CHARLES G. FINNEY
April 13, 1853
Analogy between the Promises of Entire Sanctification in this life and other promises.
From Prof. Finney's Lectures on Sanctification
[This passage follows that which appeared in the Evangelist of March 16.]
But again: I say that this is as true of the promises of entire sanctification in this life as of any other promises whatever. If it is not, I say again, let the contrary be shown, if it can be.
But again: when Christians are stirred up by the Holy Spirit to lay hold upon any class of promises in prayer and faith, they have good ground for the hope that it is the design of God to grant the blessing promised them. Now it is plainly in accordance with the revealed will of God that Christians should be wholly sanctified and kept from sin. And suppose the Holy Spirit stirs up the soul to great longings and wrestlings for complete deliverance from sin, and to plead and believe such promises as the following:
1 Thess. v. 23: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it."
Jer. xxxi. 31: "Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Judah; 32. Not according to the covenant that I make with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt, (which my covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith the Lord;) 33. But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, know the Lord, for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
Jer. xxxii. 40: "And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me."
Ezek. xxxvi. 23: "Then I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 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 a heart of flesh. 27. 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."
Rom. v. 12: "That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord."
Rom. vi. 11: "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 14. For sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace."
I Thess. iv. 3: "This is the will of God, even your sanctification."
If the Holy Spirit perform his work in the soul according to Rom. viii. 26, 27-- "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God;" I say, if the Holy Spirit leads Christians to pray for the fulfillment of such promises as just quoted, and to believe those promises, have they no reasonable ground for the hope that the blessing will be granted? Indeed, they have the best of reasons for such an expectation.
Suppose it be objected that many Christians have been led thus to pray who have not received the blessing sought. I answer, that it remains to be proved that they were led by the Holy Spirit to plead any promise in faith, where they have not received or will not receive an answer according to the true spirit and meaning of the promise which they pled and believed. Suppose they may have thought at some time, or that they have often thought, that they had become so established that they should sin no more, and that the event has proved that they were mistaken; this does not prove that it is irrational for them to expect that their prayers shall yet be fully answered. Suppose a parent is led by the Holy Spirit to pray in faith for the conversion of a child, and that this child appears, if you please, from time to time to be converted, but that the event shows that he was mistaken--that is, that he was not truly converted--this is no reason for his despairing for his conversion. He is still warranted to hope, and is bound, if he is conscious of having prayed in faith for his conversion, still to expect his conversion, and to use the appropriate means to secure this result.
Just so, if a Christian has been led to plead the promises of deliverance from all sin: for example, such an one as 1 Thess. v. 23, 24-- "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it." I say, if any saint on earth is conscious of being, or having been, led to pray in faith for the fulfillment of this promise, he is warranted to expect its fulfillment to him, according to its true spirit and meaning; and this he is bound to expect, although he may have supposed that he had entered upon this state, and found himself mistaken a hundred times. The fact that he has not yet received the fulfillment of the promise in extenso, no more proves that he will not, than the delay in the case of the promise that Abraham should have a son proved that it was irrational in him to expect the promise to be fulfilled to him.
It has been objected, that it was irrational to expect to attain to a state in this life in which we should sin no more, because many have supposed they had made the attainment, and found at length that they were mistaken. But there is no force in this objection. Suppose this is granted, what then? Does this prove that the prayer of faith will not be answered? Suppose many such mistakes have been made; does this disprove the word of God? In nowise. God will still fulfill his promises, and "is not slack concerning them as some men count slackness." If such a promise has been pleaded in faith, heaven and earth shall pass away before the answer shall fail. But suppose it should be alleged that evidence is wanting that any ever did or will plead these promises in faith. To this I answer, that the soul may be as conscious of exercising faith in these promises as it is of its own existence; and although one might think he believed when he did not, still it would be true that when one actually did believe he would know and be sure of it.
Many Christians can as confidently affirm that they plead these promises in faith as that they are Christians. Now, is it irrational for them to expect the fulfillment of them? No, indeed, any more than it is irrational to expect to be saved. If the one expectation is irrational, so is the other.
