CHARLES G. FINNEY
March 2, 1853
[An esteemed correspondent requests us to make certain extracts from one of Prof. Finney's lectures on sanctification (English edition) urging as reasons for his request,
(1.) Mr. Finney's views on this subject have been greatly misrepresented;
(2.) The intrinsic excellence of the article;
(3.) The paramount importance of the subject.
We accede to this request with the greatest pleasure because we deem the reasons assigned to be valid and forceful. And we embrace more than was requested, in order to present the full connection of the thought and argument.
The general subject is sanctification, and the particular point now under consideration is an objection--which is distinctly stated.- [Ed.]
"To the doctrine we have been advocating it is objected, that the real practical question is not,
"1. Whether this state is attainable on the ground of natural ability;
"2. It is not whether it is rational to hope to make this attainment, provided we set our hearts upon making it, and persevere in aiming to attain it: for this is admitted.
"3. It is not whether this state is a rational object of pursuit, provided any are disposed to pursue it. But,
"4. Is it rational for Christians to hope that they shall pursue it, and shall perseveringly set their hearts upon it? Is it rational for Christians to hope, that they shall so endeavor to attain it, as to fulfill the conditions of the promises wherein it is pledged?
'"To this I reply, that it makes a new issue. It yields the formerly contested ground, and proposes an entirely new question. Hitherto the question has been, Is this state an object of rational pursuit, provided any are disposed to pursue it? May Christians aim at this attainment with the rational hope of making it? This point is now yielded, if I understand the objection, and one entirely distinct is substituted, namely, Is it rational for Christians to hope, that they shall pursue after this attainment, or that they shall aim at and set themselves to make this attainment? This, I say, is quite another question, different from the one heretofore argued. It is however an important one, and I am quite willing to discuss it, but with this distinct understanding, that it is not the question upon which issue has been heretofore taken. This question, as we shall see, calls up a distinct inquiry.
[Of the several points made in this discussion we shall select only the following:]
1. What constitutes hope?
6. Hope is a condition of the attainment in question.
7. What the objection under consideration admits.
8. What I understand it to deny.
9. What it amounts to.
10. What it must assume in reference to the provisions of grace.
11. What these provisions are not.
12. What they are.
"1. I am to show what hope is.
"Hope, in common parlance, and as I shall use the term in this discussion, is not a phenomenon of will, nor is it a voluntary state of mind. It includes a phenomenon both of the intellect and sensibility, It is a state of mind compounded of desire and expectation. Desire alone is not hope. A man may desire an event ever so strongly, yet, if he has no degree of expectation that the desired event will occur, he cannot justly be said to hope for it. Expectation is not hope, for one may expect an event ever so confidently, yet if he does not at all desire it, he cannot be truly said to hope for it. Hope comprehends both desire and expectation. There must be some degree of both these to compose hope.
"6. Hope is a condition of the attainment in question.
"(1.) The attainment implies and consists in the right future exercise of our own agency.
"(2.) The right future exercise of our own agency, in respect to the state in question, depends under God, or is conditioned upon, the previous use of means to secure that result.
"(3.) Those means will never be used unless there is hope; that is, unless there is both desire and expectation. If therefore any false instruction shall forbid the expectation of attaining the state in question, the attainment will not be sought, it will not be aimed at. There may be ever so good grounds or reasons to expect to make this attainment, yet if these grounds are not discovered, and the expectation is not intelligent, the attainment will be delayed. There must be hope indulged in this case, as a condition of making this attainment.
"7. What I understand the objection to admit.
"(1.) That the state in question is a possible state, or a possible attainment both on the ground of natural ability and through grace.
"(2.) That this attainment is provided for in the gospel; that is, that the promises of the gospel proffer grace to every believer sufficient to secured him against sin in all the future, on condition that he will believe and appropriate them.
"(3.) That all the necessary means are provided and brought within the Christian's reach to secure this attainment, and that there is no insurmountable difficulty in the way of this attainment, provided he is willing, and will use these necessary means in the required manner.
"(4.) There is rational ground for hoping to make this attainment, if any will set their heart to make it.
"(5.) Consequently, that this attainment is a rational object of pursuit; that it is rational to hope to make it, or to aim to make it.
"8. What I understand the objection to deny.
"That it is rational for any Christian to hope, so to use the means as to secure the attainment in question; that is, that no Christian can rationally hope to exercise such faith, and so to use the means of grace, and so to avail himself of the proffered grace of the gospel, and so to fulfill the conditions of the promises, as to receive their fulfillment, and make the attainment in question in this life. This objection, as I understand it, denies that we can rationally hope, by present faith and the present use of our powers, to render it probable, that we shall in future use them aright; or, in other words, the objection denies that we can, by anything whatever that we can at present do, gain any evidence, or lay a foundation for any rational hope that in future we shall obey God; or it denies that our present desire, or will, or faith, or efforts, have through grace any such connection with our future state in this life, as to render it in any degree probable, that we shall receive the fulfillment of such promises as the following: 1 Thes. 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." It denies that it is rational for us to hope, by the improvement of present grace, to secure future grace; that it is rational for us to expect, by a present laying hold on such promises as that just quoted, with the expectation that they will be fulfilled to us; that is, we cannot at present do anything whatever, however much we may will and desire it, that shall render it in the highest degree probable, that these promises will ever be fulfilled to us in this life. The objection must proceed upon denying this, for it is certain, that Christians do desire this attainment, and will it too: that is, they will at least that it might be so. If all Christians do not hope for it, it is because they regard it as not attainable.
