Breaking Fallow Ground
Wonderful Love of God

The Sermons and Writings of Charles Finney

Charles Grandison Finney (1792 1875) was the most prominent revivalist during the Second Great Awakening in America. Born on August 29, 1792 in Warren, Connecticut, he was the youngest of seven children. His parents were farmers and lived humbly. While Finney never attended college, he studied as an apprentice to a lawyer. But after a dramatic conversion, he soon became a Presbyterian minister and pastored the Free Presbyterian Chatham Street Chapel and later the Broadway Tabernacle. Charles Finney was known as a fiery and progressive preacher. While he had Calvinist roots, he rejected many aspects of "Old Divinity" Calvinism which he felt were hindrances to evangelism. He allowed women to pray publicly, instituted an "anxious bench" for repentance and prayer, and was involved in the abolitionist movement in America. He later became a professor and President of Oberlin College, which was an intellectual hotbed for early abolitionists.


"Break up your follow ground
for it is time to seek the Lord
till He come and rain righteousness upon you."
Hosea 10:12

The Jews were a nation of farmers, and it is therefore a common thing in the scriptures to refer for Illustrations to their occupation, and to the scenes with which farmers and shepherds are familiar. The prophet Hosea addresses them as a nation of backsliders; he reproves them for their idolatry, and threatens them with the judgments of God. My design in this Lecture is to show how a revival is to be promoted.

A revival consists of two parts: as it applies the Church, and as it applies the ungodly. I will speak on this occasion of a revival in the Church. Fallow ground is ground which has once been tilled, but which now lies waste, and needs to be broken up and mellowed, before it is it is ready to receive grain. I will show, as it applies to a revival in the Church 1. What it is to break up the fallow ground, in the sense of the text. 2. How it is to be performed.


To break up the fallow ground, is to break up your hearts, to prepare your minds to bring forth fruit unto God. The mind of man is often compared to the ground in the bible. The word of God is the seed sown there, the fruit representing the actions and emotions of those who receive it. To break up the fallow ground therefore, is to bring the mind into such a state that it is fitted to receive the Word of God. Sometimes your hearts get matted down, hard and dry, until there is no such thing as getting fruit from them until they are broken up, and mellowed down, and fitted to the Word. It is this softening of the heart, so as to make it feel the truth, which the prophet calls break up your fallow ground.


It is not by any direct efforts to feel. There are great errors on the subject of the laws which govern the mind. People talk about religious feeling as if they could by direct effort, call forth religious affection. But this is not the way the mind acts. No man can make himself feel in this way, simply by trying to feel. The feelings of the mind are not directly under our control. We cannot just will or decide to have religious feelings. They are purely involuntary states of mind. They naturally and necessary exist in the mind under certain circumstances calculated to excite them. But they can be controlled indirectly otherwise there would be no moral character In our feelings, if there were not a way to control them. We cannot say, "Now I will feel so-and-so toward such an object." But we can command our attention to it, and look at it intently, until the proper feeling arises. Let a man who is away from his family bring them up before his mind and will he not feel? But it is not by saying to himself, "Now I will feel deeply for family." A man can direct his attention to any object about which he ought to feel and wishes to feel, and in that way he will call into existence the proper emotions. Let a man call up his enemy before his mind, and his feelings of enmity will rise. So if a man thinks of God, and fastens his mind on any of God's character, he will feel, emotions will come up by the very laws of mind. If he is a friend of Cod, let him contemplate God as a gracious and holy being, and he will have emotions of friendship kindled in his mind. If he is an enemy of Cod, only let him get the true character of God before his mind, and look at it, and fasten his attention on it, and then his bitter enmity will rise against God, or he will break down and give his heart to God.

If you mean to break up the fallow ground of your hearts, and make your minds feel on the subject of religion, you must go to work just as you would to feel on any other subject.

Instead of keeping your thoughts on everything else, and then imagining that by going to a few meetings you will get your feelings started, go the common-sense way to work, as you would on any other subject. It is just as easy to make your minds feel on the subject of religion as it is on any other. God has put these states of mind under your control. If people were as unphilosophical about moving their limbs as they are about regulating their emotions, you would never have reached this meeting.

If you mean to break up the fallow ground of your hearts, you must begin by looking at your hearts: examine and note the state of your minds, and see where you are. Many never seem to think about this. They pay no attention to their own hearts, and never know whether they are doing well in religion or not; whether they are gaining ground or going back; whether they are fruitful, or lying waste. Now you must draw off your attention from other things, and look into this. Make a business of it. Do not be in a hurry. Examine throughly the state of your hearts, and see where you are: whether you are walking with God every day, or with the devil; whether you are serving God or serving the devil most; whether you are under the dominion or the prince of darkness, or of the Lord Jesus Christ.

