"The Oberlin Evangelist"
Publication of Oberlin College
Sermons and Lectures given in 1862
Charles G. Finney
President of Oberlin College
Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Lectures I. & II.Great Peace- No.'s 1 & 2
Lectures II. & III.Moral Depravity- No.'s 1 & 2
of easily misunderstood terms as defined by Mr. Finney himself.
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Great Peace- No.'s 1 & 2
Lectures I & II
February 12, 1862
by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College
Text.--Psa. 119:165: "Great peace have they who love thy law, and nothing shall offend them."
In speaking from this text, the first enquiry is --
I. What is intended by the term "law"?
II. What is it to love the law of God?
III. What is the peace here spoken of?
IV. The text asserts two facts.
I. What is intended by the term "law"?
2. As used here, the term manifestly means the whole revealed will of God, considered as a rule of duty, whether made known to us through Moses, or any other prophet of the Lord.
3. The term law here manifestly includes both precept and penalty; every precept revealing God's will as to our duty, and also the penalty of violating it. Let no one think that to love the precept, and yet reject the penalty as unjust and cruel, is loving the law of God in the sense here intended.
2. To love the law of God is more than admiration of it. Admiration is more than an intellectual state; it is the decided approval of the conscience, together with a corresponding state of the sensibility. It includes a real feeling.
3. To love the law of God is more than delight in it. In Rom. 7, Paul, representing a legal experience, says -- "I delight in the law of God after the inner man." The state of mind here expressed doubtless includes approbation, admiration, and a very conscious delight or pleasure in the purity and moral beauty of God's law. Delight, by itself, is commonly intended to express a feeling of pleasure or satisfaction in a thing. It does not by any means always imply that this delight has the sympathy of the will -- the executive faculty of the soul. I think it is a common experience for persons to be pleased and very much affected in view of moral beauty, and of moral fitness and rightness in any thing. I know it was so with me before I was converted. I recollect that at one time, I wept with delight in view of an act of great moral beauty. I was conscious at the time, that I should not myself have done the thing that affected and delighted me so much. I seemed to be aware at the time, that such acts were not like me, and that my heart would not prompt me to them. Many persons seem to think that if they have a feeling of pleasure in hearing a sermon, or in reading of a good and noble act, or in the contemplation of a godly character, that this is evidence that they love goodness in the sense in which this text speaks of loving God's law. But this is a hasty conclusion. The prophet Isaiah represents the people of Israel as "seeking God daily," and delighting to know his ways as a nation that did righteousness; he even said "they take delight in approaching to God;" when in fact they were in a very apostate and rebellious state. The Lord said to Ezekiel -- "They come before thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a very pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument; for they hear thy words, but they do them not." Indeed I believe it is a common experience for the sensibility to sympathize, to a considerable extent, with the decisions of the conscience, and to take an intense feeling of pleasure in view of the purity of Christ's life, the excellence of his teachings, the spiritual beauty of the law of God, and the spiritual beauty of holy character in general. When the soul does not feel particularly pressed with a sense of personal obligation, it may and often does, feel a sense of satisfaction and delight in the contemplation of the law of God.
But let no one think that this feeling is true religion. It may and must exist where true religion is; but it may exist where true religion is not.
Complacency of the conscience is a purely intellectual state, and has no moral character. It is simply the intense approval, by the conscience, of that which is right.
Complacency of the will is in itself moral rightness. It is the will cordially and intensely unifying itself with the law of right. It seems to me that people often misconceive what choice really is, and think of it as a mere dry decision, involving no fervor, no cordiality, nothing but a cold dry decision. Whereas the complacency of the will or choice is a deep preference. It involves an earnest cordiality, and intense embracing, a warm, ardent sympathizing with that which is right; for these words -- embracing, cordiality, sympathy, may be applied to the will as well as to the sensibility or to the intellect.
2. The "peace" of our text is the opposite of strife. Often persons experience a great struggle of soul between the dictates of conscience under the striving and light of God's Spirit, and the will or the feelings of the soul. The soul sees duty, but is unwilling to do it. It sees the right, but cleaves to the wrong. This produces a great struggle such as that represented in Rom. 7. Now it is the opposite of this state of mind that is intended by peace.
3. Peace is the opposite of remorse. Remorse is a feeling of guilt and condemnation in view of our sins. Unless the conscience becomes seared, there will always be more or less remorse, so long as there is persistent neglect of any duty, or perseverance in any wrong. This state of mind is always inconsistent with peace, and (as we shall soon see) peace is an opposite state of mind to this.
4. It is a state opposite to a sense of condemnation. Remorse is a sense of guilt. A sense of condemnation, is a feeling of being condemned -- of being under the displeasure of God, not only of deserving condemnation, but of being actually under it. Not only is peace of mind inconsistent with this, but as we shall soon see, it is the opposite of this.
