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!

True & False Prophets

The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, who are prophesying, and say to those who prophesy from their own hearts: ‘Hear the word of the LORD!’ Thus says the Lord God, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!”
Ezekiel 13:1-3

God calls false the “prophet” who sees his own visions, feels his own feelings, and speaks his own thoughts. For a true prophet is the one who sees what God sees, feels what God feels, and speaks what God thinks.

The gulf of difference between these two is irreconcilable; and the standard by which the matter is measured is the holy scriptures – through which the word of the prophets is made known, and by which the prophets themselves are forged, for therein has the Spirit Of Prophecy expounded Himself. And the testimony of Jesus IS the Spirit of prophecy.

His prophets today, therefore, are those both in whom and through whom the very Christ of those scriptures’ testimony is found seeing, feeling, and speaking after God Himself.

In these men the Word of the Lord is not trapped on the pages of its binding, nor confined within the interpretation of mere men, nor restrained even by the words of great men of history; but it is become a living fire in their bones to strike down and eviscerate the imperfect chatter of every foul spirit which continues to oppose it in their own day.

The spiritual authority that a man carries directly corresponds in measure to his current conformity to the revealed will of God – and that will is moving through time, the Spirit of Christ as a wind blowing each obedient man His way; but are we ourselves remaing in symphony with Him? For though we may stand upon the shoulders of giants, we must yet remain mindful that those who proclaim the word of the Lord in every age shall be judged alone according to the testimony of the Word Himself, Who is living and active.

And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 1:19-21

By this standard our words are measured.

Scripture & Thought – Obedience & The Self

There is therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to flesh, but according to Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus set me free from the law of sin and of death. For the law being powerless, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and concerning sin, condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous demand of the law might be fulfilled in us, those not walking according to flesh, but according to Spirit.
Romans 8:1-4 (LITV)

A man cannot overemphasize his total inability to please God in and of himself; but there are those who struggle to obey God because they overshadow the cross of Christ with the ruinous heap of their recurring sins. This in itself is actually a fleshly self-centeredness, it is a faithless sin to be repented of in view of God’s mercy. For if one fears and delights in the Lord, including the sufficiency of His work and a trusting in His desire to continue it, then that same one delights in nothing less than the glory of God’s Name; and to obey the Lord then becomes a joy despite one’s existing shortcomings.

Only by this does one draw near to God in such a way that his personal faults and long-entrenched sins can be overcome in the Lord’s ever-nearer presence; for this honors the Holy Spirit and invites His power. But when our obedience is about ourselves, and not all about the Lord of Glory, then it is not true obedience anyways, and will ironically benefit us nothing. The Lord calls us not to the limit of our means, but far beyond, where we have no means but He Himself. The fruit of the Spirit is not invoked by the striving of the flesh.

For the ones that are according to flesh mind the things of the flesh. And the ones according to Spirit mind the things of the Spirit. 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 enmity towards God; for it is not subject to the law of God, for neither can it be. And those being in the flesh are not able to please God. But you are not in flesh, but in Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone has not the Spirit of Christ, this one is not His.
Romans 8:5-9 (LITV)

True Value – Some Thoughts

It is quite grievous to me when some well-meaning person tries to propogate the myth of my intrinsic value before God.

I do not trust the soul which so unduly esteems any man, including myself. For that soul cannot be rightly esteeming Christ, in whom are hidden and revealed the unsearcheable riches of the glory of God. They know not what holy rage and jealousy they provoke in the One by Whom all things consist.

I have no intrinsic value, only Christ does; and that is why I cling to Him, and to no other. But when I did not cling to Him, how devoid was my soul of His eternal joy; and how sumptuously did the fool’s gold glimmer in the false light! Then He Himself lit my darkness when I had not asked, and the gold was all revealed to be dross, and my own life was revealed to be the death of me.

All that I possess of any value to Him is actually His, it never was mine. The only honor I can give to Him is the honor which He has graciously bestowed upon me; and this I shall do, also by His grace. For of myself, I am altogether worthless; and He alone is worthy of my utmost devotion – even were I yet a son of hell.

If we truly value Christ, we cannot but speak of Him if we are to speak of true value. If a thing is not in Him, it is fuel for the fire. Those who have His joy within them know this truth vividly. They find the present world to be a weary abode, a miserable labrynth of fickle trivialities; and they find themselves to be as strangers in it. For the same Priceless Treasure which bought them, although they were worthless, has Himself become their true abode.

In This World You Will Have Trouble

…the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.
Mt 8:20, Lk 9:58

The Lord is our only stay. We have this fantastical image in our minds of Daniel in the lion’s den: where the lions all have smiles on their faces and Daniel is petting their manes. But the man beloved of God whom the Lord ordains to be thrown in with the lions will shortly find that their den is no such place. The lions may well be subdued and have their mouths held shut from truly harming him; but they nonetheless have every intention of ripping at and tearing apart the man of God, and will mercilessly intimidate him day and night. Even in the envelopment of our Lord’s protection, there is every earthly reason to abandon faith and be devoured.

When the Lord our Shepherd prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies, we are no less in their presence. We may eat and rejoice at the bounty of the Lord, yet the ravenous wolves stand across from us, at every moment spitting and shouting curses upon the Food and Drink of which we partake, seeking to shame us from partaking in the table of His sufferings. But the one whom the Lord upholds will not give in to fear.

We shall find no rest in this world of rebellion. We will be afflicted on all sides. Our blessed hope is a heavenly one, and it is one which we yet await. Let our running therefore not be stumbled by vexation with trials, as if a temporary world of tribulation is not worthy to be suffered for His eternity victory.

Rejoice in affliction!

A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing,
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He
Lord Sabaoth, His Name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us;
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That Word above all earthly pow’rs,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him Who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

– Martin Luther

Quote – Paul Washer

The question (concerning fallen man) is not, “Is there free will?” The question is, “Is there good will?”
– Paul Washer

As it is written: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.
Romans 3:10-12

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)