The GOSPEL TRUTH
1. THERE is an importance to be attached to the sanctification of the body, of which very few persons appear to be aware[.] Indeed unless the bodily appetites and powers be consecrated to the service of God--unless we learn to eat and drink, and sleep and wake, and labor, and rest, for the glory of God, permanent sanctification as a practical thing is out of the question.
It is plain, that very few persons are aware of the great influence which their bodies have over their minds, and of the indispensable necessity of bringing their bodies under, and keeping them in subjection.
Few people seem to keep the fact steadily in view, that unless their bodies be rightly managed, they will be so fierce and over-powering a source of temptation to the mind, as inevitably to lead it into sin. If they indulge themselves in a stimulating diet, and in the use of those condiments that irritate and rasp the nervous system, their bodies will be of course and of necessity the source of powerful and incessant temptation to evil tempers and vile affections. If persons were aware of the great influence which the body has over the mind, they would realize that they cannot be too careful to preserve the nervous system from the influence of every improper article of food or drink, and preserve that system as they would the apple of their eye, from every influence that could impair its functions.
No one who has opportunity to acquire information in regard to the laws of life and health, and the best means of sanctifying the whole spirit, soul, and body, can be guiltless if he neglects these means of knowledge. Every man is bound to make the structure and laws of both body and mind the subject of as thorough investigation as his circumstances will permit, to inform himself in regard to what are the true principles of perfect temperance, and in what way the most can be made of all his powers of body and mind for the glory of God.
2. From what has been said in these lectures, the reason why the church has not been entirely sanctified is very obvious. As a body the church has not believed that such a state was attainable until near the close of life. And this is a sufficient reason, and indeed the best of all reasons for her not having attained it.
3. From what has been said, it is easy to see that the true question in regard to entire sanctification in this life is, Is it attainable as a matter of fact? Some have thought the proper question to be, Are Christians entirely sanctified in this life? Now certainly this is not the question that needs to be discussed. Suppose it to be fully granted that they are not; this fact is sufficiently accounted for, by the consideration that they do not know or believe it to be attainable until the close of life. If they believed it to be attainable, it might no longer be true that they do not attain it. But if provision really is made for this attainment, it amounts to nothing, unless it be recognized and believed. The thing needed then is to bring the church to see and believe, that this is her high privilege and her duty. It is not enough, as has been shown, to say that it is attainable, simply on the ground of natural ability. This is as true of the devil, and the lost in hell, as of men in this world. But unless grace has put this attainment so within our reach, as that it may be aimed at with the reasonable prospect of success, there is, as a matter of fact, no more provision for our entire sanctification in this life than for the devil's. As has been said it seems to be trifling with mankind, merely to maintain the attainability of this state on the ground of natural ability only, and at the same time to tell them that they certainly never will exercise this ability unless disposed to do so by the grace of God, and furthermore that it is dangerous error for us to expect to receive grace from God to secure this result; that we might by natural possibility make this attainment, but it is irrational and dangerous error to expect or hope to make it or hope to receive sufficient grace to secure it.
The real question is, Has grace brought this attainment so within our reach, that we may reasonably expect by aiming at it, to experience it in this life? It is admitted, that on the ground of natural ability both wicked men and devils have the power to be entirely holy. But it is also admitted, that their indisposition to use this power aright is so complete that as a matter of fact, they never will, unless influenced to do so by the grace of God. I insist, therefore, that the real question is, whether the provisions of the gospel are such, that, did the church fully understand and lay hold upon the proffered grace, she might attain this state? Are we as fully authorized to offer this grace to christians, as we are the grace of repentance and pardon to sinners? May we as consistently urge christians to lay hold on sanctifying grace sufficient to keep them from all sin, as to urge sinners to lay hold of Christ for justification? May we insist upon the one as really and as honestly as the other?
