We are told with extended explication how the infant picks up sin in the course of living: it is connected, we see, with its picking up a moral nature, too, in the course of living—though how it accomplishes this greater feat, we are not so explicitly told. Charles Grandison Finney was a descendant of the New England Puritans, and was born in Connecticut in 1792. A change of purpose is, naturally, an act of our own, and Finney therefore not only identifies regeneration and conversion, but polemicizes against all attempts to erect a distinction between them.398 We regenerate ourselves: only the man himself can “change his choice,” and if he will not do it, “it is impossible that it should be changed”—“neither God, nor any other being, can regenerate him, if he will not turn.”399 It is we ourselves then who make ourselves holy, and that at a stroke. And his object is to represent it as becoming so voluntarily—with a voluntariness, which, although embracing every individual of the race, is repeated in each individual’s case in the completest isolation of distinct personal action. More illuminating still is a passage421 in which Finney is attempting to discriminate his view of “the means and conditions of sanctification” from that of the “New Divinity”—from which he felt himself to have come out, or to have been thrust out. Newspapers, revivalists, and clergy took notice of the increasingly rowdy meetings—meetings unlike those of reserved Calvinists. Following them, the babies form habits of action in accordance with their impulses. Here is rather a full statement:352 “I suppose that God bestows on men unequal measures of gracious influence, but that in this there is nothing arbitrary; that, on the contrary, he sees the wisest and best reasons for this; that being in justice under obligation to none, he exercises his own benevolent discretion, in bestowing on all as much gracious influence as he sees to be upon the whole wise and good, and enough to throw the entire responsibility of their damnation upon them if they are lost.353 But upon some he foresaw that he could wisely bestow a sufficient measure of gracious influence to secure their voluntary yielding, and upon others he could not bestow enough in fact to secure this result.” The upshot is that God elects all that it is wise for Him to elect; and as He elects them both to grace and glory, He saves all that it is wise for Him to save. Charles Grandison Finney: Lectures on Revivals of Religion (1835) Charles Grandison Finney (1792-1875) was the most celebrated revivalist of the Second Great Awakening. L. Woods, “Examination of the Doctrine of Perfection, as held by Rev. Is the man to be blamed if in such a case he is drowned?’ ” All that is accomplished by this explanation of how it comes about that man is morally depraved, is that God and not man is made inexcusable for it. According to this theory, disinterested benevolence can never be duty, can never be right, but always and necessarily wrong.… If moral agents ought to will the right for the sake of the right, or will good, not for the sake of the good, but for the sake of the relation of rightness existing between the choice and the good, then to will the good for its own sake is sin. I. Finney may superficially appear to be seeking some intermediate ground between these two ordinary varieties of Congruism: but in point of fact what he presents is, with some variation of form, a curiously complete reproduction of the Molinist scheme. John Woodbridge, “Sanctification,” in The Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review, 1842, pp. This great change is effected by the sinner “taking such a view of the character and claims of God as to induce him to renounce his self-seeking spirit and come into sympathy with God.” You see, nothing but better knowledge is required; better knowledge leads to a better life. 411 Finney is even able to say (“Lectures on Systematic Theology,” p. 951): “Were it not for the relation that virtue is seen to sustain to happiness in general, no moral agent would conceive of it as valuable.”. CHARLES G. FINNEY: Heretic or Man of God? The formula is obviously inoperative in this crude form of its statement, unless free agency is supposed to carry with it, per se, helplessness in the face of temptation, and always to succumb to temptation if it is addressed to it in an enticing form. In 1821 he underwent a religious conversion and dropped his law practice to become an evangelist and was licensed by the Presbyterians. All men are free agents, and all men are tempted; therefore all men sin. 347 In point of fact Finney followed New Haven here; see G. F. Wright, as cited, p. 200. It is Finney’s doctrine also. Can we not account for Eve’s eating the forbidden fruit, without supposing that she had a craving for sin? He set about to make his message less pleasing and more productive. How he manages it remains unexplained, if “the new heart does not, cannot sin,” as John is said to teach—if the benevolent supreme ultimate choice which he has made cannot produce selfish subordinate choices or volitions. Sources. God Forgave My Sins. Shopkeepers closed their businesses, posting notices urging people to attend Finney's meetings. The question comes to be, Is the man good or bad, or only his acts? As the end of his long life drew near, Finney published a tract—called the “Psychology of Righteousness”—in which he repeats in popular language the teaching of his lifetime, thus certifying us that it remains his teaching to the very end. The goodness of the end, in point of fact, never transmits its goodness to the means used to attain it: And this destroys at once all schemes of teleological ethics. The atmosphere out of which it comes is that of theism, not of naturalism; and the righteous man is accordingly not the man whose conduct is suitable to his nature but the man whose conduct is in accordance with law. And this seems strongly to suggest that there is an intrinsic difference between the objects of election and others, determining their different treatment. 217–234. 