5. This peace is a state of mind that involves the inward harmony of the soul with itself, and also the harmony of the soul with the will and providence of God. It is a state in which the mind has the consciousness of intense satisfaction with God's will. The intellect approves it; the feelings are satisfied with it; the will embraces it.
Here there is harmony between the whole soul and God's will. It involves satisfaction with God's will, and a deep repose of soul in its perfect wisdom and goodness. The whole mind seems to be satisfied in respect to God and his will, character, and dealings. It has nothing left to desire more.
7. I said it was the opposite of a state of condemnation. There is in this peace a sense of being accepted, and in this sense, justified. I said it was the opposite of remorse. Although sin is remembered, still it is without the pang of remorse. The mind remembers the sin, perhaps with the gushings of sorrow, but not with the dry stings of remorse. There may be an ingenuous, loving sorrow, but it has in it nothing of the feeling of remorse or condemnation.
8. I said it is the opposite of strife. In this state of mind, all struggling against God, in any respect, has ceased, and the mind instead of struggling against God, cleaves to him with an intense cleaving of cordiality and affection. Instead of resisting his requirements, instead of any reluctance in obeying them, there is a cordiality, an embracing, a loving of his commandments, and a real satisfaction with them and in obeying them that distils [sic.] perpetual joy upon the soul, and it feels that in obedience and in this consciousness of cordial acquiescence in the whole will of God, there is a real life. It is a state of intense and loving quiet, and repose in God.
(2.) While he thus loves the law of God, God must be at peace with him, that is, with his present state of mind. This state of mind which I have described as constituting this love to the law of God, is really obedience to this law. It complies with all present known obligation, both outward and inward. With this state of mind, while it lasts, God must be at peace. While we have this love, there can be no friction between God's Spirit and our souls. Remember, we accept God's whole will, so far as known; therefore between us and God, there is a state of profound, present peace. The will has ceased to reject his commands. It cordially accepts them all.
It cordially accepts the will of God as revealed in providence. Therefore the peace of the soul in this state is great. It is not only peace, but great peace; profound, deep, flowing, conscious peace.
Oftentimes this sense of acceptance comes in connection with some passage of Scripture, which suggests that God has accepted or does accept us; but in every case, this sense of acceptance involved in this great peace is no doubt the inward witness of the Spirit. By this I mean, it is God himself revealing to us his own state of mind towards us. We become in some way inwardly aware that God is pacified and at peace with us, and the spirit of adoption, by which we cry Father, Father, is often a matter of intense consciousness.
(5.) This peace is the opposite of dissatisfaction with God in any respect. So long as we are dissatisfied with any thing God says or does, we cannot have peace. So long, there will be friction and collision between us and him.
But suppose that all manifest resistance should cease, and we should fall into apathy and not think of God at all. Suppose his providence should move in such channels as not to disturb us, and we should remain without feeling or any thought of God:-- this would not be peace. Peace is not the mere absence of dissatisfaction and opposition to God. It is positive acquiescence, a cordial embracing of his will. It implies, as already shown, complacency in God's whole will and in all his ways.
February 26, 1862
GREAT PEACE--No. 2
Text.--Psa. 119:165: "Great peace have they who love thy law, and nothing shall offend them."
That "nothing shall offend them."
The word "offend" means -- to stumble, to cause to fall. The thing affirmed therefore is -- that while this love of God's law continues in the heart, nothing shall offend them.
(2.) God's threatenings cannot stumble such a mind. He does not rebel when God threatens transgressors with punishment. He does not object to the justice and propriety of these threatenings; but with entire cordiality accepts their reasonableness and propriety.
(3.) Neither is he stumbled by the execution of God's threatenings. This execution of God's law on the wicked, does indeed cut them off and send them to hell; but this, so far from causing the loving soul to stumble and rebel, leads him rather to exclaim -- "Just and righteous are thy ways, thou King of saints!" Yes, while the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever, the loving soul will cry, Hallelujah!
(4.) To a soul in this loving state, the doctrines of the Bible will not be a stumbling block. You will not find them cavilling at the revealed doctrines of the Bible. They have only to know that God has revealed them, and such is their confidence in God that they embrace them thankfully, even though too deep to be fully comprehended yet, as many Bible doctrines certainly are in some of their relations. Yet, as facts revealed, they can be so far understood, and are accepted without rebellion or stumbling.
(5.) Nor will he stumble at the mysteries involved in the doctrines of the Bible. Proud and selfish souls are always ready to contend with the mysteries in revealed religion -- as if no mysteries were found any where else.