To do all this, you must set yourself to work to consider your sins. You must examine yourselves. And by this I do not mean you must stop and look directly within to see what is the present state of your feelings. That is the very way to put a stop to all feeling. That is just as absurd as it would be for a man to shut his eyes on the lamp, and try to turn his eyes inward to find whether there was any image painted on the retina. The man complains that he does not see anything! And why? Because he has turned his eyes away from the objects of sight. The truth is, our moral feelings are as much an object of consciousness as our senses. And the way to find them out is to on acting, and using our minds. Then we can tell our moral feelings by consciousness, just as I could tell my natural feelings by consciousness if I should put my hand in the fire.

Self-examination consists in looking at your lives, in considering your actions, in calling up the past, and learning its true character. Look back over your past history. Take up your individual sins one by one, and look at them. I do not mean that you should just cast a glance at your past life, and see that it has been full of sins, and then go to God and make a sort of general confession, and ask for pardon. That is not the way. You must take them up one by one. Get a pen and paper and write them down as you remember them. Go over them as carefully as a merchant goes over his books and as often as a sin comes before your memory, add it the list. General confessions of sin will never do. Your sins were committed one by one; and as they come to you, review and repent of them one by one. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you your past sins. Now begin, and take up first what are commonly, but improperly, called Sins of Omission.

1. Ingratitude. Take this sin and write down under that heading all the times you can remember where you have received favors from God and others for which you have never expressed gratitude or thankfulness. How many cases can you remember? Some remarkable change of events, that saved you from ruin. Write down the instances of God's goodness to you when you were in sin, before your conversion, for which you have never been half thankful enough; and the numerous mercies you have received since. How long the list of instances, where your ingratitude has been so black that you are forced to hide your face in confusion! Go on your knees and confess them one by one to God, and ask forgiveness. The very act of confession, by the laws of suggestion, will bring up others to your memory. Put these down. Go over them three or four times in this way, and see what an astonishing number of mercies there are for which you have never thanked God.

2. Lack of love to God. Think how grieved and alarmed you would be if you discovered any lack of affection for you in your wife, husband, or children; if you saw another absorbing their hearts, and thoughts, and time. Perhaps in such a case you would nearly die with a just and virtuous jealousy. Now, God calls Himself a jealous God; and have you not given your heart to other loves and infinitely offended Him?

3. Neglect of the Bible. Put down the cases when for perhaps weeks, or longer, God's Word was not a pleasure. Some people, indeed, read over whole chapters in such a way that they could not tell what they had been reading. If so, no wonder that your life is spent at random, and that your religion is such a miserable failure.

4. Unbelief. Recall the instances in which you have virtually charged the God of truth with lying, by your unbelief of His express promises and declarations. God has promised to give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him. Now, have you believed this? Have you expected Him to answer? Have you not virtually said in your hearts, when you prayed for the Holy Spirit: "I do not believe that I shall receive"? If you have not believed nor expected to receive the blessing which God has expressly promised, you have charged Him with lying.

5. Neglect of prayer. Think of the times when you have neglected secret prayer, family prayer, and prayer meetings; or have prayed in such a way as more grievously to offend God than to have omitted it altogether.

6. Neglect of the means of grace. When you have made stupid and meaningless excuses to prevent your attending meetings, have neglected and poured contempt upon the methods of salvation, simply because you dislike spiritual duties?

7. The manner in which you have performed those duties. That is, with lack of feeling and lack of faith in a worldly frame of mind, so that your words were nothing but the mere chattering of a wretch who did not deserve that God should feel the least care for him. When you have fallen down upon your knees and "said your prayers" in such an unfeeling and careless manner that if you had been put under oath five minutes after, you could not have said for what you had been praying.

8. Lack of love for the souls of your fellow-men. Look around upon your friends and relatives, and remember how little compassion you have felt for them. You have stood by and seen them going right to hell, and it seems as though you did not care if they did go. How many days have there been, in which you did not make their condition the subject of a single fervent prayer, or display a glowing and devoted desire for their salvation?

9. Lack of care for the lost. Perhaps you have not cared enough for them to attempt to learn their condition; perhaps not even to take a missionary magazine. Look at this, and see how much you really care for the lost, and write down honestly the real amount of your feelings for them, and your desire for their salvation. Measure your desire for their salvation by the self-denial you practice, in giving of your substance to send them the Gospel. Do you deny yourself even the hurtful and unnecessary desires of life, such as tea, coffee, and tobacco? Do you cut back on your style of living, and hesitate not to deny yourself any inconvenience to save them? Do you daily pray for them in private? Are you putting money aside to put into the treasury of the Lord when you go up to pray? If you are not doing these things, and if your soul is not agonized for the poor benighted heathen, why are you such a hypocrite to pretend to be a Christian? Why saying you are a Christian is an insult to Jesus Christ!

10. Neglect of family duties. Think how you have prayed before your family, how you have prayed, what an example you have set before them. What direct efforts do you habitually make for their spiritual good? What duty have you not neglected?

11. Neglect of social duties.

12. Neglect of watchfulness over your own life. In how many instances you have hurried over your private duties, and have not been fully responsible in preforming your duties, nor honestly made up your accounts with God; how often have you entirely neglected to watch your conduct, and, having been off your guard, have sinned before the world, and before the Church, and before God!

