Charles Finney

   "What must I do to be saved?"-Acts xvi. 30.

   I BRING forward this subject today not because it is new to many in
   this congregation, but because it is greatly needed. I am happy to know
   that the great inquiry of our text is beginning to be deeply and
   extensively agitated in this community, and under these circumstances
   it is the first duty of a Christian pastor to answer it, fully and
   The circumstances which gave occasion to the words of the text were
   briefly these. Paul and Silas had gone to Philippi to preach the
   Gospel. Their preaching excited great opposition and tumult; they were
   arrested and thrown into prison, and the jailer was charged to keep
   them safely. At midnight they were praying and singing praises--God
   came down- the earth quaked and the prison rocked--its doors burst
   open, and their chains fell off; the jailer sprang up affrighted, and,
   supposing his prisoners had fled, was about to take his own life, when
   Paul cried out, "Do thyself no harm; we are all here. "He then called
   for a light, and sprang in and came trembling, and fell down before
   Paul and Silas, and brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to
   be saved?"

   This is briefly the history of our text; and I improve it now, by showing; 
   I. What sinners must not do to be saved; and 
   II. What they must do.
What sinners must not do to be saved
   It has now come to be necessary and very important to tell men what
 they must not do in order to be saved. When the Gospel was first
   preached, Satan had not introduced as many delusions to mislead men as
   he has now. It was then enough to give, as Paul did, the simple and
   direct answer, telling men only what they must at once do. But this
   seems to be not enough now. So many delusions and perversions have
   bewildered and darkened the minds of men that they need often a great
   deal of instruction to lead them back to those simple views of the
   subject which prevailed at first. Hence the importance of showing what
   sinners must not do, if they intend to be saved.
   1. They must not imagine that they have nothing to do. In Paul's time
   nobody seems to have thought of this. Then the doctrine of Universalism
   was not much developed. Men had not begun to dream that they should be
   saved without doing anything. They had not learned that sinners have
   nothing to do to be saved. If this idea, so current of late, had been
   rife at Philippi, the question of our text would not have been asked.
   No trembling sinner would have cried out, What must I do to be saved? 
   If men imagine they have nothing to do, they are never likely to be
   saved. It is not in the nature of falsehood and lies to save men's
souls, and surely nothing is more false than this notion. Men know they
   have something to do to be saved. Why, then, do they pretend that all
   men will be saved whether they do their duty, or constantly refuse to
   do it? The very idea is preposterous, and is entertained only by the
   most palpable outrage upon common sense and an enlightened conscience. 
2. You should not mistake what you have to do. The duty required of
   sinners is very simple, and would be easily understood were it not for
 the false ideas that prevail as to what religion is, and as to the
   exact things which God requires as conditions of salvation. On these
   points erroneous opinions prevail to a most alarming extent. Hence the
   danger of mistake. Beware lest you be deceived in a matter of so vital
   3. Do not say or imagine that you cannot do what God requires. On the
   contrary, always assume that you can. If you assume that you cannot,
   this very assumption will be fatal to your salvation.
   4. Do not procrastinate. As you ever intend or hope to be saved, you
   must set your face like a flint against this most pernicious delusion.
   Probably no other mode of evading present duty has ever prevailed so
   extensively as this, or has destroyed so many souls. Almost all men in
   Gospel lands intend to prepare for death--intend to repent and become
   religious before they die. Even Universalists expect to become
   religious at some time--perhaps after death-- perhaps after being
   purified from their sins by purgatorial fires; but somehow they expect
   to become holy, for they know they must before they can see God and
   enjoy His presence. But you will observe, they put this matter of
   becoming holy off to the most distant time possible. Feeling a strong
   dislike to it now, they flatter themselves that God will take care that
   it shall be done up duly in the next world, how much soever they may
   frustrate His efforts to do it in this. So long as it remains in their
   power to choose whether to become holy or not, they improve the time to
   enjoy sin; and leave it with God to make them holy in the next
   world--if they can't prevent it there! Consistency is a jewel!
   And all those who put off being religious now in the cherished delusion
   of becoming so in some future time, whether in this world or the next,
   are acting out this same inconsistency. You fondly hope that will occur
   which you are now doing your utmost to prevent.
   So sinners by myriads press their way down to hell under this delusion.
   They often, when premed with the claims of God, will even name the time
   when they will repent. It may be very near--perhaps as soon as they get
   home from the meeting, or as soon as the sermon is over; or it may be
   more remote, as, for example, when they have finished their education,
   or become settled in life, or have made a little more property, or get
   ready to abandon some business of questionable morality; but no matter
   whether the time set be near or remote, the delusion is fatal--the
   thought of procrastination is murder to the soul. Ah, such sinners are
   little aware that Satan himself has poured out his spirit upon them and
   is leading them whithersoever he will. He little cares whether they put
   off for a longer time or a shorter. If he can persuade them to a long
   delay, he likes it well; if only to a short one, he feels quite sure he
   can renew the delay and get another extension--so it answers his
   purpose fully in the end.
   Now mark, sinner, if you ever mean to be saved you must resist and
   grieve away this spirit of Satan. You must cease to procrastinate. You
   can never be converted so long as you operate only in the way of
   delaying and promising yourself that you will become religious at some
   future time. Did you ever bring anything to pass in your temporal
   business by procrastination? Did procrastination ever begin, prosecute,
   and accomplish any important business?
   Suppose you have some business of vast consequence, involving your
   character, or your whole estate, or your life, to be transacted in
   Cleveland, but you do not know precisely how soon it must be done. It
   may be done with safety now, and with greater facility now than ever
   hereafter; but it might possibly be done although you should delay a
   little time, but every moment's delay involves an absolute uncertainty
   of your being able to do it at all. You do not know but a single hour's
   delay will make yon too late. Now in these circumstances what would a
   man of sense and discretion do? Would be not be awake and up in an
   Would be sleep on a matter of such moment, involving such risks and
   uncertainties? No. You know that the risk of a hundred dollars, pending
   on such conditions, would stir the warm blood of any man of business,
   and you could not tempt him to delay an hour. O, he would say, this is
   the great business to which I must attend, and everything else must
   give way. But suppose he should act as a sinner does about repentance,
   and promise himself that tomorrow will be as this day and much more
   abundant--and do nothing today, nor tomorrow, nor the next month, nor
   the next year--would you not think him beside himself? Would you expect
   his business to be done, his money to be secured, his interests to be
   So the sinner accomplishes nothing but his own ruin so long as he
   procrastinates. Until he says, "Now is my time--today I will do all my
   duty"--he is only playing the fool and laying up his wages accordingly.
   O, it is infinite madness to defer a matter of such vast interest and
   of such perilous uncertainty!
   5. If you would be saved you must not wait for God to do what He
   commands you to do. God will surely do all that He can for your
   salvation. All that the nature of the case allows of His doing, He
   either has done or stands ready to do as soon as your position and
   course will allow Him to do it. Long before you were born He
   anticipated your wants as a sinner, and began on the most liberal scale
   to make provision for them. He gave His Son to die for you, thus doing
   all that need be done by way of an atonement. Of a long time past He
