What Saith the Scripture?


Phila delphia > REVIVAL LECTURES by Charles G. Finney (page 4 of 5)



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Charles G. Finney

A Voice from the Philadelphian Church Age

  Wisdom is Justified

by Charles Grandison Finney

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Table of Contents
page 4

A revival of religion is a great work - Several things which may put a stop to it - What must be done for the continuance of a revival.

We are to be agreed in prayer - We are likewise to be agreed in everything that is essential to the blessing we seek.

The necessity and design of instructing anxious sinners - Anxious sinners are always seeking comfort - The false comforts that are often administered.

What is a proper direction to be given to sinners when they make inquiry for salvation - What is a proper answer to such inquiry - Several errors into which anxious sinners are apt to fall.

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I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you.? - Nehemiah. 6:3.

This servant of God had come down from Babylon to rebuild the temple and re-establish the worship of God at Jerusalem, the city of his fathers' sepulchers. When it was discovered by Sanballat and certain individuals who were his allies, who had long enjoyed the desolations of Zion, that the temple and the holy city were about to be rebuilt, they raised a great opposition. Sanballat and the other leaders tried, in several ways, to divert Nehemiah and his friends, and prevent them from going forward in their work; at one time they threatened them, and then complained that they were going to rebel against the king. They found, however, that they could not frighten Nehemiah, and then they sought to delude him by artifice and fraud, and draw him off from the vigorous prosecution of his work. But the words sum up his position: "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?"

It has always been the case, whenever any of the servants of God do anything in His cause, and there appears to be a probability that they will succeed, that Satan by his agents regularly attempts to divert their minds and nullify their labors. So it has been during the last ten years, in which there have been such remarkable revivals through the length and breadth of the land. These revivals have been very great and powerful, and extensive.

It has been estimated that not less than TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND persons have been converted to God in that time. And the devil has been busy in his devices to divert and distract the people of God, and turn off their energies from pushing forward the great work of salvation.

In remarking upon the subject, I propose:

I. To show that a revival of religion is a great work.

II. To mention several things which may put a stop to it.

III. To show what must be done for the continuance of this great revival.


It is a great work, because in it are great interests involved. In a revival of religion, there are involved both the glory of God, so far as it respects the government of this world, and the salvation of men; two things, therefore, that are of infinite importance are involved in it. The greatness of a work is to be estimated by the greatness of the consequences depending on it; this is the measure of its importance.


Some have talked very foolishly on this subject, as if nothing could hinder a genuine revival. They say: "If your revival is a work of God, it cannot be stopped: can any created being stop God?" Now I ask if this is common sense? Formerly, it used to be the established belief that a revival could not be stopped, because it was the work of God. And so they supposed it would go on, whatever might be done to hinder it, in the Church or out of it. But the farmer might just as well reason so, and think he could go and cut down his wheat and not hurt the crop, because it is God that makes grain grow. A revival is the work of God, and so is a crop of wheat; and God is as much dependent on the use of means in one case as the other.

And therefore a revival is as liable to be injured as a wheat field.

The Church is the instrument with which God carries on this work, and Christians are to work in it voluntarily and with their hearts. Nothing is more fatal to a revival than for its friends to predict that it is going to stop.

No matter what the enemies of the work may say about it, predicting that it will come to nothing, they cannot stop it in this way; but the friends must labor and pray in faith to carry it on. It is a contradiction to say they are laboring and praying in faith to carry on the work, and yet believe that it is going to stop. If they lose their faith, it will stop, of course. Whenever the friends of revivals begin to prophesy that the revival is going to stop, they should be instantly rebuked, in the name of the Lord. If the idea should once begin to prevail, and if you cannot counteract it and root it out, the revival will infallibly cease; for it is indispensable to the work that Christians should labor and pray in faith to promote it, and it is a contradiction to say that they can labor in faith for its continuance while they believe that it is about to cease.
Sometimes Christians see that the revival is in danger of ceasing, and that if something effectual is not done, it will come to a standstill. If this should distress them, and drive them to prayer, and to fresh efforts, the work will not cease. When Christians love the work of God and the salvation of souls so well that they are distressed at a mere apprehension of a decline, it will drive them to agony and effort to prevent its ceasing; but if they see the danger, and do not try to avert it, or to renew the work, they consent that it Should stop. There are many people who see revivals declining, and that they are in great danger of ceasing altogether, and yet they manifest but little distress, and seem to care but little about it. Whole Churches see the position that must ensue unless there can be an awakening; and yet they are at ease, and do not groan and agonize in prayer that God would revive His work. Some are even predicting that there is now going to be a great reaction, and a great dearth come over the Church, as there did after the day of Whitefield and Edwards. And yet they are not startled at their own foreboding. THEY CONSENT TO IT. It seems as if they were the devil's trumpeters, sent out to scatter dismay throughout the ranks of God's elect.
They begin to think they canoe afford sufficient time from their worldly employments, to carry on a revival. They pretend they are obliged to give up attending to religion, and they let their hearts go out again after the world. And the work must cease, of course.
Multitudes of Christians commit a great mistake here in time of revival.

They are so thoughtless, and have so little judgment, that they will break up all their habits of living, neglect to eat and sleep at the proper hours, and let the excitement run away with them, so that they overdo their bodies, and are so imprudent that they soon become exhausted, and it is impossible for them to continue in the work. Revivals often cease from negligence and imprudence, in this respect, on the part of those engaged in carrying them on, and declensions follow.
(a) When Christians do not feel their dependence on the Spirit. Whenever they get strong in their own strength, God curses their blessings. In many instances, their sin against their own mercies, because they get lifted up with their success, and take the credit to themselves, and do not give all the glory to God. As He says: "If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto My name, saith the Lord of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart" (Malachi 2:2). There has been a great deal of this, undoubtedly. I have seen many things in the newspapers that suggested a disposition in men to take credit for success in promoting revivals. There is doubtless a great temptation to this, and it requires the utmost watchfulness, on the part of ministers and Churches, to guard against it and not to grieve the Spirit away by vainglorying in men.

(b) The Spirit may be grieved by a Spirit of boasting of the revival.

Sometimes, as soon as a revival commences, you will see it blazed out in the newspapers. And most commonly this will kill the revival. There was a case in a neighboring State, where a revival commenced, and instantly there came out a letter from the pastor, telling that he had a revival. I saw the letter, and said to myself, "That is the last we shall hear of this revival." And so it was. In a few days the work totally ceased. I could mention cases and places, where persons have published such things as to puff up the Church, and make the people so proud that little more could be done for the revival.

Some, under pretense of publishing things to the praise and glory of God, have published things that savored so strongly of a disposition to exalt themselves - making their own agency stand out conspicuously - as were evidently calculated to make an unhappy impression. At a protracted meeting held in this Church, a year ago last fall, there were five hundred hopefully converted, whose names and places of residence we knew. A considerable number of them joined this Church. Many of them united with other Churches. Nothing was said of this in the papers. I have several times been asked why we were so silent on the subject. I could only reply, that there was such a tendency to self-exaltation in the Churches, that I was afraid to publish anything on the subject. Perhaps I erred. But I have so often seen mischief done by premature publications, that I thought it best to say nothing about it. In the revival in this city, four years ago, so much was said in the papers that appeared so much like self-exaltation, that I was afraid to publish. I am not speaking against the practice itself, of publishing accounts of revivals. But the manner of doing it is of vast importance. If it be done so as to excite vanity, it is always fatal to the revival.

So, too, the Spirit is grieved by saying or publishing things that are calculated to undervalue the work of God. When a blessed work of God is spoken lightly of, not rendering to God the glory due to His Name, the Spirit is grieved. If anything be said about a revival, give only the plain and naked facts, just as they are, and let them pass for what they are worth.
But when they begin to get cold, they lose this warmth and glow of affection for one another, and then this calling "Brother" and "Sister" will seem silly, and they will leave it off. In some Churches they never call each other so; but where there is a revival Christians naturally do it. I never saw a revival, and probably there never was one, in which they did not do it. But as soon as this begins to cease, the Spirit of God is grieved, and departs from among them.
Revivals decline, commonly, because it is found impossible to make Christians realize their guilt and dependence, so as to break down before God. It is important that ministers should understand this, and learn how to break down the Church, and break down themselves when they need it, or else Christians will soon become mechanical in their work, and lose their fervor and their power of prevailing with God. This was the process through which Peter passed, when he had denied the Savior, and by which breaking down, the Lord prepared him for the great work on the day of Pentecost. I was surprised, a few years since, to find that the phrase "breaking down" was a stumbling block to certain ministers and professors of religion. They laid themselves open to the rebuke administered to Nicodemus: "Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?"

(John 3:10.) I am confident that until some of them know what it is to be "broken down," they will never do much more for the cause of revival.
When the Church has enjoyed a revival, and begins to grow fat upon it, and to run into self-indulgence, the revival will soon cease. Unless they sympathize with the Son of God, who gave up all to save sinners; unless they are willing to give up their luxuries, and their ease, and devote themselves to the work, the Christians need not expect that the Spirit of God will be poured out upon them. This is undoubtedly one of the principal causes of personal declension. Let Christians in a revival BEWARE, when they first find an inclination creeping upon them to shrink from self-denial, and to give in to one self-indulgence after another.

It is the device of Satan, to "bait" them off from the work of God, and make them dull and gross, lazy and fearful, useless and sensual; and so drive away the Spirit and destroy the revival.
Nothing is more certain to overthrow a revival than this.
LET THEM KEEP ABOUT THEIR WORK, and neither talk about the opposition, nor preach upon it, nor rush into print about it. If others choose to publish "slang," let the Lord's people keep to their work. None of the slander will stop the revival, while those who are engaged in it mind their business, and keep to the work.

In one place where there was a revival, certain ministers formed a combination against the pastor of the Church, and a plan was set on foot to ruin him, and they actually got him prosecuted before his Presbytery, and had a trial that lasted six weeks, right in the midst of the revival; but the work still went on. The praying members of the Church laid themselves out so in the work, that it continued triumphantly throughout the whole scene. The pastor was called off, to attend his trial, but there was another minister that labored among the people, and the members did not even go to the trial, but kept praying and laboring for souls, and the revival rode out the storm. In many places, opposition has risen up in the Church, but a few humble souls have kept at their work, and our gracious God has stretched out His naked arm and made the revival go forward in spite of all opposition.

But whenever those who are actively engaged in promoting a revival get excited at the unreasonableness and pertinacity of the opposition, and feel as if they must answer the cavils, and refute the slanders, then they get down to the plain of Ono (Nehemiah 6:2) and the work must cease.
But whenever Satan succeeds in absorbing public attention in any other subject, he will put an end to the revival. No matter what the subject is. If an angel from heaven were to come down, and preach, or pass about the streets, it might be the worst thing in the world for a revival, for it would turn sinners off from their own sins, and turn the Church off from praying for souls, to follow this glorious being, and gaze upon him, and the revival would cease.
So, doubtless, many slave dealers and slave holders in our country have been converted, notwithstanding their participation in this abomination, because the sinfulness of it was not apparent to their minds. So ministers and Churches, to a great extent throughout the land, have held their peace, and borne no testimony against this abomination, existing in the Church and in the nation. But recently, the subject has come up for discussion, and the providence of God has brought it distinctly before the eyes of all men. Light is now shed upon this subject, as it has been upon the cause of Temperance. Facts are exhibited, and principles established, and light thrown in upon the minds of men, and this monster is dragged from his horrid den, and exhibited before the Church, and it is demanded of Christians: "IS THIS SIN?" Their testimony must be given on this subject.

They are God's witnesses. They are sworn to tell "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." It is impossible that their testimony should not be given, on one side or the other. Their silence can no longer be accounted for upon the principle of ignorance, that they have never had their attention turned to the subject. Consequently, the silence of Christians upon the subject is virtually saying that they do not consider slavery as a sin.

The truth is, this is a subject on which they cannot be silent without guilt.

The time has come, in the providence of God, when every southern breeze is loaded down with the cries of lamentation, mourning, and woe. Two millions of degraded heathen in our own land stretch their hands, all shackled and bleeding, and send forth to the Church of God the agonizing cry for help. And shall the Church, in her efforts to reclaim and save the world, deafen her ears to this voice of agony and despair? God forbid! The Church cannot turn away from this question. It is a question for the Church and for the nation to decide, and God will push it to a decision. It is in vain for us to resist it for fear of distraction, contention, and strife. It is in vain to account it an act of piety to turn away the ear from hearing this cry of distress.

The Church must testify, and testify "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth," on this subject, or she is perjured, and the Spirit of God departs from her. She is under oath to testify, and ministers and Churches who do not pronounce it sin, bear false testimony for God. It is doubtless true, that one of the reasons for the low state of religion at the present time is that many Churches have taken the wrong side on the subject of slavery, have suffered prejudice to prevail over principle, and have feared to call this abomination by its true name.
The Churches do not press upon young men the duty of going into the ministry. God pours His Spirit on the Churches, and converts hundreds of thousands of souls, and if then the laborers do not come forth into the harvest, what can be expected but that the curse of God will come upon the Churches, and His Spirit will be withdrawn, and revivals will cease?

Upon this subject no minister, no Church, should be silent or inactive.
Evils doubtless did exist and have existed. They were to be expected of course, and guarded against as far as possible. But I do not believe the world's history can furnish one instance in which a revival, approaching to this in extent and influence, has been attended with so few evils, and with so little that is honestly to be deplored.

But how has this blessed work of God been treated! Admitting all the evils complained of to be real, which is far from being true, they would only be like spots upon the disc of the glorious sun; things hardly to be thought of in comparison with the infinite greatness and excellence of the work. And yet how has a great portion of the Presbyterian Church received and treated this blessed work of God? At the General Assembly, that grave body of men that represent the Presbyterian Church, in the midst of this great work, instead of appointing a day of thanksgiving, instead of praising and glorifying God for the greatness of His work, we hear from them the voice of rebuke. From the reports that were given of the speeches, it appears that the house was filled with complainings. Instead of devising measures to forward the work, their attention seemed to be taken up with the comparatively trifling evils that were incidental to it. And after much complaining, they absolutely appointed a committee, and sent forth a "Pastoral Letter," calculated to excite suspicion, to quench the zeal of God's people, and to turn them from giving glory to God for the greatness of the blessing into finding fault and carping about "the evils." When I heard what was done at that General Assembly, when I read their speeches, when I saw their Pastoral Letter, my soul was sick, an unutterable feeling of distress came over my mind, and I felt that God would "visit" the Presbyterian Church for conduct like this. And ever since, the glory has been departing, and revivals have been becoming less and less frequent - less and less powerful.

