being reconciled?
That we cordially approve His character, and not His character only, but His government, so that we practically consent to obey Him. This implies supreme love to God, for He requires just no less than this. It implies submission to His providence also -- that is, to His actual administration of the affairs of this world. It includes a cordial embracing of His whole will -- in every department of His government and providence. A cordial and constant co-operation with Him in all His ways, must be embraced; for as He holds the position of Supreme Ruler, nothing less than this can be commensurate with our obligations.
Again, it is expedient. It will cost you nothing. It will deprive you of no good. In every point of view, expediency demands that you submit to God. I know sinners are often ashamed to admit that themselves are wrong; but which is most honorable; to maintain a position which everybody decides to be wrong; or to recede from that position -- nobly come out, and confess and avow what you know to be right, though it condemn your own past course? What do men say of those who doggedly maintain a wrong position because they are too proud to confess their known wrong? Do they honor such a spirit? Nay, verily, but , on the contrary, men always say if you have done wrong, it is noble and generous to admit it. What a wonderful thing to have a controversy with God, and maintain it, because you cannot brook the humiliation of confession and repentance! What! To contend with God, knowing that you are utterly wrong, and God altogether right; yet you maintain the controversy and go into it deeper and deeper every hour! What would you think of a child that should have such a controversy with its father, the child totally wrong in every point, the father perfectly right, and yet the child persists in maintaining the controversy?
Again, consider, God seeks a reconciliation -- seeks it although He is the offended and injured party, and although your course has been utterly and unreasonably wrong, and only wrong continually. Yes, the offended party comes and seeks reconciliation. He would live in peace with you. Not that He wants your help; for, is He dependent on you? No; but He seeks your peace and welfare -- seeks it simply and only because He is kindhearted and really benevolent.
God seeks to be at peace with you, not because He fears you; not lest you should destroy or even mar His happiness; no; you are to Him so small and so contemptible an enemy, He has only to withdraw His sustaining hand from underneath you, and you sink at once to hell by your own gravity. It is only because He loves you that He should ever care to bring you from your wretched rebellion to be at peace with Him.
While God might command and might threaten, He yet for the most part, appears in a very different attitude. Laying this aside, He comes down to beseech you to be reconciled. Just as if your neighbor, who had all law and right on his side; who might prosecute you at law, and might prove you in the wrong, and make you suffer the consequences -- should, instead of this, come to you in a modest and quiet way, entreating you and saying -- "Now let us be at peace." So God comes in tones of most tender entreaty, and beseeches you to be reconciled.
And is this God's bearing towards thee, O sinner? Precisely so; these are God's own words. And He feels thus and speaks thus only because He so dislikes to take vengeance. Therefore, it is that He waits so long and so patiently, and still comes forth in mercy to entreat and beseech wayward sinners to be reconciled to God.
1. Sinners often pretend to think the difficulty is on God's part. They say -- "I have nothing against God; I am reconciled to God."
What does that mean? Do you really mean that you yield obedience to God, and in every way, take your own proper position towards Him? How can you say that while you are in conflict with Him at every point?
What base hypocrisy it is for sinners to set aside the whole question by saying -- I have nothing against God. But you have something against God. Your heart is full of prejudice against Him. You utterly fail to love, honor, or obey Him! Not one thing, appropriate to your relations to God, have you ever done! How basely hypocritical, then, for you to claim that you have nothing against God, and that all is right on your part!
2. Sinners seem to think that they must move God. They will have it they must persuade God to make up with them, and almost, if not quite, confess, that He has been in the wrong. Instead of praying that they may themselves come back to God and feeling that they ought to, they insist that God ought to come back to them. You may have heard of the little girl who became convicted of her sins, and who prayed for a long time with great agony; but, at length, got hold of the true idea of her relations to God and of God's to her, and running in, she cried out to her mother, "Ma, ma, I have made up with God!"
