The Revivalists Attacked Easy Believism

What Charles Finney preached

 

The following words by the great evangelist Charles Finney shows he preached very differently to “easy believism”:

“I had always insisted much in my instructions upon entire consecration to God, giving up all to him – body, soul, possessions – to be forever after used for his glory as a condition of acceptance with God. Sinners were not encouraged to expect the Holy Spirit to convert them while they were passive, and never told to wait God’s time, but were taught unequivocally that their first and immediate duty was to submit themselves to God, to renounce their own will, their own way and themselves, and to instantly deliver up all that they were – and all that they had to their rightful owner, the Lord Jesus Christ. They were taught that the only obstacle in the way was their own stubborn will; that God was trying to gain their unqualified consent to give up their sins and accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their righteousness and salvation. The point was frequently urged upon them to give their consent and they were told that the only difficulty was to get their own honest and earnest consent to the terms upon which Christ would save them, and the lowest terms upon which they could possibly be saved.

Faith in God, and God in Christ, was ever made prominent. They were informed that this faith is not a mere intellectual assent, but is the consent or trust of the heart, a voluntary, intelligent trust in God as he is revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ. The doctrine of the justice of endless punishment was fully insisted upon, and not only its justice but the certainty that sinners will be endlessly punished if they die in their sins was strongly held forth…They were told that if they regarded iniquity in their hearts, the Lord would not hear them, and that while they remained impenitent they were sinning in their hearts, and that such impenitent and unbelieving prayer is an abomination to God. But if they were truly disposed to offer acceptable prayer to God they could do it, for there was nothing but their own obstinacy in the way of doing so at once. In short, pains were taken to shut the sinner up to accepting Christ – his whole will, atonement, official work and official relations, renouncing all sin, all excuse-making, all unbelief, all hardness of heart, and every wicked thing, in heart, and life, here, and now, forever.” [1]

As seen above, Finney preached that the unsaved must consecrate or surrender themselves to Jesus’ Lordship to be saved. But he also stressed that such surrender at conversion was imperfect or limited and should increase in the years after conversion:

True conversion to God involves the consecration of ourselves and of all that we have to Him, so far as we understand what is implied in this. But, at first, converts are by no means aware of all that is involved in the highest forms of consecration. They will soon learn that there are certain things that they did not think of, and that they did not give up to God. At first, perhaps, all that was in their thoughts was, to lay their naked soul upon the altar, and give up their whole heart to God. But soon they may learn that they did not think of all their possessions, of everything that was dear to them; they did not surrender all, leaving ‘not an hoof behind’ (Ex. 10.26). They surrendered all of which they thought, but they were not fully enlightened, they did not think, nor could they think, at the time, of every appetite, passion, propensity, of every desire and affection, and of everything dear to them, in the whole creation, to make a thorough surrender and delivery of these to God. – To gain such knowledge is a work of time; and growth in the favour of God is conditioned on making a full surrender and consecration to God of everything we are, and have, and desire, and love, as fast as these objects are presented to thought. As long as we exist, and knowledge increases, there is no doubt that we shall be called upon to grow in grace, by consecrating to God every new object of knowledge, of desire, and of affection, that we may come to know, and desire, and love, to all eternity. As you get new light, you must enlarge your consecration from day to day, and from hour to hour, or you will cease to grow in grace. Whenever you stop short, and do not lay and leave everything that you are, that you possess, or that you love, upon the altar of consecration, that moment you cease to grow in grace.” [2]

 

D. L. Moody

 

D. L. Moody was one of the most successful evangelists in history. There were about one million conversions through Moody’s ministry. [3] Moody opposed easy believism preaching and associated attitudes, when he said:

“There is a good deal of trouble among people about what repentance really is. If you ask people what it is, they will tell you ‘It is feeling sorry’. If you ask a man if he repents, he will tell you: ‘Oh, yes; I generally feel sorry for my sins’. That is not repentance. It is something more than feeling sorry. Repentance is turning right about, and forsaking sin. I wanted to speak Sunday about that verse in Isaiah, which says: ‘Let the guilty forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts’. That is what it is. If a man don’t turn from his sin, he won’t be accepted of God; and if righteousness don’t produce a turning about – a turning from bad to good – it isn’t true righteousness.” [4]

Moody also stressed:

“We do not walk in the same way as before we were converted. A man or a woman who professes Christianity and yet goes on in the same old way has not been born again. When we are born again, we are born in a new way; and Christ is that new way himself. We give up our old way, and take to his.” [5]

 

Charles Spurgeon

 

In the 1800’s, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892 A.D.) attacked easy believism “conversions” as being false. He said:

“Verily I say unto you, you cannot have Christ for your saviour unless you also have him as Lord.” [6] On another occasion, Spurgeon said:

