CHARLES G. FINNEY
VI. POINT OUT THE CONDITIONS OF THIS ATTAINMENT.
I. A state of entire sanctification can never be attained by an indifferent waiting of God's time.
2. Nor by any works of law, or works of any kind performed in your own strength, irrespective of the grace of God. By this I do not mean that, were you disposed to exert your natural powers aright, you could not at once obey the law in the exercise of your natural strength, and continue to do so. But I do mean, that as you are wholly indisposed to use your natural powers aright without the grace of God, no efforts that you will actually make in your own strength or independent of his grace, will ever result in your entire sanctification.
3. Not by any direct efforts to feel right. Many spend their time in vain efforts to force themselves into a right state of feeling. Now it should be for ever understood, that religion does not consist in a mere feeling, emotion, or involuntary affection of any kind. Feelings do not result from a direct effort to feel. But on the contrary, they are the spontaneous actings of the mind when it has under its direct and deep consideration the objects, truths, facts, or realities that are correlated to these involuntary emotions. They are the most easy and natural state of mind possible under such circumstances. So far from its requiring an effort to put them forth, it would rather require an effort to prevent them, when the mind is intensely considering those objects and considerations which have a natural tendency to produce them. This is so true that when persons are in the exercise of such affections, they feel no difficulty at all in their exercise, but wonder how any one can help feeling as they do. It seems to them so natural, so easy, and I may say, so almost unavoidably, that they often feel and express astonishment that any one should find it difficult to exercise the feelings of which they are conscious. The course that many persons take on the subject of religion has often appeared wonderful to me. They make themselves, their own state and interests, the central point, around which their own minds are continually revolving. Their selfishness is so great, that their own interests, happiness, and salvation, fill their whole field of vision. And with their thoughts and anxieties, and whole souls clustering around their own salvation, they complain of a hard heart--that they cannot love God--that they do not repent and cannot believe. They manifestly regard love to God, repentance, faith and all religion as consisting in mere feelings. Being conscious that they do not feel right, as they express it, they are the more concerned about themselves, which concern but increases their embarrassment and the difficulty of exercising what they call right affections. The less they feel, the more they try to feel--the greater efforts they make to feel right without success, the more are they confirmed in their selfishness, and the more are their thoughts glued to their own interests; and they are of course at a greater and greater distance from any right state of mind. And thus their selfish anxieties beget ineffectual efforts, and these efforts but deepen their anxieties. And if in this state, death should appear in a visible form before them, or the last trumpet sound, and they should be summoned to the solemn Judgment, it would but increase their distraction, confirm and almost give omnipotence to their selfishness, and render their sanctification morally impossible. It should never be forgotten that all true religion consists in voluntary states of mind, and that the true and only way to attain to true religion is to look at and understand the exact thing to be done, and then to put forth at once the voluntary exercise required.
4. Not by any efforts to obtain grace by works of law. In my lecture on Faith, in the first volume of the Evangelist, I said the following things:
(1.) Should the question be proposed to a Jew, "What shall I do that I may work the work of God?"--he would answer, keep the law, both moral and ceremonial, that is, keep the commandments.
(2.) To the same inquiry an Arminian would answer, Improve common grace, and you will obtain converting grace, that is, use the means of grace according to the best light you have, and you will obtain the grace of salvation. In this answer it is not supposed, that the inquirer already has faith; but that he is in a state of unbelief, and is inquiring after converting grace. The answer, therefore, amounts to this; you must get converting grace by your impenitent works; you must become holy by your hypocrisy; you must work out sanctification by sin.
(3.) To this question, most professed Calvinists would make in substance the same reply. They would reject the language, while they retained the idea. Their direction would imply, either that the inquirer already has faith, or that he must perform some works to obtain it, that is, that he must obtain grace by works of law.
A late Calvinistic writer admits that entire and permanent sanctification is attainable, although he rejects the idea of the actual attainment of such a state in this life. He supposes the condition of attaining this state or the way to attain it, is by a diligent use of the means of grace and that the saints are sanctified just so far as they make a diligent use of the means of sanctification. But as he denies that any saints ever did or will use all the means with suitable diligence, he denies also of course that entire sanctification ever is attained in this life. The way of attaining it according to his teaching is by the diligent use of means. If then this writer were asked "what shall I do that I may work the works of God,"--or in other words, what shall I do to obtain entire and permanent sanctification, his answer, it seems, would be: "Use diligently all the means of grace," that is, you must get grace by works, or, with the Arminian, improve common grace and you will secure sanctifying grace.