   has been shaping His providence so as to give you the requisite
 knowledge of duty has sent you His Word and Spirit. Indeed, He has
   given you the highest possible evidence that He will be energetic and
   prompt on His part--as one in earnest for your salvation. You know
   this. What sinner in this house fears lest God should be negligent on
   His part in the matter of his salvation? Not one. No, many of you are
   not a little annoyed that God should press you so earnestly and be so
   energetic in the work of securing your salvation. And now can you quiet
   your conscience with the excuse of waiting for God to do your duty?
   The fact is, there are things for you to do which God can not do for
   you. Those things which He has enjoined and revealed as the conditions
   of your salvation, He cannot and will not do Himself. If He could have
   done them Himself, He would not have asked you to do them. Every sinner
   ought to consider this. God requires of you repentance and faith
   because it is naturally impossible that any one else but you should do
   them. They are your own personal matters--the voluntary exercises of
   your own mind; and no other being in heaven, earth, or hell, can do
   these things for you in your stead. As far as substitution was
   naturally possible, God has introduced it, as in the case of the
   atonement. He has never hesitated to march up to meet and to bear all
   the self-denials which the work of salvation has involved.
   6. If you mean to be saved, you must not wait for God to do anything
   whatever. There is nothing to be waited for. God has either done all on
   His part already, or if anything more remains, He is ready and waiting
   this moment for you to do your duty that He may impart all needful
7. Do not flee to any refuge of lies. Lies cannot save you. It is
   truth, not lies, that alone can save. I have often wondered how men
   could suppose that Universalism could save any man.
   Men must be sanctified by the truth. There is no plainer teaching in
   the Bible than this, and no Bible doctrine is better sustained by
   reason and the nature of the case.
   Now does Universalism sanctify anybody? Universalists say you must be
   punished for your sins, and that thus they will be put away--as if the
   fires of purgatory would thoroughly consume all sin, and bring out the
   sinner pure. Is this being sanctified by the truth? You might as well
   hope to be saved by eating liquid fire! You might as well expect fire
   to purify your soul from sin in this world, as in the next! Why not?
   It is amazing that men should hope to be sanctified and saved by this
   great error, or, indeed, by any error whatever. God says you must be
   sanctified by the truth. Suppose you could believe this delusion, would
   it make you holy? Do you believe that it would make you humble,
   heavenly-minded, sin-hating, benevolent? Can you believe any such
   thing? Be assured that Satan is, only the father of lies, and he cannot
   save you--in fact, he would not if he could; he intends his lies not to
   save you, but to destroy your very soul, and nothing could be more
   adapted to its purpose. Lies are only the natural poison of the soul.
   You take them at your peril!
   8. Don't seek for any self-indulgent method of salvation. The great
   effort among sinners has always been to be saved in some way of
   self-indulgence. They are slow to admit that self-denial is
   indispensable--that total, unqualified self-denial is the condition of
   being saved. I warn you against supposing that you can be saved in some
   easy, self-pleasing way. Men ought to know, and always assume, that it
   is naturally indispensable for selfishness to be utterly put away and
   its demands resisted and put down.
   I often ask--Does the system of salvation which I preach so perfectly
   chime with the intuitions of my reason that I know from within myself
   that this Gospel is the thing I need? Does it in all its parts and
   relations meet the demands of my intelligence? Are its requisitions
   obviously just and right? Does its prescribed conditions of salvation
   obviously befit man's moral position before God, and his moral
   relations to the government of God?
   To these and similar questions I am constrained to answer in the
   affirmative. The longer I live the more fully I see that the Gospel
   system is the only one that can alike meet the demands of the human
   intelligence, and supply the wants of man's sinning, depraved heart.
   The duties enjoined upon the sinner are just those things which I know
   must in the nature of the case be the conditions of salvation. Why,
   then, should any sinner think of being saved on any other conditions?
   Why desire it even if it were ever so practicable?
   9. Don't imagine you will ever have a more favourable time. Impenitent
   sinners are prone to imagine that just now is by no means so convenient
   a season as may be expected hereafter. So they put off in hope of a
   better time. They think perhaps that they shall have more conviction,
   and fewer obstacles, and less hindrances. So thought Felix. He did not
   intend to forego salvation, any more than you do; but he was very busy
   just then--had certain ends to be secured which seemed peculiarly
   pressing, and so he begged to be excused on the promise of very
   faithful attention to the subject at the expected convenient season.
   But did the convenient season ever come? Never. Nor does it ever come
   to those who in like manner resist God's solemn call, and grieve away
   His Spirit. Thousands are now waiting in the pains of hell who said
   just as he did, "Go thy way for this time, when I have a convenient
   season I will call for thee." Oh, sinner, when will your convenient
   season come I Are you aware that no season will ever be "convenient"
   for you, unless God calls up your attention earnestly and solemnly to
   the subject? And can you expect Him to do this at the time of your
   choice, when you scorn His call at the time of His choice? Have you not
   heard Him say, "Because I have called, and ye refused, I have stretched
   out my hand, and no man regarded, but ye have set at nought all my
   counsel, and would none of my reproof; I also will laugh at your
   calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh. When your fear cometh as
   desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind, when distress
   and anguish cometh upon you; then shall they call upon me, but I will
   not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me." O,
   sinner, that will be a fearful and a final doom! And the myriad voices
   of God's universe will say, amen.
   10. Do not suppose that you will find another time as good, and one in
   which you can just as well repent as now. Many are ready to suppose
   that though there may be no better time for themselves, there will at
   least be one as good. Vain delusion! Sinner, you already owe ten
   thousand talents, and will you find it just as easy to be forgiven this
   debt while you are showing that you don't care how much and how long
   you augment it? In a case like this, where everything turns upon your
   securing the good-will of your creditor, do you hope to gain it by
   positively insulting him to his face?
   Or take another view of the case. Your heart you know must one day
   relent for sin, or you are forever damned. You know also that each
   successive sin increases the hardness of your heart, and makes it a
   more difficult matter to repent. How, then, can you reasonably hope
   that a future time will be equally favourable for your repentance? When
   you have hardened your neck like an iron sinew, and made your heart
   like an adamant stone, can you hope that repentance will yet be as easy
   to you as ever?
   You know, sinner, that God requires you to break off from your sins
   now. But you look up into His face and say to Him, "Lord, it is just as
   well to stop abusing Thee at some future convenient time. Lord, if I
   can only be saved at last, I shall think it all my gain to go on
   insulting and abusing Thee as long as it will possibly answer. And
   since Thou art so very compassionate and long-suffering, I think I may
   venture on in sin and rebellion against Thee yet these many months and
   years longer. Lord, don't hurry me--do let me have my way; let me abase
   Thee if Thou pleasest, and spit in Thy face--all will be just as well
   if I only repent in season so as finally to be saved. I know, indeed,
   that Thou art entreating me to repent now, but I much prefer to wait a,
   season, and it will be just as well to repent at some future time." 
   And now do you suppose that God will set His seal to this--that He will
   say, "You are right, sinner, I set my seal of approbation upon your
   course--it is well that you take so just views of your duty to your
   Maker and your Father; go on; your course will ensure your salvation."
   Do you expect such a response from God as this?

