Classic Sermons

CHRISTIAN PERFECTION--1

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

TEXT.--"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."--Matthew v. 48.

 

IN the 43rd verse, the Savior says, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy; but I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."

In discoursing on the subject of CHRISTIAN PERFECTION, it is my design to persue this order:

I. I shall show what is not to be understood by this requirement, "Be ye therefore perfect;" or, what Christian Perfection is not.

II. Show what is the perfection here required.

III. That this perfection is a duty.

IV. That it is attainable; and,

V. Answer some of the objections which are commonly urged against the doctrine of Christian Perfection

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JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

TEXT--"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." [Gal 2.16.]

 

THIS last sentiment is expressed in the same terms, in the 3d chapter of Romans. The subject of the present lecture, as I announced last week, is Justification by Faith. The order which I propose to pursue in the discussion is this:

I. Show what justification by law, or legal justification, is.

II. Show that by the deeds of the law no flesh can be justified.

III. Show what gospel justification is.

IV. Show what is the effect of gospel justification, or the state into which it brings a person that is justified.

V. Show that gospel justification is by faith.

VI. Answer some inquiries which arise in many minds on this subject.

I. I am to show what legal justification is.

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GOD CANNOT PLEASE SINNERS

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

 Luke vii. 31--35. "And the Lord said, Whereunto, then, shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like? They are like unto children sitting in the market-place, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept. For John the Baptist came neither eating bread, nor drinking wine; and ye say he hath a devil! The Son of Man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! But wisdom is justified of all her children."

 

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THE RATIONALITY OF FAITH

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

"He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God." --Romans iv.20.

 

These words were spoken of Abraham, as you will see by reading the connexion in which they are found. Faith is the heart's confidence in God. This is faith in its generic form; its specific form relates to particular things--belief in the promises, in Christ, in the doctrines of the Bible, and in all the various assertions that God makes in his word. This specific form of faith differs from faith in its generic or simple form, which implies a general confidence in the existence, attributes, and character of God. The mind's resting in these things is faith; that is faith in its simple form. Mark, faith in God is not a mere assent to these things, nor a mere intellectual conviction that they are true; but faith is the heart, and the mind, and the will, resting in this truth--that God is, that he possesses certain attributes, and a certain character. Faith in its specific form is the belief of the heart in certain declarations of God, a belief in his wisdom and goodness; in his assertions respecting Christ, and in all those things which he has said and promised. There are a great many specific forms in which faith developes itself--but the root of it is heart confidence in God himself.

In speaking from the words which I have chosen for my text this morning, I purpose to notice--

I. SOME THINGS IN THE WORD OF GOD WHICH ARE EXCEEDINGLY CALCULATED TO TRY THE FAITH OF FINITE MINDS.

II. SHOW HOW FAITH DISPOSES OF THESE THINGS; AND THAT TRUE FAITH IS NOT SUBDUED AND OVERCOME BY A CONSIDERATION OF THESE THINGS.

III. I SHALL SHOW THE GREAT OBJECT OF THESE TRIALS OF FAITH

IV. PROFESSORS THAT STUMBLE OR STAGGER AT THESE THINGS LOSE THE BLESSING CONSEQUENT UPON THEM, AS A NATURAL NECESSITY.

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THE SALVATION OF SINNERS IMPOSSIBLE

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

"If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?"--1 Peter 4:18.

 

I said in a former sermon--that the doctrine of the text is that the salvation of the righteous is difficult and that of the sinner impossible. In that sermon I discussed at length the first part of this subject, showing how and why the salvation of the righteous is difficult. I am now to take up the remaining part and show how and why the salvation of the wicked is impossible.

Here let me premise in general that by the righteous is not meant those who have never sinned. It could not be difficult to save such as had not sinned against God. They are in fact already saved. But these righteous ones are those who having been sinners, now come to exercise faith in Christ and of course become "heirs of that righteousness which is by faith." Vitally important to be considered here is the fact that the governmental difficulty in the way of being saved, growing out of your having sinned, even greatly, is all removed by Christ's atonement. No matter now how great your guilt, if you will only have faith in Jesus and accept of his atonement as the ground of pardon for your sins.

Hence the difficulty in the way of saving sinners is not simply that they have sinned, but that they will not now cease from sinning and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

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THE REWARD OF FERVENT PRAYER

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

"Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it."--PSALM. lxxxi. 10.

These words were addressed by God to the Church. There is nothing in the connexion in which they are found that particularly demands explanation. I would, therefore, proceed at once to say, that this promise and injunction being addressed to the Church, was also, of course, addressed to individual Christians. Whenever a promise or an injunction is applicable to the Church, it is also applicable to each individual composing that Church. This reveals to us the principle on which God deals with his people; the spirit, then, of what is here written is ever more true. In briefly considering this subject, I propose to inquire,

I. WHAT THIS LANGUAGE MEANS?

II. WHAT IT IMPLIES?

III. WHAT IS ITS RELATION TO OUR RESPONSIBILITIES?

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CHRIST APPEARING AMONG HIS PEOPLE

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

"Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years. And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, said the Lord of hosts."--Malachi iii., v. 1-5.

