Finney – A Lesson From History

When we sanitize the long and sorted history of God’s people by filtering it through our personal traditions, we miss out on a greater appreciation for the saying, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

On to the subject matter…

Now to him who works, the reward is not counted as grace, but as something owed. But to him who doesn’t work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.

Even as David also pronounces blessing on the man to whom God counts righteousness apart from works, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whom the Lord will by no means charge with sin.”

Is this blessing then pronounced on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. How then was it counted? When he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision?

Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. He received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while he was in uncircumcision, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they might be in uncircumcision, that righteousness might also be accounted to them.

Romans 4:4-11 (WEB)

Now consider this quote:

“There can be NO justification in a legal or forensic sense, but upon the ground of universal, perfect, and uninterrupted obedience to law. This is of course denied by those who hold that gospel justification, or the justification of penitent sinners, is of the nature of a forensic or judicial justification. They hold to the legal maxim, that what a man does by another he does by himself, and therefore the law regards Christ’s obedience as ours, on the ground that He obeyed for us.”
– Charles G. Finney, Systematic Theology, 362

Why not instead say that faith without works is dead, as say the scriptures? The claim of justification without any sanctification is self-deception; but this does not permit us to throw out the former because we do not see enough of the latter. They are both part-and-parcel of the grace of God in salvation. This conflation of the two leads to a denial of what both are. For there is judicial righteousness, and there is experiential righteousness – and the two are not at odds (except in the minds of some). They are both present in true salvation, yet they are distinct in function; for the one is the begining and underpinning of the other. It is not without purpose that the apostle Paul frequently structured his letters according to this principle. Peter then shakes awake our sleepy hearts from interpreting Paul carnally, and puts in us the fear of God, convicting us of God’s holiness; and James with John clarify the synthesis: that the righteous will practice what has been given to them, and the rest are evidently not of His sheep.

It is not a question of too much or too little grace; it is a question of authentic grace. It is not a question of to much or too little law; it is a question of authentic law. Now the authentic article of faith is the divine law being written upon the heart of a man by the finger of God, and it is the giving of empowerment to obey such by the indwelling Holy Spirit – and this is all of grace. For no man has this inherently: he must be granted it from heaven. To deny this justification by faith in order to begin sanctification is to remove a foundation before building a house.

Who could bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is GOD who justifies.
Romans 8:33 (WEB)

To set out upon a sanctified walk without being justified by faith is to set out across a bridge with no beams supporting it. It is doomed to fail, for it has no basis. It has no preexsisting grace by which to affirm that the way is sure and the goal attainable; and it has no ever-present grace to remind us that even what we have attained is all by God’s mighty power.

The man Finney often preached well against the tyranny of the self; but at times offered little more than the pitiful power of the fallen human will as its antidote – which only can perpetuate the cycle of said tyranny. (Rom 7). It is a sad truth that a great wealth of spiritual excitement and conviction can dwell alongside a ghastly lack of staying power.

Now this may be objected to by those who are aware of Finney’s teachings on the Holy Spirit, which are numerous and in many aspects quite excellent. But the Holy Spirit, were He bound by the choices of the human will or limited to man’s “uninterrupted obedience to law,” would have no power to sanctify us. For the will of man is the very first and primary matter that the Spirit comes to set right in us. For the law of God is not written on our hearts until the Lawgiver by the Spirit does so; and if He cannot do so without a sinner’s permission, then it will most assuredly never happen. But if we accept such teaching, we are left quite to ourselves, and we deny much of God’s help, however unwittingly.

For the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace; because the mind of the flesh is hostile towards God; for it is not subject to God’s law, neither indeed can it be. Those who are in the flesh can’t please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if it is so that the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any man doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
Romans 8:6-9 (WEB)

And how is the Holy Spirit obtained?

I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Counselor, that He may be with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world can’t receive; for it doesn’t see Him, neither knows Him. You know Him, for He lives with you, and will be in you.
John 14:16-17 (WEB)

The more true obedience to His maker that a man walks in, the more he ought to behold the gracious preordination of God in every step along the way, and all the more quickly should he therefore yield himself unto the doing of that same will of God. But the man who becomes proud of his own obedience sees it only as the doing of his own will, and mocks the grace of the God who had soveriegnly worked it all in him. This man takes little delight in being humbled; and rather than simply surrendering to the will God, he constantly makes treaties with his Creator, thinking it to be the Lord’s method. Man’s desire to “be like the most high” of his own accord and by his own means is insatiable; and it must be crushed by the overbearing power of the Spirit of Grace, who is the mouth of the fount of true sanctification.

