What Saith the Scripture?
by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College
Oberlin Evangelist" Publication of Oberlin College
August 28, 1839
Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
Text.--Heb. 8:13."In that he saith,
'A new covenant,' he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth
old is ready to vanish away."
The more experience I have in preaching the gospel, the
more ripe are my convictions, that ministers take it for granted their hearers are
much better instructed on religious subjects than most of them really are.
They therefore take many things for granted as already understood by their hearers,
of which in reality they are ignorant. This sometimes exposes them to misconceptions
of what they hear, and often throws them into an unsettled state of mind in regard
to the truths they may have heard, so many things having been assumed of which they
have no knowledge. From some remarks I have heard, I have thought, that what I have
said on the subject of the covenants, has been liable to misconstruction, for want
of a somewhat more fundamental examination of the subject of covenants than has been
contained in any of my lectures.
In this text and the context, Paul is speaking of the setting aside of the Old Covenant,
and the introduction of the New.
In discoursing upon the subject I design to show:
I. What is implied in a covenant.
II. The different kinds of covenants.
III. Some of the principal covenants of God with men.
IV. Which of them are set aside, and in what sense they are set aside.
V. That the New Covenant is the accomplishment of what was proposed by the preceding
I. I am to show what is implied in a covenant.
- 1. A mutual promise between two or more parties. A promise of one party not consented
to by the other, is not a covenant but a promise. To be a covenant the promise must
- 2. The promise must be made by lawful persons, i.e. they must be, of suitable
age, of a sound mind, not lunatics or idiots; and be so circumstanced that it is
lawful for them to enter into the proposed covenant. Persons may, in certain circumstances,
contract a covenant for their heirs, or those whom they represent. In all such cases,
those whom they represent are equally bound with themselves. Thus parents can covenant
in respect to their estates binding their heirs. And thus Abraham could covenant
with God in relation to himself and his posterity.
- 3. A covenant is not only a mutual promise by lawful persons but it must be to
do a lawful thing. Persons cannot covenant and bring themselves under an obligation
to do a thing that is unlawful, or of immoral tendency. In other words such a covenant
is void, and can be no covenant at all. No courts of law or equity--nor will the
tribunal of God, hold such covenants as of any validity whatever.
II. The different kinds of covenants.
- 1. With respect to the covenants wherein the parties are equal, i.e. where one
party is under no special obligation to the other, but where each has an equal right
to canvass and dictate the terms of the covenant--this is one kind of covenant and
is called by Greek grammarians suntheke. No covenant of this kind, of course, exists
between God and his creatures.
- 2. Where one has the right to dictate the terms of the covenant to the other,
and where the parties sustain to each other the relation of sovereign and subject.
This kind of covenant is called diatheke, and is synonymous with the Hebrew word
berith. Covenants of this kind are the same as laws, institutions, and ordinances
of government. All government implies a mutual promise between the sovereign and
subjects--a promise of protection on his part and of obedience on theirs. Therefore
all laws, ordinances, and institutions dictated by the sovereign and consented to
by the subjects, are properly covenants between the parties.
- 3. Another important distinction which should be made in regard to covenants
- (1) Where persons covenant to do what they were under previous obligation to
do on the ground of natural right or justice. This kind of covenant can never be
dissolved by the consent of parties, because they were under obligation to do what
they engaged to do previously to any promise.
- (2) Where parties covenant to do what was not before obligatory, but the whole
obligation arises out of their mutual promise. This kind of covenant may be dissolved
by the consent of all parties. In regard to those laws and institutions which require
only what is obligatory on the principles of natural justice, they cannot be repealed
or set aside by either or by both parties, e.g. the law of God requiring his creatures
to love him with all the heart can never be repealed by him, or its obligation in
any way dispensed with, because it is plainly right in itself, and a dictate of natural
justice. Those laws and institutions which are of a ceremonial character, and are
not in their own nature obligatory, may be set aside at any time, at the will of
the lawgiver. Let it be understood then, that in the sense of diatheke, all laws,
institutions and ordinances are covenants, and imply the mutual consent of the sovereign
and subjects, and mutual obligations devolve upon each. In this sense the laws and
ordinances of God are covenants.
III. I will notice some of the covenants of God with men.
- 1. The Adamic covenant, or the covenant made with Adam. This must have been in
substance the moral law, as epitomized by the Savior in the two great commandments.
