What Saith the Scripture?

On Offering Praise to God

by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College

from "The Oberlin Evangelist" Publication of Oberlin College
Lecture IX
December 17
, 1856

Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart

Text.--Psa. 50:23: "Whoso offereth praise, glorifieth Me."

Praise is commendation. To praise one, is to commend him.

The text affirms that he who offers praise glorifies God. Let us enquire --

I. What is implied in offering acceptable praise to God?

II. What is it, we next enquire, to glorify God?

I. What is implied in offering acceptable praise to God?

II. What is it, we next enquire, to glorify God?

For proof of this, we readily appeal to the irresistible convictions of every such being. When you have received a favor, do you not feel that you do wrong if you refuse to acknowledge it? Could you think yourself commendable if you refused to honor your parents, supposing them to be good? When you have abused your loving and kind father or mother, can you escape self-reproach? Do you not both know and feel that you have neglected a plain duty, and done them a great wrong? The fact is, that praise in such a case is intrinsically demanded. As regards God, you know that He deserves to be praised. If you neglect it, you do Him great injustice. You know He is worthy of it, and you cannot refuse without the conviction that you withhold it from Him most wickedly.

Now, who does not see that, if this took place between a son and his father, this very silence would be a terrible stab? Who could bear it? When Christians take this course towards God, must it not tend naturally to injure His interests among men? If you, young men, were never to speak well of your father, would you not greatly detract from his influence? If you wished to sustain and establish his influence, could you hope to do it withholding all due commendation? Suppose you should never speak well of him; could you hope, in this way, to honor him?

The offering of praise to God is important for its bearing,

(1.) Upon God;

(2.) Upon ourselves;

(3.) Upon others.

In the application of this point to God, men are prone to overlook the fact that God's susceptibilities are infinite, and that, consequently, He must feel far more acutely than any other being can. All is right in His character. If He were insensible to praise, it would be a great defect in Him. We could not approve His character if He were regardless of the esteem in which His creatures hold Him. For, this would be equivalent to being regardless of their happiness.

Hence, the praises of heaven are not only useful to those who offer them, but are grateful to Him to whom they are offered. They aid Him in carrying out His purposes of love, because they lead His creatures to a better appreciation of His character and works. If it be useful to an earthly monarch to have his subjects speak well of him, how much more so to God!

Make the case our own. How would you increase my usefulness? Suppose you were to do as a friend of mine did many years ago, when I was young in the ministry. I had begun to preach in a place; the Spirit of the Lord came among us with power; but the adversary, true to his usual instincts, began to circulate all sorts of false and foul stories about me and my former labors. This friend came in just at that moment, and denounced those false stories, told them what he knew of me, and showed them that these rumors were malicious slanders, gotten up to injure especially the work of God. These efforts of my friend were greatly blessed.

God's influence in the universe depends greatly on the praise offered to Him by His people, and by all who know Him. This praise is the more effective for good because where sin goes, there goes unbelief, and a want of confidence in God. The praises of His people bear a direct testimony against this wicked withdrawal of confidence from God. Then, let us never overlook the fact that God's influence is augmented by our testimony to His goodness.

The spirit of praise in us is essential to our fitness for heaven. Without it, there could be no sympathy between our spirit and theirs. I have sometimes thought that old professors would object to heaven -- there is so much enthusiasm there!

Another striking illustration of the same truth we read in the closing verses of 2 Chron. 5 -- a passage which details the services performed at the solemn dedication of the temple. Of this the historian says -- "It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying, For He is good; for His mercy endureth forever; that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord; so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God."

No doubt your own observation, and I hope also, your experience has given you instances in which praise has seemed to bring down great blessings upon the people. When the spirit of praise bursts forth, then the Lord Himself breaks forth in His glorious mercy.

But when they see only a legal religion, full of mourning and sadness, they are repelled. When they see the spirit of praise bursting all its banks like Jordan in harvest, and overflowing all the soul, they instinctively say -- "That is good! That is worth having!" This gives them the sunny side of religion. Not that religion itself has any other than sunny sides; but the way thither through conviction, and the return to it after backslidings, may be very unlike a sunny side. These sometimes become a great stumbling block to wicked men.

Hence, praise is one of the highest means of influence over the wicked. Sometimes we fail to do good by prayer, and accomplish nothing till we turn our souls to praise.


1. Sinners, remaining such, cannot praise God. Neither can legalists, nor back-sliders, nor those who are in spiritual bondage.

2. Many ministers present only the shady side of religion. Indeed, they have not been on the sunny side themselves, and therefore know too little about it to preach of it to any purpose. The same is true of many professors of religion. Their whole experience is that of conviction and complaint. They never seem to break forth in the spirit of praise and thanksgiving. Consequently they never draw sinners to Christ.

3. Some entire churches are in this very state. O, how grievously do they misrepresent God and religion! Of course they do but very little good. They have not the true spirit of God's children. Without the spirit of praise, how can they hope to glorify God?

4. No one glorifies God in his life who does not praise God. Indeed, our lives dishonor God unless we praise Him.

5. We see why there is so much more prayer in the church than praise. We dwell more on what we lack than on what we have. This is a great evil among us, that we should forget what we have received, and thus dishonor and displease God. Another reason for so little praise in our times, is that people fear it will look like boasting to stand up and testify for God and His goodness. The case of a man, whom I saw recently in a revival, is in point here. He had been away from the place on business, and failed to appreciate the spirit that pervaded the people there. When he came back he would often whisper to me -- "There seems to be a spirit of boasting here." But, curiously, after he had been there awhile, he too, caught the spirit of praise, and would pour forth his praises with loud voice and gushing tears. But after being absent awhile and returning, his first impressions were as before; and only when the spirit of praise filled his own soul did he appreciate the feelings of the brethren in their praise of Almighty God.