And now I wish it could be known whether those ministers who poured out those complainings on the floor of the General Assembly, and who were instrumental in getting up that Pastoral Letter, have since been blessed in promoting revivals of religion; whether the Spirit of God has been upon them; and whether their Churches can witness that they have an unction from the Holy One.
Especially is it to be expected that many censorious and unchristian remarks will be made about those who are the most prominent instruments in promoting the work. This censoriousness on the part of the opposers of the work, whether in or out of the Church, will not, however, of itself put a stop to the revival. While its promoters keep humble, and in a prayerful spirit, while they do not retaliate, but possess their souls in patience, while they do not suffer themselves to be diverted, to recriminate, and grieve away the spirit of prayer, the work will go forward.

Censoriousness in those who are opposed to the work is but little to be dreaded, for they have not the Spirit, and nothing depends on them, for they can hinder the work only just so far as they themselves have influence personally. But the others have the power of the Holy Spirit, and the work depends on their keeping in a right temper. If they get wrong, and grieve away the Spirit, there is no help: the work must cease.

Whatever provocation, therefore, the promoters of the blessed work may have had, if it ceases, the responsibility will be theirs. And one of the most alarming facts in regard to this matter is that, in many instances, those who have been engaged in carrying forward the work appear to have lost the Spirit. They are becoming diverted; are beginning to think that the opposition is no longer to be tolerated, and that they must come out and reply in the newspapers. It should be known, and universally understood, that whenever the friends and promoters of this greatest of revivals suffer themselves to be called off to newspaper janglings, to attempt to defend themselves, and reply to those who write against them, the spirit of prayer will be entirely grieved away, and the work will cease. Nothing is more detrimental to revivals of religion (and so it has always been found) than for the promoters of it to listen to the opposition, and begin to reply.

This was found to be true in the days of President Edwards, as those who are acquainted with his book on Revivals are well aware.


I proceed to mention some things which ought to be done to continue this great and glorious revival of religion, which has been in progress for the last ten years.

Especially must those repent who have taken the lead in producing feelings of opposition and distrust in regard to revivals. Some ministers have confined their opposition against revivals and revival measures to their own congregations, and have created such suspicions among their own people as to prevent the work from spreading and prevailing among them. Such ministers will do well to consider the remarks of President Edwards on this subject:

"If ministers preach never so good doctrine, and are never so painful and laborious in their work, yet, if at such a day as this, they show to their people that they are not well-affected to this work, but are very doubtful and suspicious of it, they will be very likely to do their people a great deal more hurt than good; for the very fame of such a great and extraordinary work of God, if their people were suffered to believe it to be His work, and the example of other towns, together with what preaching they might hear occasionally, would be likely to have a much greater influence upon the minds of their people, to awaken and animate them in religion, than all their labors with them. And besides, their minister's opinion would not only beget in them a suspicion of the work they hear of abroad, whereby the mighty hand of God that appears in it loses its influence upon their minds, but it will also tend to create a suspicion of everything of the like nature, that shall appear among themselves, as being something of the same distemper that has become so epidemical in the land; and that is, in effect, to create a suspicion of all vital religion, and to put the people upon talking against it, and discouraging it, wherever it appears, and knocking it on the head as fast as it rises. And we that are ministers, by looking on this work, from year to year, with a displeased countenance, shall effectually keep the sheep from their pasture, instead of doing the part of shepherds to them by feeding them; and our people had a great deal better be without any settled minister at all at such a day as this." Others have been more public, having aimed at exerting a wider influence.

Some have written pieces for the public papers. Some men, in high standing in the Church, have circulated letters which were never printed; others have had their letters printed and circulated. There seems to have been a system of letter-writing about the country calculated to create distrust. In the days of President Edwards, substantially the same course was pursued, in view of which he says, in his work on Revivals:

"Great care should be taken that the press should be improved to no purpose contrary to the interest of this work. We read that when God fought against Sisera, for the deliverance of His oppressed Church, they that handled the pen of the writer came to the help of the Lord (Judges 5:14). Whatever class of men in Israel they were that are intended, yet as the words were indicted by a Spirit that had a perfect view of all events to the end of the world, it is not unlikely that they have respect to authors, those that should fight against the kingdom of Satan with their pens.

Those, therefore, that publish pamphlets to the disadvantage of this work, and tending either directly or indirectly to bring it under suspicion, and to discourage or hinder it, would do well thoroughly to consider whether this be not indeed the work of God; and whether, if it be, it is not likely that God will go forth as fire, to consume all that stand in His way, and so burn up those pamphlets; and whether there be not danger that the fire that is kindled in them will scorch the authors."

All these must repent. God never will forgive them, nor will they ever enjoy His blessing on their preaching, or be honored to labor in revivals, till they repent. This duty President Edwards pressed upon ministers in his day, in the most forcible terms. There doubtless have been now, as there were then, faults on both sides. And there must be deep repentance, and mutual confessions of faults on both sides.

"There must be a great deal done at confessing of faults on both sides: for undoubtedly many and great are the faults that have been committed, in the jangling and confusions, and mixtures of light and darkness, that have been of late. There is hardly any duty more contrary to our corrupt dispositions and mortifying to the pride of man; but it must be done.

Repentance of faults is, in a peculiar manner, a proper duty, when the kingdom of heaven is at hand, or when we especially expect or desire that it should come; as appears by John the Baptist's preaching. And if God does now loudly call upon us to repent, then He also calls upon us to make proper manifestations of our repentance.

"I am persuaded that those who have openly opposed this work, or have from time to time spoken lightly of it, cannot be excused in the sight of God, without openly confessing their fault therein: especially if they be ministers. If they have in any way, either directly or indirectly, opposed the work, or have so behaved in their public performances or private conversation as to prejudice the minds of their people against the work; if, hereafter, they shall be convinced of the goodness and divinity of what they have opposed, they ought by no means to palliate the matter, and excuse themselves, and pretend that they always thought so, and that it was only such and such imprudences that they objected against; but they ought openly to declare their conviction, and condemn themselves for what they have done; for it is Christ that they have spoken against, in speaking lightly of, and prejudicing others against, this work. And though they have done it ignorantly and in unbelief, yet when they find out Who it is that they have opposed, undoubtedly God will hold them bound publicly to confess it.

"And on the other hand, if those who have been zealous to promote the work have, in any of the aforementioned instances, openly gone much out of the way, and done that which was contrary to Christian rules, whereby they have openly injured others or greatly violated good order, and so done that which has wounded religion, they must publicly confess it, and humble themselves, as they would gather out the stones, and prepare the way of God's people. They who have laid great stumbling-blocks in others' way by their open transgression, are bound to remove them by their open repentance."

There are ministers in our day, I say it not in unkindness, but in faithfulness, and I would that I had them all here before me while I say it, who seem to have been engaged much of their time, for years, in doing little else than acting and talking and writing in such a way as to create suspicion in regard to revivals. And I cannot doubt that their Churches would, as President Edwards says, be better with no minister at all, unless they will repent and regain God's blessing.
And what is the state of that Church? Have they had a revival? Why, it appears from the official report, that it has dwindled in one year twenty-seven per cent. And all such Churches will continue to dwindle, in spite of everything else that can be done, unless they repent and have a revival. They may pretend to be mighty pious, and jealous for the honor of God, but God will not believe they are sincere. And He will manifest His displeasure by not pouring out His Spirit. If I had a voice loud enough, I should like to make all those Churches and ministers that have slandered revivals, hear me, when I say that I believe they have helped to bring the pall of death over the Church, and that the curse of God is on them already, and will remain unless they repent. God has already sent leanness into their souls, and many of them know it.
Whenever a wrong spirit has been manifested, or they have got irritated and provoked at the opposition, and lost their temper, or mistaken Christian faithfulness for hard words and a wrong spirit, they must repent.

Those who are opposed can never stop a revival alone, unless those who promote it get wrong. So we must repent if we have said things that were censorious, or proud, or arrogant, or severe. Such a time as this is no time to stand justifying ourselves. Our first call is to repent. Let each one repent of his own sins, and not fall out about who is most to blame.
Christians have been exceedingly guilty in this matter. But the time has come when they must act differently. As on the subjects of Slavery and Temperance, so on this subject the Church must act rightly or the country will be ruined. God cannot sustain this free and blessed country, which we love and pray for, unless the Church will take right ground. Politics are a part of a religion in such a country as this, and Christians must do their duty to the country as a part of their duty to God. It seems sometimes as if the foundations of the nation are becoming rotten, and Christians seem to act as if they think God does not see what they do in politics. But I tell you He does see it, and He will bless or curse this nation, according to the course they take.
(a) I will state some of the things that should be avoided.

(1) First of all, a bad spirit should be avoided. Nothing is more calculated to injure religion, and to injure the slaves themselves, than for Christians to get into an angry controversy on the subject. It is a subject upon which there needs to be no angry controversy among Christians. Slave-holding professors, like rum-selling professors, may endeavor to justify themselves, and may be angry with those who press their consciences, and call upon them to give up their sins. Those proud professors of religion, who think a man to blame, or think it is a shame to him, to have a black skin, may allow their prejudices so far to prevail, as to shut their ears and be disposed to quarrel with those who urge the subject upon them. But I repeat it, the subject of Slavery is a subject upon which Christians, praying men, need not and must not differ.

(2) Another thing to be avoided is an attempt to take neutral ground on this subject. Christians can no more take neutral ground on this subject, since it has come up for discussion, than they can take neutral ground on the subject of the sanctification of the Sabbath. It is a great national sin. It is a sin of the Church. The Churches, by their silence, and by permitting shareholders to belong to their communion, have been consenting to it. All denominations have been more or less guilty, although the Quakers have of late years washed their hands of it. It is in vain for the Churches to pretend it is merely a political sin. I repeat, it is the sin of the Church, to which all denominations have consented. They have virtually declared that it is lawful. The very fact of suffering slave-holders quietly to remain in good standing in their Churches, is the strongest and most public expression of their view that it is not sin. For the Church, therefore, to pretend to take neutral ground on the subject, is perfectly absurd. The fact is that she is not on neutral ground at all. While she tolerates slave-holders in her communion SHE JUSTIFIES THE PRACTICE:. And as well might an enemy of God pretend that he was neither a saint nor a sinner, that he was going to take neutral ground, and pray, "good Lord and good devil," because he did not know which side would be the most popular!

(3) Great care should be taken to avoid a censorious spirit on either side. It is a subject on which there has been, and probably will be for some time to come, a difference of opinion among Christians, as to the best method of disposing of the question: and it ought to be treated with great forbearance.

(b) I will mention several things that, in my judgment, the Church is imperatively called upon to do, on this subject:

(1) Christians, of all denominations, should lay aside prejudice, and inform themselves on this subject, without any delay. Vast multitudes of professors of religion have indulged prejudice to such a degree, as to be unwilling to read and hear, and come to a right understanding of the subject. But Christians cannot pray in this state of mind. I defy any one to possess the spirit of prayer while he is too prejudiced to examine this or any other question of duty. If the light did not shine, Christians might remain in the dark upon this point, and still possess the spirit of prayer.

But if they refuse to come to the light, they cannot pray. Where ministers, individual Christians, or whole Churches, resist truth upon this point, when it is so extensively diffused and before the public mind, I do not believe they will or can enjoy a revival of religion.

(2) Writings, containing temperate and judicious discussions on this subject, and such developments of facts as are before the public, should be quietly and extensively circulated, and should be carefully and prayerfully examined by the whole Church. I do not mean by this, that the attention of the Church should be so absorbed by this as to neglect the main question of saving souls in the midst of them; I do not mean that such premature movements on this subject should be made, as to astound the Christian community, and involve them in a broil; but that praying men should act judiciously, and that, as soon as sufficient information can be diffused through the community, the Churches should meekly, but firmly, take decided ground on the subject, and express, before the whole nation and the world, their abhorrence of this sin.

The anti-Masonic excitement which prevailed a few years since made such desolations in the Churches, and produced so much alienation of feeling and ill-will among ministers and people, and the introduction of this subject has been attended with such commotions, that many good ministers, who are themselves entirely opposed to slavery, dread to introduce the subject, through fear that their people have not religion enough to consider it calmly, and decide upon it in the spirit of the Gospel. I know there is danger of this. But still, the subject must be presented to the Churches. Let there be no mistake here. William Morgan's expose of freemasonry was published in 1826; the subsequent discussion continued until 1830. In the meantime the Churches had very generally borne testimony against freemasonry, and resolved that they could not have adhering masons in fellowship. As a consequence, the Masonic lodges generally disbanded. There was a general stampede of Christians from the lodges. This prepared the way, and in 1830 the greatest revival the world had then seen commenced in the center of the anti-Masonic region, and spread over the whole field where the Church action had been taken.

Perhaps no Church in this country has had a more severe trial upon this subject, than this, which was a Church of young, and for the most part, inexperienced Christians. And many circumstances conspired, in my absence, to produce confusion and wrong-feeling among them. But so far as I am now acquainted with the state of feeling in this Church, I know of no ill-will among the members on this subject. There are doubtless those who feel upon this subject, in very different degrees: and yet I can honestly say that I am not aware of the least difference in sentiment among them. We have from the beginning taken the same ground on the subject of Slavery that we have on Temperance. We have excluded slave-holders, and all concerned in the traffic, from our communion. By some, out of this Church, this course has been censured as unwarrantable and uncharitable, and I would by no means make my own judgment, or the example of this Church, a rule for the government of other ministers and Churches. Still, I conscientiously believe that the time is not far distant, when the Churches will be united in this expression of abhorrence against this sin. If I do not baptize slavery by some soft and Christian name, if I call it SIN, both consistency and conscience conduct to the inevitable conclusion, that while this sin is persevered in, its perpetrators cannot be fit subjects for Christian communion and fellowship.

To this it is objected that there are many ministers in the Presbyterian Church who are shareholders. And it is said to be very inconsistent that we should refuse to suffer slave-holders to come to our Communion, and yet belong to the same Church with them, sit with them in ecclesiastical bodies, and acknowledge them as ministers. To this I answer, that I have not the power to deal with those ministers, and certainly I am not to withdraw from the Church because some of its ministers or members are slave-holders. My duty is to belong to the Church, even if the devil should belong to it. When I have authority, I exclude slave-holders from the Communion, and I always will as long as I live. But where I have no authority, if the table of Christ be spread, I will sit down to it in obedience to His commandment, whoever else may sit down or stay away.

I do not mean, by any means, to denounce all those slave-holding ministers and professors as hypocrites, and to say that they are not Christians. But this I say, that while they continue in this attitude, the cause of Christ and of humanity demands that they should not be recognized as such, unless we mean to be partakers of other men's sins. It is no more inconsistent to exclude shareholders because they belong to the Presbyterian Church, than it is to exclude persons who drink or sell ardent spirit. For there are many rum-sellers belonging to the Presbyterian Church.