 

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CHRIST TEMPTED, SUFFERING, AND ABLE TO SUCCOR THE TEMPTED

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

"For in that He Himself hath suffered, being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted." --Heb. 2:18.

 

The connection, commencing back with the tenth verse of this chapter, presents Jesus as one of the brethren among his people and assigns reasons for his assuming human nature into union with his divine. Because the children were partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself took part of the same, to the end that by his own death He might destroy Satan who had power to make death terrible, and might so deliver his people from the fear of death though otherwise under its bondage their lives long. For indeed, of the race of angels Christ did not take hold, to save them; but He did take hold of the race of man. The former, falling by sin, sank to hell, unredeemed; the latter, tempted and fallen, the Son of God rushed to rescue and save. Hence the necessity of putting on their nature, since he had undertaken to rescue and save them. Therefore He must be made in all things like them, "that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people; For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted."

The subject presented in our text, if discussed fundamentally will embrace the discussion of several points.

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AFFECTIONS AND EMOTIONS OF GOD

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

Text. Hosea, 11:8.--"How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? my heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together."

 

In discoursing upon this text I design to show,

I. THAT GOD IS A MORAL AGENT.

II. THAT HE REALLY EXERCISES ALL THE AFFECTIONS AND EMOTIONS ASCRIBED TO HIM IN THE BIBLE.

III. THAT IT IS A REAL AND GREAT GRIEF TO HIM TO ABANDON SINNERS TO DEATH.

IV. THAT THEY REALLY COMPEL HIM TO DO SO.

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THE SELF-RIGHTEOUS SINNER

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

"Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks; walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow." [Isaiah 50:11]

 

In speaking from this text, I shall enquire,

I. What is this self-kindled fire--what are these "sparks ye have kindled"?

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THE FOUNDATION, CONDITIONS, AND RELATIONS OF FAITH

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

"And he believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness." --Gen. 15:6.

"What shall we then say that Abraham, our father as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory, but not before God. For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." --Rom. 4:1-5

 

The passage in Genesis 15, refers to Abraham--to the promises God had made to him--to his faith in those promises, and to the Lord's acceptance of that faith. These topics are first brought to our view in Genesis 12, again in Gen. 17, and thenceforward frequently in the course of Abraham's history. The case was highly instructive, and St. Paul could not fail to see its important bearings. Hence the free use he makes of it as an illustration, both of what faith, and of its results.

In treating this subject, it is important,

I. TO NOTICE THE FOUNDATION OF ABRAHAM'S FAITH.

II. SOME OF ITS CONDITIONS.

III. ITS GOVERNMENTAL RELATIONS.

IV. ITS NATURAL RELATIONS AND RESULTS.

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THE WRATH OF GOD

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness." Romans 1:18

 

The following context shows that in these words the apostle has his eye especially on those who, not having a written revelation from God, might yet know him in his works of nature. Paul's view is that God's invisible attributes become apparent to the human mind, ever since the creation of our world--being revealed by the things he has made. In and by means of these works, we may learn his eternal power and his real Divinity. Hence all men have some means of knowing the great truths that pertain to God, our infinite Creator. And hence God may, with the utmost propriety, hold men responsible for accepting this truth reverently, and rendering to their Creator the homage due. For withholding this, they are utterly without excuse.

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FAITH

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

Text.--John 6:28, 29: "Then said they unto him, what shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent."

 

The following is the train of thought I shall pursue:

I. NOTICE SEVERAL ERRONEOUS ANSWERS, COMMONLY GIVEN TO THE QUESTION PROPOSED IN THE TEXT, VIZ: WHAT SHALL WE DO THAT WE MAY WORK THE WORKS OF GOD?

II. SHOW THAT CHRIST GAVE THE ONLY PROPER ANSWER, UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH THE QUESTION WAS ASKED.

III. SHOW THAT, UNDER OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES, ANOTHER ANSWER MIGHT, WITH PROPRIETY, BE GIVEN

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HARDNESS OF HEART

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

"Have ye your heart yet hardened?"--Mark 8: 17

 

Christ had just wrought the miracle of feeding the four thousand men with seven loaves. In teaching his disciples shortly after, he warned them to "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees." They did not understand him, and supposed that he gave them the warning, because they had forgotten to take bread with them. Perceiving their blindness, he said:--"Why reason ye because ye have no bread? Perceive ye not yet, neither understand ? Have ye your heart yet hardened? Having eyes see ye not? and having care hear ye not? and do ye not remember?"

In speaking from these verses I inquire,

I. What is hardness of heart?

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GOD UNDER OBLIGATION TO DO RIGHT

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

'Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?' Gen. 18:25.

