Charles Finney

   "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;
   let him know that be which converteth the sinner from the error of his
   way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of
   sins."-James v. 19, 20.
   A SUBJECT of present duty and of great practical importance is brought
   before us in this text. That we may clearly apprehend it, let us-

I. What constitutes a sinner?

   1. A sinner is, essentially, a moral agent. So much he must be,
   whatever else he may or may not be. He must have free will, in the
   sense of being able to originate his own activities. He must be the
   responsible author of his own acts, in such a sense that he is not
   compelled irresistibly to act one way or another, otherwise than
   according to his own free choice.
   He must also have intellect, so that he can understand his own
   relations and apprehend his moral responsibilities. An idiot, lacking
   this element of constitutional character, is not a moral agent and can
   not be a sinner.
   He must also have sensibility, so that he can be moved to action--so
   that there can be inducement to voluntary activity, and also a capacity
   to appropriate the motives for right or wrong action.
   These are the essential elements of mind necessary to constitute a
   moral agent. Yet these are not all the facts which develop themselves
   in a sinner.
   2. He is a selfish moral agent devoted to his own interests, making
   himself his own supreme end of action. He looks on his own things, not
   on the things of others. His own interests, not the interests of
   others, are his chief concern.
   Thus every sinner is a moral agent, acting under this law of
   selfishness, having free will and all the powers of a moral agent, but
   making self the great end of all his action. This is a sinner.
   3. We have here the true idea of sin. It is in an important sense,
 error. A sinner is one that "erreth." "He that converteth a sinner from
   the error of his ways." It is not a mere mistake, for mistakes are made
   through ignorance or incapacity. Nor is it a mere defect of
   constitution, attributable to its author. But it is an "error in his
   ways." It is missing the mark in his voluntary course of conduct. It is
   a voluntary divergence from the line of duty. It is not an innocent
   mistake, but a reckless yielding to impulse. It involves a wrong end--a
   bad intention--a being influenced by appetite or passion, in opposition
   to reason and conscience. It is an attempt to secure some present
   gratification at the expense of resisting convictions of duty. This is
   most emphatically missing the mark.


II. What is conversion?

   What is it to "convert the sinner from the error of his ways?" 
   This error lies in his having a wrong object of life--his own present
   worldly interests. Hence to convert him from the error of his ways is
   to turn him from this course to a benevolent consecration of himself to
   God and to human well-being. This is precisely what is meant by
   conversion. It is changing the great moral end of action. It supplants
   selfishness and substitutes benevolence in its stead.

III. In what sense does man convert a sinner?
   Our text reads, "If any of you do err from the truth and one convert
   him"--implying that man may convert a sinner. But in what sense can
   this be said and done?
   I answer, the change must of necessity be a voluntary one, not a change
   in the essence of the soul, nor in the essence of the body--not any
   change in the created constitutional faculties; but a change which the
   mind itself, acting under various influences, makes as to its own
   voluntary end of action. It is an intelligent change--the mind, acting
   intelligently and freely, changes its moral course, and does it for
   perceived reasons.
   The Bible ascribes conversion to various agencies: 1. To God. God is
   spoken of as converting sinners, and Christians with propriety pray to
   God to do so.
   2. Christians are spoken of as converting sinners. We see this in our text.
   3. The truth is also said to convert sinners.
   Again, let it be considered, no man can convert another without the
   co-operation and consent of that other. His conversion consists in his
   yielding up his will and changing his voluntary course. He can never do
   this against his own free will. He may be persuaded and induced to
   change his voluntary course; but to be persuaded is simply to be led to
   change one's chosen course and choose another.
   Even God can not convert a sinner without his own consent. He can not,
   for the simple reason that the thing involves a contradiction. The
   being converted implies his own consent--else it is no conversion at
   all. God converts men, therefore, only as He persuades them to turn
   from the error of their selfish ways to the rightness of benevolent
   So, also, man can convert a sinner only in the sense of presenting the
   reasons that induce the voluntary change and thus persuading him to
   repent. If he can do this, then he converts a sinner from the error of
   his ways. But the Bible informs us that man alone never does or can
   convert a sinner.
   It holds, however, that when man acts humbly, depending on God, God
   works with him and by him. Men are "laborers together with God." They
   present reasons and God enforces those reasons on the mind. When the
   minister preaches, or when you converse with sinners, man presents
   truth, and God causes the mind to see it with great clearness and to
   feel its personal application with great power. Man persuades and God
   persuades; man speaks to his ear--God speaks to his heart. Man presents
   truth through the medium of his senses to reach his free mind; God
   presses it upon his mind so as to secure his voluntary yielding to its
   claims. Thus the Bible speaks of sinners as being persuaded, "Almost
   thou persuadest me to be a Christian." In this the language of the
   Bible is entirely natural. just as if you should say you had turned a
man from his purpose, or that your arguments had turned him, or that
   his own convictions of truth had turned him. So the language of the
   Bible on this subject is altogether simple and artless, speaking right
   out in perfect harmony with the laws of mind.

