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Discussion Forum : Articles and Sermons : FINNEY'S EVIL SERMON?

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I came across this yesterday on the web. I did not write this and just want to hear what others think about this.



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, July 20, 2003

"With men it is impossible, but not with God" (Mark 10:27).

The Rich Young Ruler tried to be saved by obeying the moral law of God. He "went away grieved" (Mark 10:22) - and unsaved. Jesus said,

"Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!" (Mark 10:24).

"And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible" (Mark 10:26-27).

The Rich Young Ruler could not be saved by obedience to the moral law of God. It was impossible for him to save himself by perfect obedience to the law. Why? Because salvation is a gift from God. Salvation comes by God stepping in and doing what man cannot do for himself. That is salvation by grace - salvation by God's grace to sinful, depraved, lost men and women.

Evangelist Charles G. Finney did not believe in salvation by grace. Finney was a Pelagian heretic who believed that lost people could change their own hearts without God's grace, that they could bring about their own salvation without the supernatural help of God. This is one of the greatest errors that has ever "crept in unawares" (Jude 4) to American evangelicalism. Finney's idea that man can change his own heart by obedience to God lies behind the "decisionism" which has poisoned our churches - the idea that a human "decision" to obey God takes the place of God's grace bringing a sinner to salvation. This poisonous teaching of Finney is now all through evangelism in our churches. And we must reject Finney's "decisionism" and fall back on God's grace or we will never again see true revival.

Finney was neither an Arminian nor a Calvinist. Both Arminians and Calvinists believe that salvation is a gift of God's grace, not something a person earns by making "decisions" to obey God's law. Finney was even worse than Roman Catholics, who believe that grace comes to a sinner through the sacraments of the church. They are wrong in their belief, but at least they believe salvation is in some sense dependent on the grace of God. For Finney, there was no room for grace at all! No grace is needed for a sinner to be saved according to Finney.

That's why Dr. Michael S. Horton said,

Therefore, Finney is not merely an Arminian, but a Pelagian [heretic]. He is not only an enemy of evangelical Christianity, but of historic Christianity (Michael S. Horton, "The Legacy of Charles G. Finney," from Modern Reformation, computer net posting, April 1, 1996).

Last Monday I spent a full twelve hours studying Finney's most famous sermon, "Sinners Bound to Change Their Own Hearts." You can read it in full yourself by clicking on "Finney's Sermon" here. I literally felt sick after studying this evil sermon. The sickness I felt came from my realization that this sermon, more than any other single message, has been an instrument of Satan in destroying our churches, ruining America, and damning millions of souls around the world. This sermon was the most popular one Finney ever preached - and the ideas in it have ruined revival and damned the souls of countless multitudes, as they have trickled down into our churches from Finney, and ruined most gospel preaching today.

I therefore make no pretense in what I am about to say and do tonight. I am calling Charles G. Finney a false prophet and an agent of Satan. I am calling him a Pelagian heretic worthy of excommunication and the fire of Hell. And I am going to refute his demonically-inspired sermon by Scripture. May God help me to do it. I know I do not have the strength in myself to disprove him. God, please help me to expose this man's soul-damning heresy, and show the truth from the Bible in a clear way tonight. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Finney's landmark sermon, as I said, is titled, "Sinners Bound to Change Their Own Hearts." Please turn to Finney's text in Ezekiel 18:31,

"Make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" (Ezekiel 18:31).

Finney tells us in his sermon that man himself is required to make a new heart and a new spirit in himself. I will answer him point by point.

I. First, Finney's sermon is law, not gospel.

Notice that this is an Old Testament text in Ezekiel 18:31. It is directed to the "house of Israel." It is part of the Old Testament law. Romans 3:20 says,

"Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20).

The purpose of the law is to show us our sin, to give us "the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20). And no verse of the law does this better than Ezekiel 18:31.

Try obeying it! Just try! Try to "make you a new heart and a new spirit" - try it! The great evangelist George Whitefield tried - and failed. John Wesley tried to do it - and failed. Bunyan and Spurgeon tried to do it - and failed. Paul tried it - and failed. No person on earth can do what the law says in this passage.

"With men it is impossible, but not with God" (Mark 10:27).

