What Saith the Scripture?
Unbelief- No. 2
by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College
Oberlin Evangelist" Publication of Oberlin College
May 20, 1840
Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
Text.--Heb. 3:19: "So we see they could
not enter in because of unbelief." --Mark 16:16: "He that believeth not,
shall be damned."
I am to show,
III. The unreasonableness of unbelief.
- 1. It is unreasonable, because confidence in testimony is natural to man. This
is a law of his being. And until selfishness comes to take possession of his heart
and blind him, in respect to any truth or thing that opposes his will or inclinations,
it is one of the easiest and most natural exercises of the human mind, to confide
in testimony. This is strikingly manifest in the conduct of very young children.
- 2. It is unreasonable, because confidence in testimony is one of the easiest
and most natural exercises of the mind through every period of life. Society could
not exist without it. All the business transactions of the world, turn upon this
law of the mind, viz: its confidence in testimony. Every one knows or may know, that
no such thing as government, or order, or happiness, could exist in any community
- 3. It is unreasonable, because all evidence is in favor of unlimited and heart-felt
confidence in the character and word of God.
- 4. Creation and Providence confirm the truths of the Bible, and, when properly
understood, give forth the same lessons, so far as they go. The heavens above, the
earth beneath, every thing within and without us, goes to confirm the proposition,
that it is the perfection of reason to place the most unlimited confidence in God.
- 5. The works of creation and providence, when duly studied and understood, exhibit
God in such a light as not only to confirm the testimony of the Bible, but to lead
to the conclusion that the Bible means as much as it appears to mean, that God is
to be trusted for all that He has promised, and that His promises mean as much as
- 6. Unbelief is entirely unreasonable, because the atonement is the highest possible
demonstration of God's intention to do to every human being all the good He wisely
can. Certainly it is the opposite of every thing that is reasonable, to suppose that
God should give His only begotten Son to die for men, and then willingly withhold
any lesser good which He can wisely bestow upon them. And this is the reasoning and
the conclusion of the Apostle: "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered
Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?"
- 7. In the Atonement alone we have the highest evidence that can be given, of
the infinitely great love of God to every one of us--a degree of evidence that demands
the most heart-felt confidence in His character, government, word, promises, providence,
and carefulness for our temporal and eternal good. Reader, did you ever consider
the amount and force of evidence contained in the Atonement, that God really loves
you, that He loves you so much as to give His only begotten and well beloved Son
to die in your stead? What higher evidence could you ask, expect, or conceive, that
any being else loved you, than for him to give his own son to die to preserve your
life. And should such a thing take place, would you not consider it the most shocking,
unnatural, and abominable conduct conceivable, to withhold confidence in his love
- 8. The Atonement so illustrates and confirms the love of God to men as to render
it in the highest degree reasonable to put the most liberal construction on all His
promises of good to them. Let me advert again to 2 Cor. 6:16-18, & 7:1-- "And
what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living
God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their
God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate,
saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will
be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
"Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from
all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."
I have already said, that from these promises, "I will dwell in them and walk
in them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people; I will receive you
and be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters"--the Apostle
infers the practicability, of entirely cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of
the flesh and spirit, and of perfecting holiness in the fear of God. Now I would
ask, if this is not one of the most reasonable inferences in the world? In the light
of the Atonement, and considering the infinitely great love of God, as therein manifested,
how much is it reasonable to expect God to mean, in such promises as these? What
is naturally and fully implied in these and kindred promises, in view of His infinite
love and the bountifulness of His heart as expressed in the Atonement? I do not hesitate
to say, that it is in the highest degree unreasonable, in view of these promises
alone, to draw any other inference than that which the Apostle drew from them. And
what shall we say of the almost numberless exceeding great and precious promises,
that were given for the express purpose of making us partakers of the divine nature?