Now a mystery is not as absurdity. As absurdity involves a perceived contradiction -- points intuitively seen to be either self-contradictory or contradictory to some evident truth. It is that which is plainly contradictory to reason; but a mystery is something above reason. It is something we cannot account for, and which, perhaps, we cannot so analyze as to grasp or comprehend; but still it does not plainly contradict reason -- it only lies beyond its grasp.
Now a loving, confiding heart approaches all such revealed truths with awe. He accepts them as declared facts or truths, and exclaims with the Psalmist -- "My heart is not haughty, neither are mine eyes lofty; nor do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself as a child that is weaned of its mother; my soul is even as a weaned child."
This truth is high, so high I cannot attain to a perfect comprehension of it. It is deep: I cannot explain it. It is too broad for me to compass it. I accept the fact, for I am but small; I am but as a little one: it is enough that my Father says so, and here my soul shall rest.
It is not unfrequently the case that the providences of God seem to us at the time, unreasonable -- perhaps, even cruel, or unjust, or contrary to his character as revealed in the Bible.
It may seem so on the face of it. It is true that a more thorough consideration of the whole subject will show that the God of Providence and the God of the Bible are one. Still events will often occur that greatly stumble ungodly souls. It is amazing to see the amount of strife against God's providence that is manifest in this world. Men seem not aware of the fault they are continually finding with God.
To avoid the conviction that they are contending with God in providence, they either deny or overlook the fact that God is concerned in the events against which they contend. Really the world is full of complaint and dissatisfaction with God, because of his providence.
But it is not so with any who love God's law all such accept every event as occurring under God's providence, and they consequently exclaim -- These are but parts of thy ways: they are mysterious; I cannot explain them, yet I cordially accept them. I do not ask God to explain to me his reasons for them prematurely. I know there must be good and sufficient reasons for them. In due time I shall know what these reasons are. At present I do not care to know. I prefer to trust. I want room left for faith. I would feel myself, and would have God see that I can trust him, however mysterious his present providences may be.
But one who loves God's law will be greatly grieved with the sins of good men, yet it will not cause him to fall, but will rather make him cry out -- Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall. It will inspire him with awe and fear, and cause him to cling more closely to the cross.
(9.) Neither will trials stumble one who loves God's law. He may meet with great opposition, or even persecution; he may have the trial of great outward prosperity, or on the other hand, of great outward adversity; still he exclaims -- These are but parts of his ways. These are parts of my earthly discipline and of the education I need. They reveal my Father's will; I accept all with meekness.
1. This 119th Psalm has always appeared to me to reveal true Christian experience in a striking manner. The state of mind expressed in every verse of this psalm, is just what Christians are experiencing as they move along in their pilgrimage. It would seem as if the Psalmist had copied from a diary of his own exercises. If thoughtful, intelligent Christians were in the habit of recording in a diary their daily exercises, they might after a few years, copy from their own diary all the essential points found here. Hence I think this psalm must have been an inspired diary. The saint who wrote it was a poet, and inspired of God to select such passages from his own experience as are here recorded. It is a Bible experience, perfectly replete with the Bible. At every verse the love of God's word and law boils up, and shows clearly the state of mind which every Christian is conscious of passing through.
2. How opposite is this experience to the Antinomian experience of many who profess to be Christians. Antinomians talk about loving the law of God, but they do not wish to hear about duty. They want to hear about "doctrine," -- by which they mean justification in sin, and by a faith that does not sanctify. By "doctrine" they mean that by one act of faith, men are brought into such a state of perpetual justification, that however they may live afterwards they are still saved. Justification by an unjustifying faith, is their doctrine. You do not hear them exclaiming -- "Oh how love I they law!" How I love duty! How I love all God's commandments! How I love the obligation of every requirement of God! Ah! preaching duty to them is not edifying: it is legal to them; it is not comforting; it is not gospel. They want to be told that they are justified by their one act of faith while they are living in sin.
But just read from this 119th psalm, and see if you find any antinomianism here.
3. The state of mind of which I have been speaking finds the deepest satisfaction in the preceptive parts of God's word. It is so well satisfied with God's requiring such things, it perceives so much divine fitness, propriety, and beauty in these requirements, that its own highest ideal of what God should require is fully met. It would be dissatisfied if God required less. Such a soul loves to yield implicit obedience to God. This is its life and joy. It finds the very oil of its joy and life in the obedience it so cordially renders to God.
4. To hear duty preached is always very agreeable and edifying to those who love God's law. Herein a minister will soon find on whom he can depend as true Christians. Let him bring forth the preceptive parts of the Bible, and he will find at once who love the law of God. There are many who will appear to be greatly edified if you preach to them simply justification by faith, leaving out of view the requirements of God. While you only hold up Christ as a justifying Savior, they seem to be greatly delighted, and say -- how precious he is! But when you urge upon them his most express requirements, they are not pleased. They think this is legal. It is not gospel!