IV. What kind of death is meant by the text--"Shall save a soul from death."
   Observe, it is a soul, not a body, that is to be saved from death;
   consequently we may dismiss all thought of the death of the body in
   this connection. However truly converted, his body must nevertheless
   The passage speaks of the death of the soul.
   By the death of the soul is sometimes meant spiritual death, a state in
   which the mind is not influenced by truth as it should be. The man is
   under the dominion of sin and repels the influence of truth.
   Or the death of the soul may be eternal death--the utter loss of the
   soul, and itsfinal ruin. The sinner is, of course, spiritually dead,
   and if this condition were to continue through eternity, this would
   become eternal death. Yet the Bible represents the sinner dying
   unpardoned, as "going away into everlasting punishment," and as being
   "punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord
   and from the glory of His power." To be always a sinner is awful
   enough--is a death of fearful horror; but how terribly augmented is
   even this when you conceive of it as heightened by everlasting
   punishment, far away "from the presence of the Lord and from the glory
   of His power!"

V. The importance of saving a soul from death.
   Our text says, he who converts a sinner saves a soul from death.
   Consequently he saves him from all the misery he else must have
   endured. So much misery is saved.
   And this amount is greater in the case of each sinner saved than all
   that has been experienced in our entire world up to this hour. This may
   startle you at first view and may seem incredible. Yet you have only to
   consider the matter attentively and you will see it must be true. That
   which has no end--which swells utterly beyond all our capacities for
   computation--must surpass any finite amount, however great.
   Yet the amount of actual misery experienced in this world has been very
   great. As you go about the great cities in any country you can not fail
   to see it. Suppose you could ascend some lofty eminence and stretch
   your vision over a whole continent, just to take in at one glance all
   its miseries. Suppose you had an eye to see all forms of human woe and
   measure their magnitude--all the woes of slavery, oppression,
   intemperance, war, lust, disease, heart-anguish; suppose you could
   stand above some battle-field and hear as in one ascending volume all
   its groans and curses, and take the gauge and dimensions of its
   unutterable woes; suppose you could hear the echo of its agonies as
   they roll up to the very heavens; you must say--There is indeed an
   ocean of agony here; yet all this is only a drop in the bucket compared
   with that vast amount, defying all calculation, which each sinner,
   lost, must endure, and from which each sinner, converted, is saved. If
   you were to see the cars rush over a dozen men at once, grinding their
   flesh and bones, you could not bear the sight. Perhaps you would even
   faint away. Oh, if you could see all the agonies of the earth
   accumulated, and could hear the awful groans ascending in one deafening
   roar that would shake the very earth, how must your nerves quiver! Yet
   all this would be merely nothing compared with the eternal sufferings
   of one lost soul! And this is true, however low may be the degree of
   this lost soul's suffering, each moment of his existence.
   Yet farther. The amount of suffering thus saved is greater not only
   than all that ever has been, but than all that ever will be endured in
   this world. And this is true, even although the number of inhabitants
   be supposed to be increased a million-fold, and their miseries be
   augmented in like proportion. No matter how low the degree of suffering
   which the sinner would endure, yet our supposition, if the earth's
   population increased a million-fold, and its aggregate of miseries
   augmented in like proportion, can not begin to measure the agonies of
   the lost spirit.
   Or we may extend our comparison and take in all that has yet been
   endured in the universe--all the agonies of earth and all the agonies
   of hell combined, up to this hour--ye; even so, our aggregate is
   utterly too scanty to measure the amount of suffering saved, when one
   sinner is converted. Nay, more, the amount thus saved is greater than
   the created universe ever can endure in any finite duration. Ave, it is
   even greater, myriads of times greater, than all finite minds can ever
   conceive. You may embrace the entire conception of all finite minds, of
   every man and every angel, of all minds but that of God, and still the
   man who saves one soul from death saves in that single act more misery
   from being endured than all this immeasurable amount. He saves more
   misery, by myriads of times, than the entire universe of created minds
   can conceive.
   I am afraid many of you have never given yourselves the trouble to
   think of this subject. You are not to escape from this fearful
   conclusion by saying that suffering is only a natural consequence of
   sin, and that there is no governmental infliction of pain. It matters
   not at all whether the suffering be governmental or natural. The amount
   is all I speak of now. If he continues in his sins, he will be
   miserable forever by natural law; and, therefore, the man who converts
   a sinner from his sins saves all this immeasurable amount of suffering. 
   You may recollect the illustration used by an old divine who attempted
   to give an approximate conception of this idea--an enlarged conception
   by means of the understanding. There are two methods of studying and of
   endeavoring to apprehend the infinite: one by the reason, which simply
   affirms the infinite el and another by the understanding, which only
   approximates toward it by conceptions and estimates of the finite. Both
   these modes of conception may be developed by culture. Let a man stand
   on the deck of a ship and cast his eye abroad upon the shoreless
   expanse of waters, he may get some idea of the vast; or, better, let
   him go out and look at the stars in the dimmed light of evening; he can
   get some idea of their number and of the vastness of that space in
   which they are scattered abroad. On the other hand, his reason tells
   him at once that this space is unlimited. His understanding only helps
   him to approximate toward this great idea. Let him suppose, as he gazes
   upon the countless stars of ether, that he has the power of rising into
   space at pleasure, and that he does ascend with the rapidity of
   lightning for thousands of years. Approaching those glorious orbs, one
   after another, he takes in more and more clear and grand conceptions of
   their magnitude, as he soars on past the moon, the sun, and other suns
   of surpassing splendor and glory. So of the conceptions of the
   understanding in reference to the great idea of eternity.
   The old writer to whom I alluded supposes a bird to be removing a globe
   of earth by taking away a single grain of sand once in a thousand
   years. What an eternity, almost, it would take! And yet this would not
   measure eternity.
   Suppose, sinner, that it is you yourself who is suffering during all
   this period, and that you are destined to suffer until this supposed
   bird has removed the last grain of sand away. Suppose you are to suffer
   nothing more than you have sometimes felt; yet suppose that bird must
   remove, in this slow process, not this world only--for this is but a
   little speck comparatively--but also the whole material universe. Only
   a single grain at a time!