   11. If you ever expect to be saved, don't wait to see what others will
   do or say. I was lately astonished to find that a young lady here under
   conviction was in great trouble about what a beloved brother would
   think of her if she should give her heart to God. She knew her duty;
   but he was impenitent, and how could she know what he would think if
   she should repent now! It amounts to this. She would come before God
   and say, "O Thou great God, I know I ought to repent, but I can't; for
   I don't know as my brother will like it. I know that he too is a
   sinner, and must repent or lose his soul, but I am much more afraid of
   his frown than I am of Thine, and I care more for his approbation than
   I do for Thine, and consequently, I dare not repent till he does! "How
   shocking is this! Strange that on such a subject men will ever ask
   "What will others say of me?" Are you amenable to God? What, then, have
   others to say about your duty to Him? God requires you and them also to
   repent, and why don't you do it at once?
   Not long since, as I was preaching abroad, one of the principal men of
   the city came to the meeting for inquiry, apparently much convicted and
   in great distress for his soul. But being a man of high political
   standing, and supposing himself to be very dependent upon his friends,
   he insisted that he must consult them, and have a regard for their
   feelings in this matter. I could not possibly beat him off from this
   ground, although I spent three hours in the effort. He seemed almost
   ready to repent--I thought he certainly would; but he slipped away,
   relapsed by a perpetual backsliding, and I expect will be found at last
   among the lost in perdition. Would you not expect such a result if he
   tore himself away under such an excuse as that?
   O, sinner, you must not care what others say of you--let them say what
   they please. Remember, the question is between your own soul and God,
   and "He that is wise shall be wise for himself, and he that scorneth,
   he alone shall bear it." You must die for yourself, and for yourself
   must appear before God in judgment! Go, young woman, ask your brother,
 "Can you answer for me when I come to the judgment? Can you pledge
   yourself that you can stand in my stead and answer for me there?" Now
   until you have reason to believe that he can, it is wise for you to
   disregard his opinions if they stand at all in your way. Whoever
   interposes any objection to your immediate repentance, fail not to ask
   him--Can you shield my soul in the judgment? If I can be assured that
   you can and will, I will make you my Saviour; but if not, then I must
   attend to my own salvation, and leave you to attend to Yours.
   I never shall forget the scene which occurred while my own mind was
   turning upon this great point. Seeking a retired place for prayer, I
   went into a deep grove, found a perfectly secluded spot behind some
   large logs, and knelt down. All suddenly, a leaf rustled and I sprang,
   for somebody must be coming and I shall be seen here at prayer. I had
   not been aware that I cared what others said of me, but looking back
   upon my exercises of mind here, I could see that I did care infinitely
   too much what others thought of me.
   Closing my eyes again for prayer, I heard a rustling leaf again, and
   then the thought came over me like a wave of the sea, "I am ashamed of
   confessing my sin!" What! thought I, ashamed of being found speaking
   with God! O, how ashamed I felt of this shame! I can never describe the
   strong and overpowering impression which this thought made on my mind.
   I cried aloud at the very top of my voice, for I felt that though all
   the men on earth and all the devils in hell were present to hear and
   see me I would not shrink and would not cease to cry unto God; for what
   is it to me if others see me seeking the face of my God and Saviour? I
   am hastening to the judgment: there I shall not be ashamed to have the
   Judge my friend. There I shall not be ashamed to have sought His face
   and His pardon here. There will be no shrinking away from the gaze of
   the universe. O, if sinners at the judgment could shrink away, how
   gladly would they; but they cannot! Nor can they stand there in each
   other's places to answer for each other's sins. That young woman, can
   she say then--O, my brother, you must answer for me; for to please you,
   I rejected Christ and lost my soul? That brother is himself a guilty
   rebel, confounded, and agonized, and quailing before the awful Judge,
   and how can he befriend you in such an awful hour! Fear not his
   displeasure now, but rather warn him while you can, to escape for his
   life ere the wrath of the Lord wax hot against him, and there be no
   12. If you would be saved, you must not indulge prejudices against
   either God, or His ministers, or against Christians, or against
   anything religious.
There are some persons of peculiar temperament who are greatly in
   danger of losing their souls because they are tempted to strong
   prejudices. Once committed either in favour of or against any persons
   or things they are exceedingly apt to become so fixed as never more to
   be really honest. And when these persons or things in regard to which
   they become committed, are so connected with religion, that their
   prejudices stand arrayed against their fulfilling the great conditions
   of salvation, the effect can be nothing else than ruinous. For it is
   naturally indispensable to salvation that you should be entirely
   honest. Your soul must act before God in the open sincerity of truth,
   or you cannot be converted.
   I have known persons in revivals to remain a long time under great
   conviction, without submitting themselves to God, and by careful
   inquiry I have found them wholly hedged in by their prejudices, and yet
   so blind to this fact that they would not admit that they had any
   prejudice at all. In my observation of convicted sinners, I have found
   this among the most common obstacles in the way of the salvation of
   souls. Men become committed against religion, and remaining in this
   state it is naturally impossible that they should repent. God will not
   humour your prejudices, or lower His prescribed conditions of salvation
   to accommodate your feelings.
   Again, you must. give up all hostile feelings in cases where you have
   been really injured. Sometimes I have seen persons evidently shut out
   from the kingdom of heaven, because having been really injured, they
   would not forgive and forget, but maintained such a spirit of
   resistance and revenge, that they could not, in the nature of the case,
   repent of the sin toward God, nor could God forgive them. Of course
   they lost heaven. I have heard men say, "I cannot forgive--I will not
   forgive--I have been injured, and I never will forgive that wrong." Now
   mark: you must not hold on to such feelings; if you do, you cannot be
   Again, you must not suffer yourself to be stumbled by the prejudices of
   others. I have often been struck with the state of things in families,
   where the parents or older persons had prejudices against the minister,
   and have wondered why those parents were not more wise than to lay
   stumbling-blocks before their children to ruin their souls. This is
   often the true reason why children are not converted. Their minds are
   turned against the Gospel, by being turned against those from whom they
   hear it preached. I would rather have persons come into my family, and
   curse and swear before my children, than to have them speak against
   those who preach to them the Gospel. Therefore I say to all
   parents--take care what you say, if you would not shut the gate of
   heaven against your children!