5. From what has been said, it is easy to see how God's revealed will often detects false hopes. His will revealed in providence will often detect professors of religion in being the enemies, not the friends, of God. They seem to be his friends while every thing goes to suit them; but if God's providence or will runs across their path and interferes with their selfish schemes, he touches them; they rebel; they stumble; they are too much tried; they begin to complain, and you see that they do not love the law of God.
6. We can see why it is that many professors of religion have been stumbled, and have even become skeptics by the conformity and sins of the church of God. Since the anti-slavery agitation has commenced, we have had in this country many mournful examples of this. The conservatism of ministers and their want of sympathy with the slave, have caused some to renounce religion, and to lose all confidence, not only in the piety of those conservative professors, but in the reality of religion itself.
Now, so far as my observation extends, it is a remarkable fact that this class of persons, who have become skeptics under such circumstances, never manifested a loving zeal in religion. Their religion never seemed to be love. Their zeal was rather legal than loving and of the gospel. So far as I have known it, their religion was rather of the head than of the heart. They have stumbled; but there is no good reason to think that they loved the law of God, for if they had, their experience and consciousness would have put it out of the question for them to give up religion itself, the Bible, prayer, and communion with God. Not even if tens of thousands should stumble all around them, yet with their experience of the truth of religion, and of the love of God and of his law, it would seem that they could never give up the Bible as God's word and the religion of Jesus as from heaven.
7. A sense of condemnation in the soul reveals the fact of non-acceptance of God's whole will. I often find persons who are manifestly under conviction. They are in trouble and under a sense of condemnation, yet they often think they accept God's whole will. But in this they are manifestly mistaken.
God knows there is some point not yet yielded. As soon as his whole will is accepted, all is quiet. This conscious quietness and peace, beget hope and remove a sense of condemnation.
8. This union with God's will is the end of strife and the beginning of heaven in the soul. No man knows or can know real happiness until his strife against God ceases. He is forever annoyed by the revelations of God's will in providence, and in all its other ways of manifestation. "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." There is no end in time and no bound in space to the disturbing elements that disquiet the soul of one who is striving with his Maker. An omnipotent influence struggles against him. That Holy Ghost and conscience within him, and the providence of God without, forbid his having rest of soul.
But let him yield his whole being to the law or will of God, and then nothing can stumble him. He lives and moves and has his being in God, and if at peace with God and with himself, though the surface of his sensibilities might be filled with pain, yet in the depths of his soul, he has rest deeper than words can express. It is often surprising to see how much pain there may be in the sensibility and yet peace at the bottom of the mind.
In crossing the Atlantic some years since, we were overtaken by a gale of wind. Upon the deck the roar and confusion was terrific. The sea boiled like a pot. The spray from the crests of the waves blew upon the face with almost force enough to blister it. While I stood upon deck, the noise of the waves howling and roaring and foaming was almost deafening.
But when I stepped into the engine room, every thing was quiet. The mighty engine was moving with a quietness and stillness in striking contrast with the roar without. It reminded me of the peace that can reign at the bottom of the soul, while storms and tempests are howling without.
So it is often with the mind. Oftentimes the outward circumstances are trying; the nerves are in a state of intense excitement and bodily pain, but in the realm of conscience, all is peace. There is harmony between the conscience and the will, and between the soul and God. Within there is great peace.
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Moral Depravity- No.'s 1 & 2
Lectures III & IV
March 12, 1862
by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College
Text.--Rom. 8:7: "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be."
The first inquiry is--
I. What is moral depravity?
II. The attributes or qualities of moral depravity.
III. What is the "carnal mind"?
IV. The "carnal mind" is a state of enmity against God.
V. The carnal mind is a state of mortal enmity against God.
VI. The carnal mind is a state of supreme opposition to God.
I. What is moral depravity?
2. By manners is intended not merely the outward life, for the outward life has not in itself any morality or immorality. All that is strictly or properly moral, all that has moral character, belongs to the mind. Moral manners, therefore, are the manners of the inner will, the moral agent, the mind itself. The outward or bodily manners are only expressions of the inward or real manners of the subject.
3. When we speak of manners as crooked, we of necessity refer to something strait with which the manners are compared. A thing may have a natural crookedness, or a physical crookedness, or a moral crookedness. Moral crookedness is a deviation from the strait rule of action prescribed by the moral law. It is crooked when compared with the moral straitness of the law of God.
Again, moral depravity lies entirely back of individual actions and volitions, and is the source from which these actions and volitions spring.II. It behoves us to enquire into the attributes or qualities of moral depravity.