It must be admitted, that they conduct us at once to the conclusion, that it is utterly
unreasonable to believe any thing less than that God will "sanctify us, spirit,
soul, and body, and preserve us blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
- 9. The evidence contained in the Atonement, of the infinitely great love of God
to us, is, if such a thing be possible, confirmed and strengthened, by the great
patience and forbearance of God exercised towards this world since the Atonement--His
patience, and perseverance in using means to induce mankind to accept the Atonement--His
striving by His Spirit, and all the influences He exerts to sanctify and save, seem
to pile demonstration upon demonstration of His infinite love and disposition to
do us good. And certainly nothing in earth or hell can be conceived of as more unreasonable
- 10. To stumble at any difficulties which really lie in the way, is utterly unreasonable,
for these difficulties are just what we ought to expect, and a moment's consideration
would show us that it is naturally impossible it should not be so. We are but in
the infancy of our being. It is but a very little that could be, by any possibility,
explained to us in this world. There is scarcely a thing in the Universe that does
not involve, in minds like ours, mysteries, which we do not and cannot understand.
Our own nature, the nature and constitution of every thing around us, present to
us mysteries as impenetrable, and difficulties as great, so far as we know, as any
of the truths of religion. And yet, on other than religious subjects, we receive
testimony, and believe facts, where we cannot comprehend all the philosophy and explanation
of them. We are shut up to this necessity in relation to almost every thing in the
Universe. And how infinitely unreasonable it is, in the midst of our ignorance of
material things, to stumble at difficulties, perplex ourselves with mysteries, and
withhold confidence in the testimony of God, simply because the why and the how are
not in many instances understood by us.
- 11. It is vastly unreasonable, not to feel an inward assurance that God's promises
shall all be fulfilled. If I owed you a thousand dollars, you might have reason to
feel insecure in regard to the payment, and should you come to me and say, I doubt
your responsibility, I want to feel at rest upon the subject, and wish you to give
me further security, this might be very reasonable. But will you ask further security
of God? Who will underwrite for Him? Who or what can make His promises more secure?
Would you have a warrantee deed of the Universe, a bond and mortgage, sealed, signed,
and delivered, and registered in the court of heaven? Why all this you have and more
too. For "God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the
immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things,
in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who
have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us." And now do you
say, why, I want to feel in my heart, the assurance that God will fulfill His promises
to me. Feel in your heart! Do not the promise and oath of God make you feel in your
heart that what He has said shall come to pass? What an infinitely unreasonable and
abominable state of mind is this, that can complain of the want of a felt assurance,
that the God of infinite truth will not lie? Why, what security can He give? Who
can be His bail? Who, or what in the Universe can make His promise more certain?
But suppose you had the bond, and mortgage, and oath of the richest man in America,
for a thousand dollars. Would not your neighbors consider you a mad man, if you did
not feel in your heart that your debt was secure? Yes, you would be pronounced deranged
by every court of law or equity in the land. I recollect to have heard of a case,
where a man of wealth became a hypochondriac and made himself continually unhappy,
lest himself and family should become paupers. His wealthy connections, to relieve
his mind, offered to secure to him a large amount of money annually, for the support
of his family. He replied, "that would be of no avail, that "riches would
take to themselves wings," that he could put no confidence in any such security."
Finally, a commission of lunacy was issued to secure his property, and he pronounced
a lunatic, in view of these developments of mind. Now I do not hesitate to say, that
his state of mind was almost the perfection of reason, when compared with the infinite
unreasonableness and insanity of not feeling the utmost assurance that all the promises
of God should be fulfilled. Why, what was there so very unreasonable in the conduct
of this man? Why, he refused to trust in human security and responsibility, for the
maintenance of his family. Now in one sense this might have been unreasonable, and
the court may have done right in pronouncing him a lunatic or an unreasonable man.
But if this is insanity, what state of mind is that which cannot confide in the testimony
and oath of the infinite and ever blessed God of truth? Why, beloved, if God has
promised to maintain your family--if He has told you, "trust in the Lord and
do good, so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily shalt be fed"--if the infinitely
faithful God has promised to circumcise your heart and the heart of your seed, to
love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul--if He has promised
to "sanctify you wholly, spirit, soul, and body, and preserve you blameless"--is
it not the widest departure from reason that can be conceived of, for you not to
feel assured in your heart, that all this shall be done?
