By Rev. Charles G. Finney
FARTHER OBJECTIONS ANSWERED,
2. It is objected to the foregoing argument that the passages adduced to prove Paul's entire sanctification do not sustain the position that he had attained a state of entire, in the sense of permanent sanctification. To this objection I reply,
(1.) That an examination of all the passages will, if I mistake not, show that he speaks of his holiness or sanctification as a state and as an abiding state, as distinguished from a temporary obedience. To me it is quite manifest that Paul intended that his converts to whom he addressed his epistles, should understand him as professing to have experienced what he enjoined upon them. How could an inspired apostle write the following passage in his letter to the Thessalonians if he did not know by experience what the state was of which he was speaking, and the truth of the promise or declaration which he appended to his prayer. 1 Thes. 5:23,24: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it." How could he write, believing it himself, without knowing what he said by having experienced his preserving grace.
(2.) I was aware when I wrote of the sanctification of Paul, and am now that the evidence of his permanent sanctification is not such as to render it perfectly certain that he in no instance committed sin of heart or life. Being aware of this, I said then, and I here repeat the remark, that the question of his being entirely, in the sense of permanently sanctified, is not the great question at issue, nor is it essential to the argument in support of the practical attainability of this state. It is only one of the arguments in its support; but in my apprehension, the argument is complete without it.
(3.) The testimony in Paul's case appears to me to be satisfactory in the absence of all counter evidence.
[1.] It covers at least a large part if not the whole of his apostolic life.
[2.] He had frequent occasion to speak of his own attainments by way of encouragement, to those to whom he wrote to aspire after the attainments which he recommended to them, and also as an illustration of the provision and meaning of the gospel which he preached.
[3.] He in no instance speaks as if he were guilty of sin during the period of his apostleship. He publishes in the face of saints and sinners, of friends and enemies, those unqualified assertions and profession, which I have quoted, and more than all, he appeals to God for the truth of what he says, and in no instance confesses sin.
[4.] His language in several instances as we have seen, seems clearly to imply that his holiness was permanent or continual and not intermittent.
[5.] The evidence is such as plainly to throw the burden of proof upon the objector. Such language as plainly implies that his holiness was continual and was rather a permanent state than an act or a temporary series of acts, must manifestly change the onus, and throw it upon the objector to prove the contrary, or to show that no such thing is fairly inferable from his language. It is not pretended that the permanency of his sanctification is demonstrated by the passages that have been quoted. Nor is demonstration to be expected in a case of this kind. It were to be sure very marvellous if so humble and so simple-hearted a man as Paul the apostle should make so many unqualified professions of entire holiness of heart and life without intimating that he at any time sinned during this period, if he in fact knew that he had done so at least in some instances. One can hardly avoid the conviction in view of his repeated professions, that if at any time he had fallen into sin, candor would have required him to confess it.
[6.] The rules of evidence and proof when applied to this case, will clearly show where the burden of proof rests. These rules are more rigid in criminal cases than in civil. When a man is accused of a crime his innocence is assumed until he is proven to be guilty. It is however admitted that in the case under consideration, the assumption is reversed, and that, since all men are known to be sinners unless they have been sanctified by grace, the assumption is that every man is a sinner unless he is proven to be otherwise. He therefore who asserts that any human being is sinless, must prove it, and the burden of proof is upon him. But here it is important to remark that in making out his proof he is not held to making out the same kind and degree of proof as would be the case if he had asserted that a man was guilty of a crime against a human government. He is not in this case arraying a commonwealth against an individual and leaving it for the commonwealth by certain individuals of their number to sit in judgment in a case in which they are in a sense a party. When a man is arrayed before a court and jury of his county and accused of a crime against the commonwealth, the commonwealth is a party on the record and the judge and jury are a part of that commonwealth. In this case the rules of proof are properly rigid and inflexible; the commonwealth must fully establish by the most convincing testimony the very crime of which they complain. But even in this case and when the charge is of a capital crime and one punishable with death, the complainant is not held to make out a demonstration, but only to present such a kind and degree of evidence as will leave no ground for reasonable doubt in regard to the guilt of the accused. The kind and degree of evidence are demanded that might be reasonably expected in case the accused is guilty and nothing more. This throws the burden of proof upon the accused. The case is made out unless the accused can impeach, or explain, or contradict the evidence on the other side. He is called upon to reply to the evidence against him, and in case he fails to meet and in some way to shake its credibility he stands convicted.