   Or suppose the universe were a million times more extensive than it is,
   and then that you must be a sufferer through all this time, while the
   bird removes slowly a single minute grain once in each thousand years!
   Would it not appear to you like an eternity? If you knew that you must
   be deprived of all happiness for all time, would not the knowledge sink
   into your soul with a force perfectly crushing?
   But, after all, this is only an understanding conception. Let this time
thus measured roll on, until all is removed that God ever created or
   ever can create; even so, it affords scarcely a comparison, for
   eternity has no end. You can not even approximate towards its end.
   After the lapse of the longest period you can conceive, you have
   approached no nearer than you were when you first begun. O, sinner,
   "can your heart endure, or your hands be strong in the day when God
   shall deal thus with you?"
   But let us look at still another view of the case. He who converts a
   sinner not only saves more misery, but confers more happiness than all
   the world has yet enjoyed, or even all the created universe. You have
   converted a sinner, have you? Indeed! Then think what has been gained!
   Does any one ask--What then? Let the facts of the case give the answer.
   The time will come when he will say--In my experience of God and divine
   things, I have enjoyed more than all the created universe had done up
   to the general judgment--more than the aggregate happiness of all
   creatures, during the whole duration of our world; and yet my happiness
   is only just begun! Onward, still onward--onward forever rolls the deep
   tide of my blessedness, and evermore increasing!
   Then look also at the work in which this converted man is engaged. just
   look at it. In some sunny hour when you have caught glimpses of God and
   of His love, and have said--O, if this might only last forever! O, you
   have said, if this stormy world were not around me! O, if my soul had
   wings like a dove, then would I fly away and be at rest. Those were
   only aspirations for the rest of heaven--this which the converted man
   enjoys above is heaven. You must add to this the rich and glorious idea
   of eternal enlargement--perpetual increase. His blessedness not only
   endures forever, but increases forever. And this is the bliss of every
   converted sinner.
   If these things be true, then-
   1. Converting sinners is the work of the Christian life. It is the
   great work to which we, as Christians, are especially appointed. Who
   can doubt this?
   2. It is the great work of life because its importance demands that it
   should be. It is so much beyond any other work in importance that it
   can not, be rationally regarded as anything other or less than the
   great work of life.
   3. It can be made the great work of life, because Jesus Christ has made
   provision for it. His atonement covers the human race and lays the
   foundation so broad that whosoever will may come. The promise of His
   Spirit to aid each Christian in this work is equally broad, and was
   designed to open the way for each one to become a laborer together with
   God in this work of saving souls.
   4. Benevolence can never stop short of it. Where so much good can be
   done and so much misery can be prevented, how is it possible that
   benevolence can fail to do its utmost?
   5. Living to save others is the condition of saving our selves. No man
   is truly converted who does not live to save others. Every truly
   converted man turns from selfishness to benevolence, and benevolence
   surely leads him to do all he can to save the souls of his fellow-man.

   This is the changeless law of benevolent action.
   6. The self-deceived are always to be distinguished by this
   peculiarity--they live to save themselves. This is the chief end of all
   their religion. All their religious efforts and activities tend toward
   this sole object. If they can secure their own conversion so as to be
   pretty sure of it, they are satisfied. Sometimes the ties of natural
   sympathy embrace those who are especially near to them; but selfishness
   goes commonly no further, except as a good name may prompt them on.
   7. Some persons take no pains to convert sinners, but act as if this
   were a matter of no consequence whatever. They do not labor to persuade
   men to be reconciled to God.
   Some seem to be waiting for miraculous interposition. They take no
   pains with their children or friends. Very much as if they felt no
   interest in the great issue, they wait and wait for God or miracle to
   move. Alas, they do nothing in this great work of human life!
   Many professed Christians have no faith in God's blessing, and no
   expectation, thereby, of success. Consequently they make no effort in
   faith. Their own experience is good for nothing to help them, because
   never having had faith, they never have had success. Many ministers
   preach so as to do no good. Having failed so long, they have lost all
   faith. They have not gone to work expecting success, and hence they
   have not bad success.
   Many professors of religion, not ministers, seem to have lost all
   confidence. Ask them if they are doing anything they answer
   truly--nothing. But if their hearts were full of the love of souls or
   of the love of Christ, they would certainly make efforts. They would at
   least try to convert sinners from the error of their ways. They would
   live religion--would hold up its light as a natural spontaneous thing. 
   Each one, male or female, of every age, and in any position in life
   whatsoever, should make it a business to save souls. There are, indeed,
   many other things to be done; let them have their place. But don't
   neglect the greatest of all.
   Many professed Christians seem never to convert sinners. Let me ask you
   how is it with you? Some of you might reply--Under God, I have been the
   means of saving some souls. But some of you can not even say this. You
   know you have never labored honestly and with all your heart for this
   object. And you do not know that you have ever been the means of
   converting one sinner.