   Again, do not allow yourself to take some fixed position, and then
   suffer the stand you have taken to debar you from doing any obvious
   duty. Persons sometimes allow themselves to be committed against taking
   what is called "the anxious seat;" and consequently they refuse to go
   forward under circumstances when it is obviously proper that they
   should, and where their refusal to do so, places them in an attitude
   unfavourable, and perhaps fatal to their conversion. Let every sinner
   beware of this!
   Again, do not hold on to anything about which you have any doubt of its
   lawfulness or propriety. Cases often occur in which persons are not
   fully satisfied that a thing is wrong, and yet are not satisfied that
   it is right. Now in cases of this sort it should not be enough to say,
   "such and such Christians do so;" you ought to have better reasons than
   this for your course of conduct. If you ever expect to be saved, you
   must abandon all practices which you even suspect to be wrong. This
   principle seems to be involved in the passage, "He that doubteth is
   damned if he eat; for whatsoever is not of faith is sin." To do that
   which is of doubtful propriety is to allow yourself to tamper with the
   divine authority, and cannot fail to break down in your mind that
   solemn dread of sinning which, if you would ever be saved, you must
   carefully cherish.
   Again, if you would be saved, do not look at professors and wait for
   them to become engaged as they should be in the great work of God. If
   they are not what they ought to be, let them alone. Let them bear their
   own awful responsibility. It often happens that convicted sinners
   compare themselves with professed Christians, and excuse themselves for
   delaying their duty, because professed Christians are delaying theirs.
   Sinners must not do this if they would ever be saved. It is very
   probable that you will always find guilty professors enough to stumble
   over into hell if you will allow yourself to do so.
   But on the other hand, many professors may not be nearly so bad as you
   suppose, and you must not be censorious, putting the worst
   constructions upon their conduct. You have other work to do than this.
   Let them stand or fall to their own master. Unless you abandon the
   practice of picking flaws in the conduct of professed Christians, it is
   utterly impossible that you should be saved.
   Again, do not depend upon professors--on their prayers or influence in
   any way. I have known children hang a long time upon the prayers of
   their parents, putting those prayers in the place of Jesus Christ, or
   at least in the place of their own present efforts to do their duty.
   Now this course pleases Satan entirely. He would ask nothing more to
   make sure of you. Therefore, depend on no prayers--not even those of
   the holiest Christians on earth. The matter of your conversion lies
   between yourself and God alone, as really as if you were the only
   sinner in all the world, or as if there were no other beings in the
   universe but yourself and your God.

   Do not seek for any apology or excuse whatever. I dwell upon this and
   urge it the more because I so often find persons resting on some excuse
   without being themselves aware of it. In conversation with them upon
   their spiritual state, I see this and say, "There you are resting on
   that excuse." "Am I?" say they, "I did not know it."
   Do not seek for stumbling-blocks. Sinners, a little disturbed in their
   stupidity, begin to cast about for stumbling-blocks for
   self-vindication. All at once they become wide awake to the faults of
   professors, as if they had to bear the care of all the churches. The
   real fact is, they are all engaged to find something to which they can
   take exception, so that they can thereby blunt the keen edge of truth
   upon their own consciences. This never helps along their own salvation. 
   Do not tempt the forbearance of God. If you do, you are in the utmost
   danger of being given over forever. Do not presume that you may go on
   yet longer in your sins, and still find the gate of mercy. This
   presumption has paved the way for the ruin of many souls.
   Do not despair of salvation and settle down in unbelief, saying, "There
   is no mercy for me." You must not despair in any such sense as to shut
   yourself out from the kingdom. You may well despair of being saved
   without Christ and without repentance; but you are bound to believe the
   Gospel; and to do this is to believe the glad tidings that Jesus Christ
   has come to save sinners, even the chief, and that "Him that cometh to
   Him He will in no wise cast out." You have no right to disbelieve this,
   and act as if there were no truth in it.

