"The Oberlin Evangelist"
Publication of Oberlin College

Sermons and Lectures given in 1842
Charles G. Finney
President of Oberlin College

Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart

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Lecture I. Thy Will Be Done

Lecture II. Danger of Delusion

Lecture III. Ability and Inability

Lecture IV. God Under Obligation to Do Right

Lecture V. Ordination

Lecture VI. Wisdom Justified of Her Children

of easily misunderstood terms as defined by Mr. Finney himself.

Thy Will Be Done
Lecture I
July 20, 1842

by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College

Text.--Mat. 6:10: "Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven."

1. EVERY system of Theology assumes the truth of some system of Mental Philosophy, and indeed every theological opinion takes for granted, or assumes as true, some principle of Mental Philosophy. And however much any man may rail against metaphysics, still it is true that the railer himself has his system of metaphysics, by which he interprets the Bible, and in consistency with which he frames his theological opinions. It is very common, however, when any attempt is made to overthrow any theological error, or to establish any theological truth, by an appeal to our own consciousness of the laws of mind, and to the Bible as interpreted in view of these laws, for the objector to cry out vehemently against metaphysics, as if this were a conclusive objection to all such argumentation, that it is metaphysical. Now who does not know that the objector himself, in attempting to establish an opposing theory, assumes as true an opposite system of Mental Philosophy, and is no less metaphysical than his opponent, notwithstanding his violent zeal against metaphysics?

2. The fundamental point of difference between the Old and New schools in Theology, respects the freedom of the will. From this point they diverge; and when consistently carried out, the two schemes or schools differ fundamentally on most of the important questions in theology. It is in vain to attempt to cover up this fact; for any one who has not seen it to be true, is yet ignorant of the great principles and legitimate bearing of the points at issue. Few men, however, of either school, are consistent throughout, and nothing is more common than to find old school men zealously contending for doctrines that properly belong only to the scheme of the new school theologians--when it is perhaps just as common to find new school men, as they call themselves, zealously defending dogmas that properly belong to the scheme of the old school, and can, with no consistency whatever, be embraced by a new school man as truth. And thus a strange confusion and inconsistency prevails among theologians of both schools, and it is remarkable, and even wonderful, that there should be so little consistency in the theological views of so great a majority of theologians of all schools.

3. I have stated that the point of divergence between the old and new schools is the freedom or necessity of the will. Upon this point, the old school maintain that the will always is as the greatest apparent good is; or, in other words, that the mind always chooses that which appears to be upon the whole the most agreeable--and that the choice is always determined by the objective motive, or that which is presented to the mind as a reason for choice. Many of them will not say, that choice is necessitated by motive, while at the same time they maintain that motive is the cause of choice as absolutely as a physical cause produces its effect. And that the difference between the determination of choice by motive and the production of an effect by a physical cause does not lie in the nature of the connection but in the nature of the terms connected--that the certainty is just as absolute in the one case as in the other. And when they explain themselves, it is manifest and self-evident, that the necessity is just as great in the one case as in the other.

4. Those who are truly consistent old school men maintain, and ever have, since the days of Augustine, that men are wholly and naturally unable to do any thing good--that their will is necessarily determined to evil by what they call original sin, or native depravity. They maintain that moral obligation implies no power whatever to act right, or to do the will of God. With them, sin is a necessity of human nature since the fall of Adam. And free agency amounts only to the power of committing sin.

If, according to their view, the will is necessitated by motives, then it follows that all action is necessary as opposed to free, and the doctrine of universal fatalism is true. But if the will is free, as is maintained by the new school, and all moral depravity belongs to moral action, then a system of theology directly the opposite of that of the old school, in nearly every important point, must be true.

That I may give this subject as fundamental a discussion as my time and the nature of the case admits, I will, the Lord willing, as briefly as I can, discuss the following propositions:

I. How we know any thing.

II. What are the primary faculties of the human mind.

III. Wherein human liberty consists.

IV. To what acts and states of mind moral responsibility extends.

V. What constitutes sin.

VI. What constitutes holiness.

VII. What the will of God is.

VIII. How it is done in heaven.

IX. What is implied in the sincere offering of the petition I have chosen for a text.

X. That nothing short of a state of mind that can sincerely offer this petition can be virtue, or true religion.

I. How we know any thing.

II. What are the primary faculties of the mind.

Consciousness does not directly give us the faculties themselves, but the mind infers them from phenomena perceived by consciousness. Every phenomenon, act, or state of mind implies a corresponding faculty; that is, that the mind possesses the power of performing that act. In other words, it is able to act in that manner. When, therefore, consciousness gives us certain classes of actions, we affirm with intuitive certainty that the mind possesses corresponding faculties.

There are three primary or fundamental classes of actions, namely--acts or states of the Intellect--acts or states of the Sensibility--and acts or states of the Will. By this language I mean--

Let it be understood, then, that the primary faculties, as implied in the phenomena given by consciousness are Intellect, or Intelligence, Sensibility, and Will.

III. Wherein human liberty consists.

IV. To what acts and states of mind moral responsibility extends.
But the thought which I wish to impress here is, that the law levels its claims to present ability. The law does not say, love the Lord thy God with the strength you possessed when you was [sic.] a child, and serve Him only with the powers you then had, but with all the powers you at present have. If your capacity to serve God, and to promote the great ends of benevolence, has been increased, either by the grace of God or by their diligent use and development in the exercise of your own agency, the law does not satisfy itself with claiming the measure of obedience you might have rendered before this increase of ability, but requires that all your present strength and power shall be completely and unreservedly consecrated to God. So on the other hand, if your ability has been in any way diminished, either by your own act or in any other way, the law requires of you nothing more than that whatever power is left should be consecrated unreservedly and perfectly to God. If your ability has been abridged by your own fault, you are guilty for thus abridging it, and for this you may be punished. But you cannot be held responsible for not doing what you are no longer able to do. For example, suppose it were my duty last week to visit and warn a certain sinner to flee from the wrath to come, but the man is now dead and beyond my reach. For not warning him when I had opportunity I am guilty. But I am now under no obligation to warn him, for the simple reason that I am naturally unable to do so. I may justly be punished for my former neglect, but I cannot be held responsible for not warning him at the present time. If I cut off a hand, I can no longer be required to use it, though I may be guilty for cutting it off, and held responsible for that. In such cases, God requires repentance for the act that abridged our capacity, but in no case requires that which has become naturally impossible.

When a man loses the ability to pay his debts, and that too by his own fault, he is no longer under a moral obligation to pay them any faster than he has power to do so. He may be punished for rendering himself unable, but can no more be under a moral obligation to pay them while unable, than to warn a man who is dead, to flee from the wrath to come. The reason why he is no more under moral obligation in the one case than in the other is precisely the same, namely, that he has no power to do so.

So if a man becomes deranged by his own fault, he is not a moral agent while deranged, and his great sin lies in having made himself deranged.

The spirit of the legal maxim that a man shall not take advantage of his own wrong, is that the guilt of the act which incapacitates a man for duty, is equal to the guilt of all the default of which it is the cause.

It is maintained by some that the law of God does not limit its claims to present ability, but that it requires the same degree of service now, the same amount of love and zeal, and consequent usefulness in us that it might have required had we never curtailed our ability by sinning, but on the contrary had fully developed our powers by perfect and perpetual obedience. To this I answer,

And here let me ask, if it is not a shame and a sin for persons to hold and teach the doctrine of natural ability perfectly to obey the law--that the law requires natural impossibilities--call upon men to universally and perfectly to obey the law on pain of eternal death--and accuse those of being heretics and far gone in error, who are consistent enough, while they maintain the doctrine of natural ability, to maintain also that the law levels its claims to the present ability of men, and for this reason call upon all men, every where, unreservedly and perfectly to obey it?