13. Neglect to watch over your brethren. How often have you broken your covenant that you would watch over them in the Lord ! How little do you know or care about the state of their souls! And yet you are under a solemn oath to watch over them. What have you done to make yourself acquainted with them? In how many of them have you interested yourself to know their spiritual state? Go over the list, and wherever you find there has been a neglect, write it down. How many times have you seen your brethren growing cold in religion, and have not spoken to them about it? You have seen them beginning to neglect one duty after another, and you did not reprove them, in a brotherly way. You have seen them falling into sin, and you let them go on. And yet you pretend to love them. What a hypocrite I Would you see your wife or child going into disgrace, or into the fire, and hold your peace? No, you would not. What do you think of yourself, then, to pretend to love Christians, and to love Christ, while you can see them going into disgrace, and say nothing to them?

14. Neglect o/ self-denial There are many professors who are willing to do almost anything in religion, that does not require self-denial. But when they are required to do anything that requires them to deny themselves-oh, that is too much I They think they are doing a great deal for God, and doing about as much as He ought in reason to ask, if they only doing what they do just as well as not; but they are not willing to deny themselves any comfort or convenience whatever for the sake of serving the Lord. They will not willing suffer reproach for the name of Christ. Nor will they deny themselves the luxuries of life, to save a world from hell. So far are they from remembering that self-denial is a condition o! discipleship that they do not know what self-denial is. They never have really denied themselves a ribbon or a pin for Christ and the Gospel. Oh, how soon such people will be in hell! Some are giving of their abundance and are giving much, and are ready to complain that others do not give more; when, In truth, they do not themselves give anything that they need, anything that they could enjoy if they kept it. They only give of their surplus wealth; and perhaps that poor woman who puts in her mite, has exercised more self-denial than they have in giving thousands.

From these we now turn to Sins of Commission.

1. Wordily mindedness. What has been the state of your heart in regard to your worldly possessions Have you looked at them as really yours-as if you had a right to dispose of them as your own, according to your own will? If you have, write that down. If you have loved property, and sought after it for its own sake, or to gratify lust or ambition, or a worldly spirit or to lay it up for your families, you have sinned, and must repent.

2. Pride. Recall all the times you can, in which you have detected yourself in the exercise of pride. Vanity is a particular form of pride. How many times have you detected yourself in consulting vanity about your dress and appearance? How many times have you thought more, and taken more pains, and spent more time about decorating your body to go to Church, than you have about preparing your mind for the worship of God?

You have gone caring more as to how you appeared outwardly in the sight of mortal man, than how your soul appeared in the sight of the heart-searching God. You have, in fact, set up yourself to be worshiped by them, rather than prepared to worship God yourself. You sought to divide the worship of God house, to draw off the attention of God's people to look at your pretty appearance. It is in vain to pretend flow, that you do not care anything about having people look at you. Be honest about it would you take all this pains about your looks if every person were blind?

3. Envy. Look at the cases in which you were envious of those whom you thought were above you in any respect. Or perhaps you have envied those who have been more talented or more useful than yourself. Have you not so envied some, that you have been pained to bear them praised? It has been more pleasant for to you to dwell upon their faults than upon their virtues, upon their failures than upon their success. Be honest with yourself; and if you have harbored this spirit of hell, repent deeply before God, or He will never forgive you.

4. Censoriousness and bitterness. Instances in which you have had a bitter spirit or harbored a grudge toward someone? How many times have you spoken of Christians in a manner completely lacking charity and love? Love always hopes for the best but count the time in which you suspected the worst.

5. Slander and gossip. The times you have spoken behind people's backs of the faults, real or supposed, of members of the Church or others, unnecessarily, or without good reason. This is slander. You need not lie to be guilty of slander: to tell the truth with the design to injure is to slander.

6. Levity. How often have you joked before God as you would not have dared to joke in the presence of an important official? You have either been an atheist, and forgotten that there was a God, or have had less respect for Him, and His presence, than you would have had for an earthly judge.

7. Lying. Understand now what lying is. Any form of designed deception. If the deception be not designed, it is not lying. But if you design to make an oppression contrary to the naked truth, you lie. Put down all those cases you can recollect. Do not call them by any soft name. God call them LIES, and charges you with LYING, and you had better charge yourself correctly How innumerable are the falsehoods perpetrated every day in business, and in social intercourse, by words and looks, and actions, designed to make an impression on others, for selfish reasons that is contrary to the truth.

8. Cheating. Set down all the cases in which yon have dealt with an individual, and done to him that which you would not like to have done to you. That is cheating. God has laid down a rule in the case : "All things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do even so to them." That is the rule. And if you have not done so you are a cheat. Mind, the rule is not that you should do "what you might reasonably expect them to do to you: for that is a rule which would admit of every degree of wickedness. But it is : "As you WOULD they should do to you.

9. Hypocrisy. For instance, in your prayers and confessions to God. Set down the instances in which you have prayed for things you did not really want. And the evidence is, that when you have done praying, you could not tell for what you had prayed. How many times have you confessed sins that you did not mean to break off and when you had no solemn purpose not to repeat them? Yes, have confessed sins when you knew you as much expected to go and repeat them, as you expected to live.