I believe the time has come - although I am no prophet, I believe it will be found to have come, that the revival in the United States will prevail no further and no faster than the Church takes right ground upon this subject.

The Church is God's witness. The fact is, that Slavery is, pre-eminently, the sin of the Church. It is the very fact that ministers and professors of religion of different denominations hold slaves, which sanctifies the whole abomination, in the eyes of ungodly men. Who does not know that on the subject of Temperance, every drunkard in the land will skulk behind some rum-selling deacon, or wine-drinking minister? It is the most common objection and refuge of the intemperate, and of moderate drinkers, that it is practiced by professors of religion. It is this that creates the imperious necessity for excluding traffickers in ardent spirit, and rum-drinkers, from the Communion. Let the Churches of all denominations speak out on the subject of Temperance; let them close their doors against all who have anything to do with the death-dealing abomination, and the cause of Temperance is triumphant. A few years would annihilate the traffic. Just so with Slavery.

It is the Church that mainly supports this sin. Her united testimony upon the subject would settle the question. Let Christians of all denominations meekly, but firmly, come forth, and pronounce their verdict; let them wash their hands of this thing; let them give forth and write on the head and front of this great abomination, "SIN," and in three years, a public sentiment would be formed that would carry all before it, and there would not be a shackled slave, nor a bristling, cruel slavedriver, in this land.

Still it may be said, that in many Churches, this subject cannot be introduced without creating confusion and ill-will. This may be. It has been so on the subject of Temperance, and upon the subject of revivals too. In some Churches, neither Temperance nor revivals can be introduced without producing dissension. Sabbath Schools, and missionary operations, and everything of the kind, have been opposed, and have produced dissensions in many Churches. But is this a sufficient reason for excluding these subjects? And where Churches have excluded these subjects for fear of contention, have they been blessed with revivals?

Everybody knows that they have not. But where Churches have taken firm ground on these subjects, although individuals, and sometimes numbers, have opposed, still they have been blessed with revivals. Where any of these subjects are carefully and prayerfully introduced; where they are brought forward with a right spirit, and the true relative importance is attached to each of them; if in such cases, there are those who will make disturbance and resist, let the blame fall where it ought. There are some individuals, who are themselves disposed to quarrel with this subject, who are always ready to exclaim: "Do not introduce these things into the Church, they will create opposition." And if the minister and praying people feel it their duty to bring the matter forward, they will themselves create a disturbance and then say: "There, I told you so; now see what your introducing this subject has done; it will tear the Church all to pieces." And while they are themselves doing all they can to create a division, they are charging the division upon the subject, and not upon themselves. There are some such people in many of our Churches. And neither Sabbath Schools, nor Missions, nor Antislavery, nor anything else that honors God or benefits the souls of men, will be carried on in the Churches, without these careful souls being offended by it.

There might infinitely better be no Church in the world, than that she should attempt to remain neutral, or give a false testimony on a subject of such importance as Slavery, especially since the subject has come up, and it is impossible, from the nature of the case, that her testimony should not be in the scale, on the one side or the other.

Do you ask: "What shall be done? Shall we make it the all-absorbing topic of conversation, and divert attention from the all-important subject of the salvation of souls in the midst of us?" I answer: "No." Let a Church express its opinion upon the subject, and be at peace. So far as I know, we are entirely at peace upon this subject. We have expressed our opinion; we have closed our Communion against slave-holders, and are attending to other things. I am not aware of the least unhealthy excitement among us on this subject. And where it has become an absorbing topic of conversation in places, in most instances, I believe, it has been owing to the pertinacious and unreasonable opposition of a few individuals against even granting the subject a hearing.
There are those in the Churches who are standing aloof from the subject of moral reform, and who are afraid to have anything said in the pulpit against lewdness. On this subject, the Church need not expect to be permitted to take neutral ground. In the providence of God, it is up for discussion. The evils have been exhibited; the call has been made for reform. And what is to reform mankind but the truth? And who shall present the truth if not the Church and the ministry? Away with the idea, that Christians can remain neutral, and yet enjoy the approbation and blessing of God!

In all such cases, the minister who holds his peace is counted among those on the other side. Everybody knows that it is so in a revival. It is not necessary for a person to rail out against the work. If he will only keep still and take neutral ground, the enemies of the revival will all consider him as on their side. So on the subject of Temperance. It is not needful that a person should rail at the Cold-water Society, in order to be on the best terms with drunkards and moderate drinkers. Only let him plead for the moderate use of wine, only let him continue to drink it as a luxury, and all the drunkards account him on their side. On all these subjects, when they come up, the Churches and ministers must take the right ground, and take it openly, and stand to the cause, and carry it through, if they expect to enjoy the blessing of God in revivals. They must cast out from their communions such members as, in contempt of the light that is shed upon them, continue to drink or traffic in ardent spirit.
Let them lead on where the Lord will go with them and make bare His arm, and I, for one, will follow. Only let them GO ON, and let us have the people converted to God, and let all minor questions cease.

If not, and if revivals do cease in this land, the ministers and Churches will be guilty of all the blood of all the souls that shall go to hell in consequence of it. There is no need that the work should cease. If the Church will do all her duty, the millennium may come in this country in three years. But if it is to be always so, that in the time of revival, two-thirds of the Church will hang back and do nothing but find fault, the curse of God will be on this nation, and that before long.


And now, what shall we do? This great and glorious work of God seems to be indicating a decline. The revival is not dead - blessed be God for that - it is not dead! Now, we hear from all parts of the land that Christians are reading on the subject, and inquiring about the revival. In some places there are now powerful revivals. And what shall we do, to lift up the standard, to move this entire nation and turn all this great people to the Lord? We must DO RIGHT. We must all have a better spirit, we must get down in the dust, we must act unitedly, we must take hold of this great work with all our hearts, and then God will bless us, and the work will go on.

What is the condition of this nation? No doubt God is holding the rod of WAR over the heads of this nation. He is waiting, before He lets loose His judgments, to see whether the Church will do right. The nation IS under His displeasure, because the Church has acted in such a manner with respect to revivals. And now suppose war should come, where would be our revivals? How quickly would war swallow up the revival spirit. The spirit of war is anything but the spirit of revival Who will attend to the claims of religion when the public mind is engrossed by the all absorbing topic of war. See now how this nation is, all at once, brought upon the brink of war. God brandishes His blazing sword over our heads. Will the Church repent? It is THE CHURCH that God chiefly has in view. How shall we avoid the curse of war? Only by a reformation in the Church. It is in vain to look to politicians to avert war. Perhaps they would generally be in favor of war. Very likely the things they would do to avert it would run us right into it. If the Church will not feel, will not awaken, will not act, where shall we look for help? If the Church absolutely will not move, will not tremble in view of the just judgments of God hanging over our heads, we are certainly nigh unto cursing, as a nation.

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Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven. - Matthew 18:19.

I have already used this text in preaching upon the subject of prayer meetings. At present I design to enter more into the spirit and meaning of the words. The evident design of our Lord, in this text, was to teach the importance and influence of union in prayer and effort to promote religion.

He states the strongest possible case, by taking the number "two," as the least number between whom there can be an agreement, and says that "where two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven." It is the fact of their agreement upon which He lays the stress; and mentioning the number "two" appears to have been designed merely to afford encouragement to the smallest number between whom there can be an agreement. But what are we to understand by being "agreed as touching"

the things we shall ask? I will answer this question under the two following heads:

I. We are to be agreed in prayer.

II. We are to be agreed in everything that is essential to obtaining the blessing that we seek.


In order to come within the promise, we are to be agreed in prayer.

Sometimes people desire a revival from mere natural affection, so as to have their friends converted and saved. If they mean to be so united in prayer as to obtain a blessing, they must not only desire the blessing, and be agreed in desiring it, but they must also agree in desiring it for the same reasons.
People may even desire a revival, and agree in desiring it, and agree in the motives, and yet if these motives are not good, God will not grant their desires. Thus, parents may be agreed in prayer for the conversion of their children, and may have the same feelings and the same motives, and yet if they have no higher motives than because they are their children, their prayers will not be granted. They are agreed in the reason, but it is not the right reason.

In like manner, any number of persons might be agreed in their desires and motives, but if their motives are selfish, their being agreed in them will only make them more offensive to God. "How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?" (Acts 5:9). I have seen a great deal of this, where Churches have been engaged in prayer for an object, and their motives were evidently selfish. Sometimes they are engaged in prayer for a revival, and you would think by their earnestness and union that they would certainly move God to grant the blessing, till you find out their reason. And what is it? Why, they see their congregation is about to be broken up, unless something can be done. Or they see some other denomination gaining ground, and there is no way to counteract this but by having a revival in their Church. All their praying is therefore only an attempt to get the Almighty to help them out of their difficulty; it is purely selfish and therefore offensive to God. A woman, in Philadelphia, was invited to attend a women's prayer meeting at a certain place. She inquired what they met there for, and for what they were going to pray?

She was answered that they were going to pray for the outpouring of the Spirit upon the city. "Well," she said, "I shall not go; if they were going to pray for our congregation, I would go, but I am not going there to pray for other Churches!" Oh, what a spirit!

I have had a multitude of letters and requests that I would visit such-and-such places, and endeavor to promote a revival, and many reasons have been urged why I should go; but when I came to weigh their reasons, I have sometimes found every one of them to be selfish. And God would look upon every one with abhorrence.

In prayer meetings, too, how often do we hear people offer such reasons why they desire certain blessings, as are not right in the sight of God; reasons which, if they are the true ones, would render their prayers not acceptable to God, because their motive was not right.

There are many things said in favor of the cause of Foreign Missions, which are of this character, appealing to wrong motives. How often are we told of six hundred millions of heathens, who are in danger of going to hell, and how little is said of the guilt of six hundred millions engaged as rebels against God, or of the dishonor and contempt poured upon God our Maker by such a world of outlaws. Now, I know that God refers to those motives which appeal to our mere natural sympathies, and compassion, and uses them, but always in subordination to His glory. If these lower motives be placed foremost, it must always produce a defective piety, and a great deal that is false. Until the Church will look at the dishonor done to God, little will be done. It is this which must be made to stand out before the world, it is this which must be deeply felt by the Church, it is this which must be fully exhibited to sinners, before the world can ever be converted.

Parents never agree in praying for the conversion of their children in such a way as to have their prayers answered, until they feel that their children are rebels. Parents often pray very earnestly for their children, because they wish God to save them, and they almost think hardly of God if He does not save their children. But if they would have their prayers prevail, they must come to take God's part against their children, even though for their perverseness and incorrigible wickedness He should be obliged to send them to hell. I knew a woman who was very anxious for the salvation of her son, and she used to pray for him with agony, but still he remained impenitent, until at length she became convinced that her prayers and agonies had been nothing but the fond yearnings of parental feeling, and were not dictated at all by a just view of her son's character as a willful and wicked rebel against God. And there was never any impression made on his mind until she was made to take strong ground against him as a rebel, and to look on him as deserving to be sent to hell. And then he was converted. The reason was, she never before was influenced by the right motive in prayer - desiring his salvation with a supreme regard to the glory of God.
That is, we must concur in expecting the blessing prayed for. We must understand the reason why it is to be expected, we must see the evidence on which faith ought to rest, and must absolutely believe that the blessing will come, or we do not bring ourselves within the promise. Faith is always understood as an indispensable condition of prevailing prayer. If it is not expressed in any particular case, it is always implied, for no prayer can be effectual but that which is offered in faith. And in order that united prayer may prevail, there must be united faith.
Suppose a Church should undertake to pray for a revival, and should all be agreed in desiring a revival, but not as to the time when it shall be.

Suppose some wish to have the revival come now, and are all prepared, with their hearts waiting for the Spirit of God to come down, and are willing to give time and attention and labor to it NOW. But others are not quite ready, they have something else to attend to just at present, some worldly object which they want to accomplish, some piece of business in hand, wanting just to finish this thing, and then they would have the revival come. They cannot possibly find time to attend to it now; they are not prepared to humble themselves, to search their hearts, and break up their fallow ground, and put themselves in a posture to receive the blessing. Is it not plain that there is no real union, for they are not agreed in that which is essential? While some are praying that the revival may come now, others are praying, with equal earnestness, that it may not.

Suppose the question were now put to this Church, whether you are agreed in praying for a revival of religion here? Do you all desire a revival, and would you all like to have it now? Would you be heartily agreed now to break down in the dust, and open your hearts to the Holy Ghost, if He should come tonight? I do not ask what you would say, if I should propose the question. Perhaps if I should put it now, you would all rise up and vote that you were agreed in desiring a revival, and agreed to have it now. You know how you ought to feel, and what you ought to say, and you know you ought to be ready for a revival now. But, I ask: "Would GOD see to it to be so in your hearts that you are agreed on this point?

Have any two of you agreed on this point, and prayed accordingly? If not, when will you be agreed to pray for a revival? And if this Church cannot be agreed among themselves, how can you expect a revival? It is of no use for you to stand up here and say you are agreed, when God reads the heart, and sees that you are not agreed. Here is the promise: 'Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven.' Now this is either true or false. Which ground will you take? If it is true, then it is true that you are not agreed, and never have been, except in those cases where you have had a revival."

But we must agree, not only on a time, but it must be the present time, or we are not agreed in everything essential to the work. Unless we agree to have a revival now, we shall not now use the means, and until the means are used it cannot come. It is plain, then, that we must be agreed on the present time; that is, we are not agreed, in the sense of the text, until we are agreed that now we will have the blessing, and act accordingly. To agree upon a future time is of no use, for when that future time comes we must then be agreed upon that present time, and use means accordingly; so that you see you are never properly agreed, until you agree that now is the time.


You see the language of the text: "If two of you shall agree as touching anything that they shall ask." Many people seem to read it as if it referred merely to an agreement in asking, and they understand it to promise, that whenever two are agreed in asking for any blessing, it shall be given. But Christ says there must be an agreement "as touching" the thing prayed for.

That is, the agreement or union must comprise everything that is essential to the endowment and reception of the blessing.

There are many individuals, even in the Church, who do not in their hearts believe that the revivals which take place are the work of God. Some of them may pray in words for an outpouring of the Spirit and a revival of religion, while in their hearts they doubt whether there are any such things known in modern times. In united prayer there must be no hypocrisy.
They must feel the infinite importance of a revival, before they will pray so as to prevail. Blessings of this kind are not granted but in answer to such prayers as arise from a sense of their importance. As I have shown before, on the subject of prevailing prayer, it is when men desire the blessing with UNUTTERABLE AGONY, that they offer such prayer as will infallibly prevail with God. Those who feel less as to the importance of a revival may pray for it in words, but they will never have the blessing.