Jesus said this in connection with the Rich Young Ruler, who was trying to save himself Finney's way by obeying the law - which neither he nor anyone else could obey perfectly. No human being can measure up to the law in Ezekiel 18:31. That's why Jesus said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God."

So it is with Finney's text in Ezekiel 18:31,

"Make you a new heart and a new spirit."

You just can't do it. "With men it is impossible." John Calvin correctly says,

Men badly trained in the Scriptures erect their crests under the pretence of this passage, as if it were in the power of man's free will to convert himself (John Calvin, notes on Ezekiel 18:31, Baker Book House, 1998 reprint).

Calvin is absolutely Scriptural on this point, and Finney is dead wrong, and "badly trained in the Scriptures." Finney rejected the teaching of his own pastor on salvation, and never went to Bible school. He was "badly trained in the Scriptures."

Finney said that man is fully capable of making himself "a new heart and a new spirit." But the Bible teaches that this verse was given as part of God's moral law,

"Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20).

This law of making "you a new heart and a new spirit" was given to show you that you are a lost sinner - that you cannot obey God's law in your ruined state - that "with man it is impossible" (Mark 10:27).

That is why God Himself must take the initiative and do for you what you cannot do for yourself.

"With men it is impossible, but not with God" (Mark 10:27).

II. Second, Finney's sermon fails to compare other Scriptures on this matter in the book of Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 11:19 was given to correct Finney's idea. Please turn to it. God says,

"I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 11:19).

Again, turn to Ezekiel 36:26-27,

"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them" (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

It is very simple - what they were commanded to do by the law they could not do - but God could do it for them by His grace. Why then did God command them to do it in Ezekiel 18:31? To show them their inability in a state of sin!

"With men it is impossible, but not with God" (Mark 10:27).

"Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20).

Paul tried to be saved by keeping the law, but he couldn't do it. He said,

"Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law" (Romans 7:7).

When he found that he could not be saved by keeping the law, he cried out,

"O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 7:24-25).

If you try to obey the law of Ezekiel 18:31, and "make you a new heart and a new spirit," you will find that you cannot do it. This will give you an awareness of the depths of your sin and depravity - and this will drive you to Christ, for only He can give you a new heart and a new spirit by His grace!

III. Third, Finney's sermon is not the gospel of grace - it is "another gospel."

There is no grace, and very little mention of Christ, in Finney's sermon, "Sinners Bound to Change Their Own Hearts." I found Christ mentioned only about five times in the sermon, and never once as the Saviour. Once Finney confounds the person of Christ with the Holy Spirit. Not once does He speak of Christ's substitutionary death for sinners on the Cross. He didn't believe that Christ died to pay for our sins - and said so often. Not once does he tell his listeners to come to Christ for salvation. Not once does he say to "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31). Salvation, for Finney, is not a gift purchased by Christ on the Cross and given to sinners who believe on Him. Salvation for Finney is not a gift from God, obtained by faith in Christ. No, for Finney, salvation comes by obeying the law, "and make you a new heart and a new spirit" by yourself - without the help of God. Shameful heresy! This is not the gospel! This is salvation by human works!

The Apostle Paul wrote,

"I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel…But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:6, 8).

We must, therefore, say of Finney what Paul said, "Let him be accursed!" I believe that Finney, who once confused me, and has done so much to confuse millions of others, is now burning in the flames of Hell, for believing and preaching "another gospel."

IV. Fourth, Finney's sermon denies the Fall of man and the resulting depravity of the human race.

He actually says in this sermon that God could have told the Fallen Adam, "Rebel, you have just changed your heart from holiness to sin, now change it back from sin to holiness." This is a ridiculously twisted and blindly unscriptural depiction of the Fall of man. He said of Adam's fall, that "It was not a change in the powers of moral agency themselves, but simply in the use of them." So, Finney taught that there was no corruption of man's will in the Fall, that man retained free will after the Fall. But God did not say to Adam, "Change back from sin to holiness." Instead, God told Adam, "Cursed is the ground for thy sake…in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground" (Genesis 3:17-19). Adam's first son was a murderer (cf. Genesis 4:8), which shows that Adam's fallen nature was passed on to his seed - and the entire human race.

"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death [physical and spiritual] passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Romans 5:12).