   What shall I say of those young converts here? Have you given
   yourselves up to this work? Are you laboring for God? Have you gone to
   your impenitent friends, even to their rooms, and by personal,
   affectionate entreaty, besought them to be reconciled to God? 
   By your pen and by every form of influence you can command have you
   sought to save souls and do what you can in this work? Have you
   Suppose all the professors of religion in this congregation were to do
   this, each in their sphere and each doing all they severally could do,
   how many would be left unconverted? If each one should say, "I lay
   myself on the altar of my God for this work; I confess all my past
   delinquencies; henceforth, God helping me, this shall be the labor of
   my life; "if each one should begin with removing all the old offences
   and occasions of stumbling--should publicly confess and deplore his
   remissness and every other form of public offence, confessing how
   little you have done for souls, crying out: O how wickedly I have lived
   in this matter! but
   I must reform, must confess, repent, and change altogether the course
   of my life; if you were all to do this and then set yourselves each in
   your place, to lay your hand in all earnestness upon your neighbor and
   pluck him out of the fire--how glorious would be the result!
   But to neglect the souls of others and think you shall yet be saved
   yourself is one of guilt's worst blunders! For unless you live to save
   others, how can you hope to be saved yourself? "If any man have not the
   Spirit of Christ, he is none of His."

Ye we they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your
   hearts for that which is highly esteemed among men, is abomination in
   the sight of God." -Luke xvi. 15.
   CHRIST had just spoken the parable of the unjust steward, in which He
   presented the case of one who unjustly used the property of others
   entrusted to him, for the purpose of laying them under. obligation to
   provide for himself after expulsion from His trust. Our Lord represents
   this conduct of the steward as being wise in the sense of
   forethoughtful, and provident for self--a wisdom of the world, void of
   all morality. He uses the case to illustrate and recommend the using of
   wealth in such a way as to make friends for ourselves who at our death
   shall welcome us into "everlasting habitations." Then going deeper,
   even to the bottom principle that should control us in all our use of
   wealth, He lays it down that no man can serve both God and Mammon. Rich
   and covetous men who were serving Mammon need not suppose they could
   serve God too at the same time. The service of the one is not to be
   reconciled with the service of the other.
   The covetous Pharisees heard all these things, and they derided Him. As
   if they would say, "Indeed, you seem to be very sanctimonious, to tell
   us that we do not serve God acceptably! When has there ever been a
   tithe of mint that we did not pay?" Those Pharisees did not admit His
   orthodoxy, by any means. They thought they could serve God and Mammon
   both. Let whoever would say they served Mammon, they knew they served
   God also, and they had nothing but scorn for those teachings that
   showed the inconsistency and absurdity of their worshiping two opposing
   gods and serving two opposing masters.
   Our Lord replied to them in the words of our text, "Ye are they who
   justify yourselves before men, but God knoweth your hearts; for that
   which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God." 
   In pursuing the subject thus presented, I shall-
   Show how and why it is that men highly esteem that which God abhors.
   1. They have a different rule of judgment. God judges by one rule; they
   by another. God's rule requires universal benevolence; their rule is
   satisfied with any amount of selfishness, so be it sufficiently refined
to meet the times. God requires men to devote themselves not to their
   own interests, but to His interests and those of His great family. He
   sets up but one great end--the highest glory of His name and kingdom.
   He asks them to become divinely patriotic, devoting themselves to their
   Creator and to the good of His creatures.
   The world adopts an entirely different rule, allowing men to set up
   their own happiness as their end. It is curious that some pretended
   philosophers have laid down the same rule viz.: that men should pursue
   their own happiness supremely, and only take care not to infringe on
   others' happiness too much. Their doctrine allows men to pursue a
   selfish course, only not in a way to infringe too palpably or, others'
   rights and interests.
   But God's rule is, "Seek not thine own." His law is explicit, "Thou
   shalt love (not thyself, but) the Lord thy God with all thy heart."
   "Love is the fulfilling of the law." "Charity (this same love) seeketh
   not her own." This is characteristic of the love which the law of God
   requires--it does not seek its own. "Let no man seek his own, but every
   man another's." 1 Cor. x. 24. "Look not every man on his own things,
   but every man also on the things of others." "For all seek their own,
   and not the things which are Jesus Christ's." Phil. ii. 4, 21. To seek
   their own interests and not Jesus Christ's, Paul regards as an entire
   departure from the rule of true Christianity.
   God regards nothing as virtue except devotion to the ends. The right
   end is not one's own, but the general good. Hence God's rule requires
   virtue, while man's rule at best only restrains vice. All human
   governments are founded on this principle, as all who study the subject
   know. They do not require benevolence, they only restrain selfishness.
   In the foundation principles of our government. it is affirmed that men
   have certain inalienable rights, one of which is the right to pursue
   each his own happiness. This is affirmed to be an inalienable right,
   and is always assumed to be right in itself, provided it does not
   infringe on others' rights of happiness. But God's rule requires
   positive benevolence and regards nothing else as virtue except devotion
   to the highest good. Man's rule condemns nothing, provided man so
   restrains himself as not to infringe on others' rights.
   Moral character is as the end sought. It can not be predicated of
   muscular action, but must always turn on the end which the mind has in
   view. Men always really assume and know this. They know that the moral
   character is really as the end to which man devotes himself. Hence
   God's law and man's law being as they are, to obey God's is holiness;
   to obey only man's law is sin.
   Men very inconsiderately judge themselves and others, not by God's
   rule, but by man's. They do this to an extent truly wonderful. Look
   into men's real opinions and you will see this. Often, without being at
   all aware of it, men judge themselves, not by God's rule, but by their
   Here I must notice some of the evidences of this, and furnish some
   Thus, for example, a mere negativeteemed by some men. If a man lives in
   a community and does no harm, defrauds no man, does not cheat, or lie
   does no palpable injury to society; transacts his business in a way
   deemed highly honorable and virtuous--this man stands in high repute
   according to the standard of the world. But what does all this really
   amount to? The man is just taking care of himself; that is all. His
   morality is wholly of this negative form. All you can say of him is, He
   does no hurt. Yet this morality is often spoken of in a manner which
   shows that the world highly esteem it. But does God highly esteem it?
   Nay, but it is abomination in His sight.
   Again, a religion which is merely negative is often highly esteemed.
   Men of this religion are careful not to do wrong but what is doing
   wrong? It is thought no wrong to neglect the souls of their neighbors.
   What do they deem wrong? Cheating, lying, stealing. These and such like
   things they will admit are wrong. But what are they doing? Look round
   about you even here and see what men of this class are doing. Many of
   them never try to save a soul. They are highly esteemed for their
   inoffensive life; they do no wrong; but they do nothing to save a soul.
   Their religion is a mere negation. Perhaps they would not cross a ferry
   on the Sabbath; but never would they save a soul from death. They would
   let their own clerks go to hell without one earnest effort to save