The very language and spirit of the law manifestly levels its claims to present human ability. The question therefore is what are men naturally able to do or avoid? Observe, the point of inquiry before us now is, to what acts and states of mind does moral responsibility extend. As I have shown that the law is the standard and that it levels its claims to present ability, the true inquiry is what acts and states of mind are possible to men, or what acts and states of mind can be avoided by them? We have already seen that consciousness gives us the phenomena of our own minds; and that whatever we know with certainty we know through the medium of our own consciousness. It teaches us that the will is the controlling faculty of the mind--that volition necessitates outward action. Volition also necessitates thought, feeling or emotion by directing the attention of the mind to subjects of thought and to objects calculated to excite emotion. Consciousness then teaches us that whatever is possible to man he can do by willing, and any thing that does not follow the act of his will is naturally impossible to him. If he cannot do it by willing and endeavor, and by sincerely intending and aiming to do it, it is naturally impossible to him. Consequently man cannot be responsible for any thing which he cannot do or avoid, by willing and endeavoring to do or avoid it. For example: If I will to move and my muscles do not obey volition, muscular action is impossible to me. If I will to think and thought does not follow, if I will to feel and direct my attention to corresponding objects and emotion does not follow, thought and emotion at the time are impossible to me. In short, whatever does not follow volition directly or indirectly as the natural and necessary result of volition, is impossible to me. So if I will to avoid any thing whatever, and the thing follows in spite of my volition, it is unavoidable by me. If by will and endeavor I cannot avoid it, the thing is necessary in such a sense that I am not responsible for its occurrence. Man therefore is not responsible,

1. For his nature being what it is;

2. Nor for the existence of the constitutional appetites and propensities;

3. Nor for the existence of the appetites or propensities under the appropriate circumstances of our being;

4. But he is responsible for their guidance, control and subjection to the law of God so far as they are subject to the control of the will.

But to the law and the testimony. The law of God is the rule, and by it we know to what acts and states of mind moral responsibility extends.
1. The law of God is in spirit a unit. Love, or benevolence, is the fulfilling of the whole law. This is repeatedly asserted in the Bible, that all the law is fulfilled in one word.

2. The love which constitutes obedience to the law of God is an act or state of the will, and consists in supreme, disinterested benevolence. This is all that the law requires; and man is responsible, and can be responsible only for this state of the will. If he is perfectly, and universally, and disinterestedly benevolent, he perfectly obeys the law of God. Whatever emotions, thoughts, acts, or states of mind do not follow from this state of the will, as its natural and necessary sequence, are naturally impossible to him, and therefore moral obligation cannot extend to them. Whatever thoughts, emotions, acts, or states of mind come to pass, notwithstanding this perfectly benevolent state of the will, he has no power to avoid, and therefore such acts, emotions, and states of mind, can have no moral character. To maintain the contrary of these positions, is not only to set all true philosophy aside, but is also a flat denial of the Bible itself.

3. It is abundantly taught, and again and again asserted in the Bible, that love, or benevolence, is the fulfilling of the law--that all the law is fulfilled in one word, love. And it should ever be borne in mind, and well considered by all men, that the Bible takes the very same ground upon this subject with true philosophy. Benevolence is good-willing. It is willing the good of being for its own sake, and on account of its intrinsic value; and, consequently, it is the very nature of benevolence to will every good according to its relative value, as perceived by the mind.

4. Every mind is to be guided by its own best judgment in respect to the relative value of different interests, except where God has revealed their relative value; in which case, this revelation is to decide us. But in applying the great principle of the law of God to human conduct, we are manifestly to be guided, not by the views which God has, nor which angels have, nor which any other beings except ourselves have, of the relative value of different interests. But we must judge for ourselves, under the best light afforded us, what is the relative value of the different interests with which we are surrounded, and how the law of God requires us to demean ourselves in respect to them. And every being wills right, or just as the law of God requires him to will, when he regards and treats every interest just as its relative value, as understood by his own mind, demands. When he wills every good for its own sake, and the promotion of every interest according to its relative value in his own best judgment, he fully obeys the law of God.

5. We have seen that the will necessitates thought, action, and feeling. Therefore, moral character cannot strictly belong to thought, action, or feeling. If I will to stab a man, moral character does not attach to the dagger--to the hand that holds it--to the muscle that moves it--but to the mind in the exercise of willing. The same is true of thought or feeling. Mind is strictly responsible only for its voluntary acts. And the moral character of all acts and states of mind is found in that act of the will that produced them by a natural necessity.

6. We have seen, and know by our own consciousness, that man is free and sovereign. He is, therefore, responsible for any act or state of mind that can be produced or avoided, directly or indirectly by willing and endeavor, and for nothing more or less. For the plain reason that every thing, more or less, is naturally impossible to him. Hence, the law of God makes all virtue to consist in benevolence. And if the Bible did not represent all virtue as consisting in benevolence, a correct philosophy, as learned from our own consciousness, would compel us to reject its authority.

7. If the will, then, is conformed to the law of God nothing can be morally wrong for the time being. For whatever does not follow by natural necessity, from this state of the will, is naturally impossible to us. So, on the other hand, if the will is wrong, nothing can be morally right; for, whatever acts or states of mind result from a wrong choice, by a natural necessity, have the same character, so far as they have any character at all, with the choice that produced them. This is the philosophy of total depravity. We truly say, that if a man's heart is wrong every thing that he does is wrong. By his heart we mean his choice, intention, purpose. If his intention or choice be selfish, nothing can be morally right; because his character is as his intention is; and it is naturally impossible that the emotions and actions which follow from a selfish intention should be morally right. If this is not true philosophy, then the doctrine of the total depravity of the unregenerate is not true.

8. The doctrine of total depravity as consisting in the selfish state of the will, and of entire holiness, as consisting in the benevolent state of the will, must stand or fall together. If any thing about a man can be sinful, while his will is in a perfectly benevolent state, it must be true that when the will is in a perfectly selfish state, some things or many things in the same mind may be at the same time truly holy. And if a man can be all the while sinning, while his heart or will is in a state of disinterested benevolence, he can all the while be partly holy, while his heart or will is unregenerate and in a state of entire selfishness. If the emotions and actions of a man whose will is in a perfectly benevolent state can be sinful, then the emotions or actions of a man who is in a perfectly selfish state can be holy. So also, if the actions and emotions which follow from a selfish state of the will must of necessity be sinful, so the actions which follow from a benevolent state of the will must in the same sense be holy.

9. Let it be remembered, therefore, that whoever maintains that present sinfulness can be predicated of a man in a perfectly benevolent state of the will, must also admit that holiness may be predicated of one in a perfectly selfish state of the will. This is the doctrine of the Bible, and the doctrine of true philosophy, that true benevolence, or the willing of every good according to its relative value, as perceived by the mind and for its own sake, is the whole of virtue. God's interest is to be willed as the supreme good, and every other interest according to its relative value, so far as we are capable of knowing. And this is holiness, and nothing else is.

V. What constitutes sin. VI. What holiness is. I now come to a direct examination of the text, and inquire,

VII. What the will of God is.

VIII. How is the will of God done in Heaven?

We are directed in the text to pray that the will of God may be done on earth as it is done in Heaven. In answer, then, to this inquiry, let me say,

I come now to a fundamental inquiry,

IX. What is implied in a sincere offering of this petition to God?

What is the real state of mind in which an individual must be, sincerely to offer this prayer?

X. Nothing short of a state of mind that can and does offer this petition sincerely, is true religion. REMARKS.

1. This petition in the mouth of a selfish being is hypocrisy. It must be in all cases downright hypocrisy for a selfish man to offer this petition to God.

2. This petition is hypocrisy on the lips of any one whose will is not in entire and universal harmony with the will of God so far as that will is known. If there be any thing in which the will is not entirely conformed to the known will of God, in offering this petition, the petitioner is a hypocrite, and abuses, flatters, and mocks God.

3. We see what Christ intended by the command, "Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect." Many persons feel shocked at the idea of any one being even for a moment without sin in this life. And to expect to be, in any proper sense, perfect in this life is with them wholly out of the question. From the manner in which they speak of the subject of perfection, it would seem Christ's command to be perfect as God is perfect is a most extravagant requisition, and something which Christ did not so much as expect would be obeyed in this world. If they are consistent also they must suppose that in requiring us to offer this petition to God, He must have intended that we should use the language of hyperbole, and not that we should seriously expect or even suppose it possible that the will of God should be done on earth by any human being as it is done in heaven. But the truth is that Christ simply intended to require men to be truly religious. We have just seen that nothing short of that state of the will that is for the time being as perfectly conformed to the will of God as is the will of the inhabitants of heaven, can by any possibility be true religion. He meant therefore merely to say, be truly religious. Be what God requires you to be. Do not rebel in any thing against the will of God, but be upright, sincere, or perfect, which is the same thing. It is therefore, as I have before said, true that every moral being that can sincerely offer this prayer is, and must be, in his measure, for the time being, so far as the state of his heart is concerned, as perfect as God.

4. In another sense, every moral being in the universe comes infinitely short of being as perfect as God is. God's knowledge is infinite, and his will is entirely conformed to his infinite knowledge. The knowledge of every other being is finite, and conformity of will to finite knowledge must of necessity fall infinitely short of conformity of will to infinite knowledge.

