Revivals of Religion or Lectures on Revival

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Author: Charles G. Finney

IV. THINGS WHICH SHOULD NOT BE TAUGHT.

1. "You will not always feel as you do now." When the young convert is rejoicing in his Savior, and calculating to live for the glory of God and the good of mankind, how often is he met with this reply: "You will not always feel so." Thus, his mind is prepared to expect that he shall backslide, and not to be much surprised when he does. This is just the way the devil wants young converts dealt with, to have old Christians tell them: "Your feelings will not last, but, by and by, you will be as cold as we are." It has made my heart bleed to see it. When the young convert has been pouring out his warm heart to some old professor, and expecting the warm burstings of a kindred spirit responding to his own, what does he meet with? This cold answer, coming like a northern blast over his soul: "You will not always feel so." SHAME! Just preparing the young convert to expect that he shall backslide as a matter of course; so that when he begins to decline, as under the very influences of this instruction it is most likely he will, it produces no surprise or alarm in his mind, but he looks at it just as a thing of course, doing as everybody else does.

I have heard it preached as well as expressed in prayer, that seasons of backsliding are "necessary to test the Church." They say: "When it rains, you can find water anywhere: it is only in seasons of drought that you can tell where the deep springs are." Wonderful logic! And so you would teach that Christians must get cold and stupid, and backslide from God — and for what reason? Why, forsooth, to show that they are not hypocrites. Amazing! You would prove that they are hypocrites in order to show that they are not.

Such doctrine as this is the very last that should be taught to young converts. They should be told that they have only begun the Christian life, and that their religion is to consist in going on in it. They should be taught to go forward all the time, and "grow in grace" continually. Do not teach them to taper off their religion — to let it grow smaller and smaller till it comes to a point. God says: "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18).77 Now, whose path is that which grows dimmer and dimmer into the perfect night? They should be brought to such a state of mind that the first indications of decay in spirituality or zeal will alarm them and spur them up to duty. There is no need that young converts should backslide as they do. Paul did not backslide. And I do not doubt that this very doctrine: "You will not always feel so," is one of the grand devices of Satan to bring about the result which it predicts.

2. "Learn to walk by faith and not by sight." This is sometimes said to young converts in reference to their continuing to exhibit the power of religion, and is a manifest perversion of Scripture. If they begin to lose their faith and zeal, and get into darkness, some old professor will tell them: "Ah, you cannot expect to have the Savior always with you, you have been walking by sight; you must learn to walk by faith and not by sight." That is, you must learn to get as cold as death, and then hang on to the doctrine of the Saints’ Perseverance, as your only ground of hope that you shall be saved. And that is walking by faith! Cease to persevere, and then hold on to the doctrine of Perseverance! "One of guilt’s blunders, and the loudest laugh of hell." Living in the enjoyment of God’s favor and the comforts of the Holy Ghost is what they call "walking by sight"! Do you suppose young converts see the Savior at the time they believe on Him? When they are so full of the enjoyments of heaven, do you suppose they see heaven, and so walk by sight? It is absurd on the face of it. It is not faith, it is presumption, that makes the backslider hold on to the doctrine of Perseverance, as if that would save him, without any sensible exercises of godliness in his soul. Those who attempt to walk by faith in this way had better take care, or they will walk into hell with their "faith." Faith indeed! "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:20). Can dead faith make the soul live?

3. "Wait till you see whether you can hold out." When a young convert feels zealous and warm-hearted, and wants to lay himself out for God, some prudent old professor will caution him not to go too fast. "You had better not be too forward in religion, till you see whether you can hold out; for if you take this high ground and then fall, you will disgrace religion." That is, in plain English: "Do not do anything that constitutes religion, till you see whether you have religion." Religion consists in obeying God. Now, these wise teachers tell a young convert: "Do not obey God till you see" — what? — till you see whether you have obeyed Him — or, till you see whether you have obtained that substance, that mysterious thing which they imagine is created and put into man, like a lump of new flesh, and called "religion." This waiting system is all wrong. There is no Scripture warrant for telling a person to wait, when the command of God is upon him, and the path of duty is before him. Let him go ahead.

Young converts should be fully taught that this is the only consistent way to find out whether they have any religion, to find that they are heartily engaged in doing the will of God. To tell the convert to wait, therefore, before he does these things, till he first gets his evidence, is reversing the matter, and is absurd.

4. "Wait till you get strength, before you take up the cross." This is applied to various religious duties. Sometimes it is applied to prayer: just as if prayer were a cross. I have known young converts advised not to attempt to pray in their families, or "not to attempt quite yet" to pray in meetings and social circles. "Wait till you get strength." Just as if they could get strength without exercise. Strength comes by exercise. You cannot get strength by lying still. Let a child lie in a cradle continually, and he would never have any strength; he might grow in size, but he never could be anything more than a great baby. This is a law of nature. There is no substitute for exercise in producing strength. It is so in the body; and it is just so with the mind. It is so with the affections; so with the judgment; so with conscience. All the powers of the soul are strengthened by exercise. I need not now enter into the philosophy of this. Everybody knows it is so. If the mind is not exercised, the brain will not grow, and the man will become an idiot. If the affections are not exercised, he will become a stoic. To talk to a convert about neglecting Christian action till he gets strength, is absurd. If he wants to gain strength, let him go to work.

5. Young converts should not be made sectarian in their feelings. They should not be taught to dwell upon sectarian distinctions, or to be sticklish about sectarian points. They ought to examine these points, according to their importance, at a proper time, and in a proper way, and make up their minds for themselves. But they should not be taught to dwell upon them, or to make much of them at the outset of their religious life. Otherwise there is great danger that their whole religion will run into sectarianism. I have seen most sad and melancholy exhibitions of the effects of this upon young converts. And whenever I see professed converts taking a strong hold of sectarian peculiarities, no matter of what denomination of Christians,

I always feel in doubt about them. When I hear them asking: "Do you believe in the doctrine of Election?" or: "Do you believe in sprinkling?" or: "Do you believe in immersing?" I feel sad. I never knew such converts to be worth much. Their sectarian zeal soon sours their feelings, eats out all the heart of their religion, and molds their whole character into sinful, sectarian bigotry. They generally become mighty zealous for the traditions of the elders, and very little concerned for the salvation of souls.

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Chicago: Charles G. Finney, "IV. Things Which Should Not Be Taught.," Revivals of Religion or Lectures on Revival in Revivals of Religion, or Lectures on Revival (Boston: Crocker & Brewster, 1835), Original Sources, accessed September 25, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4ZJGDIT9FLIF14N.

MLA: Finney, Charles G. "IV. Things Which Should Not Be Taught." Revivals of Religion or Lectures on Revival, in Revivals of Religion, or Lectures on Revival, Boston, Crocker & Brewster, 1835, Original Sources. 25 Sep. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4ZJGDIT9FLIF14N.

Harvard: Finney, CG, 'IV. Things Which Should Not Be Taught.' in Revivals of Religion or Lectures on Revival. cited in 1835, Revivals of Religion, or Lectures on Revival, Crocker & Brewster, Boston. Original Sources, retrieved 25 September 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4ZJGDIT9FLIF14N.