   them. Must not such a religion be an abomination to God?
   So, also, of a religion which at best consists of forms and prayers and
   does not add to these the energies of benevolent effort. Such a
   religion is all hollow. Is it serving God to do nothing but ask favors
   for one's self?
   Some keep up Sabbath duties, as they are termed, and family prayer, but
   all their religion consists in keeping up their forms of worship. If
   they add nothing to these, their religion is only an abomination before
   There are still other facts which show that men loosely set up a false
   standard, which they highly esteem, but which God abhors. For example,
   they will require true religion only of ministers; but no real religion
   of anybody else. All men agree in requiring that ministers should be
   really pious. They judge them by the right rule. For example, they
   require ministers to be benevolent. They must enter upon their
   profession for the high object of doing good, and not for the mere sake
   of a living--not for filthy lucre's sake, but for the sake of souls and
   from disinterested love. Else they will have no confidence in a
   But turn this over and apply it to business men. Do they judge
   themselves by this rule? Do they judge each other by this rule? Before
   they will have Christian confidence in a merchant or a mechanic, do
   they insist that these shall be as much above the greed for gain as a
   minister should be. Should be as willing to give up their time to the
   sick as a minister--be as ready to forego a better salary for the sake
   of doing more good, as they insist a minister should be? Who does not
   know that they demand of business men no such conditions of Christian
   character as those which they impose on Gospel ministers? Let us see.
   If a man of business does any service for you, he makes out his bill,
   and if need be, he collects it. Now suppose I should go and visit a
   sick man to give him spiritual counsel--should attend him from time to
   time for counsel and for prayer, till he died, and then should attend
   his funeral; and having done this service, should make up my bill and
send it in, and even collect it; would there not be some talk? People
   would say, What right has he to do that? He ought to perform that
   service for the love of souls, and make no charge for it. This applies
   to those ministers who are not under salary to perform this service, of
   whom there are many. Let any one of these men go and labor ever so much
   among the sick or at funerals, they must not take pay. But let one of
   these ministers send his saw to be filed, and he must pay for it. He
   may send it to that very man whose sick family he has visited by day
   and by night, and whose dead he has buried without charge, and "for the
   love of souls;" but no such "love of souls" binds the mechanic in his
   service. The truth is, they call that religion in a layman which they
   call sin in a minister. That is the fact. I do not complain that men
   take pay for labor, but that they do not apply the same principle to a
   Again, the business aims and practices of business men are almost
   universally an abomination in the sight of God. Almost all of these are
   based on the same principle as human governments are, namely, that the
   only restraints imposed shall be to prevent men from being too selfish,
   allowing them to be just as selfish as they can be and yet leave others
   an equal chance to be selfish too.
   Shall we go into an enumeration of the principles of business men
   respecting their objects and modes of doing business? What would it all
   amount to? Seeking their own ends; doing something, not for others, but
   for self. Provided they do it in a way regarded as honest and honorable
   among men, no further restriction shall be imposed.
   Take the Bible Society for an illustration. This institution is not a
   speculation, entered upon for the good of those who print and publish.
   But the object aimed at is to furnish them as cheap to the purchaser as
   possible, so as to put a Bible into the hands of every human being at
   the lowest possible price. Now it is easy to see that any other course
   and any different principle from this would be universally condemned.
   If Bible societies should become merely a speculation they would cease
   to be benevolent institutions at all, and to claim this character would
   bring down on them the curses of men. But all business ought to be done
   as benevolently as the making of Bibles; why not? If it be not, can it
   be a benevolent business? and if not benevolent, how can it have the
   approval of God? what is a benevolent business? The doing of the utmost
   good--that which is; undertaken for the one only end of doing good, and
   which simply aims to do the utmost good possible. In just this sense,
   men should be patriotic, benevolent, should have a single eye to God's
   glory in all they do, whether they eat or drink or whatever they may
   Yet where do you find the man who holds his fellow-men practically to
   this rule as a condition of their being esteemed Christians, viz., that
   in all their business they should be as benevolent as Bible societies
   are? What should we say of a Bible society which should enter upon a
   manifest speculation and should get as much as they can for their
   Bibles, instead of selling at the lowest living price? What would you
   say of such a Bible society? You would say, "Horrible hypocrite!" I
   must say the same of every Christian who does the same thing. Ungodly
   men do not profess any Christian benevolence, so we will not charge
   this hypocrisy on them, but we will try to get this light before their
   Now place a minister directly before your own mind, and ask, Do you
   judge yourself as you judge him? Do you say of yourself, I ought to do
   for others gratuitously all and whatever I require him to do
   gratuitously? Do you judge yourself by the same rule by which you judge
   Apply this to all business men. No matter what your business is,
   whether high or low, small or great; filing saws, or counting out bank
   bills; you call the Bible society benevolent; do you make your business
   as much so and as truly so in your ends and aims? If not, why not? What
   business have you to be less benevolent than those who print, publish,
   and sell Bibles?
   Here is another thing which is highly esteemed among men, yet is an
   abomination before God, viz.: selfish ambition. How often do you see
   this highly esteemed! I have been amazed to see how men form judgments
   on this matter, Here is a young man who is a good student in the sense
   of making great progress in his studies (a thing the devil might do),
   yet for this only, such young men are often spoken of in the highest
   terms. Provided they do well for themselves, nothing more seems to be
   asked or expected in order to entitle them to high commendation.
   So of professional men. I have in my mind's eye the case of a lawyer
   who was greatly esteemed and caressed by his fellow-men; who was often
   spoken of well by Christians; but what was he? Nothing but an ambitious
   young lawyer, doing everything for ambition--ready at any time to take
   the stump and canvass the whole country--for what? To get some good for
   himself. Yet he is courted by Christian families! Why? Because he is
   doing well for himself. See Daniel Webster. How lauded, I had almost
   said canonized! Perhaps he will be yet. Certainly the same spirit we
   now see would canonize him If this were a Catholic country. But what
   has he done? He has just played the part of an ambitious lawyer and an
   ambitious statesmen; that is all. He has sought great things for
   himself; and having said that. you have said all. Yet how have men
   lauded Daniel Webster! When I came to Syracuse, I saw a vast
   procession. What, said 1, is there a funeral here? Who is dead? Daniel
   Webster. But, said 1, he has been dead a long time. Yes, but they are
   playing up funeral because he was a great man. What was Daniel Webster?
   Not a Christian, not a benevolent man; everybody knows this. And what
   have Christians to do in lauding and canonizing a merely selfish
   ambition? They may esteem it highly, yet let them know, God abhors it
   as utterly as they admire it.
   The world's entire morality and that of a large portion of the Church
   are only a spurious benevolence. You see a family very much united and
   you say, How they love one another! So they do; but they may be very