2. Another attribute of moral depravity is sinfulness. Dr. Woods defines moral depravity as being "sinfulness." By this is meant that this state of mind called moral depravity, which is contrary to God's law, is sinful. This is the term by which we express its moral turpitude.
3. Another attribute of moral depravity, is blame-worthiness. It is not only contrary to God's law and sinful; but it is worthy of blame and of punishment, and justly brings the subject of it under the penalty of moral law.
4. Moral depravity is a violation of moral obligation. It is a state of mind the opposite of that which we are bound to be in. We ought not to be morally depraved. If it were not a violation of moral obligation, it would be neither unlawful or blame-worthy.
5. It is a state of mind that ought to be instantly abandoned. Of course, if it is sinful, if it is blame-worthy, if it is a violation of moral obligation, it ought to be instantly renounced.
6. Moral depravity is a state that can be instantly abandoned. It ought to be, and therefore it can be. To say that it ought to be abandoned, that we are under moral obligation to abandon it instantly, and yet to deny the possibility of abandoning it instantly, involves a gross contradiction.
7. I have said that moral depravity must be a state of mind. It cannot be a state of body. Depravity of body is physical depravity, not moral. It is simply disease.
8. You will observe that moral depravity consists in moral manners, that is, in mental action, and is no part or quality of soul or body. Whatever belongs to the essence or substance of either soul or body, must of necessity be in its nature physical; and if depraved, therefore, its depravity must be physical and not moral. It is plain that whatever is strictly constitutional in the sense of being an attribute, quality or part of soul or body, cannot have the distinctive characteristics of moral depravity. For example, it cannot be unlawful or contrary to the law of God, for the law legislates over man's mental activities, and not over the essential qualities of either body or mind.
Again, that which is a part or attribute of either soul or body, cannot be a violation of moral obligation. Nor can any attribute of body or mind be a violation of conscience. It cannot be a violation of duty; it cannot be instantly abandoned; it cannot be blame-worthy.
10. Moral depravity should not be confounded with temptation, or excited feelings or propensities. I have just said that the existence of these sensibilities in the soul is not in itself sinful. Nor is an excited state of the propensities necessarily in itself sinful. If they are indulged unreasonably, this is sin; but no merely excited state of feeling, that does not secure the consent of the will, can be a violation of moral obligation.
11. From its very attributes, moral depravity must certainly be a voluntary state of mind. For whatever is involuntary, has none of the attributes of moral depravity.
12. Moral depravity is the state of mind called in the Scriptures--the wicked heart. It is that in us to which moral character belongs. I speak of it as a state of mind, to distinguish it from mere volitions, or mere executive acts of mind. It is that state of mind from which wicked words, and acts naturally proceed. Words and acts are means to an end. They proceed from a choice of an end, and have moral character only as they partake of the moral qualities of the choice that gives them existence.
Moral depravity must consist in a settled ultimate choice, the choice of an end. It must consist in the voluntary devotion of the mind to self--self-interest and self-gratification. Human activity is rational and responsible. Men are moral agents--that is, they act under the responsibilities of moral obligation, are subjects of moral law and of moral government. Moral law requires of all moral agents sincere, perfect, universal devotion to God and to the interests of his kingdom. In other words, it requires perfect, universal, perpetual, unselfish benevolence.III. What is the "carnal mind"?
Moral depravity is the opposite of what this law requires; or, more strictly, it is want of conformity to this law. It is primarily a withholding--a refusal to be devoted to God and to the interests of his kingdom. It sets up self above God. It deliberately prefers self-interests and self-will to God's interest and God's will. It practically makes self of supreme importance. In one word, it is selfishness. It is the mind's committed to self as the great supreme good of life.
Moral depravity is a standing choice as distinct from a volition. It is a choice of the supreme end to which the mind shall devote itself. It is the choice of an ultimate end, that is, self-gratification is chosen for its own sake. We know from consciousness, that when the mind is made up and has decided upon the end to be secured, its whole activities will be directed to the accomplishment of that end. Volition, as distinguished from the choice of an end is the minds' effort to secure the end. When we speak of individual sins, we speak of volition and consequent action. When we speak of moral depravity as distinct from individual sinful acts, we mean that abiding and wrong, selfish choice from which these volitions proceed. Please observe the distinction I make between sinful acts and moral depravity. Moral depravity is originally a choice and therefore a mental act. It is the choice of an end, and therefore an abiding, standing choice. Volitions are individual efforts to secure the end chosen. Sinful acts are found in the life. Moral depravity lies back of the outward life, and back of volition, in a standing preference of self-interest over God's interests and all other interests.
