Print Sermon

These sermon manuscripts and videos now go out to about 1,500,000 computers in over 215 countries every year at www.sermonsfortheworld.com. Hundreds of others watch the videos on YouTube, but they soon leave YouTube and come to our website. YouTube feeds people to our website. The sermon manuscripts are given in 35 languages to about 120,000 computers each month. The sermon manuscripts are not copyrighted, so preachers can use them without our permission. Please click here to learn how you can make a monthly donation to help us in this great work of spreading the Gospel to the whole world, including the Muslim and Hindu nations.

Whenever you write to Dr. Hymers always tell him what country you live in, or he cannot answer you. Dr. Hymers’ e-mail is rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net.




FINNEY'S EVIL SERMON REFUTED BY THE SCRIPTURES

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, July 20, 2003


"With men it is impossible, but not with God" (Mark 10:27).

The Rich Young Ruler tried to be saved by obeying the moral law of God. He "went away grieved" (Mark 10:22) - and unsaved. Jesus said,

"Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!" (Mark 10:24).

"And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible" (Mark 10:26-27).

The Rich Young Ruler could not be saved by obedience to the moral law of God. It was impossible for him to save himself by perfect obedience to the law. Why? Because salvation is a gift from God. Salvation comes by God stepping in and doing what man cannot do for himself. That is salvation by grace - salvation by God's grace to sinful, depraved, lost men and women.

Evangelist Charles G. Finney did not believe in salvation by grace. Finney was a Pelagian heretic who believed that lost people could change their own hearts without God's grace, that they could bring about their own salvation without the supernatural help of God. This is one of the greatest errors that has ever "crept in unawares" (Jude 4) to American evangelicalism. Finney's idea that man can change his own heart by obedience to God lies behind the "decisionism" which has poisoned our churches - the idea that a human "decision" to obey God takes the place of God's grace bringing a sinner to salvation. This poisonous teaching of Finney is now all through evangelism in our churches. And we must reject Finney's "decisionism" and fall back on God's grace or we will never again see true revival.

Finney was neither an Arminian nor a Calvinist. Both Arminians and Calvinists believe that salvation is a gift of God's grace, not something a person earns by making "decisions" to obey God's law. Finney was even worse than Roman Catholics, who believe that grace comes to a sinner through the sacraments of the church. They are wrong in their belief, but at least they believe salvation is in some sense dependent on the grace of God. For Finney, there was no room for grace at all! No grace is needed for a sinner to be saved according to Finney.

That's why Dr. Michael S. Horton said,

Therefore, Finney is not merely an Arminian, but a Pelagian [heretic]. He is not only an enemy of evangelical Christianity, but of historic Christianity (Michael S. Horton, "The Legacy of Charles G. Finney," from Modern Reformation, computer net posting, April 1, 1996).

Last Monday I spent a full twelve hours studying Finney's most famous sermon, "Sinners Bound to Change Their Own Hearts." You can read it in full yourself by clicking on "Finney's Sermon" here.  I literally felt sick after studying this evil sermon. The sickness I felt came from my realization that this sermon, more than any other single message, has been an instrument of Satan in destroying our churches, ruining America, and damning millions of souls around the world. This sermon was the most popular one Finney ever preached - and the ideas in it have ruined revival and damned the souls of countless multitudes, as they have trickled down into our churches from Finney, and ruined most gospel preaching today.

I therefore make no pretense in what I am about to say and do tonight. I am calling Charles G. Finney a false prophet and an agent of Satan. I am calling him a Pelagian heretic worthy of excommunication and the fire of Hell. And I am going to refute his demonically-inspired sermon by Scripture. May God help me to do it. I know I do not have the strength in myself to disprove him. God, please help me to expose this man's soul-damning heresy, and show the truth from the Bible in a clear way tonight. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Finney's landmark sermon, as I said, is titled, "Sinners Bound to Change Their Own Hearts." Please turn to Finney's text in Ezekiel 18:31,

"Make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" (Ezekiel 18:31).

Finney tells us in his sermon that man himself is required to make a new heart and a new spirit in himself. I will answer him point by point.

I. First, Finney's sermon is law, not gospel.

Notice that this is an Old Testament text in Ezekiel 18:31. It is directed to the "house of Israel." It is part of the Old Testament law. Romans 3:20 says,

"Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin"
      (Romans 3:20).

The purpose of the law is to show us our sin, to give us "the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20). And no verse of the law does this better than Ezekiel 18:31.

Try obeying it! Just try! Try to "make you a new heart and a new spirit" - try it! The great evangelist George Whitefield tried - and failed. John Wesley tried to do it - and failed. Bunyan and Spurgeon tried to do it - and failed. Paul tried it - and failed. No person on earth can do what the law says in this passage.

"With men it is impossible, but not with God" (Mark 10:27).

Jesus said this in connection with the Rich Young Ruler, who was trying to save himself Finney's way by obeying the law - which neither he nor anyone else could obey perfectly. No human being can measure up to the law in Ezekiel 18:31. That's why Jesus said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God."