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.417 “By the assertion, that the Holy Spirit, or the Spirit of Christ, is received by faith, to reign in the heart, it is intended, that he is actually trusted in, or submitted to by faith, and his influence suffered to control us. But the term “strength” here is only a figure of speech. Foot calls this theology “the heartless theology”—the theology, that is, which goes no deeper in its conception of salvation than a simple change of purpose, which conceives that all that happens to a man when he is saved, absolutely all that happens to him, is a change of purpose. 368 The New York Evangelist, August 25, 1835, quoted in The Literary and Theological Review, March, 1836, p. 16. For regeneration “implies an entire present change of moral character, that is, a change from entire sinfulness to entire holiness.”400—a “present entire obedience to God.”401 After this it is only a question of maintenance—of the maintenance of that “radical change of ultimate intention,” that change from a selfish ultimate choice to benevolent ultimate choice, which we may call indifferently repentance,402 or faith,403 or conversion, or regeneration, or sanctification. 405–443). The Old School Presbyterians resented Finney's modifications to Calvinist theology. And when now we are told that this contrary effect, unexampled otherwise, nevertheless follows with invariable certainty, whenever the persuasive action of the Holy Spirit is exerted to that end—how can we help suspecting that the action of the Spirit in question is something more than persuasive? “The Reviewer Reviewed, or Finney’s Theology and the Princeton Review,” 1847 (incorporated in the “Lectures on Systematic Theology” of 1851). B. Wisner], “Review of ‘The New Divinity Tried,’ ” 1832. Charles Finney, Lecture 8, “Obedience to the Moral Law” p. 375-76 “It is not founded in Christ’s literally suffering the exact penalty of the law for them, and in this sense literally purchasing their justification and eternal salvation.” Charles Finney, Lecture 8, “Obedience to the Moral Law” p. 373 So on October 10, 1821, he headed out into the woods near his Adams, New York, home to find God. Charles Grandison Finney was a revivalist preacher and educator born in Warren on August 27, 1792. In these writings all that is good in the whole sphere of Christian activity is ascribed without reserve both to the indwelling Christ and to the human agent; and the antinomy is resolved by the explanation that the action of the Spirit of Christ is purely suasive and the whole execution is the work of man himself in his active powers. These are the elect. It is determined by its wisdom. Hired by the Female Missionary Society of the Western District, he began his missionary labors in the frontier communities of upper New York. A universal will-not, like this, has a very strong appearance of a can-not. Free agency implies liberty of will. And he can then say, See, there is the end; and see, here are the means leading up to it—appropriate means, good as the end itself is good; and see, he that chooses the end must choose with it the whole concatenated system of means and ends; they cannot be separated; they form one whole. He was bound to elect those and not others—or else alter the system of government He had it in mind to establish, under which none others could be saved: and He cannot alter this system of government because it is the wisest and best system. But perhaps because of Adam’s sinning—and because of the sinning of all since Adam—it carries the day, not with more certainty—it would certainly have carried it anyhow—but with a more energetic effect than it otherwise would have done. Seeking the good of being, this is the government which an all-wise God must establish. But, having rejected these doctrines, its adherents, says he, have unfortunately lost sight of Christ as our sancification also. The child, he teaches—that little brute—must be supposed to have acquired habits of action which his moral sense, so soon as moral agency dawns in him, pronounces to be sinful, if we are to account for his universally succumbing to solicitations to what he now perceives to be sin. ", The revivalistic Congregationalists, led by Lyman Beecher, feared that Finney was opening the door to fanaticism by allowing too much expression of human emotion. But it is not so well said when we hear next, that what we are to do is to lean “upon Christ, as a helpless man would lean upon the arm or shoulder of a strong man, to be borne about in some benevolent enterprise.” A kind of coöperation is depicted here which makes Christ merely our helper. As a child, he lived in western New York but returned to Connecticut for his education. But others were opposed to the "plain and pointed preacher." “Consequences of Neglect,” 1876. 425 D. L. Leonard, as cited, pp. 397 The quotation is from Canfield, “An Exposition, etc.,” pp. “The elect were chosen to eternal life,” we read,354 “upon condition that God foresaw that in the perfect exercise of their freedom, they could be induced to repent and embrace the gospel.” If there is not asserted here election on the foresight of faith, there is asserted election on the foresight of the possibility of faith: on foreseeing that they can be induced to believe, they are elected to life, and the inducements provided. We need from Christ only an adequate inducement to use our own strength aright. Moral depravity is with Finney as universal a fact as it is with the Augustinian doctrine. LECTURES ON REVIVALS OF RELIGION by The Rev. When A Word Is Worth A Thousand Complaints (and When It Isn’t), Why There Are So Many ‘Miraculous’ Stories of Bibles Surviving Disaster. 