But when a Church has been united in prayer, and really felt the importance of a revival, it has never failed of having one. I do not believe a case can be found, of such a Church being turned empty away. Such an agreement, when sincere, will secure an agreement also on all other subjects that are indispensable.
(a) The necessity of Divine agency to produce a revival. It is not enough that they all hold this in theory, and pray for it in words. They must fully understand and deeply feel this necessity; they must realize their entire dependence on the Spirit of God, or the whole will fail.

(b) Why Divine agency is necessary. There must be an agreement on correct principles in regard to the reason that Divine agency is so indispensable. If they get wrong ideas on this point they will be hindered.

If Christians get the idea that this necessity of Divine influence lies in the inability of sinners, or if they feel as if God were under obligation to give the Holy Spirit, in order to make sinners able to obey the Gospel, they insult God, and their prayers will not avail. For in that case they must feel that it is a mere matter of common justice for God to pour out His Spirit, before He can justly require Christians to work, or sinners to repent.

Suppose a Church gets the idea that sinners are poor unfortunate creatures, who come into the world with such a nature that they cannot help sinning, and that sinners are just as unable to repent and believe the Gospel as they are to fly to the moon, how can it be felt that the sinner is a rebel against God, and that he deserves to be sent to hell? How can they feel that the sinner is to blame? And how can they take God's part when they pray? If they do not take God's part against the sinner, they cannot expect God will regard their prayers, for they do not pray with right motives. No doubt one great reason why so many prayers are not answered, is, that those who pray do in fact take the sinner's part against God. They pray as if the sinner were a poor unfortunate being, to be pitied, rather than as if he were a guilty wretch, to be blamed. And the reason is, that they do not believe sinners are able to obey God. If a person does not believe that sinners are able to obey their Maker, and really believes that the Spirit's influences are necessary to make them able, it is impossible, with these views, to offer acceptable and prevailing prayer for the sinner; and it is not wonderful that persons with these views should not prevail with God, and should doubt about the efficacy of the prayer of faith.

How often do you hear people pray for sinners in this style: "O Lord, help this poor soul to do what he is required to do; O Lord, enable him to do so-and-so." Now this language implies that they take the sinner's part, and not God's. If it were understood by those who use it, as it is sometimes explained, and if people meant by it what they ought to mean when they plead for sinners, I would not find so much fault with it. The truth is, that when people use this language, they often mean just what the language itself would be naturally, at first sight, understood to mean, which is just as if they should pray: "Lord, Thou command these poor sinners to repent, when, O Lord, Thou knowest they cannot repent, unless Thou givest them Thy Spirit to enable them to do so, though Thou hast declared that Thou wilt send them to hell if they do not, whether they ever receive Thy Spirit or not; and now, Lord, this seems very hard, and we pray Thee to have pity upon these poor creatures, and do not deal so hardly with them, for Christ's sake."

Who does not see that such a prayer, or a prayer which means this, in whatever language it may be couched, is an insult to God, charging Him with infinite injustice, if He should continue to exact from sinners a duty which they are unable to perform without that aid which He will not grant! People may pray in this way till the Day of Judgment, and never obtain a blessing, because they take the sinner's part against God. They cannot pray successfully, until they understand that the sinner is a rebel, and obstinate in his rebellion - so obstinate, that he never will, without the Holy Spirit, do what he might, as well as not, instantly do, and that this obstinacy is the reason, and the only reason, why he needs the influence of the Holy Spirit for his conversion. The only ground on which the sinner needs Divine agency is, to overcome his obstinacy, and make him willing to do what he can do, and what God justly requires him to do.

And Christians are never in an attitude in which God can hear their united prayers, unless they are agreed in so understanding their dependence on God, as to feel it in perfect consistency with the sinner's blame. If it is the other way, they are agreed in understanding it wrongly, and their prayers for Divine help to the unfortunate, instead of Divine favor to make a rebel submit, are wide of the mark, are an insult to God, and they never will obtain favor in heaven.

(c) They must be agreed in understanding that revivals are not miracles, but that they are brought about by the use of means, like other events. No wonder revivals formerly came so seldom and continued so short a time, when people generally regarded them as miracles, or like a mere shower of rain, that will come on a place, continue a little while, and then blow over; that is, as something over which we have no control. For what can people do to get a shower of rain? Or how can they make it rain any longer than it does rain? It is necessary that those who pray should be agreed in understanding a revival as something to be brought about by means, or they never will be agreed in using them.

(d) They must be agreed in understanding that human agency is just as indispensable to a revival as Divine agency. Such a thing as a revival of religion, I venture to say, never did occur without Divine agency, and never did occur without human agency. How often do people say: "God can, if He pleases, carry on the work without means." But I have no faith in it, for there is no evidence for it. What is religion? Obedience to God's law. But the law cannot be obeyed unless it is known. And how can God make sinners obey but by making known His commandments? And how can He make them known but by revealing them Himself, or sending them to others - that is, by bringing THE TRUTH to bear on a person's mind till he obeys it? God never did, and never can, convert a sinner, except with the truth. What is conversion? Obeying the truth. He may Himself directly communicate it to the sinner; but then, the sinner's own agency is indispensable, for conversion consists in the right employment of the sinner's own agency. And ordinarily, He employs the agency of others also, in printing, writing, conversation, and preaching. God has put the Gospel treasure in earthen vessels. He has seen fit to employ men in preaching the Word; that is, He has seen that human agency is that which He can best employ in saving sinners. And if there ever was a case (of which we have no evidence), there is not one in a thousand, if one in a million, converted in any other way than through the truth, made known and urged by human instrumentality. And as Christians must be united in using those means, it is plainly necessary that they should be united in understanding the true reason why means are to be used, and the true principles on which they are to be governed and applied.
Why, they will only undo each other's work, and thwart the whole business of the concern. All this is preeminently true in regard to the work of promoting a revival. Otherwise, the members of the Church will counteract each other's influence, and they need not expect a revival.

(a) The Church must be agreed in regard to the meetings which are held, as to what meetings, and how many, and where and when they shall be held.

Some people always desire to multiply meetings in a revival, as if the more meetings they had, the more religion there would be. Others are always opposed to any new meetings in a revival. Some are always for having a protracted meeting; and others are never ready to hold a protracted meeting at all. Whatever difference there may be, it is essential that the Church should come to a good understanding on the subject, so that they can go on together in harmony, and labor with zeal and effect.

(b) They must be agreed as to the manner of conducting meetings. It is necessary that the Church should be united and cordial on this subject, if it is expected to offer united prayer with effect. Sometimes there are individuals who want to adopt every new thing they can hear of or imagine, while others are totally unwilling to have anything altered in regard to the management of the meetings, but would have everything done precisely in the way to which they are accustomed. They ought to be agreed in some way, either to have the meetings altered, or to keep them on in the old way. The best possible way is, for the Church to agree in this, that they will let the meetings go on and take their course, just as the Spirit of God shapes them, and not even attempt to make the two meetings just alike. The Church never will give the fullest effect to the truth, until there is agreement in this principle: That, in promoting a revival, they will accommodate their measures to circumstances, and not attempt to interrupt the natural course which pious feeling and sound judgment indicate, but cast themselves entirely upon the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit, introducing any measure, at any time, that shall seem called for in the Providence of God, without laying any stress upon its being new or old.
It is a point immensely important that the Church should be agreed as to the treatment of sinners. Suppose that there is no agreement, so that one will tell a sinner one thing and another. What confusion! How can they agree in prayer, when it is plain that they are not agreed as to the things for which they shall pray? Go among such a people, and hear them pray for sinners; attend a prayer meeting and listen. Here is one man who prays that the sinners present may repent. Another prays that they may be convicted; and perhaps, if he be very much concerned, will go so far as to pray that they may be deeply convicted. Another prays that sinners may go home solemn and pensive, and silent, meditating on the truths they have heard. Another prays in such a manner that you can see he is afraid to have them converted now. Another prays very solemnly that they may not attempt to do anything in their own strength. And so on. How easy it is to see that the Church is not agreed as touching the things they ask for; hence they have no interest in the promise.

If you set such people to talk with sinners, they will be just as discordant, for it is plain that they are not agreed, and have no clear views in regard to what a sinner must do to be saved, or of what ought to be said to sinners in order to bring them to repent. The consequence is, that sinners who are awakened and anxious presently get confounded, and do not know what to do; and perhaps they give up in despair, or conclude that in reality there is nothing rational or consistent in religion. One will tell the sinner he must repent immediately. Another will give him a book (Doddridge's "Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul," perhaps), and tell him to read it. Another will tell him to pray and persevere, and then, in God's time, he will obtain the blessing. A revival can never go on for any length of time, amidst such difficulties. Even if it should begin, it must soon run out; unless, perhaps, the body of the Church will keep still and say nothing, letting others carry on the work. And even then the work will suffer materially for want of cooperation and support. A Church ought to be agreed. Christians ought to have a clear understanding of this subject, and all speak the same thing and give the same directions; then, the sinner will find no one to take his part, but will get no relief or comfort till he repents.
(a) In the exercise of discipline. If there are rotten members in the Church, they should be removed, and the Church should agree to cut them off. If they remain, they are such a reproach to religion as to hinder a revival.

Sometimes when an attempt is made to cast them out, this creates a division, and thus the work is stopped. Sometimes the offenders are persons of influence, or they have family friends who will take their part, and make a party, and thus create a bad spirit, and prevent a revival.

(b) In mutual confessions. Whenever wrong has been done to any, there should be a full confession. I do not mean a cold and forced acknowledgment, such as saying: "If I have done wrong, I am sorry for it;" but a hearty confession, going the full length of the wrong, and showing that it comes out of a broken heart.

(c) Forgiveness of enemies. A great obstruction to revivals is often found in the fact that active and leading individuals harbor a revengeful and unforgiving spirit towards those who have injured them, which destroys their spirituality, makes them harsh and disagreeable in their manner, and prevents them from enjoying either communion with God in prayer, or the blessing of God to give them success in labor. But let the members of the Church be truly agreed, in confessing their faults, and in cherishing a tender, merciful, forgiving, Christ-like spirit toward any who, they think, have done them wrong, and then the Spirit will come down upon them not by measure.
Then there will be neither envying nor jealousy, nor any of those mutual recriminations and altercations and disrespectful remarks about one another, which are so inconsistent with brotherly love, and put such a stumbling block in the way of sinners.
He would not have left, at the time, whether they gave him anything or not; for what he should receive, or whether he should receive anything from them, was a question about which he felt no concern. But the Church, by its parsimonious spirit, got into such a state as to grieve the Spirit, and he saw that to stay longer with them would do no good. Oh, how will those professors feel when they meet sinners from that town in judgment, when it will all come out, that God was ready and waiting to grant them a blessing, but they allowed themselves to get agitated and divided by inquiring how much they should have to pay!


It is because the parents have not been agreed as touching the things they should pray for in behalf of their children. Perhaps they never had any kind of agreement respecting them. Perhaps they were never agreed even as to what was the very best thing they could ask for them. Sometimes parents are not agreed in a anything, but their opinions clash, and they are perpetually disagreeing, and their children see it. Then it is no wonder that the children remain unconverted.

Or perhaps they may not be agreed as touching the salvation of their children. Are they sincere in desiring it? Do they agree to seek it, and agree from right motives? Do they agree in regard to the importance of it? Are they agreed how the children ought to be dealt with, so as to effect their conversion; what shall be said to them; how it shall be said; when; and by whom? Probably few cases will be found where children remain unconverted, but where inquiry would prove that the parents were never truly agreed as touching these things. In many cases, indeed, it is quite evident that they are not agreed.

Often there is such disagreement that we could not expect any good to result, or, indeed, anything but ruin to the children. The husband and wife often disagree entirely and fundamentally in regard to the manner of bringing up their children. Perhaps the wife is fond of dress, and display, and visiting; while the husband is plain and humble, and is grieved and distressed, and mourns and prays to see how his children are puffed up with vanity. Or it may be that the father is ambitious, and wants to have his daughters fashionably educated and make a display, and his sons become great men; so he will send his daughters to a fashionable school, where they may learn anything but their duty to God, and will be all the while pushing his sons forward, and goading their ambitions; while the mother grieves and weeps in secret to see her dear children hurried on to destruction, her influence counteracted, and her sons and daughters trained up to serve the God of this world, and to go to hell.
They have read as if it were: "If any two of you shall agree to ask anything, it shall be done." And as they have often agreed to ask for things, and the things were not done, they have said: "The literal meaning of the text cannot be true, for we have tried it and know it is not true. How many prayer meetings have we held, and how many petitions have we put up, in which we have perfectly agreed in asking for blessings, and yet they have not been granted." Now the fact is, that they have never yet understood what it is to be agreed as touching the things they are to ask for. I am sure this is no strained construction of the text, but is its true and obvious meaning, as a plain, pious reader would understand it, if he inquired seriously and earnestly the true import. They must be agreed not only in asking, but in everything else that is indispensable to the existence of the thing prayed for. Suppose two of you agree in desiring to go to London together. If you are not agreed in regard to the means, what route you shall take, and what ship you will go in, you will never get there together. Just so in praying for a revival: you must be agreed in regard to the means and circumstances, and everything essential to the existence and progress of a revival.
Here is another fact, which I have witnessed, worthy of notice. I have observed that a revival will prevail outside the Church, among persons in that class of society, amongst whom it prevails within the Church. If the women in the Church are most awake and prayerful. the work may ordinarily be expected to prevail mostly amongst women out of the Church, and more women will be converted than men. If the young people in the Church are most awake, then assuredly the work is most likely to prevail among the youth. If the heads of families and the principal men in the Church are awake, the revival is, I have observed, more likely to prevail among that class out of the Church. I have known a revival mostly confined to women, with few men converted, apparently because the men within the Church did not take active part. Again, I have repeatedly known the greatest number of converts to be among men, owing apparently to the fact that the men within the Church were the most active. When the revival does not reach a particular class of the impenitent, pains should be taken to arouse that portion of the Church who are of their own age and standing, to make more direct efforts for their conversion.

There seems to be a philosophy in this fact, which has often been illustrated. Different classes of professors naturally feel a sympathy for the impenitent of their own sex and age and rank, and more naturally pray for them, and for more influence over them; and this seems to be at least one of the reasons why revivals are apt to be the most powerful and general in that class without the Church who are most awake within the Church. Christians should understand this, and feel their responsibility.

