What Saith the Scripture?
The Treasure And The Pearl
by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College
Oberlin Evangelist" Publication of Oberlin College
March 31, 1858
Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
"The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which,
when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof, goeth and selleth all that
he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant-man,
seeking goodly pearls; who, when he hath found one pearl of great price, went and
sold all that he had, and bought it."
Here we have two parables to illustrate manifestly one idea. It first compares
the kingdom of heaven to treasure hid in a field, which a man, having found, sells
all he has and buys it. The second gives us the case of a merchant-man seeking choice
pearls, who, having found one of very great value, sells all he has and buys it.
What do this treasure and this pearl represent?
Jesus Christ, beyond a doubt. The parables are intended to show how it is in the
kingdom of God. When Christ is really found, He charms the soul away from every thing
I. What is implied in finding Christ, this great treasure?
II. What are the conditions under which Christ may be thus seen and found?
III. To notice, in greater detail, the results of thus finding Christ.
I. Here we must enquire first -- What is implied in finding Christ, this great
- 1. It is plain that the very idea of finding a treasure and being appropriately
affected thereby, implies that the finder appreciates its value. Applying this obvious
fact to the finding of Christ, it is plain that men may learn something about Him
in the merely speculative sense, and be none the wiser or richer, for they may, in
their hearts, reject Him, despite of such knowledge. To find Christ, therefore, in
the true sense, cannot be a merely historical finding, or a theological, or a doctrinal
finding. In fact, men have often found Christ in these speculative senses, without
being led thereby to sell all to buy Him. In the merely historical sense, Christ
may be found without any such result, as these parables indicate.
Again, I remark -- In these parables, Christ teaches not only how things ought
to be, but how they are -- the actual results of this finding. The repetition in
a second parable, reveals His earnestness in inculcating these ideas.
- 2. It is plain that the finding of Christ in this sense is very much misunderstood.
If, in fact, men who really find Christ, sell all that they have, it must be that
this finding has taken strong hold of the soul.
- 3. It must imply a spiritual apprehension of Christ, reaching to His real nature.
The mind must apprehend Him as more than a mere man who lived, died, and went to
heaven. It must require something more than these views of Christ, to produce the
results given in our text. He might have lived and died as the first and greatest
of martyrs, and yet, even so, none of these emphatic results would follow. But, plainly,
the soul must understand Christ in a truly spiritual sense -- in a sense that takes
strong hold of the mind. The soul must perceive the infinite richness, fulness and
glory of Christ. Else He will be only a root out of dry ground, and you will see
in Him no form and comeliness.
II. Hence, it is essential that we enquire next -- What are the conditions
under which Christ may be thus seen and found?
- 1. You must thoroughly know yourself and your spiritual wants.
Nobody is much interested in knowing a remedy for a disease which he neither feels
nor fears. Suppose some great remedy were proclaimed among us, and we were all fully
assured that it had performed many cures. The testimony seems fair; but, if nobody
is suffering from the disease, and if none of the people fear it, there will be very
little interest taken in it. Perhaps you could not sell an ounce of it, or get the
attention of the people to it for five minutes. There is no sense of want, in relation
to that remedy.
So, unless people come to have a deep sense of their own spiritual disease, they
will not seek after Christ, and, of course, will not find Him.
But, in order to understand ourselves, we must search ourselves most honestly, and
be quite willing to weigh ourselves "in the balances of the sanctuary."
If a man will not admit these convictions of personal guilt -- will not let the light
of God's word shine in upon his heart, and even shine through his heart, there is
no hope for him. Self-blinded to his sin and consequent danger, he must go down to
eternal darkness. For God does not deal with us as with stocks, but as with thinking
minds. He gives us His law as our rule, and asks us to study it and judge ourselves
by its demands. Hence, unless one has made up his mind to know himself, and is willing
both to take the trouble and to admit to his heart the whole truth -- there is no
hope for him. It is amazing to see how much self-delusion there is, and how much
lack of self-scrutiny.
- 2. Another condition of feeling one's need of Christ is that he consider deeply
what the Bible teaches respecting himself. It is amazing to see how many read and
hear the Bible over and over, and it never gets hold of their attention, and, consequently,
they get no just conception of its greatest and most vital truths.
"Why did not you tell me of these things before?" said a young man who
had heard the gospel, and who had the finest possible opportunity to know all about
it, but who had ruled it out of his mind -- "Why did you not tell me there was
such a hell?"
I did tell you; I have often told you and urged it upon your attention.
"No; but you did not get it before my mind."
The reason was, you would not attend to it.
