From the Archives: Instructions to Young Converts
A pivotal figure in American Christianity, Finney led revivals that deeply affected the country in the hears of the 19th century. He was quite concerned with the discipling of those who became Christians through his preaching. This is excerpted from his Lectures on Revivals (1835).
YOUNG CONVERTS SHOULD BE TAUGHT that they have renounced the ownership of all their possessions and of themselves, or if they have not done this they are not Christians. They should not be left to think that any thing is their own, their time, property, influence, faculties, bodies or souls. “Ye are not your own;” all belongs to God; and when they submitted to God they made a free surrender of all to him, to be ruled and disposed of at his pleasure. They have no right to spend one hour as if their time was their own. No right to go any where, or do any thing, for themselves, but should hold all at the disposal of God, and employ all for the glory of God. If they do not, they ought not to call themselves Christians, for the very idea of being a Christian is to renounce self and become entirely consecrated to God. A man has no more right to withhold any thing from God, than he has to rob or steal. It is robbery in the highest sense of the term. It is an infinitely higher crime than it would be for a clerk in a store to go and take the money of his employer, and spend it on his own lusts and pleasures. I mean, that for a man to withhold from God, is a higher crime against Him, than a man can commit against his fellow man, inasmuch as God is the owner of all things in an infinitely higher sense than man can be the owner of any thing. If God calls on them to employ any thing they have, their money, or their time, or to give their children, or to dedicate themselves in advancing his kingdom, and they refuse, because they want to use them in their own way, or prefer to do something else, it is vastly more blamable than for a clerk or an agent to go and embezzle the money that is intrusted him by his employer, and spend it for his family, or lay it out in bank stock or in speculation for himself.
God is, in an infinitely higher sense, the owner of all, than any employer can be said to be the owner of what he has. And the church of Christ never will take high ground, never will be disentangled from the world, never will be able to go forward without these continual declensions and backslidings, until Christians, and the churches generally, take the ground, and hold to it, that it is just as much a matter of discipline for a church member practically to deny his stewardship as to deny the divinity of Christ, and that covetousness fairly proved shall just as certainly exclude a man from communion as adultery.
The church is mighty orthodox in notions, but very heretical in practice, but the time must come when the church will be just as vigilant in guarding orthodoxy in practice as orthodoxy in doctrine, and just as prompt to turn out heretics in practice as heretics that corrupt the doctrines of the gospel. In fact, it is vastly more important. The only design of doctrine is to produce practice, and it does not seem to be understood by the church, that true faith “works by love and purifies the heart,” that heresy in practice, is proof conclusive of heresy in sentiment. The church is very sticklish for correct doctrine and very careless about correct living. This is preposterous. Has it come to this, that the church of Jesus Christ is to be satisfied with correct notions on some abstract points, and never reduce her orthodoxy to practice? Let it be so no longer.
It is high time these matters were set right. And the only way to set them right, is to begin right with those who are just entering upon religion. Young converts must be told that they are just as worthy of damnation, and that the church cannot and will not hold fellowship with them, if they show a covetous spirit, and turn a deaf ear when the whole world is calling for help, as if they were living in adultery, or in the daily worship of idols.
By Charles G. Finney
[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #14 in 1987]
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