What Saith the Scripture?
A Single and an Evil Eye
by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College
Oberlin Evangelist" Publication of Oberlin College
December 2, 1840
Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
Text.--Matt. 6:22, 23: "The light of
the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full
of light; but if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If
therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness."
In this discussion I will show:
I. What is implied in singleness of eye.
II. What is implied in an evil eye.
III. That singleness of eye will insure a knowledge of truth and duty.
IV. An evil eye will insure darkness and delusion, both in regard to doctrine and
I. What is implied in a singleness of eye.
This language is of course figurative. By a single and an evil eye, we are to understand
the Savior as representing a state of mind. "The light of the body," He
says, "is the eye: If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be
full of light." It is a matter of common knowledge, that the eye sometimes becomes
so disordered as to discover objects double, and in a manner so obscure or fallacious,
as naturally to deceive and mislead the person who possesses it. By a single eye,
then, is meant, an eye in its perfect state, when it sees objects as they are, with
such distinctness as to give the mind correct information with respect to the objects
When this figure is applied to the mind, it must represent the supreme and ultimate
intention of the mind. When the ultimate end or intention of the mind is single,
and just as it ought to be, the eye of the mind may then be said to be single. For
the mind has its eye upon but one great absorbing object. This state of mind implies:
- 1. Supreme love to God. Of course, if the mind has but one great absorbing object
or end in view, and that end is right, the end must be supremely to honor, please,
and glorify God. This certainly implies supreme love to God.
- 2. It implies disinterested love to Him. Unless this love be disinterested; that
is, unless God is loved for what He is, for his own sake, and not for the sake of
making ourselves happy; to honor Him is not a supreme or ultimate end; but our own
happiness is the end, and the love and service of God merely a means for the promotion
of that end.
- 3. It implies a state of entire consecration. That Christ intended to be understood,
by a single eye, to mean a state of entire consecration to God, is evident from what
follows the text. He says-- "No man can serve two masters: for either he will
hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the
other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon." It is very plain, that the mind's eye
is not right, unless the soul is supremely and only devoted to the love and service
of God. Nothing less than a state of entire consecration to God can be intended by
a single eye.
II. What is intended by an evil eye.
An evil eye is that which has more than one object before it, or sees objects double.
When this figure is applied to the mind it means, that state of mind in which objects
are seen through a selfish medium, or when the mind has two objects in view, a legal
intention to serve God, but an ultimate intention to serve self. By a legal intention
to serve God I mean, not that intention which is founded in supreme, disinterested
love to God, which aims at honoring and glorifying Him, as an ultimate end; but an
intention to serve God as the means of our own happiness, the ultimate intention
being self-interest, and the intention to serve God, being a subordinate end.
III. Singleness of eye will insure a knowledge of truth and duty.
- 1. This is plainly taught in the test: "If thine eye be single, thy whole
body shall be full of light." Light means knowledge, truth. Now when Christ
says, if your eye be single your whole body shall be full of light, what less can
He mean than that the soul that has a single eye, shall be rightly instructed in
all that is essential for it to know.
- 2. This will be the natural result of singleness of eye:
- (1.) Because it will beget honest inquiry.
- (2.) It will beget earnest, diligent inquiry
- (3.) It will secure the right and the best use of the necessary means of knowledge.
- (4.) It will beget unfailing perseverance in the acquisition of knowledge.
- (5.) The state of the will, will not prevent the perception of truth and evidence.
- (6.) But the state of the will, will be such as to favor the perception, and
insure the reception of evidence, when it is within its reach.
- (7.) In this state of mind, the Spirit will not be resisted and quenched; but
on the contrary, his influences will be sought and devoutly cherished.
- (8.) His instructions will be obeyed, his slightest motions heeded, and the whole
soul will be delivered up to his guidance.
- (9.) Being in the same state of mind in which God, and Christ, and the inspired
writers were, he will naturally understand them. If you have the same end in view,
deeply sympathize with God, and are in the same state of mind in which He is, the
language in which He expresses his own state of mind, will be to you the most intelligible
language possible. Who does not know that persons possessing the same spirit, not
only adopt the same or similar language, to express their ideas and feelings, but
naturally understand each other's language perfectly? To each other they are perfectly
intelligible, while to those in a different state of mind, they are unintelligible,
in precise proportion to the diversity of their states of mind. Hence, the Bible
is a very unintelligible and uninteresting book to an impenitent sinner. To a Christian
of but little experience, who has but little religion, the Bible is in a great measure
unintelligible, and he takes comparatively little interest in it; while to the Christian
who lives in a state of entire consecration to God, it is not only one of the most
intelligible, but altogether the most interesting book in the universe.