10. Robbing God. Think of the instances in which you have misspent your time, squandering the hours which God gave you to serve Him and save souls, in vain amusements or foolish conversation, in reading novels or doing nothing; cases where you have misapplied your talents and powers of mind; where you have squandered money on your lusts, or spent it for things which you did not need, and which did not contribute to your health comfort, or usefulness. Perhaps some of you have laid out God's money for tobacco. I will not speak of intoxicating drink for I presume there is no professor religion here that would drink it, and I hope there is n one that uses that filthy poison, tobacco. Think of teachers, of religion using God's money to poison themselves with tobacco!

11. Bad temper. Perhaps you have abused your wife, or your children, or your family, or employees, or neighbors. Write it all down.

12. Hindering others from being useful. Perhaps you have, weakened their influence by insinuations against them. You have not only robbed God of your own talents, but tied the hands of somebody else. What a wicked servant is he who not only loiters himself but hinders the rest! This is done sometimes by taking their time needlessly; sometimes by destroying Christian confidence in them. Thus you have played into the hands of Satan, and not only showed yourself an idle vagabond, but prevented others from working.

If you find you have committed a fault against an individual, and that individual is within your reach, go and confess it immediately, and get that out of the way. If the individual you have injured is too far off for you to go and see him, sit down and write him a letter and confess the injury. If you have defrauded anybody, send the money, the full amount and the interest.

Go thoroughly to work in all this. Go now. Do not put it off; that will only make the matter worse. Confess to God those sins that have been committed against God, and to man those sins that have been committed against man. Do not think of getting off by going around the stumbling-blocks. Take them up out of the way. In breaking up your fallow ground, you must remove every obstruction. Things may be left that you think little things, and you may wonder why you do not feel as you wish to feel in religion, when the reason is that your proud and carnal mind has covered up something which God required you to confess and remove. Break up all the ground and turn it over. Do not "balk" it, as the farmers say; do not turn aside for little difficulties; drive the plough right through them, dig deep, and turn the ground up, so that it may all be mellow and soft, and fit to receive the seed and bear fruit 'an hundredfold."

When you have gone over your whole history in this way, throughly, if you will then go over the ground the second time, and give your solemn and fixed attention to it, you will feel that the things you have put down will suggest other things of which you have been guilty, connected with them, or near them. Then go over it a third time, and you will recollect other things connected with these. And you will find in the end that you can remember an amount of history, and particular actions even in this life, which you did not think you would remember in eternity. Unless you take up your sins in this way, and consider them in detail, one by one, you can form no idea of the amount of them. You should go over the list as thoroughly, and as carefully, and as solemnly, as you would if you were just preparing yourself for the Judgment.

As you go over the history of your sins, be sure to decide upon present and entire reformation. Wherever you find anything wrong, take care of it at once, in the strength of God, to sin no more in that way. It will be of no benefit to examine yourself, unless you determine to change in every particular that which you find wrong in heart, temper, or conduct.

If you find, as you go on with this duty, that your mind is still all dark, cast about you, and you will find there is some reason for the Spirit of God to depart from you. You have not been faithful and thorough. In the progress of such a work you have got to do violence to yourself and bring yourself as a rational being up to this work, with the Bible before you, and try your heart till you do feel. You need not expect that God will work a miracle for you to break up your fallow ground. It is to be done by means. Fasten your attention to the subject of your sins. You cannot look at your sins long and thoroughly and see how bad they are, without feeling, and feeling deeply. Experience fully proves the benefit of going over our history in this way. Set yourself to work now; decide that you never will stop until you find you can pray. You never will have the Spirit of God dwelling in you until you have unraveled this whole mystery of iniquity, and spread out your sins before God. Let there be this deep work of repentance and full confession, this breaking down before God, and you will have as much of the spirit of prayer as your body can bear up under. The reason why so few Christians know anything about the Spirit of prayer is because they never would take the pains to examine themselves properly, and so never knew what it was to have the hearts all broken up in this way. You see I have only begun to lay open this subject I want to lay it out before you, in the course of these Lectures, so that if you will begin and go on to do as I say, the results will be just as certain as they are when a farmer breaks up a fallow field, and mellows it, and sows his grain. It will be so, if you will only begin in this way and bold it on till all your hardened and callous hearts break up.


1. It will do no good to preach to you while your hearts are in this hardened, and waste, and fallow state. The farmer might just as well sow his grain on the rock. It will bring forth no fruit. This is the reason why there are so many fruitless ministers in the Church, and why there is so much organization and so little deep-toned feeling. Look at the Sunday school, for instance, and see many tools there are and how little of the power of godliness. If you go on in this way the Word of God will continue to harden you, and you will grow worse and worse, just as the rain and snow on an old fallow field make the turf thicker and the clods stronger.