The test of this covenant was the refusing the forbidden fruit. If he abstained wholly
from this fruit, it was sufficient evidence that his love to God was supreme, and
that he regarded the authority of God above the indulgence of his constitutional
appetites. But if he partook of this fruit it was conclusive evidence, that his regard
to God was not supreme; but that the indulgence of appetite was with him superior
to the authority of God. That this was properly a covenant and consented to by Adam,
is manifest from the fact, that for a time he obeyed it.
This was strictly and properly a covenant of works, and proposed to save him on
the ground of his perfect and perpetual obedience to God.
- 2. Passing by the covenant with Noah, I notice the covenant made with Abraham,
as recorded in the 12, 15, and 17 chapters of Genesis. This was a covenant of grace
in opposition to the Adamic covenant. It proposed a new way of salvation. Salvation
by works of the law had become impossible, as Adam and all his posterity had disobeyed
the law. God therefore, in the Abrahamic covenant, proposed to save mankind by grace
through faith. The substance of this had been intimated to Adam immediately after
the fall, and was, no doubt, understood and embraced by all the saints from Adam
to Abraham. We find Abel offering a sacrifice in faith, and his sacrifice was typical
of the Atonement of Christ. This covenant, made more fully with Abraham, is said
by the Apostle in Gal. 3:8 to be the gospel: "And the scripture, foreseeing
that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto
Abraham, saying, in thee shall all nations be blessed." That it was a covenant
of grace in opposition to a covenant of works is evident from the passage just quoted,
and from the 16th verse of the same chapter: "Now to Abraham and his seed were
the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds as of many, but as of one, 'And to
thy seed,' which is Christ." Also from Rom. 4:13, 16: "For the promise,
that he should be the heir of the world, was not unto Abraham, or his seed, through
the law, but through the righteousness of faith. Therefore it is of faith, that it
might be of grace; to the end the promise might be sure to the seed; not to that
only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who
is the father of us all." These and many other passages show that this covenant
with Abraham was a gracious, in opposition to a legal, covenant or a covenant of
We have an account of the solemn ratification of this covenant, according to the
custom of those times by dividing beasts and the parties passing between the pieces,
in Gen. 15:8-12, 17: "And he said, Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall
inherit it? And he said unto him, take me an heifer of three years old, and a she-goat
of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.
And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece
one against another; but the birds divided he not. And when the fowls came down upon
the carcasses, Abram drove them away. And when the sun was going down a deep sleep
fell upon Abram; and lo, a horror of great darkness fell upon him. And it came to
pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning
lamp that passed between those pieces." Here the lamp is the symbol of the divine
presence. In the 17th chap. we have an account of the seal's being added to the covenant
to which Abraham fully consented on his part, by circumcising himself and all the
males of his household. This covenant was made with Abraham and with all believers
in the God of Israel whether Jews or Gentiles. If they would receive this covenant
they were to acknowledge his authority by affixing its seal to themselves and all
the males of their household. Thus the proselytes to the Jew's religion, before they
were allowed to eat of the Passover, were required to be circumcised with all their
males. Ex. 12:48, 49: "And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will
keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him
come near and keep it; and he shall be as one born in the land: for no uncircumcised
person shall eat thereof. One law shall be to him that is home born, and to the stranger
who sojourneth among you."
- 3. The Sinai covenant, or the law given at Mount Sinai. It appears that all the
laws and ordinances given at Mount Sinai taken together, made up this covenant. In
the following passages the Ten Commandments are called the covenant. Heb. 9:4: "Which
had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold,
wherein was the golden pot that had manna and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables
of the covenant--"; Ex. 34:28, "And he was there with the Lord forty days
and forty nights; he did neither eat bread nor drink water. And he wrote upon the
tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments." Deut. 9:9, 11, 15:
"When I was gone up into the mount, to receive the tables of stone, even the
tables of the covenant which the Lord made with you, then I neither did eat bread
nor drink water. And it came to pass at the end of forty days and forty nights, that
the Lord gave me the two tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant. So I turned
and came down from the mount, and the mount burned with fire; and the two tables
of the covenant were in my hands."
These commandments however were only a part of the covenant as other passages
clearly show, Heb. 9:18-20 compared with Ex. 24:3-8.
"Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when
Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the
blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled
both the book, and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the testament which
God hath enjoined upon you." "And Moses came and told the people all the
words of the Lord, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice,
and said, All the words which the Lord hath said will we do. And Moses wrote all
the words of the Lord, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under
the hill, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent
young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed
peace-offerings of oxen unto the Lord. And Moses took half of the blood, and put
it in basins; and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book
of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people; and they said, All that
the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled
it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath
made with you concerning all these words." In these passages we learn that every
precept of the law was included in the Sinai covenant. In the passage quoted above
from Ex. we have a solemn ratification of this covenant, which is mentioned also
in the passage quoted from Hebrews. As these are no where called two covenants, and
as the law upon the two tables had already been given and was so important in its
nature, and is so often itself called the covenant, I conclude that all the laws
given at Mt. Sinai were included in this covenant. Upon this covenant I remark:
- (1) That it did not set aside the Abrahamic covenant, and introduce again the
covenant of works. This is asserted and fully argued by Paul in Gal. 3:17-19: "And
this I say, That the covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law,
which was four hundred years after, cannot disannul, that it should become of none
effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave
it to Abraham by promise. Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of
transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was
ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator." Some have understood the Sinai
covenant as united with the covenant of Abraham in such a sense as to make the whole
a covenant of works. Now there can be no greater mistake than this, as is evident
from the whole drift of the Apostle's reasoning in the 4th chapter of Romans and
the 3d chapter of Galatians.
- (2) This covenant or dispensation was a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ instead
of being a covenant of works: Gal. 3:24, "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster
to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith." The moral precepts
were to convict us of sin, and cut us off from self-righteous efforts and expectations;
and the whole system of sacrifices and types were a shadow of the gospel, or a typical
representation of good things to come, i.e. of the great blessings of the gospel
of Christ. All those who were saved under this dispensation were saved by faith in
the atonement of Christ, as dimly shadowed forth in this typical dispensation. That
all the ancient patriarchs were saved by faith is perfectly certain from the whole
Bible, and is particularly declared in the 11th chapter of Hebrews.
- (3) This covenant became a stumbling block to the Jews by being mistaken by the
great mass of them for a covenant of works. They were so earthly and sensual as to
overlook the spiritual truth taught by those ordinances, and to understand conformity
to them to entitle them to salvation on the ground of their own works.
- (4) Thus failing to secure the sanctification, and consequently the salvation
of the people, God foretold, and published at various times, and expressly by Jeremiah,
that at a certain future time he would make a New Covenant with the house of Israel
and Judah, i.e. with the whole Church of God. Which brings me to remark:
- 4. That the New Covenant mentioned in Jeremiah was according to the words and
tenor of it to consist in writing the moral law in the hearts of his people. By the
moral law I mean the moral precepts, as comprised and summed up by our Savior in
the two great precepts on which, he affirms, hang all the law and the prophets. Jer.
31:31-34: "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant
that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring
them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake although I was an husband
unto them, saith the Lord: but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the
house of Israel; after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws in their inward
parts, and write them in their hearts; and will be their God and they shall be my
people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother,
saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me from the least of them to the greatest
of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their
sins no more." On this I remark:
- (1) This covenant implied,
- (a) so full a revelation of God,
- (b) so much of the Holy Spirit
- (c) such an efficacious dispensation, as to beget true holiness of heart in the
people of God. The substance of this promise of the New Covenant is to be found in
a great many places in the Old Testament, and from the quotation of it by the Apostle
in his epistle to the Hebrews, we learn when this promise of the New Covenant became
due--and that the New Covenant dispensation was actually introduced by the first
publishers of the Gospel. To my mind, it seems plain, that the day of Pentecost was
regarded by Christ and the Apostles as the commencement of the new dispensation.
Christ seems to intimate to His disciples that that was the occasion on which the
promise of His Father, so often repeated, and which they had heard of him should
- (2) This writing the law in the heart, is called a covenant, because it implies,
in the fullest manner, the consent of him who enters into this covenant with God.
As the writing this law in the heart consists in begetting the spirit and temper
required by the law, it implies of course the fullest consent on the part of him
who receives it.
- (3) I have said the promise of this covenant became due at the day of Pentecost.
The extent to which it has been fulfilled, and will be fulfilled, has depended, and
will continue to depend upon the extent to which it is understood, believed, and
embraced by the Church. From the nature of the case, it is a covenant to be made
with individuals. No one can receive it but by faith. And as the promise is now due,
it is the privilege and duty of every soul to lay hold on full salvation.
IV. I am to show which of the covenants are set aside, and in what sense.
- 1. The Adamic, or covenant of works, is set aside as a method or condition of
salvation. As a rule of duty it is not and cannot be set aside. The particular test
of the forbidden fruit given to Adam is of course nothing to us. But the substance
of the covenant, the requisition, i.e. perfect love to God and men, is not and cannot
be set aside, because it is a covenant of that kind where the thing to be performed
is right in itself, and obligatory on the ground of natural justice.