- (10.) In this state of mind your experiences will be such as to make the teachings
of the Bible, and especially the most spiritual portions of the Bible, plain to you.
Whenever you are addressed upon a subject upon which you have experience, and in
a manner and language that accords with your experience, you understand the speaker
or writer with great ease and perfection; but in just as far as he departs from your
experience, he is unintelligible to you, in the same manner and for the same reason,
as if he spake to you in an unknown tongue. Because, you do not understand language,
any farther than it accords with your experience. Words are only signs of ideas;
and suppose words are used which are signs of ideas that are not in your mind, you
do not get, and cannot possibly get any information from such teaching as this. For
to you it is no teaching at all.
- (11.) This state of mind will insure great communion and great power with God.
The soul that lives in a state of entire consecration to God, can come to Him with
as much confidence, and with indescribably more assurance than ever a child came
to an earthly parent. This, if you have ever been in this state, you know from your
own experience. When you live all the time in a state of such deep communion with
God, you feel the strong confidence and assurance, that you know how He feels, by
your own experience. Thus you know how Christ feels, from what motives and feelings
He gave his life for sinners; and are conscious, that you are willing yourselves
to make up in your bodies the sufferings that remain, and to lay down your lives
for the world, and for the Church of God. In this state of mind, I say, you will
naturally and certainly have great power with God, and will prevail.
IV. An evil eye will insure darkness and delusion, both in regard to doctrine
- 1. This is expressly taught in the text: "If thine eye be evil, thy whole
body shall be full of darkness." Mark--the whole body shall be full of darkness.
Darkness means error and delusion. Now by such language as this the Savior must have
intended to teach, that a selfish mind would be, and should be, full of error and
delusion, or great questions of doctrine and duty. And by a selfish mind, in this
connection, is intended, one that is not in a state of entire consecration to God;
but is influenced by selfish considerations.
- 2. Darkness and delusion will be the natural and inevitable results of this state
- (1.) Because selfishness will prevent inquiry; especially honest, diligent, and
- (2.) Because the state of the will, will prevent the perception and reception
of evidence. Few persons seem to be aware of the extent of the influence of the will,
over the decisions of the understanding. I have, for many years, been so circumstanced
as to have an opportunity, almost continually, to observe the developments of mind,
in this respect; and have often been astonished to see, to what an extent the will
influences human opinion. Almost every one has observed, that under circumstances
of strong excitement, it is of little or no use to reason with a man, against his
prejudices. I have had repeated opportunities to observe, with pain, that prejudice,
a committed state of mind, and many other considerations, and things, will so influence
the will, as wholly to exclude the light of truth from the understanding. On many
subjects, it seems next to impossible to convince a man, against his will; while,
on the other hand, a man will believe almost any thing which he is disposed to believe.
And the credulity of mankind, on subjects that accord with the state of their will,
and in regard to doctrines and things which they are strongly disposed to believe,
is as surprising as their incredulity upon subjects opposed to their will. It is
amazing to hear infidels and sceptics contend, that human belief is involuntary,
and that men necessarily believe what they do, when the real palpable voluntariness
of human opinion and belief, on almost every subject, is as striking and apparent
to a considerate observer, as almost any fact of human history.
- 3. A man under the influence of an evil eye, or in other words, a selfish heart,
will not practice the truth, and therefore he cannot teach it. There are multitudes
of truths, which can be seen and understood no farther than other truths are first
seen and understood. And multitudes of truths are never understood, any further than
they are experienced. Take, for example, the subject of temperance. Suppose you preach
strictly temperance principles to a man who has always been in the habit of drinking
ardent spirits freely. Now there are certain things which you can make him understand.
