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17 November, 2012

What Kind of Christian Are You? Part 2


Finney's attempt to bring us Christians to a place where we can examine ourselves

PART II: LEGAL RELIGION"Who is on the Lord's side?" - Exodus 32:26
 In discoursing from this text, I have mentioned three classes of professors of religion: (1) those who truly love God and man, (2) those who are motivated solely by selfishness in their religious duties, and (3) those who are motivated only by a regard for public opinion.  Now I intend to mention several characteristics of the second class, 
 Those professors who are motivated by self-love or by selfishness. 
 I intend to show how their leading or main purpose in religion develops itself in their conduct.  The conduct of men invariably shows what is their true and main purpose.  A man's character is as his supreme purpose is.  And if you can learn by his conduct what that leading purpose is, then you can know with certainty what his character is. 
 These three classes of professors agree in many things.  But there are certain things in which they differ, and by close observation the difference will be seen in their conduct, from which we infer a difference in their character.  And those points in which they differ belong to the very fundamentals of religion. 
 I will now set forth some of the characteristics of the second class - those who are motivated by self-love, or by selfishness, in whom hope and fear are the main springs of all they do in religion.  And the things that I shall mention make it evident that the individual is motivated by a supreme regard to his own good - that the fear of punishment, or the hope of advantage to himself, is the foundation of all his conduct. 
 1. They make religion a subordinate concern. 
 They show by their conduct that they do not regard religion as the principal business of life, but as subordinate to other things.  They consider religion as something that ought to come in and find a place among other things, as a sort of Sabbath-day business, but not as the grand business of life.  They make a distinction between religious duty and business, and consider them as entirely separate concerns.  Whereas, if they had right views of the matter, they would consider religion as the only business of life, and nothing else either lawful or worth pursuing, any further than as it promotes or serves religion.  If they had the right feeling, religion would characterize all that they do, and it would be manifest that everything they do is an act of obedience to God, or an act of irreligion. 
 2.  Their religious duties are performed as a task, and are not the result of the constraining love of God that burns within them. 
 Such a one does not delight in the exercise of religious affections; and as to communion with God, he knows nothing of it.  He performs prayer as a task.  He betakes himself to religious duties as sick persons take medicine, not because they love it, but because they hope to derive some benefit f rom it. 
 And here let me ask you, Do you enjoy religious exercises, or do you perform them because you hope to receive benefit by them?  Be honest, now, and answer this question, just according to the truth. 
 3. They manifestly possess a legal spirit, and not a gospel spirit. 
 They do rather what they are obliged to do, in religion, and not what they love to do.  They have an eye to the commands of God, and yield obedience to his requirements, in performing religious duties, but do not engage in those things because they love them.  They are always ready to inquire, in regard to duty, not so much how they can do good, as how they can be saved.  The principal object of such a professor of religion is not to save the world, but to save himself. 
 4.  They are motivated by fear much more than by hope. 
 They perform their religious duties chiefly because they dare not omit them.  They have the spirit of slaves, and go about the service of God as slaves go about the service of their master, feeling that they are obliged to do about so much, or be beaten with many stripes.  So these professors feel as if they were obliged to have about so much religion, and perform about so many religious duties, or be lashed by conscience and lose their hopes. 
 5.  Their religion is not only produced by the fear of disgrace or the fear of hell, but it is mostly of a negative character. 
 They satisfy themselves, mostly, with doing nothing that is very bad.  Having no spiritual views, they regard the law of God chiefly as a system of prohibitions, just to guard men from certain sins, and not as a system of benevolence fulfilled by love. And so, if they are moral in their conduct, and rather serious and decent in their general deportment, and perform required amount of religious exercises, this satisfies them.  The most you can say of them is, that they are not very bad.  They seem to think little or nothing of being useful to the cause of Christ, so long as they cannot be convicted of any positive transgression. 
 6.  This class of persons are more or less strict in religious duties, according to the light they have and the sharpness with which conscience pursues them. 
 Where they have enlightened minds and tender consciences, you often find them the most rigid of all professors.  They tithe even to "mint and anise." They are stiff even to moroseness.  They are perfect Pharisees, and carry everything to the greatest extremes so far as outward strictness is concerned. 
 7.  They are more or less miserable in proportion to the tenderness of their conscience. 
 With all their strictness, they cannot but realize that they are great sinners after all: and having no just sense of the gospel justification, this leaves them very unhappy.  And the more enlightened and tender their conscience, the more they are unhappy.  Notwithstanding their strictness, they feel that they come short of their duty, and not having any gospel faith, nor any of that holy anointing of the Holy Spirit that brings peace to the soul, they are unsatisfied, and uneasy, and miserable. 
 Perhaps many of you have seen such persons.  Perhaps some of you are such, and you never knew what it was to feel justified before God, through the blood of Jesus Christ, and you know not what it is to feel that Jesus Christ has accepted and owned you as his.  You never felt in your minds what that is which is spoken of in the text, "There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (Romans 8:1)   Does such language bring home any warm and practical idea to you, that it is a reality because you experience it in your soul?  Or do you, after all, still feel condemned and guilty, and have no sense of pardoned sin, and no experimental peace with God, or confidence in Jesus Christ. 