4. We see how irrelevant and absurd the objection is, that as a matter of fact the church has not attained this state, and therefore it is not attainable. Why, if they have not understood it to be attainable, it no more disproves its attainableness, than the fact that the heathen have not embraced the gospel proves that they will not when they know it. Within my memory it was thought to be dangerous to call sinners to repent and believe the gospel, and on the contrary they were told by Calvinists that they could not repent, that they must wait God's time; and it was regarded as dangerous error for a sinner to think that he could repent. But who does not know that the thorough inculcation of an opposite doctrine has brought scores of thousands to repentance? Now the same course needs to be pursued with christians. Instead of being told that it is dangerous to expect to be entirely sanctified in this life, they ought to be taught to believe at once, and take hold on the promises of perfect love and faith.
5. You see the necessity of fully preaching and insisting upon this doctrine, and of calling it by its true scriptural name. It is astonishing to see to what an extent there is a tendency among men to avoid the use of scriptural language, and to cleave to the language of such men as Edwards and other great and good divines. They object to the terms perfection and entire sanctification, and prefer to use the terms entire consecration, and other such terms as have been common in the church.
Now, I would by no means contend about the use of words; but still it does appear to me, to be of great importance, that we use scripture language, and insist upon men being "perfect as their Father in Heaven is perfect," and being "sanctified wholly, body, soul, and spirit." This appears to me to be the more important for this reason, that if we use the language to which the church has been accustomed upon this subject, she will, as she has done, misunderstand us, and will not get before her mind that which we really mean. That this is so is manifest from the fact that the great mass of the church will express alarm at the use of the terms perfection and entire sanctification, who will neither express or feel any such alarm if we speak of entire consecration. This demonstrates, that they do not, by any means, understand these terms as meaning the same thing. And although I understand them as meaning precisely the same thing: yet I find myself obliged to use the terms perfection and entire sanctification to possess their minds of my real meaning. This is Bible language. It is unobjectionable language. And inasmuch as the church understands entire consecration to mean something less than entire sanctification or christian perfection, it does seem to me of great importance, that ministers should use a phraseology which will call the attention of the church to the real doctrine of the Bible upon this subject. And I would submit the question with great humility to my loved brethren in the ministry, whether they are not aware, that christians have entirely too low an idea of what is implied in entire consecration, and whether it is not useful and best to adopt a phraseology in addressing them that shall call their attention to the real meaning of the words which they use?
6. Young converts have not been allowed so much as to indulge the thought that they could live even for a day wholly without sin. They have as a general thing no more been taught to expect to live even for a day without sin, than they have been taught to expect immediate translation, soul and body, to Heaven. Of course they have not known that there was any other way, than to go on in sin; and however shocking and distressing the necessity has appeared to them in the ardor of their first love, still they have looked upon it as unalterable fact, that to be in a great measure in bondage to sin is a thing of course while they live in this world. Now with such an orthodoxy as this, with the conviction in the church and ministry so ripe, settled, and universal, that the utmost that the grace of God can do for men in this world is to bring them to repentance and to leave them to live and die in a state of sinning and repenting, is it at all wonderful that the state of religion should be as it really has been?
In looking over the results of preaching the doctrine in question, to christians, I feel compelled to say, that so far as all observation can go, I have the same evidence, that it is truth, and as such is owned and blessed of God to the elevation of the holiness of christians, that I have, that those are truths which I have so often preached to sinners, and which have been so often blessed of God to their conversion This doctrine seems as naturally calculated to elevate the piety of christians, and as actually to result in the elevation of their piety under the blessing of God, as those truths that I have preached to sinners, were to their conversion.
7. Christ has been in a great measure lost sight of in some of his most important relations to mankind. He has been known and preached as a pardoning and justifying Savior; but as an actually indwelling and reigning Savior in the heart, he has been but little known. I was struck with a remark, a few years since, of a brother whom I have from that time greatly loved, who had been for a time in a desponding state of mind, borne down with a great sense of his own vileness, but seeing no way of escape. At an evening meeting the Lord so revealed himself to him as entirely to overcome the strength of his body, and his brethren were obliged to carry him home. The next time I saw him, he exclaimed to me with a pathos I shall never forget, "Brother Finney, the Church have buried the Savior." Now it is no doubt true, that the church have become awfully alienated from Christ--have in a great measure lost a knowledge of what he is and ought to be to her--and a great many of her members, I have good reason to know, in different parts of the country, are saying with deep and overpowering emotion, "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him."