This is a critical point. If man is not fallen and dead in sin, then he can save himself - which is precisely what Finney believed.

The center of Finney's error, that you can make a new heart for yourself, lies in his shallow concept of human sin. To Finney, man is merely misguided - and needs only to decide to go in the right path to be saved. But in the Bible man is totally depraved.

"Dead in sins" (Ephesians 2:5, 1).

"Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" (Ephesians 4:18).

"Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Romans 8:7).

This last verse is such a strong rebuke to Finney's false system of theology that he mistranslates and misinterprets it, based on his deliberate mistranslation, in this evil sermon. The Apostle Peter says that those who "are unlearned and unstable wrest [distort]" the writings of the Apostle Paul (cf. II Peter 3:16). Finney was both unlearned and unstable. He was trained as an attorney and knew virtually nothing on the subject of the Bible. His "conversion" is highly questionable, since there is no mention of his sin, the Blood of Christ, or Christ Himself in it. Finney appears to have been a lost man with no Biblical training.

Unfortunately, he was a highly skilled attorney, and his skills at moving a jury to accept his opinion were used to move to his opinion audiences, churches, and finally, nearly the entire evangelical movement. Today, the "decisionism" of evangelicalism is a direct legacy of this unschooled, unconverted attorney - who made his career out of attacking the historic beliefs of Protestants and Baptists.

So strongly did Finney deny that mankind is lost that he actually said in this sermon, "The perfect control of preference over all the moral movement of the mind brings a man back to where Adam was previous to the fall, and constitutes perfect holiness." In other words, you can perfectly control yourself and bring yourself back to where Adam was before the fall. That's what he said in this sermon! Horrible heresy!

Now that sounds perfectly reasonable to a lost person. Lost people think they can be perfect if they want to be. That's another reason to think that Finney himself was lost.

But it takes the illumination of the Holy Spirit for a lost person to see that he is dead in sin. That is precisely what the Holy Spirit does,

"And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin" (John 16:8).

Until the Holy Spirit convicts a person of sin, he will think like Finney - that he can perfectly obey God. Only the Holy Spirit can show you your ruined and utterly sinful heart - a heart that you cannot change or save, for

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9).

V. Fifth, Finney's sermon denies that the Holy Spirit must give
the sinner power or grace in any sense.

He denies that the sinner needs the power of the Holy Spirit to be saved. He denies the need for grace in any form. Not only does he reject Reformed theology, but also, specifically, the Arminian belief in salvation by grace. He says that if salvation were by grace then sin would not be a transgression of the law, but of refusing to yield to the Holy Spirit. In other words, if salvation is by grace, then sin is a rejection of the Holy Spirit rather than transgression of the law. Of course this is precisely what the Jews did! They transgressed the law because they rejected the Spirit. As Stephen said,

"Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye" (Acts 7:51).

The Bible teaches that man disobeys the law because he rejects the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Although Finney completely denied it, the Bible teaches salvation by grace alone. Turn to Ephesians 2:8,

"For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8).

That is salvation by the grace of God, not making a new heart and spirit by yourself!

And, in conclusion, let us turn again to Mark 10:26-27.

"And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible" (Mark 10:26-27).

Finney said man could save himself. Jesus said, "With men it is impossible." So, you have a clear choice - between Finney and Christ! Who will you choose to believe?

Finney taught that man is responsible for making himself perfect! But the Bible teaches that man's responsibility is to believe in Jesus! You can go around for the rest of your life trying to make yourself perfect by a series of decisions - and you will go to Hell. Or you can come to Jesus and be saved by Jesus! It's one or the other - salvation by decisions or salvation by Jesus. Take your pick. But remember - salvation by decisions leads only to Hell!

The Rich Young Ruler in Mark 10 was trying to be saved by perfect obedience to God's law. In other words, he was trying to be saved by following Finney's method. Christ asked this young man a series of questions to show him the folly of trying to save himself this way. Then Christ told the Disciples,

"With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible" (Mark 10:27).

Salvation will come to you when you are shown by God that you cannot save yourself. When you see this clearly, you will discover that only Christ can save you.

"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (I Timothy 1:15).

When God opens your eyes to see this great truth, that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," like you - when you truly see this, you must then throw yourself on Jesus,

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31).

