The Promise of The Spirit On Christian Holiness by Charles G. Finney:
Compiled & Edited by Timothy L. Smith
Copyright 1980

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True and False Religion
Charles G. Finney

Galatains 5:1: "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ bath made us free,
and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.'

The observances of the ceremonial law were designedly a typical representation of the gospel. The Jews had misunderstood them, and supposed that their observance was the ground of justification and acceptance with God. After the introduction of Christianity, many of the Christian Jews were exceedingly zealous for their observance, and for uniting the ceremonial dispensation with Christianity. On the contrary Paul, the great "Apostle of the Gentiles," insisted upon justification by faith alone, entirely irrespective of any legal observances and conditions whatever. There were a set of teachers in the early days of Christianity who were called Judaizers, from the fact that they insisted upon uniting legal observances with Christianity as a ground of justification. Soon after the establishment of the Galatian churches by St. Paul, these Judaizers succeeded in introducing this corruption into the Christian churches. To rebuke this error and overthrow it was the design of this epistle. The yoke and bondage spoken of in the text was the yoke of legal observances. The liberty here mentioned is the liberty of love-of justification and of sanctification, by faith alone.

In discussing this subject I design to show:

I. What it is to make a man a slave.
II. What it is to be a slave.
III. What true liberty is.
IV. That the religion of many persons is mere slavery.
V. That true religion is genuine liberty.

I. I am to show what it is to make a man a SLAVE.

To enslave a man is to treat a person as a thing-to set aside moral agency and to treat a moral agent as a mere piece of property.

II. I am to show what it is to be a SLAVE.

It is not to be in a state of involuntary servitude for, strictly speaking, such a state is impossible. The slaves in the Southern States are not, strictly speaking, in a state of involuntary servitude. Upon the whole, they choose to serve their masters rather than do worse. A man cannot act against his will, but his will may be influenced by considerations that set aside his liberty. To be a slave is to be under the necessity of choosing between two evils. Thus the slaves in the Southern States prefer being as they are to being in a worse condition: to being imprisoned or whipped for attempting to escape. But plainly this is a choice between two evils, neither of which, if left to themselves, would they choose. So a wicked man may choose to obey human laws rather than suffer the consequences of disobedience; still he may abhor the laws and feel himself shut up to the necessity of choosing between two evils. So a wife who does not love her husband may choose, upon the whole, to live with him rather than break up her family, lose her character and subject herself to poverty and reproach. And yet if she does not love her husband, she will consider living with him merely as the least of two calamities. She feels shut up to the necessity of choosing between two courses, neither of which is agreeable to her. All that can be said is that she chooses that course which, upon the whole, is the least disagreeable.

To be obliged to choose against our feelings and inclinations-to be shut up to the necessity of pursuing a course of life not chosen for its own sake,

but as the last of two evils-is the very essence of slavery.

III. I am to show what true liberty is.

IV. The religion of many persons is mere slavery.

V. I am to show that true religion is genuine liberty.


1. From what has been said, it is manifest that many professors of religion in reality regard God as a great slaveholder. I do not mean that they would say this in words, nor that they understand that they do regard him in this light. The reason is that they do not understand themselves to be slaves. If they realized what slavery is, and that they themselves have the spirit of slaves and are, in their religion, all that is meant by being slaves, they would then be shocked with the irresistible inference that they do regard God as a Slaveholder.

2. What an abomination such a religion must be in the sight of God. Instead of seeing His professed children engaged, heart and soul, in His service-finding it the essence of true liberty, and their supreme joy-He beholds them groaning under it as a severe burden, submitted to only to escape His frown.

3. You see, in this discourse, the true distinction between the religion of law and that of the gospel. The religion of many professors seems to set as painfully on them as a straitjacket. It is evidently not their natural element. It is the bondage of law and not the religion of peace.

4. Many express indignation against Southern slavery, as they may well do, but who are slaves themselves. They know full well that if they would be honest with themselves, their religion is to them a yoke of bondage. They are afraid of death, afraid of the judgment, afraid of God.

They submit to religion as the only method of escaping "the wrath to come." But yet let it be known to them that there is no hell, no solemn judgment, that men will universally be saved, do what they will, and they will feel relieved of a weighty burden. They will feel rid of the responsibilities of moral agents and cast off their religion as of no consequence.

5. This slavery is utterly inexcusable and consists in the perverse state of the heart.

6. Such religion is worse than no religion.

7. All who have left their first love are again entangled in the yoke of bondage. If any of you have known what it was to love God with all your heart, you have known what it was to be free. You know by your own consciousness that your religion was then the essence of true liberty. But if you have laid aside your love, no matter by what other principles you are actuated, you are "entangled again in the yoke of bondage." Your religion has ceased to be liberty and you have become a slave. Now I ask you, "Where is the blessedness" you once spoke of? Have you that great peace that they possess who love the law of God? Does the peace of God rule in your hearts? Is Christ's joy fulfilled in you? Or are you lashed along by your conscience, actuated by hope and fear and any and every other principle than love?

And now, beloved, I ask you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ whether you have the religion of the gospel. I have in this discourse endeavored to set before you in as simple a form as is possible the grand distinction between true saints and hypocrites. To which of these classes do you belong? Remember the eye of God is upon you. "Be ye not deceived, for God is not mocked." "If the Son hath made you free, then are ye free indeed." And I exhort you in the words of the text, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ bath made you free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." But on the other hand, if the Holy Ghost sees you with the chains of slavery upon your soul, driven on by conscience as by a slave-holder, working out your painful religion lest you should lose your soul, I beseech you in the name of Christ, get up out of this bondage, lay aside these chains. "Loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion," lay aside this legal yoke and come forth from slavery and death, that Christ may give you liberty and life.