   You must not wait for more conviction. Why do you need any more? You
   know your guilt and know your present duty. Nothing can be more
   preposterous, therefore, than to wait for more conviction. If you did
   not know that you are a sinner, or that you are guilty for sin, there
   might be some fitness in seeking for conviction of the truth on these
   Do not wait for more or for different feelings. Sinners are often
   saying, "I must feel differently before I can come to Christ," or, "I
   must have more feeling." As if this were the great thing which God
   requires of them. In this they are altogether mistaken.
   Do not wait to be better prepared. While you wait you are growing worse
   and worse, and are fast rendering your salvation impossible. 
   Don't wait for God to change your heart. Why should you wait for Him to
   do what Heo His command?

   Don't try to recommend yourself to God by prayers or tears or by
   anything else whatsoever. Do you suppose your prayers lay God under any
   obligation to forgive you? Suppose you owed a man five hundred talents,
   and should go a hundred times a week and beg him to remit to you this
   debt; and then should enter your prayers in account against your
   creditor, as so much claim against him. Suppose you should pursue this
   course till you had canceled the debt, as you suppose-- could you hope
   to prove anything by this course except that you were mad? And yet
   sinners seem to suppose that their many prayers and tears lay the Lord
   under real obligation to them to forgive them.
   Never rely on. anything else whatever than Jesus Christ, and Him
   crucified. It is preposterous for you to hope, as many do, to make some
   propitiation by your own sufferings. In my early experience I thought I
   could not expect to be converted at once, but must be bowed down a long
   time. I said to myself, "God will not pity me till I feel worse than I
   do now. I can't expect Him to forgive me till I feel a greater agony of
   soul than this." Not even if I could have gone on augmenting my
   sufferings till they equalled the miseries of hell, it could not have
   changed God. The fact is, God does not ask of you that you should
   suffer. Your sufferings cannot in the nature of the case avail for
   atonement. Why, therefore, should you attempt to thrust aside the
   system of God's providing, and thrust in one of your own?

   There is another view of the case. The thing God demands of you is that
   you should bow your stubborn will to Him. Just as a child in the
   attitude of disobedience, and required to submit, might fall to weeping
   and groaning, and to every expression of agony, and might even torture
   himself, in hope of moving the pity of his father, but all the time
   refuses to submit to parental authority. He would be very glad to put
   his own sufferings in the place of the submission demanded. This is
   what the sinner is doing. He would fain put his own sufferings in the
   place of submission to God, and move the pity of the Lord so much that
   He would recede from the hard condition of repentance and submission. 
   If you would be saved you must not listen at all to those who pity you,
   and who impliedly take your part against God, and try to make you think
   you are not so bad as you are. I once knew a woman who, after a long
   season of distressing conviction, fell into great despair; her health
   sank, and she seemed about to die. All this time she found no relief,
   but seemed only to wax worse and worse, sinking down in stem and awful
   despair. Her friends, instead of dealing plainly and faithfully with
   her, and probing her guilty heart to the bottom, had taken the course
   of pitying her, and almost complained of the Lord that He would not
   have compassion on the poor agonized, dying woman. At length, as she
   seemed in the last stages of life--so weak as to be scarcely able to
   speak in a low voice, there happened in a minister who better
   understood how to deal with convicted sinners. The woman's friends
   cautioned him to deal very carefully with her, as she was in a dreadful
   state and greatly to be pitied; but he judged it best to deal with her
   very faithfully. As he approached her bed-side, she raised her faint
   voice and begged for a little water. "Unless you repent, you will soon
   be," said he, "where there is not a drop of water to cool your tongue."
   "O," she cried, "must I go down to hell?" "Yes, you must, and you will,
soon, unless you repent and submit to God. Why don't you repent and
   submit immediately?" "O," she replied, "it is an awful thing to go to
   hell!" "Yes, and for that very reason Christ has provided an atonement
   through Jesus Christ, but you won't accept it. He brings the cup of
   salvation to your lips, and you thrust it away. Why will you do this?
   Why will you persist in being an enemy of God and scorn His offered
   salvation, when you might become His friend and have salvation if you

   This was the strain of their conversation, and its result was, that the
   woman saw her guilt and her duty, and turning to the Lord, found pardon
   and peace.
   Therefore I say, if your conscience convicts you of sin, don't let
   anybody take your part against God. Your wound needs not a plaster, but
   a probe. Don't fear the probe; it is the only thing that can save you.
   Don't seek to hide your guilt, or veil your eyes from seeing it, nor be
   afraid to know the worst, for you must know the very worst, and the
   sooner you know it the better. I warn you, don't look after some
   physician to give you an opiate, for you don't need it. Shun, as you
   would. death itself, all those who would speak to you smooth things and
   prophesy deceits. They would surely ruin your soul.

   Again, do not suppose that if you become a Christian, it will interfere
   with any of the necessary or appropriate duties of life, or with
   anything whatever to which you ought to attend. No; religion never
   interferes with any real duty. So far is this from being the case, that
   in fact a proper attention to your various duties is indispensable to
   your being religious. You cannot serve God without.

   Moreover, if you would be saved you must not give heed to anything that
   ld be saved. No consideration thrown in your way should be allowed to
   have the weight of a straw or a feather. Jesus Christ has illustrated
   and enforced this by several parables, especially in the one which
   compares the kingdom of heaven to "a merchant-man seeking goodly
   pearls, who when he had found one pearl of great price went and sold
   all that he had and bought it." In another parable, the kingdom of
   heaven is said to be "like treasure hid in a field, which, when a man
   hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that
   he hath and buyeth that field." Thus forcibly are men taught that they
   must be ready to make any sacrifice whatever which may be requisite in
   order to gain the kingdom of heaven.
   Again, you must not seek religion selfishly. You must not make your own
   salvation or happiness the supreme end. Beware, for if you make this
   your supreme end you will get a false hope, and will probably glide
   along down the pathway of the hypocrite into the deepest hell.
II. What sinners must do to be saved.

