One of the gains which Finney felt himself to obtain from his denial of all “constitutional depravity,” was that there was nothing left in man after his “conversion” which could act as fomes peccati, and sways his volitions sin-ward. That is “a first truth of reason.” Finney’s polemic against what he calls barbarously, “rightarianism”413 is very sharp. 367 “Sermons on Important Subjects,” p. 30. They were being wounded, they complained, in the house of their friends. Take an unrenewed sinner.… It is necessary that he should be born again. Their new knowledge comes too late to save them from this sin. 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. Finney is beautifully consistent in all this,” comments Hodge,395 “and in the consequences, which of necessity flow from his doctrine. 353 This is one of those numerous clauses which meet us in Finney’s discussions which have no meaning whatever in his scheme of thought, and are thrown in therefore merely for effect. 15–27. Charles Grandison Finney was a revivalist preacher and educator born in Warren on August 27, 1792. 424 Leonard, as cited, p. 256. N. S. S. Beman, with whose collaboration Finney’s remarkable revival at Troy had been carried on, was the actual author of the uncompromising refutation put out in the same year by the Presbytery of Troy. Pure will plus external inducement—which may be in the way of temptation to evil, or may be in the way of incitement to good—that is all that comes into consideration in our moral judgments. Why Do I Need to Keep Asking for Forgiveness? Called the “father of modern revivalism” by some historians, he paved the way for later revivalists like Dwight L. Moody, Billy Sunday, and Billy Graham. James H. Fairchild, “The Doctrine of Sanctification at Oberlin,” in The Congregational Quarterly, April, 1876, pp. Finney having endeavored to reduce “Rightarianism” to absurdity Charles Hodge is doubtless justified in retorting with a happier attempt on his part to reduce Finney’s teleological ethics to absurdity.415 He says it belongs to the same mintage with Jesuit “intentionalism”—“the means are justified by the end”—and recommends Pascal’s “Provincial Letters” as a good book to be read at Oberlin. For sure, he was a great revivalist preacher and teacher during the so-called Second Great Awakening. From Studies in Perfectionism by B. Get the best from CT editors, delivered straight to your inbox! Experience has shown, however, that it was a delusion. "I will give my heart to God, or I never will come down from there," he said. Finney stated that unbelief was a "will not," instead of a "cannot," and could be remedied if a person willed to become a Christian. 423 A letter of Beecher’s printed in his “Autobiography,” ii. And as this ready making for ourselves a new heart, makes us a perfectly holy heart, it is with this ease and despatch that according to Finney’s form of perfectionism we become perfect. But that night, Finney again offered congregants a chance to publicly declare their faith. 1 THE THEOLOGICAL METHOD OF CHARLES G. FINNEY by Dan Fabricatore TABLE OF CONTENTS INTRODUCTION p. 2 I. 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. 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. There are two varieties of Congruism, an Augustinian and an Anti-Augustinian. Both cannot be true. 409 Cf. “Subsequent to the commencement of moral agency, and previous to regeneration, the moral depravity of mankind is universal.”375 And it is no less “total” than universal; it manifests itself in the entirety of humanity “without any mixture of moral goodness or virtue.”376 All men without exception are morally depraved through and through. Surely the action of the Spirit on the elect has the appearance of having a character more causal in nature than is expressed by the term persuasion. The most shocking of them was probably the lamentable fall from virtue in 1842 of H. C. Taylor, “who had held prominent stations in both church and business affairs, had been a leader in ‘moral reform (social purity),’ and had also been numbered among the ‘sanctified.’ ”427. The ministrations of the Holy Ghost are, to be sure, not excluded; but the whole work of the Spirit is reduced to the mode of illumination. It remains true that any means, any whatever, which are brought into a system of means looking towards the indicated end, is in Finney’s view made good by its relation as means to this end. 416 “Lectures on Systematic Theology,” pp. 410 Ed. It is determined by its wisdom. “We shall see that perseverance in obedience to the end of life is also a condition of justification …” Ibid., p. 735-737 Finney believed that man was saved when he decided to stop sinning and live the rest of his life in righteousness. And now to make the appearance of contradiction complete, we are told that “righteousness is sustained in the human soul by the indwelling of Christ through faith and in no other way”; and “purposes or resolutions” are spoken of which are not “self-originated”; but are due to the Spirit of Christ. By this I do not mean, that, were you disposed to exert your natural powers aright, you could not at once obey the law in the exercise of your natural strength, and continue to do so. “A truly regenerated soul cannot live a sinful life.” “The new heart does not, cannot sin. Is it true that if your intention is right, your action is right? Charles Finney greatly influenced my life early on. "I have a retainer from the Lord Jesus Christ to plead his cause, and cannot plead yours.". “The feelings or affections, or the involuntary emotions, are rather a consequence, than strictly a part of true religion.” Faith itself can be thought of as “an essential element of true religion,” only because it is “not an involuntary, but a voluntary state of mind”; that is, an act of will. We cannot do anything we will and call that a means to that end. What needs correcting is only this bad will into a good one. He has no moral nature. Frank Hugh Foster, “A Genetic History of the New England Theology,” 1907, ch. Foot, “Influence of Pelagianism on the Theological Course of Rev. “It,” that is, religion, “consists essentially in the will’s being yielded to the will of God”—that is, no doubt, in “obedience.” But he continues epexegetically: “in embracing the same end that he embraces”—and this adoption of His end as our end (how that sounds like Albrecht Ritschl!) 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. “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. And so began the new career of the man who would become the leading revivalist in the nineteenth century. We have here of course only the familiar construction of the old Rationalismus Vulgaris; and no more here than there is the implication of God in bringing the human race into a condition of universal depravity escaped. -- O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy. In this whole statement the greatest care is expended in making it clear that all that God does toward saving men is directed to inducing the objects of salvation to save themselves. His family moved to upstate New York (by Lake Ontario), when he was two, but by 1812, Charles was back in Warren attending school. He seems, indeed, almost inclined at times to declare that one not a Christian who supposes that “a man is unable to obey God without the Spirit’s agency.” The assertion of ability to obey God without the Spirit’s agency is express. 