Sometimes one will read a book in time of sermon, as if determined not to hear. Of
course, he hears nothing to any purpose. Sometimes, one will sit down to read a chapter
in the Bible. A great many precious things are in it, but his eye slips over everything,
for his heart is not there. He is not searching for truth and wisdom as worldly men
dig for hid treasure. Is it strange that men fail to find the things of the gospel?
- 3. Again, another condition is prayer. There must be earnest, persevering prayer,
and the reason why is, that you need God's light and wisdom to instruct you, and
He gives only to those who humbly ask. If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God,
who giveth to all men liberally; and it shall be given him. A unitarian lady, last
winter, who had been strong in her position, finally consented to ask the ladies
to pray with her and for her. I said to her -- You have not seen Christ. Ultimately,
Christ came; and she exclaimed -- "O what revelations did Christ make of Himself
to my soul!" By asking for prayer in her behalf, she had laid herself open to
the truth, and to the Spirit who teaches truth.
- 4. Again, you must forbear to make your own experience a standard in such a sense
that you will assume that what you have not known is not worth knowing. Beware of
this! If you have not so found Christ that He is more to you than all things else,
you ought to understand that you have made very little advance in piety if indeed
you have made any at all. If you have not found Him spiritually, and so found Him
that your soul is seized and held by Christ, you ought to assume that there is something
more yet for you to know.
Take care, also, not to make uninspired men your standard, above the Bible. Don't
get anybody's biography and read it as your standard; and especially not, the biography
of one who has not known Christ. But read your Bible; and be assured there is no
teaching so plain as that. If you will go right to the Bible, and get Christ to teach
you, all will be well. Raise the enquiry on every passage. What does this mean? Go
upon your knees and ask that divine light may shine upon your soul. I know a young
man, who, if he found any difficult passage in reading the Bible, would go at once
to no other fountain of wisdom save to Christ Himself. And you need not doubt that
Christ will teach you if you really go to Him.
- 5. Moreover, you must beware of prejudice. You may be under the influence of
many of which you are not aware. Avoid the posture of committal to any opinions which
you have not surely learned from God's word. Let no such committal stand in your
way. I know not how many cases I found last winter of those whose minds had been
confused with conflicting speculations about Christ. I often said -- You have been
discussing these questions here all your life. A little practical experience of Christ
as your Savior from sin, would be worth more than all the speculative wisdom you
have attained. I became much interested in the case of one young man who had been
abroad to complete his education, but who returned with his faith in Christ and Christianity
sadly shaken. His Christian friends had been greatly distressed for him. During the
winter, a friend of his wrote to him to come to Boston. When he came, this friend
of his did not pretend that she could relieve him of his speculative difficulties,
but she gave herself to prayer for him, and so did others. When I met him, it was
easy to show him that every form of infidelity is self-annihilating. He admitted
this, and finally said that the only two consistent schemes were, the common or orthodox
one, and nihilism. I said to him -- Can you believe the latter? He answered, Yes.
Then you can believe there is neither matter nor mind? Yes. One more question --
What is that which has this belief? What forms this conception? Is this done by a
non-entity -- a mere thing? Is your own mind a mere negation?
Then I added -- Young man, I advise you to pray. You are not so great a man as
you may suppose. It could not be amiss for you to humble yourself before God, beg
His forgiveness, and implore His teaching. He did pray; and his friends also prayed
-- till he came into the light of the gospel and found Christ.
III. I must now pass to notice, in greater detail, the results of thus finding
- 1. The text represents self-renunciation as one of them. He who finds the goodly
pearl, sells all that he has to buy it. When you thus apprehend Christ, you will
say as Paul, "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge
of Christ Jesus my Lord." It is every way natural that this should be so. It
will result in fact. Those who find Christ, will forsake all in the sense of disclaiming
all right to hold their property as their own. They abjure all selfish holding of
property, and all careful anxiety about any thing of a worldly nature.
- 2. Those who find Christ to be really their Advocate, and know Him to be made
of God unto them their wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, will
find no more need of legal efforts to work out their own salvation. When Christ does
all this for the soul, it is enough, and is felt to be. The sinner needs a righteousness;
in Christ he finds it. Find in Christ every thing which before he sought in selfish
works, what further need has he of self-righteousness? The old robes, or rather rags,
may well be laid off and cast away!
- 3. The Bible distinctly teaches that unconverted men do not thoroughly understand
the gospel, and never would have devised such a scheme. Paul in 1 Corinthians 2,
says, "We speak the wisdom of God -- that (long) hidden wisdom, which none of
the princes of this world knew, for had they known it, they would not have crucified
the Lord of glory. But, (as it is written,) Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, . .