2. The carnal mind must be a voluntary state. If you have Bibles with marginal references and readings, you will observe that in the margin it is written, "the minding of the flesh." The carnal mind is the fleshly mind, or the mind in a state of committal to the indulgence of the appetites, passions and propensities.
3. It is that state of mind into which Adam fell. It appears that, for a time, Adam preferred the will of God to his own, the pleasure of God to his own, and the interests of God to his own. But a temptation of peculiar nature was presented to him through Eve. The wily serpent addressed Eve--"Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" She answered--"We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know, that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened; and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat."
Here two constitutional propensities, innocent in themselves, were strongly excited by this appeal of the tempter. The desire of knowledge is constitutional; the appetite for food is constitutional. These appetites are not wrong in themselves, nor is it morally wrong that they should be in an excited state. But the question as put by the tempter, amounted to a proposal to Eve and to Adam to gratify their appetites, although it involved disobedience to God. This question was really fundamental to their moral character. They could not yield to this temptation without preferring their own self-gratification to the will of God, and their own pleasure to God's pleasure. To yield to this temptation would be to revolt from the government of God. It would break off their allegiance to him. In the very act they must decide to seek their own pleasure in their own way as their supreme good. This would really be a change of the supreme ultimate end of life. Instead of loving God supremely, they now love themselves supremely. They reject God's authority, God's rights, God's happiness and his glory, as all subordinate to their own gratification. You will observe that the temptation was not merely to put forth a single volition to secure some good, without any reference to the ultimate end in view. It was nothing else than a proposal from the tempter to set aside God as the great end for which they should live, and set up self-gratification as the supreme object of life. Yielding to this temptation, plunged them into a state of choice--a settled state of voluntary preference of self-interest above all other interests, and of self-gratification above all other good.
A voluntary state as distinguished from a voluntary act, is a matter familiar to us all. We all know what is meant by choosing a partner for life, and abiding in that choice; and we know that when that choice is settled and abiding, the volitions and the outward life flow from it. The choice, abiding, gives direction to all the subsequent life.
Just so of this choice made by Adam. It became a fixed state of mind. He lapsed into a state of supreme selfishness, which is nothing else than a strong committal of the will, and consequently of the whole being, to self-gratification.
The mind being settled in its great ultimate aim and end, the supreme choice being to gratify the deepest desires and propensities, it will of course reveal itself in all the myriad ways of self-indulgence in which unconverted sinners actually live.
It is enmity against God,
2. This minding of the flesh is directly opposite to the whole character of God.
3. It is a state of voluntary alienation from God, and of intense committal against him. It is the wicked heart. It is so treated in the Bible itself. It is spoken of in the chapter of our text as being "in the flesh," and a state of mind in which it is impossible to please God. Furthermore, in this same chapter it is affirmed to be a state of death in sin. "To be carnally minded is death." Also in Ephesians 2:1-3, this carnal mind is represented as a state of spiritual death, of bondage to the flesh, of enmity against God.
4. I observe again that this carnal mind is a state of total moral depravity. As is said in verse 8: "So then they that are in the flesh cannot see God."
5. This carnal mind reveals itself in the neglect of God. This is the reason why sinners neglect worship, prayer, and communion with God, and why they do not love to think of him or speak of him.
6. The carnal mind reveals itself also in contempt for God's authority. The Psalmist enquires --"Wherefore do the wicked contemn God?" I answer, Just because they are wicked. And their wickedness consists in this carnal-mindedness.
But, perhaps you will say--I do not contemn the authority of God.
But how much do you care for this authority? Do you, in fact, treat it as if it were of the slightest importance? You will set aside the authority of God for the most trifling indulgence. See that young man smoking that cigar. Do you think, young man, that that is right? Do you think God wants you to smoke that cigar? Do you believe he is pleased with it? You know he is not; and yet you care less for God's authority than you do for smoking that cigar. Every day you live, you gratify yourself in ways which you know to be unlawful, without the slightest regard to God's authority. What do you mean, then, by saying that you do not contemn the authority of God? Is there anything in the world that you treat as of less importance than the authority of God? Your daily conduct is equivalent to saying, "What do I care for the authority of God? Who is God that I should obey him, or what profit should I have if I should pray unto him?"
8. This carnal mind also reveals itself in a want of confidence in God. Sinners very well know that they have every reason to confide in him, but yet they do not. They have not the slightest confidence in all his professions of love for them, nor are they at all inclined to trust him.
9. This carnal mind reveals itself in a total want of sympathy with God. In every way, this state of mind shows itself the opposite of God's state of mind. His revealed will and way are an abomination to them, and their will and way are an abomination to him. As He says--"They loathe me, and I abhor them."