Do I hereby condemn Charles Finney? No! Based on many other things he said, I actually believe that he himself had a real and powerful walk with God. For by God’s grace, many who are attracted to vain philosophy may yet be constrained by His power to truly know and walk with Him despite their most carnal notions; and they are herein most blessedly inconsistent. Finney also lived in a day of great spiritual slumber – and despite the shear reactionism behind such of his teachings as those here quoted, he was apparently not without a good measure of real fruit. I dare any one of us to presume that we were the better man for that hour. God knew what He was doing.

The legacy of those things which we call the movings of Christ throughout the ages is one often beset with the mixture of man’s disasterous religious recipes and earthly philosophy.

O Lord, give us eyes to see that which is pure, holy, and becoming of You; that we may test all things, and hold fast to what is good!

Quote – Paul Washer

Perhaps the greatest lie in evangelical Christianity today is that if you “ask Jesus into your heart,” He will most definitely come in.
– Paul Washer

You have not chosen Me, but I chose you out and planted you, that you should go and should bear fruit, and your fruit remain, that whatever you should ask the Father in My name, He may give you.
John 15:16

To Whom Salvation Belongs

And He said, “Because of this, I have told you that no one is able to come to Me except it is given to him from My Father.” From this time many of His disciples went away into the things behind, and no longer walked with Him.
John 6:65-66

Many will say “Amen” or at least silently tolerate you when you tell them that nature determines fruit. But as soon as you say that the will of God determines nature, most will at best leave you for the things that are behind, and perhaps even seek to destroy you. Carnal hearts defy the sole glorification of God alone in salvation.

The Love & Hatred of God

And I made known to them Your name, and will make it known, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.
John 17:26 (LITV)

Here the Son prays to the Father not concerning the world, but concerning those whom the Father has given Him out of the world (Jn 17:9-10); and He speaks here of a very particular love: “the love with which You have loved Me.” This is not the same love by which God “so loved the world” (Jn 3:16) For it is not the world, but whoever believes in Him out of the world that has eternal Life; and that Life is in the Son, and that Life is to know the Father who loves the Son: it is the very Life which the Godhead has within itself, “the love with which You have loved Me.”

For we, who by necessity possess different kinds of affections or loves toward different things, ought not to marvel if God, after whose image we were created, has a holy range of affections infinitely beyond the wisdom of our own. We dare not be so arrogant as to postulate that just because “God so loved the world,” He cannot still be “angry with the wicked every day,” or “hate all the workers of iniquity,” or “abhor the bloody and deceitful man.” (Ps 5:5-6, 7:11, 10:3) Truly, it is because God is love that He must absolutely hate; and not only the sin, but the sinner also. He is jealous for the glory of His own great Name, and the sins of men who were made in His image are defamatory to that Name.

The purest love necessitates the purest hatred. A man with a heart after God’s own heart was able to say of the Lord’s enemies, “I hate them with a perfect hatred…” (Ps 139:22) The man who loves one thing and does not hate the other is lying to himself; and God is not such a one. For He loves all that is good, right, perfect, and holy; and the higher these are, the more in His love are they evidenced to abide. Therefore He must hate all that is wicked, perverse, corrupt, and unholy; and the lower these are, the more under His wrath are they evidenced to abide.

Who then are we to judge that God should not have a general affection for the whole creation, yet also reserve a specific and salvific love for only a portion? The God of all the earth will do right; and in so doing He separates His righteous ones from the wicked before the latter are destroyed (Gen 18). And the righteous are so because He has mercifully made them vessels of honor, and of covenant love. He had the right to hate all men, yet He has chosen to lavish such love upon a people: the very love with which the Father loves the Son.

Quote – Charles H. Spurgeon

“And then He turned my heart, and made me love Him.”
– Charles H. Spurgeon

The Command Which Tries The Hearts

Truly then, God overlooking the times of ignorance, now strictly commands all men everywhere to repent, because He set a day in which He is going to judge the habitable world in righteousness, by a Man whom He appointed; having given proof to all by raising Him from the dead.
Acts 17:30-31

The gospel is proclaimed as much for judgement as it is for salvation. It is the seed of the Sower which reveals the existing nature of the ground upon which it falls. We have not paid careful attention to what Jesus said immediately after explaining the parable of the sower…

But no one lighting a lamp covers it with a vessel, or puts it underneath a couch, but sets it on a lampstand, that those coming in may see the light. For nothing is hidden which will not be revealed, nor secret which will not be known and come to be revealed. Then observe how you hear; for whoever has, it will be given to him; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.
Luke 8:16-18

The same Word of God which He first described as a seed, He now describes as a light that reveals the true substance of whatever it touches. Those “coming in” to the kingdom see the light of this gospel, and they come in because they are drawn of the Father (Jn 6:44). But the rest do not see its true light, even though it shines upon them, and even though some of them might walk amidst the children of light. Likewise, the seed of the Sower commands all; but not all have ears to hear, for to them it has not been given, and these (being many) are judged according to it.