8. With all her orthodoxy, the Church has been for a long time much nearer to Unitarianism than she has imagined. This remark may shock some of my readers, and you may think it savors of censoriousness. But, beloved, I am sure it is said in no such spirit. These are "the words of truth and soberness." So little has been known of Christ, that, if I am not entirely mistaken, there are multitudes in the orthodox churches, who do not know Christ, and who in heart are Unitarians, while in theory they are orthodox. They have never known Christ in the sense of which I have spoken of him in these lectures.
I have been, for some years, deeply impressed with the fact, that so many professors of religion are coming to the ripe conviction, that they never knew Christ. There have been in this place almost continual developments of this fact, and I doubt whether there is a minister in the land who will present Christ as the gospel presents him, in all the fulness of his official relations to mankind, who will not be struck and agonized with developments that will assure him that the great mass of professors of religion do not know the Savior. It has been to my mind a painful and a serious question, what I ought to think of the spiritual state of those who know so little of the blessed Jesus. That none of them have been converted, I dare not say. And yet, that they have been converted, I am afraid to say. I would not for the world "quench the smoking flax or break the bruised reed," or say any thing to stumble or weaken the feeblest lamb of Christ; and yet my heart is sore pained, my soul is sick; my bowels of compassion yearn over the Church of the blessed God. O, the dear Church of Christ! What does she in her present state know of gospel rest, of that "great and perfect peace which they have whose minds are stayed on God?" The church in this place is composed, to a great extent, of professors of religion from different parts of the world who have come hither for educational purposes and from religious considerations. And as I said, I have sometimes been appalled at the disclosures which the Spirit of God has made of the real spiritual state of many who have come here and were considered by others before they came and by themselves as truly converted to God.
9. If I am not mistaken, there is an extensive feeling among Christians and ministers, that much that ought to he known and may be known of the Savior, is not. Many are beginning to find that the Savior is to them "as a root out of dry ground, having neither form nor comeliness:" that the gospel which they preach and hear is not to them "the power of God unto salvation" from sin; that it is not to them "glad tidings of great joy;" that it is not to them a peace-giving gospel; and many are feeling that if Christ has done for them, all that his grace is able to do in this life, the plan of salvation is sadly defective, that Christ is not after all a Savior suited to their necessities--that the religion which they have is not suited to the world in which they live--that it does not, can not make them free, but leaves them in a state of perpetual bondage. Their souls are agonized and tossed to and fro without a resting place. Multitudes also are beginning to see that there are many passages, both in the Old and New Testaments, which they do not understand; that the promises seem to mean much more than they have ever realized, and that the gospel and the plan of salvation as a whole, must be something very different from that which they have as yet apprehended. There are, if I mistake not, great multitudes all over the country, who are inquiring more earnestly than ever before, after a knowledge of that Jesus who is to save his people from their sins.
A fact was related in my hearing, some time since, that illustrates, in an affecting manner, the agonizing state of mind in which many Christians are, in regard to the present state of many of the ministers of Christ. I had the statement from the brother himself, who was the subject of his narrative. A sister in the church to which he preached became so sensible that he did not know Christ, as he ought to know him, that she was full of unutterable agony, and on one occasion, after he had been preaching, fell down at his feet with tears and strong beseechings that he would exercise faith in Christ. At another time, she was so impressed with a sense of his deficiency in this respect, as a minister, that she addressed him in the deepest anguish of her soul, crying out--"O, I shall die, I shall certainly die, unless you will receive Christ as a full Savior," and attempting to approach him, she sunk down helpless, overcome with agony and travail of soul, at his feet.