2. See why so much preaching is wasted, and worse than wasted. It is because the Church will not break up their fallow ground. A preacher may wear out his life, and do very little good, while there are so many "stony ground" hearers, who have never had their fallow ground broken up. They are only half converted, and their religion is rather a change of opinion than a change of the feeling of their hearts. There is mechanical religion enough, but very little that looks like deep heart-work.

3. Preachers should never satisfy themselves, or expect a revival, just by starting out of their slumbers, and blustering about, and talking to sinners. They must get their fallow ground broken up. It is utterly unphilosophical to think of getting engaged in religion in this way. If your fallow ground is broke up, then the way to get more feeling is to go out and see sinners on the road to hell, and talk to them, and guide inquiring souls, and you will get more feeling. You may get into an excitement without this breaking up; you may show a kind of zeal, but it will not last long, and it will not take hold of sinners, unless you hearts are broken up. The reason is, that you go about it mechanically, and have not broken up you fallow ground.

4. And now, finally, will you break up your fallow ground? Will you enter upon the course now pointed out and persevere till you are thoroughly awake? If you fail here, if you do not do this, and get prepared, you can go no farther with me. I have gone with you as far as it is of any use to go until your fallow ground is broken up. Now, you must make thorough work upon this point, or all I have further to say will do you little good. No, it will only harden, and make you worse. If, when next Lecture-night arrives it finds you with unbroken hearts, you need not expect to be benefited by what I shall say. If you do not set about this work immediately I shall take it for granted that you do not mean to be revived, that you have forsaken your minister, and mean to let him go up to battle alone. If you do not do this, I charge you with having forsaken Christ, with refusing to repent and do your first works. But if you will be prepared to enter upon the work propose, God willing, in the next Lecture, to lead you into the work of saving sinners.



As used here, the term "world" does not mean the globe of earth on which we live, but the race of humankind. The term is often used in this sense. The "world" and "the whole world" are often used to signify the people who live in the world, the human race as such. The term "perish" in this passage does not mean "annihilation." Perish is manifestly put in contrast to everlasting life, and is the opposite of it. As the term is used here, "everlasting life" is not merely eternal existence. I do not believe that the term is ever used in that sense in the Bible. Whether everlasting existence will be a blessing or not depends upon the state in which individuals exist, whether in happiness or misery. Under some circumstances, everlasting existence might be anything but a blessing.

The everlasting life spoken of here means an everlasting living with God in heaven--an eternal existence combined with perpetual happiness. Now, "to perish" means the opposite of this. To perish is not annhilation or a mere ceasing from existence, because often to annihilate would be no evil to the individual on whom the sentence should be inflicted. To a wretched person, annihilation would not be an evil at all, but a favor. In short, it is very plain that to perish is the very opposite of everlasting life and means what is expressed in everlasting death or a state of endless punishment.


The object of God's love was the world; not a part of it, but the whole world. There is no reason in the nature of things why one part of the human race should be loved more than another part. Observe, God's love was not exercised to saints as such. His love for the world had no respect to the character of people. He loved the world of sinners. He exercised His love toward them. God loved everyone as a race, as sinners, even though they were His enemies. All were sinners, and there is no reason why part of the race of sinners should be loved and not all of them. The same kind of love which could possibly love a part, of necessity from its very nature loved the whole. A universal love is the only love which could have been exercised toward people by a good being.


God's love could not have been complacency or a delight in the character of people, for there was nothing in the character of the human race that could permit God to love people or take any delight in their character--that is most certain. God could not have loved our race with a complacent or satisfied love; for that would have been to make Him infinitely more wicked than they were themselves. What is implied in loving a wicked being? Why sympathy with his character is implied. God could not have loved the world with a complacent love without being infinitely more wicked than the world, because for an infinite being to sympathize with wicked natures, he must himself be infinitely wicked. Certainly, God's love could not have had any respect to the character of people. They were not loved for their character. That would have been impossible.

God's love could not have been mere emotion, for emotion does not influence the life without the will. Emotion is not a cause. Even intense emotion will not give existence. Emotion is a merely involuntary state of mind--something which belongs to the passions. It will often be a motive to action, and may be a stimulus to the will, but mere passion never caused anything. Causality is that which produces and lives in the will of every moral agent, and is a very different thing from emotion.

God's love was not fondness for particular persons. There was no reason in God's nature, and no reason in man, why God should exercise any such fondness. Neither was His love an involuntary love, as is manifest in what He did. It must have been voluntary, because we have here before us the evidence of its efficiency. And it was an efficient love because it was voluntary love.

God's love for the world was not an unreasonable state of mind. There was, to be sure, nothing in the character of our race to allow God to have a complacent love, yet it was not an unreasonable state of mind. His love was not prohibited by reason. We sometimes see wholly unreasonable affections among people. We sometimes see deep affection in the form of what we call love existing among people in a way that is totally opposite to reason. But there was some good reason for this love of God--something which His own understanding and conscience sanctioned. There was something about people which rendered it reasonable for God to love them with a certain kind of love.