5. Entire conformity of heart or will to all known truth, is moral perfection, in the only sense in which a moral being is ever perfect.

In a little child who had but one ray of light and the knowledge of but one moral truth in his mind, entire conformity of heart to that truth would be in him moral perfection. Nothing less in him could be virtue, and nothing more could be required. Whether one, ten, ten thousand, or ten thousand million truths and relations are apprehended by the mind, nothing short of conformity to them all can by any possibility be virtue. "For whosoever shall keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." In God nothing can be virtue short of conformity to all the truth known to Him. The same is true of the highest moral agent as well as the lowest. And nothing more or less is properly intended by moral perfection than universal conformity to all known truth.

6. Let not the distinction between perfection as a state and perfection as an act be overlooked. The thing for which we are required to pray in the text, no doubt, is a state of perfection, or of entire conformity to the will of God, and that this may be as universal on earth as it is in heaven.

7. A state of mind that can habitually offer this petition must be in entire conformity to all known truth, or in other words it must be in that state intended by entire consecration to God.

8. If the question be asked whether a state of entire sanctification is attainable in this life, let it be answered by inquiring whether a state of mind that can sincerely and habitually offer this petition to God, is attainable?

9. The petition for pardon in the Lord's prayer, must respect past sin, and cannot respect the state of mind in which this petition can be offered sincerely. For a man cannot be sinning while he is sincerely saying, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

10. What perfect mockery it is to teach thoughtless children to say the Lord's prayer and offer this petition. And what a dreadful influence it must have upon them to teach them to offer this prayer without instructing them with reference to its meaning, and informing them of the great wickedness of insincerity.

11. How this petition sounds as it is used in the Church service and repeated by hundreds and thousands of thoughtless sinners, who neither know nor care what they say. Many offer it and mean nothing by it; and some offer the petition and leave it for others to do the will of God, considering, it would seem, that it is their part to offer the petition, and leave it for others to live according to it.

12. The request for pardon is never lawful and acceptable to God, except only when the mind is in a state in which it can sincerely offer this petition. If this petition cannot be sincerely offered, and the soul cannot sincerely say "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," it is in a state of present rebellion against God, and therefore has no right to ask for forgiveness.

13. The great mass of professors of religion have, I fear, fallen entirely short of conceiving rightly of the nature of true religion, and it is high time that the subject were thoroughly investigated, and that the Lord's prayer in its true spirit and import should be deeply pondered by the Church, and the inquiry should be raised, what is implied in the sincere offering of this prayer to God. Unless these fundamental inquiries are started and pressed, until the Church come to an intelligent understanding of them, false hopes will continue to be cherished, and thousands of professing Christians will go down to hell.

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Danger of Delusion
Lecture II
August 17, 1842

by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College

Text.--Heb. 3:1: "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we let them slip."

In remarking upon this text, I shall attempt to show:

I. What constitutes true religion.

II. That the true idea of religion is rare.

III. That the existence of the true idea of what constitutes religion is indispensable to the existence of true religion in the soul.

IV. The great danger of losing this idea.

V. How to retain the true idea, and the practice of true religion.

I. What constitutes true religion.

Reason also affirms the obligation of all moral beings to exercise disinterested benevolence. By disinterested benevolence is intended the willing of the highest good of being in general, for its own sake--that every good is to be regarded, willed, and treated, according to its relative value, so far as we are able to understand its value. Disinterested benevolence constitutes that which is required by the law of God, and is expressed in the term love. It is choice as distinguished from mere desire. It is willing, as distinguished from mere emotion or feeling. It is willing good for its own sake, as distinguished from willing the good of others for some selfish reason, that is, it is willing them good of being as an end, and not as a means of promoting our own good. It is willing universal good as opposed to willing partial good. It is willing every interest according to its relative value, because it is the willing of good for its own sake, and on account of its intrinsic value. It is synonymous with ultimate intention. By ultimate intention is intended the subjective motive of the mind, or the mind's choice of an ultimate end, to the promotion of which it devotes itself.

Let it then be understood that virtue, or true religion consists always in the supreme ultimate intention of the mind--that a man's character is as his subjective motive, or ultimate intention is. The Bible again and again affirms that all the law is fulfilled in one word, love. And this love, when the term is properly defined and understood, is synonymous with intention, or disinterested benevolent. We therefore judge rightly when we say, that a man's character is as his motive or intention is.

Lest it should be thought from what I have said, that outward action and inward feeling have no necessary connection with true religion, and that it may exist without corresponding feelings and actions, I remark, that the actions of the will, as we know by our own consciousness, necessitate outward actions. If I intend to go to a certain place as soon as I can, that intention will beget those volitions that give motion to the muscles. Therefore while the intention exists, corresponding outward actions must exist. So intentions necessitate corresponding feelings. The attention of the mind is governed by the will. If I intend to feel upon a certain subject, I direct my attention to it, and corresponding feelings are the necessary result. Therefore where intentions exist, corresponding feelings must exist. It should be observed, however, that sometimes outward actions and corresponding feelings cannot be produced by efforts of the will; for example, outward actions cannot be produced, when there is a paralysis of the nerves of voluntary motion. In such cases, the muscles will not obey volition. So where the excitability of the mind is exhausted, emotions will not be the necessary result of giving the attention of the mind to certain subjects which in other cases would produce them. But except in such cases, feeling and outward action are the certain and necessary results of intention.

Where, therefore, religion exists, it will of necessity manifest itself in corresponding outward actions and inward feelings.

II. The true idea of what constitutes true religion is rare.

This is evident,

I might adduce a great many other reasons, showing that the true idea of true religion is a rare idea: but I must pass to say,

III. That the true idea of religion is indispensable to the existence of true religion.

By this, as I have already intimated, I do not mean, that persons may not be religious, and yet in theory make a mistake in regard to what constitutes real religion. But I do mean,

IV. There is great danger of losing the true idea of true religion.

This is evident,

V. How to retain the true idea and practice of true religion.
In recommending it to you, however; to join some church, it is of course expected that you will join some of the existing denominations. The thing intended here, is, that you avoid a sectarian spirit, that you love all Christians as such, that you have no zeal to build up a party, but that you live for the universal Church, the world, and the glory of God.
That they give to the confession of faith all the authority which papists attach to decisions of councils and the pope, is evident from the fact that in all the trials that have been had for heresy, the accused is arraigned for dissenting from the "Standards" of the Church and from the holy scriptures. But in no instance that has come to my knowledge, have they allowed the accused to defend himself by an appeal to the scriptures which would set aside the confession of faith. For it is assumed, as far as I know, in all cases, that the confession of faith has settled the meaning of the scriptures. And it is considered as entirely inadmissible to attempt to set aside the confession of faith by an appeal to the Bible. Indeed to such lengths has the Presbyterian church proceeded, to say nothing of other churches, that on trials for heresy, it is assumed both by the accused and the accuser, that the ultimate appeal is to the confession of faith, and consequently the accused feels himself obliged to show that his sentiments are not inconsistent with the confession of faith. Let the trials of Mr. Barnes and Mr. Beecher be looked at as illustrations of this fact. Were they allowed or did they even attempt to justify their sentiments by an appeal to the Bible, or did they defend themselves by attempting to show that what they held was consistent with the "standards?" Were they allowed to say that, whatever the confession of faith might say, such and such was the doctrine of the Bible? By no means.

The fact is that it is high time for the Church to open her eyes upon the appalling fact that the [P]rotestant denominations are assuming the truth of the fundamental error of papacy, are talking about their "Standards" and are using their spiritual guillotine wherever and whenever there is a departure from their "standards."

The next step will be to substitute their "convenient manuals of doctrine" and their human standards in the place of the Bible in such a sense as that the laity may as well be deprived of the Bible.

Not long since I received an invitation from the session of a Presbyterian church to come and preach to them upon the condition that I would preach nothing inconsistent with the Bible as interpreted by the confession of faith. I of course treated such an invitation in the manner in which I supposed I was bound to treat it. I felt shocked that matters had some to such a state in the Presbyterian church that they dared to demand of a minister that he should interpret the Bible by their confession of faith. What is this but exalting the confession of faith into the very place of the Pope?

Now beloved, if you intend to preserve the idea and practice of genuine religion, be careful that you do not either in theory or practice adopt the great error of papacy and assume that some human standard is to be regarded as an authoritative exposition of the word of God. Read your Bible. Let the opinions of good men, whether expressed in catechisms, confessions of faith, or in any other way, orally or in writing, have with you what weight they really deserve, but call no man master in your views of theology, and let inspiration alone be authoritative with you in matters of faith and practice.