6. Another reason is, we overlook the importance and use of praise. Prayer we understand better. Less is thought and felt of the duty of praise.

Praise is one of the great instruments by which God answers our prayers. When we have prayed for souls, and then the spirit of praise comes upon us, and our souls break forth in thanksgiving, lo, then our God comes! I think now of the case of a father who had long prayed for his children. At last, the spirit of praise came upon him with great power, and then God answered his prayers in the conversion of his children.

Why should not we have more meetings for praise? I have often thought that our meetings on Thanksgiving day should suggest the wisdom of having more meetings of the same sort, in which each one should have opportunity to express his own personal grounds for thanksgiving and praise, and call on his brethren to join him in thanksgiving. On such occasions, how often have we said -- Did not our hearts burn within us while we heard one and another recount the mercies of the Lord toward himself, and saw him pour out the testimony of a full heart in grateful tears? Why do we not continue these meetings, and have stated seasons for praise as well as prayer -- praise-meetings, no less than prayer meetings. If we were to have a meeting for praise and recount the acts of Divine goodness towards us and ours, surely it would bless us more than anything else. Let those who can praise bear witness to the goodness of their God!

O, let it be understood by all and never forgotten, that we are most ungrateful to God when we restrain praise. Shall we go on begging and begging, and never thank God for what we have? Can it be a less sin to restrain praise than to restrain prayer?

7. The absence of praise denotes a lack of faith. The filial, trustful spirit bears a deep sympathy with praise. And where the filial spirit is not, praise is uncongenial. I have often been struck with this, that those who have only a spirit of agony and no praise, are not wont to prevail greatly in prayer.

Those who cannot sympathize with praise are not saved; they have not the spirit of heaven. You who are in sin -- what could you do in heaven? You who have no heart for praise, what would you do in heaven? You could have no sympathy with its employments, or its joy, and you would have no heart to stay in such society and amid such sympathies! None can be there but such as love to glorify God, and God is to be glorified pre-eminently by praise.

of easily misunderstood terms as defined by Mr. Finney himself.
Compiled by Katie Stewart

  1. Complacency, or Esteem: "Complacency, as a state of will or heart, is only benevolence modified by the consideration or relation of right character in the object of it. God, prophets, apostles, martyrs, and saints, in all ages, are as virtuous in their self-denying and untiring labours to save the wicked, as they are in their complacent love to the saints." Systematic Theology (LECTURE VII). Also, "approbation of the character of its object. Complacency is due only to the good and holy." Lectures to Professing Christians (LECTURE XII).

  2. Disinterested Benevolence: "By disinterested benevolence I do not mean, that a person who is disinterested feels no interest in his object of pursuit, but that he seeks the happiness of others for its own sake, and not for the sake of its reaction on himself, in promoting his own happiness. He chooses to do good because he rejoices in the happiness of others, and desires their happiness for its own sake. God is purely and disinterestedly benevolent. He does not make His creatures happy for the sake of thereby promoting His own happiness, but because He loves their happiness and chooses it for its own sake. Not that He does not feel happy in promoting the happiness of His creatures, but that He does not do it for the sake of His own gratification." Lectures to Professing Christians (LECTURE I).

  3. Divine Sovereignty: "The sovereignty of God consists in the independence of his will, in consulting his own intelligence and discretion, in the selection of his end, and the means of accomplishing it. In other words, the sovereignty of God is nothing else than infinite benevolence directed by infinite knowledge." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LXXVI).

  4. Election: "That all of Adam's race, who are or ever will be saved, were from eternity chosen by God to eternal salvation, through the sanctification of their hearts by faith in Christ. In other words, they are chosen to salvation by means of sanctification. Their salvation is the end- their sanctification is a means. Both the end and the means are elected, appointed, chosen; the means as really as the end, and for the sake of the end." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LXXIV).

  5. Entire Sanctification: "Sanctification may be entire in two senses: (1.) In the sense of present, full obedience, or entire consecration to God; and, (2.) In the sense of continued, abiding consecration or obedience to God. Entire sanctification, when the terms are used in this sense, consists in being established, confirmed, preserved, continued in a state of sanctification or of entire consecration to God." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LVIII).

  6. Moral Agency: "Moral agency is universally a condition of moral obligation. The attributes of moral agency are intellect, sensibility, and free will." Systematic Theology (LECTURE III).

  7. Moral Depravity: "Moral depravity is the depravity of free-will, not of the faculty itself, but of its free action. It consists in a violation of moral law. Depravity of the will, as a faculty, is, or would be, physical, and not moral depravity. It would be depravity of substance, and not of free, responsible choice. Moral depravity is depravity of choice. It is a choice at variance with moral law, moral right. It is synonymous with sin or sinfulness. It is moral depravity, because it consists in a violation of moral law, and because it has moral character." Systematic Theology (LECTURE XXXVIII).

  8. Human Reason: "the intuitive faculty or function of the intellect... it is the faculty that intuits moral relations and affirms moral obligation to act in conformity with perceived moral relations." Systematic Theology (LECTURE III).

  9. Retributive Justice: "Retributive justice consists in treating every subject of government according to his character. It respects the intrinsic merit or demerit of each individual, and deals with him accordingly." Systematic Theology (LECTURE XXXIV).

  10. Total Depravity: "Moral depravity of the unregenerate is without any mixture of moral goodness or virtue, that while they remain unregenerate, they never in any instance, nor in any degree, exercise true love to God and to man." Systematic Theology (LECTURE XXXVIII).

  11. Unbelief: "the soul's withholding confidence from truth and the God of truth. The heart's rejection of evidence, and refusal to be influenced by it. The will in the attitude of opposition to truth perceived, or evidence presented." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LV).

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