||delphia > On Love To Our Neighbor- No. 2 by Charles G. Finney from "The Oberlin Evangelist"
On Love To Our Neighbor- No. 2
Charles G. Finney
A Voice from the Philadelphian Church Age
by Charles Grandison Finney
Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
from "The Oberlin Evangelist"
July 4, 1860
ON LOVE TO OUR NEIGHBOR--NO. 2
by the Rev. C. G. Finney
"And the second is like unto is; Thou shalt love
thy neighbor as thyself."
In speaking upon this portion of our Lord's epitome of the divine law, I will
I. What kind of love is here required;
II. Second, state some of the things implied in this love;
III. Third, show that nothing short of this love is true humanity; and
IV. Lastly, that nothing less is true morality.
I. The love required toward our neighbor is certainly not complacency in his character.
- 1. Complacency is approbation and delight in character; but our Lord makes no
distinction between the good and the bad, and therefore He requires us to love them
all. But it cannot be that He requires us to approve and delight in the character
of bad men; and hence we must conclude that the love of complacency is not in His
mind, and is not the thing He requires. To have complacency in the character of wicked
men as wicked, is to be as bad as they. This no reasonable man can suppose to be
what the Savior requires, or what He interprets the law of God to require.
- 2. Again, it is not the love of fondness which we sometimes feel towards particular
individuals. Some persons are naturally pleasing to certain other persons; some are
so to all, being naturally amiable and adapted to awaken pleasing emotions. But this
is not the love referred to in the text.
- 3. Again, this love cannot be involuntary. As I said before of the love required
towards God that it must be a voluntary act and could not be involuntary because
if it were, it could not be justly demanded; so I say of this love to our neighbor.
It cannot be involuntary, for if it were, no just being could require it.
- 4. Positively, this love to our neighbor is and must be good-will. God's love
to man is good-will -- a pure and strong interest in his welfare, a desire for his
happiness, and the positive willing of his happiness as the object dearest to his
heart. The way in which His great love has manifested itself proves this. Our very
reason affirms that this is the love God has borne and now bears to our race. Consequently
we must conclude that this is the love which He requires men to exercise towards
- 5. Note again, that this love requires us to esteem our neighbor's interests
as our own. This rule applies to all our neighbors -- to our enemies as well as to
- 6. Again, it is a constant love; not fitful and evanescent; and not impulsive,
but flowing from a fountain of good-will, ever enduring. It is a state of mind --
an established state, which regards our neighbor's interests as our own.
II. I pass now to name some things implied in this love.
- 1. It does not imply the universal and equal distribution of our energies and
means among all mankind, or even among all who may be near enough to be known to
us. It cannot mean to imply this, because with such a meaning, it would be impossible
to obey it.
- 2. There can be no doubt that the law of God demands good-will towards all mankind,
always, under all circumstances; but there are circumstances which forbid such modes
of expressing it as would be proper at other times. A criminal, suffering the just
sentence of human law, must not have from us the same acts of good-will as would
be fitting after his sentence is served out, or if he were not under sentence at
all. The relation which sinners come to sustain towards God under the sentence of
His law is such as forbids Him to bless them. It is not that He has ceased to love
them in the sense of a deep, intense interest in their happiness; but He loves all
the rest of His intelligent creatures, no less, and their interests demand of Him
that He should execute His righteous law against the wicked. Hence He cannot give
them even so much good as a cup of cold water.
- 3. The same circumstances may sometimes demand of us the same withholding of
positive efforts to do good to the wicked.
- 4. Again, since each one is by this law required to love his neighbor, it is
plain that God intends these kind offices should be mutual. If God does us good,
we should seek gratefully to do Him good. If He promotes our interests, we should
strive to promote His.
- 5. So of children as towards their parents. Children should not always receive
and never give, but should account it a great privilege to repay their parents for
the labor and care bestowed on themselves. When parents are spared in life so long
as to become old and helpless, their children should rejoice in the opportunity to
requite the favors shown them when they too were helpless.
- 6. So of subjects and rulers. So between pupils and teachers, there are reciprocal
interests. On neither side should it be all receiving and no giving; but there should
be mutual receiving and giving on both sides.
- 7. In like manner this Institution, including its teachers and its students,
sustains close relations to its founders and patrons. Others have labored; we enter
into their labors. Others have given their money; we are enjoying its benefit. There
is not a building here but is indebted to some donors abroad. Others have prayed,
and we have received blessings from God for those prayers.