I cannot conceive it possible for anyone truly to receive Christ as Saviour and yet not to receive him as Lord. One of the first instincts of a redeemed soul is to fall at the feet of the Saviour and gratefully and adoringly to cry, ‘Blessed Master, bought with thy precious blood, I own that I am thine – thine only, thine wholly, thine for ever. Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’ A man who is really saved by grace does not need to be told that he is under solemn obligations to serve Christ; the new life within him tells him that. Instead of regarding it as a burden, he gladly surrenders himself – body, soul and spirit, to the Lord who has redeemed him, reckoning this to be his reasonable service…It is not possible for us to accept Christ as our Saviour unless he also becomes our King, for a very large part of salvation consists in our being saved from sin’s dominion over us, and the only way in which we can be delivered from the mastery of Satan is by becoming subject to the mastery of Christ…If it were possible for sin to be forgiven, and yet for the sinner to live just as he lived before, he would not really be saved. [7]

Spurgeon was a great Baptist revivalist. He became a minister at the age of 20. During his 38 years of ministry, it is estimated that 14,000 new members were added to his local Baptist church in London. [8] I am referring here to full members not just unbelievers enquiring about salvation. He also began a Bible College which trained many preachers. His primary emphasis in ministry was evangelism.

 

Jonathon Edwards

 

Many people appreciate the comments by the great revivalist Jonathon Edwards on grace, the Holy Spirit and revival. But note Edwards preached it is impossible to be saved by a faith that does not involve surrendering to Jesus Christ as King. Edwards said in language which is difficult for modern readers:

“I would say: That accepting Christ in his kingly office, is doubtless the proper condition of having an interest in Christ’s kingly office, and so the condition of that salvation which he bestows in the execution of that office.” [9]

 

R. A. Torrey

 

Dr R. A. Torrey was another exceptionally successful evangelist. He was also a pastor of a local church and the first President of Moody Bible Institute. When he came to Australia in 1901, there were 20,000 conversions through his ministry and the associated revival. (This would be the equivalent of about 100,000 conversions in 2001 with Australia’s much larger population. Torrey said we should do the following when witnessing to the unsaved:

“Show them Jesus as Lord. It is not enough to know Jesus as a Saviour, we must know Him as Lord also. A good verse for this purpose is Acts 2:36: ‘Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.’ When the inquirer has read the verse, ask him what God hath made Jesus, and hold him to it until he replies, ‘Both Lord and Christ’. Then say to him, ‘Are you willing to accept Him as your Divine Lord, the one to whom you will surrender your heart, your every thought, and word, and act?’” [10]

In his textbook on personal evangelism, Torrey stressed that when sharing the Gospel with unbelievers, we must include an emphasis on surrendering to Jesus as Lord:

“Lead him as directly as you can to accept Jesus Christ as a personal Saviour and to surrender to Him as his Lord and Master. [11]

Torrey also included in his preaching of the Gospel a heavy emphasis on turning from known sins. He said that when personally witnessing to an unconverted person who says “I cannot give up my evil ways or bad habits”, we should note: “Galatians 6:7-8 will show them that they must give them up or perish because we reap what we sow. Philippians 4:13 will show that they can give up their sin in Christ’s strength.” [12] Torrey also corrected the error that just feeling we are sinners will result in conversion and salvation: “If the feeling he (the person we are sharing the Gospel with) thinks he must have is the feeling that he is a sinner, show him by Isaiah 55:7 that it is not the feeling that we are sinners that God demands but a turning away from sin.” [13]

 

Greg Laurie’s comments

 

Greg Laurie is a godly modern American evangelist and revivalist who holds large-scale crusades and pastors a very large local church in the United States. In May 2000, he preached in Wollongong – the city I live in in Australia. There were about 1,700 inquirers about salvation who came forward for prayer in four meetings. In his book “How to share your faith”, Greg wrote:

What the Gospel Is Not

1.       Beware of a watered-down gospel that has no ‘teeth’. This would be offering God’s forgiveness without any mention of repentance or presenting Jesus Christ as though he were some mere ‘additive’ to make one’s life a little better. It would be like saying, ‘All you have to do is ask him in, and your life will be better, your clothes cleaner, and your teeth whiter!’ This is obviously an exaggeration, but it is not too far from what some people are saying as you might think. We must not leave out the important aspects of repentance and obedience…

2.       Beware of a rule-laden or overcomplex gospel that strips the message of its simplicity and power…We must know what the Bible teaches. We must know what we believe. We must be careful to present the gospel accurately, making sure that certain key elements are in place. Why? Because there is a counterfeit gospel out there.