So it is with Finney's text in Ezekiel 18:31,

"Make you a new heart and a new spirit."

You just can't do it. "With men it is impossible." John Calvin correctly says,

Men badly trained in the Scriptures erect their crests under the pretence of this passage, as if it were in the power of man's free will to convert himself (John Calvin, notes on Ezekiel 18:31, Baker Book House, 1998 reprint).

Calvin is absolutely Scriptural on this point, and Finney is dead wrong, and "badly trained in the Scriptures." Finney rejected the teaching of his own pastor on salvation, and never went to Bible school. He was "badly trained in the Scriptures."

Finney said that man is fully capable of making himself "a new heart and a new spirit." But the Bible teaches that this verse was given as part of God's moral law,

"Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin"
       (Romans 3:20).

This law of making "you a new heart and a new spirit" was given to show you that you are a lost sinner - that you cannot obey God's law in your ruined state - that "with man it is impossible" (Mark 10:27).

That is why God Himself must take the initiative and do for you what you cannot do for yourself.

"With men it is impossible, but not with God" (Mark 10:27).

II. Second, Finney's sermon fails to compare other Scriptures
on this matter in the book of Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 11:19 was given to correct Finney's idea. Please turn to it. God says,

"I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 11:19).

Again, turn to Ezekiel 36:26-27,

"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them" (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

It is very simple - what they were commanded to do by the law they could not do - but God could do it for them by His grace. Why then did God command them to do it in Ezekiel 18:31? To show them their inability in a state of sin!

"With men it is impossible, but not with God" (Mark 10:27).

"Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin"
      (Romans 3:20).

Paul tried to be saved by keeping the law, but he couldn't do it. He said,

"Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law" (Romans 7:7).

When he found that he could not be saved by keeping the law, he cried out,

"O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord"
      (Romans 7:24-25).

If you try to obey the law of Ezekiel 18:31, and "make you a new heart and a new spirit," you will find that you cannot do it. This will give you an awareness of the depths of your sin and depravity - and this will drive you to Christ, for only He can give you a new heart and a new spirit by His grace!

III. Third, Finney's sermon is not the gospel of grace - it is "another gospel."

There is no grace, and very little mention of Christ, in Finney's sermon, "Sinners Bound to Change Their Own Hearts." I found Christ mentioned only about five times in the sermon, and never once as the Saviour. Once Finney confounds the person of Christ with the Holy Spirit. Not once does He speak of Christ's substitutionary death for sinners on the Cross. He didn't believe that Christ died to pay for our sins - and said so often. Not once does he tell his listeners to come to Christ for salvation. Not once does he say to "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31). Salvation, for Finney, is not a gift purchased by Christ on the Cross and given to sinners who believe on Him. Salvation for Finney is not a gift from God, obtained by faith in Christ. No, for Finney, salvation comes by obeying the law, "and make you a new heart and a new spirit" by yourself - without the help of God. Shameful heresy! This is not the gospel! This is salvation by human works!

The Apostle Paul wrote,

"I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel…But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:6, 8).

We must, therefore, say of Finney what Paul said, "Let him be accursed!" I believe that Finney, who once confused me, and has done so much to confuse millions of others, is now burning in the flames of Hell, for believing and preaching "another gospel."

IV. Fourth, Finney's sermon denies the Fall of man and the
resulting depravity of the human race.

He actually says in this sermon that God could have told the Fallen Adam, "Rebel, you have just changed your heart from holiness to sin, now change it back from sin to holiness." This is a ridiculously twisted and blindly unscriptural depiction of the Fall of man. He said of Adam's fall, that "It was not a change in the powers of moral agency themselves, but simply in the use of them." So, Finney taught that there was no corruption of man's will in the Fall, that man retained free will after the Fall. But God did not say to Adam, "Change back from sin to holiness." Instead, God told Adam, "Cursed is the ground for thy sake…in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground" (Genesis 3:17-19). Adam's first son was a murderer (cf. Genesis 4:8), which shows that Adam's fallen nature was passed on to his seed - and the entire human race.

"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death [physical and spiritual] passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Romans 5:12).

This is a critical point. If man is not fallen and dead in sin, then he can save himself - which is precisely what Finney believed.

The center of Finney's error, that you can make a new heart for yourself, lies in his shallow concept of human sin. To Finney, man is merely misguided - and needs only to decide to go in the right path to be saved. But in the Bible man is totally depraved.

"Dead in sins" (Ephesians 2:5, 1).

"Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" (Ephesians 4:18).

"Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be"
      (Romans 8:7).

This last verse is such a strong rebuke to Finney's false system of theology that he mistranslates and misinterprets it, based on his deliberate mistranslation, in this evil sermon. The Apostle Peter says that those who "are unlearned and unstable wrest [distort]" the writings of the Apostle Paul (cf. II Peter 3:16). Finney was both unlearned and unstable. He was trained as an attorney and knew virtually nothing on the subject of the Bible. His "conversion" is highly questionable, since there is no mention of his sin, the Blood of Christ, or Christ Himself in it. Finney appears to have been a lost man with no Biblical training.