- 2. The Abrahamic covenant is not done away. I waive the question in respect to
that part of it that promised the temporal blessing or the land of Canaan to the
Jews, and speak of infinitely the most important part of the covenant, which promised
a spiritual blessing through Abraham and his seed to all the nations of the earth,
and of which particular blessing or rest, temporal Canaan was only a type. That this
part of the covenant is not abolished is evident.
- (1) From the reasonings of the Apostle in the fourth chapter of Romans, and third
chapter of Galatians. He shows most fully that the promise made to Abraham is yet
to be fulfilled both to Jews and Gentiles. And there are a great many other passages
that teach the same truth.
- (2) Because it is not yet fulfilled. It was actually made through Abraham and
his seed, i.e. Christ, with all the nations of the earth. And from the very nature
of it, it cannot be fulfilled until the end of time. In my last lecture I said it
was never fulfilled in its fullest sense to Abraham, but is to be fulfilled in a
fuller sense to Christians under the present dispensation.
- (3) Because the New Covenant spoken of in Jer. is only the carrying out and fulfillment
of the covenant made with Abraham, as the Apostle asserts in Gal. 3:14: "That
the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we
might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."
- 3. The covenant of Sinai is in one sense abolished; in another sense it still
remains. It should be understood, that the covenant of Sinai was a collection of
statutes and ordinances, making up as a whole the means of salvation by grace through
faith. As the Apostle says in Heb. 10:1: "For the law having a shadow of good
things to come," &c. From this and other passages, as well as from the nature
of the case, it is manifest, that the old or Sinai covenant is to be regarded as
a peculiar method of teaching the substantial truths of the gospel--a still further
and more perfect foretelling of the gospel than had been made to Abraham.
Now this covenant as a dispensation--as a method of teaching the gospel--as the
means of sanctification and salvation, is set aside to give place to the reality
or antitype--the fuller and more perfect revelation by Jesus Christ and his Apostles,
of which truth, the typical dispensation was only a shadow.
But the moral precepts of this covenant, i.e. those precepts that require what is
right in itself, and are obligatory in the nature of things, remain still as a rule
of duty in full force. This must be, of course, as the precepts are of the nature
of that kind of covenants that cannot be abolished at the pleasure of either or both
parties. Nothing is of more importance, than that we should clearly understand in
what sense the Old Covenant is done away, and in what sense it is not done away.
Those precepts that are typical and ceremonial are now of course not to be observed
at all, as the revelation of Jesus Christ, and the coming of the great Antitype has
rendered their observance useless and worse than useless. But that the whole substance
of the moral precepts, and those that are obligatory on the ground of natural justice,
are still binding and of full force and authority, is manifest.
- (1) From the nature of the case. It is impossible that these should cease to
be binding, for God has no right to dispense with their obligation. These precepts
whether found among the Ten Commandments or among the precepts recorded by Moses,
are of perpetual obligation, because they belong to the race and are obligatory in
the nature of things. Their obligation grows out of, and rests upon the unalterable
nature and relations of moral beings. Were this the place, it would be easy to take
up these commands, one by one, and show that they have their foundation in the nature
and necessities of man and can never be dispensed with, while the world stands. Especially
should I like to show this in respect to the two commands respecting the Sabbath
and marriage. I mention these two merely because some have doubted whether these
were of perpetual obligation. But to me it seems that this subject may be made as
clear as sunlight, that these together with all the other commands of the Decalogue,
and some other precepts of the Old Covenant are of perpetual obligation, e.g. such
as this, "Thou shalt not deliver unto his master him that is escaped from his
master unto thee," &c. I must not however enter into this subject in this
place, but content myself with saying,
- (2) That the Bible and especially the New Testament every where recognizes all
the moral precepts, as of perpetual obligation. Hear what the Apostle says in Rom.
13:9: "For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt
not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there
be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou
shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Here he recognizes the eternal obligation
of the moral precepts. This together with the whole of the New Testament, proves
conclusively that the moral precepts are as a rule of duty by no means done away,
but the strictest obedience to them is every where insisted upon.
- (3) If they were repealed, neither sin nor holiness could exist at all. Without
a rule of duty, no obedience can of course exist. Consequently if the moral law is
abolished, there is no sin or holiness in the universe.