   1. You must understand what you have to do. It is of the utmost
   importance that you should see this clearly. You need to know that you
   must return to God, and to understand what this means. The difficulty
   between yourself and God is that you have stolen yourself and run away
   from His service. You belong of right to God. He created you for
   Himself, and hence had a perfectly righteous claim to the homage of
   your heart, and the service of your life. But you, instead of living to
   meet His claims, have run away--have deserted from God's service, and
   have lived to please yourself. Now your duty is to return and restore
   yourself to God.

   2. You must return and confess your sins to God. You must confess that
   you have been all wrong, and that God has been all right. Go before the
   Lord and lay open the depth of your guilt. Tell Him you deserve just as
   much damnation as He has threatened.
   These confessions are naturally indispensable to your being forgiven.
   In accordance with this the Lord says, "If then their uncircumcised
   hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their
   iniquity, then will I remember my covenant." Then God can forgive. But
   so long as you controvert this point, and will not concede that God is
   right, or admit that you are wrong, He can never forgive you.

   You must moreover confess to man if you have injured any one. And is it
   not a fact that you have injured some, and perhaps many of your
   fellow-men? Have you not slandered your neighbour and said things which
   you have no right to say? Have you not in some instances, which you
   could call to mind if you would, lied to them, or about them, or
   covered up or perverted the truth; and have you not been willing that
   others should have false impressions of you or of your conduct? If so,
   you must renounce all such iniquity, for "He that covereth his sins
   shall not prosper; while he that confesseth and forsaketh them shall
   find mercy." And, furthermore, you must not only confess your sins to
   God and to the men you have injured, but you must also make
   restitution. You have not taken the position of a penitent before, God
   and man until you have done this also.
   God cannot treat you as a penitent until you have done it.

   I do not mean by this that God cannot forgive you until you have
   carried into effect your purpose of restitution by finishing the
   outward act, for sometimes it may demand time, and may in some cases be
   itself impossible to you. But the purpose must be sincere and thorough
   before you can be forgiven of God.

   3. You must renounce yourself. In this is implied,

   (1.) That you renounce your own righteousness, forever discarding the
   very idea of having any righteousness in yourself.
   (2.) That you forever relinquish the idea of having done any good which
   ought to commend you to God, or be ever thought of as a ground of your

   (3.) That you renounce your own will, and be ever ready to say not in
   word only, but in heart, "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in
   heaven." You must consent most heartily that God's will shall be your
   supreme law.

   (4.) That you renounce your own way and let God have His own way in
   everything. Never suffer yourself to fret and be rasped by anything
   whatever; for since God's agency extends to all events, you ought to
   recognize His hand in all things; and of course to fret at anything
   whatever is to fret against God who has at least permitted that thing
   to occur as it does. So long, therefore, as you suffer yourself to
   fret, you are not right with God. You must become before God as a
   little child, subdued and trustful at His feet. Let the weather be fair
   or foul, consent that God should have His way. Let all things go well
   with you, or as men call it, ill; yet let God do His pleasure, and let
   it be your part to submit in perfect resignation. Until you take this
   ground you cannot be saved.

   4. You must come to Christ. You must accept of Christ really and fully
   as your Saviour. Renouncing all thought of depending on anything you
have done or can do, you must accept of Christ as your atoning
   sacrifice, and as your ever-living Mediator before God. Without the
   least qualification or reserve you must place yourself under His wing
   as your Saviour.

   5. You must seek supremely to please Christ, and not yourself. It is
   naturally impossible that you should be saved until you come into this
   attitude of mind--until you are so well pleased with Christ in all
   respects as to find your pleasure in doing His. It is in the nature of
   things impossible that you should be happy in any other state of mind,
   or unhappy in this. For, His pleasure is infinitely good and right.
   When, therefore, His good pleasure becomes your good pleasure, and your
   will harmonizes entirely with His, then you will be happy for the same
   reason that He is happy, and you cannot fail of being happy any more
   than Jesus Christ can. And this becoming supremely happy in God's will
   is essentially the idea of salvation. In this state of mind you are
   saved. Out of it you cannot be.

   It has often struck my mind with great force, that many professors of
   religion are deplorably and utterly mistaken on this point. Their real
   feeling is that Christ's service is an iron collar--an insufferably
   hard yoke. Hence, they labour exceedingly to throw off some of this
   burden. They try to make it out that Christ does not require much, if
   any, self-denial--much, if any, deviation from the course of
   worldliness and sin. O, if they could only get the standard of
   Christian duty quite down to a level with the fashions and customs of
   this world! How much easier then to live a Christian life and wear
   Christ's yoke!

   But taking Christ's yoke as it really is, it becomes in their view an
   iron collar. Doing the will of Christ, instead of their own, is a hard
   business. Now if doing Christ's will is religion, (and who can doubt
   it?) then they only need enough of it; and in their state of mind they
   will be supremely wretched. Let me ask those who groan under the idea
   that they must be religious--who deem it awful hard--but they must--how
   much religion of this kind would it take to make hell? Surely not much!
   When it gives you no joy to do God's pleasure, and yet you are shut up
   to the doing of His pleasure is the only way to be saved, and are
   thereby perpetually dragooned into the doing of what you hate, as the
   only means of escaping hell, would not this be itself a hell? Can you
   not see that in this state of mind you are not saved and cannot be?
   To be saved you must come into a state of mind in which you will ask no
   higher joy than to do God's pleasure. This alone will be forever enough
   to fill your cup to overflowing.

   You must have all confidence in Christ, or you cannot so saved. You
   must absolutely believe in Him--believe all His words of promise. They
   were given you to be believed, and unless you believe them they can do
   you no good at all. So far from helping you without you exercise faith
   in them, they will only aggravate your guilt for unbelief. God would be
   believed when He speaks in love to lost sinners. He gave them these
   "exceeding great and precious promises, that they, by faith in them,
   might escape the corruption that is in the world through lust." But
   thousands of professors of religion know not how to use these promises,
   and as to them or any profitable use they make, the promises might as
   well have been written on the sands of the sea.
   Sinners, too, will go down to hell in unbroken masses, unless they
   believe and take hold of God by faith in His promise. O, His awful
   wrath is out against them! And He says, "I would go through them, I
   would burn them up together; or let him take hold of My strength, that
   he may make peace with Me, and he shall make peace with Me." Yes, let
   him stir up himself and take hold of My arm, strong to save, and then
   he may make peace with Me. Do you ask how take hold? By faith. Yes, by
   faith; believe His words and take hold; take hold of His strong arm and
   swing right out over hell, and don't be afraid any more than if there
   were no hell.