 

In discussing this subject I will show,

I. WHAT IS RIGHT.

II. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN GOD'S DOING RIGHT?

III. THAT GOD IS UNDER A MORAL OBLIGATION TO DO RIGHT.

IV. THAT ALL MORAL BEINGS ARE BOUND TO BE WILLING THAT GOD SHOULD DO RIGHT.

V. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN BEING WILLING THAT GOD SHOULD DO RIGHT.

VI. THAT THIS STATE OF MIND IS INDISPENSABLE TO SALVATION.

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THE DOOM OF THOSE WHO NEGLECT THE GREAT SALVATION

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

"How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" Hebrews 2:3

 

Escape what? What can Universalists say to such a question as this? They whose first doctrine proclaims that there can be no danger--what will they say to this solemn question and its startling assumption of peril from which there shall be no escape? How shall we escape?--says the inspired author--as if he would imply most strongly that there can be no escape to those who neglect this great salvation.

Salvation;--the very term imports safety or deliverance from great impending evil. If there be no such evil, there is then no meaning to this term--no real salvation.

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CONDITIONS OF PREVAILING PRAYER PART 3

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

"Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss that ye may consume it upon your lusts." James 4:3

 

In a former discourse on this text, I mentioned, among other conditions of prevailing prayer, that confession should be made to those whom our sins have injured, and also to God. It is most plain that all sins should be confessed to God, that we may obtain forgiveness and be reconciled to him; else how can we have communion of soul with him? And who can for a moment doubt that our confessions should not omit those of our fellow beings whom we have injured?

In the next place I remark that restitution should be made to God and to man.

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CONDITIONS OF PREVAILING PRAYER PART 2

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

"Ask, and it shall be given you." Matt. 7:7, 8.

"Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss, to consume it upon your lusts." James 4:3.

 

I will commence the present discourse by briefly recapitulating the prefatory remarks which I made in my first sermon on this subject. I then observed,

1. That all real prayer is heard and answered.

2. Prayer is not always answered according to the letter of it, but often only according to its spirit. As an instance of this, I spoke of the striking case recorded respecting Paul's thorn in the flesh.

3. None can be saved who are not in a state of mind to prevail in prayer.

4. Many things are really answers to prayer which are not recognized by the suppliant as such nor by those who witness the prayer, the blessing bestowed, or the thing done in connection with it.

5. Much that is called prayer is not really prayer at all.

6. Many neither care nor expect to be heard, and therefore do not watch to see whether their prayers are answered. They pray merely as a duty; their heart being set on doing the duty and appeasing their consciences, and not on obtaining the blessing nominally asked for.

7. Nor do such persons feel disappointed if they fail of obtaining what they profess to ask for in prayer.

8. They do not trouble themselves to enquire why they are not answered. If they can only discharge their duty and appease their consciences, they have their desire.

9. Failure to obtain the blessing sought is always because the revealed conditions are not fulfilled.

10. Nothing is more important for us than to attend to, and understand the revealed conditions of prevailing prayer.

11. God may answer the mere cry of distress when benevolence does not forbid it. He often does hear the sailor in the storm--the young ravens in their hunger; but this is a very different thing from that prayer which God has pledged himself by promise to hear and answer on the fulfilment of certain conditions.

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CONDITIONS OF PREVAILING PRAYER PART 1

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

"Ask, and it shall be given you." Matt. 7:7, 8

"Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss, to consume it upon your lusts." James 4:3

 

These passages are chosen as the foundation of several discourses which I design to preach on the condition of prevailing prayer.

Before entering directly upon the consideration of those conditions, however, I deem it important to make several remarks upon the general subject of prayer and of answers to prayer. These will occupy our attention on the present occasion.

1. The Bible most unequivocally asserts that all that is properly called prayer is heard and answered. "Every one that asketh," that is, in the scriptural sense of the term, "receiveth, and he that seeketh, findeth." This declaration is perfectly explicit and to the point.

2. Prayer is not always answered according to the letter, but often only according to the spirit.

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AFFLICTIONS OF THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE WICKED CONTRASTED.

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

 

 

"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."--2 Cor. 4:17. Read also Psalm 73.

 

Few things are more interesting than to contemplate the contrast every where drawn in the Bible between the righteous and the wicked. No man can thoroughly study this contrast without being greatly affected by it. Throughout the Bible we find this contrast drawn in the strongest colors respecting their character, their afflictions, their joys, their entire earthly course, and their final destiny. It is my design in this discourse to notice some particulars.

Our text from St. Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians speaks of the righteous. It affirms that their afflictions are light, are transient, and productive of augmented glory. We have another passage of similar import which asserts that "all things work together for good to them that love God."

The Bible throughout holds language directly opposite to this respecting the wicked.

But I am first to give a few particulars respecting the case of the righteous.

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