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

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Joined: 2008/4/1
Posts: 516
America's Heartand


Some have touched upon it already. However, it is imperative to read Finney's journal and own writings to have any accurate understanding of what his messages were confronting. If you just read his messages with the mind of 2014 North America you will miss much of his intended thrust.

Interestingly Finney said later in life that he did not really want to keep preaching on these same revival/evangelistic themes. He truly wanted to preach on the glories and blessings of close communion with Christ. He said it was what he was personally experiencing but that few were in a place in their heart to receive it. They needed the revival/evangelistic themes.

If you do not understand the extreme hyper Calvinistic strong holds and "salvation by works of baptism and confirmation" of the Lutheran's he was speaking among you will misinterpret his messages.

Several of Paul Washer's messages do the same thing in confronting those who think they are "saved" because they were told they were saved after simply praying a "sinners prayer". It is most difficult to break that thinking from those who think they are born again but aren't. Finney was the hammer in God's hands used to break through that rock hard heart and deeply engrained thinking of his day.

The OP appears little more that quotes from a guy that is either ignorant of the actual facts or trying to make peace with his own conscience by condemning one he appears to know little or nothing about. It is awfully short on actual Finney and extremely long on inaccurate prejudicial religious bias.

"Bigotry" and "Cult like control" was something the author of this "message" in the OP has been often accused of by his former close associates and own church members. Not exactly the Hillsboro Baptist of his day ... but there is some real common ground between the two. In this case it would be wise to consider the source of this blasting of Finney.

Oh yes... it s also a basic troll job.

From the OP

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.

That is a flat bald face lie. Anyone who has read Finney in his entirety, and in his own words, knows that as well. In his journal he explicitly refutes that allegation. Again, the one who's sermon it quotes is either a person who quotes things he knows little to nothing of .... or is under great conviction in his own heart and attacking what convicts him. imho.

Finney's preaching brought people in massive repentance to God seeking mercy and forgiveness through the cross and His blood. The minister quoted in the op has done what? .... basically nothing except attack the most fruitful evangelist for the kingdom that the US has possibly ever produced.

If Finney were a heretic ... then merciful God, by all means give us a revival of similar fiery uncompromising God empowered heretics for your kingdom!

Wonder how many folks got "saved" at the preaching of the op's sermon? None I am certain. Look at Finney's fruit and the fruit of the OP's sermon.

 2014/5/10 10:49Profile

Joined: 2006/8/10
Posts: 518

 Re: Finney in his OWN WORDS

First, in answer to the question, "Does a Christian cease to be a Christian, whenever he commits a sin?", Finney answers:

Whenever he sins, he must, for the time being, cease to be holy. This is self-evident. Whenever he sins, he must be condemned; he must incur the penalty of the law of God....If it be said that the precept is still binding upon him, but that with respect to the Christian, the penalty is forever set aside, or abrogated, I reply, that to abrogate the penalty is to repeal the precept; for a precept without a penalty is no law. It is only counsel or advice. The Christian, therefore, is justified no longer than he obeys, and must be condemned when he disobeys; or Antinomianism is true....In these respects, then, the sinning Christian and the unconverted sinner are upon precisely the same ground.39

"But again," writes Finney, "to the question, can man be justified while sin remains in him? Surely he cannot, either upon legal or gospel principles, unless the law be repealed....But can he be pardoned and accepted, and justified, in the gospel sense, while sin, any degree of sin, remains in him? Certainly not."40 With the Westminster Confession in his sights, Finney declared concerning the Reformation formula, simul iustus et peccator, "This error has slain more souls, I fear, than all the universalism that ever cursed the world." For, "Whenever a Christian sins, he comes under condemnation and must repent and do his first works, or be lost."41 With regard to the Westminster Confession's insistence on the forensic character of justification, Finney makes the following reply:

But for sinners to be forensically pronounced just, is impossible and absurd....As we shall see, there are many conditions, while there is but one ground, of the justification of sinners....As has already been said, there can be no justification in a legal or forensic sense, but upon the ground of universal, perfect, and uninterupted 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.42

The doctrine of an imputed righteousness, or that Christ's obedience to the law was accounted as our obedience, is founded on a most false and nonsensical assumption, for Christ's righteousness could do no more than justify himself. It can never be imputed to us....It was naturally impossible, then, for him to obey in our behalf. Representing the atonement as the ground of the sinner's justification has been a sad occasion of stumbling to many.43