10. The carnal mind reveals itself in a whole life of rebellion against God. That unconverted men are in a state of rebellion against the authority of God, is one of the plainest facts that lie on the face of society.
March 26, 1862
MORAL DEPRAVITY--No. 2
Text.--Rom. 8:7: "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be."
V. The carnal mind is a state of mortal enmity against God.
By this I mean that the human mind is so firmly entrenched against God, and so utterly opposed to him that, sooner than be governed by him, it would take his life if this were possible. Rebellion against any government always implies this.
Again, the crucifixion of Christ demonstrated this fact so far as it is possible for human beings to make such demonstration. Christ was God manifest in the flesh. They slew his human nature, and, no doubt, they would have slain his divine, if they could. It does not answer this, to say that it was only the Jews, highly prejudiced against him, that slew him; nor is it any answer to say that, if the Jews had known that he was God, they would not have crucified him; for, we see now on every side that those who acknowledge Jesus to be God, yet reject his authority and give the most unmistakable evidence that they would oppose him to the death sooner than be governed by him.
VI. The carnal mind is a state of supreme opposition to God, that is, it is more deeply set in opposition to God than to any other being in the universe.
God is infinitely holy, and the carnal mind is in a state of entire sinfulness. These two things are infinitely opposed, the one to the other. There is nothing in the universe to which the sinner is so much opposed as real holiness, and there is nothing in heaven to which he is so much opposed as to infinite holiness.
Again, it is seen that all other enmities besides this can be subdued by a change of circumstances, without the interposition of the Holy Spirit. But so intensified is the enmity of the carnal mind against God, that sinners complain that it is utterly impossible for them to love God unless the Holy Ghost induces them to do so. I do not admit that it is impossible, as they pretend; but I do admit that, without divine influence, they never will love him, whatever the consequences might be of their refusal.
1. The human mind is manifestly in a physically diseased state. By this I mean that sin has deranged its developments, insomuch that there are various tendencies in the constitution that result in selfishness. But let it be remembered, this is a physical and not a moral depravity. To illustrate this: Many persons come in to being with depraved appetites--a strong natural appetite, say, for strong drink, or some other sensual enjoyment. Now, these appetites, although in a diseased state, yet being constitutional, are not in themselves sinful. It is only their unlawful indulgence that is sinful. In fact, no appetite of man can be sinful that is strictly constitutional and normal, nor can it become in itself sinful by being in an unhealthy or depraved condition. The sin must consist in its unlawful indulgence. Adam and Eve had constitutional appetites for knowledge and for food. These were not sinful, not even when strongly excited by the temptation to indulgence. It was only the consent of the mind to indulge them in a prohibited manner, that constituted their sin.
2. It has been very common to confound temptation and sin. None of the constitutional appetites or propensities can be in themselves sinful, because they are involuntary and are a part of our nature. Nevertheless, these appetites and propensities, when excited, are of course temptations to seek their indulgence. It must be their unlawful indulgence and this only that constitutes sin. But it has been very common to speak of their very existence, and especially of their excited state, as sin.
Now, unless the soul, by an act of will, indulges this excitement, there can be no sin. If the mind resists the excitement, suppresses it so far as possible, and refuses to gratify it, there can be no sin. Indeed, when the appetite is strongly excited, but yet resisted, we cannot possibly deny that the virtue is the higher, as the temptation is the greater, and the mind more strongly and perseveringly resists it.
3. It is a great mistake to confound physical depravity with moral. It is very curious to see how the Bible has been interpreted on the question of constitutional sinfulness. It seems to me that men often interpret it without the least reference to any sound principles of biblical criticism. For example, one of these principles is, that no passage is to be so interpreted as flatly to contradict human reason, unless it is so irresistibly plain that it can bear no other interpretation.
Now I have no time to examine all the passages that have been misinterpreted on this subject. But take one, generally made very prominent in the attempt to prove from Scripture that the human constitution is morally depraved, to-wit--Psalm 51:5.
"Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me."
What is this text quoted to prove?
That the human constitution, or in other words, the very nature of all men, is morally depraved.
But this dogma is certainly contrary to human reason. If by moral depravity we mean something sinful, it is certainly inconceivable by reason that that should be morally blame-worthy over which the man never had any control--a thing that belongs to his very constitution as he came from the hand of his Maker. That any human soul should be blame-worthy for such a constitution--should be guilty of moral wrong for possessing it, is certainly as contrary as possible to human reason.
Now remember, we are never to interpret any passage of Scripture so as to make it teach a doctrine palpably contrary to human reason, if it will bear any other interpretation. I say contrary to human reason, and not merely above its reach.
