By Charles Finney
Two things are necessary for evangelical or saving faith. The first is intellectual conviction after hearing the truth. I do not mean merely the abstract truth but its bearing on you. The truth, in its relation to you, or its bearing on your conduct, must be received intellectually.
The second thing that is necessary for saving faith is a corresponding change of heart. When a man’s mind is convinced, and he admits the truth in relation to himself, then there must be an application of it to himself. Both these states of mind are indispensable to true faith.
Intellectual conviction of the truth is not saving faith. But intellectual conviction, accompanied by a change of heart, is saving faith. Therefore, true saving faith always brings a change in conduct. Just as certain as the will controls the conduct, men will act as they believe. Suppose I say to a man, “Do you believe this?” and he answers, “Yes, I believe it.” What does he mean – that he has a mere intellectual conviction? He may have that but not have faith.
Intellectual conviction of the truth is not saving faith. A man may even approve or agree with abstract truth. Many people suppose that faith is applauding for the character and government of God and the plan of salvation. They view it, however, abstractly. When they hear an eloquent sermon on the attributes or government of God, they are excited about the glory and excellency displayed, but they do not have a particle of true faith. The rational mind is so formed that it naturally approves of truth when viewed abstractly.
The most wicked devils in hell love truth, as long as they do not see it in relation to themselves. If the Gospel did not interfere with their own selfishness, they would not only see it as true, but would heartily approve it. The reason that wicked men and devils hate God is that they see Him in relation to themselves. Their hearts rise up in rebellion because they see Him opposed to their selfishness.
This is the source of a grand delusion among men in regard to Christianity. They see it as truth, and they rejoice in contemplating it. They do not apply it to themselves, and so they love to hear such preaching and say they are fed by it. But they go away and do not practice it!
Imagine a man who is sick, and his feelings are tender. In view of Christ as a kind and tender Savior, his heart melts, and he feels strong emotions toward Jesus Christ. Why? For the very same reasons that he would feel strong emotions toward the hero of a romance. But he does not obey Christ. He never practices one thing out of obedience to Christ but views Him abstractly and is delighted with His glorious and lovely character. He himself remains poisoned by bitterness. Faith must be an effective, moving faith that produces good works, or it is not the faith of the Gospel and is no real faith at all.