"What the objection really amounts to.
"(1.) That, although the promise just quoted is undeniably a promise of the very state in question in this life, yet it is irrational to hope by anything that we can at present do, however much we may at present will and desire it, to secure to ourselves either its present or its future fulfillment in this life.
"(2.) It amounts to a denial, that at any future time during this life it will be rational for us to hope, by anything that we can at that time do, to secure either at that or any other time, the fulfillment of the promise to us.
"(3.) It amounts to a denial, that we can rationally hope, at any time in this life, to believe or do anything that will render it in the least degree probable, that this promise will be fulfilled to us; that, however much we may at present desire and will to secure the thing promised, we can at present or at any future time, rationally hope to secure the thing promised.
"(4.) It amounts to a denial, that it is rational to expect under any circumstances, that this class of promises will ever be fulfilled to the saints.
"(5.) The principles assumed and lying at the foundation of this objection must, if sound, prove the gospel a delusion. If it is true, that by no present act of faith we can secure to us the present or the future fulfillment of the promise of entire sanctification, I see not why this is not equally true in respect to all the promises. If there is no such connexion between our present and future faith and obedience, as to render it even in the least degree probable, that the promises of persevering grace shall be vouchsafed to us, then what is the gospel but a delusion? Where is the ground of a rational hope of salvation? But suppose it should be replied to this, that in respect to other promises, and especially in respect to promises of salvation and of sufficient grace to secure our salvation, there is such a connexion between present faith and future faith and salvation, as to render the latter at least probable, and as therefore to afford a rational ground of hope of perseverance, in such a sense as to secure salvation; but that this is not the case with the promises of entire sanctification. Should this be alleged, I call for proof. Observe, I admit the connexion contended for as just stated between faith and obedience, and future perseverance, and final salvation, that the former renders the latter at least probable; but I also contend, that the same is true in respect to the promises of entire sanctification. Let the contrary be shown, if it can be. Let the principle be produced, if it can be, either from scripture or reason, that will settle and recognize the difference contended for, to wit, that present faith and obedience do lay a rational foundation of hope that we shall persevere to the end of life, in such a sense as that we shall be saved; and yet that present faith in the promises of entire sanctification does not render it in the least degree probable, that we shall ever receive the fulfillment of those promises. Let it be shown, if it can be, that the present belief of certain promises renders it certain or probable that they will be fulfilled to us, but that no such connexion obtains in respect to other promises. Let it be shown, if it can be, that present faith in the promises of perseverance and salvation renders it either certain or probable, that these promises will be fulfilled to us, while present faith in the promise of entire sanctification in this life, renders it neither certain, nor in the least degree probable, that these promises will ever, in this life, be fulfilled to us.
"Suppose a Calvinist should allege, that the first act of faith renders it certain that the new believer will be saved, and therefore it renders it certain that he will persevere to the end of life, but that the same is not true of promises of entire sanctification in this life. I ask for his proof of the truth of this assertion; that is, I ask him to prove, that faith in the latter promises does not sustain as real and as certain a relation to the reception of the thing promised as does faith in the former promises. Suppose him to answer, that God has revealed his design to save all Christians, and from hence we know, that if they once believe they shall certainly persevere and be saved. But in answer to this I ask, is it not as expressly revealed as possible, that God will wholly sanctify all Christians, spirit, soul, and body, and preserve them blameless unto the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ? The language in I Thes. v. 23, 24, may be regarded either as an express promise, or as an express declaration: "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." Here observe, Paul expressly affirms God will do it. Now where in the bible is there a more express promise, or a more express revelation of the will and design of God than this? Nowhere. But suppose it should be replied to this, that, if we take this view of the subject, it follows, that all saints have been wholly sanctified in this life. I answer, they no doubt have been, for there is not a word in the bible of their being sanctified in any other life than this; and if they have gone to heaven, they were no doubt sanctified wholly in this life.
"But, secondly, it would not follow, that they have all been wholly sanctified until at or near the close of life, because many of them have probably never understood and appropriated this and similar promises by faith, and consequently have failed to realize in their own experience their fulfillment, for any considerable length of time before their death. The exact question here is: If the soul at present apprehends, and lays hold on the promises of entire sanctification in this life, is there not as real and as certain a connection between present faith and the future fulfillment of the promise, as there is between present faith in any other promises and the future fulfillment of those promises. If this is not so, let the contrary be shown, if it can be. The burden of proof lies on the objector. If to this any one should reply, that present faith in any promise does not sustain any such relation to the fulfillment of the promise, as to render it rational to hope for its fulfillment, I answer, that if this is so, then the gospel is a mere nullity and sheer nonsense. Nay, it is infinitely worse than nonsense.
