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  • EVIDENCES OF REGENERATION - 2 - C,
    CHARLES FINNEY SYS. THEOLOGY

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    The king upon his throne may live and reign to please himself. He may surround himself with all that can minister to his pleasure, his ambition, his pride, his lusts, and his power. He may live to and for himself. Self-pleasing, self-gratification, self-aggrandizement, may be the end for which he lives. This is selfishness. But he may also live and reign for God, and for his people. That is, he may be as really devoted to God, and render this as a service to God, as well as anything else. No doubt his temptation is great; but, nevertheless, he may be perfectly self-denying in all this. He may not do what he does for his own sake, nor be what he is, nor possess what he possesses for his own sake, but, accommodating his state and equipage to his relations, he may be as truly self-denying as others in the humbler walks of life. This is not an impossible, though, in all probability, a rare case. A man may as truly be rich for God as poor for him, if his relations and circumstances make it essential to his highest usefulness that he should possess a large capital. He is in the way of great temptation; but if this is plainly his duty, and submitted to for God and the world, he may have grace to be entirely self-denying in these circumstances, and all the more commendable, for standing fast under these circumstances.

    So a poor man may be poor from principle, or from necessity. He may be submissive and happy in his poverty. He may deny himself even the comfort of life, and do all this to promote the good of being, or he may do it to promote his own interest, temporal or eternal, to secure a reputation for piety, to appease a morbid conscience, to appease his fears, or to secure the favor of God. In all things he may be selfish. He may be happy in this, because it may be real self-denial: or he may be murmuring at his poverty, may complain, and be envious at others who are not poor. He may be censorious, and think everybody proud and selfish who dresses better, or possesses a better house and equipage than he does. He may set up his views as a standard, and denounce as proud and selfish all who do not square their lives by his rule. This is selfishness, and these manifestations demonstrate the fact. A man may forego the use of a coat, or a cloak, or a horse, or a carriage, or any and every comfort and convenience of life, and all this may proceed from either a benevolent or a selfish state of mind. If it be benevolence and true self-denial, it will be cheerfully and happily submitted to, without murmuring and repining, without censoriousness, and without envy towards others, without insisting that others shall do and be, just what be does and is. He will allow the judge his ermine, the king his robes of state, and the merchant his capital, and the husbandman his fields and his flocks, and will see the reasonableness and propriety of all this.

    But if it be selfishness and the spirit of self-gratification instead of self-denial, he will be ascetic, caustic, sour, ill-natured, unhappy, severe, censorious, envious, and disposed to complain of, and pick at, the extravagance and self-indulgence of others.

    Especially does the true saint deny his appetites and passions. His artificial appetites he denies absolutely, whenever his attention is called to the fact and the nature of the indulgence. The Christian is such just because he has become the master of his appetites and passions, has denied them, and consecrated himself to God. The sinner is a sinner just because his appetites and passions and the impulses of his desires are his masters, and he bows down to them, and serves them. They are his masters instead of his servants, as they are made to be. He is consecrated to them and not to God. But the saint has ceased to live to gratify his lusts. Has he been a drunkard, a rake, a tobacco user? Has he been in self-indulgent habits of any kind? He is reformed: old things are past away, and behold all things are become new. Has he still any habit the character of which he has either mistaken or not considered; such as smoking, chewing, or snuffing tobacco, using injurious stimulants of any kind, high and unwholesome living, extravagant dressing or equipage, retiring late at night and rising late in the morning, eating too much, or between meals, or in short, has there been any form of self-indulgence about him whatever? Only let his attention be called to it, he will listen with candor, be convinced by reasonable evidence, and renounce his evil habits without conferring with flesh and blood. All this is implied in regeneration, and must follow from its very nature. This also the Bible everywhere affirms to be true of the saints. "They have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts" (Gal. 5:24). It should be forever remembered, that a self-indulgent Christian is a contradiction. Self-indulgence and Christianity are terms of opposition.

    10. The sinner does not deny himself. He may not gratify all his desires, because the desires are often contradictory, and he must deny one for the sake of indulging another. Avarice may be so strong as to forbid his indulging in extravagance in eating, drinking, dressing, or equipage. His love of reputation may be so strong as to prevent his engaging in anything disgraceful, and so on.

    But self-indulgence is his law nevertheless. The fear of hell, or his desire to be saved, may forbid his outward indulgence in any known sin. But still he lives, and moves, and has his being only for the sake of indulging himself. He may be a miser, and starve and freeze himself, and deny himself the necessaries of life; yet self-indulgence is his law. Some lusts he may and must control, as they may be inconsistent with others. But others he does not control. He is a slave. He bows down to his lusts and serves them. He is enslaved by his inclinations, so that he cannot overcome them. This demonstrates that he is a sinner and unregenerate, whatever his station and profession may be. One who cannot, because he will not, conquer himself and his lusts this is the definition of an unregenerate sinner. He is one over whom some form of desire, or lust, or appetite, or passion has dominion. He cannot, or rather will not, overcome it. This one is just as certainly in sin, as that sin is sin.

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