1. True religion, in the lowest degree, implies living up to the best light you have. I say this is not to be looked upon as some high and rare attainment in religion, but is in fact essential to the lowest degree of true religion. He that does not habitually live up to the best light he enjoys, lives habitually in sin, and cannot be a Christian. By living up to the best light you have, is intended, that you do every thing which you acknowledge to be duty, and act up to the standard of right which you acknowledge to be your rule of duty. If you allow yourself in any omission or practice which you acknowledge to be wrong, (I mean where this is habitual with you in opposition to occasional,) you are not, and cannot be a Christian, as the Bible is true.

2. True religion of course hails every branch of reform that promises glory to God, and good to men.

3. The radical principle of all false religion, whatever be its name, is selfishness. No matter whether it be Judaism, Christianity, Mahommedanism, or by whatever name you call it, the radical principle, that which constitutes the end and aim of every false religionist, is some form of selfishness.

4. You see why it is that study, business, &c., are often a snare to the soul. It is not because persons do too much business for God, but because they do business and study for themselves.

5. The state of the world and of the Church is such, and the general strain of preaching such, that even true converts are very apt soon to let slip the true idea, and consequently to fall from the practice of true religion. They see so little of real benevolence, they hear so little about it, they witness such universal selfishness, that they soon get confused, backslidden, and fall into the snare of the devil. How striking and appropriate, then, is the admonition of the Apostle in the text, "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we let them slip."

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Ability and Inability
Lecture III
August 31, 1842

by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College

Texts.--Joshua 24:19: "And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the Lord: for He is a holy God."

In this discussion, I shall

I. Point out the distinction between the different kinds of ability and inability to obey the law of God, which have been insisted on by different classes of philosophers and divines.

II. Show that this distinction is nonsensical.

III. What is intended by the language of the text and similar passages of Scripture.

IV. Why the Holy Spirit is employed in the production of holiness.

I. Distinction between the different kinds of ability and inability to obey the law of God, which have been insisted on by different classes of philosophers and divines.

Now it is very plain, that the very nature of the connection between the physical cause and its effect, is that of necessity. And if, according to them, the connection is the same in kind, between motive and choice, then choice must be determined by necessity. You may call it necessity or certainty, or what you will, the true idea and thing intended, is necessity.
Without this aid they maintain, that fallen or sinful beings have no kind of ability to obey God. Hence consistency drives them to maintain, that but for the atonement and gracious divine influence, men after the fall, would have been under no obligation to obey God, and that those in hell, from whom the gracious influence is withdrawn, are under no such obligation. It is easy to see, also, that if consistent, they must deny that Satan has ever sinned since his fall, or can sin, unless the atonement and gracious ability extend to him.

Observe, I do not intend that all, who professedly belong to either of these schools, are consistent enough, to hold the whole of their theory, as I have stated it. But I have stated the doctrine of natural and moral ability and inability, and of gracious ability just as held by the leading minds of these different schools, if I rightly understand them, which I have taken much pains to do.

II. These distinctions are nonsensical. III. What is intended by the language of the text and similar passages of Scripture? Here let me remark that so to explain these passages as to make them teach either a moral or a natural inability is to deny the freedom of the will. But that the will is free we have the testimony of our own consciousness. To come to Christ, to do our duty, in other words to be holy, consists in acts of will. Now to affirm an inability to will in any direction, in view of motives, is to affirm that as true which our consciousness teaches us to be false.

I might quote other passages that have been relied on to support the doctrine of inability, but have said enough to give the candid reader a clue to the right understanding of them all. And for the caviler I am not now writing.

IV. Why the agency of the Holy Spirit is employed in inducing obedience to the moral law.


1. To represent God as requiring impossibilities on pain of eternal death, is to hold up his character and government to irresistible abhorrence. Men are so constituted that, by an unalterable law of their reason, they affirm intuitively, irresistibly, and indignantly, that for any government, human or divine, to require natural or moral impossibilities is unjust and tyrannical. And until the very nature of man is altered, this must forever be the case. It has been publicly affirmed not long since, by a Doctor of Divinity in the Presbyterian church, that moral obligation did not imply any kind of ability whatever to do our duty. Now a more shocking and revolting contradiction of reason, common sense, and the Bible, could hardly be stated in words. Such statements are in exact accordance with the spirit and policy of the devil.

2. It has always been the policy of Satan to misrepresent the character and government of God. He prevails by false hood. He sustains his dominion in this world by gross misrepresentations of the character of God. It has always been of the greatest importance to him and his cause to deceive the Church and induce the leading minds to entertain and publish to the world, views of the character and government of God which are at war with reason and the Bible. He very early succeeded in this, under the Christian dispensation. And who that is acquainted with the opinions and dogmas of the Christian fathers, does not know that they very early began to inculcate the most absurd and revolting dogmas concerning the character and government of God. One of the leading minds among them could say of a certain doctrine, "It is absurd and therefore I believe it." In every age of the Christian Church, Satan has succeeded in influencing a certain class of minds to adopt and shamelessly avow, and zealously to inculcate dogmas as the truth of God, against which the very nature of man cries out with vehement indignation. And this many of them do not pretend to deny, but on the contrary boldly affirm it, and insist that the very nature of man must therefore be changed before he can love God. Instead of representing man as needing to have the voluntary state of his mind changed in respect to God, they represent him as needing to have his very nature changed, by a creative act of physical Omnipotence. And what sentiment can please the devil better than this?

3. When good but unlearned people have listened to such distorted misrepresentations of God and his government, they have hushed down their rising indignation under the impression that it was a mystery. They have piously chided themselves for having a thought of the injustice and unreasonableness of such dogmas enter their minds. And oftentimes have they diverted their attention and found it indispensable to abstract their minds from the consideration of these dogmas, to prevent the rising remonstrances of their deepest nature, against the injustice of requiring of men natural or moral impossibilities on pain of eternal death.

4. It is remarkable to what extent unconverted but thinking men have become sceptical in view of such representations of the character of God. And ministers that maintain such sentiments are very little aware of the extent to which they preach their unconverted hearers into infidelity. Millions of souls have been ruined by the false representations of the character and government of God, which they have heard from the pulpits not only of notorious heretics, but multitudes of self-styled orthodox.

5. Since the doctrine of entire sanctification in this life has been so much and so pointedly insisted on, multitudes of ministers and others who have heretofore professed to believe and teach the doctrine of ability in every moral agent to do his whole duty, are retiring back to the ranks of those who deny the doctrine of ability. They see and acknowledge that the doctrine of entire obedience to the law of God, or in other words, of entire consecration and sanctification, is only the legitimate application of the doctrine of ability to all the conduct of Christians; that if men are able to obey God perfectly, there is no reason why they should not, nor any ground for the affirmation that they will not. But let not those brethren think to find a resting place, or an apology for sin under the doctrine of inability, for it is abundantly easy to show that of all the absurd doctrines that ever were broached, not one is more contrary to the Bible and to common sense, and more easily refuted than the doctrine of inability.

6. From what has been said it will be seen that the dependence of sinners and of Christians upon God is of such a nature as to afford no excuse whatever for their sins. If the doctrine of inability were true, and the Spirit of God were indispensable to make them able to do their duty, then their dependence would be an apology for their sins. Or what is still more proper to say, until the divine agency was granted, they could not begin to sin, inasmuch as sin must imply the power to be holy. But if, as has been shown, the sinner is able to obey, and the whole difficulty lies in his unwillingness to do his duty, and if the Spirit is employed only as a persuasive agency to induce a willingness to comply with duty, it is abundantly plain that the sinner's dependence upon the Holy Spirit, affords him not the least shadow of excuse for ever having sinned or for ever indulging in another sin.

7. Until men are willing to confess their sins--that they are able but unwilling to obey God--until they are ingenuous enough to own that their difficulty does not lie in an inability but in a pertinacious obstinacy--until they perceive and allow that the Spirit is not needed to make them able, but only to overcome their voluntary rebellion, they have no reason to expect a divine influence, to lead them to Christ--but have every reason to fear that God will give them up to the agency of Satan, and send them strong delusion, and confirm them in the belief of inability, until they become so utterly blinded as that they cannot "deliver their souls, or say, have I not a lie in my right hand."