Now, the doctrine that the human constitution is in itself sinful, blame-worthy, morally wrong, morally depraved--is not so much above reason as opposite to the irresistible decisions of the human reason. It cannot therefore be proved, unless from passages unequivocally clear, explicit, and incapable of any other interpretation.
Let us now apply these remarks to the passage above quoted. What does it say?
1. The thing it is quoted to prove is universal--to-wit: that moral depravity is constitutional and pertains to the entire human race. But this verse affirms no universal proposition whatever. "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." Surely this affirms nothing of mankind in general, and we are not to extend and torture the passage to make it teach so absurd a doctrine.
2. In this verse, the Psalmist does not even affirm his own sin. If he accused any one of sin, it was his mother. "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me."
3. This is the language of poetry. The Psalmist was smarting bitterly, and was deeply moved under a sense of his great sin in the matter of Bathsheba and Uriah. As is natural in such cases, he has expressed himself in a highly figurative and poetic manner, and undoubtedly had a strong sense of his great sinfulness, and meant to say that he had been a sinner ever since he was capable of being so. Now, surely, to make such a passage teach so monstrous a dogma as the universal sinfulness of human nature, is a flagrant perversion of God's word. It cannot be made to teach any such thing without greatly over-straining what is really said in the passage. But most surely no passage should be over-strained to make it teach an unreasonable dogma. You must not force strong poetical expressions to mean more than they really say, when this super-addition is contrary to reason.
4. The usual interpretation of this passage totally perverts the real meaning of the Psalmist. He was greatly agonized in view of his own sinfulness, and was confessing his own sin to God. He was far from being in a state to accuse anybody else, or to make any apology for his own sin. But the usual interpretation would represent him as searching for some excuse for his sin, and really charging the blame upon God, as if he had said--
"O Lord, thou hast given me a sinful nature, and how am I to blame for my sin?"
This is a gross misrepresentation of the meaning of the passage, and of the spirit of its author.
Ephesians 2:3, is another passage extensively quoted to prove that nature is itself sinful.
"Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others."
Upon this verse I remark,1. The apostle represents the sinfulness of men as consisting in fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and not in the desires themselves. This is the same view of moral depravity that I have given in this discourse. Paul does not represent these desires as being in themselves wrong; it is only their sinful indulgence which makes men children of wrath.5. You can see from this subject why men need regeneration, and also what regeneration is. It is the giving up of the carnal mind, a ceasing to mind the flesh, and giving up the whole mind to obey God. It is a change from being committed to self-gratification, to the committal of the whole soul to obedience to God.
2. Another remark is due here to show why Paul uses the words "by nature."
Suppose a child were born with a natural appetite for strong drink. This natural appetite does not make him a drunkard before he indulges it. But suppose he grows up to manhood, does indulge himself and becomes a drunkard. Now, looking to the occasion of his fall, we should naturally say, he was a drunkard "BY NATURE."
The same is true with those who have a natural propensity ( as some have) to lie and steal. If they were born with a natural tendency in those directions, and we knew it, we should speak of them as liars or thieves "by nature." By this language we should not mean that they were actually guilty of any of these crimes before they had indulged these physically depraved propensities; much less should we assume that these inherited propensities were sins of their own.
There is no doubt in my mind that this is the real meaning of the apostle in this passage. The constitutional desires (Epithumiai, Greek,) were natural to man, and in this sense men are "by nature children of wrath." The appetites being constitutional to man in his physically depraved state, it is quite natural to speak of him as being by nature a sinner, when really we can mean no more than that he inherits the temptation to sin, and not that the temptation is itself sin. The desires are natural to him; the fulfilling or indulging of them is voluntary, and therefore sinful.
Now this is all that this passage can be made to mean by a fair interpretation. I say of this and of all the passages that are quoted to prove the doctrine of constitutional sinfulness, as I have said of Psalms 51:5--that they have not been soberly interpreted. They have been made to teach a most irrational doctrine by straining them and making them mean more than they say. They naturally mean no more than that men inherit a physically depraved constitution. Certainly no one of them asserts in language that can admit no other interpretation, that human nature is itself sinful. I have quoted the two strongest passages on this point that are to be found (as I suppose) in the Bible, and surely it requires no great ingenuity to show that these passages naturally admit a very different interpretation from that which has been generally given them.
7. Physical depravity, or a diseased state of the constitution, is no doubt the occasion (not the cause) of moral depravity. The propensities are no doubt depraved. They act as a temptation, to which, as a matter of fact, mankind at first universally yield.
8. Many persons who think they are the friends of God are deceived. They have never been converted. It is a great mistake, and they need only die to know it. It were far better to learn it and correct it here.
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of easily misunderstood terms as defined by Mr. Finney himself.
Compiled by Katie Stewart
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).