IV. Causes or occasions of unbelief.
- 1. Selfishness prevents attention to the evidence of God's character. Men are
so taken up with seeking their own private interests as to have very little time
for consideration in regard to the real character of God as manifested in the works
of creation, providence, and grace. Men in their delirious scramble after their selfish
interests almost lose the idea even of the existence of God, and to all practical
purposes they often quite do this.
- 2. The selfishness of men prevents their receiving the idea that God is benevolence.
Being conscious of their own selfishness, and witnessing the same principle in all
around them, they come to regard all intelligent beings as selfish. It is amazing
to see how difficult it is to possess the human mind of the true knowledge of God.
God charges mankind with thinking that he is altogether such a one as they are; and
to judge others by ourselves is indeed very natural, however presumptuous and blasphemous
it may be in respect to God.
- 3. Consciousness of our own hypocrisy in many things, and the constant developments
of insincerity and hypocrisy in almost all around us, naturally begets in us distrust,
or a want of confidence in the sincerity and disinterested benevolence of every body.
- 4. Consciousness of our own and evidence of others unmercifulness, renders it
difficult to conceive of the infinite mercy of God.
- 5. The fact that men seek and think they find their happiness in getting all
they can, blinds their minds in regard to the fact, that God's character is directly
the reverse of this--that benevolence is His character--that doing, instead of getting
good; and that giving instead of receiving good, constitute His happiness. Men cry
continually, like the horse-leech, "Give, give," and are never satisfied
with appropriating to themselves, but God on the other hand, finds His happiness
in giving and in pouring out blessings from his infinite fulness upon all that can
be persuaded to receive them.
- 6. Men are naturally unwilling to conceive of God's character as the direct opposite
of their own. And this is one cause of their unbelief.
- 7. Unwillingness to believe whatever rebukes our sin, is another cause of unbelief.
- 8. A regard to our own reputation, is another fruitful source of unbelief. John
5:44: "How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not
the honor that cometh from God only?" Here Christ plainly teaches, that a regard
to our own reputation will prevent our receiving and believing the testimony of God.
- 9. Prejudice is often a fruitful source of unbelief. To pre-judge or make up
your mind on any question before you know all the facts, is of course in the highest
degree calculated to bar the mind against a knowledge and belief of the truth.
- 10. Committed pride is another fruitful occasion of unbelief. When a man has
committed himself in favor of any error, or against any truth, he is in the greatest
danger of never coming to a knowledge of the truth. He will almost of course, reject
in unbelief, any light that might correct his darkness.
- 11. Sensuality is another fruitful source of unbelief. Let any man give himself
up to indulgence of his appetites, and his mind will become dark as midnight to all
but sensible objects. He will "walk after the sight of his eyes, and the hearing
of his ears;" but is never likely to believe or know any thing of God as he
ought to know.
- 12. Confidence in the opinion of those who are themselves unbelieving will of
course prevent our believing the testimony of God. This is an amazingly fruitful
source of unbelief. There are great multitudes who confide more in men than in God,
who suffer their confidence in God to be entirely destroyed or prevented, by the
unbelieving evasions of those who profess to have, but who really have not faith
- 13. The temptations of Satan, as every one knows, are the occasion of much unbelief.
By contradicting God and shaking the confidence of our first parents in God, he ruined
- 14. A want of a clear idea of what faith really is, is another fruitful source
of unbelief. Many think that they already believe, because they admit the truths
of the gospel, and have no consciousness of positive disbelief. They overlook the
fact that faith is the minds' felt, and joyful assurance of the truth of God. They
are aware, that they have no felt and conscious assurance. They would think this
a very high and rare attainment in religion, to have a felt, clear, conscious assurance,
that God's promises would be fulfilled to them. Thus supposing that what really constitutes
the faith of the gospel is some very high and rare attainment, they take up with
something short, and rest in a state of mind that is the mere absence of felt disbelief.
- 15. Gluttony, and every species of intemperance, are sure causes of unbelief.