The relations of the old school view of justification to their view of depravity is obvious. They hold, as we have seen, that the constitution in every faculty and part is sinful. Of course, a return to personal, present holiness, in the sense of entire conformity to the law, cannot with them be a condition of justification. They must have a justification while yet at least in some degree of sin. This must be brought about by imputed righteousness. The intellect revolts at a justification in sin. So a scheme devised to diver the eye of the law and of the lawgiver from the sinner to his substitute, who has perfectly obeyed the law.45

Finney understood the significance, therefore, of his break and he also exhibited a surprising grasp of the the Reformation position. His denial is not the result of confusion, it seems, but was born out of careful reflection, and he was so uncomfortable with the evangelical doctrines of imputation and substitution that he did not trouble himself with the Wesleyan-Arminian compromise. He recognized the implications and, unlike Wesley, found them unavoidable. Therefore, he went the entire distance to Pelagianism.

38. Finney, Systematic Theology, p. 206
39. ibid., p. 209
40. ibid., p. 217
41. ibid., p. 46
42. ibid., p. 57
43. ibid., p. 60
44. ibid., p. 320-321
45. ibid., p. 321-322

I truly believe that Finney genuinely loved the Lord with all of his heart. He upheld unimpeachable views of holiness and righteousness and repentance. I just think he was very misguided in his thinking on soteriology. He was so steeped in Old Testament law that he tried bringing it straight through the cross and into the New Testament. In no way do I think he was a wolf in sheep's clothing. He was just a victim of his own faulty reasoning.

 2014/5/10 12:41Profile


I HAVE not yet been able to stereotype my theological views, and have ceased to expect ever to do so. The idea is preposterous. None but an omniscient mind can continue to maintain a precise identity of views and opinions. Finite minds, unless they are asleep or stultified by prejudice, must advance in knowledge

Finney, C. G. (1847). Lectures on Systematic Theology (p. iii).


I appreciate the opportunity to look at Finney. I am ever suspicious of those who call others wolves and false prophets as it seems to me that few have ever met one face to face and thereby had reason to know what manner of spirit is such a man who is a true wolf.


"Hundreds of years since, when intellectual and moral science was a wilderness, an assembly of divines, as they are called, affecting to cast off popery, undertook to stereotype the theology of the church and to think for all future generations, thus making themselves popes in perpetuum.

The assembly of divines did more than to assume the necessity of a pope to give law to the opinions of men; they assumed to create an immortal one or rather to embalm their own creed and preserve it as the pope of all generations. That the instrument framed by that assembly should in the nineteenth century be recognized as the standard of the church, or of an intelligent branch of it, is not only amazing but I must say that it is highly ridiculous. It is as absurd in theology as it would be in any other branch of science, and as injurious and stultifying as it is absurd and ridiculous. It is better to have a living than a dead Pope. If we must have an authoritative expounder of the word of God let us have a living one so as not to preclude the hope of improvement.

Finney, C. G. (1847). Lectures on Systematic Theology (pp. iii–iv).


I have to say that my respect for Finney has gone up leaps and bounds just in reading this alone. However what would ordinarily concern me would not be an attitude, it would of course be the substance of that man's true beliefs. Given that these things and others in this OP are taken mostly from Finney's Systematic Theology it is clear that Finney was either a hypocrite or else he truly did believe in what he said. So we read the following:

Let it be understood, however, that these volumes are not intended to preclude original investigation but on the contrary to encourage and forward it. They are designed not to forestall and preclude, but to mark out the general outline of the course of discussion pursued in our classes. I hold myself sacredly bound, not to defend these positions at all events, but on the contrary to subject every one of them to the most thorough discussion and to hold and treat them as I would the opinions of any one else; that is, if upon further discussion and investigation I see no cause to change, I hold them fast: but if I can see a flaw in any one of them, I shall amend or wholly reject it, as further light shall demand. Should I refuse or fail to do this, I should need to blush for my folly and inconsistency, for I say again that true christian consistency implies progress in knowledge and holiness, and such changes in theory and in practice as are demanded by increasing light.

