The GOSPEL TRUTH
CHARLES G. FINNEY
To Lyman Whiting
[Published in The Advance (Chicago), Vol. 2 (11 March 1869), p. 6.]
An article entitled "Wisdom Justified in Her Children" by Lyman Whiting was published in The Advance (Chicago) Vol. 2 (25 February 1869), p. 1.
On 11 March 1869, The Advance carried the following on page 6:
QUERIES FROM PRESIDENT FINNEY.&emdash;Our readers need not feel troubled if our Excerpt column wears a more controversial face this week than is usually allowed it, so long as such sharp nibbed pens are wielded in its service. President Finney directs his questions as below, premising that he does not desire to open controversy but to obtain information:
MY DEAR BROTHER WHITING:&endash; You say in your article in the ADVANCE of the 5th ult., that you preached a sermon "setting forth this doctrine," "Regeneration an indestructible work." You further say that the sermon was intended to demolish the Methodist dogma that "men can fall from grace." From these statements it appears that you taught that regeneration is of such a nature as to render falling from grace naturally impossible. Will you allow me to ask, 1, What did you define regeneration to be. 2, Is regeneration a voluntary or an involuntary change? 3, If involuntary does it involve or imply a change of moral character in the subject? 4, Is regeneration a change of the substance of the soul, or only of its moral committal or ultimate prepense? In other words, is regeneration a moral or a physical change? 5, If moral or voluntary, how can it be indispensable? 6, If physical, how can it involve or imply a change of moral character? 7, If the change is indestructible in such a sense that the regenerate can not fall from grace, what virtue is there in perseverance? 8, If regeneration is an indestructible change, must it not be physical and back of the voluntary activity of the subject? 9, If so is it the duty of the sinner to change his own heart, or to be regenerated? I am no Methodist, but I had supposed that the Saints "are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation" and was not aware that regeneration secured their perseverance by a physical necessity. If I am mistaken, and if it be true that regeneration is indestructible, and renders falling from grace impossible, I may spare myself the trouble of exhorting the regenerate to watch and pray and "give all diligence to make their calling and election sure." But if, on the contrary, regeneration is a voluntary change, and therefore falling from grace, is naturally possible, the regenerate are in danger of a fatal mistake, if they assume that regeneration is indestructible in such a sense that falling from grace is impossible. I wish you had given us your definition of regeneration and the heads of your argument. I should not ask these questions did I not consider the point under note, of the greatest importance.
Your Brother in the gospel.
C. G. FINNEY.
The Excerpt column of The Advance of April 1, 1969, p. 6, carries the following:
REGENERATION.--My Dear Brother Finney:--You ask for my definition of Regeneration. It is,--Not (a) a work upon the body, in any sense. The bones, sinews, flesh and all the physical make, show no direct effects from it. It (b) creates no new faculties of mind, nor changes the nature of any already created. Reason, memory, imagination, and all the mind household continue, as created. Nor (c) are any new spiritual faculties added to man by regeneration. Love, hate, and all the natural organization of the soul is unchanged.
But (a) Regeneration is the implanting of a divine, organic Life into all that made the man before; i.e. body, mind and soul. It is the Life of God in the soul of man; organic, because acing by laws in its own nature, and carrying with it certainties as fixed as its own existence; as (1) Indestructibility of nature; because it is the Life of God, "born of God"--(2) Indestructibility in that man, because it is the life of God in him;--"the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality," "the kingdom of God is within you," and "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," etc.
The manifestation of it is (b) a total change of will toward God. Total, in that (1) In the moment the divine life is implanted, the will is totally subjected. Not an impulse for rebellion is in action, but (2) New forces of sin from without, and growths in body and in mind may bring temptations which will excite rebellion, or lapse from God; and so to watch and pray with "all diligence," "striving against sin," is a life-long necessity, and "this is the victory that overcometh even our faith."
(c) It is a conditional act of covenant, or testament of Redemption; and so of course (1) includes two parties: God and man;--which therefore has (2) A divine and human set of forces, powers or acts working to the same end, or third term salvation. We are on the human side, and, by personal choice, take or refuse what that covenant or plan offers us. Our choice to refuse it prevents the implanting of that life in us, and the action of all the forces it carries with it upon our souls. The choice to accept elects the immortal life within us and puts into operation all its attending forces. Now if this is an organic life, it must act. If it is a divine life, or life of God, it must act with or according to God; and if of God like himself, it is Indestructible. If it is a covenant or co-operative life begun in the soul by choice, it must perpetuate itself by the vital term or condition,--choice to accept, to fulfill the condition, holy living,--or the third term, salvation, is impossible. We deal with the manifestation only. The reality is known to God. Therefore the question is each moment upon the soul,--your choice? and each last moral act is the only final evidence of moral condition; for the act separating from the unregenerate state was the act of choice to accept Christ; so if the last choice in a (supposed) regenerate state, was to reject Christ and take sin, the damnation of that soul is settled.
Your use of the term "involuntary" surprises me. Is it not an absurdity? "Voluntary" is consent of the will to any act of the will. No act of the will is possible without its consent. "Involuntary" is non-consent, which makes an act impossible, which makes the term absurd. Neither may theology or philosophy find any place for it in this matter. You wish for the heads of my argument in the sermon. I did not undertake to report that, but the work the sermon did. It changed the man--(he claimed)--made him good for something in the church, and brightened his dying hours; and do you not infer he gave all diligence meanwhile, to make his calling and election sure?
Accept my thanks for your inquiries. Hoping these brief replies may relieve the essential point of your anxiety.
I am Yours in the Faith,
This must be a misreading of "purpose".
This word should probably be "indestructible".