They all grieve the Spirit of God. They sensualize and degrade the mind, and bring
it into bondage to the flesh.
- 16. Our selfish will, more than any thing and every thing else, precludes the
exercise of faith. The Jews could resist the evidence of miracles. And who has not
observed how difficult it is, to beget confidence in any mind, against the will.
Indeed the thing is impossible. Confidence is an act of the will itself; and it is
often amazing to see what an amount of evidence may be accumulated before the mind,
and yet the heart withhold its confidence. The truth is, that men do not believe
God, because they will not.
V. The wickedness of unbelief.
- 1. It is the most unreasonable abomination in the Universe. I mean as I say.
There is not so great a perversion of right reason in the whole universe of mind,
as unbelief. Should the son of a great prince, who possessed immeasurable wealth,
be filled with cares and great anxieties, lest he should want his daily bread, who
would not say that this was a vastly unreasonable and ridiculous state of mind. And
suppose, to quiet his anxiety, his father gave him a bond and mortgage of all that
he possessed, and made him secure by every possible security; notwithstanding which
his fears should still prevail, and he should say, "I cannot realize and feel
assured in my own mind, that my temporal necessities shall be supplied." Who
would not pronounce this to be a most unreasonable state of mind? But how would this
begin to compare with the infinite unreasonableness of that state of mind, that complains
that it does not realize and cannot feel assured, that all its wants, spiritual and
temporal, shall be supplied by God?
- 2. It is the most injurious sin against God that can be committed. It implies
- (1.) A flat denial of the integrity of His character.
- (2.) It is denying His attributes.
- (3.) It charges Him with hypocrisy, and actually says to God, "Thou makest
high pretensions of love to me--of thine ability and willingness to supply all my
wants. Thou professest infinite compassion, and boastest of thine infinite grace.
Thou averrest, that thou are able and willing to meet the necessities of my nature--hast
given thy pledge and thine oath, and sworn by two immutable things, by which thou
sayest it is impossible for thee to lie; and yet, Lord, I do not feel in my heart,
that there is a word of truth in all these professions. I have no confidence in them,
and do not feel in my mind as if they were true."
- (4.) It is plainly charging God with lying, and that too, under oath.
- (5.) It is charging Him with infinite folly and inconsistency. Indeed unbelief,
cannot lodge in any mind, without virtually charging home upon God, the very worst
character of any being in the Universe. For when we take into consideration God's
promises and professions, how can we possibly exercise unbelief, without virtually
charging Him with the very opposite of all His promises and professions.
Take again the illustration of a student, whose father has again and again, by
letter, assured him that all his wants should be supplied. Now if these assurances
were full, often repeated, and even backed up by an oath, it is easy to see, this
son could not doubt or make himself at all uneasy about his temporal support, without
calling in question his father's ability or willingness. And now suppose the father
had made as multiplied, and great, and various promises as God has; and suppose he
had made as great a sacrifice, to promote the well-being of his son as God has to
promote our well-being, could any thing be conceived more injurious to the father's
feelings and character, than for him to have and manifest no confidence in his father's
- 3. Unbelief has the most injurious tendency of any sin in the Universe:
- (1.) To ourselves, unbelief renders all heart-obedience impossible. How can we
obey God from the heart, when we have no confidence in Him? All obedience to any
government, parental or state government, or to the moral government of God, implies
and must necessarily be based upon confidence in the ruler. If private or public
confidence is destroyed, just in the same degree is the obedience of the heart rendered
- (2.) It is in its tendency the most injurious sin to the universe of creatures
that can be conceived. It is a most contagious abomination. How easily unbelief prevailed
over our first parents, when the serpent suggested to Eve, that God was not sincere
in his prohibition. It is truly wonderful to witness the contagious nature of unbelief.
Let any one suggest a query and a doubt, or manifest in his conduct, that he has
no confidence in God and His promises, and the influence seems to go forth almost
with the power of omnipotence. If professors of religion manifest by their careless
lives, their unbelief in the guilt and danger of sinners, it seems to act like a
charm upon them. The most solemn assertions and threatenings of God are not regarded
by them as any thing more than the baseless fabric of a dream. I have often been
astonished to see, how the suggestions of unbelief could chill every thing to death,
and put down the spirit of prayer and confidence in God, in a revival of religion.