The love which God actually did manifest was the only kind of love that could have been important to the world. If the love of God had been mere emotion or pity, it would have done people no good. This love, then, must have been a reasonable affection. It must have been a reasonable love. Now when we look at the nature of this love, if we do so in a simple and reasonable manner, there can be no doubt of what the real nature of this love was: it was good-will or benevolence. This is evident from the fact that it exerted itself for the good of the objects in a most striking and wonderful manner. Clearly, it was good-will because it produced good action.

God's love was an unselfish kind of love. The reason God loved the world was not because people deserved that He should do them good--for they deserved only evil at His hands. God had a good reason to love them, but they had no right to demand His love as a matter of justice. They had forfeited all claim to His affection or protection; therefore, justice did not demand that God should do them good.

Our souls are so valuable, our happiness is so infinitely important and our misery is so great an evil, that God, looking at the intrinsic value of our souls, saw good reason for loving the world and doing us good. That is, God did the good for the sake of the good itself. He willed good to the world for the sake of the intrinsic and infinite value of this good to the world considered in itself, and not because people at all deserved it. The world not only had no claim upon God for His love, but God had great reasons for destroying it. Yet, so great was the value of our souls, so much did He pity us in view of the world's coming and certain destruction, and so greatly did He love our happiness and desire it, that overcoming all obstacles in the way He rose above any disposition to punish us or retaliate upon us for our wickedness, and sought only to do us good. There was good reason for this, as I have said, not in view of the actions of our race, but in consideration of the value of their souls.

God's love was a disinterested love. He did not propose any selfish interest to himself as the reason why he should do this thing--it was His love of the world. It was a disposition to do good. It was the love of our good that led Him to do it. He did not propose to benefit us so as to secure to himself in any selfish sense any great good--it was a totally disinterested love. As a matter of fact, He did enjoy it himself, and yet it was a totally disinterested love, and so much the more will it glorify Him. Just in proportion as He aimed to secure the world's interest with a single-eye, in just that proportion did He secure His own approbation and the admiration and glorification of all holy beings. By disinterested love, I do not mean that He had no interest in it, for He had an infinite interest in what He did, but I mean that His love was wholly unselfish--He sought to do good because of the value of the good itself.

God's love must have been a love of amazing strength. It could not have been a feeble state of mind. It must have been infinitely intense! Just think of it! "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son!" What a wonder this was! On the one hand, we have a world of enemies who were at war with him; and on the other, we have His beloved and only begotten Son. Now just consider this: conceive of a state of mind that should prefer to give that Son, that only begotten, well-beloved Son, to die for those rebels who stood with the weapons of rebellion in their hand. They had revolted against His government and deserved His frown and wrath. His own conscience clearly affirmed that they deserved to be banished from His presence. Yet, such was His estimate of the value of their souls, of the dreadful sufferings to which they would be subjected if the penalty of the law should be inflicted upon them, that He gave His Son rather than banish that world of rebels from the glory of His power to die in their guilt.

No person, unless he ponders these things well, will understand how intensely strong this love must have been to produce such a determination as that. If he can, let a parent who has an only child that has never offended him, the very darling of his soul, one he loves as well as he loves himself and has reason to love, think if he could give up his child for the good of his enemies. Could he let people abuse him and do everything to injure him that they possibly could? Could he let them place themselves in a position as obnoxious as possible so as to deserve his indignation and condemnation, without his utter rejection and abhorrence of them forever? Conceive, if you can, of a state of mind that could deliberately make such a choice as God did. Think of the intense nature of God's love.

Now think, if you can, with your son on one side and your enemies on the other, what struggles would be produced in your mind by reflecting upon the fact that these enemies must perish forever or you must give up your son! You see that your son has a willing heart, that he is ready to undertake their deliverance from death--that he is willing to take all that is implied in being their Savior. But the case demands that you consent to it, that you enter into it with your heart, and that you say to him, "Go." When we realise what God must have felt under such circumstances, we must understand the intense nature of that love that could overcome the state of mind that would naturally cleave to His Son, but then give Him up for the good of the world.

Just conceive how many things there must have been against God's loving the world and sending His Son into the world. God knew what it would cost Him. His Son must pass through trial, affliction, persecution, poverty, and agony. His Father saw every trial and every suffering that He would have to undergo--He saw Him heavy in sorrow and despised--He saw Him too in the garden, when He sweat as it were great drops of blood, so great was His agony--this was all present to the divine mind when He gave up His Son to be the Savior of the world. The Father saw His Son weary to fainting as He carried His cross up Calvary's hill, so that His barbarous persecutors were compelled to lay the burden on another. He saw Him mocked and pierced when on the cross and saw Him in the agonies of death, and heard His lamentable cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" What a nunber of scenes must have clustered around the divine mine to forbid the gift of His Son for the salvation of a guilty world. Yet so great was His love that He overcame all these obstacles and freely gave Him up for us all, that we might not perish but have everlasting life. Let this idea take possession of your mind.

God's love was for enemies, not friends. Observe, all the world was contemplated, and God gave Christ to die for sinners-- a race of sinners. Observe, Christ did not die for a Christian, as such. God gave His Son for sinners. Now, keep this fact always in mind, Christ did not die for good people, but for bad people. God did not give His Son to die for the righteous but for the wicked.

