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 – Ignatius Of Antioch

“Let not those who seem worthy of credit, but teach strange doctrines, fill you with apprehension. Stand firm, as does an anvil which is beaten. It is the part of a noble athlete to be wounded, and yet to conquer. And especially, we ought to bear all things for the sake of God, that He also may bear with us. Be ever becoming more zealous than what you are. Weigh carefully the times. Look for Him who is above all time, eternal and invisible, yet who became visible for our sakes; impalpable and impassible, yet who became passible on our account; and who in every kind of way suffered for our sakes.”
– Ignatius of Antioch, in his letter to Polycarp

The Lord Is A Man Of War

The Lord is a man of war: The Lord is His name.
Exodus 15:3

Throughout the earthly life of our Lord was manifested this very truth in all that He did and said. Never was the warfare a distant or partial truth to the Son of God – it always was the present reality within which His deeds were done, and His words spoken…

…For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
1 John 3:8

Whether in preaching the good news, in healing the sick, or in casting out demons, His eyes were alight with the vision of the battle before Him. His passion, His compassion, and His righteous anger all symphonized into the heavenly music of His ministration: vigorous, gentle, and awesome.

In the synagogue He healed the man with the withered hand; and in so doing condemned those who with vehement disapproval looked on. In this He warred against and exposed the false spirit of the pharisees’ religiosity. In large crowds He walked about, teaching men the way of Life; thereby releasing them from the bondage of contrived burdens unto the freedom of His Lordship. In this He warred against and exposed the captivity of the adversary. With great frequency He also cast out demons; directly throwing off the power of the wicked one from those who drew near to His holy light. In this He warred against and exposed the secret devices of the enemy. And in all these things, our Lord was ever in prayer, communing with the Father; and gained final victory over the corruption that is in the flesh by His perfect intercession.

What then of ourselves? Are we men of war after His likeness? For such will be those who are indeed His workmanship!

“…The Lord is a man of war: The Lord is His name…”

Is the Spirit of The Lord upon you? Should you not then be a man of war after His likeness? One will say, “Ah, but the scriptures say, “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (Ex 14:14), and, “The battle belongs to the Lord.” – And truly indeed does the battle belong to Him, truly indeed is it His own to glory in. Yet it is on the children’s behalf that He fights while they hold their peace, since war is not the province of children. But He is a man of war: for war is the province of men, not of children; and He would not have us always remain helpless children (Eph 4:13-14). For through men of war, God glories all the more in battle, since then He displays two victories: the one over us, and then the one through us. Under Joshua, the men who warred for the advance of Israel were at times called “mighty men of valour” – and would that we could also be so named!

But carnal men love the convenience of slavery to Pharaoh; and after a time, slaves grow to love the providence of their worldly captors over the deliverance of God. How many a warring man of God is met even by brethren with the accusation, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” (Ex 2:14) Cowards fear deliverance, and spit upon its purveyors.

How easily does the slumbering soul dismiss the Lord’s zeal for His house as undue severity! And how quick also is the conceited mind to mistake the Lord’s dispassion in battle as a lack of heart. For if many of us today had witnessed Jesus drive the moneychangers out of the temple, we might have thought to take Him aside and suggest that He utilize a more “civil” or “toned down” measure against their grievous evil. And if we had observed Him seated outside the temple beforehand, weaving the whip in silence, we might have gasped in self-righteous shock, hand-over-heart at this “uncaring” and “ruthless” display of quiet premeditation.

O, how we trust the unreliable fire of human offense, and disdain the white-hot furnace of Godly passion! O, how we embrace the nihilism and empty hatred of human apathy, and recoil at the unearthly calm of Godly dispassion! This is because we do not know God, and in particular because we have not spent a day on the battlefield – except either in captivity of the enemy, or in cowering behind the Lord, who is trying to teach our hands to war and our fingers to fight.

But the warring character of Christ – with both holy zeal and divine peace – shone forth brightly in Peter when he confronted Ananias and Saphira in their lie…

And Peter answered unto her, “Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much?” And she said, “Yea, for so much.” Then Peter said unto her, “How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.” Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.
Acts 5:8-11

Peter derived no earthly pleasure in the demise of these two; yet he also did not shrink from his duty in keeping the house of God clean from the blemish of deceitful scheming. When the Spirit of the Lord is upon a man to do battle against the devil’s handiwork, the man is on fire; and as he fights, he finds peace in the Lord while doing the Lord’s will – though in his wake other men lie possibly condemned, and all around him the demons are stirred up.

“In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and His children shall have a place of refuge.”
Proverbs 14:26

But to fear man is to not fear the Lord; and Egypt is always more than happy to take back its slaves.

Let not the house of God remain such a den of theives: trading the souls of its men for mammon, and their divinely-given birthright for a single meal.

Men of war kneel only for their King.

Thought – “God Gave Them Up”

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness… …For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections…
Romans 1:24-6

When God is stretching out His hand to save, those most in line with His will are reflective vessels of His action. But likewise, when God is giving over a people to their own devices, those who are most in line with His will are reflective vessels of the same. The functioning members of Christ do not contradict Him; and that which does is by definition the spirit of antichrist which is the spirit of the age. And the perpetuation of that world system is self-destructive, for so is the inevitable way of the world. To get caught up even into its trappings flatly contradicts the call of God’s own. There is no higher purpose than that which is found in the counsel of God’s inner sanctum; where not a vestige of the vanity around us has any place.

Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord : They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.
Proverbs1:24-33

The End From The Beginning

God does not merely see the end from the beginning, He declares it; and it is our perogative to see it as He has declared.

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?
2 Corinthians 13:5 (LITV)

Therefore, regarding the prize with verity, run the race with vigilance.

For the man with heavenly vision is neither near-sighted nor far-sighted: he is clear-sighted. He does not neglect walking the path for understanding prize, yet neither does he neglect the assurance of the prize for walking the path; and he is inevitably ridiculed by those who err in both ways toward the sides of the pit. For both are the darkened vision of the flesh, by which men are led astray. It is just as evil to miss the forest for the trees as to miss the trees for the forest. It is just as evil to miss the means for the end as it is to miss the end for the means.

The salvation which belongs to the Lord was, is, and will be. If that does not describe your salvation, then is your salvation really that which belongs to the Lord? Do not neglect the “is” of salvation for the “will be” of salvation; yet also do not neglect the “will be” for the “is”. Both are the trap of the evil one, and neither errors are of the Lord’s salvation. There can be no compromise in this.

Those who see a contradiction here rather than harmony are still blinded by the Devil.

Faith becomes sight for blind men.

Open the eyes of Your people, O God!

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)

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