3. The world has gone off into rebellion against God, and is utterly removed from all sympathy with Him. Upon this state of things, God has ordained an economy of proceedings, all arranged for the one purpose of restoring man to love and obedience. It aims to illustrate God's government and yet to demonstrate His love. In the development of this great plan, Christ came in person to His own chosen people; when they reviled, He reviled not again; when they cursed, He only blessed; when they blasphemed, He prayed for them; and when they plotted and perpetrated His murder by most wicked hands, He prayed, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do, and proceeded at once to offer them pardon through the very blood they had shed, "beginning at Jerusalem." In how many ways did He strive to teach men, even sinners, that God is their friend, displeased, indeed, with their sins, yet earnestly seeking their welfare and ready at once to blot out all their transgressions, if they will repent and accept of mercy. See how beautifully all this stands revealed before us in the last scenes of the Savior's earthly life. You know how He finally died under their hands; how He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, meekly and unresisting; how they mocked Him, put on Him a crown, not of pearls, but of thorns -- a reed in one hand for a scepter; how, when the Roman Governor would release Him, they preferred the scandalous Barabbas, as if glad of an opportunity to show their appreciation of the Son of God! You know how this mobocrat and murder was released instead of Jesus, and how they heaped on Him every form of abuse and of insult they could devise. And did He lose all patience? Does He call for twelve legions of angels to sink that guilty city a thousand fathoms deep in the gulf of destruction? No; far from this as can be! After He has comforted His disciples, the first thing He does is to say -- "Go, preach My gospel among all nations, but begin at Jerusalem." Go, first of all, to My murderers!
4. And now, after this demonstration by "God manifest in the flesh," can you suppose that the difficulty is on God's part, and that He cannot consent on reasonable grounds to be reconciled to you?
5. How can this difficulty be settled? God on His side says -- "What can I do more that I have not done" to you? As one of Christ's ambassadors, I ask -- What more shall God do for you? Can you suppose anything short of your yielding up the whole controversy can save you? Indeed, if God were to change ever so much, and recede from His claims ever so fully, your conscience would wage everlasting war against you and you could get no peace! I said to a young lady -- Are you a Christian? She replied, "I believe God deserves better treatment than He has ever received from me." What sinner does not know this? And who would not be compelled to say it if he where shut up to the truth? You know you have no occasion to treat Him with any, even the least, contempt.
6. If He deserves better treatment at your hands, shall He have it? What do you say to that? Shall He have it from this time and onward forever? God being your helper, and by His grace, will you yield entirely to His claims? This is implied in being reconciled to God; have you any reason why you should not do it?
7. Suppose God should abandon all efforts to make peace with you! This is more than supposable; it will certainly take place ere long. He has plainly told you that He will not always strive with you. And, besides, it is every way reasonable that He should at some time desist from all further effort. You could not think it strange if He were to desist now. It should even be expected. Suppose, then, that His compassion should fail -- His forbearance go no further -- the Spirit be withdrawn, God give you over to hopeless impenitence and endless woe -- to let your enmity rage on forever; what then? Suppose this result which surely must be reached in time, were reached today? There remains no more hope for you. You can look back on a hopeful past -- a period when you sat near the very gate of heaven, and almost without effort, you might have pressed your way within the strait gate; but that time has forever past. O, how you wish you could have one more gospel Sabbath, and have another gospel sermon, and have once more a waiting Savior and a striving Spirit! O might it only be! But with you it is all too late!
Are you not afraid of this result? You know God will not wait long. You know you have abused His patience already, past all human endurance, and how long can you presume that even divine forbearance and compassion will hold out?
Having made you proposals from my Master, and in His name, I come now to demand from you an answer. What shall I say from you to my Master? Suppose I come to you individually -- for this business is all to be done with you as individuals -- I come to you, then, as individuals, and would fain know what you reply to my Master. I am going to report the matter; what shall I report? Do you say that you have no report to make -- that you take no action in the case? But this is impossible. To try to do nothing, is to neglect this offered salvation, and insult your Redeemer, and say back to God -- "Depart from us; we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways!' It is scarcely possible that any action can be so fatal as this.
Suppose Christ should appear -- in this very place and hour -- and with a voice that should shake this house, should say, "I come to demand a decision! Tell Me now, once for all, whether you will or will not repent -- whether you will or will not have salvation through My blood! Now, therefore, let every sinner choose the ground he proposes to stand on forever. As you say now, so it shall be at the judgment, and so shall stand through eternity!"
So Jesus does beseech you to choose this day whom you will serve, and so He may accept your virtual decision as final, and set His seal upon it forever!
of easily misunderstood terms as defined by Mr. Finney himself.
Compiled by Katie Stewart
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