- 8. Hence we should seek to requite those favors, doing all we can to promote
the very objects to which those Christian friends have so devoted their wealth and
So ministers who preach and their people who hear, should be mutally giving and
receiving good, to and from each other. All of us, instead of being merely recipients
of good from others, should strive to do good to others also, rendering back into
their bosoms liberally.
- 9. Why should not this prinicple apply to all men towards God? Ye who have never
cared for God; is it right that you should receive everything from God and make Him
no returns of love and obedience? Have you no zeal for His honor and no devotion
to His interests? He has nourished and brought you up as a child, and you have done
nothing else but rebel against Him. Is that right? Why should you not rather say,
God has given me talents and I must render back to Him in their use as I may have
opportunity? Certainly you must regard God as your neighbor in this sense, that He
has interests and rights, and you are under the highest obligations to requite Him
for unnumbered favors.
- 10. The same is true also of your relations to the church of Jesus Christ. How
much do you owe to Him? In view of it all, have you any right to say --"Not
one word of acknowledgement, not one thank-offering shall He ever have from me!"
What do you not owe Him! Has it ever occurred to you how really you owe to Him your
very existence, since, but for His mission of mercy, you had never lived? But for
that offering and sacrifice on Calvary, none of us could have had any existence at
all. But for that, Adam and Eve must have been cut down at once in their sin, the
law taking its course of righteous judgment. -- "In the day thou eatest thereof
thou shalt surely die." You live, therefore, only because God has had mercy
on our race. Come now, walk up at once to meet the claims of this great truth. Are
you not indebted to God for everything? And will you pay back absolutely nothing?
Here you are in the house of God, surrounded with an atmosphere of prayer, instead
of being in hell, shrieking and wailing in the depths of despair!
Do you say "I don't owe Christ anything?" But you profess to be respectable.
Yet who can respect you if you treat Jesus Christ so? Have you no sympathy with His
great sacrifices and sufferings to save you? Would you leave all the labor and sacrifice
for Him, and make no response of love or gratitude? Will you utterly refuse to love
Him? Do you say -- "He is welcome to love me and to die for me; but I have nothing
to pay him in return? I leave it for him to do and to suffer all, and not a word
of things can he have from me." Do you think this is right? Is it generous?
Ought it to be deemed respectable?
III. Nothing short of the love here required is true humanity.
It is not true humanity to do good only to one's own offspring. They are regarded
as parts of one's self, and hence doing good to them only, is nothing beyond a slightly
enlarged selfishness. Nothing is really love to man -- true humanity -- except that
love which estimates human well-being for its intrinsic value, and loves man as man.
IV. Nothing short of this is true morality.
- 1. Nothing less is required by our reason and our conscience. To lay special
stress on our own interests because they are our own is not true morality. It is
not, even though we aim to be honest in seeking the good of particular individuals.
If it be only special individuals that we love, this is partiality.
- 2. Again, no man loves his friends in the sense that pleases God, unless he also
truly loves his enemies. Suppose a man does love his friends. Hear what Jesus Christ
says of precisely this case: "If ye love them who love you, what reward have
ye?" "Do not even publicans [notorious sinners] the same?" Jesus Christ
says: "Love your enemies." It can never be supposed that one does right
unless he loves his enemies. Some one says: "There are certain persons whom
I never wrong." What is the motive that leads you to do them good and not evil?
If you truly loved your neighbor for right reasons, you would love every neighbor,
and you would take every living man for your neighbor in the sense of this law. You
would love every known being, because you would love to promote the happiness of
all sentient existences, and you would aim to love each one according to the value
of his well-being. Real benevolence would as truly seek to do good to enemies as
to friends, if it could reach them, and do them as much good. Understand, that to
love your friend aright, you must love him as God does, and for the same reasons.
You can not love him aright unless you love your enemies also and for a similar reason.
No man does anything for his friend acceptably to God, unless he would do as much
for his enemies, if he could. God can give him no credit for doing good to his friends,
unless he does it on a principle which would make him do as much for his enemies
if he could. No man does any duty acceptably to God for one man, while he refuses
or willfully neglects to do the same for another; and this I put on the ground that
God's law requires you to love all your neighbors -- every neighbor; and if you have
the spirit of obedience to God, you will.
- 3. No man does right in any proper sense who does not act from universal and
disinterested love. On any other ground it cannot be acceptable for one moment. That
mother nursing her babe has no credit from God for this, if she does it on no higher
principle than the mere animal. She is bound to love her own offspring because God
has placed her in precisely those relations. But let her by no means think she has
any credit from God for obeying merely her animal instincts. Her soul should go higher
than the mere animal. She is bound to study to please God.
