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THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1851 paragraph 90 61 Lecture II. Awaking from The Sleep of Spiritual Death ...

2. But the sinner has this power. His death in sin is a voluntary state of mind, and is kept up by voluntary action. In fact so strong is God's appeal to the intelligence and conscience of the sinner, that he has to exert himself to keep himself dead. It often seems as if he would rise inspite of himself, like a cork pressed under water, struggling to reach the surface. Some of you know this in your own experience. How many of you have been almost persuaded to become Christians; the voice of God rang in your ears, and its powerful appeals to your reason and conscience pressed with mighty power upon your soul; His Spirit strove with you and you were scarcely able to resist; almost you were persuaded to forego your sins and all their pleasures; it might be said of you --"He is not far from the kingdom of God" -- but you did not enter. You still held on to your beloved idols, and after them you would go. In fact, it is so far from being true that men have no power to rise from spiritual death, that they can scarcely summon power enough to keep themselves from rising. They can scarcely resist the appeal which God makes to their hearts.

 

 


FROM THE PENNY PULPIT, SERMON 36 - NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD. paragraph 0
NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD

 

 


FROM THE PENNY PULPIT, SERMON 36 - NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD. paragraph 2

"NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD."

 

 


FROM THE PENNY PULPIT, SERMON 36 - NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD. paragraph 10

"Thou art not far from the Kingdom of God."--Mark xii. 34.

 

 


FROM THE PENNY PULPIT, SERMON 36 - NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD. paragraph 11

THESE words occur in the following connection--"And one of the Scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, (that is Christ and the cavilling Jew), and perceiving that he answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments, is, Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength--this is the first commandment. And the second is like namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There are none other commandments greater than these. And the Scribe answered, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth; for there is one God, and there is none other but he: and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the Kingdom of God."

 

 


FROM THE PENNY PULPIT, SERMON 36 - NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD. paragraph 13

     This Scribe saw the great fact of the spirituality of the Divine law--that after all, religion consisted in that love to God which the law requires--and by his answer to the Saviour, Jesus saw that he had broken so far through the common prejudices of his nation, as to have overcome that darkness which supposed religion to consist in the mere formality of the ceremonial law. He understood that love was the great thing needed--the great thing in which all true religion consisted. Jesus saw, therefore, that nothing was wanting but faith, and the real building up of the heart. He was so near to the Kingdom of God--so instructed, as that a single act of the mind would bring him within it. He only had to yield his heart to what his intellect perceived--he only had to submit his heart to this--and by that one act he would be in the kingdom. He, therefore, said--"Thou art not far from the kingdom of God." In speaking to these words I propose--

 

 


FROM THE PENNY PULPIT, SERMON 36 - NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD. paragraph 24

     Again, let us say that persons are far from the Kingdom of God, when their prejudices lead them not to listen to sermons on the subject. They have clearly closed their ears, and will not allow themselves to be instructed, and warned of their responsibility. They will not hear even their own children, wives, or parents; surely it may be said of such persons as these, and, it may be, perhaps some of you belong to this category, are not far from the Kingdom of God. When they are so strongly entrenched in their position it is easy enough to see that such persons are far from the Kingdom--that it would be a wonder, almost, if they are saved. Many persons are troubled about many things--they give themselves so much care about the things of the world, as really to have no time to attend to their souls. Some are engrossed with politics, some in business speculations--some stumble at the conduct of professors of religion--others wait to see if the young converts "turn out well." They say, "We'll see. Wait." Many have done this till their feet have fallen. What were they doing? "O! Lord," they will say, "I was waiting to see whether those were really converted who profess to be; when, all at once, the foundation gave way--I fell! Yes! I was carried to the grave, and my spirit went weeping and wailing down the sides of the pit!"

 

 


FROM THE PENNY PULPIT, SERMON 36 - NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD. paragraph 26

     II. WHEN IT MAY BE SAID A MAN IS NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD. Many of you, perhaps, have been in this condition; some of you may even be so now. When the subject of religion has come to engage the attention of your mind, so far as to induce you to make up your mind to attend to it, and to do it now--when an individual has gone so far as to make this a present business--it may be said, in a very important sense, that he has taken an important step in his approach towards the Kingdom of God, although not an entrance into it. A step, it may be, infinitely important--as much so, perhaps, as his eternal salvation--is here taken; this will afterwards be seen.