Unfortunately, he was a highly skilled attorney, and his skills at moving a jury to accept his opinion were used to move to his opinion audiences, churches, and finally, nearly the entire evangelical movement. Today, the "decisionism" of evangelicalism is a direct legacy of this unschooled, unconverted attorney - who made his career out of attacking the historic beliefs of Protestants and Baptists.

So strongly did Finney deny that mankind is lost that he actually said in this sermon, "The perfect control of preference over all the moral movement of the mind brings a man back to where Adam was previous to the fall, and constitutes perfect holiness." In other words, you can perfectly control yourself and bring yourself back to where Adam was before the fall. That's what he said in this sermon! Horrible heresy!

Now that sounds perfectly reasonable to a lost person. Lost people think they can be perfect if they want to be. That's another reason to think that Finney himself was lost.

But it takes the illumination of the Holy Spirit for a lost person to see that he is dead in sin. That is precisely what the Holy Spirit does,

"And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin"
      (John 16:8).

Until the Holy Spirit convicts a person of sin, he will think like Finney - that he can perfectly obey God. Only the Holy Spirit can show you your ruined and utterly sinful heart - a heart that you cannot change or save, for

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9).

V. Fifth, Finney's sermon denies that the Holy Spirit must give
the sinner power or grace in any sense.

He denies that the sinner needs the power of the Holy Spirit to be saved. He denies the need for grace in any form. Not only does he reject Reformed theology, but also, specifically, the Arminian belief in salvation by grace. He says that if salvation were by grace then sin would not be a transgression of the law, but of refusing to yield to the Holy Spirit. In other words, if salvation is by grace, then sin is a rejection of the Holy Spirit rather than transgression of the law. Of course this is precisely what the Jews did! They transgressed the law because they rejected the Spirit. As Stephen said,

"Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye"
      (Acts 7:51).

The Bible teaches that man disobeys the law because he rejects the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Although Finney completely denied it, the Bible teaches salvation by grace alone. Turn to Ephesians 2:8,

"For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8).

That is salvation by the grace of God, not making a new heart and spirit by yourself!

And, in conclusion, let us turn again to Mark 10:26-27.

"And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible" (Mark 10:26-27).

Finney said man could save himself. Jesus said, "With men it is impossible." So, you have a clear choice - between Finney and Christ! Who will you choose to believe?

Finney taught that man is responsible for making himself perfect! But the Bible teaches that man's responsibility is to believe in Jesus! You can go around for the rest of your life trying to make yourself perfect by a series of decisions - and you will go to Hell. Or you can come to Jesus and be saved by Jesus! It's one or the other - salvation by decisions or salvation by Jesus. Take your pick. But remember - salvation by decisions leads only to Hell!

The Rich Young Ruler in Mark 10 was trying to be saved by perfect obedience to God's law. In other words, he was trying to be saved by following Finney's method. Christ asked this young man a series of questions to show him the folly of trying to save himself this way. Then Christ told the Disciples,

"With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible" (Mark 10:27).

Salvation will come to you when you are shown by God that you cannot save yourself. When you see this clearly, you will discover that only Christ can save you.

"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners"
      (I Timothy 1:15).

When God opens your eyes to see this great truth, that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," like you - when you truly see this, you must then throw yourself on Jesus,

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved"
      (Acts 16:31).

The New Testament does not tell you to "make you a new heart and a new spirit" (Ezekiel 18:31). The New Testament tells you,

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved"
      (Acts 16:31).

(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. C. L. Cagan: Mark 10:17-27.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Grace Greater Than Our Sin" (by Julia Johnston, 1849-1919).

THE OUTLINE OF

FINNEY'S EVIL SERMON REFUTED BY THE SCRIPTURES

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"With men it is impossible, but not with God" (Mark 10:27).

(Mark 10:22, 24, 26-27; Jude 4; Ezekiel 18:31)

I.   Finney's sermon is law, not gospel, Romans 3:20.

II.  Finney's sermon fails to compare other Scriptures on this matter
in the book of Ezekiel, Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26-27; Romans 7:7; 
Romans 7:24-25.

III. Finney's sermon is not the gospel of grace - it is "another gospel," 
Acts 16:31; Galatians 1:6, 8.

IV. Finney's sermon denies the Fall of man and the resulting depravity 
of the human race, Genesis 3:17-19; 4:8; Romans 5:12;
Ephesians 2:5, 1; 4:18; Romans 8:7; John 16:8; Jeremiah 17:9.

V.  Finney's sermon denies that the Holy Spirit must give the sinner 
power or grace in any sense, Acts 7:51; Ephesians 2:8;
Mark 10:26-27; I Timothy 1:15; Acts 16:31.

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."