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  • SANCTIFICATION - D,
    CHARLES FINNEY SYS. THEOLOGY

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    It has often been a matter of astonishment to me, that in a Christian land, it should be a stumbling-block to any, that some, or if you please, a majority of those who profess to receive and to have experienced the truth of this doctrine, should exhibit an unchristian spirit. What if the same objection should be brought against the Christian religion; against any and every doctrine of the gospel, that the great majority of all the professed believers and receivers of those doctrines were proud, worldly, selfish, and exhibited anything but a right spirit? This objection might be made with truth to the professed Christian church. But would the conclusiveness of such an objection be admitted in Christian lands? Who does not know the ready answer to all such objections as these, that the doctrines of Christianity do not sanction such conduct, and that it is not the real belief of them that begets any such spirit or conduct; that the Christian religion abhors all these objectionable things. And now suppose it should be replied to this, that a tree is known by its fruits, and that so great a majority of the professors of religion could not exhibit such a spirit, unless it were the tendency of Christianity itself to beget it. Who would not reply to this, that this state of mind and course of conduct of which they complain, is the natural state of man uninfluenced by the gospel of Christ; that, in these instances, on account of unbelief, the gospel has failed to correct what was already wrong, and that it needed not the influence of any corrupt doctrine to produce that state of mind? It appears to me, that these objectors against this doctrine, on account of the fact that some and perhaps many who have professed to receive it, have exhibited a wrong spirit, take it for granted that the doctrine produces this spirit, instead of considering that a wrong spirit is natural to men, and that the difficulty is that through unbelief, the gospel has failed to correct what was before wrong. They reason as if they supposed he human heart needed something to beget within it a bad spirit, and as if they supposed, that a belief in this doctrine had made men wicked; instead of recognizing the fact, that they were before wicked, and that through unbelief the gospel has failed to make them holy.

    14. But let it not be understood, that I suppose or admit, that the great mass who have professed to have received this doctrine into their hearts, have exhibited a bad spirit. I must say, that it has been eminently otherwise, so far as my own observation extends. And I am fully convinced, that if I have ever seen Christianity and the spirit of Christ in the world, it has been exhibited by those, as a general thing, who have professed to receive this doctrine into their heart.

    15. How amazingly important it is, that the ministry and the church should come fully to a right understanding and embracing of this doctrine. O, it will be like life from the dead! The proclamation of it is now regarded by multitudes as "good tidings of great joy." From every quarter, we get the gladsome intelligence, that souls are entering into the deep rest and peace of the gospel, that they are awaking to a life of faith and love and that, instead of sinking down into antinomianism, they are eminently more benevolent, active, holy and useful than ever before; that they are eminently more prayerful, watchful, diligent, meek, sober-minded, and heavenly in all their lives. This is the character of those, to a very great extent, at least, with whom I have been acquainted, who have embraced this doctrine, and professed to have experienced its power. I say this for no other reason, than to relieve the anxieties of those who have heard very strange reports, and whose honest fears have been awakened in regard to the tendency of this doctrine.

    16. Much pains have been taken to demonstrate, that our views of this subject are wrong. But in all the arguing to this end hitherto, there has been one grand defect. None of the opponents of this doctrine have yet showed us "a more excellent way, and told us what is right" (1 Cor. 12:31). It is certainly impossible to ascertain what is wrong, on any moral subject, unless we have before us the standard of right. The mind must certainly be acquainted with the rule of right, before it can reasonably pronounce anything wrong: "for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20). It is therefore certainly absurd, for the opponents of the doctrine of entire sanctification in this life, to pronounce this doctrine wrong without being able to show us what is right. To what purpose, then, I pray, do they argue, who insist upon this view of the subject as wrong, while they do not so much as attempt to tell us what is right? It cannot be pretended, that the scriptures teach nothing upon this subject. And the question is, what do they teach? We therefore call upon the denouncers of this doctrine, and we think the demand reasonable, to inform us definitely, how holy Christians may be, and are expected to be in this life. And it should be distinctly understood, that until they bring forward the rule laid down in the scripture upon this subject, it is but arrogance to pronounce anything wrong; just as if they should pronounce anything to be sin without comparing it with the standard of right. Until they inform us what the scriptures do teach, we must beg leave to be excused from supposing ourselves obliged to believe, that what is taught in these lectures is wrong, or contrary to the language and spirit of inspiration. This is certainly a question that ought not to be thrown loosely aside, without being settled. The thing at which we aim is, to establish a definite rule, or to explain what we suppose to be the real and explicit teachings of the Bible upon this point. And we do think it absurd, that the opponents of this view should attempt to convince us of error, without so much as attempting to show what the truth upon this subject is. As if we could easily enough decide what is contrary to right, without possessing any knowledge of right. We therefore beseech our brethren, In discussing this subject, to show us what is right. And if this is not the truth, to show us a more excellent way, and convince us that we are wrong, by showing us what is right. For we have no hope of ever seeing that we are wrong, until we can see that something else than what is advocated in this discussion, is right.

    17. But before I close my remarks upon this subject, I must not fail to state what I regard as the present duty of Christians. It is to hold their will in a state of consecration to God, and to lay hold on the promises for the blessing promised in such passages as: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly, and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it" (1 Thess. 5:23, 24). This is present duty. Let them wait on the Lord in faith, for that cleansing of the whole being which they need, to confirm, strengthen, settle them. All they can do, and all that God requires them to do, is to obey Him from moment to moment, and to lay hold of Him for the blessing of which we have been speaking; and to be assured, that God will bring forth the answer in the best time and in the best manner. If you believe, the anointing that abideth will surely be secured in due time.

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