Finney, C. G. (1847). Lectures on Systematic Theology (p. iv).


So where then does the controversy lay with regard to Finney. It has to be said that in the first instance it lays in the very reformation dogmas which Finney regarded to be of little more benefit than a dog in the place of a dead lion. In short if reformation theology is dead, and is called a lion, better to have a living dog and still have the benefit of fresh light and a chance grown, until the fullness of Christ be formed within.

Commentary on Finney

Finney’s Lectures on Systematic Theology was issued in two volumes in 1846 and 1847. Though it appears Finney planned a work of a number of volumes, only the two were finished: Volume 2 in 1846, and Volume 3 in 1847 (Volume 1 never appeared). In the Preface of the first volume, Finney states “What I have said on the ‘Foundation of Moral Obligation’ is the key to the whole subject.” Finney’s system was based upon the premise of the complete freedom of the human will and the moral responsibility that involves. Dr. Keith Hardman, Finney’s recent biographer, points out that for Finney “… a person must be completely holy or totally sinful. There can be no gradation or degrees. Every person is therefore at any given instant perfectly sinful or perfectly holy. As Finney declared“ Moral agents are at all times either as holy or as sinful as with their knowledge they can be.” Dr. Hardman goes on, “It cannot be overemphasized that Finney makes these states mutually exclusive.” He again quotes Finney, “Sin and holiness, then, both consist in supreme, ultimate, and opposite choices, or intentions, and cannot, by any possibility, coexist.” These difficult concepts begin to explain Finney’s emphasis on the need for perfection. Strong criticism followed the publication of the Systematic Theology, especially from Charles Hodge of Princeton, the renowned Calvinist theologian. Hodge argued that Finney’s system was consistent, but that it was a total departure from the traditional Protestant teaching about justification by Faith, and was more a system of morals. Nevertheless, it is recognized that this work is one of a high degree of sophistication, and despite its difficult reasoning and use of terms, it has had a wide influence

(1988). Christian History Magazine-Issue 20: Charles Finney: American Revivalism.

This commentary taken from a 1988 publication is of course itself subject to the same inclination of interpretation as are all of our opinions on any subject. Unless the Lord Himself appears at your bed this night and tells you plainly what manner of man Finney was in his fulness, then inevitably you will only see parts and are very unlikely to see the whole. So what does Finney himself say in simplicity which is of such a controversy to Calvinists?

Concerning Righteousness

Some years since, I preached a sermon for the purpose of developing the idea of the spiritual life. The minister for whom I preached said to me, I want to show you a letter written many years ago by a lady now in advanced age, and detailing her remarkable experience on this subject. After her conversion she found herself exceedingly weak, and often wondered if this was all the stability and strength she could hope for from Christ in His Gospel. Is this, she said, all that God can do for me? Long time and with much prayer she examined her Bible. At last she found, that below what she had ever read and examined before, there lay a class of passages which revealed the real Gospel—salvation from sinning. She saw the provisions of the Gospel in full relief. Then she shut herself up, determined to seek this blessing till she should find. Her soul went forth after God, seeking communion with Him, and the great blessing which she so deeply felt that she needed. She had found the needed promises in God’s Word, and now she held on upon them as if she could not let them go until they had all been fulfilled in her own joyful experience. She cried mightily to God. She said, “If Thou dost not give me this blessing, I can never believe Thee again.” In the issue the Lord showed her that the provisions were already made, and were just as full and as glorious as they needed to be or could be, and that she might receive them by faith if she would. In fact, it was plain that the Spirit of the Lord was pressing upon her acceptance, so that she had only to believe—to open wide her mouth that it might be filled. She saw and obeyed: then she became firm and strong. Christ had made her free. She was no longer in bondage; her Lord had absolutely enlarged her soul in faith and love, and triumphantly she could exclaim: Glory be to God! Christ hath made me free.

The state of mind expressed by hungering and thirsting is a real hunger and thirst, and terminates for its object upon the bread and water of life. These figures (if indeed they are to be regarded as figures at all) are kept up fully throughout the Bible, and all true Christians can testify to the fitness of the language to express the idea.