8. And now sinner, will you be as ingenuous and as courageous as were the Israelites when Joshua uttered the words of the text? If you read the connection you will see that they believed and avowed their belief that they could render to Jehovah an acceptable service. And when Joshua put the question plainly home to them, whether they would, that day, choose and enter upon the service of God, they rose up and signified their determination to serve Jehovah. And from the history of that generation, it is manifest that many of them, to say the least, were sincere and whole-hearted in the avowal of their purpose. Is it not time for you to decide? Will you become holy? Will you serve the Lord? Will you do it now? Answer in your inmost being, upon the spot. If you say no, or if you refuse to answer at all, remember that God may take you at your word; but if you say yes, and mean it, if you let your heart go with your words, your name shall be written in the "Lamb's book of life."

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God Under Obligation to Do Right
Lecture IV
September 14, 1842

by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College

Text.--Gen. 18:25: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

In discussing this subject I will show,

I. What is right.

II. What is implied in God's doing right?

III. That God is under a moral obligation to do right.

IV. That all moral beings are bound to be willing that God should do right.

V. What is implied in being willing that God should do right.

VI. That this state of mind is indispensable to salvation.

I. What is right?

Right expresses the moral quality of disinterested benevolence. Benevolence is good willing or willing the highest good of being. Disinterested benevolence is willing the good of being as an end, or for its own sake, or, in other words, on account of its intrinsic value. A thing is good, that is, naturally good, because it is valuable in itself.--Such, for instance, is happiness. Happiness is a good in itself, that is, it is valuable. Every moral being knows by his own certain knowledge, that happiness is valuable, is good. To will, therefore, the highest happiness or the highest good of being for its own sake, is benevolence. Benevolence, then, consists in willing according to the nature and relations of things. Reason universally affirms that to will thus, to will good for its own sake, to will it impartially or disinterestedly, or in other words, to will every good of every being according to its relative value, is right. Right is the term by which we express the moral quality of disinterested benevolence. The terms right, virtue, holiness, &c., express the same thing. They denote the moral quality of disinterested benevolence or of that love that constitutes obedience to the law of God. Let it be understood, then, that disinterested benevolence is always right, and that nothing else is right, and that whatever is right or virtuous, is only a modification of disinterested benevolence. Nothing is virtue or right that is not in compliance with the law of disinterested benevolence.

II. What is implied in God's doing right?

Doing right in God, his nature and relations being what they are, must imply the doing of several things by Him that would not be implied in the case of any other being.

The same is true of many other things which it is unnecessary to mention.

III. God is under a moral obligation to do right.

It is not intended that God was under an obligation to any one above Himself, for no such being existed. But his own self-existent nature is such that He is his own law-giver, and imposes obligation on Himself. His own reason eternally and intuitively affirms that He ought to be benevolent, that He ought to wield his own infinite attributes in the creation of beings and the promotion of their good. He is therefore under law to Himself, his reason and conscience always imposing moral obligation upon Himself. Compliance with this obligation in Him is virtue. A refusal would be vice.
Some people seem to feel shocked at the supposition that God should be under moral obligation. But they may just as well be offended with the supposition that He has moral character. If He does not owe obedience to the law of benevolence, then benevolence in Him is not right. It is no virtue. If God is above law, He is above virtue. If He is above moral obligation, He is above having moral character, and above being praise or blame-worthy for any thing. The conviction has been many a time crowded upon my mind, that the religion of a great multitude of its professors, is mere superstition. They are shocked with any rational view of God's character. They are offended with his being represented as the subject of moral obligation. They seem not to know at all why He is praiseworthy, and if their view of the subject were true, He would not be praise-worthy. Multitudes of professors seem to praise Him for doing that which they suppose Him under no moral obligation to do. But if He were under no moral obligation to do it--if the law of benevolence did not require it at his hands, it were neither wise nor virtuous in Him to do it, and therefore for doing it He would deserve no thanks.

Whenever I see persons manifest a spirit of opposition to the idea that God is under law, is the subject of moral obligation, and that virtue in Him, as in all other beings, is only a compliance with the great law of benevolence, I know that the religion of such persons must be superstition. It cannot be that they have the true knowledge of God, of his character, relations, and government, and that they either praise or respect Him for any good reason. Their worshiping Him for such reasons as are in their minds, He must consider as injurious and insulting.

Hence let me say again, that He is not, as we are, under obligation to one above Himself, for no such one exists. But He is under obligation to the law of benevolence as it is imposed on Him by his own reason.

Some seem to suppose that the reason why God cannot sin, is that He is above law, that his arbitrary will is law, and that whatever He wills or can will, must be right simply because his will is law. But such persons do not consider that if this theory is true, He can no more be holy than He can sin, for if there be not some rule of conduct obligatory upon Him, He has no standard of action, nothing with which to compare his own conduct, and can in fact have no moral character. Now the reason why God cannot sin, is not because He is naturally unable to sin, nor because selfishness in Him would not be sin. But it is said He cannot sin, because He is voluntarily holy, infinitely disposed not to sin.

IV. All moral beings are bound to be willing that God should do right.

If He is under a moral obligation to do right, no one can have any right to object to his doing right, for this would be absurd. It would imply the existence of contradictory rights or obligations--that God was under a moral obligation to do that which other beings were under a moral obligation to prevent if they could. It must be that whatever the law of benevolence requires of God, whatever the highest good of being demands that He should do, all moral beings are bound to be willing that He should do.

V. What is implied in being willing that God should do right?

VI. This state of mind is indispensable to salvation. REMARKS.

1. Strictly speaking there is no such thing as a work of supererogation in God or in any other being. By a work of supererogation is intended the doing of something that one was not of right under obligation to do, something not required by law. In morals, a work of supererogation would be something not required by the law of benevolence. Now if there were any such thing as a work of supererogation in God or any other moral being, it could not be benevolence or virtue. It could not be praise-worthy. If it were not required by the law of benevolence, it could be neither wise nor good. But if required by the law of love, it is not properly speaking a work of supererogation.

2. The common notion of the imputed righteousness of Christ, by which many maintain that the saints are to be saved, is a papal superstition. It has no foundation whatever in truth. The fact is that Christ did no more than to comply with the great law of universal benevolence. Both as God and man, his obligation to be universally and perfectly benevolent was complete. He did no more than under the circumstances was his duty to do--no more than the exigencies of the government of God required--no more than to comply with the great law of universal love. Had he done any thing more or less than this, it would neither have been wise nor good.

3. Do not understand me to say that sinners would have any cause of complaint if He had not died for them. They had forfeited all claims to favor. So far as they were concerned, He might have visited upon them the penalty of the law. But to his own nature He owed the obligation of perfect benevolence. To Himself and to the virtuous universe he was under an obligation to make a sacrifice of Himself, if by so doing he could promote a greater good than the evil He suffered.

4. If there could be such a thing as a work of supererogation, that is, doing that which the law of benevolence did not require, such a work would be sin and not holiness.

5. The spirit of the law and of the gospel is identical--both require universal and perfect benevolence.

6. There is no proper distinction between law and equity. This distinction in morals has no foundation.

7. Strictly and properly speaking there is no distinction between what is lawful and what is expedient. And when Paul says, "All things are lawful for me but all things are not expedient," we are to understand him only as speaking in a general way, and not as designing to affirm that in the most proper sense a thing might be lawful, and yet not expedient. Expediency is that which, under the circumstances, is demanded by the highest good. But this is identically the spirit of the law. A thing may be contrary to the letter of the law which is expedient. But the spirit of the law requires that every interest should be treated according to its relative value--that of two evils, one of which is unavoidable, the least shall be suffered--that of two goods, but one of which can be secured, the greatest shall be preferred. The letter of the law and real expediency may be at variance. But the spirit of the law and true expediency are always identical.

8. There is no law of right separate from the law of benevolence. Justice is only a modification of benevolence. And nothing is just or right that is not in accordance with the law of benevolence. By justice and mercy nothing more is intended than benevolence acting in different relations--the end always being the same, the promotion of the highest good.

9. God sends the wicked to hell for the same reason for which he takes the righteous to heaven, that is, in both cases He designs to promote the highest good. When sinners come into such relations that the highest good demands that He should send them to hell, He does so for that reason. And when the righteous come into such relations that the highest good demands that He should take them to heaven, He does so for that reason.

10. The Atonement and all that God does for the salvation of sinners, is done by Him in compliance with the great law of benevolence. Had it not been a compliance with duty, it would not have been virtue.

11. See from this subject what constitutes the sovereignty of God. Many persons seem to speak and think of the divine sovereignty as if it consisted in God's acting arbitrarily, without any regard to moral obligation--that in his sovereign acts He has no other reason than that so it seems good in his sight. They speak of his sovereignty as if He had no good reason for willing as He does, but that such is his pleasure, entirely irrespective of the reason why it is his pleasure. Now this is a most odious and injurious view of the character of God. God's sovereignty is and can be nothing else than benevolence acting independently. It consists in his doing his duty without asking the leave of any one. It consists in his doing right without let or hindrance from any one.