- 4. Nothing short of this can be the condition of salvation. No man can be out
of sin and in grace who is not brought into a state of true love to his neighbor.
What would become of a man, applying at heavens' gate for admittance, who should
meet there an enemy -- a man he had never loved, whom he had hated and never prayed
for? Could he pass by such a man into heaven?
- 5. How could you enjoy heaven without a holy heart? Some of you would hasten
out as we have sometimes seen rude, unmannered boys rush to get out of church, even
before the services of worship were closed. He who loves his neighbor will understand
that it is one of his neighbor's rights to enjoy the public worship of God without
- 6. Without this love, salvation is naturally impossible. It is governmentally
impossible; it cannot be, so long as God rules and cares for the interests of his
great kingdom. The entrance to heaven is so guarded all round about that nothing
shall by any means enter that worketh abomination -- nothing unholy. A man go there
in his selfishness! Not if God can keep him out!
1. If all men obeyed the laws of God, society would be perfect. I do not mean that
there would be no further progress, no advance, no improvement; no, not this, for
much remains to be done. But this is true, that morality would be perfect; there
would be no more war and strife. Every family would be a little emblem of heaven.
Every community would bear the image of heaven. The wings of angels would come down
so near, they would fan such loving hearts; and heaven's doors would stand open all
day long before such a people.
2. We see how we are to treat those who are oppressed and in slavery. We are to put
ourselves in their position and enquire what we should ask them to do for us, in
their circumstances. Suppose that I and my family are in slavery. Election is coming
on. Have I a right to expect that my friends in Ohio will cast their votes so as
to bear most directly upon my liberation? I should be very prone to think that no
man ought to cast his vote against my liberty, for the mere sake of money or office.
Even politicians can see how shameful and how outrageously wrong it is to hold man
as a chattel. That this should be deemed a Bible institution is of all monstrous
things most monstrous! It is so revolting that I cannot well imagine how anybody
can be honest in holding this opinion. Yet let us be candid: I can easily see that
the merely legal relation may exist without any violation of the law of love.
3. This golden rule is equally applicable everywhere and in all circumstances. It
is good when applied in the matter of asking favors. We ought not to ask a favor
of any man when a knowledge of his circumstances and a proper sympathy for his welfare,
such as we would have him feel for ours, would forbid it.
4. The same is true of receiving favors. This law, honestly applied, would show us
what favors we should be willing to allow others to do for us. Sometimes we cannot
properly allow others to do us favors. If a poor man has labored for me a month and
refuses to receive compensation, I too must by all means refuse to receive his labor
as a gift. A proper regard to his circumstances compels me to refuse so great a gift
from him. He cannot afford to give it; there fore I cannot afford to receive it.
5. You may see from this subject what the morality of unregenerate men is. It is
not morality at all, in any just sense. All their morals is only sin.
6. You may also see God's personal relations to selfishness. Every particle of selfishness
is personally hostile and hateful to God. It is so utterly unlike his heart, so totally
opposed to all his principles and to all his acts, he can have no fellowship with
it. He must forever hold it in utter abhorrence.
7. You may also see his governmental relations to sin. He can bear the personal insult
and he does -- does for the time, and, but for governmental reasons, would pass it
over perhaps forever. He endures with sinners now; he does not fret; does not manifest
excited passion, as men do under insult; but the governmental bearings of sin he
cannot overlook. The selfishness of men towards himself and towards each other, he
must see. He is a magistrate, bearing the highest responsibilities of the universe.
All eyes are turned upon him. He must mark the iniquities that are done among his
subjects and his creatures. He must see all their wickedness, biting and devouring
one another, trampling each other down. All eyes are upturned towards him. What says
the Judge of all the earth to this! Ah, this must be answered! God's relations to
his government make it an awful thing for man to love selfishness.
8. Every selfish sinner is in certain peril of eternal death. Men know this and cannot
but know it. God's mercy flows at your feet, a deep, broad, glorious current; yet
you heed it not! Yet you thrust Jesus away! You have done so often and long. Can
you do it yet longer? Jesus with bleeding heart and loving hand pressing near to
save you, but you are saying -- Depart from me! let me alone in my sins yet longer!
I will not have this man to rule over me, nor to save me, on such terms of salvation!
O sinner! will you still pursue a course so ruinous, and so outrageously abusive
to Jesus Christ?
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).
RELATED STUDY AID:
Index for "The
Oberlin Evangelist": Finney:
Voices of Philadelphia