The New Testament does not tell you to "make you a new heart and a new spirit" (Ezekiel 18:31). The New Testament tells you,

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31).

 2014/5/9 10:29

Joined: 2012/2/8
Posts: 5313


I read the whole sermon and see nothing wrong with it. All he is saying is that a man must make a choice as to whether to obedient to the call of God. Two men may hear the same sermon, have the same conviction of the Holy Spirit regarding the need to repent, and one man may choose to do so and the other may walk away unchanged. Stephen accused the Sanhedrin of “resisting the Holy Spirit.” Again it is implicit in his statement that he was condemning their choice in doing so.

Jesus made all sorts of statements about living and behaving in a righteous manner. Implicit in His statements is that it is possible to do so. Paul beseeched us to "present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."

All Finney is doing is stirring people to accept their responsibilities to the Lord. No one is going to do it for you. As Paul stated on the above passage it is YOUR reasonable service.

There is nothing offensive or heretical in the sermon if you believe in free choice.


 2014/5/9 13:05Profile

Joined: 2002/12/11
Posts: 37007
"Pilgrim and Sojourner." - 1 Peter 2:11





In every period of my ministerial life I have found many professed Christians in a miserable state of bondage either to the world, the flesh, or the Devil. But surely this is no Christian state, for the apostle has distinctly said: “Sin shall not have dominion over you, because ye are not under the law, but under grace.” In all my Christian life I have been pained to find so many Christians living in the legal bondage described in the 7th chapter of Romans—a life of sinning, and resolving to reform and falling again. And what is particularly saddening, and even agonizing, is that many ministers and leading Christians give perfectly false instruction upon the subject of how to overcome sin. The directions that are generally given on this subject, I am sorry to say, amount to about this: “Take your sins in detail, resolve to abstain from them, and fight against them, if need be, with prayer and fasting, until you have overcome them. Set your will firmly against a relapse into sin, pray and struggle, and resolve that you will not fall, and persist in this, until you form the habit of obedience and break up all your sinful habits.” To be sure, it is generally added: “In this conflict you must not depend upon your own strength, but pray for the help of God.” In a word, much of the teaching, both of the pulpit and the press, really amounts to this: Sanctification is by works, and not by faith. I notice that Dr. Chalmers, in his lectures on Romans, expressly maintains that justification is by faith, but sanctification is by works. Some twenty-five years ago, I think, a prominent professor of theology in New England maintained in substance the same doctrine. In my early Christian life I was very nearly misled by one of President Edwards’s resolutions; which was, in substance, that when he had fallen into any sin he would trace it back to its source, and then fight and pray against it with all his might until he subdued it. This, it will be perceived, is directing the attention to the overt act of sin, its source or occasions. Resolving and fighting against it fastens the attention on the sin and its source, and diverts it entirely from Christ.

Now it is important to say right here that all such efforts are worse than useless, and not infrequently result in delusion. First, it is losing sight of what really constitutes sin, and, secondly, of the only practicable way to avoid it. In this way the outward act or habit may be overcome and avoided, while that which really constitutes the sin is left untouched. Sin is not external, but internal. It is not a muscular act, it is not the volition that causes muscular action, it is not an involuntary feeling or desire; it must be a voluntary act or state of mind. Sin is nothing else than that voluntary, ultimate preference or state of committal to self-pleasing out of which the volitions, the outward actions, purposes, intentions, and all the things that are commonly called sin proceed. Now, what is resolved against in this religion of resolutions and efforts to suppress sinful and form holy habits? “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” But do we produce love by resolution? Do we eradicate selfishness by resolution? No, indeed. We may suppress this or that expression or manifestation of selfishness by resolving not to do this or that, and praying and struggling against it. We may resolve upon an outward obedience, and work ourselves up to the letter of an obedience to God’s commandments. But to eradicate selfishness from the breast by resolution is an absurdity. So the effort to obey the commandments of God in spirit—in other words, to attempt to love as the law of God requires by force of resolution—is an absurdity. There are many who maintain that sin consists in the desires. Be it so. Do we control our desires by force of resolution? We may abstain from the gratification of a particular desire by the force of resolution. We may go further, and abstain from the gratification of desire generally in the outward life. But this is not to secure the love of God, which constitutes obedience. Should we become anchorites, immure ourselves in a cell, and crucify all our desires and appetites, so far as their indulgence is concerned; we have only avoided certain forms of sin; but the root that really constitutes sin is not touched. Our resolution has not secured love, which is the only real obedience to God. All our battling with sin in the outward life, by the force of resolution, only ends in making us whited sepulchers. All our battling with desire by the force of resolution is of no avail; for in all this, however successful the effort to suppress sin may be, in the outward life or in the inward desire it will only end in delusion, for by force of resolution we cannot love.

