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History Column

Growth in Grace

Dr. Ch.Finney

4. Another evidence of growth in grace is when a person increases in love to men as well as to God. Growing Christians show by their lives that they become continually more and more inclined to do good to men. Their hearts become more and more enlarged in benevolence to all men. Young converts are apt to be chiefly influenced by a special and partial regard to individuals, their relations, or their former companions or neighbors. But as they grow in grace these circumstances make less and less difference in their feelings, towards their friends and towards others. Their hearts expand, they have more and more feeling for the heathen, and for all the world. As they increase in piety, they feel more and more a desire that the world would be converted to God. They have more and more heart-breaking agony at the dreadful state of men in their sins. And their views and affections rise and expand, until they feel, like God, their bowels of compassion yearn for all men that they might repent and be saved. Beloved does it appear so to you? Is this your state of mind? Are you more and more weighed down with the idea that men are going to hell? And have you greater and greater desires that the world should be converted to God?

5. Those who grow in grace feel more and more self-loathing. They have greater humility and self-abasement. I suppose the saints will increase in this to all eternity. I see nothing in this inconsistent with the happiness of heaven. It seems to me that to all eternity as the ages roll round, the saints will feel constantly, more and more, how much they deserve to be sent to hell for their wickedness.

As they see the development of God’s government, and the displays of his infinite goodness, they will be more and more impelled to exclaim, “O how wicked I was, what an infinite wretch, how much I deserve to lie in hell rather than be in heaven.” It is so here in this world. Growing Christians more and more loathe themselves, and wonder how God could have spared such wretches.

Job, when he was in darkness, justified himself throughout. He declared that his prayer was pure, and that he did not deserve these calamities. And God had said he was a perfect and an upright man. He did not mean that Job was perfectly sinless, for it was not true that he was perfect in this sense. But God meant to say, he was sincere. This is the meaning of the word perfect here. And it is generally the meaning of it in the Bible. He meant to say that Job was honest in religion. Job remained in this darkness, and all the while justifying himself, for a long time, but by and by he had clear views of God, and all his self-justification was gone, and he cried out, “I have heard of thee by hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Such deep self-abasement was the natural result of clear views of God. 

So it was with Isaiah. I have been confounded when I have heard some persons talk of their purity, and of being entirely pure from their sins, and of being perfect. They must have vastly different views of themselves from what Job and Isaiah had. What did Isaiah see? He says, “I saw the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphim; each one had six wings, with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, Holy, HOLY, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” What was the effect of a view of God on his mind? “Who is me!” said Isaiah, “Who is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts!” Hear that man saying that he is perfect, that he is pure from his sins. Is he? I ask again, Is he? I doubt that man. What! When Isaiah had but a glimpse of God, and of heaven, it was so holy that he was overwhelmed, he could not endure it, his self-abasement was so great that until an angel took a live coal from off the altar and touched his lips, and assured him his sins were forgiven, he was in despair. This is the natural result of having a clear view of God. It makes a person sink down in self-abasement lower, and LOWER, and LOWER, so that when he comes into the presence of God, he wants to find a place so infinitely low before God, words cannot express it.

Beloved, do you know anything about this? Do you grow in grace in this respect? Do you feel day by day as if you wanted to get lower and lower in the dust before God? Have you ever felt so that you could say in truth, as President Edwards did: “O that I could get infinitely low before God!”

6. An increased abhorrence of sin is another mark of growth in grace. When a person feels day by day less and less disposed to compromise with sin, with any sin, in himself or in others, it is a sign that he is growing in grace. Is it so with you, beloved? Have you daily less and less fellowship with sin in all shapes, in YOURSELF and in others? Do you feel more as God feels towards sin?

7. He who grows in grace has less relish for the world.–He has less and less desire for its wealth, its honors, its pleasures. A desire for these things has less and less influence, as a motive, in his mind. He seeks wealth and honor only as instruments of glorifying God and of doing good to men.

A person who is growing in grace becomes less fond of worldly company and worldly conversation, and reading worldly books, or newspapers. You see a growing Christian engaged in holiness, and you will find he cares very little for intelligence of any kind, unless it has a bearing some way or other, upon the kingdom of God. You will find him rather seeking after the most spiritual things he can get hold of. He will seize hold of the most spiritual books to read. He will love the company and conversation of the most spiritual Christians. He will relish, and if possible attend the most pungent, and searching spiritual preaching.

(To be continued)