 8.  This class of persons are encouraged and cheered by reading the accounts of ancient saints who fell into great sins. 
 They feel wonderfully instructed and edified when they hear the sins of God's people set forth in a strong light.  Then they are comforted and their hopes are wonderfully strengthened.  Instead of feeling humbled and distressed, and feeling that such conduct is so contrary to all religion that they could hardly believe they were saints if it had not been found in the Bible, and that they could not believe at all that persons who should do such things under the light of the Christian dispensation, could be saints; they feel gratified and strengthened, and their hopes are confirmed, by all these things. 
 9.  They are always much better pleased, by how much the lower the standard of piety is held out from the pulpit. 
 If the minister adopts a low standard, and is ready to hope that almost everybody is a Christian, they are pleased and compliment him for his expansive charity, and praise him as such an excellent man, so charitable, etc.  Right over against this, you will see, is the conduct of the man whose main purpose is to rid the world of sin.  He wants all men to be holy, and therefore he wants to have the true standard of holiness held up.  He wants all men to be saved, but he knows they cannot be saved unless they are truly holy.  And he would as soon think of Satan's going to heaven as of getting a man there by frittering away the Bible standard of holiness by "charity." 
 10.  They are fond of having "comfortable" doctrines preached. 
 Such persons are apt to be fond of having the doctrine of saints' perseverance much dwelt on, and the doctrine of election.  Often, they want nothing else but what they call the doctrines of grace.  And if that can be preached in such an abstract way, as to afford them comfort without galling their consciences too much, they are "fed." 
 11.  They love to have their ministers preach sermons "to feed Christians." 
 Their main object is not to save sinners, but to be saved themselves, and therefore they always choose a minister, not for his ability in preaching for the conversion of sinners, but for his talents in feeding the church with mere abstractions. 
 12.  They lay great stress on having "a comfortable hope." 
 You will hear them talking very solemnly about the importance of having a comfortable hope.  If they can only be at ease in their minds, they show very little concern whether anybody else around them is saved or not.  If they can have only their fears silenced and their hopes cherished they have religion enough to satisfy them. 
 In their prayers, you will find the class I am now speaking of, are praying mainly that their evidences may be brightened, and that they may feel assured that they are going to heaven. 
 13.  They are more afraid of punishment than they are of sin. 
 Precisely over against this, you will find the true friends of God and man more afraid of sin than of punishment.  It is not the question with them, "If I do this shall I be punished?" or, "If I do this, will God forgive me?" But the question is that which Joseph asked, "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" There was the spirit of a child of God, afraid of sin more than punishment, and so much afraid of sin that he had no thought of punishment. 
 This class of persons I am speaking of, often indulge in sin if they can persuade themselves that God will forgive them, or when they think they can repent of it afterwards. 
 They often reason in this way: "Such a minister does this;" or "Such an elder or professor does this, and why may not I do the same?" or "Others get along without doing such and such things, and why should I trouble myself to be better than they?" It is not sin that they fear, but punishment.  They sin, they know, but they hope to escape punishment.  Who cannot see that this is contrary to the spirit of the true friends of God, whose absorbing object it is to get sin - all sin - out of the world, and are not half so much afraid of hell as they are of committing sin? 
 14.  They are more fond of receiving good than of doing good. 
 You may know such persons have not the spirit of the gospel.  They have never entered into the spirit of Jesus Christ, when he said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." A person actuated by true love to God and man, enjoys what he does to benefit others, far more than they do who receive good at his hand.  He is really benevolent, and it is a gratification to him to show kindness, because his heart is set upon it, and when he can do it, a holy joy is shed over his mind, and he enjoys it exquisitely. 
 The other class are more eager to receive than to impart.  They want to receive comfort, but are never ready to deny themselves to give the comforts of the gospel to others.  How directly contrary this is to the spirit of the gospel, any one can see at a glance.  That spirit finds its supreme happiness in communicating happiness to others.  But this class of persons wants to lay everybody under contribution to impart happiness to themselves, instead of laying themselves out to bless others. 
 Who does not know these two classes of professors?  One always seeking out objects to do good to, the other always trying to gain good themselves.  One anxious to communicate, the other to receive.  One to do good, the other to get good.  These two classes of character are just as opposite as light and darkness. 
 15. If this class of professors pray for the conversion and salvation of others, you may observe that they are motivated by the same kind of considerations as they are when they pray for themselves. 
 They are chiefly afraid of hell themselves, and when they are strongly convicted, they are afraid others will go there too.  They are seeking happiness for themselves, and when self is not in the way, they seek the same for others.  They pray for sinners, not because they have such a sense of the evil of sin which sinners are committing, as because they have such a sense of the terrors of hell to which sinners are going. It is not because sinners dishonor God that they want them converted, but because they are in danger. Their great object in praying is to secure the safety of those they pray for, as it is their great object in religion to secure their own safety.  They pity themselves and they pity others.  If there was no danger, they would have no motive to pray either for themselves or others. 