One great reason why, in revivals, so few of the principal men are converted, doubtless is that class in the Church are often so worldly that they cannot be aroused. The revival will generally prevail mostly in those families where the professors belonging to them are awake; and the impenitent belonging to those families where the professors are not awake are apt to be left unconverted. One principal reason obviously is that when the professors in a family or neighborhood are awake, there is not only prayer offered for sinners in the midst of them, but there are corresponding influences acting on the impenitent among them. If they are awake, their looks and lives and warnings all tend to promote the conversion of their impenitent friends. But if they are asleep, all their influence tends to prevent such conversions. Their coldness grieves the Spirit, their worldliness contradicts the Gospel, and all their intercourse with their impenitent friends is in favor of impenitence, and calculated to perpetuate it.
Christians often see and deplore the evils that have arisen to the Church of God, from the division of His people into jarring sects; and they have wondered and been perplexed to think that God should suffer it to be so.

But in the light of this subject we can see that, considering what diversities of opinions and feelings and views actually exist in the Church, much good results from this division. Considering this diversity of opinion, many would never agree to pray and labor together, so as to do it with success, and so it is better they should separate, and let those unite who are agreed.

In all cases where there cannot be a cordial agreement in labor, it is better that each denomination should labor by itself, so long as the difference exists. I have sometimes seen revivals broken up by attempting to unite Christians of different denominations in prayer and labor together, while they were not agreed as to the principles or measures by which the work was to be promoted. They would undo each other's work, destroy each other's influence, perplex the anxious, and give occasion to the enemies of God to blaspheme; and soon their feelings would get soured, and, the Spirit being grieved away, the work would stop, and perhaps painful confusion and controversy follow.
Only let them feel as the heart of one man, and be agreed as to what ought to be done for the salvation of the world, and the millennium will come at once.
After all the revivals that have been enjoyed, and all that has been said and written and printed concerning revivals, there are very few who have any real, consistent knowledge on the subject. And when there is a revival, how few are there who can take hold to labor and promote it as if they understood what they were about. How few persons are to be found who have ever taken up revivals of religion as a subject to be studied and understood. Everybody knows that in a revival Christians must pray, and do some things which they have not been in the habit of doing. But multitudes know nothing of the REASON WHY they should do this, or why one thing is better than another, and, having no principles to guide them, when anything occurs which they did not expect, they are all at fault, and know not what to do.

If men should go to work to build a house of worship, and know as little how to proceed as many ministers and professors know how to build the spiritual temple of God, they never would get a house up; and yet people make themselves believe that they are building the Church of God, when they know not what they are about, but are utterly unable to give a reason why they are doing as they do, or why one thing should be done rather than another. There are multitudes in the Church who never seem to suppose that the work of promoting revivals of religion is one that requires study, and thought, and knowledge of principles, and skill in applying the Word of God so as to give every one his portion in season.

And so they go on, generally doing little or nothing, because they are attempting nothing; and if they ever do awaken, they go headlong to work, without any system or plan, as if God had left this part of our duty out of the reach of sound judgment and good sense.
Instead of this, how often do you see a Church in a time of revival take hold of the work to promote it, just like a troop of children thinking to build a house. How few there are who really know how to do - what?

Why, the very thing for which God suffers Christians to live in this world, the very thing for which ALONE He would ever let them remain away from heaven a day; and this is the very thing, of all others, that they do not study, and do not try to understand.
Christians should understand all the tactics of the devil, and know where to guard against his devices, so that they may know him when they see him - and not mistake him for an angel of light come to give them lessons of wisdom in promoting the revival - and so that they can cooperate wisely with the minister, and with one another, and with the Holy Ghost, in carrying on the work. No person who has been conversant with revivals can overlook the fact that the ignorance of professors of religion concerning revivals, and their blunders in the matter, are among the common things that put revivals down, and bring back a fearful reaction upon the Church. How long shall this be so? It ought not to be so; it need not be so; shall it always be so?
Why, what is the end of the Christian ministry? What have they to do, but to instruct and marshal the sacramental host, and lead them on to conquest? What, will they let the Church remain in ignorance on the very subject, and the only point of duty, for the performance of which they are in the world - the salvation of sinners? Some ministers have acted as mysteriously about revivals as if they thought Christians were either incapable of understanding how to promote them, or that it was of no importance that they should know. But this is all wrong. No minister has yet begun even to understand his duty, if he has neglected to teach his people to work for God in the promotion of revivals. What is he about?

What does he mean? Why is he a minister? To what end has he taken the sacred office? Is it that he "may eat a piece of bread"? (1 Samuel 2:36).
Who can be agreed so well as parents? Let them be agreed in prayer, and agreed what to do, and agreed in doing all their duty; let them thus train up their children in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it.

And now, do you believe you are agreed, according to the meaning of this promise? I know that where a few individuals may be agreed in some things, they may produce some effect. But while the body of the Church is not agreed, there will always be so many things to counteract, that they will accomplish but little. THE CHURCH MUST BE AGREED. Oh, if we could find but one Church perfectly and heartily agreed in all these points, so that they could pray and labor together, all as one, what good would be done! Oh, what do Christians think, how can they keep still, when God has brought down His blessings so that if any two were agreed as touching the things they ask for, it would be done? Alas! alas! how bitter will be the remembrance of the jangling in the Church, when Christians come to see the crowds of lost souls that have gone down to hell, because we were not agreed to labor and pray for their salvation.
God has given it to be the precious inheritance of His people at all times, and in all places, that, if His people agree, their prayers will be answered.

We see the awful guilt of the members of this Church, who listen to Lectures about revivals, and then go away and have no revival; and also the guilt of members of other Churches who hear and go home and refuse to do their duty. How can you meet the thousands of impenitent sinners around you at the bar of God, and see them sink away into everlasting burning?

Have you been united in heart to pray for them? If you have not, why have you disagreed? Why have you not prayed with this promise until you have prevailed.

You will now either be agreed, and pray for the Holy Ghost, and receive Him before you leave the place, or the anger of the Lord will be upon you.

Should you now agree to pray in the sense of this promise, for the Spirit of God to come down on this city, the Heavenly Dove would fly through this city in the midst of the night and would rouse the consciences and break up the guilty slumbers of the wicked. What, then, is the crimson guilt of those professors of religion who are sleeping in sight of such a promise? They seem to have skipped over it, or entirely to have forgotten it. Multitudes of sinners are going to hell in all directions, and yet this blessed promise is neglected; yea, more, is practically despised by the Church, There it stands in the solemn record, and the Church might take hold of it in such a manner that vast numbers might be saved - but they are not agreed, therefore souls will perish. And where is the responsibility? Who can take this promise and look the perishing in the face at the Day of Judgment?

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How then comfort ye me in vain, seeing in your answers there remaineth falsehood? - Job 21:34.

Jobs ' three friends insisted that the afflictions which he suffered were sent as a punishment for his sins, and were evidence conclusive that he was a hypocrite, and not a good man, as he professed to be. A lengthy argument ensued, in which Job referred to all past experience, to prove that men are not dealt with in this way according to their character; that the distinction is not observed in the allotments of Providence. His friends maintained the opposite, and intimated that this world is also a place of rewards and punishments, in which men receive good or evil, according to their deeds.

In this chapter, Job urges, by appealing to common sense and common observation and experience, that this cannot be true, because it is a matter of fact that the wicked are often prosperous in this world and throughout life, and hence he infers that their judgment and punishment must be reserved for a future state. "The wicked is reserved to the day of destruction," and "they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath" (v. 30).

And inasmuch as the friends who came to comfort him, being in the dark on this fundamental point, had not been able to understand his case, and so could not afford him any comfort, but rather aggravated his grief, Job insisted upon it that he would still look to a future state for consolation.

He rebuked them by exclaiming, in the bitterness of his soul:

"How then comfort ye me in vain, seeing in your answers there remaineth falsehood?"

My present purpose is to make some remarks upon the various methods employed in comforting anxious sinners; and I design:

I. To notice briefly the necessity and design of instructing anxious sinners.

II. To show that anxious sinners are always seeking comfort. Their supreme object, indeed, is to get comfort in their distress.

III. To notice some of the false comforts often administered.

IV. Errors made in praying for sinners.


The very idea of anxiety implies some instruction. A sinner will not be anxious at all about his future state, unless he has light enough to know that he is a sinner, and that he is in danger of punishment and needs forgiveness. But men are to be converted, not by physical force, nor by a change wrought in their nature or constitution by creative power, but by the truth, made effectual by the Holy Spirit. Conversion is yielding to the truth. Therefore, the more the truth can be brought to bear on the mind, other things being equal, so much the more probable is it that the individual will be converted. Unless the truth is brought to bear upon him, it is certain he will not be converted. If it be brought to bear, it is not absolutely certain that it will be effectual, but the probability is in proportion to the extent to which the truth is brought to bear.

The great design of dealing with an anxious sinner is to clear up all his difficulties and darkness, do away with all his errors, sap the foundation of his self-righteous hopes, and sweep away every vestige of comfort that he can find in himself. There is often much difficulty in all this, and much instruction is required. Sinners often cling with a death-grasp to their false dependencies. The last place to which a sinner ever betakes himself for relief is to Jesus Christ. Sinners had rather be saved in any other way in the world. They had rather make any sacrifice, go to any expense, or endure any suffering, than just throw themselves as guilty and lost rebels upon Christ alone for salvation. This is the very last way in which they are ever willing to be saved. It cuts up all their self-righteousness, and annihilates their pride and self-satisfaction so completely that they are exceedingly unwilling to adopt it. But it is as true in philosophy as it is in fact, that this is, after all, the only way in which a sinner could find relief. If God should attempt to relieve sinners and save them without humbling their pride and turning them from their sins, He could not do it.

Now, the object of instructing an anxious sinner should be to bring his mind, by the shortest route, to the practical conclusion that there is, in fact, no other way in which he can be relieved and saved, but to renounce himself, and rest in Christ alone. To do this with effect requires great skill.

It requires a thorough knowledge of the human heart, a clear understanding of the plan of salvation, and a precise and definite idea of the very thing that a sinner MUST DO in order to be saved. The ability to impart such instruction effectually is one of the rarest qualifications in the ministry. It is distressing to see how few ministers and how few professors of religion there are who have in their own mind so distinct an idea of the thing to be done, that they can go to an anxious sinner and tell him exactly what he has to do, and how to do it, and can show him clearly that there is no possible way for him to be saved, but by doing that very thing which they tell him, and can make him feel the certainty that he must do it, and that unless he does that very thing he will be lost.


Sinners often imagine they are seeking Jesus Christ, and seeking religion, but this is a mistake. No person ever sought religion, and yet remained irreligious. What is religion? It is obeying God. Seeking religion is seeking to obey God. The soul that hungers and thirsts after righteousness is the soul of a Christian. To say that a person can seek to obey God, and yet not obey Him, is absurd; for, if he is seeking religion, he is not an impenitent sinner. To seek religion implies a willingness to obey God, and a willingness to obey God is religion. It is a contradiction to say that an impenitent sinner is seeking religion. It is the same as to say that he seeks and actually longs to obey God, and God will not let him; or that he longs to embrace Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ will not let him come. The fact is, the anxious sinner is seeking a hope, he is seeking pardon, and comfort, and deliverance from hell. He is anxiously looking for some one to comfort him and make him feel better, without being obliged to conform to such humiliating conditions as those of the Gospel. And his anxiety and distress continue, only because he will not yield to these terms. Unfortunately, anxious sinners find comforters enough to their liking. Miserable comforters they are, too, "seeing in their answers there remaineth falsehood." No doubt, millions and millions are now in hell, because there were those around them who gave them false comfort, who had so much false pity, or were themselves so much in the dark, that they would not let sinners remain in anxiety till they had submitted their hearts to God, but administered falsehood.


There is an endless variety of ways in which false comfort is given to anxious sinners. The more I observe the ways in which even good people deal with anxious sinners, the more I feel grieved at the endless falsehoods with which they attempt to comfort their anxious friends, and thus, in fact, deceive them and beguile them out of their salvation. It often reminds me of the manner in which people act when any one is ill. Let any one of you be ill, with almost any disease in the world, and you will find that every person you meet with has a remedy for that disorder, a certain cure, a specific, a panacea; and you will find such a world of quackery all around you that if you do not take care and SHUT IT ALL OUT, you will certainly lose your life. A man must exercise his own judgment, for he will find as many remedies as he has friends, and each one is tenacious of his own medicine, and perhaps will think it hard if it is not taken. And no doubt this miserable system of quackery kills a great many people.

This is true to no greater extent respecting the diseases of the body than respecting the diseases of the mind. People have their specifics and their panaceas, to comfort distressed souls; and whenever they begin to talk with an anxious sinner, they will bring in their false comforts - so much that if he does not TAKE CARE, and mind the Word of God, he will infallibly be deceived to his own destruction. I propose to mention a few of the falsehoods that are often brought forward in attempting to comfort anxious sinners. Time would fail me even to name them all.

The direct object of many persons is to comfort sinners; and they are often so intent upon this that when they see their friends distressed, they pity them, they feel very compassionate: "Oh, oh, I cannot bear to see them so distressed, I must comfort them somehow"; and so they try one way, and another, and all to comfort them! Now, God desires they should be comforted. He is benevolent, and has kind feelings, and His heart yearns over them, when He sees them so distressed. But He sees that there is only one way to give a sinner real comfort. He has more benevolence and compassion than all men, and wishes to comfort them. But He has fixed the terms, as unyielding as His Throne, on which He will give a sinner relief. He will not alter. He knows that nothing else will do the sinner effectual good, for nothing can make him happy, until he repents of his sins and forsakes them, and turns to God. And therefore God will not yield. Our object should be the same as that of God. We should feel compassion and benevolence just as He does, and be as ready to give comfort, but we should also be sure that it is of the right kind.

Our prime object should be to induce the sinner to obey God. His comfort ought to be, both with us and with himself, only a secondary object; and while we are more anxious to relieve his distress than to have him cease to abuse and dishonor God, we are not likely, by our instructions, to do him any real good. This is a fundamental distinction in dealing with anxious sinners, but it is evidently overlooked by many, who seem to have no higher motives than sympathy or compassion for the sinner. If in preaching the Gospel or instructing the anxious, we are not actuated by a high regard to the honor of God, and rise no higher than to desire to relieve the distressed; this is going no farther than a constitutional sympathy, or compassion, would carry us. The overlooking of this principle has often misled professors of religion, and when they have heard others dealing faithfully with anxious sinners, they have accused them of cruelty. I have often had professors bring anxious sinners to me, and beg me to comfort them; and then, when I have probed the conscience of the sinner to the quick, they have shuddered, and sometimes taken his part. It is sometimes impossible to deal effectually with young people who are anxious, in the presence of their parents, because the parents have so much more compassion for their children than regard to the honor of God. This is a position which is all wrong; and with such views and feelings you had better hold your tongue than say anything to the anxious.

They see them distressed and cry out: "Why, what have you done?" as if they had never done anything wicked, and had in reality no occasion to feel distressed at all. A fashionable lady was spiritually awakened, and she was going to see a minister, to converse with him, when she was met by a friend, who turned her back, and drove off her anxiety by the cry: "What have you done to make you feel so? I am sure you have never committed any sin that need make you feel so!"

