Finney: Truth in a Spirit of Love

Charles Finney AutobiographyEverywhere Charles Finney preached, conversions followed. God worked in a great way through the message he brought, which, of course, was nothing less than the genuine gospel. In Finney’s autobiography, after an account of one of the revivals that occurred, he summarized just exactly what he taught in these words:

The doctrines I preached in promoting that revival were those that I have preached everywhere. The total moral, voluntary depravity of unregenerate man; the necessity of a radical change of heart, through the truth, by the agency of the Holy Ghost; the divinity and humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ; his vicarious atonement, equal to the wants of all mankind; the gift, divinity, and agency of the Holy Ghost: repentance, faith, justification by faith, sanctification by faith; persistence in holiness as a condition of salvation; indeed all the distinctive doctrines of the Gospel were stated and set forth with as much clearness, and point, and power, as were possible to me under the circumstances.

A great spirit of prayer prevailed; and after the discussion on baptism [on which the various denominations differed], a spirit of most interesting unity, brotherly love, and Christian fellowship prevailed. . . . In my readings on the subject of baptism, the Lord enabled me to maintain such a spirit that no controversy was started, and no controversial spirit prevailed. The discussion produced no evil result, but great good, and, so far as I could see, only good.

This sounds like the perfect combination of devotion to truth and a willingness to work with those who have some differing views on the non-essentials. It’s a fine recipe for today as well.

 

Finney: The Proper Attitude for Spiritual Renewal

Everywhere Finney went, revivals followed. Often, those of a different theological persuasion chastised him for believing Christians could actually work to bring people to a state of repentance. Seeking to put all the onus on God, they left out the agency of man in God’s plans. Conversely, others would be envious of what Finney accomplished in his preaching and teaching. He deals with both views in this section of his Revival Lectures:

RevivalA revival may be expected when ministers and professors [meaning professing Christians] are willing to have God promote it by whatever instruments He pleases. Sometimes ministers are not willing to have a revival unless they can have the management of it, or unless their agency can be conspicuous in promoting it. They wish to prescribe to God what He shall direct and bless, and what men He shall put forward. . . .

They have a good deal to say about God being a Sovereign, and that He will have revivals come in His own way and time. But then He must choose to have it just in their way or they will have nothing to do with it. Such men will sleep on until they are awakened by the judgment trumpet, without a revival, unless they are willing that God should come in His own way—unless they are willing to have anything or anybody employed that will do the most good.

Yes, the Holy Spirit is the power behind all conversion and renewed discipleship, but that doesn’t negate the agency of men. God has set it up in such a way that He seeks to work through those who are fully committed to acting on His Word. We aren’t to sit back and wait to see what happens; we are to be on the front lines making things happen. Then He will work with and through us to accomplish His purposes.

Finney: Humility, Prayer, & the Arm of God

In reading through Charles Finney’s Revival Lectures again, I was struck by how contemporary many of his statements are. Yes, he wrote this in the nineteenth century, but the application to what we are experiencing today is evident. See if you agree. In a section called “When a Revival May Be Expected,” he declares,

When the wickedness of the wicked grieves and humbles and distresses Christians. Sometimes Christians do not seem to mind anything about the wickedness around them. Or, if they do talk about it, it is in a cold and callous, and unfeeling way, as if they despaired of a reformation: they are disposed to scold sinners—not to feel the compassion of the Son of God for them. But sometimes the conduct of the wicked drives Christians to prayer, breaks them down, and makes them sorrowful and tender-hearted, so that they can weep day and night, and instead of scolding the wicked they pray earnestly for them. Then you may expect a revival.

I also found these words relevant to our situation today when sin is being sanctioned by the government:

The prevalence of wickedness is no evidence at all that there is not going to be a revival. That is often God’s time to work. . . . Often the first indication of a revival is that the devil gets up something new in opposition. This will invariably have one of two effects. It will either drive Christians to God, or it will drive them farther away from God, to some carnal policy or other that will only make things worse. . . .

I'm InIf Christians will only be humbled and pray, they shall soon see God’s naked arm in a revival of religion. I have known instances where a revival has broken in upon the ranks of the enemy, almost as suddenly as a clap of thunder, and scattered them, taken the ringleaders as trophies, and broken up their party in an instant.

Those comments should be an encouragement for those who are nearly in despair over the moral insanity of our times. Never forget that the Lord is more than willing to break in “upon the ranks of the enemy.” All too often, He’s waiting for us to believe He can do so.

Finney: Revival as the Foundation for Change

No improvement in our culture and/or society will be of any lasting value without the proper spiritual foundation. Charles Finney reminds us we need to keep our priorities straight. Keep in mind when he uses the word religion, he means Christianity:

RevivalA revival of religion is the only possible thing that can wipe away the reproach which covers the Church, and restore religion to the place it ought to have in the estimation of the public. Without a revival, this reproach will cover the Church more and more, until it is overwhelmed with universal contempt. You may do anything else you please, and you may change the aspects of society in some respects, but you will do no real good; you only make it worse without a revival of religion.

You may go and build a splendid new house of worship, and line your seats with damask, put up a costly pulpit, and get a magnificent organ, and everything of that kind, to make a show and dash, and in that way you may procure a sort of respect for religion among the wicked, but it does no good in reality. It rather does hurt. It misleads them as to the real nature of religion; and so far from converting them, it carries them farther away from salvation.