"I will not at present contend, that present faith in any promise of future good sustains such a relation to us that its fulfillment to us is absolutely certain; but upon this I do insist, that present faith in any promise of God does render it at least in some degree probable, that the promise will be fulfilled to us; and that therefore we have ground of rational hope, when we are conscious of desiring a promised blessing, and of laying hold by faith upon the promise of it, and of setting our hearts upon obtaining it;--I say, when we are conscious of this state of mind in regard to any promised blessing, we have rational ground of hope that we shall receive the thing promised. And it matters not at all what the blessing promised is. If God has promised it, he is able to give it; and we have no right to say, that the nature of the thing promised forbids the rational expectation that we shall receive it. It is plain that the principle on which this objection is based amounts to a real denial of the gospel, and makes all the promises a mere nullity.
"10. What this objection must assume in reference to the provisions of grace:--
'That grace has made no provisions for securing the fulfilment of the conditions of the promises. This must certainly be assumed in relation to the promises of entire sanctification in this life; that grace has made no such provisions as to render the fulfilment of the conditions of this class of promises in any degree probable; that the grace of God in Jesus Christ does not even afford the least degree of evidence, that real saints will ever in this life so believe those promises as to secure the blessing promised; that therefore it is irrational for the saints to hope, through any provisions of grace, to fulfill the conditions and secure the blessing promised; the grace of God is not sufficient for the saints, in the sense, that it is rational for them to hope so to believe the promises of entire sanctification, as to secure the thing promised. The gospel and the grace of God then are a complete failure, so far as the hope of living in this life without rebellion against God is concerned. His name is called Jesus in vain, so far as it respect salvation from sin in this life. There is then no rational ground of hope, that by anything we can possibly do while in the present exercise of faith, and love, and zeal, we can render it, through grace, in the least degree probable, that we shall persevere in seeking this blessing until we have fulfilled the condition of the promise, and secured the blessing. Nothing that we can now do, while in faith and love, will render it through grace in the least degree probable, that we shall at any future time believe or do anything that will secure to us the promised blessing. Christians do at present desire this attainment, and have a heart or will to it. This objection must assume that grace has made no such provision as to render the hope rational, that this will and desire will exist in future, do what we may at present to secure it.
"11. What the provisions of grace are not.
"(1.) Grace has made no provision to save any one without entire holiness of heart.
"(2.) It has made no provision to secure holiness without the right exercise of our own will or agency, for all holiness consists in this.
"(3.) It has made no provision to save any one who will not fulfill the conditions of salvation.
"(4.) It has made no provision for the bestowment of irresistible grace, for the very terms imply a contradiction. A moral agent cannot be forced or necessitated to act in any given manner, and still remain a moral agent. That is, he cannot be a moral agent in any case in which he acts from necessity.
"(5.) Grace has made no provision to render salvation possible without hope; that is, without desire and expectation.
"12. What these provisions are.
"In this place, I can only state what I understand them to be; and to avoid much repetition, I must request the reader to consult forgoing and subsequent lectures, where these different points are developed and discussed at length.
"(1.) God foresaw that all mankind would fall into a state of total alienation from him and his government.
"(2.) He also foresaw that by the wisest arrangement, he could secure the return and salvation of a part of mankind.
"(3.) He resolved to do so, and "chose them to eternal salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth."
"(4.) He has instituted a system of means to effect this end; that is, with design to effect it.
"(5.) These means are:--
"(i .) The revelation of the law.
"(ii .) The atonement and mediatorial work of Christ.
"(iii.) The publication of the gospel, and the institution of all the means of grace.
"(iv.) The administration of providential and moral governments.
"(v.) The gift and agency of the Holy Spirit to excite in them desire, and to work in them to will and to do, in so far as to secure in them the fulfilment of the conditions, and to them the fulfillment of the promises.
"(6.) Grace has made sufficient provisions to render the salvation of all possible, and such as will actually secure the salvation of a portion of mankind.
"(7.) Grace has brought salvation so within the reach of all who hear the gospel, as to leave them wholly without excuse, if they are not saved.
"(8.) Grace has made the salvation of every human being secure, who can be persuaded, by all the influences that God can wisely bring to bear upon him, to accept the offers of salvation.
"(9.) Grace has provided such means and instrumentalities as will actually secure the conviction, conversion, perseverance, entire sanctification, and final salvation of a part of mankind.
"(10.) Grace has not only provided the motives of moral government, but the influences necessary to secure the saving effect of this government over all the elect.
"(11.) Grace has not only made promises to be fulfilled upon certain conditions, but it has provided an influence which will, in every case of the elect, secure in them the fulfilment of the conditions of these promises unto salvation.
"(12.) Grace has not only given commands, but has provided the requisite influence to secure obedience to them, in such a sense, as to secure the perseverance, sanctification, and full salvation of all the elect unto salvation.
"This I understand to be a summary statement of the doctrines of grace, as they are taught in the Bible."
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