12. Those who are not pleased with the sovereignty of God when they rightly understand it, cannot be Christians. If they are not willing that God should consult his own wisdom and do what He regards to be his own duty, they are rebels and the enemies of God and of all good.

13. God will never punish the wicked to gratify any feelings of resentment, in the proper acceptation of the term. I suppose that the very nature of God demands that the finally impenitent should be punished. His reason affirms that he ought to be miserable who is wicked, and that therefore God could not consult the highest good, could not promote his own happiness, nor the happiness of holy beings, unless He acted in conformity with this affirmation of his own reason, and of the reason of every moral being, and inflicted merited punishment upon the incorrigibly wicked. If God is a moral being, as we have shown, we know from our own consciousness as moral beings, that from the laws of his very nature, his reason affirms the justice of inflicting punishment upon the wicked--that punishment and sin ought to go together, and that God cannot be satisfied with Himself, and holy beings cannot be satisfied with Him, unless He inflict punishment upon the finally impenitent. The highest good must therefore demand that He punish the wicked. This is implied in what Abraham says: "Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? This be far from thee. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Here it is as plainly implied as possible, that to punish the wicked is right.

14. Let it not be thought that God or any holy being has pleasure in the infliction of pain for its own sake. Misery never is and never can be regarded by a moral being as a good in itself. It can never be chosen for its own sake. It can never be chosen as an end by any moral being but only as a means of promoting the blessedness of the universe. Such is the nature of moral beings that they affirm by a law of their nature, over which they have no control, that sin deserves punishment, and that if sinners persevere in sin they must be punished. And although by a law of their own nature, they look upon misery as an evil in itself, yet under a moral government they look upon the punishment of finally impenitent sinners as a less evil than impunity in sin.

15. It should always be understood then that God punishes sinners for public reasons--the nature of moral beings being such that the realization of the idea of public justice is promotive of, and demanded by the highest happiness of the universe. For this reason and for this reason alone God punishes the finally impenitent.

16. For the same reason He forgives and saves the penitent, that is, to realize the idea of right, fitness, and public justice. Every thing considered, it is, upon the whole, best, reasonable, and right, in view of the atonement of Christ and the penitence of the sinner, that he should not suffer the penalty of the law, but that he should be forgiven and saved. Therefore in the salvation of the penitent sinner, public justice is not set aside, but in saving him, God goes upon the principle of public justice, that is, his so doing under the circumstances, is in the highest degree conducive of the public interests. Hence the Apostle John represents the salvation of the penitent as an act of justice. I John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

17. The law of right requires that God should punish the wicked as much and as long as the public good requires.

18. In a government that is to last throughout eternity, the punishment of sin must be endless, for very important and manifest reasons. There will need to be under such a government, a steady, perpetual, and eternal monument upon which the nature, the demerit, the history and the results of sin shall be recorded. Truth is the great instrument of controling mind. Let the history of the Temperance Reformation illustrate what I mean. Under a moral government, I suppose it was impossible for God to bring about the temperance reformation, until the nature and tendencies of the use of alcohol, could in some way be known. But when its nature was developed, its tendencies perceived, and its history written in the blood of millions of souls, there were then sufficient materials on hand, with which to assail it and crowd it back--shall I say to hell from whence it came? The monster intemperance, came up upon the length and breadth of the land, clad in a mantle of light. He found his way into every habitation, and smiled, and dealt out excitement, and deceived the nations. Alcohol was every where regarded as a friend. Its presence was deemed indispensable to health and happiness. It was prescribed by the physician almost as a catholicon. It was taken even by the clergy as an auxiliary in the discharge of their holy functions. All classes of persons supposed themselves to be blessed by it. And until it had destroyed its millions, so deep were its deceptive influences, that men could not be awakened to regard it as an enemy. But now its mask is off. It is known. Its history is written in blood, and who does not know that for the use of future generations this history is an indispensable safeguard? Should the present or any future generation succeed in banishing alcohol from the world, by exhibiting in every country its true history, who does not know that except these records be preserved, and the public mind kept sufficiently awake, that the same scenes will, in future, be acted over again, and that nothing can prevent so dire a catastrophe but the keeping in perpetual memory the nature, the history, and the results of using alcohol. As moral beings, it is impossible to preserve future generations of mankind from intemperance, but by the universal presence of information upon this subject. Now for the same reason that the history of alcohol will need to be kept in perpetual memory, for the same reason will the endless history of sin, it its details, and results need to be kept before the public mind. Something must be done that shall be a virtual penciling of the history of sin, in characters of light upon every part of the universe. The dealings of God with the impenitent must be such as to be the subject of eternal conversation and excitement throughout the whole universe. His dealings must be so public, and so perpetual as never to be forgotten. It must be a record that cannot but be read by every moral being. It must teach a thrilling and perpetual lesson to all moral beings in all worlds, as long as moral beings shall exist. And if at any time his public dealings with sinners should cease and fall into forgetfulness, the impression would of course be done away upon the universe. And who can say that all the horrors of another apostacy from God would not be the result?

19. Those who are not willing that God should send the wicked to hell cannot be saved. If the execution of the sentence upon the finally impenitent will make them miserable they must be miserable.

20. None are willing that God should do right who do not do right themselves. This is self evident.

21. Unless doing right is supremely pleasing to you, you cannot be saved.

22. Anxious sinners are often distressed for fear God will do right. If they remain in sin God will certainly send them to hell. This would be right. This it would be his duty to do. But this is the cause of the sinner's anxiety. He fears God will do what He ought.

23. We see what true submission is. It consists in a willingness to have God do, in all things, with us and ours, through all the universe and to all eternity, just right--to dispose of all we have and are just as the highest good of the universe shall demand.

24. What a glorious consideration it is that the Supreme, Universal Judge of all the earth will do right. He cannot be mistaken. He cannot be bribed. He cannot be deterred. He cannot be prevented. He will never change. He will never cease to be. What a glorious consideration to be under the government of such a being.

25. If his providential designs are displeasing to you, you cannot be saved. He deals with you just as He does, because it is right, because, under the circumstances, the highest good of the universe demands it. Thus He will do without asking your leave. If you are pleased with it, it is well. If you are displeased, there is no help for you.

26. God is equally good in all He does, for the best of all reasons, that He has the same ultimate reason for all He does, namely, the highest good of the universe demands it. In other words, it is right.

27. He deserves as much praise, for sending the wicked to hell, as for taking the righteous to heaven. He deserves just as much praise for what are called his judgments as for what are called his mercies, for sickness as for health, for death as for life, for hell as for heaven, for pestilence, earthquake, and tornado, under the circumstances in which they occur, as for their direct opposites under other circumstances. One law governs Him in all these things. One principle of action, one motive or intention accounts for the whole.

28. If He send any of you to hell, all heaven will be under an obligation to praise Him for it. If He send your companions or children to hell, you will be under obligation to praise Him for it. If he send your children or even yourself to hell, you will be under an eternal obligation to praise Him for it. It will always be true that He did it because it was right, because the public good demanded it, and it was therefore his duty to do it. He did it in compliance with the great law of perfect benevolence. And shall you not praise Him for being benevolent?

29. There is no good reason for being shocked at the idea, of God's being the subject of moral obligation, and acting in accordance with the dictates of law and of conscience.

30. Unless you are, according to your knowledge, as upright as God is, you are not willing He should do right, you are in rebellion against Him, and cannot be in a state of justification with God.

31. Sinners are so selfish that they would be saved at all events. Whether it would be right or wrong on the part of God to save them they neither consider nor care.

32. If God should save sinners, forgive their sins, and treat them as they desire Him to treat them, He would ruin the universe.

33. The prayers of impenitent sinners for forgiveness, are among the blackest sins in the universe. Nothing is more common than for impenitent professors of religion, and impenitent non-professors to pray that their sins may be forgiven. But to forgive their sins while they are impenitent, would not be right but infinitely wrong on the part of God. Such prayers are a virtual asking of God to commit a great sin, to abandon the public good, to ruin the universe for their sake. Let every one of you then remember that if you pray for forgiveness, when you do not repent and forsake your sin, you are guilty of the grossest insult to God, and of the highest rebellion against Him and his government.

34. Since the Atonement and in view of the promise of God, right is consistent with, and demands your salvation if you accept of Christ. By this I do not mean that upon the principle of distributive justice you might not be justly punished. But I do mean that upon the principle of public justice, your salvation, upon these conditions, is consistent with, and demanded by the highest good.