Will it be replied that the one is less probable than the other? I ask, what have probabilities to human view to do with rendering it irrational to believe God, and expect him to fulfill his word? Suppose it is less likely to human view that we shall ever in this life arrive at a point in Christian attainment beyond which we shall sin no more than it is that we shall ultimately be saved: I say, suppose this to be granted, what then? Cannot God as truly and, so far as we know, as easily secure the one as the other? It may be that God foresees that the final salvation of some or of many souls turns altogether upon the fact that such a work be accomplished upon them as shall settle and confirm them in obedience before certain trials overtake them.
But suppose again, it be said that few or none have given evidence of this attainment before death, and yet many have been saved; there is therefore little or no reason to believe that the elect are entirely sanctified in this life. I answer, that it is certain from the Bible, that the saints are sanctified wholly in this life; that is, some period in this life.
I have no doubt, though I do not expect this to have weight with an objector, that great multitudes have been sanctified and preserved, agreeably to 1 Thess. v. 23, 24, "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is that calleth you, who also will do it."
But again, I say, that the past experience and observation of the church, whatever it may be in respect to the subject under consideration, is not the test of what it is reasonable to expect in future. If it is, it is unreasonable to expect any improvement in the state of the church and the world. If past experience is to settle the question of what it is rational to expect in future, then at no period of the church's past history was it rational to expect any improvement in her condition. It is not to past experience, but to the promises and the revealed design of God, and to the Holy Spirit, that we are to look for a ground of rational hope in regard to the future.
I suppose that it will not be denied by any one, that most Christians might rationally hope to be indefinitely better than they are; that is, to be much more stable than they are. But if they might rationally hope to be much better than they are, on what ground can they rationally hope for this? The ground of this hope must be the indwelling and influence of the Holy Spirit; that "exceeding great and precious promises are given to us, whereby we may be made partakers of the divine nature, and escape the corruptions which are in the world through lust;" that the Holy Spirit is struggling within us to secure in us the fulfillment of the conditions of those promises, and therefore we may reasonably hope to make indefinitely higher attainments in this life than we have yet made: --I say, I suppose that no Christian will deny this. But some of these promises expressly pledge the state of entire sanctification in this life. This is not only true in fact, but is plainly implied in the saying of Peter just quoted. Observe, Peter says, 2 Pet. 1:4: "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." This plainly implies, that those promises cover the whole ground of entire sanctification. Now with such promises in our hands, why should it be thought unreasonable to hope for entire and permanent victory over sin in this world, any more than it is irrational to hope for indefinite improvement in this life. Will it be said that it is easier to keep us from sin generally than uniformly? But who can know, that God cannot as easily give us a complete victory, as to suffer us to sin, and then recover us again? At any rate, the promises of entire sanctification are made, and it is just as rational, that is, just as truly rational to expect them to be fulfilled to us, and to expect that we shall be led to fulfil the conditions of them, as that we shall fulfil the conditions of the promises of perseverance. If there be not the same degree of reason to hope for one as for the other, still there is real ground of rational hope in both cases. This cannot reasonably be denied. It is therefore rational to hope for both.
Now the fact is, that Christians find themselves disposed to attain this state. If they are disposed to aim at it, and to pray and struggle for such a victory, is it rational for them to expect or hope to obtain such a victory? The question is not really, whether it is rational to hope that Christians will be disposed to attain this state. The fact of their being Christians implies that they are thus disposed; and the inquiry is, being thus disposed, is it rational for them to expect to make the attainment? I answer, --yes. It is perfectly rational for any and every Christian, who finds himself disposed to aim at and struggle after this state, to expect to obtain the blessing which he seeks; and every Christian is drawn by the Holy Spirit to desire this attainment. He has, in the very fact of his being led to desire and pray after it, and to pray and struggle after a complete and lasting victory over sin, the best of evidence that he may rationally expect to make the attainment. If it is rational to hope to make indefinitely higher attainment than we have made, because of, or upon the conditions of the promises, and of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to stir us up to fulfil the conditions of the promises, it is just as rational to hope for a permanent victory over sin, upon the same conditions. If the Holy Spirit leads on to indefinitely higher attainments, it is rational to expect to make them. If he leads on to the fulfilment of the conditions of the promises of complete and permanent victory over sin, it is just as rational to expect to attain this state, as it is to expect to make indefinite advances towards it.
How can this be denied? l cannot see why one expectation should be irrational, if the other is not so.
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