   exclusive. They may exclude themselves and shut off their sympathies
   almost utterly from all other families, and they may consequently
   exclude themselves from doing good in the world. The same kind of
   morality may be seen in towns and in nations. This makes up the entire
   morality of the world.
   Many have what they call humanity, without any piety; and this is often
   highly esteemed among men. They pretend to love men, but yet after all
   do not honor God, nor even aim at it. And in their love of men they
   fall below some animals. I doubt whether many men, not pious, would do
   what I knew a dog to do. His master wanted to kill him, and for this
   purpose took him out into the river in a boat and tied a stone about
   his neck. In the struggle to throw dog and stone overboard together,
   the boat upset; the man was in the river; the dog, by extra effort,
   released himself of his weight, and seizing his master by the collar,
   swam with him to land. Few men would have had humanity enough--without
   piety--to have done this. Indeed, men without piety are not often half
   so kind to each other as animals are. Men are more degraded and more
   depraved. Animals will make greater sacrifices for each other than the
   human race do. Go and ask a whaleman what he sees among the whales when
   they suffer themselves to be murdered to protect a school of their
   young. Yet many mothers think they do most meritorious things because
   they take care of their children.
   But men, as compared with animals, ought to act from higher motives
   than they. If they do not, they act wickedly. Knowing more--having the
   knowledge of God and of the dying Saviour as their example and
   rule--they have higher responsibilities than animals can have.
   Men often make a great virtue of their abolitionism though it be only
   of the infidel stamp. But perhaps there is no virtue in this, a whit
   higher than a mere animal might have, Whoever understands the subject
   of slavery and is a good man at heart will certainly be an
   abolitionist. But a man may be an abolitionist without the least
   virtue. There may not be the least regard for God in his abolitionism,
   nor even any honest regard to human well-being. He may stand on a
   principle which would make him a slaveholder himself, if his
   circumstances favored it. Such men certainly do act on slaveholding
   principles. They develop principles and adopt practices which show that
   if they had the power, they would enslave the race. They will not
   believe that a man can be a colonizationist, and yet be a good man. I
   am no colonizationist, but I know good men who are. Some men not only
   lord it over the bodies of their fellow-men, but over their minds and
   souls--their opinions and consciences--which is much worse oppression
   and tyranny than simply to enslave the body.
   Often there is a bitter and an acrimonious spirit--not by any means the
   spirit of Christ; for while Christ no doubt condemns the slaveholder,
   He does not hate him. This biting hatred of evil-doers is only
   malevolence after all; and though men may ever so highly esteem it, God
   abominates it.
   On the other hand, many call that piety which has no humanity in it.
   Whip up their slaves to get money to give to the Bible Society! Touch
   up the gang; put on the cat-o-nine-tails; the agent is coming along for
   money for the Bible Society! Here is piety (so called) without
   humanity. I abhor a piety, which has no humanity with it and in it, as
   deeply as I condemn its converse--humanity without piety. God loves
   both piety and humanity. How greatly, then, must He abhor either when
 unnaturally divorced from the other!
   All those so-called religious efforts which men make, haying only self
   for their end, are an abomination to God.
   There is a wealthy man who consents to give two hundred dollars towards
   building a splendid church. He thinks this is a very benevolent
   offering, and it may be highly esteemed among men. But before God
   approves of it He will look into the motives of the giver; and so may
   we, if we please. The man, we find, owns a good deal of real estate in
   the village, which he expects will rise in value on the very day that
   shall see the church building determined on, enough to put back into
   his pocket two or three fold what he pays out. Besides this he has
   other motives. He thinks of the increased respectability of having a
   fine house and himself the best seat in it. And yet further, he has
   some interest in having good morals sustained in the village, for vice
   is troublesome to rich men and withal somewhat dangerous. And then he
 has an indefinable sort of expectation that this new church and his
   handsome donation to build it will somehow improve his prospects for
   heaven. Inasmuch as these are rather dim at best, the improvement,
   though indefinite, is decidedly an object. Now if you scan these
   motives, you will see that from first to last they are altogether
   selfish. Of course they are an abomination in God's sight.
   The motives for getting a popular minister are often of the same sort,
   The object is not to get a man sent of God, to labor for God and with
   God, and one with whom the people may labor and pray for souls and for
   God's kingdom. But the object being something else than this, is an
   abomination before God.
   The highest forms of the world's morality are only abominations in
   God's sight. The world has what it calls good husbands, good wives,
   good children; but what sort of goodness is this? The husband loves his
   wife and seeks to please her. She also loves and seeks to please him.
   But do either of them love or seek to please God in these relations? By
   no means. Nothing can be farther from their thoughts. They never go
   beyond the narrow circle of self. Take all these human relations in
   their best earthly form, and you will find they never rise above the
   morality of the lower animals. They fondle and caress each other, and
   seem to take some interest in the care of their children. So do your
   domestic fowls, not less, and perhaps even more. Often these fowls in
   your poultry yard go beyond the world's morality in these qualities
   which the world calls good.
   Should not human beings have vastly higher ends than these? Can God
   deem their highly esteemed qualities any other than an abomination if
   in fact they are even below the level of the domestic animals?
   An unsanctified education comes into the same category. A good
   education is indeed a great good; but if not sanctified, it is all the
   more odious to God. Yes, let me tell you, if not improved for God, it
   is only the more odious to Him in proportion as you get light on the
   subject of duty, and sin against that light the more. Those very
   acquisitions which will give you higher esteem among men will, if
   unsanctified, make your character more utterly odious before God. You
   are a polished writer and a beautiful speaker. You stand at the head of
   the college. in these important respects. Your friends look forward
   with hopeful interest to the time when you will be heard of on the
   floor of Senates, moving them to admiration by your eloquence. But
   alas, you have no piety! When we ask, How does God look upon such
   talents, unsanctified, we are compelled to answer--Only as an
   abomination. This eloquent young student is only the more odious to God
   by reason of all his unsanctified powers. The very things which give
   you the more honor among men will make you only the scoff of hell. The
   spirits of the nether pit will meet you as they did the fallen monarch
   of Babylon, tauntingly saying, "What, are you here? You who could shake
   kingdoms by your eloquence, are you brought down to the sides of the
   pit? You who might have been an angel of light--you who lived in
   Oberlin; you, a selfish, doomed sinner--away and be out of our company!
   We have nobody here so guilty and so deeply damned as you!" 
   So of all unsanctified talents--beauty, education, accomplishments;
   all, if unsanctified, are an abomination in the sight of God. All of
   those things which might make you more useful in the sight of God are,
   if misused, only the greater abomination in His sight.
   So a legal religion, with which you serve God only because you must.
   You go to church, yet not in love to God or to His worship, but from
   regard to your reputation, to your hope, or your conscience. Must not
   such a religion be, of all things, most abominable to God?