15 Ibid., 206. Free agency plus temptation may account for the possibility of sin, and may lay a basis for an account of the actual occurrence of sinning in this or that case. A condition in which a particular effect follows with absolute certainty, at least suggests the existence of a causal relation; and the assertion of the equal possibility of a contrary effect, unsupported by a single example, bears the appearance of lacking foundation. He has as much trouble with their salvation as with their dying. At all events this is Finney’s doctrine: infants are at first just little animals; after a while they pick up a moral nature; at that very moment they pick up sin also. If He means this, what virtue is there in God? Most of these New Measures were actually many decades old, but Finney popularized them and was attacked for doing so. The modern Oberlin is not the old Oberlin, and it is not merely the perfectionism of the past that has faded away. Is it true that if your intention is right, your action is right? In reply to Hodge, Finney says a great deal which is wholly ineffective because not to the point. -- O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy. He persuades them by his word and his Spirit.” And then he adds, “If men will not yield to persuasion, they must be lost”; and phrases his conclusion thus: “Sinners can go to hell in spite of God.” It is certain, he declares in another place,369 “that men are able to resist the utmost influence that the truth can exert upon them; and therefore have ability to defeat the wisest, most benevolent, and most powerful exertions which the Holy Spirit can make to effect their sanctification.” They can resist the divine influence designed to save them because it is only of the nature of persuasion. [1] Reprinted from The Princeton Theological Review, xix. At the same time Charles Finney became Oberlin’s professor of theology. “I admit and maintain,” says Finney,364 “that regeneration is always induced and effected by the personal agency of the Holy Spirit.” “It is agreed,” he says again,365 “that all who are converted, sanctified and saved, are converted, sanctified and saved by God’s own agency; that is, God saves them by securing, by his own agency, their personal and individual holiness.” The mode of the divine agency in securing these efforts, however, is purely suasive. "I have a retainer from the Lord Jesus Christ to plead his cause," he told the man, "and cannot plead yours. 275–292, “Oberlin Theology.” W. E. C. Wright, “Oberlin’s Contribution to Ethics,” in The Bibliotheca Sacra, July, 1900, pp. viii.–ix. Those who went out to preach “under the influence of this fresh experience” came ultimately to permit it to drop into the background. All virtue, all holiness, is made to consist in an ethical determination of will. Naturally he scouts the very idea of “original sin,” whether in its broader or narrower application. From Studies in Perfectionism by B. He has been called The Father of Modern Revivalism. John C. Lord, “Finney’s Sermons on Sanctification, and Mahan on Christian Perfection,” in The Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review, April, 1841, pp. God might be eliminated from it entirely without essentially changing its character. The illustration employed is that of a lame man with his crutches. A tendency is exhibited at times to neglect this more elaborate explanation of universal depravity, and to represent it as sufficiently accounted for by the formula of freedom plus temptation. There were those who received “the blessing” and could not keep it; lapsing speedily into their old “earthy” conditions. The affiliations of Finney’s notion here are obviously with that Pelagianizing doctrine of concupiscence which infested the Middle Ages and was transmitted by them to the Roman Church. We do not assert that the Rationalistic account of human depravity which Finney exploits must necessarily leave God without justification for inflicting it upon man. He deceives himself, if he imagines that he thus gives the means in his system any actually independent goodness, and can properly speak of them as “good as the end itself is good.” They seem thus good only as they stand in this objectified system, which is a purely mental construction. 367 “Sermons on Important Subjects,” p. 30. But the vogue of the doctrine at Oberlin was not very long-lived. It is not to “sit down and do nothing,” leaving it to Christ to do it for us. W. D. Snodgrass, “The Scripture Doctrine of Sanctification, Stated and Defended against the error of Perfectionism,” 1841. Perhaps if we press the word “agents”—but let us substitute “beings.” Are infants not moral beings? He is compelled to confess of the reprobate, that “God knows that his creating them, together with his providential dispensations, will be the occasion, not the cause, of their sin and consequent destruction.” Of course, God’s foreknowledge of these results when He created the reprobate, necessarily involves them also in His comprehensive intention; but equally of course the sin and destruction of the reprobate were not His ultimate end in their creation. 350 We are somewhat surprised to find that Finney should have hesitated and vacillated over “Perseverance,” in the face of the clearness of this teaching, and of the corresponding representation of “permanent sanctification” as attainable, as the culminating attainment of Christian living (see, for instance, the tract “How to Win Souls”: There is nothing in the Bible “more expressly promised in this life than permanent sanctification”: we may fall away from regeneration, which is entire sanctification, but not from this permanent sanctification to which we are sealed: “this, remember, is a blessing that we receive after that we believe”). The originators of the doctrine never lost their hold upon it or their zeal for it. In 1834, he moved into the huge Broadway Tabernacle his followers had built for him. Self-determination with Finney, means arbitrary self-determination, independent of or in contradiction of the present preference, which is what other people mean by motive. His Lectures on Revivals of Religion (1835), a manual on how to lead revivals, inspired thousands of preachers to more consciously manage (critics said "manipulate") their revival meetings. How can man be affirmed to be fully able and altogether competent to an act never performed by any man whatever, except under an action of the Spirit under which he invariably performs it? vii., pp. Adam has nothing to do with it—despite Rom. The preaching of perfectionism with such energy and persistency by men of such intellectual force and pulpit power as Mahan and Finney and their coadjutors, of course had its effect. 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