Let any one but suggest, under such circumstances, that the revival is going to decline;
that God cannot work, because such and such things are in the way--let him but call
in question the application or meaning of the promise; and it will be seen how easily
confidence can be destroyed, and how unbelief in any case, if it finds vent, will
be in a community like the letting out of waters.
- 4. Unbelief tends to annihilate God's influence over the Universe. His influence
over mind consists in the estimation in which He is held by moral beings. Where ever
there is not a felt confidence in God, His influence over that mind is destroyed.
And thus unbelief tends to the complete annihilation of the government of God. One
great design of the Atonement was to restore public confidence. Satan had suggested,
and our first parents had believed him, that God was selfish, in prohibiting their
eating a certain fruit, on the ground that they would "become as gods, knowing
good and evil." The Atonement was designed to exhibit in the strongest manner,
God's disinterested love to men, that He might restore their confidence in Him, and
thus gain dominion over their hearts, for their good and His own glory. In the Atonement
He has given the highest evidence that He possibly could give, both of the disinterested
nature and infinite degree of his love. But unbelief sets this all aside, and declares
after all, that it has no confidence whatever in God. Thus it completely annihilates
the power of moral government, and renders the gospel the savor of death unto death.
It is a direct refusal to be satisfied with the infinite evidence that God has given
of His disinterested love to man. It is virtually saying, "I will not be satisfied
with any evidence that God has given or can give, of the integrity of His character.
He is not to be trusted. He shall not have my confidence, say or do what He may."
- 5. Unbelief is the most grievous to God of any sin that can be committed. Suppose
a husband should find, that his wife had no confidence at all in him, and suppose
him to entertain for her the sincerest affection, and always to have manifested it
in every possible way. Now what could be more grievous to his heart than to find
that his wife had no confidence in him? If, under these circumstances, a husband
would have cause of grief--would have reason to feel deeply injured, and wounded
to the very heart; what must be the state of God's feelings, when He sees that His
creatures have no confidence in Him, notwithstanding the infinite pains He has taken
to secure their confidence, and thereby save their souls.
- 6. Unbelief "tramples the Son of God under foot, and counts the blood of
the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and does despite to the
Spirit of grace." It says, I have no confidence in the necessity, or nature,
or reality of the Atonement, and as for Jesus Christ, I do not believe that "His
blood cleanseth from all sin." I do not feel in my heart, that He is "my
wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." I in fact do
not realizingly believe any such thing.
- 7. It is the cause of all other sins. A little reflection will convince any one
who will look at the subject, that unbelief or the withholding a felt confidence
in the character, word, and promises of God, is the cause of worldly mindedness,
and selfishness, under all the forms in which they exist in this world. Let the mind
but have a conscious realizing assurance, that all the infinitely interesting things
contained in the Bible are realities, and it instantly breaks the power of selfishness
and pride, and every other abomination, and delivers the soul up to the entire dominion
- 8. It is the setting aside of infinite evidence, and therefore, the greatest
conceivable departure from the law of our nature. It has been already remarked, that
belief in testimony is natural to man; and the mind in an unperverted state is as
yielding as air to the influence of evidence. But what must be the state of that
mind that can withhold confidence in God, in the face of all the evidence He has
given of the infinite excellence of His character. It is the most outrageous mutiny
against the laws of our being, the most abominable setting at nought and turning
upside down all of the tendencies of unperverted mind that can be conceived.
- 9. It is the most horrible exhibition of prejudice that the universe any where
presents, or ever witnessed. But for the appalling exhibition of the facts in the
case, it would seem utterly incredible that mankind should not be entirely satisfied,
and universally and continually exercise the most implicit confidence in the word,
and character, and promises of God. We sometimes witness very shocking exhibitions
of prejudice , in one human being towards another, insomuch that the prejudiced mind
can really believe nothing good of him against whom the prejudice is entertained.
