By M.L. Dye
It has often been stated that Charles G. Finney was the greatest theologian of the entire Christian era
Five hundred lawyers and judges of the New York State Bar Association invited him to present to them the claims of the Gospel in a two week series of meetings. On the last night he called on them for a full surrender of their lives to Jesus Christ and two hundred and fifty out of the five hundred accepted the invitation to repent of their sins and get right with God. More than a million souls were won to Christ through his sermons and his books, and those converts have, by competent writers been called the deepest converts of the Christian era."
It seems to be a conservation estimate that eighty percent of those converted under Charles Finney were faithful to Christ through the rest of their lives.
Speaking of the true meaning of Calvary, Mr. Finney says: "The atonement of Christ is a governmental expedient to sustain law, without the execution of it penalty on the sinner. Of course, it must always be a difficult thing in any government to sustain the authority of the law, and the respect due to it, without the execution of the penalty. Yet God has accomplished it most perfectly. A distinction must be made between 'public justice' and 'retributive justice.'
"Retributive justice visits on the head of the individual sinner a punishment corresponding to the nature of his offense. Public justice looks only toward the general good, and must do that which will secure the authority and influence of the law as well as the infliction of the penalty would do it.
"It may accept a substitute, provided it will be equally effective to the support of law, and the insuring of obedience.
"Public justice, then may be satisfied in one of two ways--either by the full execution of the penalty, or by some substitute which shall answer the ends of the government equally well.
"Let it be distinctly understood", says Mr. Finney "that the divine law originates in God's love, and has no other than benevolent ends in view.
"It was revealed only and solely to promote the greatest possible good by means of obedience.
"Now such a law can allow of pardon provided an expression be given which would equally secure obedience, making an equal revelation of the Law-giver's firmness, integrity and love. The law being most essential to the good of His creatures, God must not set aside its penalty without some influence to induce obedience.
"Every act of rebellion denounces the law. Hence before God can pardon rebellion, He must make such a demonstration of His attitude toward sin as shall thrill the heart of the universe and make every ear tingle---and such as shall show that He is no tyrant, and that He seeks only the highest obedience and consequent happiness of His Creatures. This done, God will be satisfied.
"On this point", he says, "many mistake, saying, "If I believe the facts of history, it is enough!' No, No!" says Mr. Finney, "To believe the facts is not by any means enough. For the Scripture says, 'with the heart man believeth unto righteousness'." Mr. Finney insists that obedience, after conversion, is absolutely essential to salvation. "The sacrifice on Calvary," he says, "is to be understood as God's offering to public justice---God Himself giving up His Son to death and thus throwing open the folding gates of mercy to a sinning lost race."
We come, then, to a three-fold conclusion: first, God yearns to forgive all sin, and does so on the grounds of Calvary, in the twinkling of an eye, when a soul repents.
Second: however because of the very nature of sin He cannot and will not forgive until all sin is forsaken.
Third: sin indulged the second time, or the fortieth time---is as vitally destructive as it ever was the first time.
In the time of Oliver Cromwell, "the iron man of England," an officer of his army was found to be a traitor, and Oliver Cromwell signed the death-warrant for him. An order was given that the next morning when the bell from a nearby church should ring at six o'clock that officer should be shot.
The wife of the officer came into the room where Oliver Cromwell was and fell upon her knees and said, "Sir, won't you pardon my husband?" "No," he said. "He has proved himself a traitor to the country and to the commonwealth. Tomorrow when the bell from the church steeple will ring at six o'clock, then he will be shot."
Heartbroken, this woman of love went out of his presence. Oh, what she experienced! She did not sleep that night, of course. Early in the dawn long before sunrise the form of the wretched woman torn by grief in her heart, was seen hurrying toward the church steeple.
Up she went, step by step until she reached where the large bell was hanging. A man perhaps ninety years of age both deaf and blind, received a few shillings a month for ringing the bell. The officer's wife hid herself in the belfry and when that blind and deaf man began to take hold of the bell rope and pull the wife placed her hand between the brass tongue of the bell and the side and instead of striking the side if the bell, it struck the soft hand of the loving wife of that officer and no sound was heard.
Then the man swung it the other way and the woman put her left hand upon the other side of the bell and it struck her left hand. For about five minutes it kept on striking against her hands until instead of fingers there were only shreds of flesh and blood left. Tears were flowing down the face of that woman in her suffering but she never made a sound, because she was suffering for a loved one. When the old man had finished she went down, the blood dripping to the floor, and she went to Cromwell, the man who had said her husband must die. She stretched forth her bleeding hands and said, "for the sake of these hands won't you forgive my husband?"
Cromwell weakened and said, "Woman great is your love. Go in peace." Thus her husband was freed through an act of grace on the part of their Governor and in recognition of the love and the suffering of another.
However, it must not be overlooked that this officer in Cromwell's army had continued his traitorous acts, then Cromwell would have been compelled to disregard the bleeding hands of his loving wife and proceed with the strict demands of justice---because EVEN GRACE CANNOT APPLY WHERE THERE IS NO REPENTANCE.
Now let us look at another scene. Behold the Savior, the spotless, holy and lovely Jesus, struggling with convulsive effort, under the scourger's lash, to rise the Cross, beneath which He had fallen, blood from his bleeding body staining the ground. The severed flesh quivered from repeated strokes by the athletic scourger's hand. His spirit groaned, but without complaint. Instead He looked upon His accusers and tormentors with pity. He remembered their depraved state, and felt compassion for them. His swollen visage was more marred than any man's. His eye of love was concealed beneath blood and tears. His holy lips moved, prompted by His heart which was ever full of love and pity. They seemed to emphasize "sinner, for thee I freely suffer; for thee I endure these afflictions, yea, I endure them that thou mayest be saved." Then, at last, because He was bearing our sins, when the Father turned His back upon Him, hear Him cry, 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?!" Thus an awful price was paid for our redemption. But here, too, it must be noted that even though the Savior did indeed suffer in our stead, and through truly "He was bruised for our iniquities," yet WITHOUT REPENTANCE THERE CAN BE NO FORGIVENESS.
Heaven is a holy place and sin can never enter there WHEREVER SIN IS FORGIVEN, IT MUST FIRST HAVE BEEN FORSAKEN. Saving faith in Jesus as the redeemer, incites the true worship of God from a broken spirit and a contrite heart.
This alone is saving faith. For said our Savior, "My sheep hear my voice and they follow Me" and "Not everyone that saith Lord, Lord shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in Heaven" (Matt.7:21).
Dear reader, if this book has helped to clarify to you what Jesus really taught about sin, why not send for extra copies to place in the hands of preachers and Sunday School teachers, and earnest Christian friends, that many more may know and teach exactly what our Savior taught about sin. In doing this you will please our risen Lord and also make a vital contribution toward genuine Revival!