God's love was a forbearing love. Some seem to think that when we talk of the self-denial of God we imply that He is sometimes selfish. Now let me say, self-denial always implies the very opposite of selfishness in any being. It is the consenting to give up some good or to endure some evil for the benefit of others. No individual, of course, can exercise self-denial who is living in selfishness. Now, this was self-denial in God to consent to deny himself by giving up His Son. It must have been greatly trying to His feelings to consent to give up His Son to die for the world.

Naturally, God's love was a universal love. It was not love to the human race alone. It extended to other worlds. No doubt, it was in reference, in a great measure, to other worlds that led Him to take the course He did take in forgiving sin in this world. It was the good of His universal kingdom that led Him to take this particular measure.

His love is a holy love. So, God hates sin. In as much as His love was exercised toward sinners, it was very important that He should do something to make the whole universe understand that He was not conniving in their sin. Indeed, this was the grand and most material point. As everyone can see, His love was manifested to sinners. How could He sufficiently guard against the impression that He connived at their sins? He had to express His great love for sinners by laying himself out to do them good without appearing to approve of sin. How could He make it known that He was as much opposed to their sin as He had professed to be, and as the universal conscience demanded that He should be?

Very often it is a delicate thing for human governors to manifest love and benevolence to rebels against the government. It is a very delicate thing for governments of great and extended empires to manifest deep and anxious love for those who are enemies of the law and who have defied it. There is also much danger that the justice of the law will be thrown into the shade, that respect for the law shall be lost sight of, and that the sin involved in the rebellion should be forgotten. Now, there was infinite danger of this in the government of God; therefore, it was necessary that while pardoning the sinner, He should as much as possible show His opposition to sin, and thus manifest plainly to the world that He did not connive at their sin.

God's love was just, as truly as it was merciful. That is, God's love was just to the universe. There were other interests besides the interest of sinners in His government. There were reasons why He should not endanger His authority and let down respect for His law. Justice to the universe demanded that God should be careful how He expressed the great and infinite love which He had in His heart toward sinners.


God's love sought to compass the world's salvation. He sought to save those that deserved to die, and He resorted to the measure of giving His only begotten Son for sinners--a wonderful measure! Now, plainly, the reason for this must have been anything but ill-will on the part of God.

God's love, more than anger at sinners, led Him to give His Son. To be sure, in one point of view, He had a holy indignation at their sins, but this anger did not lead Him to give His Son. He gave His Son in spite of this just and holy indignation at their sins. A holy, merciful disposition led God to require Jesus Christ to die for sinners. God was disposed to be merciful. His disposition to mercy was the secret of the whole matter. This was the grand foundation of the whole arrangement. This was the very reason God undertook to save sinners: He loved them and was disposed to show them favor. It was not, then, the lack of a merciful disposition on God's part. It was not hatred, but love of sinners. Here we see the one great reason that led God to show mercy to sinners. There was one great reason in the Divine mind, the fundamental reason, His love for sinners.

Now notice, God resorted to this measure of giving His Son to secure the good of the world for several reasons. Since He did not retaliate upon them for all their opposition to Him, there must have been some very weighty reasons, and some reasons that needed to be overcome, but which could not be overcome by any other measure than the one which was actually adopted. We ought always to remember that God acts rationally, for wise and good reasons. Therefore, let no one suppose that He resorted to any unnecessary measure of severity in the atonement. No one can rationally suppose that God resorted to any means that could have been avoided in the nature of the case.

God set His heart upon wise means, and means that were demanded by the circumstances and the occasion, to save sinners. Let us look at some of God's reasons for the particular means He used. His reasons must have been sanctioned by the law of benevolence or they would not have been virtuous. If the means He chose had not been sanctioned by the eternal laws of God's own reason, He could never have resorted to them. The circumstances called for the atonement.

Look at the subject--humankind had resisted the government of God, had denied the justice of His law, to which even the angels conform, and which is absolutely necessary to secure the well-being of the universe and their own salvation. If God had seemed to connive at man's disobedience of His law, which was the law of the entire universe, all other beings might have denied the justice of the law and disobeyed it also. Observe, therefore, the whole universe, all the inhabitants of heaven, had a strong interest in maintaining God's law. Now mark! God's law had been disobeyed: a public lie had been told and persisted in. The justice of the law had been in a most deliberate manner denied by man. Now what was to be done? It is evident that something must be done which cannot be construed into a connivance of this rebellion.

Observe the relations of humankind and God. God's law had been trampled down, and the whole universe had its eye upon God to see what He would do. The well-being of the whole universe depended upon His actions. His relation to the universe demanded that He either execute the law or demonstrate on His own part, from His own heart, His regard for the law. The universe needed His estimation of the value of His law. He must act, and every- thing depended on the course He took. The honor of the law must be fully sustained by God himself. He must show the whole universe His approbation of the law for the public good. Such a demonstration must achieve the same end as the execution of the penalty of the law upon the offenders. So, God took upon himself human nature, and in this nature of both God and man, He stood right out before the whole universe and yielded obedience to its precepts. This showed the high regard He had for the law, the highest that He could possibly give in any way whatever. By taking upon himself the nature of the violators of the law, and in that nature obeying the precepts of the law, and then suffering the penalty for sinners' violation of the law, God's demonstration was complete and the law was perfectly honored.