And he said to him, “If they will not hear Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if one from the dead should rise.”
Luke 16:31

We like to suppose that the ground can be changed by the seed, if only the ground does the right thing with the seed. But in truth, the ground will be judged according to what the seed does with the ground, and it does not abide bad ground. “For nothing is hidden which will not be revealed.” We also miss the purpose of the warnings given to every ear, such as, “be careful how you hear,” or the reason for exhortations to seek God with all of the heart. For the warnings against falling away and the exhortations to seek the Lord are all serving to suggest that hard ground can deceive itself into thinking that it is good soil. For “whoever does not have, even what he SEEMS to have will be taken from him.” Time will tell the truth of mens’ hearts, and the Day will bring all to light.

Examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith, prove yourselves. Or do you not yourselves perceive that Jesus Christ is in you, unless you are reprobates? And I hope you will know that we are not reprobates.
2 Corinthians 13:5-6

For who determines the nature of the soils? If it were up to the choice of man, then no soil would ever become good. For in Adam, “there is not one doing good, there is not one seeking after God.” But it takes a hearing ear to seek after God; and it is His alone to give to whomever He wills.

Therefore,

Everyone believing (Grk: present & ongoing faith: used consistently by John to describe authentic fruitful faith, not a whimsical belief, nor even potential faith) that Jesus is the Christ, HAS been generated from God…
1 John 5:1

Faith that endures to the end is the result of true regeneration, not the other way around.

So then, to whom He desires, He shows mercy. And to whom He desires, He hardens. You will then say to me, “Why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will?”
Bu rather, O man, who are you answering against God? Shall the thing formed say to the One forming it, “Why did You make me like this?” Or does not the potter have authority over the clay, out of the one lump to make one vessel to honor, and one to dishonor? What if God, desiring to show forth wrath, and to make His power known, endured in much long-suffering vessels of wrath having been fitted out for destruction, so that He make known the riches of His glory on vessels of mercy which He before pepared for glory?
Romans 9:18-23

God deals justly with all, and to some of them He gives mercy by dealing justly with their sin in the death of Christ. For this very reason we proclaim with great confidence the command of the Gospel: because He has a particular people whom He is calling each by name; and His command will bring them in, while at the same time it will judge the ones who do not obey, as is their nature.

For He came to gather the lost sheep of His own house; but unto the rest He says, “You will not believe, because you are not of my sheep.” His sheep hear His voice, He knows them, and they follow Him; but to the self-deceivers He says again, “I never knew you.” They are judged righteously according to the willful rebellion of their hearts; because self-will is the only will of those not generated from God, and they love their own will.

Where the will of men is given the throne by its being pleaded with rather than its being commanded, the gospel being preached is no longer the power of God – not that there is another gospel.

There is a great hatred in the body of Christ today for this truth of God’s sovereignty, just as it has always been drifted away from shortly after its light was revived. I have at times been guilty of questioning it myself, but have very recently been graciously dragged back to it by the Lord. He made this matter clear at first, and I reseisted it for a time; but now the clarity of His Word regarding these things is stunning, and I can take no credit for it. Truly His gospel is the command which tries the hearts! If I ever had anything to do with God’s mercy being bestowed upon me, then He is no God.

“The gospel is a command, not a suggestion.”
– James R. White

Christ the Power & Wisdom of God

“…there is not one that seeks after God.”

“Seek, and you shall find…”

Men do not find God because they do not seek for Him. For if they truly sought, they would find. A seeking of power or of wisdom as distinct from the seeking of God Himself is idolatry; and it is the fool who supposes that God will suffer His might or counsel to be either mingled with or weighed by that of men. Woe to them that go on tickling their own ears, who repent not of their own devices and conceptions when the Lord makes Himself known; for in due time He grants them strong delusion! Woe to them that become proud of seeking the satisfaction of their own minds as an end in itself, as though having no higher authority were the truest of wisdom; for in vain they seek out an excuse not to find the immovable reality of He who is Lord of all, and their reward is the void which they have so esteemed. To deify the mind of man is to blaspheme the mind of God. “Proffessing to be wise, they became foolish…”

All things (under the sun – natural light) are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
Ecclesiastes 1:8

The ears of men are ever itching to hear a new thing; but let a matter be spoken of God, and it cannot be tolerated. They cannot bear to hear of their true predicament, because it breaks the noise of their elaborate distraction: the machinery of artificial crisis, the religion of passing the blame. The monument to destruction is ever so carefully built up, the meaninfulness of vanity is ever so highly venerated to draw the heart unto anything but the subtance and reality of God Himself. The emptiness of man’s soul is ever feeding upon the devices of its own self, never to satiate its hunger. The more of its own debt that it thinks to pay, the more that it finds to be owing. Well does the symbology of the enemy mockingly betray a truth: that the serpent remains ever consuming its own tail, for it cannot fulfill itself. Such madness is the prospect confronting those who reach the end of all earthly learning and wisdom in a world which lies under the power of that wicked one.