. the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him," (in the gospel
system and to be revealed in gospel times;) -- "But God hath revealed them to
us by His Spirit." "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit
of God, because they are foolishness to him." He does not feel his want of them;
hence does not appreciate their value, nor even comprehend their nature. It is doubtful
whether Judas ever well understood Christ. He doubtless heard much about Him, and
may have had some queries raised in his mind; but, obviously, he did not correctly
1. The Bible is remarkably a dead letter to every man until the Spirit of God convicts
him of sin. Its first power on the heart is only to condemn. The sinner's first experience
of the power of the Bible is in its condemning sentence, and in its fearful revealings
of his own sin. Conviction fastens on him; his soul, full of want, sallies forth
after something better.
Have you ever had this experience -- a deep conviction that you must have something
better than your own righteousness? If so, you can appreciate the change that takes
place, under this conviction, in the soul's estimate of the value of Christ. If any
man can introduce an effectual remedy when a fearful disease is raging in every family,
it will be of some use to cry aloud in all the streets -- a remedy, a certain cure!
A cure for the cholera -- a cure for the plague! If the cholera were here in its
fearful terrors; if, casting your eye from the window at any hour, you could see
hearses moving on, slowly and solemnly with their dead; -- in such a state of things,
men would gather in troops round the placard, crying out -- Will it bring salvation?
Will it stay this fearful plague?
2. So, under conviction of sin, men cry out -- Tell us that again! Even as when the
apostles preached with convincing power, men begged of them to tell them more of
those glad tidings, on the next Sabbath. Father Oliphant once said -- "I have
been reading the Bible now two hours, and have read over yet but two verses."
Ah, he had been drinking in their spirit, and partaking of their power! Christ spake
to his soul! Said I not unto thee, "If thou canst believe, thou shalt see the
glory of God?" And have not some of you lingered long on your knees, while Christ
was saying to your inmost heart -- Said I not unto thee, "All things are possible
to him that believeth?" The fact is, that when the heart is laid open and prepared
to have His glory revealed, a single sentence, a word, has an ocean of meaning. Now,
the pearl of great price is found, and verily all else is worthless but Christ. When
you speak to them of Christ, they cry -- Tell us that story of the cross again! There
is no end to their desire to hear of Christ.
I have had occasion many times to say to my friends -- You can never settle these
questions about the person of Christ, by controversy. You must go to Christ for yourselves
and say to Him -- Reveal Thyself to me; Thou art divine; let me know it in my own
experience. Didst Thou not say -- "When He, the Spirit of truth shall come,
He shall guide you into all truth; He shall reprove the world of sin because they
believe not on me?" Let that Spirit guide, reprove and sanctify me.
3. Again, it often happens that persons are too self-righteous. You may say to them
-- Christ is precious -- the chief among ten thousands; but they don't understand
it. Ask them -- Have you ever found Jesus near? They don't know that they have. The
truth is, they need to see Him and to get such apprehensions of Him that they cannot
but know Him.
4. How few seem to have found Christ and renounced all things for His sake. The Psalmist
said -- "Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth whom I
desire besides Thee;" but, alas, there are not many to sympathize in these utterances
of his heart.
Let me say to every unpardoned sinner -- You need to find Christ. You complain of
condemnation and bondage. If you can only find that goodly treasure in the field,
you will part with all things, as of little worth, that you may gain it.
If ministers do not preach the law, they cannot make men understand the gospel. So
long as the spirituality of the law is not understood, people will lose the true
idea of Christ.
Sometimes, after the law has deeply convicted men of sin, a single sermon on Christ
will bring in hundreds to accept Him as their Savior. But, if men have not this sense
of lostness, preaching Christ to them does them no good. You might as well proclaim
a remedy for an unknown disease.
Who of you have found Christ? Whoever has will say -- The treasure is far richer
than I expected. So it will always be. And with every fresh view of His glories,
deeper and deeper will sink your views of self; higher and higher will rise your
views of Christ.
If you have not really found Christ, so that you can truly count all things but loss
for His name, then you have much more yet to do. You have by no means reached the
place yet to rest. O, if theological students were to seek Christ more, and the love
of book-learning less, they would surely have far more power. Let them get a rich
experience of Christ in the soul, and then they will have one of the first requisites
for preaching Christ out of their very souls. It is entirely essential to persuasive
eloquence that men should absolutely know that of which they try to persuade others.
On the same principle, every church member needs to have the living gospel in his
own heart before he can hope to commend it with any effect to the hearts of his fellow-men.
You must yourself find Christ as the merchant-man found a precious pearl; then you
can direct your fellows how to search and where to find.
of easily misunderstood terms as defined by Mr. Finney himself.
Compiled by Katie Stewart
- 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
- 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).
- 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).
- 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).
- 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).
- 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).
- 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).
- 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
- 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).
- 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).
- 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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