Whatever appears to be fair, he suspects of hypocrisy; and accounts for any appearance
of goodness, in any and every way, rather than admit the reality. Every one feels
that there are few more hateful exhibitions of the human character than this. But
how infinitely detestable is that state of mind that is so given up to prejudice
against God, as at once to set aside the infinite weight of testimony in His favor
and to withhold all practical and heartfelt confidence in His word and oath?
- 10. God has done all that the nature of the case admits, to secure and even compel
the exercise of confidence in Him. Suppose some mischievous mind to have introduced
rebellion into a human government, by insinuations that had destroyed the confidence
of the people in their ruler. And suppose, that while he had the power to overcome
and crush, and slay them all at once, he should notwithstanding so pity them as to
give his only begotten and well beloved son to atone for their sins. Suppose he had
made every exhibition of his disinterested love that could be made, and yet, confidence
was withholden, and his revolted subjects continued to maintain their pernicious
distrust in his character. Well might he ask, "what more could I have done that
I have not done to secure the confidence of this people. I have laid down my life
to do you good, and how is it that ye do not believe?" For one might think it
impossible, that unbelief should have a place in this world, after all the manifestations
of God's love that have been made to it. But O, what shall we say, when we find not
only the heathen world, but the Christian world, and even the Christian Church, withholding
confidence in God, and manifesting the most shocking unbelief, in regard to His providence
and word? What more can God do to secure public and individual confidence? What higher
evidence can He give? or, in His own emphatic language, "What more can I do
for my vineyard that I have not done?"
- 11. Unbelief is eminently a willful sin. It is a matter of common observation,
that it is exceedingly hard to make men believe what they are unwilling to believe.
And when the will is strongly opposed to any truth it is next to impossible to retain
the confidence of the mind in that truth. But what must be the strength of depravity
in that heart--what must be the power of prejudice, what invincible strength must
there be in the opposition of that will, when the confidence of the mind is not secured
by infinite evidence; when the mind can look over the whole field and see mountains
of evidence piled upon mountains, and yet feel not a particle of inward confidence
and resting of heart in the character and word of the blessed God.
The influence of the will in modifying our belief, on almost any subject, is strikingly
illustrated in a great many ways. A drunkard does not believe that alcohol is poison.
A Universalist does not believe that there is any hell. An epicure does not believe
that his innutricious condiments are injurious to his health. And it is often striking
to observe the amount of influence which the will has in modifying the opinions of
men. And when we come to speak of the faith of the gospel, which implies and includes
volition, it is self-evident that there can be no faith where the will does not yield.
And to talk of an unwilling faith is to speak of an unwilling willingness. The truth
is that men are not influenced by evidence in cases where their will is opposed to
the truth. They are stubborn and rebellious, not convinced, not humbled, and their
confidence not gained, let God say what He will.
1. One unbelieving soul may do immense evil; especially if he be a minister of the
gospel. How easy it is for a blind minister to keep his congregation for ever in
darkness, in regard to the meaning of the gospel and the fulness of the salvation
2. A mind under the influence of unbelief, is a very dangerous interpreter of the
word of God. Without faith, no man discovers the true meaning of the Bible. Nor can
he by any possibility discover its spiritual import, without the state of mind which
is always implied in a right understanding of the word of God.
3. The Church is robbed of its inheritance by unbelief. Inasmuch as the promises
are conditioned upon faith, and cannot in their own nature be fulfilled where there
is not faith, how immense is the evil of unbelief in the Church of God? Gospel rest
and salvation lie before them in all their fulness, completeness of Christian character
in Christ Jesus, and the sanctification of body, soul, and spirit, are proffered
to them and urged with infinite sincerity upon them; but all are rejected through
unbelief. Those who are unbelieving in regard to the fulness of Christ's salvation,
take away the key of knowledge. They neither enter into gospel rest themselves, and
those that would enter they hinder; especially is this true of those ministers who
call in question the attainability of entire consecration to God in this life.