35. Unless you comply with these conditions you must be damned, and all the holy will thank God for sending you to hell.

36. How sweet it is to think of God as the Judge of all the earth. And how deep and permanent is the consolation that in all things He will do right. Every holy being in all worlds, at all times, is ready to cry out, Let the Judge of all the earth do right. Amen and Amen.

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Lecture V
September 28, 1842

by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College

Text.--1 Tim. 4:16: "Take heed unto thyself and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee."

In remarking upon these words I shall,

I. Point out some of the respects in which a minister should take heed to himself.

II. Some of the respects in which he should take heed to the doctrine he preaches.

III. Show what is intended by continuing in them.

IV. What we are to understand by the last clause of the verse, in so doing he shall save both himself and them that hear.

I. Some respects in which a minister should take heed to himself.

If you ask how you are to obtain this evidence, I answer from the indwelling [S]pirit of God. If you ask again whether you are to give yourself up to be directed by impulses, I answer, No. You are in nothing to be directed by impulses, but by the sober dictates of your judgments in respect to the path of duty. If God really calls you to the ministry, you will hear his voice; for if He does not call loud enough so that you can hear Him, you have no right to go. If He designs you for a minister of the gospel, He will give you such views of Himself, of the worth of souls, of the great importance of your engaging in this work; in short He will give such an inclination to your mind as to fasten the conviction upon you that it is his voice, and that He calls you to preach the gospel. Men may call you to the ministry, but consent thou not except God call thee. Too many young men already have been called of men, and what are they doing in the Church but increasing its sectarianism, and grasping after power. We want God-made ministers. Take heed then to yourselves, I beseech you, brethren. See to it that God puts you into the ministry.
Ministers will often flatter each other in such a manner as to become exceedingly afraid of displeasing each other. It is becoming common for the ministers in a city, town, or region of country, so to unite themselves together, as that one dares not adopt any measure, preach any doctrine, or pursue any course, without the consent of his brethren. And sometimes they really seem to be slaves to each other, and not to have the moral courage, to act independently upon any question of moment. Let me beseech you by the mercies of God that you avoid all such things as these.
II. In what respects you are to take heed to the doctrine.
You ought to understand, brethren, that the doctrine of justification by faith, as it is now generally held by the orthodox churches, is a modern invention, and was unknown to the ancient church. It is this, that men are justified by faith in Christ, while they are not sanctified. In other words, that faith is so substituted for holiness, that they are accounted as righteous, while in fact they are not so, but are living in the daily and hourly practice of sin.

The doctrine of the primitive Church was, that men are made righteous by faith. In other words, that they are sanctified, or made holy, by faith, and that they were justified only so far as they were made just by the grace of God through faith. Now this must be the truth. And take heed to the doctrine, brethren, that you do not convey the idea, that men are justified while living in sin.

III. What is intended by continuing in them.

The Apostle says, "Take heed to thyself and to the doctrine; continue in them: for in so doing, thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee."

By continuing in them is meant, the continuing to take heed to yourself and your doctrine. Do not take it for granted, that if for some time, or for any length of time, God shall be with and bless you, that He will therefore always do so, whether you continue to take heed to yourself and to the doctrine, or not. Remember that if at any time, or under any pretense, you neglect to take heed to yourself and to the doctrine, to continue in them, He will cast you off. "Therefore be not high-minded, but fear."

IV. Show what is intended by the phrase, "In so doing, thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee."


1. Remember that you are to exercise faith in this and kindred promises--to expect the salvation of your hearers as much as your own salvation--to plead the promise of God in respect to them, as well as in respect to yourselves.

2. Always remember the condition upon which this and other promises are given. You are to believe the promise, as a universal condition, and fulfill whatever other conditions may be expressed or implied. In this case you are not only to believe the promise, but remember that you are to take heed to yourself, and to your doctrine.

3. If you neglect either condition, you will fail. If you take heed to yourself, and do not take heed to your doctrine; or if you take heed to the doctrine, and do not take heed to yourself, or should you do both these, and still disbelieve the promise, in either case, the end will fail, and the blame will be your own.

4. How much it is to the interest of any people that a minister should comply with these conditions, and how unjust the minister is to the people, as well as rebellious against God, and injurious to his own soul, if he neglect to take heed to himself and to the doctrine.

5. What an infinite blessing a true and faithful minister is to a people. From what has been said, it is plain, that as a general truth, the minister has it within his power, not only to secure his own salvation, but also the salvation of those that hear him. What a blessing, then, to any people to have a faithful minister.

6. We see what to think of those ministers who are not instrumental in saving their people. I heard of one minister, whose preaching was so manifestly and uniformly unsuccessful in winning souls to Christ, that it is said he came to the conclusion that he was commissioned to prepare souls for hell, and not for heaven. To meet his case, this text should read, "Take heed to thyself, and to the doctrine; continue in them, for in so doing, thou shalt damn both thyself and those that hear thee."

It is not intended by what I have said, to make the impression that the most faithful ministers can save their hearers without their consent, or that God will or can convert them if they refuse to be converted. But God knows what can be accomplished by the use of moral means. And when He has promised to secure an end upon a certain condition, we may rest assured, that upon the fulfillment of that condition, He knows Himself to be able to accomplish it. Let it be then, your abiding consolation, that if you take heed to yourselves, and to your doctrine, and continue in them, you shall save both yourselves and them that hear you.

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Wisdom Justified of Her Children
Lecture VI
October 12, 1842

by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College

Text.--Luke 7:35: "But wisdom is justified of all her children."

Before I enter directly upon the discussion of the text, I will remark,

1. That the dress, and manner of life of John the Baptist were manifestly typical of the state of repentance and humiliation to which he called the Jews at that particular time, and to which every soul is called before he received Christ, gospel liberty, and joy in the Holy Ghost. It had been common for the prophets of Israel, to adopt modes of life that were typical of the particular truths they were commissioned to announce.

2. Christ does not appear to have differed in his dress and dietetic habits from the mass of the people. It should be remembered, however, that among the eastern nations, modes of dress were not perpetually fluctuating as they are in the west. It is manifest that Christ was observant of the innocent civilities of life, attended marriages, and politely accepted the hospitality of all classes for the purpose of doing them good. He observed the rites of the ceremonial law, as they were typical, and that dispensation was not ended, but he paid no other regard to the superstitious traditions of the elders, than to rebuke them, and to reject their authority.

3. John's austere habits and manner of life--his severe rebukes and denunciations, were a stumbling-block to the self-righteous Jews. Being righteous in their own eyes, and not, in their own estimation, needing repentance and humiliation, they neither understood his preaching, nor the typical design of his dress, diet, and manner of living. From all these, they concluded that he was a railer and possessed an evil spirit.

4. Christ's preaching and manner of life were no less a stumbling block. Knowing nothing of gospel liberty, and not understanding that all things belong to God's children, and were to be wisely and temperately used by them with thanksgiving, they accused Christ of being a glutton and a wine-bibber. John's preaching and manner of life were designedly legal, in the sense that they were designed to make the Jews feel that they were in a state of condemnation, instead of being in a state of justification by faith in Jesus Christ. Christ's manner of life was a perfect specimen of gospel liberty, in opposition to the legal and conscience bound state in which the Scribes and Pharisees were, which was typified by John's habits and manner of life.

5. In the context Christ illustrates the manner in which the Jews had first treated John and afterwards Himself. "And the Lord said, whereunto shall I liken the men of this generation, and to what are they like? They are like unto children sitting in the market-place, and calling one to another, and saying, we have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept. For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, he hath a devil. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, behold a gluttonous man, and a wine bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! But wisdom is justified of all her children." By John, He says, you were called to mourning, but you would not mourn. You resisted his rebukes and appeals, and said he had a devil. By me you are called to liberty and rejoicing, and this you reject as antinomian, and latitidinarian--accusing me of gluttony and intemperance. So that whatever is done for you, you are displeased and stumbled.

6. While the great mass of the Jews were stumbled, and would have been stumbled whatever might have been done for them, it was, nevertheless, true that the truly wise were edified, and saved.

In proceeding to the discussion of this subject, I will endeavor to show,

I. What wisdom is, and who are wise.

II. That that which is wise and true will be justified and approved by the wise.

III. That selfish souls will stumble at what is wise and true, and why they will do so.

I. What wisdom is, and who are wise.

II. That which is wise and true will be justified and approved by the wise. III. Selfish minds will stumble at what is wise and true; and why they will do so.
But to the wise, the doctrine of government, the infliction of penalties for the public good, of self-preservation and defense, where the law of benevolence plainly demands it, is only the true application of the law of love.