I have often met with cases of this kind. A mother will tell her son, who is anxious, what an obedient child he has always been, how good and how kind, and she begs him "not to take on so." So a husband will tell his wife, or a wife her husband: "How good you are!" and say: "Why, you are not so bad. You have been to hear that frightful minister, who frightens people, and you have got excited. Be comforted, for I am sure you have not been bad enough to justify such distress." When the truth is, they have been a great deal worse than they think they have. No sinner ever has an idea of his sins greater than they really are. No sinner ever has an adequate idea of how great a sinner he is. It is not probable that any man could live under a full sight of his sins. God has, in mercy, spared all His creatures on earth that worst of sights, a naked human heart. The sinner's guilt is much more deep and damning than he thinks, and his danger is much greater than he thinks it is; and if he should see his sins as they are, probably he would not live one moment. True, a sinner may have false notions on the subject, which may create distress, but which have no foundation. He may think he has committed the unpardonable sin, or that he has grieved away the Spirit, or sinned away his day of grace. But to tell the most moral and naturally amiable person in the world that he is good enough, or that he is not so bad as he thinks he is, is not giving him rational comfort, but is deceiving him and ruining his soul. Let those who do it, beware.
What is regeneration? What is it but the beginning of obedience to God?

And is the beginning of a thing progressive? It is the first act of genuine obedience to God - the first voluntary action of the mind, that is what God approves, or that can be regarded as obedience to God. That is conversion. When persons talk about conversion as a progressive work, it is absurd. They show that they know just as much about regeneration or conversion as Nicodemus did. They know nothing about it as they ought to know, and are no more fit to conduct an anxious meeting, or to advise or instruct anxious sinners, than Nicodemus was.
Such advice, if it be truly conviction of sin that distresses the sinner, is, in no case, either safe or lawful. The strivings of the Spirit, to bring the sinner to Christ, will never hurt him, nor drive him crazy. He may make himself deranged by resisting; but it is blasphemous to think that the blessed, wise, and benevolent Spirit of God would ever act with so little care, as to derange and destroy the soul which He came to sanctify and save. The proper course to take with a sinner, when the striving of the Spirit throws him into distress, is, to instruct him, clear up his views, correct his mistakes, and make the way of salvation so plain, that he may see it right before him. Not to dismiss the subject, but to fall in with the Spirit, and thus hush all those dreadful agonies which are produced by resisting the Holy Ghost. REMEMBER, if an awakened sinner should voluntarily dismiss the subject once, probably he will never take it up again.
It is true, religion does not consist in "feeling bad"; but the sinner has reason to be distressed, because he has no religion. If he had religion, he would not feel so. Were he a Christian, he would rejoice. But to tell an impenitent sinner to be cheerful! Why, you might as well preach this doctrine in hell, and tell them there: "Cheer up here, cheer up: do not feel so bad!"

The sinner is on the very verge of hell, he is in rebellion against God, and his danger is infinitely greater than he imagines. Oh, what a doctrine of devils it is to tell a rebel against Heaven not to be distressed! What is all his distress but rebellion itself? He is not comforted, because he refuses to be comforted. God is ready to comfort him. You need not think to be more compassionate than God. He will fill the sinner with comfort, in an instant, on submission. There stands the sinner, struggling against God, and against the Holy Ghost, and against conscience, until he is distressed almost to death, but still he will not yield; and now some one comes in, saying: "Oh, I hate to see you feel so bad, do not be so distressed; cheer up, cheer up; religion does not consist in being gloomy; be comforted."

It is his clear view of the nature and duty of repentance, that produces his distress. It is the light that brings agony to his mind, while he refuses to obey. It is that which makes up the pains of hell. And it will almost make hell in the sinner's breast here, if only made clear enough. Only cover up this light, and his anxiety will immediately become far less acute and thrilling, but if you take up a clear light, and flash it broadly upon his soul, then, if he will not yield, you kindle up the tortures of hell in his bosom.
If you tell him he is unable to comply with the Gospel, he naturally falls in with that relief. He says to himself: "Yes, I am unable, I am a poor, feeble creature, I cannot do this, and certainly God cannot send me to hell for not doing what I cannot do." Why, if I believed that a sinner was unable, I would tell him plainly: "Do not be afraid, you are not to blame for not complying with the call of the Gospel: for you are unable, and God will not send you to hell for not doing what you have no strength to do - 'Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?'" I know it is not common for those who talk about the sinner being "unable," to be so consistent, and carry out their theory. But the sinner infers all this, and so he feels relieved. It is all false, and all the comfort derived from it is only treasuring up wrath against the Day of Wrath.
It is true that there is a sense in which conversion is the work of God. But it is false, as it is often represented. It is also true that there is a sense in which conversion is the sinner's own act. It is ridiculous, therefore, to say that a sinner is passive in regeneration, or passive in being converted, for conversion is his own act. The thing to be done is that which cannot be done for him. It is something which he must do, or it will never be done.
Here is the sinner in rebellion. God comes with pardon in one hand and a sword in the other, and tells the sinner to repent and receive pardon, or refuse and perish. And now here comes a minister of the Gospel and tells the sinner to "wait God's time." Virtually he says that God is not ready to have him repent now, and is not ready to pardon him now, and thus, in fact, throws off the blame of his impenitence upon God. Instead of pointing out the sinner's guilt, in not submitting at once to God, he points out God's "insincerity" - in making an offer, when, in fact, He was not ready to grant the blessing!

I have often thought such teachers needed the rebuke of Elijah, when he met the priests of Baal. "Cry aloud: for he is a God; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked" (1 Kings 18:27). The minister who ventures to intimate that God is not ready, and tells the sinner to wait God's time, might almost as well tell him that God is asleep, or gone on a journey, and cannot attend to him at present. Miserable comforters, indeed! It is little less than outrageous blasphemy of God. How many have gone to the judgment, red all over with the blood of souls that they have deceived and destroyed - by telling them God was not ready to save them, and that they must wait God's time. No doubt such a doctrine is exceedingly calculated to afford present relief to an anxious sinner. It warrants him to say: "God is not ready, I must wait God's time, and so I can live in sin a while longer, till He gets ready to attend to me, and then I will get religion."
It often reminds me of the conduct of a patient who is very sick, but has a great dislike for a certain physician and a particular medicine, but that is the very physician who alone understands treating his disease, and that the only remedy for it. Now, the patient is willing to do anything else, and call in any other physician. He is anxious and in distress, is asking all his friends if they cannot tell him what he shall do. He will take all the nostrums and quack medicines in the country - before he will submit to the only course that can bring him relief. By and by, after he has tried everything without receiving any benefit, if he survives the experiment he gives up this unreasonable opposition, calls in the physician, takes the proper medicine, and is cured. Just so it is with sinners. They will eagerly do anything, if you will only let them off from this intolerable pressure of present obligation to submit to God.

I will mention a few of the things the telling of which to sinners distracts their attention from the point of immediate submission.

(a) Telling a sinner he must use the means - attend meetings and pray.

Tell an anxious sinner this: "You must use the means"; and he is relieved.

"Oh, yes, I will do that, if that be all. I thought that God required me to repent and submit to Him now. But if 'using the means' will answer, I will do that with all my heart." He was distressed before, because he was cornered, and did not know which way to turn. Conscience had beset him, like a wall of fire, and urged him to repent NOW. But this relieves him at once; he feels better, and is very thankful that he has found such a good adviser in his distress! But he may "use the means," as he says, till the Day of Judgment, and not be a particle the better for it, but only hasten his way to death. What is the sinner's use of means, but rebellion against God? God uses means - the Church uses means, to convert and save sinners, to impress them, and bring them to submission. But what has the sinner to do with such means? It is just telling him: "You need not submit to God now, but just use the means awhile, and see if you cannot melt God's heart down to you, so that He will yield this point of unconditional submission." It is a mere cavil to evade the duty of immediate submission to God. It is true that sinners, actuated by a regard to their own happiness, often give attention to the subject of religion, attend meetings, and pray, and read, and many such things. But in all this they have no regard to the honor of God, nor do they so much as intend to obey Him. Their design is not obedience, for if it were, they would not be impenitent sinners. They are not, therefore, using means to be Christians, but to obtain pardon, and a hope. It is absurd to say that an impenitent sinner is using means to repent, for this is the same as to say he is willing to repent; or, in other words, that he does repent, and so is not an impenitent sinner. So, to say that an unconverted sinner uses means with the design to become a Christian, is a contradiction; for it is saying that he is willing to be a Christian, which is the same as to say he is a Christian already.

(b) Telling a sinner to pray for a new heart. I once heard a celebrated Sunday-school teacher do this. He was almost the father of Sunday Schools in America. He called a little girl up to him, and began to talk to her. "My little girl, are you a Christian?" "No, sir." "Well, you cannot be a Christian yourself, can you?" "No, sir." "No, you cannot be a Christian yourself, you cannot change your heart yourself, but you must pray for a new heart, that is all you can do; pray to God, God will give you a new heart." He was an aged and venerable man, but I almost felt disposed to rebuke him in the name of the Lord; I could not bear to hear him deceive that child, telling her, practically, she could not be a Christian. Does God say: "Pray for a new heart"? Never. He says: "Make you a new heart"

(Ezekiel 18:31). The sinner is not to be told to pray to God to do his duty for him, but to go and do it himself. I know the Psalmist prayed: "Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10). He had faith, and prayed in faith. But that is a very different thing from setting an obstinate rebel to pray for a new heart. An anxious sinner will be delighted with such instruction, saying: "I knew I needed a new heart, and that I ought to repent, but I thought I must do it myself. I am very willing to ask God to do it; I hated to do it myself, but have no objection that God should do it, if He will, and I will pray for it, if that is all that is required."

(c) Telling the sinner to persevere. And suppose he does persevere? He is as certain to be lost as if he had been in hell ever since the foundation of the world. His anxiety arises only from his resistance; and if he would submit, it would cease; and will you tell him to persevere in the very thing that causes his distress? Suppose my child should, in a fit of passion, throw a book or something on the floor. I tell him: "Take it up," but instead of minding what I say, he runs off and plays. "Take it up!" He sees I am in earnest, and begins to look serious. "Take it up, or I shall get a rod." And I put up my arm to get the rod. He stands still. "Take it up, or you must be whipped." He comes slowly along to the place, and begins to weep. "Take it up, my child, or you will certainly be punished." Now he is in distress, and sobs and sighs as if his bosom would burst; but he still remains as stubborn as if he knew I could not punish him. Now I begin to press him with motives to submit and obey, but there he stands, in agony, and at length bursts out: "Oh, father, I do feel so bad, I think I am growing better." And now, suppose a neighbor to come in and see the child standing there, in all his agony and stubbornness. The neighbor asks him what he is standing there for, and what is he doing. "Oh, I am using means to pick up that book." If this neighbor should tell the child: "Persevere, persevere, my boy, you will get it by and by," what should I do? Why, I would ask him to leave the house; what does he mean by encouraging my child in rebellion?

Now, God calls the sinner to repent, He threatens him, He draws the glittering sword, He persuades him, He uses motives, and the sinner is distressed to agony, for he sees himself driven to the dreadful alternative of giving up his sins or going to hell. He ought instantly to lay down his weapons, and break his heart at once. But he resists, and struggles against conviction, and that creates his distress. Now, will you tell him to persevere? Persevere in what? In struggling against God! That is just the direction the devil would give. All the devil wants is, to see him persevere just in the way he is going on, and his destruction is sure.

(d) Telling a sinner to press forward. That is, to say to him: "You are in a good way, only press forward, and you will get to heaven." This is on the supposition that his face is toward heaven, when in fact his face is toward hell, and he is pressing forward, and never more rapidly than now, while he is resisting the Holy Ghost. Often have I heard this direction given, when the sinner was in as bad a way as he could be. What you ought to tell him is: "STOP, sinner, stop, do not take another step that way, it leads to hell." God tells him to stop, and because he does not wish to stop, he is distressed. Now, why should you attempt to comfort him in this way?

(e) Telling a sinner that he must "try" to repent and give his heart to God.

"Oh, yes," says the sinner, "I am willing to try, I have often tried to do it, and I will try again." Does God tell you to "try" to repent?

All the world would be willing to "try" to repent, in their way. Giving this direction implies that it is very difficult to repent, and perhaps impossible, and that the best thing a sinner can do is, to try and see whether he can do it or not. What is this, but substituting your own commandment in the place of God's. God requires nothing short of repentance and a holy heart; anything short of that is comforting the sinner in vain, "seeing in your answers there remaineth falsehood."

(f) Telling him to pray for repentance. "Oh, yes, I will pray for repentance, if that is all. I was distressed because I thought God required me to repent; but I can wait." And so he feels relieved, and is quite comfortable.

(g) Telling a sinner to pray for conviction, or pray for the Holy Ghost to show him his sins, or to labor to get more light on the subject of his guilt, in order to increase his conviction.

All this is just what the sinner wants, because it lets him off from the pressure of present obligation. He wants just a little more time. Anything that will defer that present pressure of obligation to repent immediately, is a relief. What does he want more conviction for? Does God give any such direction to an impenitent sinner? God takes it for granted that he has conviction enough already. And so he has. Do you say he cannot realize all his sins? If he can realize only one of them, let him repent of that one, and he is a Christian. Suppose he could see them all, what reason is there to think he would repent of them all, any more than he would repent of that one that he does see? All this is comforting the sinner by setting him to do that which he can do, and yet not submit his heart to God.
God has said His Spirit shall not always strive.
What is it but encouraging him to hold out, when his business is to submit? Did you hold out so many weeks while the Spirit was striving with you? You only deserved so much the more to be lost, for your obstinacy and stupidity.

Sinner! it is no sign that God will spare you so long, or that His Spirit will remain with you to be resisted. And remember, if the Spirit is taken away, you will be sent to hell.
The truth is, he has not really repented at all. As soon as the sinner repents, God always comforts him. This direction implies that his feelings are right as far as they go. To tell him that he has any repentance, is to tell him a lie, and cheat him out of his soul.
(a) "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted" (Matthew 5:4). How often has this passage been applied to anxious sinners, who were in distress because they would not submit to God. "Blessed are they that mourn." That is true, where they mourn with godly sorrow. But what is this sinner mourning about? He is mourning because God's law is holy, and the terms of salvation so fixed that he cannot bring them down to his mind. Will you tell such a rebel: "Blessed are they that mourn"? You might just as well apply it to those that are in hell! There is mourning there, too.