But the spiritual are free of this vanity, for through the operation of the Spirit of Truth within them “by the faith OF the Son of God,” they overcome Devil’s persuasion to share in his fate. These recognize through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit that all deception begins in the heart of a man, including their own; and must be overcome by the Truth of God dwelling in the innermost parts. By Him they are made free of their rebellious state, which disposes the heart to so readily to be flattered by the crafty peddler of the tree of knowledge. For the fruit of the tree of Life can only be planted and nurtured by that one Spirit of God Himself – which feat no mere man can accomplish, “because the mind of the flesh is enmity towards God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither CAN it be.” With those after the flesh, the Sovereign Lord is righteous to find fault, and against such He is also righteous to execute judgement; “for the saving grace of God has appeared to all men,” and “men loved the darkness instead of the light, for their deeds were evil,” so that men are without excuse.

The demonstration of man’s depraved heart without God’s Life reveals His longsuffering and patience; and the impossibily of men to choose freedom from themselves reveals how much that grace truly is grace. For among whom none was righteous and not one merrited favour, He raises up from among the incapable dead a people for His own possession, which by Him are also made into His likeness; as the likeness of God was otherwise inseperably lost, and no man but those being conformed to the likeness of the One Son of Man can claim truly to bear the image of God – though even many christians are ignorant to this fact. It is not in the least unfair that the many are allowed into destruction: truly it is of His mercies that not all men are utterly consumed. Indeed it is a wonder that He has so decreed and laboured to save even some, working unto the good of those who love Him, who do so because they are “THE called according to His purpose.” And being that such is the gift of God, there are none of them which can boast! For not by prudence in observing signs of power have the zealots been delivered, any more than that by knowledge in plausible arguments have the wise been truly enlightened; but salvation is revealed “to those who are called, of both Jews and Greeks: Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

For the power is He who died now reigning over death; and the wisdom is He who was raised now living in those who by His operation have died.

For except the Lord has implanted the working of His faith within a soul, it proudly lives unto itself and remains dead to God, existing under that great darkness concerning which the apostle rightly spoke, “There is NOT ONE that seeks after God.” Now it is tempting for the carnal mind to minimize or try to deny so comprehensive and infinitely deep a chasm; but enduring faith rests upon power unseen of the eyes, and it reckons by wisdom unknown of the mind, having first accepted this horrible truth. And since the will of sinful man is utterly free of God, praise be unto God that His will is utterly free of sinful man, so that He may bridge the chasm without the loss of any to whom His mighty arm is revealed!

For the freedom of the human will is only ever unto the bondage of the tyranny of self; and the breaking of this evil will by God is required to bring about the true freedom of serving His good, pleasing, and perfect will. The creature indeed has capacity for much; but no son of Adam has any capacity for spiritual goodness without first the extension of uncommon grace which gives power to become a child of God. Seeking with the whole heart after the One who exposes the thoughts and intentions of the heart is a characteristic of those being made alive in Christ Jesus: it is the province of those that are being drawn of the Father; for only by His Spirit are uncovered the wonders of His great Mystery. And those who have found the mystery (which is the glory of God hidden in Christ, and living in them), if these shall continue to overcome the snare of mere human ingenuity, let the prayer of their regenerated hearts ever remain, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your law.”

For if we are saved not of ourselves, but by the gift of God, how much more then should we also dispose the continuation of our growth in Him unto that same power and wisdom of Christ; for now within us He strives to will and to do according to His good pleasure. For that power and wisdom of Christ, which before we lacked and has now been endowed – shall we not with fear and trembling now submit to its working, a choice which before we could not have made? For it is not unto the heathen, but unto the children, that God says, “Choose you this day whom you will serve,” and, “receive not the grace of God in vain.” The Law of the Spirit of Life is come!

“…faith arises from disposition of soul, but dialectic from the skill of its inventors. Wherefore to those who have the inworking through faith, demonstrative argument is needless, or even superfluous. For what we know through faith you attempt to prove through words, and often you are not even able to express what we understand. So the inworking through faith is better and stronger than your professional arguments. We Christians therefore hold the mystery not in the wisdom of Greek arguments, but in the power of faith richly supplied to us by God through Jesus Christ.”
– Antony of Egypt, to the Greeks who came to visit him. (Taken from the account of his life written by Athanatius of Alexandria)