 The true friends of God and man feel compassion for sinners too, but they feel much more for the honor of God.  They are more distressed to see God abused and dishonored than to see sinners go to hell.  And if God must be forever dishonored or men go to hell - just as certainly as they love God supremely, they will decide that sinners shall sink to endless torments sooner that God fail of his due honor.  And they manifest their true feelings in their prayers.  You hear them praying for sinners as rebels against God, as guilty criminals deserving of eternal wrath, as the enemies of God and the universe; and while they are full of compassion for sinners, they feel also the enkindlings of holy indignation against them for their conduct towards the blessed God. 
 16.  They manifest great uneasiness at the increasing calls for self-denial to do good. 
 This class of persons are in constant distress at being called on to give up so much.  The good that is to be done does not enter into their thoughts, because they are all the while dwelling on what have to give up. 
 It is easily seen why aggressive movements on the kingdom of darkness distress such persons.  Their object never was to search out and banish from this world everything that is dishonorable to God or injurious to man. They never entered upon religion with the determin-ation to clear out every such thing from the earth, as far as they had power, and as fast as they were convinced that it was injurious to themselves or others, in soul or body.  And therefore they are distressed by the move-ments of those who are truly engaged to search out and clear away every evil. 
 These persons are annoyed by the continually increasing calls to give for missions, Bibles, tracts, and the like.  The time was, when a rich man gave twenty-five dollars a year to such things, he was thought to be doing pretty well.  But now there are so many calls for contributions, that they are in torment all the time.  They are obliged to keep giving all the time, in order to keep up their character, or to have any hope, but they are much distressed about it. 
 17.  When they are called upon to exercise self-denial for the sake of doing good, instead of being a pleasant thing, it gives them unmingled pain. 
 Such a one does not know anything about enjoying self-denial.  He cannot understand how self-denial is pleasant, nor how anybody can take pleasure in it, or have joy of heart in denying himself for the sake of doing good to others.  Yet the true friend of God and man, whose heart is fully set to do good, never enjoys any money he expands so well as that which he gives to promote Christ's kingdom.  If he is really pious, he knows that is the best disposition he can make of his money.  Nay, he is sorry to be obliged to use money for anything else, when there are so many opportunities to do good with it. 
 I want you to look at this.  It is easy to see that if an individual has his heart very much set upon anything, all the money he can save for that object is most pleasing to him, and the more he can save from other objects for this that his heart is set on, the better he is pleased.  If an individual finds it hard for him to give money for religious objects, it is easy to see that his heart is not set on it.  If it were, he would have given his money with joy. 
 18.  They do not manifest much distress when they behold sin. 
 They do not rebuke it.  They love to mingle in scenes where sin is committed.  They love to be where they can hear vain conversation, and even to join in it.  They love worldly company and worldly books.  Their spirit is worldly.  Instead of hating even the garment spotted with the flesh,(Jude 23)  they love to hang around the confines of sin, as if they were pleased with it. 
 19. They do not aim at anything higher than a legal, painful, negative religion. 
 The love of Christ does not constrain them to a constant warfare against sin, and a constant watch to do all the good in their power.  But what they do is done only because they think they must.  And they maintain a kind of piety that is formal, heartless, worthless. 
 20. They do not enjoy secret prayer. 
 They do not pray in their closets because they LOVE to pray but because they think it is their duty, and they dare not neglect it. 
 21. They do not enjoy the Bible. 
 They do not read the Bible because it is sweet to their souls, sweeter than honey or the honeycomb. They do not "enjoy" the reading, as a person enjoys the most exquisite delights.  They read it because it is their duty to read it; and it would not do to profess to be a Christian and not read the Bible; but in fact they find it a dry book. 
 22. They do not enjoy prayer meetings. 
 Slight excuses keep them away.  They never go unless they find it necessary for the sake of keeping up appearances, or to maintain their hope.  And when they do go, instead of having their souls melted and fired with love, they are cold, listless, dull, and glad when it is over. 
 23. They find it difficult to appreciate what is meant by disinterestedness (non-self interest). 
 To serve God because they love him, and not for the sake of reward, is what they do not understand. 
 24. Their thoughts are not anxiously fixed upon the question, when shall the world be converted to God? 
 Their hearts are not agonized with such thoughts as this, Oh, how long shall wickedness prevail?  Oh, when shall this wretched world be rid of sin and death?  Oh, when shall men cease to sin against God?  They think more of the question, When shall I die and go to heaven, and get rid of all my trials and cares? 
 REMARKS 
 1.  I believe you will not think me extravagant, when I say that the religion I have described, appears to be the religion of a very large mass in the church. 
 To say the least, it is greatly to be feared that a majority of professing Christians are of this description.  To say this, is neither uncharitable nor censorious. 
 2.  This religion is radically defective. 
 There is nothing of true Christianity in it. It differs from Christianity as much as the Pharisees differed from Christ - as much as gospel religion differs from legal religion. 
 Now, let me ask you, to which of these classes do you belong?  Or are you in neither?  It may be because you are conscious you do not belong to the second class, you may think you belong to the first, when, in fact, you will find, when I come to describe the third class of professors, that I describe your true character. 

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