There is manifestly a great struggle in the minds of multitudes, that the Savior may be more fully revealed to the Church, that the present ministry especially may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, and be made conformable to his death.
10. If the doctrine of these lectures is true, you see the immense importance of preaching it clearly and fully in revivals of religion. When the hearts of converts are warm with their first love, then is the time to make them fully acquainted with their Savior, to hold him up in all his offices and relations, so as to break the power of every sin--to lead them to break off forever from all self-dependence and to receive Christ as a present, perfect, everlasting Savior, so far as this can possibly be done with their limited experience.
11. Unless this course be taken, their backsliding is inevitable. You might as well expect to roll back the waters of Niagara with your hand, as to stay the tide of their former habitudes of mind, surrounded as they are with temptation, without a deep, and thorough, and experimental acquaintance with the Savior. And if they are thrown upon their own watchfulness and resources, for strength against temptation, instead of being directed to the Savior, they are certain to become discouraged and fall into dismal bondage.
12. But before I conclude these remarks, I must not omit to notice the indispensable necessity of a willingness to do the will of God, in order rightly to understand this doctrine. If a man is unwilling to give up his sins, to deny himself all ungodliness and every worldly lust--if he is unwilling to be set apart wholly and forever to the service of the Lord, he will either reject this doctrine altogether, or only intellectually admit it, without receiving it into his heart. It is an eminently dangerous state of mind to assent to this or any other doctrine of the gospel, and not reduce it to practice.
13. Much evil has been done by those who have professedly embraced this doctrine in theory, and rejected it in practice. Their spirit and temper have been such as to lead those who saw them to infer, that the tendency of the doctrine itself is bad. And it is not to be doubted that some who have professed to have experienced the power of this doctrine in their hearts, have greatly disgraced religion by exhibiting any other spirit than that of an entirely sanctified one. But why in a christian land, should this be a stumbling block? When the heathen see persons from christian nations who professedly adopt the Christian system, exhibit on their shores and in their countries, the spirit which many of them do, they infer that this is the tendency of the Christian religion. To this our Missionaries reply that they are only nominal Christians, only speculative, not real believers. Should thousand of our church members go among them, they would have the same reason to complain, and might reply to the Missionaries, these are not only nominal believers, but profess to have experienced the Christian religion in their own hearts. Now what would the Missionaries reply? Why, to be sure, that they were professors of religion; but that they really did not know Christ; that they were deceiving themselves with a name to live, while in fact they were dead in trespasses and sins.
It has often been a matter of astonishment to me, that in a Christian land, it should be a stumbling block to any, that some, or if you please, a majority of those who profess to receive and to have experienced the truth of this doctrine, should exhibit an unchristian spirit. What if the same objection should be brought against the Christian religion; against any and every doctrine of the gospel, that the great majority, of all the professed believers and receivers of those doctrines were proud, worldly, selfish, and exhibited any thing but a right spirit? Now this objection might be made with truth to the professed Christian Church. But would the conclusiveness of such an objection be admitted in Christian lands? Who does not know the ready answer to all such objections as these, that the doctrines of Christianity do not sanction such conduct, and that it is not the real belief of them that begets any such spirit or conduct; that the Christian religion abhors all these objectionable things. And now suppose it should be replied to this, that a tree is known by its fruits, and that so great a majority of the professors of religion could not exhibit such a spirit, unless it were the tendency of Christianity itself to beget it. Now who would not reply to this, that this state of mind and course of conduct of which they complain, is the natural state of man uninfluenced by the gospel of Christ; that in these instances, on account of unbelief, the gospel has failed to correct what was already wrong, and that it needed not the influence of any corrupt doctrine to produce that state of mind? It appears to me, that these objectors against this doctrine on account of the fact that some and perhaps many who have professed to receive it, have exhibited a wrong spirit, take it for granted that the doctrine produces this spirit, instead of considering that a wrong spirit is natural to men, and that the difficulty is that through unbelief the gospel has fai[l]ed to correct what was before wrong. They reason as if they supposed the human heart needed something to beget within it a bad spirit, and as if they supposed that a belief in this doctrine had made men wicked, instead of recognizing the fact, that they were before wicked and that through unbelief, the gospel has failed to make them holy.