I know it is said that this case of Paul is one where a universal proposition is affirmed, and that therefore the case is not made out until it is proved that he arrived at a point in his religious experience after which he did not sin at all. It is admitted that in a sense this proposition is universal, but the inquiry is, when is this so proved as to change the onus? Must it be shown by direct and positive evidence, and such as can have no other possible construction, that he arrived at this state, or is it sufficient to change the burden of proof, to show that the most fair and natural interpretation of the evidence conducts to the conclusion in support of which the evidence is produced? The latter is undoubtedly the correct rule. If the former were the rule it were useless to talk or think of a defence, or of making good a charge in one case in many. If the affirmant must absolutely demonstrate his position before the onus is in any case changed, why then defence or reply is out of the question; and further it is in no case of any use to bring a charge except where the evidence amounts to a demonstration.
If the proof amounts to a demonstration, it is impossible that the demonstrated proposition should not be true, and therefore all answer is out of the question.
Therefore in almost no case do courts of law and equity demand this kind and degree of evidence, but on the contrary, even in cases of the highest importance, they require no more than sufficient evidence in kind and degree to warrant the reasonable conclusion that the alleged proposition is true, and then they hold the onus to be changed and call for the defence. When the evidence is such as to produce or as should produce conviction in the absence of counter evidence they hold the case to be made out and throw the onus upon the respondent.
Numerous examples might be cited from theological writers to show what are regarded as correct rules of evidence, and of proof upon theological subjects. For example, in the controversy upon the subject of baptism, the immersing Baptists lay down the universal proposition that baptizo means only to immerse. In support of this proposition they attempt to show from classic usage and from various sources, that immersion is its primary signification and that it properly means immersion.
This is allowed by theological writers to be sufficient to change the onus and to call upon the Pedo-Baptists to rebut this testimony by showing that immersion is not the only sense at least in which the inspired writers use the term baptizo. The whole course of this controversy shows that theological writers never pretended to hold the immersing baptists to a proving of their universal proposition in extenso; for if they had, this controversy must long since have terminated. Indeed it were impossible for them to prove positively their proposition because it would amount to proving a negative. It would require them to prove that baptizo never means any thing else than immersion, to make out which, they must bring forward every instance of its use and show that it means nothing else in any instance. Instead of this, it is at least practically held to be sufficient for them to prove that the word is used to signify immersion by numerous writers. This sufficiently establishes their position in the absence of counter evidence. The Pedo-Baptists are then called upon to reply, and shew that immersion is not its universal and only signification. This case and the one under consideration are parallel in the material point. They are both cases where the a priori assumption is against them. The assumption is that all words have more than one signification. But it is held sufficient for the Baptists to make out a general signification in proof of the assertion of a universal signification. Their making out that baptizo generally means immerse, is held to be sufficient in the absence of counter testimony. The burden of proof is then changed and the respondent is called upon to produce examples, or an example of contrary usage.
So in the case under consideration, it is sufficient to prove that Paul lived at least habitually, without sin. That is that he in general terms is said to have lived without sin. This changes the onus, and the assumption then is that he lived altogether without sin unless the contrary be shown. Or more strictly it is sufficient to show that Paul lived a considerable period during the latter part of his life without sin. This throws the burden of proof upon him who would deny that he continued in this state until death.
However I have repeatedly said, I care not to contend for the sanctification of Paul, or of any other man, in support of the practical attainability of this state. If such cases had been frequent in the early ages of christianity, they would not in all probability have been recorded unless it was done after their death. It is the fact of practical attainability and not of actual attainment for which I contend.
3. Another objection to the doctrine we have been considering has been stated as follows:
The promises of entire sanctification are conditioned upon faith. We have no right to expect the fulfillment of the promises to us, until we believe them. To believe and appropriate them is to believe that they will be fulfilled to us. But of this we have no evidence until after we have believed that they will be fulfilled to us, which is the condition of their fulfillment. Therefore we have no reason to expect their fulfillment to us. To this objection I reply,
(1.) That it applies equally to all the promises made to the saints, and if this objection is good and a bar to rational hope in respect to the promises of entire sanctification it is equally so in respect to all the promises.