I have said that this state of mind implies conversion; for although the awakened sinner may have agonies and convictions, yet he has no clear conceptions of what this union with Christ is, nor does he clearly apprehend the need of a perfectly cleansed heart. He needs some experience of what holiness is, and often he seems also to need to have tasted some of the exceeding bitterness of sin as felt by one who has been near the Lord, before he shall fully apprehend this great spiritual want of being made a partaker indeed of Christ’s own perfect righteousness. By righteousness here, we are not to understand something imputed, but something real. It is imparted, not imputed. Christ draws the souls of His people into such union with Himself, that they become “partakers of the divine nature,” or as elsewhere expressed, “partakers of His holiness.” For this the tried Christian pants. Having had a little taste of it, and then having tasted the bitterness of a relapse into sin, his soul is roused to most intense struggles to realize this blessed union with Christ.

Finney, C. G. (2009). Sermons on Gospel Themes (pp. 406–407).

Concerning Sanctification

This state is to be attained by faith alone. Let it be forever remembered, that “without faith it is impossible to please God,” and “whatsoever is not of faith, is sin."

Both justification and sanctification are by faith alone. Rom. 3:30; “Seeing it is one God who shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith;” and 5:1: “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Also 9:30, 31: “What shall we say then? that the Gentiles, who followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, who followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but, as it were, by the works of the law."

But let me by no means be understood as teaching sanctification by faith as distinct from and opposed to sanctification by the Holy Spirit or Spirit of Christ, or, which is the same thing, by Christ our sanctification, living and reigning in the heart. Faith is rather the instrument or condition than the efficient agent that induces a state of present and permanent sanctification. Faith simply receives Christ, as king, to live and reign in the soul. It is Christ in the exercise of his different offices and appropriated in his different relations to the wants of the soul, by faith, who secures our sanctification. This he does by Divine discoveries to the soul of his Divine perfections and fulness. The condition of these discoveries is faith and obedience. He says, Jno. 14:21–23,—“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved of my father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, (not Iscariot,) Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” But I must call your attention to Christ as our sanctification more at large hereafter.

Finney, C. G. (1847). Lectures on Systematic Theology (pp. 252–253).

When professors of religion, who have been all their life subject to bondage, begin to inquire earnestly for deliverance from their sins, they have found neither sympathy nor instruction in regard to the prospect of getting rid of them in this life. Then they have gone to the Bible, and there found, in almost every part of it, Christ presented as a Savior from their sins. But when they proclaim this truth, they are at once treated as heretics and fanatics by their brethren, until, being overcome of evil, they fall into censoriousness; and finding the Church so decidedly and utterly wrong, in her opposition to this one great important truth, they lose confidence in their ministers and the church, and, being influenced by a wrong spirit, Satan takes the advantage of them, and drives them to the extreme of error and delusion. This I believe to be the true history of many of the most pious members of the Calvinistic churches. On the contrary, the Methodists are very much secured against these errors. They are taught that Jesus Christ is a Savior from all sin in this world. And when they inquire for deliverance, they are pointed to Jesus Christ as a present and all-sufficient Redeemer. Finding sympathy and instruction, on this great and agonising point, their confidence in their ministers and their brethren remains, and they walk quietly with them.

It seems to me impossible that the tendency of this doctrine should be to the peculiar errors of the modern perfectionists, and yet not an instance occur among all the Methodist ministers, or the thousands of their members, for one hundred years.

And here let me say, it is my full conviction, that there are but two ways in which ministers of the present day can prevent members of their churches from becoming perfectionists. One is, to suffer them to live so far from God, that they will not inquire after holiness of heart; and the other is, most fully to inculcate the glorious doctrine of entire consecration, and that it is the high privilege as well as the duty of Christians, to live in a state of entire consecration to God.

I have many additional things to say upon the tendency of this doctrine, but at present this must suffice.

By some it is said to be identical with Perfectionism; and attempts are made to show in what particulars Antinomian Perfectionism and our views are the same. On this I remark:

(1.) It seems to have been a favorite policy of certain controversial writers for a long time, instead of meeting a proposition in the open field of fair and Christian argument, to give it a bad name, and attempt to put it down, not by force of argument, but by showing that it is identical with or sustains a near relation to Pelagianism, Antinomianism, Calvinism, or some other ism, against which certain classes of minds are deeply prejudiced. In the recent controversy between what are called Old and New School Divines, who has not witnessed with pain the frequent attempts that have been made to put down the New School Divinity, as it is called, by calling it Pelagianism, and quoting certain passages from Pelagius, and other writers, to show the identity of sentiment that exists between them.