14. But let it not be understood, that I suppose or admit that the great mass who have professed to have received this doctrine into their hearts, have exhibited a bad spirit. I must say that it has been eminently otherwise so far as my own observation extends. And I am fully convinced, that if I have ever seen Christianity in the world, and the spirit of Christ, that it has been exhibited by those, as a general thing, who have received this doctrine into their hearts.
15. How amazingly important it is, that the ministry and the Church should come fully to a right understanding and embracing of this doctrine. O, it will be like life from the dead. The proclamation of it is now regarded by multitudes as "good tidings of great joy." From every quarter, we get the gladsome intelligence, that souls are entering into the deep rest and peace of the gospel, that they are awaking to a life of faith and love--and that instead of sinking down into Antinomianism, they are eminently more benevolent, active, holy, and useful than ever before--that they are eminently more prayerful, watchful, diligent, meek, sober-minded and heavenly in all their lives. This is the character of those, to a very great extent at least, with whom I have been acquainted, who have embraced this doctrine, and professed to have experienced its power. I say this for no other reason than to relieve the anxieties of those who have heard very strange reports, and whose honest fears have been awakened in regard to the tendency 0f this doctrine.
16. Much pains have been taken to demonstrate that our views of this subject are wrong. But in all the arguing to this end hitherto, there has been one grand defect. None of the opponents of this doctrine have yet showed us "a more excellent way and told us what is right." It is certainly impossible to ascertain what is wrong on any moral subject unless we have before us the standard of right. The mind must certainly be acquainted with the rule of right, before it can reasonably pronounce any thing wrong, "for by the law is the knowledge of sin." It is therefore certainly absurd for the opponents of the doctrine of entire sanctification in this life to pronounce this doctrine wrong without being able to show us, what is right. To what purpose then, I pray, do they argue who insist upon this view of the subject as wrong while they do not so much as attempt to tell us what is right? It can not be pretended that the scriptures teach nothing upon this subject. And the question is, what do they teach? We therefore call upon the denouncers of this doctrine, (and we think the demand reasonable,) to inform us definitely, how holy Christians may be, and are expected to be in this life. And it should be distinctly understood, that until they bring forward the rule laid down in the scripture upon this subject, it is but arrogance to pronounce any thing wrong; just as if they should pronounce any thing to be sin without comparing it with the standard of right. Until they inform us what the scriptures do teach, we must beg leave to be excused from supposing ourselves obliged to believe that what is taught in these lectures is wrong or contrary to the language and spirit of inspiration. This is certainly a question that ought not to be thrown loosely by without being settled. The thing at which we aim is to establish a definite rule or to explain what we suppose to be the real and explicit teachings of the Bible upon this point. And we do think it absurd that the opponents of this view should attempt to convince us of error, without so much as attempting to show what the truth upon this subject is. As if we could easily enough decide what is contrary to right, without possessing any knowledge of right. We therefore beseech our brethren in discussing this subject to show us what is right. And if this is not the truth to show us a more excellent way and convince us that we wrong by showing us what is right. For we have no hope of ever seeing that we are wrong until we can see that some thing else than what is advocated in this discussion is right.
17. But before I close my remarks upon this subject I must not fail to state what I regard as the present duty of Christians: It is to hold their will in a state of consecration to God, and to lay hold on the promises for the blessing promised in such passages as 1st Thes. 5: 23,24: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly, and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; faithful is he that calleth you who also will do it." This is present duty. Let them wait on the Lord in faith for that cleansing of the whole being which they need to confirm, strengthen, settle them. All they can do, and all that God requires them to do is to obey him from moment to moment and to lay hold of him for the blessing of which we have been speaking, and to be assured that God will bring the answer for them in the best time and in the best manner. If you believe, the Anointing that abideth will surely be secured in due time.
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