(2.) The objection represents the gospel and its promises as a mere farce. If this objection has any weight, the matter stands thus: God has promised us certain things upon condition that we will believe that he will give them to us. But the condition of the promise is such as to render it impossible for us to fulfill it. We really, in this case, have no promise, until after we have believed that we shall receive the thing promised. We must believe that he will give the thing promised to us. But of this, we can have no evidence until we have believed this, since this belief is the condition of the promise. This reduces us to the necessity of believing without a promise that God will give us the promised blessings; for this belief is the condition of the promises in which the blessing is pledged. We must first believe that we shall receive the thing promised before we have a right to expect to receive, or before we can rationally believe that we shall receive it. Thus the promises are all made upon a condition that renders them all a mere nullity in the estimation of this objection.
This objection was once stated to me by a celebrated minister of New England as applicable to the prayer of faith. It has probably occurred to many minds and deserves a moment's attention. In further remarking upon it I would say,
(3.) That the objection is based upon a misapprehension of the condition of the promises. The objection assumes that the promises are conditioned not upon confidence in the veracity of God, but upon our believing that he will give to us the thing which he has promised. But he has promised this blessing upon condition that we believe that he will give it to us, of which we have no promise, until after we have believed that we shall receive it. The objection assumes that God's veracity is not pledged to grant the thing promised in any case until we have believed that we shall have the thing promised, and so we must believe that God will do what his veracity is not pledged to do and what we have no evidence that he will do until we truly believe that he will. But we have no right to claim the thing promised until we have believed that we shall have it, for it is promised only upon this condition. Thus we have no foundation for faith. God's veracity is not pledged to give the blessing until after we have believed without evidence that he will give it to us. So that we are shut up to believe that he will give it to us before his veracity is pledged to do so. We must first believe without a promise as a condition of having a promise or any rational ground of confidence that we shall receive the thing promised. This view of the subject would render the gospel and its promises a ridiculous tantalizing of the hopes and solicitudes of the people of God. This objection supposes that we have no evidence upon which to rest but the promises, and the promise affords no evidence that we shall receive the thing promised until we believe that we shall receive it, for upon this condition the promise is made. I say again that the objection misapprehends the condition of the promises. The fact is, the promises are all made upon condition that we believe in or trust in the veracity of God. Of this we have other evidence than that contained in the promises. We can trust in the promise of no being any farther than we have confidence in his veracity. We can have ground for confidence in his promises no further than we have ground for confidence in his veracity. Now if we had no ground for confidence in the veracity of God except what we have in the promises themselves, and were they conditioned upon our belief of them, they must all be to us a mere nullity. But the truth is, we have infinitely good reason for confidence in the veracity of God and consequently for believing his promises and of expecting them to be fulfilled to us. We have in the intuitive affirmations of our own reason, in the revelations which God has made of himself in his works and word and by his Holy Spirit, the highest evidence of the veracity of God. When we confide in his veracity, we can not but confide in his promises so far as we understand them. Confidence in the veracity of God is both the condition of the promises and a condition of confiding in them and of expecting to receive the things pledged in them. Confidence in God's universal truthfulness and faithfulness is a condition of our expecting to receive the fulfillment of his promises. We could not rationally expect to receive the things promised, had we no reason for confiding in the universal truthfulness of God. Hence the Holy Spirit is given to inspire confidence in the veracity of God and thus enable us to lay hold upon and appropriate the promises to ourselves. Now if, as the objection we are considering assumes, the promises were made only upon condition that we believe that we shall receive the thing promised, that is, if the thing is promised only upon condition that we first believe that we receive it, then surely the promises were vain; for this would suspend the fulfillment of the promise upon an impossible condition. But if the promises are conditioned upon our confiding in the veracity of God, then they are made to a certain class of persons, and as soon as we are conscious of exercising this confidence in him, we can not but expect him to fulfill all his promises. Thus a confidence in his veracity at once fulfills the conditions of the promises and renders the expectation that we shall receive the things promised rational and necessary.