All such efforts to overcome sin are utterly futile, and as unscriptural as they are futile. The Bible expressly teaches us that sin is overcome by faith in Christ. “He is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.” “He is the way, the truth, and the life.” Christians are said to “purify their hearts by faith” —(Acts xv, 9). And in Acts xxvi, 18 it is affirmed that the saints are sanctified by faith in Christ. In Romans ix, 31,32 it is affirmed that the Jews attained not to righteousness “because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.” The doctrine of the Bible is that Christ saves His people from sin through faith; that Christ’s Spirit is received by faith to dwell in the heart. It is faith that works by love. Love is wrought and sustained by faith. By faith Christians “overcome the world, the flesh, and the Devil.” It is by faith that they “quench the fiery darts of the wicked.” It is by faith that they “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and put off the old man, with his deeds.” It is by faith that we fight “the good fight,” and not by resolution. It is by faith that we “stand,” by resolution we fall. This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. It is by faith that the flesh is kept under and carnal desires subdued. The fact is that it is simply by faith that we receive the Spirit of Christ to work in us, to will and to do, according to his good pleasure. He sheds abroad his own love in our hearts, and thereby enkindles ours. Every victory over sin is by faith in Christ; and whenever the mind is diverted from Christ, by resolving and fighting against sin, whether we are aware of it or not, we are acting in our own strength, rejecting the help of Christ, and are under a specious delusion. Nothing but the life and energy of the Spirit of Christ within us can save us from sin, and trust is the uniform and universal condition of the working of this saving energy within us. How long shall this fact be at least practically overlooked by the teachers of religion? How deeply rooted in the heart of man is self-righteousness and self-dependence? So deeply that one of the hardest lessons for the human heart to learn is to renounce self-dependence and trust wholly in Christ. When we open the door by implicit trust he enters in and takes up his abode with us and in us. By shedding abroad his love he quickens our whole souls into sympathy with himself, and in this way, and in this way alone, he purifies our hearts through faith. He sustains our will in the attitude of devotion. He quickens and regulates our affections, desires, appetites and passions, and becomes our sanctification. Very much of the teaching that we hear in prayer and conference meetings, from the pulpit and the press, is so misleading as to render the hearing or reading of such instruction almost too painful to be endured. Such instruction is calculated to beget delusion, discouragement, and a practical rejection of Christ as he is presented in the Gospel.

Alas! for the blindness that “leads to bewilder” the soul that is longing after deliverance from the power of sin. I have sometimes listened to legal teaching upon this subject until I felt as if I should scream. It is astonishing sometimes to hear Christian men object to the teaching which I have here inculcated that it leaves us in a passive state, to be saved without our own activity. What darkness is involved in this objection! The Bible teaches that by trusting in Christ we receive an inward influence that stimulates and directs our activity; that by faith we receive his purifying influence into the very center of our being; that through and by his truth revealed directly to the soul he quickens our whole inward being into the attitude of a loving obedience; and this is the way and the only practicable way to overcome sin. But someone may say: “Does not the Apostle exhort as follows: ‘Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure[’]”? “And is not this an exhortation to do what in this article you condemn?” By no means. In the 12th verse of the 2d chapter of Philippians Paul says: “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” There is no exhortation to work by force of resolution, but through and by the inworking of God. Paul had taught them, while he was present with them; but now, in his absence, he exhorts them to work out their own salvation, not by resolution, but by the inward operation of God. This is precisely the doctrine of this article. Paul had too often taught the Church that Christ in the heart is our sanctification, and that this influence is to be received by faith, to be guilty, in this passage of teaching that our sanctification is to be wrought out by resolution and efforts to suppress sinful and form holy habits. This passage of Scripture happily recognizes both the Divine and human agency in the work of sanctification. God works in us, to will and to do; and we, accepting by faith his inworking, will and do according to his good pleasure. Faith itself is an active and not a passive state. A passive holiness is impossible and absurd. Let no one say that when we exhort people to trust wholly in Christ we teach that anyone should be or can be passive in receiving and co-operating with the Divine influence within. This influence is moral, and not physical. It is persuasion, and not force. It influences the free will, and consequently does this by truth, and not by force. Oh! that it could be understood that the whole of spiritual life that is in any man is received direct from the Spirit of Christ by faith, as the branch receives its life from the vine. Away with this religion of resolutions! It is a snare of death. Away with this effort to make the life holy while the heart has not in it the love of God. Oh! that men would learn to look directly at Christ through the Gospel, and so close in with him by an act of loving trust as to involve a universal sympathy with his state of mind. This and this alone is sanctification.