 

 


FROM THE PENNY PULPIT, SERMON 36 - NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD. paragraph 27

     Again, where a person has made up his mind to be honest with God, and with himself. This dishonesty on the part of men is a very great obstacle; they are unwilling to be honest--to ask God, honestly, "Lord, what wilt thou have me do." It is indeed a great point gained, where an individual says, I will now just look the subject in the face like an honest man. I could tell you many cases of individuals--just in this position--they have made up their minds to attend at once to the subject; some also, have said, "I will now be honest with God." I could tell you many cases, indeed, many men in the United States have taken exactly this course, and soon, subsequently, been fully received into the Kingdom of God. When they have once made up their minds to be honest with God, it may truly be said they are not far from the Kingdom of God. After all, the question is, not what I have persuaded myself to believe, but what God says. Let us have truth whatever way it is. When a man comes into such a state as this, how easily men find truth! When they come to God for instruction, casting aside all their prejudices--when their errors give way, and men find themselves no longer stubborn and confident in them--when they find they can no longer maintain the position they hold--it may be said, they are not far from the Kingdom of God. This was the case with the Scribe here referred to; but whether he ever entered the Kingdom or not, has not been recorded. It was clear, however, that he had broken through the prejudices common to his nation, and had come to understand the real spiritual nature of the Kingdom of God.

 

 


FROM THE PENNY PULPIT, SERMON 36 - NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD. paragraph 28

     But let me say again. When persons find the excuses by which they have been accustomed to soothe their consciences, begin to fail, it may be said they are not far from the Kingdom of God. No sinner intends always to neglect the gospel; but he has, as he thinks, some valid excuse for present delay. When men find themselves stripped of their excuses--when they see and feel that they have not any excuse, and come so far as not to be disposed to make excuses; it may be said they are not far from the Kingdom of God. I recollect that such a period arrived, in my own experience, and I had fought my way through darkness, error, mysticism; I had made many excuses, and settled one truth after another, intellectually, and did not, for a long time, fail to make excuses for delay. But at length, one after another gave way, till, finally, I very distinctly came into this position. I really could not get up any excuse; and feel very unhappy at my inability to see any further hiding-place--I had no excuse that I was not ashamed to make. Now, if any of you are in this attitude--if you see your excuses are really good for nothing--if you are ashamed to make them, and resolve to make them no more--it may be truly said you are not far from the Kingdom of God.

 

 


FROM THE PENNY PULPIT, SERMON 36 - NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD. paragraph 29

     Whether you will ever enter, will appear by and bye; but you are certainly now not far from the Kingdom of God. If you really see all your evasions go for nothing, it is because the truth has found you out, and the Spirit of God has enlightened you. He had enlightened this Scribe.

 

 


FROM THE PENNY PULPIT, SERMON 36 - NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD. paragraph 30

     Again, when business causes us so entirely to engross the mind, and religion is set in such a light, as that the business cannot wholly engross the mind, and, in or out of business, you are pressed solely with the great question of Salvation. I recollect the time when I myself sat down to examine a point of law, and in spite of myself, I could not read the page half down before the subject of religion was so pressing upon me, that I could not get on--I could not possibly engross myself so wholly with my professional duties. I dismissed it again and again, but it came up as often as I dismissed it. When religion gets such a hold on the mind as this--that a man cannot engross himself with his business, and feels that his business is but a trifle compared with eternal life--when this appears to the mind, that the business lasts but a few days, and where am I? when the mind comes into such an attitude--when the Spirit of God presses the subject in this manner--you are not far from the Kingdom of God.

 

 


FROM THE PENNY PULPIT, SERMON 36 - NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD. paragraph 31

     Again, when pleasure can no longer fully engross the mind--when pleasure seems no longer to be pleasure--when those things which have formerly so enchanted and fascinated the mind, lose their hold upon it--when the eternal realities present themselves to the mind--when the heart stands quivering under the lashes of conscience by day and by night, and the great truths of salvation are weighing upon the spirit--rely upon it that such an individual is not far from the Kingdom of God.

 

 


FROM THE PENNY PULPIT, SERMON 36 - NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD. paragraph 33

     But, again, when conscience becomes so much awakened as that an individual can no longer comfortably go on in sin--cannot go on it without great pain and agony, finding by experience, that a transgressor's heart is continually agonizing within himself, filled with conviction and distress about sin--rest assured such a one is not far from the Kingdom of God.