Beware of a False Gospel

Make no mistake about it. The devil is a master manipulator and imitator. One of the greatest tactics he has used with tremendous effect over the centuries is to imitate something – to offer a counterfeit version of it that is close enough to be believable to some but far enough away from the truth to actually damage the person who believes it. There is a false or counterfeit gospel…This ‘false gospel’ Paul warns us against says all we have to do is believe – but it doesn’t say that we need to repent. It speaks of heaven but leaves out the message of hell…While this watered-down gospel is a real problem, so also is a gospel that would only warn of judgement and not offer God’s gracious forgiveness.” [14]

 

Leo Harris preached the powerful life-changing true Gospel

 

Pastor Leo Harris was the founder of the Christian Revival Crusade – a Pentecostal denomination which began in Australia. Harris was an apostle, evangelist, pastor and revivalist. The below is an example of the type of Gospel he preached. Note he warned of God’s judgement and wrath, and emphasised that repentance from sins and surrendering to Jesus Christ is a part of true conversion:

“Paul’s reply to the gaoler sums up the good news for men and women everywhere – ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved’ (Acts 16:31). This is God’s firm assurance that, as a result of faith in Jesus Christ, we can definitely be saved and know we are saved.

…saved from what? Saved from both the penalty and power of sin. Saved from the punishment which awaits the ungodly in the lake of fire…’For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of man’ (Romans 1:18). This wrath awaits all unsaved men and women, for ‘all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23) and ‘There is none righteous, no not one’ (Romans 3:10), and again, ‘For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life though Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Romans 6:23).

…what does it mean to believe? God’s salvation is free to all who believe: said Paul to the gaoler – ‘BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved’. The word ‘believe’ in the New Testament means much more than to give a mere mental assent to the truth. It means to WHOLLY RELY UPON, to ADHERE TO, or to COMMIT ONESELF TO. ‘Belief’ as the New Testament uses the word means much more than a head knowledge. It involves committing oneself wholeheartedly, unreservedly, to what is believed. It means ‘burning your bridges behind you’ and acting your faith on the promise of God.

…seal our believing with confession. This is what Paul wrote in Romans 10:9-10: ‘If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved…’ We confess with our mouths what we believe in our hearts. Therefore, if we repent of our sins and turn in faith to Jesus Christ, we can freely accept the salvation which he has secured for us. We must believe in our heart and confess with our mouth that Jesus was our sin bearer, dying in our stead, rising again for our justification, and ever living to keep us by his power.” [15] Note Leo Harris is representative of earlier Pentecostals who preached the powerful life-changing Gospel and not a compromising watered-down easy believism “gospel” like so many do today. Earlier Pentecostals had faults and disagreed about various matters but they strongly opposed all forms of easy believism. It was only in about the 1960’s or 1970’s that some western Pentecostals began their adulterous love affair with easy believism.       

 

Bible Study Questions

 

1.       Explain how what Charles Finney wrote in his quotes in this chapter was opposed to the false “gospel” of easy believism.

2.       What aspects of easy believism did D.L. Moody, Charles Spurgeon, Jonathon Edwards and R.A. Torrey oppose?

3.       What are the features of the false “gospel” Greg Laurie warned us of in his book “How to share your faith”.

 


 

[1] Helen Wessel (Editor), “The Autobiography of Charles G. Finney”, Bethany Fellowship, Minneapolis, 1977, pages 159-161.

[2] Charles G. Finney, “Revivals of Religion”, Fleming H. Revell, Old Tappan, New Jersey, pages 512-513.

[3] William R. Moody, “The Life of Dwight L. Moody”, Sword of the Lord Publishers, Murfreesboro, front cover.

[4] D. L. Moody, “The Gospel Awakening”, Fairbanks Palmer, Chicago, 1883, page 417.

[5] Ibid, page 658.

[6] C. H. Spurgeon, “The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit”, Volume 47, Pilgrim, Pasadena, Texas, 1986, page 570.

[7] C. H. Spurgeon, “The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit”, Volume 56, Pilgrim, Pasadena, Texas, 1979, page 617.

[8] Kathy Triggs, “Charles Spurgeon”, Bethany House, Minneapolis, 1984, back cover.

[9] From John Gerstner, “The rational Biblical theology of Jonathon Edwards”, page 301.

[10] R. A. Torrey, “How to work for Christ”, Fleming H. Revell, Old Tappan, New Jersey, no date, pages 37-38.

[11] Ibid, page 32.

[12] R. A. Torrey, “How to bring men to Christ”, Whitaker House, Springdale, 1984, page 38.

[13] Ibid, page 41.

[14] Greg Laurie, “How to Share Your Faith”, Tyndale House, Wheaton, Illinois, 1999, pages 53-56.         .

[15] Leo Harris, “What Salvation Really Means”, Crusade Publications, Adelaide, Australia.

 

 


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