We may appropriate the promises and expect their fulfillment when we are conscious of confidence in the veracity of God; for upon this condition they were made, and upon no other condition is confidence in their fulfillment to us possible. That is, we can not expect God to fulfill his promises to us except upon the condition that we confide in his universal truthfulness. For this confidence we have the best of all reasons, and to secure this confidence the Holy Spirit is given. God requires us to expect to receive the things promised simply because he has promised to bestow them upon condition of faith in his veracity, and because faith in his veracity implies and includes the expectation of receiving the things which we know he has promised, upon condition of this faith. If we have good reason for confidence in the veracity of God we have good reason for the expectation that he will fulfill to us all his promises; for confidence in his veracity is the condition of them. Confidence in his veracity must imply confidence in his promises so far as they are known.
God requires faith in his promises only because he requires faith in his universal veracity, and when he conditionates his promises upon our confidence in them it is only because he conditionates them upon our confidence in his veracity, and because confidence in his veracity implies confidence in his promises, and confidence in his promises implies confidence in his veracity. When therefore he conditionates his promises upon our believing them, and that we shall receive the things promised in them, the spirit and meaning of the condition is, that we confide in his truthfulness, which confidence is implied in the expectation of receiving the things promised. It should be distinctly understood then that faith in the promises implies faith in the divine veracity, and faith in the divine veracity implies faith in all the known promises. In the order of nature confidence in the divine veracity precedes confidence in a specific divine promise. But where the latter is there the former must always be. The general condition of all the promises is confidence in the character and truthfulness of God. This also implies confidence in his promises, and hence the expressed condition is faith in the promise, because faith in his veracity implies confidence in his promises, and confidence in his promises implies confidence in his veracity.
But here it may be asked, does not this reasoning prove too much, and will it not follow from this that all the promises must be and are really due and fulfilled to all true saints, for all true saints have true confidence in the veracity of God? If faith in the veracity of God is the true condition of all the promises, it follows that every true believer has fulfilled the conditions of all the promises; then the veracity of God is pledged for the fulfillment of all of them to every true believer. To this I answer, that the promises are made to believers in Christ, or in other words, to all true saints. Their being true saints is the condition of their right to appropriate them and claim the fulfillment of them to themselves. True confidence in God is the condition of the promises in the sense not that they will all be fulfilled to us of course upon the bare condition that we confide in the general and universal veracity of God without either pleading, appropriating, or using means to secure the fulfillment of certain specific promises to us. But confidence in the veracity of God is the condition of our having a right to appropriate the promises to ourselves and to expect their fulfillment to ourselves. A consciousness that we confide in the veracity of God gives us the right to consider every promise as made to us which is applicable to our circumstances and wants, and to lay hold upon and plead it and expect it to be fulfilled to us. Observe, the promises are not merely conditioned upon confidence in the veracity of God, but also upon our pleading them with entire confidence in the veracity of God and in the fact that he will fulfill them to us, and also upon the diligent use of means to secure the promised blessing. God says, "I will be enquired of by the house of Israel to do these things for them." By trusting the veracity of God, we become personally and individually interested in the promises, and have a title to the things promised in such a sense as to have a right through grace to claim the fulfillment to us of specific promises upon the further condition of our pleading them with faith in the veracity of God and using the necessary means to secure their fulfillment to us. Most, not to say all, of the promises of specific blessings have several conditions. An implicit faith or confidence in God as a hearer and answerer of prayer, and as a God of universal sincerity and veracity, as true and faithful to all his word, is the general condition of all the promises.
The promises are made to this class of persons. The promises of particular things are addressed to this class for their individual use and benefit as circumstances shall develop their necessities. By the exercise of implicit confidence in God they have fulfilled the conditions of the promises in such a sense as to entitle them to appropriate any specific promise and claim through grace its fulfillment to them as their circumstances demand. This laying hold of and appropriating the promises of specific blessings and using the means to secure the thing promised, are also conditions of receiving the promised blessing.
The holy spirit is given to all who have confidence in the veracity of God to lead them to a right use and appropriation of the specific promises, and when we are drawn to wrestle for the fulfillment to us of any particular promise we have the best of reason to expect its fulfillment to us. What christian does not know this? And what christian has not had frequent examples and instances of this in his own experience?