   The world have mainly lost the true idea of religion. This is too
   obvious from all I have said to need more illustration.

   The same is true to a great extent of the Church. Professed Christians
   judge themselves falsely because they judge by a false standard. 
   One of the most common and fatal mistakes is to employ a merely
   negative standard. Here are men complaining of a want of conviction.
   Why don't they take the right standard and judge themselves by that?
   Suppose you had let a house burn down and made no effort to save it;
   what would you think of the guilt of stupidity and laziness there? Two
   women and five children are burnt to ashes in the conflagration; why
   did not you give the alarm when you saw the fire getting hold? Why did
   not you rush into the building and drag out the unconscious inmates?
   Oh, you felt stupid that morning--just as people talk of being "stupid"
   in religion! Well, you hope not to be judged very hard, since you did
   not set the house on fire; you only let it alone; all you did was to do
   nothing! That is all many persons plead as to their religious duties.
   They do nothing to pluck sinners out of the fire, and they seem to
   think this is a very estimable religion! Was this the religion of Jesus
   Christ or of Paul? Is it the religion of real benevolence? or of common
   You see how many persons who have a Christian hope indulge it on merely
   negative grounds. Often I ask persons how they are getting along in
   religion. They answer, pretty well; and yet they are doing nothing that
   is really religious. They are making no effort to save souls--are doing
   nothing to serve God. What are they doing? Oh, they keep up the forms
   of prayer! Suppose you should employ a servant and pay him off each
   week, yet he does nothing all the long day but pray to you!