Jesus Christ, His eternal Son, in this way stood forth as the representative of the race of rebels, having no sin in himself and yet standing in such a position as if the sin of the whole race was summed up in Him and the whole rebellion centered in Him. In this way God could pardon sinners and yet honor the law. Jesus Christ stands as the representative of the world, as the representative of sin. This arrangement in the atonement was a great deal more impressive than the execution of the law would have been upon the rebels themselves. The lawgiver himself stands forth as an illustration of the beauty of His own law and in vindication of its honor.

It is perfectly easy to see the bearing of this measure upon the universe itself. How perfectly it met the government exigency and made it quite safe for God to pardon the guilty.


Think about the motive that moved God to make an atonement for sin through His Son. I have heard some people talk of the atonement of Christ and of God's motive in such a way as to indicate that if they really believed God had this motive they could not respect Him. They speak of the atonement as not involving a merciful disposition of God. They speak of the atonement as the exacting of a debt, that God required a certain amount of payment for every sinner before He would forgive them. They do not see that the atonement was the result of a merciful disposition in the heart of God.

The Bible teaches that God gave His Son to die for sinners from love for them, and that they receive the blessing of forgiveness by exercising faith in Jesus Christ. God's love gives faith its power. Just let a sinner understand that God loves him as a sinner, and if there is anything that can break his heart that will. I do not mean to say that knowledge of this fact will invariably do it; but I do say that if this does not do it, nothing will do it. In short, the profession of love to sinners must be realized and believed by them in order to their salvation.

Many overlook the nature of God's love because they cannot conceive how God can love sinners. I know, because I stumbled at this point for a long time. I had loved; I knew what the term meant in some of its significance. I knew what it was to have complacency in those whose characters I admired. I knew what the love of fondness meant as it exists among selfish beings, but this was the only kind of love that I had exercised; therefore, I could not understand how God could love a wicked man. It appeared to me impossible for God to love a sinner. I said to myself, "If God can love a sinner, He must be a sinner." Do you think God can be a sinner! Of course not! You see, I had judged God by my selfish love. Yet, the love that I exercised implied some fellowship and sympathy with the being loved. At last the Holy Spirit enabled me to understand that God could love people without exercising a selfish love.

A great many people speak very loosely when they speak on this subject. They do not understand the nature of God's love to sinners--the selfish mind cannot comprehend it. When a sinner first becomes convicted of sin, he thinks that it is perfectly impossible for God to love him. And he is ready to exclaim, "He cannot love me any more than He can love the devil." And in part that is true. God cannot love the sinner with a complacent and sympathizing love any more than He can the devil--not a bit more. But there is another view of this subject, which is very important for you to take. There is a kind of love to which you, a sinner, are a stranger--the love of your enemies. "O," you say, "what reason have I to love them!" Why, you have the same reason to love them that God has--exactly. God does not love with a complacent love, which implies sympathy with their characters. But do not mistake, sinner, He can love you with a love of which you have no conception. The kind of love that God will exercise is just that kind which you ought to exercise towards your enemies; and in order to receive this love you must rise entirely above your selfishness, and give yourselves up with right good will to seek their good. Now the fact is, because you never exercised this love you cannot understand its nature. But God can rise above--ah, He never was in the selfish slough which your soul is in. He is not filled with the spirit of retaliation which you feel; therefore, although He sees and knows all the guilt of the sinner, He can yet look upon him with compassion and lay himself out with all His heart to save Him.

But let me say once more: the fact is, sinners mistake the nature of God's love, and so they try to make themselves happy. They always suppose that they must do something to deserve His love. If you ask them to come to Christ, they say, "I must do more; I must become better; I must pray, I must do this thing or the other thing to deserve His love." They have, you observe, the idea of complacent love. They think they must deserve it before they have it. They want to feel that they deserve it. The sinner never will believe that God loves him as a sinner. But let me tell you sinner that this is all wrong. You can never deserve God's love in the sense in which you hope to possess it--and if you seek to deserve it thus you will never be saved.

Remember, as a sinner, Christ died for you. As a rebel, God gave His Son to die for you. Just as you are, in your sins, God loves you. And for you, as a sinner, He gave His Son to die for you. This is what you must believe. You will find it difficult to believe, but it is absolutely necessary that you should do so. Let the idea take full possession of your mind. Say to yourself, "I do not need to try to render myself deserving, if God loves me now just as I am! Christ died for me as a sinner. As a sinner God loved me, and loves me still. As a sinner, then, I will go to Jesus. I will go, not as a deserving sinner, but as a seeking, humble, penitent, sinner." Will you come! Will you come now! Will you believe now! Or make God a liar!