   But you say--I do believe, and yet I am not saved. No, you don't
   believe. A woman said to me, "I believe, I know I do, and yet here I am
   in my sins." No, said 1, you don't. Have you as much confidence in God
   as you would have in me if I had promised you a dollar? Do you ever
   pray to God? And, if so, do you come with any such confidence as you
   would have if you came to me to ask for a promised dollar? Oh, until
   you have as much faith in God as this, aye and more-- until you have
   more confidence in God than you would have in ten thousand men, your
   faith does not honour God, and you cannot hope to please Him. You must
   say--Let God be true though every man be a liar."
   But you say, "O, I am a sinner, and how can I believe? I know you are a
   sinner, and so are all men to whom God has given these promises. "O,
   but I am a great sinner!" Well, "It is a faithful saying and worthy of
   all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners,
   of whom," Paul says, "I am the chief" So you need not despair.
   7. You must forsake all that you have, or you cannot be Christ's
   disciple. There must be absolute and total self-denial.
   By this I do not mean that you are never to eat again, or never again
   to clothe yourself, or never more enjoy the society of your
   friends--no, not this; but that you should cease entirely from using
   any of these enjoyments selfishly. You must no longer think to own
   yourself: your time, your possessions, or anything you have ever called
   your own. All these things you must hold as God's, not yours. In this
   sense you are to forsake all that you have, namely, in the sense of
   laying all upon God's altar to be devoted supremely and only to His
   service. When you come back to God for pardon and salvation, come with
   all you have to lay all at his feet. Come with your body, to offer it
   as a living sacrifice upon His altar. Come with your soul and all its
   powers, and yield them in willing consecration to your God and Saviour.
   Come, bring them all along--everything, body, soul, intellect,
   imagination, acquirements--all, without reserve. Do you say--Must I
   bring them all? Yes, all--absolutely ALL; do not keep back
   anything--don't sin against your own soul, like Ananias and Sapphira,
   by keeping back a part, but renounce your own claim to everything, and
   recognize God's right to all. Say--Lord, these things are not mine. I
   had stolen them, but they were never mine. They were always Thine; I'll
   have them no longer. Lord, these things are all Thine, henceforth and
   forever. Now, what wilt Thou have me to do? I have no business of my
   own to do--I am wholly at Thy disposal. Lord, what work hast Thou for
   me to do?
   In this spirit you must renounce the world, the flesh, and Satan. Your
   fellowship is henceforth to be with Christ, and not with those objects.
   You are to live for Christ, and not for the world, the flesh, or the
   8. You must believe the record God hath given of His Son. He that
   believes not does not receive the record--does not set to his seal that
   God is true. "This is the record that God has given us eternal life,
   and this life is in His Son." The condition of your having it is that
   you believe the record, and of course that you act accordingly. Suppose
   here is a poor man living at your next door, and the mail brings him a
   letter stating that a rich man has died in England, leaving him 100,000
   pounds sterling, and the cashier of a neighbouring bank writes him that
   he has received the amount on deposit for him, and holds it subject to
   his order. Well, the poor man says, I can't believe the record. I can't
   believe there ever was any such rich man; I can't believe there is
   100,000 pounds for me. So he must live and die as poor as Lazarus,
   because he won't believe the record.
   Now, mark; this is just the case with the unbelieving sinner. God has
   given you eternal life, and it waits your order; but you don't get it
   because you will not believe, and therefore will not make out the
   order, and present in due form the application.

   Ah, but you say, I must have some feeling before I can believe--how can
   I believe till I have the feeling? So the poor man might say--How can I
   believe that the 100,000 pounds is mine; I have not got a farthing of
   it now; I am as poor as ever. Yes, you are poor because you will not
   believe. If you would believe, you might go and buy out every store in
   this country. Still you cry, I am as poor as ever. I can't believe it;
   see my poor worn clothes--I was never more ragged in my life; I have
   not a particle of the feeling and the comforts of a rich man. So the
   sinner can't believe till he gets the inward experience! He must wait
   to have some of the feeling of a saved sinner before he can believe the
   record and take hold of the salvation! Preposterous enough! So the poor
   man must wait to get his new clothes and fine house before he can
   believe his documents and draw for his money. Of course he dooms
   himself to everlasting poverty, although mountains of gold were all his
   Now, sinner, you must understand this. Why should you be lost when
   eternal life is bought and offered you by the last will and testament
   of the Lord Jesus Christ? Will you not believe the record and draw for
   the amount at once! Do for mercy's sake understand this and not lose
   heaven by your own folly!
   I must conclude by saying, that if you would be saved you must accept a
   prepared salvation, one already prepared and full, and present. You
   must be willing to give up all your sins, and be saved from them, all,
   now and henceforth! Until you consent to this, you cannot be saved at
   all. Many would be willing to be saved in heaven, if they might hold on
   to some sins while on earth--or rather they think they would Eke heaven
   on such terms. But the fact is, they would as much dislike a pure heart
   and a holy life in heaven as they do on earth, and they deceive
   themselves utterly in supposing that they are ready or even willing to
   go to such a heaven as God has prepared for His people. No, there can
   be no heaven except for those who accept a salvation from all sin in
   this world. They must take the Gospel as a system which holds no
   compromise with sin--which contemplates full deliverance from sin even
   now, and makes provision accordingly. Any other gospel is not the true
   one, and to accept of Christ's Gospel in any other sense is not to
   accept it all. Its first and its last condition is swarn and eternal
   renunciation of all sin.