1. The truly wise may be known by the manner in which they are affected by the truth. Preach to them whatever doctrine you will, if it be true they will understand it, be edified by it, and be sure to make a wise improvement of it, self-denial, or Christian liberty, Christian forbearance, or whatever doctrine you will, it will find its counter-balance in their minds--will not carry them to extremes, but will be the instrument of their sanctification. They that are not truly wise or religious will be seen to be injuriously affected by almost every truth you preach. Either they will not be moved by it in any direction, or they will go to such extremes as to develop a monstrosity of character. Wisdom is justified of all her children. I understand this to be a universal truth. And that this is the real characteristic, not only of some of these, but of all of those who are truly wise.

2. The selfish will of course misunderstand the wise. When they pursue outwardly the same course of conduct, they will be supposed to do so from the same motives. If they eat, drink, marry, or are given in marriage, build houses, cultivate land, pursue business of any kind--if they labor or rest, journey or stay at home, walk or ride, sleep or wake, or whatever they do, which is done by those who are selfish, it will be understood by them to be done from the same motives by which they are actuated. But in this they are entirely mistaken. They give themselves credit for just as much piety, as any have or can have, who do outwardly the same things. Their mistake lies in this, that they suppose others to be actuated by the same motives with themselves.

3. None but spiritual minds understand what Christian liberty is. Paul understood what it was to be free from the restraints and constraints of the ceremonial law. And yet there was no tendency in his mind to a lax morality. A true Christian alone understands what it is to eat and drink, to dress, to walk and ride, to wake and sleep, and live, and be, and do, all for the glory of God. He alone knows how to use the things of this world as not abusing them, and understands the secret of owning all things, and yet selfishly indulging in the use of none of them.

4. Those who have been truly convicted of sin, and have seen the spirituality of the law of God, and are truly converted, if they fall back, generally fall into a state of legality, and find themselves in grievous and iron bondage, while others who have only been excited but not truly slain by the law and converted, will, when they fall from this excitement almost always fall into latitudinarian antinomianism. This last is much the largest class of professors of religion.

5. No doctrine of the gospel can be fully preached by an enlightened and benevolent mind, without frequent and painful apprehensions of the results on certain classes. He must watch with unspeakable solicitude, the developments that are made in different minds, as an almost certain indication of whether they are converted or not.

6. Whenever the mind has fallen into a misapprehension of any doctrine, and has consequently received a wrong bias, any attempt to correct that bias by the exhibition of the truth will shock prejudice, and give pain. For example: let one who has embraced the ultra doctrine of the non-resistants listen to a correct exhibition of the rights, necessity, and duties of government, the true principle of self-defense and self-preservation, and he will feel almost as much shocked as if he should witness the fighting of a duel. So let one who has embraced the idea of the doctrine of self-denial, which has been entertained in different ages of the Church by many persons, as requiring little less than a system of mendicancy--let such a one listen to a discourse on the doctrine of Christian liberty, and he will feel almost as much shocked as if you were granting indulgences to extravagance. So let one who has imbibed wrong notions on the subject of Christian retrenchment, that it requires Christians to give up every thing but the mere necessaries of life, with whom it is a violation of Christian principle to use elliptic springs upon his wagon, or a top, or boot--to build a cornice on a house--to have a button on your coat where you do not need to use it--who will not allow that any thing is due to the eye or the ear--with such an one, improvements in the arts, the cultivation of music, painting, poetry, improvements in the style of building, in orders of architecture, in short almost all improvement in the physical condition of mankind, are regarded with jealousy if not with pain. He would listen to a discourse in which a true application of the law of God should be made to all such things, with unutterable pain, principally because of the perverted state of his mind, by a false view of the subject.

7. The wise feel relieved and refreshed with truth, when mist has been thrown around any subject, by those who are in error. They may have been thrown into doubt and embarrassment for a time, but when the light comes, they will receive it, and be edified and sanctified by it.

8. Every prominent doctrine of the gospel seems to be set for the rise and falling again of many in Israel. The spirit of reform is abroad in the land. The wise are temperately but firmly pushing these reforms. The rash misunderstand them and go to extremes. The conservatives misunderstand them also, and go in an opposite direction. It is curious to see how things move forward under the government of God. The doctrines of the abolitionists, to some minds lead directly to and result in the most ultra views of non-resistance. The doctrine of entire sanctification in this life, in some minds, leads to antinomian perfectionism. But the wise understand. "Wisdom is justified of all her children." And multitudes see no tendency in abolition principles to ultra non-resistance, nor in the doctrine of sanctification to the doctrine of antinomian perfectionism. They hold on the even tenor of their way, in pushing these wholesome reforms upon the attention and to the hearts of men. May the Lord speed them. Amen.

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of easily misunderstood terms as defined by Mr. Finney himself.
Compiled by Katie Stewart

    Complacency, or Esteem: "Complacency, as a state of will or heart, is only benevolence modified by the consideration or relation of right character in the object of it. God, prophets, apostles, martyrs, and saints, in all ages, are as virtuous in their self-denying and untiring labours to save the wicked, as they are in their complacent love to the saints." Systematic Theology (LECTURE VII). Also, "approbation of the character of its object. Complacency is due only to the good and holy." Lectures to Professing Christians (LECTURE XII).

    Disinterested Benevolence: "By disinterested benevolence I do not mean, that a person who is disinterested feels no interest in his object of pursuit, but that he seeks the happiness of others for its own sake, and not for the sake of its reaction on himself, in promoting his own happiness. He chooses to do good because he rejoices in the happiness of others, and desires their happiness for its own sake. God is purely and disinterestedly benevolent. He does not make His creatures happy for the sake of thereby promoting His own happiness, but because He loves their happiness and chooses it for its own sake. Not that He does not feel happy in promoting the happiness of His creatures, but that He does not do it for the sake of His own gratification." Lectures to Professing Christians (LECTURE I).

    Divine Sovereignty: "The sovereignty of God consists in the independence of his will, in consulting his own intelligence and discretion, in the selection of his end, and the means of accomplishing it. In other words, the sovereignty of God is nothing else than infinite benevolence directed by infinite knowledge." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LXXVI).

    Election: "That all of Adam's race, who are or ever will be saved, were from eternity chosen by God to eternal salvation, through the sanctification of their hearts by faith in Christ. In other words, they are chosen to salvation by means of sanctification. Their salvation is the end- their sanctification is a means. Both the end and the means are elected, appointed, chosen; the means as really as the end, and for the sake of the end." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LXXIV).

    Entire Sanctification: "Sanctification may be entire in two senses: (1.) In the sense of present, full obedience, or entire consecration to God; and, (2.) In the sense of continued, abiding consecration or obedience to God. Entire sanctification, when the terms are used in this sense, consists in being established, confirmed, preserved, continued in a state of sanctification or of entire consecration to God." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LVIII).

    Moral Agency: "Moral agency is universally a condition of moral obligation. The attributes of moral agency are intellect, sensibility, and free will." Systematic Theology (LECTURE III).

    Moral Depravity: "Moral depravity is the depravity of free-will, not of the faculty itself, but of its free action. It consists in a violation of moral law. Depravity of the will, as a faculty, is, or would be, physical, and not moral depravity. It would be depravity of substance, and not of free, responsible choice. Moral depravity is depravity of choice. It is a choice at variance with moral law, moral right. It is synonymous with sin or sinfulness. It is moral depravity, because it consists in a violation of moral law, and because it has moral character." Systematic Theology (LECTURE XXXVIII).

    Human Reason: "the intuitive faculty or function of the intellect... it is the faculty that intuits moral relations and affirms moral obligation to act in conformity with perceived moral relations." Systematic Theology (LECTURE III).

    Retributive Justice: "Retributive justice consists in treating every subject of government according to his character. It respects the intrinsic merit or demerit of each individual, and deals with him accordingly." Systematic Theology (LECTURE XXXIV).

    Total Depravity: "Moral depravity of the unregenerate is without any mixture of moral goodness or virtue, that while they remain unregenerate, they never in any instance, nor in any degree, exercise true love to God and to man." Systematic Theology (LECTURE XXXVIII).

    Unbelief: "the soul's withholding confidence from truth and the God of truth. The heart's rejection of evidence, and refusal to be influenced by it. The will in the attitude of opposition to truth perceived, or evidence presented." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LV).

End of the 1842 Collection.