SI Moderator - Greg Gordon

 2014/5/9 13:07Profile

Joined: 2008/9/14
Posts: 785


Here is Finney's conclusion to the sermon the first article referenced:

"And now, sinner, while the subject is before you, will you yield? To keep yourself away from under the motives of the gospel, by neglecting church, and neglecting your Bible, will prove fatal to your soul. And to be careless when you do attend, or to hear with attention and refuse to make up your mind and yield, will be equally fatal. And now, "I beseech you, by the mercies of God, that you at this time render your body and soul, a living sacrifice to God, which is your reasonable service." Let the truth take hold upon your conscience--throw down your rebellious weapons--give up your refuges of lies--fix your mind steadfastly upon the world of considerations that should instantly decide you to close in with the offer of reconciliation while it now lies before you. Another moment's delay, and it may be too late forever. The Spirit of God may depart from you--the offer of life may be made no more, and this one more slighted offer of mercy may close up your account, and seal you over to all the horrors of eternal death. Hear, then, O sinner, I beseech you, and obey the word of the Lord--"Make you a new heart and a new spirit, for why will ye die?""

Finney is clearly, based on the objections that he is answering within that sermon, preaching against hyper-calvinism.

They type of calvinism that Finney was preaching against is dangerous. Very, very dangerous. Because it makes lazy people who don't do anything and think they are Christians just because they think they are Christians. They don't feel compelled to do anything regarding any Christian doctrine, and they teach others, whom they do interact with, that if they are elect they will get saved and if they aren't they won't, so you might as well just wait around and find out of you are. And if they do witness, it is half-hearted and there is no labor at all.

Again, very dangerous.

However, I do feel strongly that Finney is equally as dangerous. He represents the totally opposite spectrum. I am not authority on Finney, but every time I read his stuff, I am deeply concerned. No one ever told me, "Hey, this finney guy is dangerous." I doubt anyone who I spend time with knows who he is. But much of what I read from him is absolutely Gospel-less.

Now, I am not saying that everything Finney ever said is totally wrong. But in regards to the Gospel, to Christ, and to Salvation, Finney was way off base. The article that brother Greg posted is exactly what I am talking about. His sermon is very different from that article. I definitely agree that sin can only be overcome by the power of and faith in Christ. Sanctification is his work and not something that is left entirely up to us. But just because the Pope or a muslim or Gandhi says some stuff that is biblical doesn't make them Christian. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once and a while.

That is my opinion. Many of you will disagree with it. I understand that.

 2014/5/9 15:11Profile


Does God require of us the performance of this duty, without expecting its fulfilment only, merely to show us our impotency and dependence upon him? Does he require us to make to ourselves a new heart, on pain of eternal death, when at the same time he knows we have no power to obey; and that if ever the work is done, he must himself do the very thing which he requires of us? Charles G. Finney

The above quote is taken from the first few minutes of the sermon which is presented in the OP. It clearly shows that Finney understood well enough that the thing asked of God is obedience "If you love Me you will obey My commands". This is what the Lord said and as far as I can tell this is what Finney is saying. He acknowledges all the parts, any one of which if taken separately leads to error, and in so doing makes of the parts that which is whole.