If he has been a habitual drunkard, by describing to him the feelings of a drunkard,
he can understand you; because upon this subject he has experience. Words are signs
of ideas; and to him they will mean nothing more, than the idea represented by the
word in his mind. You can therefore make him understand something of the evil of
drunkenness; and yet, if he has always been in habits of intoxication, from his earliest
recollection, you cannot, in any language whatever, so contrast the experience, follies,
and health of a drunkard, with those of a strictly temperate man, as to make him
understand you. He knows not what temperance is. He knows not what health is. He
knows not what that state of mind is, which is the natural result of temperance and
good health. Peradventure, you can fasten conviction upon him, of the great evils
of intemperance, from the fact, that he had experience upon that part of the subject;
and in this way you can get so much light in upon his mind, as to break him off from
his cups. Now in proportion as he becomes a sober man, temperate, and healthy, his
experience will enable you so to contrast temperance with intemperance, as fully
to impress his mind with both sides of the question; and thus lodge in his mind the
full weight of the momentous considerations in favor of temperance. But in all this
process, it is easy to see that he must necessarily begin with the A, B, C of both
the doctrines and the experience of temperance. Break him off from ardent spirits,
and after a time he is better prepared to see and feel the indispensable necessity
of universal temperance. Break him off from every thing that intoxicates, and his
experience will soon enable him to understand the importance and necessity of breaking
off from all innutritious stimulants in diet. When he has abandoned all these, his
experience will, in a little while, enable him to understand the importance of selecting
the most bland unstimulating kinds of food. This experience will naturally prepare
his mind to understand the importance of universal cleanliness and chastity, the
strictest subjection of the appetites and propensities, to the great and universal
law of temperance. And in short, as he goes from step to step in reform, and no farther
than he does so, is he in circumstance, to see, feel, understand, and appreciate
arguments in favor of farther reformation.
Now what is true on the subject of temperance, holds true on nearly every practical
question; and especially is this true on subjects that pertain to personal holiness.
If a man will not practice he cannot learn. Talk to an impenitent sinner of entire
sanctification. Holiness is so entirely opposite to his experience, that he does
not at all understand you. Talk with him about his sins, and his convictions, his
fears, misgivings, and on every subject that is with him a matter of experience,
and so far he will understand you; but talk to him of entire sanctification, and
he gets no idea of what you mean. Therefore, the only possible way to deal with him
is, to begin upon those subjects upon which he has experience, and bring him to see
and to feel, that it is an evil and bitter thing to sin against God. This will lead
him to see, admit, and experience the doctrine of repentance. Now proceed, from step
to step, lead him forward, and as his experience enlarges, his capacity of understanding
about sanctification, its desirableness, its indispensable necessity, will be perceived
and felt by him. But no farther than he practices can he properly learn. When he
stops and refuses to follow truth any farther in practice, right there the clouds
of darkness will shut down, round about him. And it is only as he goes forward, from
step to step, practicing or experiencing one truth after another, as it is presented,
that he can, by any possibility, come to an understanding and knowledge of the truth.
Let it be ever remembered, therefore, that he who will not practice will not learn.
In other words, unless his eye be single, his whole body will be full of darkness.
- 4. Selfishness must render the Bible unintelligible to him who has an evil eye.
To him it is a sealed book. It is uninteresting, enigmatical, self-contradictory,
and any thing and every thing, but interesting and intelligible. The fact is, its
Author and the inspired writers, were in states of mind the direct opposite of selfishness.
To a selfish mind they must, therefore, of necessity, speak in an unknown tongue.
- 5. A selfish mind will not only find the Bible unintelligible, but in a great
many instances, will naturally understand it as meaning the direct opposite of what
it does mean. Nor is the fault at all in the Bible, or in its Author, but arises
necessarily out of a selfish state of mind. For example--when God speaks of being
angry with his enemies, as the sinner has never experienced any thing but a selfish
anger, he naturally understands God's anger to be like his own. And whenever God
speaks of having any state of mind, or doing any thing, sinners naturally interpret
this language by their own experience. And thus it comes to pass, as God says, "Thou
thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself." Interpreting, as they
naturally will, the language of the Bible by their own experience, they ascribe the
same motives, affections, and passions to God, which they, themselves have experienced--not
understanding at all, that all these states of mind in God are truly and infinitely
It is a familiar and a true saying, that men judge others by themselves. To a
truly holy mind, the Bible is not only the most interesting, but the most intelligible
book in the world; while infidels exclaim, that it is blasphemy to ascribe such feelings
and conduct to God; and therefore, that the Bible must be a libel upon his character.
Now for this there can be no remedy, only as they become benevolent. If they will
but begin to do the truth, so far as they can understand it, and practice one truth
after another, until they come into the state of mind, in which the inspired writers
were, they will then understand the Bible, and not till then.
- 6. A man who has an evil eye, will not have the Spirit of God to enlighten his
mind in regard to truth, and will, therefore, never understand it.
1. A selfish minister is a blind leader of the blind. This is the mildest language
that truth or inspiration can use, in regard to an ambitious, a temporizing, a man-fearing,
and, in short, a selfish minister. His eye is evil. His whole body, as Christ is
true, or in other words, his whole mind, is full of darkness on spiritual subjects.
2. Such a minister will certainly, in many things, mislead his flock. He sees no
truth spiritually, and therefore cannot safely be trusted as a spiritual guide. Nay,
to trust him is ruin and death.
3. Selfish minds are very willing to be led, by selfish ministers, as they naturally
see eye to eye. Having similar experiences, they will naturally understand each other.