Neither an Arminian, nor a Calvinist would formally direct the inquirer to the law, as the ground of Justification. But nearly the whole Church would give directions that would amount to the same thing. Their answer would be a legal, and not a gospel answer. For whatever answer is given to this question, that does not distinctly recognize faith, as the condition of abiding holiness in christians, is legal. Unless the inquirer is made to understand, that this is the first, grand, fundamental duty, without the performance of which all virtue, all giving up of sin, all acceptable obedience, is impossible, he is misdirected. He is led to believe that it is possible to please God without faith, and to obtain grace by works of law. There are but two kinds of works--works of law, and works of faith. Now if the inquirer has not the "faith that works by love," to set him upon any course of works to get it, is certainly to set him to get faith by works of law. Whatever is said to him that does not clearly convey the truth, that both justification and sanctification are by faith, without works of law, is law, and not gospel. Nothing before or without faith, can possibly be done by any one, but works of law. His first duty, therefore, is faith; and every attempt to obtain faith by unbelieving works, is to lay works at the foundation, and make grace a result. It is the direct opposite of gospel truth.
Take facts as they arise in every day's experience, to show that what I have stated is true of almost all professors and non-professors. Whenever a sinner begins in good earnest to agitate the question, "What shall I do to be saved?" he resolves as a first duty, to break off from his sins, that is, in unbelief. Of course, his reformation is only outward. He determines to do better--to reform in this, that, and the other thing, and thus prepare himself to be converted. He does not expect to be saved without grace and faith, but he attempts to get grace by works of law.
The same is true of multitudes of anxious Christians, who are inquiring what they shall do to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil. They overlook the fact, that "this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith," that it is with "the shield of faith" that they are "to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked." They ask, Why am I overcome by sin? Why can I not get above its power? Why am I thus the slave of my appetites and passions, and the sport of the devil? They cast about for the cause of all this spiritual wretchedness and death. At one time, they think they have discovered it in the neglect of one duty; and at another time in the neglect of another. Sometimes they imagine they have found the cause to lie in yielding to one sin, and sometimes in yielding to another. They put forth efforts in this direction, and in that direction, and patch up their righteousness on one side, while they make a rent in the other side. Thus they spend years in running around in a circle, and making dams of sand across the current of their own habitudes and tendencies. Instead of at once purifying their hearts by faith, they are engaged in trying to arrest the overflowing of the bitter waters of their own propensities. Why do I sin? they inquire; and casting about for the cause, they come to the sage conclusion, It is because I neglect such a duty, that is, because I do sin. But how shall I get rid of sin? Answer: by doing my duty, that is by ceasing from sin. Now the real inquiry is, Why do they neglect their duty? Why do they commit sin at all? Where is the foundation of all this mischief? Will it be replied, the foundation of all this wickedness is in the force of temptation--in the weakness of our hearts--in the strength of our evil propensities and habits? But all this only brings us back to the real inquiry again, How are these things to be overcome? I answer, by faith alone. No works of law have the least tendency to overcome our sins; but rather to confirm the soul in self-righteousness and unbelief.
The great and fundamental sin, which is at the foundation of all other sin, is unbelief. The first thing is, to give up that--to believe the word of God. There is no breaking off from one sin without this. "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin." "Without faith it is impossible to please God."
Thus we see, that the backslider and convicted sinner, when agonizing to overcome sin, will almost always betake themselves to works of law to obtain faith. They will fast, and pray, and read, and struggle, and outwardly reform, and thus endeavor to obtain grace. Now all this is in vain and wrong. Do you ask, shall we not fast, and pray, and read, and struggle? Shall we do nothing--but sit down in Antinomian security and inaction? I answer, You must do all that God commands you to do: but begin where he tells you to begin, and do it in the manner in which he commands you to do it; that is, in the exercise of that faith that works by love. Purify your hearts by faith. Believe in the Son of God. And, say not in your heart, "Who shall ascend into heaven, that is, to bring Christ down from above; or who shall descend into the deep, that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead. But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that is, the word of faith which we preach."
Now these facts show, that even under the gospel, almost all professors of religion, while they reject the Jewish notion of justification by works of law, have after all adopted a ruinous substitute for it, and suppose that, in some way they are to obtain grace by their works.