   1. Paul did not give the same answer to this question which a
   consistent Universalist would give. The latter would say, You are to be
   saved by being first punished according to your sin. All men must
   expect to be punished all that their sins deserve. But Paul did not
   answer thus. Miserable comforter had he been if he had answered after
   this sort: "You must all be punished according to the letter of the law
   you have broken." This could scarcely have been called gospel. 
   Nor again did Paul give the Universalist's answer and say, "Do not
   concern yourself about this matter of being saved, all men are sure
   enough of being saved without any particular anxiety about it." Not so
   Paul; no--he understood and did not forbear to express the necessity of
   believing on the Lord Jesus Christ as the condition of being saved.

   2. Take care that you do not sin willfully after saying understood the
   truth concerning the way of salvation. Your danger of this is great
   precisely in proportion as you see your duty clearly. The most terrible
   damnation must fall on the head of those who "knew their duty, but who
   did it not." When, therefore, you are told plainly and truly what your
   duty is, be on your guard lest you let salvation slip out of your
   hands. It may never come so near your reach again.

   3. Do not wait, even to go home, before you obey God. Make up your mind
   now, at once, to close in with the offers of salvation. Why not? Are
   they not most reasonable?

   4. Let your mind act upon this great proposal and embrace it just as
   you would any other important proposition. God lays the proposition
   before you; you hear it explained, and you understand it; now the next
   and only remaining step is--to embrace it with all your heart. just as
   any other great question (we may suppose it a question of life or
   death) might come before a community--the case be fully stated, the
   conditions explained, and then the issue is made. Will you subscribe?
   Will you engage to meet these conditions? Do you heartily embrace the
   proposition? Now all this would be intelligible.

   Just so, now, in the case of the sinner. You understand the
   proposition. You know the conditions of salvation. You understand the
   contract into which you are to enter with your God and Saviour. You
   covenant to give your all to God--to lay yourself upon His altar to be
   used up there just as He pleases to use you. And now the only remaining
   question is, Will you consent to this at once? Will you go for full and
   everlasting consecration with all your heart?
   5. The jailer made no excuse. When he knew his duty, in a moment he
   yielded. Paul told him what to do, and he did it. Possibly he might
   have heard something about Paul's preaching before this night; but
   probably not much. But now he fears for his life. How often have I been
   struck with this case! There was a dark-minded heathen. He had heard,
   we must suppose, a great deal of slang about these apostles; but
   notwithstanding all, he came to them for truth; hearing, he is
   convinced, and being convinced, he yields at once. Paul uttered a
   single sentence--he received it, embraced it, and it is done.
   Now you, sinner, know and admit all this truth, and yet infinitely
   strange as it is, you will not, in a moment, believe and embrace it
   with all your heart. O, will not Sodom and Gomorrah rise up against you
   in the judgment and condemn you! That heathen jailer--how could you
   bear to see him on that dread day, and stand rebuked by his example

   6. It is remarkable that Paul said nothing about the jailer's needing
   any help in order to believe and repent. He did not even mention the
   work of the Spirit, or allude to the jailer's need of it. But it should
   be noticed that Paul gave the jailer just those directions which would
   most effectually secure the Spirit's aid and promote his action.

   7. The jailer seems to have made no delay at all, waiting for no future
   or better time; but as soon as the conditions are before him be yields
   and embraces; no sooner is the proposition made than he seizes upon it
   in a moment.

   I was once preaching in a village in New York, and there sat before me
   a lawyer who had been greatly offended with the Gospel. But that day I
   noticed he sat with fixed eye and open mouth, leaned forward as if he
   would seize each word as it came. I was explaining and simplifying the
   Gospel, and when I came to state just how the Gospel is offered to men,
   he said to me afterwards: I snatched at it--I put out my hand, (suiting
   the action to the thought), and seized it --and it became mine.

   So in my own case while in the woods praying, after I had burst away
   from the fear of man, and began to give scope to my feelings, this
   passage fell upon me, "Ye shall seek for Me and find Me when ye shall
   search for Me with all your heart." For the first time in the world I
   found that I believed a passage in the Bible. I had supposed that I
   believed before, but surely never before as I now did. Now, said I to
   myself, "This is the word of the everlasting God. My God, I take Thee
   at Thy word. Thou sayest I shall find Thee when I search for Thee with
   all my heart, and now, Lord, I do search for Thee, I know, with all my
   heart." And true enough, I did find the Lord. Never in all my life was
   I more certain of anything than I was then that I had found the Lord. 
   This is the very idea of His promises--they were made to be
   believed--to be laid hold of as God's own words, and acted upon as if
   they actually meant just what they say. When God says, "Look unto Me
   and be ye saved," He would have us look unto Him as if He really had
   salvation in His hands to give, and withal a heart to give it. The true
   spirit of faith is well expressed by the Psalmist, "When Thou saidst,
   `Seek ye my face,' my heart replied--Thy face, Lord, will I seek." This
   is the way--let your heart at once respond to the blessed words of
   invitation and of promise.

   Ah, but you say, I am not a Christian. And you never will be till you
   believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour. If you never become a
   Christian, the reason will be because you do not and will not believe
   the Gospel and embrace it with all your heart.
   The promises were made to be believed, and belong to an one who will
   believe them. They reach forth their precious words to all, and whoever
   will, may take them as his own. Now will you believe that the Father
   has given you eternal life? This is the fact declared; will you believe

   You have now been told what you must not do and what you must do to be
   saved; are you pre pared to act? Do you say, I am ready to renounce my
   own pleasure, and henceforth seek no other pleasure than to please God?
   Can you forego everything else for the sake of this?

   Sinner, do you want to please God, or would you choose to please
   yourself? Are you willing now to please God and to begin by believing
   on the Lord Jesus Christ unto salvation? Will you be as simple-hearted
   as the jailer was? And act as promptly?

   I demand your decision now. I dare not have you go home first, lest you
   get to talking about something else, and let slip these words of life
   and this precious opportunity to grasp an offered salvation. And whom
   do you suppose I am now addressing? Every impenitent sinner in this
   house--every one. I call heaven and earth to record that I have set the
   Gospel before you today. Will you take it? Is it not reasonable for you
   to decide at once? Are you ready, now, to say before high heaven and
   before this congregation, "I will renounce myself and yield to God! I
   am the Lord's, and let all men and angels bear me witness--I am
   forevermore the Lord's." Sinner, the infinite God waits for your

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