And a carnal church will naturally be pleased with a carnal minister. And a carnal
minister will not see the defects of a carnal church. And thus they will be able
to walk together, because they are agreed.
4. The doctrine of the text implies to the preparation and delivery of sermons. If
a minister's eye is single he will naturally select those subjects of discourse that
are suited to the state of his people. He will naturally discuss them in a way, and
deliver them in a manner, that will be edifying to the people; simply because that
is the object at which he aims. Having his eye single to the holiness of the Church,
and the glory of God, it will be perfectly natural for him, in the preparation and
delivery of sermons, to do every thing in a manner that will tend to edify and sanctify
the people. But if, on the contrary, his object be to secure his salary, play the
orator, or promote any selfish interest whatever, he will naturally, and of course,
select subjects, prepare, and deliver them, in a manner suited to the end he has
in view. If his eye be single, his whole mind will be full of light, in regard to
the manner of doing his work. If his eye be evil, his whole mind will be full of
darkness, and he will do any thing else, rather than edify and sanctify his people.
5. This doctrine applies to the decision of every question of duty. In selecting
fields of labor, courses of life, a companion for life, or any other question of
interest and duty, if the eye is single, the whole mind will be full of light. Those
considerations only will be taken into the account, and suffered to have weight,
that ought to influence the decision of the question. On the other hand, if the eye
be evil, the whole body will be full of darkness; and the decision of the question
will certainly turn upon considerations that ought to have no influence in deciding
6. If you are not conscious of a single eye, you cannot safely go forward in any
thing. If you have already made up your mind upon a question of doctrine or duty,
and have not made it up under the influence of a single eye, you may be, and probably
are, in some important respects, entirely wrong. If in selecting a course of life,
a field of labor, a kind of business, a location; if you have made a bargain, or
done any thing else, with a selfish intention, or under the influence of an evil
eye; as certain as Christ is true, your whole body was full of darkness. The whole
must be reviewed.
Perhaps it may be objected to this, that many individuals are very much enlightened,
and hold true opinions, and are very orthodox, who are yet under the influence of
selfishness. To this I answer both from my own experience and the word of God--that
they hold the truth only in words. They know not what they say, nor whereof they
affirm. They are deceived, and you who make the objection are deceived in respect
to them, if you think they know the truth.
7. From this subject, it is easy to see why the Church and the ministry are so divided
in their opinions. It is because they are so sectarian and selfish in their spirit.
It is selfishness, and nothing but selfishness, that divides the Church. When the
Church shall come to have a single eye, her watchmen and her members will then see
eye to eye; because her body will then be full of light.
8. From this subject you can see the only true way of promoting real Christian Union.
It is in vain to talk of destroying sectarianism by destroying creeds. Creeds may
perpetuate, but they are not the cause of sectarianism. Selfishness, and nothing
but selfishness is its cause. Let universal love and a single eye prevail, and sectarianism
is no more. Destroy a sectarian spirit, let it be supplanted by love, and Christians
would then be in a state of mind to examine their differences of opinion with candor--to
come to such mutual explanations, and so honestly and thoroughly to weigh each others
opinions and arguments, as to almost entirely coincide in opinion. But should there
still be discrepancy of views, in relation to any points, it would be as far as possible
from their thoughts, to withdraw from communion with each other, and to divide into
sects and separate departments.
9. From this subject it is easy to see, why ministers feel as if they could not preach--feel
as if they had nothing to say--are at a loss to know what to preach--no subject has
any such interest as to enable them to preach upon it. When they have fallen into
a selfish state of mind their whole body is full of darkness.
10. How infinitely important it is, that this truth should be continually remembered,
that an evil eye, or selfish intention, invariably and necessarily brings the mind
into great darkness. How many there are, even in the Christian Church, to whom the
Bible is a sealed book, who are in great darkness in respect to truth, doctrine,
and duty; whose minds resemble an ocean of darkness.
11. How many there are, who have great confidence in their own opinions, who are
ready to hazard their souls upon the truth of them, who have made up their minds
on the most important and solemn subjects, while under the influence of selfishness--have
entered the Christian Church--are hugging their delusions--are following the guidance
and instruction of those who are perhaps as much under the dominion of an evil eye,
as they are themselves, and whose mind is as full of darkness as their own. And thus
they go on, unsuspectingly, while Christ assures them in the most solemn manner,
that if their eye is evil, their whole body is full of darkness. Still they believe
it not. They have the highest confidence in their own opinions, and in the safety
of their state; and thus rush on, with a kind of mad assurance, to the depths of
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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