In quoting from Ezekiel he is merely utilising the saying of God to Israel. But unless we understand that this Israel to whom these words of Ezekiel are spoken, is already a covenant people with God, at the heart of which is required their obedience, then we would have missed that this is to a covenant Israel in a state of apostasy. The same thing could also be said for those who believe into Christ. If we did not by faith already have an agreement with the Father written in the blood of Christ then love and its true outworking of obedience would have no meaning at all. Finney is speaking to men who have already entered into the New Covenant by faith. He is addressing obedience and the evidence of true love which comes through believing by faith, through grace.

Boy some folks sure do go to some lengths to address the error a man deciding to be saved. Finney was not such a man. When he preached he brought the terrible fear of God onto men, so that when they cried out, they were not so much deciding on anything, as rushing head long into the arms of a loving God who raised up such a man as Finney for his day.

 2014/5/9 15:40

Joined: 2008/9/14
Posts: 785


Deleted post.

 2014/5/9 17:01Profile


If you take Finney in the round and not simply jump on the band wagon of condemnation it may be possible to see the whole balance of his reasoning and calling. The following comment makes sense of it.

"Theology of Finney. Ordained as a Presbyterian, but did not like Presbyterian theology as much as he liked popular religion. He is of the New School, and he was certain that the dogma of Calvinism that the sine they had, they could not overcome. His style was more of a combo between simply going to the Bible and to his law degree and doing straight forward preaching. His thought was that the rejection of the offer of free salvation means that they will be punished in Hell. “Sinners bound to change their own hearts” Here is a quote that shows the Human responsibility to change their own hearts. But where people have been complacent this is important. He also develops a place to the role of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit brings about the opportunity for the persons to change. But he also depends upon the preacher and the human choice. Conversion is still the work of God. Finney lists what he believes are the fundamentals of theology. (Scripture, the necessity of the influence of the Holy Spirit, Divinity of the Holy Spirit, Total Depravity, Total Regeneration, Necessity of Atonement, Justification of Faith, and Eternal Punishment of the Wicked. Then he qualifies total depravity to what he calls voluntary. He also talks about something he calls voluntary regeneration. He is making sure people understand that they are to make a choice."

The simple truth surly is that Finney was concerned with getting men saved. So he didn't go from one extreme to the other. He presented a balance where the individual was responsible to make a proper free will response upon hearing the gospel and not to sit their like dumb sheep waiting for some overwhelming move of God. Have you had such an overwhelming move of God? How many on this site have had such a thing? I have and in that reality I comprehend Calvinism in some part. However, the balance is the experience of men and women in general who come into their faith as a progression leading eventually to giving their hearts freely. If you don't believe that you had the power to refuse God then you do not know what God has given you. It is your true and free will to reject Him if that is what you please to do. Many men and women have done upon hearing the same things which others have fallen down and cried out upon hearing. Does God really choose to save one and then not another? Is that the real meaning of sovereign grace and free will?

Let me ask you a question as you find it so easy to speak of Finney in terms of a false prophet. And let me say it plainly. How do you actually know he was a false prophet? By your own admission you are not familiar with his works. Also lets get his ministry into context. He is preaching in the shadows of Edwards and his effect on the Nation and in the dawning of another such moment. Many people believed themselves to be soundly saved because they were chosen, either because of their upbringing or else because of their connection with an event in their past. It is a common problem. When I lived in the Hebrides I fellowshipped with men and women who were saved in the revival in which Duncan Campbell ministered. They did not even share the gospel with anyone. They believed that if God was going to do it then He would without their help. I kid you not. When I went about preaching and witnessing to individuals to my surprise event some unbelievers had the same attitude. I never did see such an ability to hear the truth and then fail to respond to it in any part. These poor men and women were waiting for God to move and did not see why they should move for Him. That kind of insanity is what Finney was up against in the USA.

In the sermon here:

.....Finney is addressing people who believe they are saved as well as people who he clearly believes are not saved. But in any event he calls them all sinners. Read it and you may be able to make sense of it if you try hard enough.