   Religion is very intelligible and is easily understood. It is a
   warfare. What is a warrior's service? He devotes himself to the service
   of his country. If need be, he lays down his life on her altar. He is
   expected to do this.
   So a man is to lay down his life on God's altar, to be used in life or
   death, as God may please, in His service.
   The things most highly esteemed among men are often the very things God
   most abhors. Take, for example, the legalist's religion. The more he is
   bound in conscience and enslaved, by so much the more, usually, does
   his esteem as a Christian rise.
   The more earnestly he groans under his bondage to sin, the more truly
   he has to say--
   "Reason I bear, her counsels weigh, 
   And all her words approve; 
   Yet still I find it hard to obey 
   And harder yet to love,"-
   By so much the more does the world esteem and God abhor his religion.
   The good man, they say--he was all his lifetime subject to bondage! He
   was in doubts and fears all his life! But why did he not come by faith
   into that liberty with which Christ makes His people free?
   A morality, based on the most refined selfishness, stands in the
   highest esteem among men. So good a man of the world they say--almost a
   saint; yet God must hold him in utter abomination.
   The good Christian in the world's esteem is never abrupt, never
   aggressive, yet he is greatly admired. He has a selfish devotion to
   pleasing men, than which nothing is more admired. I heard of a minister
   who had not an enemy in the world. He was said to be most like Christ
   among all the men they knew. I thought it strange that a man so like
   Christ should have no enemies, for Christ, more like Himself than any
   other man can be, had a great many enemies, and very bitter enemies
   too. Indeed, it is said, "If any man will live godly in Christ Jesus,
   he shall suffer persecution." But when I came to learn the facts of the
   case I understood the man. He never allowed himself to preach anything
   that could displease even Universalists. In fact, he had two
   Universalists in his Session. In the number of his Session were some
   Calvinists also, and he must by no means displease them. His preaching
   was indeed a model of its kind. His motto was--Please the
   people--nothing but please the people. In the midst of a revival, he
   would leave the meetings and go to a party; why? To please the people. 
   Now this may be highly esteemed among men; but does not God abhor it? 
   It is a light thing to be judged of man's judgment, and all the lighter
   since they are so prone to judge by a false standard. What is it to me
   that men condemn me if God only approve? The longer I live, the less I
   think of human opinions on the great questions of right and wrong as
   God sees them. They will judge both themselves and others falsely. Even
   the Church sometimes condemns and excommunicates her best men. I have
   known cases, and could name them, in which I am confident they have
   done this very thing. They have cut men off from their communion, and
   now everybody sees that the men excommunicated were the best men of the
   It is a blessed thought that the only thing we need to care for is to
   please God. The only inquiry we need make is--What will God think of
   it? We have only one mind to please, and that the Great Mind of the
   universe. Let this be our single aim and we shall not fail to please
   Him. But if we do not aim at this, all we can do is only an abomination
   in His sight.
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