The sinner is mourning because there is no other way of salvation, because God is so holy that He requires him to give up all his sins, and he feels that the time has come, that he must either give them up, or be lost. Shall we tell him, he shall be comforted? Shall we tell the devil: "You mourn now; but the Bible says, you are blessed if you mourn; and you shall be comforted by and by!"

(b) "Seek, and ye shall find" (Matthew 7:7). This is said to sinners in such a way as to imply that the anxious sinner is seeking religion. This promise was made in reference to Christians, who ask in faith, and seek to do the will of God, and it is not applicable to those who are seeking hope or comfort; but to holy seeking. To apply it to an impenitent sinner is only to deceive him, for his seeking is not of this character. To tell him: "You are seeking, are you? Well, seek, and you shall find," is to cherish a fatal delusion. While he remains impenitent, he has not a desire which the devil might not have, and yet remain a devil still.

If the sinner had a desire to do his duty, if he were seeking to do the will of God, and give up his sins, he would be a Christian. But to comfort an impenitent sinner with such a promise - you might just as well comfort Satan!

(c) "Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not" (Galatians 6:9). To apply this for a sinner's comfort, is absurd.

As if he were doing something to please God! He has never done well, and never has done more ill than now. Suppose my neighbor, who came in while I was trying to subdue my child, should say to the child, "In due season you shall reap, if you faint not," what should I say? "Reap? Yes, you shall reap; if you do not give up your obstinacy, you shall reap indeed, for I will apply the rod." So the struggling sinner shall reap the damnation of hell, if he does not give up his sins.
This is a dangerous snare, and often gives the devil a handle to lead the sinner to hell, by getting him to copy your experience. If you tell it to the sinner, and he thinks it is a Christian experience, he will almost infallibly be trying to imitate it, so that, instead of following the Gospel, or the leadings of the Spirit in his own soul, he is following your example. This is absurd as well as dangerous. No two were ever exercised just alike. Men's experiences are as much unlike as are their countenances. Such a course is likely to mislead him. The design is, often, to encourage him at the very point where he ought not to be encouraged, before he has submitted to God. And it is calculated to impede the work of God in his soul.


I will here mention a few errors that are made in praying for sinners, by which an unhappy impression is made on their minds, in consequence of which they often obtain false comfort in their distress.

He is right before the sinner, pleading with him, and facing him with all his false pretenses. Seeking Jesus! The sinner may cry: "Oh, how I am sorrowing, and seeking Jesus," but it is no such thing; Jesus is seeking him.

And yet how many oppressed consciences are relieved and comforted by hearing one of these prayers.
Dreadful delusion, to lead an impenitent sinner to pray as a penitent!
Come, HUMBLE sinner, in whose breast A thousand thoughts revolve.

This hymn was once given by a minister to an awakened sinner, as one applicable to his case. He began to read: "Come, humble sinner." He stopped: "Humble sinner: that is not applicable to me, I am not a humble sinner." Ah, how well was it for him that the Holy Ghost had taught him better than the hymn! If the hymn had said: "Come, anxious sinner," or "guilty sinner," or "trembling sinner," it would have been well enough, but to call him a "humble" sinner would not do. There are vast numbers of hymns of the same character. It is very common to find sinners quoting the false sentiments of some hymn, to excuse themselves in rebellion against God.

A minister told me he heard a prayer, quite lately, in these words: "O Lord, these sinners have humbled themselves, and come to Thee as well as they know how; if they knew any better, they would do better; but, O Lord, as they have come to Thee in the best manner they can, we pray Thee to accept them and show mercy." Horrible!
All such prayers are just such prayers as the devil wants; he wishes to have such prayers, and I dare say he does not care how many such are offered.

Sometimes, in an anxious meeting, or when sinners have been called to the anxious seats, after the minister has made plain the way of salvation, and taken away all stumbling blocks out of the path, just when the sinners are ready to YIELD some one will be called on to pray, and instead of praying that they may repent now, he begins: "O' Lord, we pray that these sinners may be solemn, that they may have a deep sense of their sinfulness, that they may go home impressed with their lost condition, that they may attempt nothing in their own strength, that they may not lose their convictions, and that, in Thine own time and way, they may be brought into the glorious light and liberty of the sons of God."

Instead of bringing them right up to the point of immediate submission, on the spot, it gives them time to breathe, it lessens the pressure of conviction, so that a sinner breathes freely again, and feels relieved, and sits down at his ease. Thus, when the sinner is brought up, as it were, and stands at the gate of the Kingdom, such a prayer, instead of pushing him in, sets him back again: "There, poor thing, sit there till God helps you."
And so, sinners are ruined. Never pray so as to make the impression on sinners, that you secretly hope they are Christians already, or that you feel strong confidence they will be, by and by, or that you half believe they are converted now. This is always unhappy. In this way, multitudes are deceived with false comfort, and prevented, just at the critical point, from making the final surrender of themselves to God.


She was emaciated, and worn out with agony. The minister set his eye upon her, and poured in the truth upon her mind, and rebuked her in a most pointed manner. The woman who was with her interfered: she thought it cruel, and said: "Oh, do comfort her, she is so distressed, do not trouble her any more, she cannot bear it." Whereupon the minister turned, and rebuked her, and sent her away, and then poured in the truth upon the anxious sinner like fire, so that in five minutes she was converted, and went home full of joy. The plain truth swept all her false notions away, and in a few moments she was joyful in God.
To do this often requires nerve. I have often been placed in circumstances where I have realized this. I have found myself surrounded with anxious sinners, in such distress as to make every nerve tremble; some overcome with emotion and lying on the floor; some applying camphor to prevent their fainting; others shrieking out as if they were just going to hell. Now, suppose any one should give false comfort in such a case as this? Suppose he had not nerve enough to bring them right up to the point of instant and absolute submission? How unfit would such a man be, to be trusted in such a case!
The minister told him to go home, and go into his room, and kneel down and give his heart to God. "Sir," said the boy, "I feel so bad, I am afraid I shall not live to get home." The minister saw his error, felt the rebuke thus unconsciously given by a youth, and then told him: "Well, then, give your heart to God here, and then go home to your room and tell Him of it."

It is enough to make one's heart bleed to see so many miserable comforters for anxious sinners "in whose answers there remaineth falsehood." What a vast amount of spiritual quackery there is in the world, and how many "forgers of lies" there are, "physicians of no value" (Job 13:4) who know no better than to comfort sinners with false hopes, and delude them with their "old wives' fables" (1 Timothy 4:7) and nonsense, or who give way to false tenderness and sympathy, till they have not firmness enough to see the sword of the Spirit applied, cutting men to the soul, and laying open the sinner's naked heart. Alas, that so many are ever put into the ministry, who have not skill enough to stand by and see the Spirit of God to do His work, in breaking up the old foundations, and crushing all the rotten hopes of a sinner, and breaking him down at the feet of Jesus.

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What must I do to be saved? - Acts 16:30.

These are the words of the jailer at Philippi - the question which he put to Paul and Silas, who were then under his care as prisoners. Satan had, in many ways, opposed these servants of God in their work of preaching the Gospel, and had been as often defeated and disgraced. But here he devised a new and peculiar project for frustrating their labors. There was a certain woman at Philippi, who was possessed with a spirit of divination, or, in other words, the spirit of the devil, and brought her masters much gain by her soothsaying. The devil set this woman to follow Paul and Silas about the streets, and as soon as they had begun to gain the attention of the people, she would come in and cry: "These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation" (v. 17). That is, she undertook to second the exhortations of the preachers, and added her testimony, as if to give additional weight to their instructions.

The effect of it was just what Satan desired. The people all knew that this was a wicked, base woman; and when they heard her attempting to recommend this new preaching, they were disgusted, and concluded that it was all of a piece. The devil knew that it would not do him any good to set such a person to oppose the preaching of the apostles, or to speak against it. The time had gone by for that to succeed. And, therefore, he takes the opposite ground, and by setting her to praise them as the servants of God, and to bear her polluted testimony in favor of their instructions, he led people to suppose the apostles were of the same character with her, and had the same spirit that she had. Paul saw that if things went on so, he would be totally baffled, and could never succeed in establishing a Church at Philippi. So he turns round upon her, and commands the foul spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ, to come out of her. "When her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone" they raised a great persecution, and "caught Paul and Silas," and made a great ado, and brought them before the magistrates, and raised such a clamor that the magistrates shut up the messengers of the Gospel in prison, and the jailer "made their feet fast in the stocks."

Thus, the enemy thought they had put down the excitement. But "at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them" (v. 25). This old prison, that had so long echoed to the voice of blasphemy and oaths, now resounded with the praises of God; and these walls, that had stood so firm, now trembled under the power of prayer. The stocks were unloosed, the gates thrown open, and every one's bands broken. The jailer was aroused from his sleep, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword, knowing that if the prisoners had escaped he must pay for it with his life, and was about to kill himself. But Paul, who had no notion of escaping clandestinely, cried out to him instantly: "Do thyself no harm: for we are all here." And the jailer "called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before his prisoners, Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"

In my last Lecture, I dwelt at some length on the false instructions given to sinners under conviction, and the false comforts too often administered, and the erroneous instructions which such persons receive. It is my design now, to show what are the instructions that should be given to anxious sinners in order to their speedy and effectual conversion; or, in other words, to explain to you, what answer should be given to those who make the inquiry: "What must I do to be saved?" I propose:

I. To show what is not a proper direction to be given to sinners, when they make the inquiry in the text.

II. To show what is a proper answer to the inquiry.

III. To specify several errors into which anxious sinners are apt to fall.


No more important inquiry was ever made than this: "What must I do to be saved?" Mankind are apt enough to inquire: "What shall I eat, and what shall I drink?" and the question may be answered in various ways, with little danger. But when a sinner asks in earnest: "What must I do to be saved?" it is of infinite importance that he should receive the right answer.

Whatever you may do, sinner, that does not include a right heart, is sin.

Whether you read the Bible or not, you are in sin, so long as you remain in rebellion. Whether you go to religious services or stay away; whether you pray or not, it is nothing but rebellion, every moment. It is surprising that a sinner should suppose himself to be doing service to God when he prays, and reads his Bible. Should a rebel against the Government read the statute-book while he continues in rebellion, and has no design to obey; should he ask for pardon while he holds on to his weapons of resistance and warfare; would you think him doing his country a service, and lay it under obligation to show him favor? No; you would say that all his reading and praying were only an insult to the majesty both of the lawgiver and the law. So you, sinner, while you remain in impenitence, are insulting God, and setting him at defiance, whether you read His Word, and pray, or let it alone. No matter what place or what attitude your body is in, on your knees or in the house of God; so long as your heart is not right, so long as you resist the Holy Ghost, and reject Christ, you are a rebel against your Maker.


Generally, you may give the sinner any direction, or tell him to do anything, that includes a right heart; and if you make him understand, and he follows the directions, he will be saved. The Spirit of God, in striving with sinners, suits His strivings to the state of mind in which He finds them. His great object in striving with them is, to dislodge them from their hiding-places, and bring them to submit to God at once. These objections, difficulties, and states of mind, are as various as the circumstances of mankind - as many as there are individuals. The characters of individuals afford an endless diversity. What is to be done with each one, and how he is to be converted, depends on his particular errors. It is necessary to ascertain his errors; to find out what he understands, and what he needs to be taught more perfectly; to see what points the Spirit of God is pressing upon his conscience, and to press the same things, and thus bring him to Christ.

The most common directions are the following:

And so the apostles directed much of their instruction to this point, to prove that he was the Christ. And whenever anxious sinners asked them what they must do, they most commonly exhorted them to "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." They bore down on this point, because here was where the Spirit of God was striving, and this was the subject that especially agitated the minds of the people, and, consequently, this would probably be the first thing a person would do on submitting to God. It was the grand point at issue between God and the Jew and Gentile of those days, whether Jesus Christ was the Son of God. It was the point in dispute. To bring the sinner to yield this controverted question was the way the most effectually to humble him.

At other times, it will be found that the Spirit of God is dealing with sinners chiefly in reference to their own sins. Sometimes He deals with them in regard to a particular duty, as prayer - perhaps family prayer.

The sinner will be found to be contesting that point with God, whether it is right for him to pray, or whether he ought to pray in his family. I have known striking cases of this kind, where the individual was struggling on this point, and as soon as he fell on his knees to pray, he yielded his heart, showing that this was the very point which the Spirit of God was contesting, and the hinge on which his controversy with God all turned.

That was conversion.

The direction to repent is always proper, but will not always be effectual, for there may be some other thing that the sinner needs to be told also.

And where it is the pertinent direction, sinners need not only to be told to repent, but to have it explained to them what repentance is. Since there has been so much mysticism, and false philosophy, and false theology, thrown round the subject, it has become necessary to tell sinners not only what you mean by repentance, but also to tell them what you do not mean.

Words that used to be plain, and easily understood, have now become so perverted that they need to be explained to sinners, or they will often convey a wrong impression to their minds. This is the case with the word "repentance." Many suppose that remorse, or a sense of guilt, is repentance. Then, hell is full of repentance, for it is full of remorse, unutterable and eternal. Others feel regret that they have done such a thing, and they call that repenting. But they only regret that they have sinned, because of the consequences, and not because they abhor sin. This is not repentance. Others suppose that convictions of sin and strong fears of hell are repentance. Others consider the remonstrances of conscience as repentance; they say: "I never do anything wrong without repenting and feeling sorry I did it." Sinners must be shown that all these things are not repentance. They are not only consistent with the utmost wickedness, but the devil might have them all and yet remain a devil. Repentance is a change of mind, as regards God and towards sin. It is not only a change of views, but a change of the ultimate preference or choice of the soul. It is a voluntary change, and by consequence involves a change of feeling and of action toward God and toward sin. It is what is naturally understood by a change of mind on any subject of interest and importance. We hear that a man has changed his mind in politics; everybody understands that he has undergone a change in his views, his feelings, and his conduct. This is repentance, on that subject: it is a change of mind, but not toward God.

Evangelical repentance is a change of willing, of feeling, and of life, in respect to God.

Repentance always implies abhorrence of sin. It of course involves the love of God and the forsaking of sin. The sinner who truly repents does not feel as impenitent sinners think they should feel at giving up their sins, if they should become religious. Impenitent sinners look upon religion in this way: that if they become pious, they should be obliged to stay away from balls and parties, and obliged to give up theatres, or gambling, or other things that they now take delight in. And they see not however they could enjoy themselves, if they should break off from all those things. But this is very far from being a correct view of the matter, Religion does not make them unhappy, by shutting them out from things in which they delight, because the first step in it, is, to repent, to change their mind in regard to all these things. They do not seem to realize, that the person who has repented has no disposition for these things; he has given them up, and turned his mind away from them. Sinners feel as if they should want to go to such places, and want to mingle in such scenes, just as much as they do now, and that it will be such a continual sacrifice as to make them unhappy. This is a great mistake.