 

 


FROM THE PENNY PULPIT, SERMON 36 - NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD. paragraph 34

     Again, when spiritual darkness gives way, so that persons come to see their relations to God as a reality--when they come to understand the gospel and the way of salvation--when they see it developed distinctly, so that they can easily understand it, and see their need of a Saviour--in short, when the truths of religion come to be revealed to the mind, so that the mind really conceives them in their relations--such persons may be said to be not far from the Kingdom of God. This was the case with the Scribe, and has often been the case with persons in these days. Many of you, doubtless, remember the time in your history, when you saw with a clearness of vision you never had before--perhaps you are in this state now--when you saw your relations to these truths, the motives and necessities of the plan of Salvation, and its suitability to your wants--then the word is nigh unto thee, even in thy mouth; and if thou believest on Jesus Christ, thou shalt be saved. Who has dispelled the mists around you? The Holy Ghost has done it. You stand within one step--the single act of committing yourself in confidence to these truths, will bring you within the Kingdom of God.

 

 


FROM THE PENNY PULPIT, SERMON 36 - NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD. paragraph 35

     Sometimes individuals are surrounded with special means--special efforts are made which take hold of the mind of an individual, a family, a congregation, or even a whole community, till large numbers may truly be said to be not far from the Kingdom of God.

 

 


FROM THE PENNY PULPIT, SERMON 36 - NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD. paragraph 36

     But let me say again, especially when Christians have the spirit of prayer and pray for sinners--when Christians, in any family or congregation, receive the spirit of God in answer to prayer--when God is drawing very near to them through revivals--it may be said that all persons within the circle of such influences, are not far from the Kingdom of God. This will explain Christ's meaning, when he said, "Be ye sure of this--the Kingdom of God is come nigh unto you."

 

 


FROM THE PENNY PULPIT, SERMON 36 - NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD. paragraph 37

     Again, when persons are "almost persuaded" to be Christians, they may be said to be not far from the Kingdom of God. We read of one in apostolic times, who said to Paul, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." He was all but ready to yield. Perhaps some of you are in this condition; you have been here many times, and are almost persuaded to yield: you are brought so near, as almost to enter the Kingdom of God. You can remember the time, many of you, if it be not now, or lately, you can well remember it--when the Spirit of God was working within you--when all your mind was in a state of quivering anxiety and intense agitation--when some death or other providence arrested your attention--you thought, and looked, and hesitated, almost making up your mind to submit. You came right upon the gate of this Kingdom; you could truly have said you were not far from the Kingdom of God.

 

 


FROM THE PENNY PULPIT, SERMON 36 - NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD. paragraph 47

     This leads me to say when persons are brought close along upon the verge of the Kingdom of God--of the peace and joy of believing in Christ--so close that they can look over--that there is nothing but a single step between them and laying hold on eternal life--how very near they are to the Kingdom of God! If you could take a map of your life, some of you would see that, at some period of it the Spirit had directed your crooked way along till--there! see your place on the map! You are on the very margin of the stream! Its waters are flowing at your very feet. One step is all that is between you and eternal life, which is holding out all its charms; but, alas! where are you now? Oh! where are you now? As you have gone back to be engrossed with business, cares, and pleasures--oh! what a lengthened way there now is between that point and your present position--what a way you are from these fair fields on whose borders, with your "almost persuasion" you then stood. You have not yet taken your reckoning to discover your position. It was once said of you, "that man is not far from the Kingdom of God."

 

 


FROM THE PENNY PULPIT, SERMON 36 - NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD. paragraph 52

     But, I say again, suppose it may truly be said that some of you who have not entered the Kingdom of God are well aware that some of these Sabbath evenings during which special services have been held, you have been brought into the state described, as not far from the Kingdom of God, if you never have before. A man once came to one of these Sabbath evening services who had previously been sceptical with regard to the necessity of his immediately attending to the salvation of his soul; he went up into the British School-room to the address to the Inquirers which is given after service; he confessed to a friend present, that he was then and there perfectly convinced of the necessity of at once giving up his sins; but, he said, he had a certain business transaction to take in hand the next week which he must do first; or else he could not do it at all. I was told of this before he left the room, and made for him through the crowd; but he slipped out before I got to him; I have never seen him since!

 

 


FROM THE PENNY PULPIT, SERMON 36 - NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD. paragraph 53

     How is it with you, dying sinner, to-night? This is my last Sabbath with you. I may never meet you again till the solemn judgment when many of you may perhaps rise up and say, "Oh! Mr. Finney, under your ministry, at the Tabernacle, I was not far from the Kingdom of God; but I decided wrong!" Oh! did you decide wrong? How an angel might weep to hear you say so! "Ah!" you will say, "I wandered and wandered, and never came so near again; and now I have lost my soul!"

 

 


FROM THE PENNY PULPIT, SERMON 36 - NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD. paragraph 54

     Oh! sinner, how shall it be with you to-night? Shall it be said again of any of you that you were not far from the Kingdom of God and yet you would not come into it?