The whole sermon is a division in what true conversion means and a part explanation that the constitution of the mind and the body are not changed when someone is converted to true faith or else regenerated. It is the heart which is changed and as long as their is a change of heart then there is the possibility of a renewed mind and a body given over as an instrument of righteousness. It has to do with a full salvation and not a part thereof. The point about philosophy is no more than saying that the true gospel with its requirement to obedience as evidence of a change of heart is not contrary to the natural mind as long as the heart is renewed. He is saying quiet simply that a person needs to be changed by obedience as far as their minds being drawn into obedience is concerned and their bodies being used for righteous purposes is concerned. In essence Finney is saying that when you believed your soul and body are not constitutionally changed. If it had been you would not be able to sin at all. He is accounting for how it is that believers can sin. I agree that this sermon is not precisely set in the context of backsliders, but it is nevertheless written into it. I expect that he was taking account of all persons present and not simply one type or another.

"The idea of a constitutional change is inconsistent with backsliding. For it is manifest, if the constitution of the mind were changed, and a taste for holiness and obedience were implanted in the substance of the soul, that to backslide, or to fall from grace, would be naturally as impossible as to alter the constitutional appetites of the body. Finney"

I have never really understood the hatred which is shown towards Finney. It must be a particularly American thing.

 2014/5/9 18:16

Joined: 2012/2/8
Posts: 5313


I read his journal some time back (it was a pretty thick book) and I really liked it. His conversion experience is powerful, at least to me.

There are some hintings in the OP and other posts that he was not saved; I have no doubt that he was saved. And I don't think one needs perfect theology to lead men to salvation. If that was true only Calvinists or Arminians could lead men to salvation but not both.


 2014/5/9 19:24Profile

Joined: 2012/5/13
Posts: 2936

 Charles Spurgeon on Charles Finney

From poster 'elected' thread : Charles Spurgeon on Charles Finney :

"Lectures to my students, second series , "On Conversion As Our Aim", page 185:"

"While giving instruction it is wise to appeal to the understanding. True religion is as logical as if it were not emotional. I am not an admirer of the peculiar views of Mr. Finney, but I have no doubt that he was useful to many; and his power lay in his use of clear arguments. Many who knew his fame were greatly disappointed at first hearing him, because he used few beauties of speech and was as calm and dry as a book of Euclid; but he was exactly adapted to a certain order of minds, and they were convinced and convicted by his forcible reasoning. Should not persons of an argumentative cast of mind be provided for? We are to be all things to all men, and to these men we must become argumentative and push them into a corner with plain deductions and necessary inferences. Of carnal reasoning we would have none, but of fair, honest pondering, considering, judging, and arguing the more the better." - C.H. Spurgeon

And for any whom have not heard this sermon I would highly recommend it : The Tightrope Walker!! - Calvinism vs. Arminianism by Keith Daniel :

 2014/5/9 19:41Profile

Joined: 2009/1/24
Posts: 454

 Re: Charles Spurgeon on Charles Finney

I am not an admirer of Mr. Finney's peculiar opinions either, but it should be pointed out that the sermon in the OP is badly written. Angry screeds always are. If we write in a sputtering rage we do not write well. Instead, we write like this: "false prophet and an agent of Satan...Pelagian heretic worthy of excommunication and the fire of Hell...demonically-inspired...soul-damning heresy." We do not effectively refute error by hurling "arrows, firebrands and death."

Last year a Calvary Chapel pastor wrote an anti-Calvin rant in exactly the same tenor as this pro-Calvin rant and did a lot of damage. It caused a church split in my own congregation.

Paul said, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord, looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any ROOT OF BITTERNESS springing up trouble you, and thereby MANY BE DEFILED." (Heb. 12:14-15)

Bitterness is a contagion. So, when "Gospel Truth" triumphs with the help of some angry epithet-slinger, then with the form and manner of victory a far greater untruth prevails. The angry dogmatist is wrong even when he is "right."

Luther and Calvin emphasized Sovereign Grace because they were up against a system of salvation-by-works. Wesley and Finney emphasized the "be ye" and "take heed" passages of scripture because they were up against the dogmas of hyper-Calvinism. There is no reason to hate any of them.

But the medicines they administered to their own contemporaries are not necessarily the medicines that our generation needs. What is the right medicine for our generation? Only God knows, and only the Holy Spirit can give us the message that will speak to the condition of our own contemporaries.

So instead of fighting over the doctrines of long-dead preachers, let's "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."

Wayne Kraus

 2014/5/9 23:57Profile

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