363 “Lectures on Systematic Theology,” p. 501.  Reprinted from The Princeton Theological Review, xix. He admits that if a man pays his debts from a sense of justice, or feeling of conscientiousness, he is therein and therefore just as wicked as if he stole a horse. 38 quotes from Charles Grandison Finney: 'A state of mind that sees God in everything is evidence of growth in grace and a thankful heart. Or if a man preaches the gospel from a desire to glorify God and benefit his fellow men, he is just as wicked for so doing as a pirate. It was not “the best, the truest-hearted, the most reliable and useful disciples” who had it; they might on the contrary be “the weak-minded, the shallow, the merely sentimental.” This has been the experience at Oberlin, according to Leonard. Charles Fitch, “Views of Sanctification,” 1839. The majority of the students, perhaps also the majority of the inhabitants, were more or less deeply moved by the propaganda: many definitely adopted the new teaching and endeavored both to live it themselves and to communicate it to others. The rightness of these means is given to them by their inherent relation as means to this supreme ultimate end, to which they are related as its only means. 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. And even here the conception continues to be only that of the use of Christ to supplement defects. He also foresaw that by the wisest arrangement, he could secure the return and salvation of a part of mankind. On the other hand, though God is supposed in the doctrine Finney is criticizing to have attached the communication of sinfulness to Adam’s posterity descended from him by ordinary generation, He is not represented as having done so arbitrarily but in a judicial sentence; so that a ground is assigned for His act and a ground in right—and Finney has not shown that this ground did not exist, or that existing, it was not a compelling ground in right. He rode from town to town over what was known as the "burned-over district," a reference to the fact that the area had experienced so much religious enthusiasm that it was thought to have burned out. And soon the ecclesiastical courts were drawn into the debate. 348 It emerges in the end that Finney considers that it would have required God to change the government He had instituted as the wisest. It too is the assertion that since Christ’s only working in the soul is suasive in character, the sanctification of the soul is effected by itself. He wishes to deny that election is “arbitrary.” He wishes to represent salvation as depending on the “voluntary” action of men. Christ is the believer’s crutches; and we are exhorted to make these crutches, that is Christ, so much ours that we use them instinctively and can no more forget them when we essay to walk than we can forget our own feet. In this excellent article, Dr. Mike Horton explains how Charles Finney distorted the important doctrine of salvation. As a result, Finney’s basic theological commitments are often ... 14 Charles Finney, Finney’s Systematic Theology (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1976), 217. Finney is reduced to arguing380 that if Christ does not save them from “a sinful constitution,” He does save them “from circumstances which would certainly result in their becoming sinners, if not snatched from them.” A kindly proleptic salvation, it seems, may at least be theirs. Having thus made religion to consist “essentially in yielding the will to God in implicit obedience”—that is, an affair of will—Finney now represents the emotional life of the religious man as, not a part, but merely a consequence of his religion. Charles G. Finney Chapter 1 Charles G. Finney: A Biographical Sketch Charles Grandison Finney (1792-1875) was a lawyer who, after converting to Christianity, became one of the foremost American ministers of his day. “What is virtue?” he asks, and answers: “It consists in consecration to the right end; to the end to which God is consecrated.”404 And “all holiness,” he defines,405 consists in “the right exercise of our own will or agency.” The supreme ultimate end to which in the right exercise of our will we must direct ourselves, if we would be virtuous or holy—these things are one—is the good of being. The ability which he thus ascribes to man as his inalienable possession is not merely that so-called “natural ability” which the New England divines were accustomed to accord to him, and which only recognized his possession of the natural powers by which obedience could be rendered were it not inhibited by man’s moral condition. He can, no doubt objectify the whole system of ends and means, and bid us conceive them—the end as the final term and all the means leading to it—as an objective entity which as a whole is good; a whole made up of its constituent parts all of which are good, standing off in a sort of conceptual reality to our contemplation. To act on selfish motives means with him to act on any other motives than the good of being as supreme end. Why Reading the Bible From Start to Finish is a Life-Changing New Year’s Resolution, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self And How the Church Can Respond, False History of Creationism Is Full of Beans, God Transcendent And Other Selected Sermons (eBook), Why We Should Pray Like the Puritans (Even if We Don’t Sound Like Them), Hope for a Suffering World: Divine Impassibility, Encouragement for Hard Times from Saints of Old, John B. Calhoun’s Mouse Utopia Experiment and Reflections on the Welfare State, A Christian Case for the Importance of History, What Christians Misunderstand About Discernment, The Development of the Doctrine of Infant Salvation, Heaven: Rejoicing in Future Glory (Series). It might conceivably be presented merely as an attempt to explain the manner in which man actually acquired a depravity to which he has been justly condemned on account of the sin of his first parents. In 1851, he was appointed president, which gave him a new forum to advocate social reforms he championed, especially abolition of slavery. L. Woods, “Examination of the Doctrine of Perfection, as held by Rev. Under the heading “To show that the doctrine of a gracious ability, as held by those who maintain it, is an absurdity” he begins: 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 It may be right to will the good for its own sake. For that, nothing less than a universal bias to sin will supply an adequate account. A rigid Calvinism dominated the theological landscape, but Finney urged his listeners to accept Christ openly and publicly. “Consequences of Neglect,” 1876. 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