5. A state of entire sanctification cannot be attained by attempting to copy the experience of others. It is very common for convicted sinners, or for Christians inquiring after entire sanctification, in their blindness, to ask others to relate their experience, to mark minutely the detail of all their exercises, and then set themselves to pray for and make direct efforts to attain the same class of exercises--not seeming to understand that they can no more exercise feelings in the detail like others, than they can look like others. Human experiences differ as human countenances differ. The whole history of a man's former state of mind, comes in of course to modify his present and future experience. So that the precise train of feelings which may be requisite in your case, and which will actually occur, if you are ever sanctified, will not in all its details, coincide with the exercises of any other human being. It is of vast importance for you to understand, that you can be no copyist in any true religious experience: and that you are in great danger of being deceived by Satan, whenever you attempt to copy the experience of others. I beseech you, therefore, to cease from praying for or trying to obtain the precise experience of any person, whatever. All truly christian experiences are, like human countenances, in their outline so much alike as to be readily known as the lineaments of the religion of Jesus Christ. But no farther than this are they alike, any more than human countenances are alike.
But here let it be remembered that sanctification does not consist in the various affections or emotions of which christians speak, and which are often mistaken for or confounded with true religion; but that sanctification consists in entire consecration, and consequently it is all out of place for any one to attempt to copy the feelings of another, inasmuch as feelings do not constitute religion. The feelings of which christians speak do not constitute true religion, but often result from a right state of heart. These feelings may properly enough be spoken of as Christian experience, for, although involuntary states of mind, they are experienced by true Christians. The only way to secure them is to set the will right, and the emotions will be a natural result.
6. Not by waiting to make preparations before you come into this state. Observe that the thing about which you are inquiring is a state of entire consecration to God. Now do not imagine that this state of mind must be prefaced by a long introduction of preparatory exercises. It is common for persons when inquiring upon this subject with earnestness, to think themselves hindered in their progress by a want of this or that or the other exercise or state of mind. They look every where else but at the real difficulty. They assign any other and every other but the true reason for their not being already in a state of sanctification. The true difficulty is voluntary selfishness or voluntary consecration to self-interest and self-gratification. This is the difficulty and the only difficulty to be overcome.
7. Not by attending meetings, asking the prayers of other christians, or depending in any way upon the means of getting into this state. By this I do not intend to say that means are unnecessary, or that it is not through the instrumentality of truth, that this state of mind is induced. But I do mean that while you are depending upon any instrumentality whatever, your mind is diverted from the real point before you, and you are never like to make this attainment.
8. Not by waiting for any particular views of Christ. When persons, in the state of mind of which I have been speaking, hear those who live in faith describe their views of Christ, they say, O, if I had such views, I could believe; I must have these before I can believe. Now you should understand that these views are the result and effect of faith in the promise of the Spirit to take of the things of Christ and show them to you. Lay hold of this class of promises, and the Holy Spirit will reveal Christ to you in the relations in which you need him from time to time. Take hold, then, on the simple promise of God. Take God at his word. Believe that he means just what he says; and this will at once bring you into the state of mind after which you inquire.
9. Not in any way which you may mark out for yourself. Persons in an inquiring state are very apt, without seeming to be aware of it, to send imagination on before them, to stake out the way, and set up a flag where they intend to come out. They expect to be thus and thus exercised--to have such and such peculiar views and feelings, when they have attained their object. Now there probably never was a person who did not find himself disappointed in these respects. God says, "I will bring the blind by a way that they know not. I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them." This suffering your imagination to mark out your path is a great hindrance to you, as it sets you upon making many fruitless and worse than fruitless, attempts to attain this imaginary state of mind, wastes much of your time, and greatly wearies the patience and grieves the Spirit of God. While he is trying to lead you right to the point, you are hauling off from the course, and insisting that this which your imagination has marked out is the way, instead of that in which he is trying to lead you. And thus in your pride and ignorance you are causing much delay, and abusing the long-suffering of God. He says, "This is the way, walk ye in it." But you say, no--this is the way. And thus you stand and parley and banter while you are every moment in danger of grieving the Spirit of God away from you, and of losing your soul.
10. Not in any manner, or at any time or place, upon which you may in your own mind lay any stress. If there is any thing in your imagination that has fixed definitely upon any particular manner, time, or place, or circumstance, you will in all probability either be deceived by the devil, or be entirely disappointed in the result. You will find that in all these particular items on which you had laid any stress, that the wisdom of man is foolishness with God--that your ways are not his ways, nor your thoughts his thoughts. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are his ways higher than your ways, and his thoughts higher than your thoughts." But,
11. 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."'
12. 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 lscariot,) 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.
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