4. Unbelief is the last sin that deserves any commiseration. And yet it is very generally
whined over, as if it were a calamity rather than a crime.
5. An unlearned but spiritual mind will understand the Bible, much more readily than
6. A spiritual mind is learned in spiritual things; and a mind may know much about
other things, and have no spiritual discernment, in respect to the truth of God.
7. It is often distressing to see a man who thinks himself learned, look with a kind
of contempt upon the opinions of those whom he considers unlearned in respect to
the real meaning of the Bible.
8. Faith sees the doctrine of entire sanctification abundantly revealed in the word
of God. And when once the attention of the mind is directed to the examination of
this question, it has often appeared wonderful to me, that any one should doubt whether
this is a doctrine of revelation. I have already remarked upon the inference which
Paul drew, from the last verses of the sixth chapter of 2nd Corinthians: "And
what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living
God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them; and I will be their
God, and they will be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate,
saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will
be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
Now the faith of Paul instantly recognized in these promises, which he quoted from
the Old Testament, the truth that entire sanctification is attainable in this life;
and immediately adds--"Having therefore these promises, dearly, beloved, let
us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness
in the fear of God." Here, then, Paul saw a sufficient guaranty for the belief
of this doctrine, and that to "perfect holiness in the fear of God," was,
by the grace of God, put entirely within our reach. Now if Paul could draw such an
inference as this, from these promises, (and who, when they consider what is implied
in the promises, can say that his inference was not legitimate?) what shall we say
of that mind, who can look over all the exceeding great and precious promises which
have been given, that we might be made partakers of the divine nature, and yet see
nothing to inspire the confidence, that a state of entire sanctification in this
life, is in such a sense attainable, as to make its attainment a reasonable object
9. No man rightly understands and believes the Bible, who is living in the indulgence
of any known sin. There are multitudes, who seem to be trying to maintain a state
of spirituality, whole in some things, and perhaps in many things, they are not entirely
upright in their lives. They do not walk according to the best light they have, and
are yet trying to exercise faith and keep up spiritual intercourse with God. The
thing is naturally and for ever impossible. Spiritual mindedness and disobedience
are direct contraries. It is absurd to expect to have communion with God, and yet
live in the indulgence of any known sin.
10. Many think they have faith, who are yet conscious that they have no inward, felt
confidence or assurance of mind, in regard to the word and promises of God. They
are not conscious of a direct doubting or a disbelieving, what God has said; but
are in that state of mind, that, while it does not deny directly and consciously,
yet has no felt, practical confidence in the truth of God.
11. The lowest degree of real faith has, for a long time, been looked upon as a rare
attainment in piety. That state of mind in which a person feels a confident assurance,
that God's promises shall be fulfilled; that state of mind, that views the truth
of God as a reality; has been looked upon, and spoken of, as evidencing a high degree
of spirituality; when, in fact, such a state of mind is essential to the exercise
of real faith.
12. In view of this subject, and of the present state of the Church, is it wonderful
that Christ inquired, "When I come shall I find faith upon the earth?"
13. No one believes who finds it hard to love. True "faith works by love."
Love is the natural and certain results of living faith.
14. No one believes who finds it hard to repent. Can he find it difficult to repent
of his sins, who sees the death of Christ to be a reality?
15. No one believes, who has not the spirit of thanksgiving and praise. Multitudes
of individuals suppose themselves to believe, who rarely, if ever, are exercised
with a spirit of thanksgiving and of praise to God. Can it be possible that any mind
can believe, and have a realizing sense of the infinite love, and truth, and grace
of God, and yet have no heart to praise Him?
16. No one believes, who find it difficult to pray. Can a man who has a realizing
sense of the state of the world and of the Church, and of the willingness and ability
of God to bless mankind, restrain prayer? Will not his very breath be prayer, devotion,
and praise? Will not his very heart within him be liquid as water? Will not his bowels
of compassion yearn mightily, over a dying world? And will not his soul stand in
a continual attitude of thanksgiving, and praise, and supplication?
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
- 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
- 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).
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