V. The New Covenant is the accomplishment of what was proposed by the preceding
The thing proposed by the preceding covenants was the sanctification and salvation
of man. Now that the New Covenant consists in the accomplishment of this end is evident
from the words of the covenant itself. Jer. 31:31-34: "Behold, the days come,
saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with
the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers,
in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; (which
my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord;) But
this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those
days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their
hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach
no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord:
for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith
the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
The thing here promised is sanctification or the writing of the law in the heart.
If therefore obedience to law be sanctification, then this is the blessing proposed
in this promise of the New Covenant. So far then from the moral law being done away,
the New Covenant is nothing else than real obedience to the law. This exactly accords
with what the Apostle says in Rom. 8:3-4: "For what the law could not do, in
that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful
flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law
might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
1. The two covenants contrasted by the Apostle, in his epistle to the Hebrews, as
the Old and New Covenants,--the first and second covenants, &c., are the Sinai
covenant and the one promised in Jer. The Apostle does not here allude to the covenant
with Adam or with Abraham. By reading the covenant it will be evident that the covenants
contrasted are the Sinai covenant or that which was made with the people when God
led them out of the land of Egypt, and the covenant in Jer. 31:31-34, "Behold,
the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of
Israel, and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with
their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land
of Egypt; (which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith
the Lord;) But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel;
After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write
it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they
shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know
the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of
them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their
sin no more." Heb. 8:7-13; "For if that first covenant had been faultless,
then should no place have been sought for the second. For, finding fault with them,
he saith, Behold the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with
the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that
I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out
of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them
not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of
Israel after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their mind, and
write them in their hearts, and I will be to them a God, and they shall be my people:
and they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying,
Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will
be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I
remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now
that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away."
In Heb. 9: 18-20 above quoted, he speaks expressly of this covenant, and so refers
to the Old Testament, as to render it certain that it was the law given at Sinai,
and not the covenant of Abraham of which he was speaking.
2. The New Covenant and the Abrahamic covenant sustain to each other the relation
of a promise to its fulfillment. As I said in my last, and have repeated in this
lecture, the New Covenant is nothing more or less than the carrying out and fulfilling
the covenant made with Abraham.
3. In the light of this subject,the mistake into which those have fallen who maintain
that the Abrahamic covenant is repealed may be seen. They confound the Abrahamic
with the Sinai covenant, and suppose that the new dispensation abolishes both together.
This appears to me to be a sad mistake.
4. From this subject may be seen the error of some of the modern Perfectionists who
seem to suppose that the old dispensation, or Sinai covenant, was a covenant of works.
They do not seem to understand that it was only a method of carrying out and accomplishing
the promises of grace first intimated to Adam immediately after the fall and more
fully afterwards confirmed to Abraham. This, as a system of means for the sanctification
and salvation of men, has been set aside to give place to a fuller revelation and
to the dispensation of the Holy Ghost under the Gospel, retaining at the same time
in all its strength, as a rule of duty, the obligation of all the moral precepts.
The persons to whom I allude have manifestly mistaken the sense in which the Old
Covenant is done away, and understood even the moral precepts to be so abrogated
as to be no longer binding. And they seem to be very happy in the idea of being wholly
discharged from the obligation of the moral law. Before them the door of licentiousness
is fully open, and imagining themselves, as some of them do, to be led by the Spirit
to trample upon the great commands of the Decalogue, they most richly deserve and
are likely to receive the execration of God and man.
5. The gospel dispensation is not itself the New Covenant, but simply the means of
it. The New Covenant, as I have fully shown in my past lectures, consists in the
writing of the law in the heart. This is done by the Spirit through the instrumentality
of the gospel.
The design of this lecture is merely to guard against the impression that the moral
law only is to be regarded as the Old Covenant, as in quoting passages in my former
lectures, to show what the Old Covenant was, I confined myself, if I mistake not,
to those that spoke of the Ten Commandments as constituting that covenant, without
particularly noticing the other parts of the covenant. This I did because my main
design in those lectures was to dwell upon that part of the Old Covenant which was
to be written by the New Covenant in the heart.
Nothing is more important than that the Church should have just and comprehensive
views of the covenant dealings of God with his people. It cannot be too distinctly
understood that the Adamic covenant, or covenant of works, is still binding as a
rule of duty, but is not the condition of salvation. Also that all the covenants
of God with the Church have had for their grand object the bringing of man into a
state of complete conformity to the law, under which man was originally placed, and
under which he must be placed to all eternity.
With respect to this New Covenant, I remark in a word--that the promise of it has
been due for more than eighteen hundred years, and I would solemnly ask, shall it
lie in your Bibles till they rot and your souls sink down to hell before you lay
hold on the salvation from sin which it promises?
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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