I know there are some professors, who would be very glad to betake themselves to their former practices, were it not that they feel constrained, by fear of losing their character, or the like. But, mark me: if they feel so, it is because they have no religion; they do not hate sin. If they desire their former ways, they have no religion, they have never repented; for repentance always consists in a change of views and feelings. If they were really converted, instead of choosing such things, they would turn away from them with loathing. Instead of lusting after the flesh-pots of Egypt, and desiring to go into their former circles, parties, balls, and the like, they would find their highest pleasure in obeying God.
Nothing is more common, than for a sinner, when told to believe the Gospel, to say: "I do believe it." The fact is, he has been brought up to admit the fact that the Gospel is true, but he does not believe it: he knows nothing about the evidence of it, and all his faith is a mere admission without evidence. He holds it to be true, in a kind of loose, indefinite sense, so that he is always ready to say: "I do believe the Bible." It is strange that they do not see that they are deceived in thinking that they believe, for they must see that they have never acted upon these truths, as they do upon those things which they do believe. Yet it is often quite difficult to convince them that they do not believe.

But the fact is, that the careless sinner does not believe the Gospel at all.

The idea that the careless sinner is an intellectual believer, is absurd. The devil is an intellectual believer, and that is what makes him tremble. What makes a sinner anxious is, that he begins to be an intellectual believer, and that makes him feel. No being in heaven, earth, or hell, can intellectually believe the truths of the Gospel, and not feel on the subject. The anxious sinner has faith of the same kind with devils, but he has not so much of it, and, therefore, he does not feel so much. The man who does not feel or act at all, on the subject of religion, is an infidel, let his professions be what they may. He who feels nothing, and does nothing, believes nothing. This is a philosophical fact.

Faith does not consist in an intellectual conviction that Christ died for you in particular, or in a belief that you are a Christian, or that you ever shall be, or that your sins are forgiven. But faith is that trust or confidence in God, and in Christ, which commits the whole soul to Him in all His relations to us. It is a voluntary trust in His person, His veracity, His word. This was the faith of Abraham: he had that confidence in what God said, which led him to act as accepting its truth. This is the way the apostle illustrates it in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (v. 1). And he goes on to illustrate it by various examples. "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed" (v. 3); that is, we believe this, and act accordingly.

Take the case of Noah. Noah was warned of God of things not seen as yet, that is, he was assured that God was going to drown the world, and he believed it, and acted accordingly; he prepared an ark to save his family, and by so doing, he condemned the world that would not believe; his actions gave evidence that he was sincere. Abraham, too, was called of God to leave his country, with the promise that he should be the gainer by it; and he obeyed and went out, without knowing whither he went. Read the whole chapter, and you will find many instances of the same kind. The whole design of the chapter is to illustrate the nature of faith, and to show that it invariably results in action. The sinner should have it explained to him, and be made to see that the faith which the Gospel requires, is just that confidence in Christ which leads him to act on what He say as being a certain fact. This is believing in Christ.
It is the language of common life, in everybody's mouth, and everybody understands just what it means, when we use it in regard to anything else.

But when it comes to religion, they seem to be all in the dark. Ask a sinner, no matter what may be his age, or education, what it means to give the heart to God, and, strange as it may appear, he is at a loss for an answer. Ask a woman, what it is to give her heart to her husband; or a man, what it is to give his heart to his wife; and they understand it. But then they are totally blind as to giving their hearts to God. I suppose I have asked more than a thousand anxious sinners this question. When I have told them, they must give their hearts to God, they have always said that they were willing to do it, and sometimes, that they were anxious to do it, and they have even seemed to be in an agony of desire about it. Then I have asked them, what they understood to be meant by giving their hearts to God, since they were so willing to do it. And very seldom have I received a correct or rational answer from a sinner of any age. I have sometimes had the strangest answers that could be imagined.

Now, to give your heart to God is the same thing as to give your heart to anybody else; the same as for a woman to give her heart to her husband.

Ask that woman if she understands this. "Oh, yes, that is plain enough; it is to place my affections with him, and strive to please him in everything."

Very well, place your affections on God, and strive to please Him in everything. But when they come to the subject of religion, people suppose there is some wonderful mystery about it. Some talk as if they suppose it means taking out this bundle of muscles, or fleshy organ, in their bosom, and giving it to God. Sinner, what God asks of you, is, that you should love Him supremely.
They need to be told what true submission is. Sometimes they think it means that they should be willing to be sent to perdition. Sometimes they place themselves in this attitude, and call it submission; they say that, if they are elected they will be saved; and if not, they will be lost. This is not submission. True submission is yielding obedience to God. Suppose a rebel, in arms against the Government, is called on to submit, what would he understand by it? Why, that he should yield the point, and lay down his arms, and obey the laws. That is just what it means for a sinner to submit to God. He must cease his strife and conflict against his Maker, and take the attitude of a willing and obedient child, willing to be and do whatever God requires. "Here am I" (1 Samuel 3:8); "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6.)

Suppose a company of soldiers had rebelled, and the Government had raised an army to put them down, and had driven them into a stronghold, where they were out of provisions, and had no way to escape. Suppose the rebels to have met, in this extremity, to consider what should be done; and one rises up, saying: "Well, comrades, I am convinced we are all wrong from the beginning, and now the reward of our deeds is likely to overtake us, and we cannot escape; and as for remaining here to die, I am resolved not to do it; I am going to throw myself on the mercy of the commander in chief." That man submits. He ceases from that moment to be a rebel in his heart, just as soon as he comes to this conclusion. So it is with the sinner when he yields the point, and consents in his heart to do, and be, whatever God shall require. The sinner may be in doubt what to do, and may feel afraid to put himself in God's hands, thinking that if he does, perhaps God will send him down to hell, as he deserves. But it is his business to leave all that question with God, to resist his Maker no longer, to make no conditions, but to trust wholly to God's benevolence and wisdom to appoint his future condition. Until he has done this, he has done nothing to the purpose.
Suppose a man has made money in rebellion against God, and has withheld from Him his time, talents, and service, has lived and rioted upon the bounties of His providence, and refused to lay himself out for the salvation of the world; he has robbed God. Now, if he should die, feeling this money to be his own, and should he leave it to his heirs without consulting the will of God - why, he is just as certain to go to hell as a highway robber. He has never made any satisfaction to God. With all his whining and pious talk, he has never confessed HIS SIN to God, nor forsaken his sin, for he has neither felt nor acknowledged himself to be the steward of God. If he refuses to hold the property in his possession as the steward of God; if he accounts it his own, and as such gives it to his children, he says in effect, to God: "That property is not Thine, it is mine, and I will give it to my children." He has continued to persevere in his sin, for he does not relinquish the ownership of that of which he has robbed God.

What would a merchant think if his clerk should take all the capital and set up a store of his own, and die with it in his hands? Will such a man go to heaven? "No," you say. God would prove Himself unjust, to let such a character go unpunished. What, then, shall we say of the man who has robbed God all his life? God sent him to be His clerk, to manage some of His affairs, but he has stolen all the money, and says it is his: he keeps it, and, dying, leaves it to his children, as if it were all his own lawful property. Has that man forsaken sin? I tell you, No. If he has not surrendered himself and all he has to God, he has not taken the first step in the way to heaven.
Any of these directions, if complied with, will constitute true conversion.

The particular exercises may vary in different cases. Sometimes the first exercise in conversion is submission to God, sometimes repentance, sometimes faith, sometimes the choice of God and His service; in short, whatever their thoughts are taken up with at the time. If their thoughts are directed to Christ at the moment, the first exercise will be faith. If to sin, the first exercise will be repentance. If to their future course of life, it is choosing the service of God. If to the Divine government, it is submission.

It is important to find out just where the Holy Spirit is pressing the sinner at the time, and then take care to push that point. If it is in regard to Christ, press that; if it is in regard to his future course of life, push him right up to an immediate choice of obedience to God.

It is a great error to suppose that any one particular exercise is always foremost in conversion, or that every sinner must have faith first, or submission first. It is not true, either in philosophy or in fact. There is a great variety in people's exercises. Whatever point is taken hold of between God and the sinner, when the sinner YIELDS that, he is converted. Whatever the particular exercise may be, if it includes obedience of heart to God on any point, it is true conversion. When he yields one point to God's authority, he is ready to yield all. When he changes his mind, and obeys in one thing, because it is God's will, he will obey in other things, so far as he sees it to be God's will. Where there is right choice, then, whenever the mind is directed to any one point of duty, he is ready to follow. It matters very little which of these directions be given, if it is only made plain, and if it is to the point, so as to serve as a test of obedience to God. If it is to the point that the Spirit of God is debating with the sinner's mind, so as to fall in with the Spirit's work, and not to divert the sinner's attention from the very point in controversy, let it be made perfectly clear, and then pressed till the sinner yields, and he will be saved.


The feelings are involuntary, and have no moral character except what they derive from the action of the will, with which action they sympathize.

Before the will is right, the feelings will not be, of course. The sinner should come to Christ by accepting Him at once; and this he must do, not in obedience to his feelings, but in obedience to his conscience. Obey, submit, trust. Give up all instantly, and your feelings will come right. Do not wait for better feelings, but commit your whole being to God at once, and this will soon result in the feelings for which you are waiting. What God requires of you is the present act of your mind, in turning from sin to holiness, and from the service of Satan to the service of the living God.
WILLING to obey Christ is to be a Christian. When an individual actually chooses to obey God, he is a Christian. But all such desires as do not terminate in actual choice, are nothing.
Why, that you should love Him. Now for you to say that you are willing to give God your heart, but that God is unwilling, is the same as saying that you are willing to love God, but God is not willing to be loved by you, and will not suffer you to love Him. It is important to clear up all these points in the sinner's mind, that he may have no dark and mysterious corner to rest in, where the truth will not reach him.


It was once sufficient, as we learn from the Bible, to tell sinners to repent, or to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; but now, faith has been talked about as a principle, instead of an act; and repentance as some thing put into the mind, instead of an exercise of the mind; and sinners are perplexed.

Ministers are charged with preaching heresy, because they presume to teach that faith is an exercise, and not a principle; and that sin is an act, and not a part of the constitution of man. And sinners have become so sophisticated, that you have to be at great pains in explaining, not only what you do mean, but what you do not mean, otherwise they will be almost sure to misunderstand you, and either gain a false relief from their anxiety, by throwing their duty off upon God, or else run into despair from the supposed impracticability of doing what is requisite for their salvation. It is often a matter of the greatest difficulty to lead sinners out of the theological labyrinths and mazes into which they have been deluded, and to lead them along the straight and simple way of the Gospel. It seems as if the greatest ingenuity had been employed to mystify the minds of the people, and to weave a most subtle web of false philosophy, calculated to involve a sinner in endless darkness. It is necessary to be as plain as A B C, and the best educated have to be talked to like children. Tell a sinner to believe, and he stares, saying: "Why, how you talk! Is not faith a principle? And how am I to believe till I get this principle?" So, if a minister tells a sinner, in the very words that the apostle used in the great revival on the Day of Pentecost: "Repent, every one of you" (Acts 2:38), he is answered: "Oh, I guess you are an Arminian; I do not want any of your Arminian teaching; do you not deny the Spirit's influences?" It is enough to make humanity weep, to see the fog and darkness that have been thrown around the plain directions of the Gospel.
I have heard old Christians say of the converts: "These converts have, at the very outset, all the clearness of view, and strength of faith, of old Christians. They seem to understand the doctrines of religion, and to know what to do, and how to promote revivals, better than one in a hundred of the old members in the Church."

I once knew a young man who was converted away from home. The place where he lived had no minister, and no preaching, and no religion. He went home three days after he was converted, and immediately set himself to work to labor for a revival. He set up meetings in his neighborhood, and prayed and labored, and a revival broke out - of which he had the principal management throughout a powerful work, in which most of the principal men of the place were converted. The truth was, he had been so dealt with that he knew what he was about. He understood the subject and knew where he stood himself. He was not all the while troubled with doubts, whether he was himself a Christian. He knew that he was serving God, and that God was with him, and so he went boldly and resolutely forward to his object. But if you undertake to make converts, without clearing up all their errors and tearing away their false hopes, you may make a host of hypocrites, or of puny, dwarfish Christians, always doubting and easily turned back from a revival spirit, and worth nothing.

The way is, to bring them right out to the light. When a man is converted in this way, you can depend on him, and will know where to find him.
If there be sinners in this house, and you see your duty clearly, TAKE CARE how you delay. If you do not submit, you may expect the Spirit of God will forsake you, and you are LOST.
Sometimes people would purchase an indulgence to sin for a certain time, or to commit some particular sin, or a number of sins. Now, there is a vast deal in Protestant Churches which is little less than the same thing. What does it differ from this, to tell a sinner to wait? It amounts to telling him to continue in sin for a while longer, while he is waiting for God to convert him. And what is that but an indulgence to commit sin? Any direction given to sinners that does not require them immediately to obey God is an indulgence to sin. It is in effect giving them liberty to continue in sin against God. Such directions are not only wicked, but ruinous and cruel. If they do not destroy the soul, as no doubt they often do, they defer, at all events, the sinner's enjoyment of God and of Christ, and he stands a great chance of being lost for ever, while listening to such instructions. Oh, how dangerous it is to give a sinner reason to think he may wait a moment, before giving his heart to God!
But I am satisfied there is no reason for it, although multitudes, even now, regard it as a suspicious circumstance, if a man has been converted very suddenly. But the Bible gives no warrant for this supposition. There is not a case of protracted conviction recorded in the whole Bible. All the conversions recorded there are sudden conversions. And I am persuaded there never would be such multitudes of tedious convictions which often end in nothing, after all, if it were not for those theological perversions which have filled the world with Cannot-ism. In Bible days, sinners were told to repent, and they did it then. Cannot-ism had not been broached in that day. It is this speculation about the inability of sinners to obey God, that lays the foundation for all the protracted anguish and distress, and perhaps ruin, into which so many are led. Where a sinner is brought to see what he has to do, and he takes his stand at once, AND DOES IT, you generally find that such a person proves a decided character. You will not find him one of those that you always have to warp up to duty, like a ship, against wind and tide. Look at those professors who always have to be dragged forward in duty, and you will generally find that they had not clear and consistent directions when they were converted. Most likely, too, they will be very much "afraid of these sudden conversions."

Afraid of sudden conversions! Some of the best Christians of my acquaintance were convicted and converted in the space of a few minutes.

In one-quarter of the time that I have been speaking, many of them were awakened, and came right out on the Lord's side, and have been shining lights in the Church ever since, and have generally manifested the same decision of character in religion that they did when they first came out and took a stand on His side.


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"Sermons from the Penny Pulpit"
by C. G. Finney
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