What Saith the Scripture?

A Willing Mind Indispensable to a
Right Understanding of Truth

by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College

from "The Oberlin Evangelist" Publication of Oberlin College
Lecture XIII
July 1
, 1840

Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart

Text.--John 7:17: "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself."

In discoursing upon this subject I shall show:

I. That God's promises, with their conditions, are a revelation of the great principles of His government.

II. What is implied in a willingness to do the will of God.

III. That this state of mind is indispensable to a right understanding of the truth of God.

IV. That this state of mind will certainly result in a right knowledge of the truth, unless you tempt God by neglecting the means of knowledge.

I. God's promises, with their conditions, are a revelation of the great principles of His government.

God is unchangeable. What He does, or promises, or says at one time, He would do, or promise, or say, the circumstances being the same, at all times. Every thing that he does and says, is but a revelation of his character. He knows nothing of favoritism. His regards are always founded in the reason, and nature, and relations of things. He regards all beings and events according to their true nature, character, and relations. His providence, his threatenings, his law, gospel, and promises, only reveal so many great, unchangeable principles of his government. And as He never changes, as there is in Him "no variableness nor shadow of turning," we may rest with the utmost confidence in the fact, that both a promise and its condition, that all the promises with their conditions, are founded in, and are a revelation of the unalterable principles of His government; both the promise and the condition being founded in the nature and relations of things. And that He always holds Himself pledged to fulfill the same promises, under the same or similar circumstances, and upon the same conditions. These are irresistible inferences from his unchangeableness.

II. What is implied in a willingness to do His will.

III. This state of mind is indispensable to a right understanding of the truth of God.

IV. This state of mind will certainly result in a right knowledge of the truth, unless you tempt God by rejecting the means of knowledge.

Again, being less honest, industrious and persevering than we ought to be, in search of truth, is tempting God, and may be expected to result in our remaining in ignorance.

Again, restraining prayer on the subject of divine teaching is tempting God. He has expressly said to us, "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him." "Open your mouth wide and I will fill it." "Call unto me and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not." The conditions upon which we are to be taught the will of God are expressly laid down in Prov. 2:1-9: "My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; so that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord giveth wisdom; out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous; He is a buckler to them that walk uprightly; He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path." Here the conditions are:

Upon these conditions, it is added, "thou shalt understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God." To neglect any of these means, therefore, and then expect "to know the doctrine whether it be of God," is to tempt your Maker. But,


1. The opinions of a sensualist, or one under the dominion of his appetites and propensities are not to be trusted. He is uncandid and unwilling to know the truth in relation to the self-denying gospel of Jesus Christ.

2. His opinions on the subject of temperance and the true principles of physiological reform, are not to be trusted for the same reason.

3. The opinions of a speculator or worldly minded man are not at all worthy of credit in respect to the application of the law of God to the business transactions of this world. Upon this subject he is not, and remaining a speculator, cannot be in a candid state of mind.

4. Very few persons have so renounced themselves as to be willing to know the whole truth, in regard to all branches of reform.

5. Very few have so renounced their appetites as to be willing to know and do the truth upon the subject of dietetic reform.

6. Very few have so renounced self-interest as to be willing to know and do the truth upon the subject of sanctification.

7. He who has renounced himself will search for light, and hail and embrace it with great joy upon every subject. He will find his soul panting after it with unutterable longings.

8. He who is willing to do the will of God, will keep hard upon the heels of truth, and practice as fast as he can learn. Truth upon any subject is his law. He no sooner sees than he obeys. His practice and his theory are at one.

9. Many mistake the absence of felt resistance for a willingness to do the will of God.

10. There must be a felt willingness, a longing of soul to know the whole truth. Else there is no proper willingness to do the will of God.

11. We need not expect, as I have already intimated, that God will teach us all the truth at once. When Solomon prayed for wisdom and God informed him that He had given him his desire, it is not to be supposed that he felt at the time as if he had a great enlargement of wisdom. But this wisdom was imparted as he had occasion for it. Soon after his request and the assurance of God that his prayer was granted, the two women came to him with their controversy about the child, at which time wisdom equal to the decision of the question was imparted by God in accordance with His promise. So in our own case. We are to rest and feel assured that when we have occasion for knowledge by a faithful application to Him, in the diligent use of means, we shall surely be instructed.

12. From this subject it is easy to see that the cavils of infidels against the Christian religion are of no weight. If they were really pious and holy men and gave evidence of being willing to know and do the will of God, they would know of the doctrine whether it be of God.

13. The same remark is applicable to Universalists. What confidence can be placed in their assertions in respect to the gospel of Christ? Who does not know that as a body, they are ungodly and unholy men?

14. God often teaches us in ways that greatly agonize and astonish us at the time.

15. When we pray for divine teaching, we should be entirely reconciled to let God teach us in his own way, cost us what it may. Else we tempt the Spirit of the Lord.

And now, beloved, are you in a candid state of mind and are you willing to know and do the whole will of God in respect to your whole being? Are you willing to know and do your whole duty, and the whole truth, cost what it may, on all the great subjects of reform that are before the public? Are you anxious to look through, to understand, to know and do the whole truth on the subject of entire sanctification, abolition, temperance, moral reform? A man is very ill informed who does not see, that as certainly as we are made up of body and soul, physiological and dietetic reform are indispensable to permanent moral reform.

If a man is in an uncandid state of mind on any one subject, he will not know and thoroughly do his duty on any subject. He is in a state of mind that forbids the reasonable expectation that he will. Beware then dearly beloved, I beseech you of committing yourself on the wrong side of any question. I have greatly feared and I may truly say that I have been troubled lest multitudes should do on the subject of entire sanctification, what others have done on subjects of the temperance and moral reform--so commit themselves against the truth as never to know of the doctrine whether it be of God.

And now let me, as I have often done, ask you to go down upon your knees and lay your whole heart open before the Lord. Beseech Him to search you and try your reins and your heart, and see whether you are wholly willing to conform your entire being to the will of God--to do, to say, to be nothing more or less than is for His glory. May the Lord give us grace to know and do His whole will.

of easily misunderstood terms as defined by Mr. Finney himself.
Compiled by Katie Stewart

  1. 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 XII).

  2. 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).

  3. 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).

  4. 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).

  5. 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).

  6. 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).

  7. 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).

  8. Human Reason: "the intuitive faculty or function of the intellect... it is the faculty that intuits moral relations and affirms moral obligation to act in conformity with perceived moral relations." Systematic Theology (LECTURE III).

  9. 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).

  10. 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).

  11. 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).

Next "Oberlin Evangelist"

What's New

Homepage Holy Bible .Jehovah Jesus Timeline .Prophecy Philadelphia Fellowship Promises Stories Poetry Links
Purpose ||.What's New || Tribulation Topics || Download Page || Today's Entry
Topical Links: Salvation || Catholicism || Sound Doctrine || Prayer
Privacy Policy