This is a very unsatisfactory method of attacking or defending any doctrine. There are, no doubt, many points of agreement between Pelagius and all truly orthodox divines, and so there are many points of disagreement between them. There are also many points of agreement between modern Perfectionists and all Evangelical Christians, and so there are many points of disagreement between them and the Christian Church in general. That there are some points of agreement between their views and my own, is no doubt true. And that we totally disagree in regard to those points that constitute their great peculiarities, is, if I understand them, also true.

But did I really agree in all points with Augustine or Edwards, or Pelagius, or the modern Perfectionists, neither the good nor the ill name of any of these would prove my sentiments to be either right or wrong. It would remain after all, to show that those with whom I agreed were either right or wrong, in order, on the one hand, to establish that for which I contend, or on the other to overthrow that which I maintain. It is often more convenient to give a doctrine or an argument a bad name, than it is soberly and satisfactorily to reply to it.

Finney, C. G. (1847). Lectures on Systematic Theology (pp. 393–395).

 2014/5/10 15:41


We need to look away from our condition and circumstances as sinners, and from our natural powers and abilities, to the provisions and promises of the grace of God. If the "riches of Christ's inheritance in the saints" includes complete obedience to God in this life, we certainly are under obligation to acquire that inheritance in all its fullness. Do you know, what has God provided for and promised to me, as a Christian?

The sinner is not required to "make himself clean," or to "make to himself a new heart," in the exercise of his unaided powers, but by application to the blood of Christ, "which cleanses from all sin." The grace which purifies the heart is provided; the fountain, whose waters cleanse from sin, is set open. To this fountain the sinner is brought, and because he may descend into it, and there "wash his garments and make them white," he can fulfill the command, "Wash you, make you clean," "make to yourself a new heart and a new spirit," and "cleanse yourself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit." The sinner is able to make to himself a "new heart and a new spirit," because he can instantly avail himself of offered grace. He does literally "make to himself a new heart and a new spirit," ONLY when he yields himself up to the influence of that grace. The power to cleanse from sin lies in the blood and grace of Christ; and hence, when the sinner "purifies himself by obeying the truth through the spirit," the glory of his salvation belongs, not to him, but to Christ.

2 Peter 1:4 "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these you might be partakers of the Divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."

2 Cor. 7:1 "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." If to "escape the corruption that is in the world through lust," and to be "made partakers of the Divine nature," to "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit," and to "perfect holiness," do not imply complete obedience, how, I ask, can that doctrine be expressed? That the Christian may be thus sanctified is the declared object for which the promises were given. Who will deny that they are adequate to this object? Unless they are thus inadequate, perfection in holiness is, in this life, practicable to the Christian.

 2014/5/10 17:46


Can I ask you TUC seeing as how you began this thread what it is you are saying by it. I am curios regarding this latter quote by Asa Mahan which you have posted.

Here is his biographical details.

Here is a quote from the site about him:

Mahan was appointed President of the Oberlin Collegiate Institute on January 1, 1835. Things did not go smoothly, however. He was a passionate man with strong views, and a stronger personality. His views on "perfectionism" and abolition opened the college to criticism. He thought his colleagues lukewarm, and they thought him excessive. His fellow staff tried to remove him in the 1840's but did not succeed until 1850. Finney took over the presidency of the College and remained as President until 1861.

I assume that you believe that Finney taught that christian perfection, or else perfect holiness as set forth by Asa Mahan was essentially at odds with Finney on the basis that Finney believed in volitional obedience to the reality of Christ within, and its evidence, whereas Mahan believed that this perfection was a matter of pure grace, as a kind of imputed consequence arising from the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Do you have an opinion on what this distinction really was? I ask because you posted the original article which concludes that Finney was a wolf and a false teacher. Are you not willing to see that Finney in fact believed that absolute freedom from sin in the sense of perfectionism was in fact an attribute which he believed belonged to God alone. I can show you where Finney taught this if you wish. Why start something if you have no intention of expressing what you mean by it yourself?

 2014/5/10 19:00

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