What Saith the Scripture?
Blessedness of Benevolence
by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College
Oberlin Evangelist" Publication of Oberlin College
June 3, 1840
Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
Text.--Acts 20:35: "It is more blessed
to give than to receive."
On what occasion our Lord Jesus Christ uttered these words
we are not informed, as they are not recorded by the Evangelists. But we have the
authority of an inspired Apostle, that He taught this doctrine. In considering
this subject I will state:
I. What constitutes true religion.
II. Some of the elements that enter into the happiness of the true Christian.
III. Notice several forms of delusion under which multitudes are laboring.
I. What constitutes true religion.
The whole of religion may be comprehended in the simple term, benevolence, or love.
This love must be supreme in degree towards God, and equal to men. It must also be
disinterested; i.e. God must be loved for what He is, and our neighbor's happiness
must be chosen and sought for its own sake, and not from any interested motive. But
I must enter still more particularly into what is implied in benevolence, or that
love which constitutes religion.
- 1. It implies a spirit of justice.
- 2. Of mercy.
- 3. Of truth.
- 4. Of complacency in goodness.
- 5. Of opposition to sin, and sinners as such.
These are only some of the modifications of benevolence, as it is developed by
circumstances calling for these particular expressions of it. But,
- 6. Benevolence implies a desire to promote the happiness of all beings. Benevolence
is good will, or a desire to promote the happiness of its object. In a still more
extended sense, it is the love of being in general, and a desire to promote happiness
for its own sake. It regards the happiness of every being capable of happiness, as
a real substantial good in itself, and desires his happiness most who has the greatest
capacity for happiness.
- 7. It implies a desire to promote the happiness of enemies as well as friends.
True benevolence does not distinguish in this respect between enemies and friends,
but regards the happiness of all as a real good. Happiness is its object, and whether
this can be promoted in an enemy or a friend, it matters not.
- 8. It not only implies a desire, but the choice of the happiness of all beings,
so far as it can be consistently promoted. It is very common for persons to desire
things which, upon the whole, they do not choose, the desires or emotions often being
in opposition to the will. It should be understood that benevolence is good willing
and not merely good desiring. Man's desires do not influence his outward conduct
any farther than he wills in accordance with his desire. Good willing always produces
good acting, because the will always governs the external conduct; but there may
be much desire that never begets corresponding action.
- 9. The benevolence that constitutes true religion is a disposition of the mind,
in distinction from those accidental choices that are sometimes made under the pressure
of peculiar circumstances, which after all, by no means, constitute the character
of a man. A miser may be so wrought upon, and his constitutional susceptibilities
so excited by the presence of some object of great distress, as for the moment to
open his hand to give relief, and perhaps in five minutes call himself a thousand
fools for having done so. No one therefore would say that this was true benevolence.
It implies no radical change in his character. It is only the wringing from his selfish
hand, by the force of circumstances, acting on his constitutional susceptibilities,
what it was not in his heart to give, and that which would not have been given, but
as a relief to his own agony at the time. Now it should be understood that the benevolence
which constitutes true religion is a continually abiding disposition of the mind.
I mean by disposition, what is commonly meant by it, the controlling propensity of
a man's mind. We speak of a man as having an avaricious disposition, a worldly, jealous,
or envious disposition. We call this a disposition, because we observe it to be the
permanent bent or tendency of the mind. The avaricious man manifests his disposition
in all his worldly arrangements. It is seen to be the great tendency and effort of
his mind to gain worldly possessions. The envious man is seen to be instituting comparisons
between himself and others, and naturally and always to manifest an ill temper towards
those whom he considers as competitors or superiors. Now a benevolent man is seen
to have a benevolent disposition. That is his manifest character. The happiness of
being is the great object of pursuit with him. He lays his plans of doing good, and
of carrying out and gratifying his leading disposition, just as naturally and certainly
as an avaricious man would. But while the avaricious man lays his plans to get and
hoard up, the benevolent man lays his plans to diffuse abroad. All other men are
aiming, under some form, to promote self-interest, to promote their own happiness
by direct efforts. But the benevolent man seeks not his own happiness, but finds
it in endeavoring to make others happy. His own happiness is not the object of pursuit.
And yet he is the most certain to find it in proportion as he has the less regard
to it. To illustrate this: Suppose that two men are accosted by a miserable beggar
in circumstances of the utmost necessity. One of them is a selfish and the other
a benevolent man. They are both exercised however with a degree of compassion and
both give of their means to the object of distress. It is easy to see, that he is
the most happy in giving who is the most disinterested, and who has the least regard
to his own happiness in the case, because the relief to him is the greatest gratification.
If real piety and true benevolence were the sole motives that induced the benevolent
man to give, the relief of the beggar would beget in him unmingled satisfaction,
while at the same time, the one who was less benevolent would feel less intent on
relieving his necessities, and of course less gratified and less happy by witnessing
It should be understood then, and always borne in mind, that Christian benevolence
is a controlling disposition, or propensity of mind, and develops itself just as
any other disposition manifests itself, by the daily walk of its possessor.
II. What constitutes true Christian happiness.
- 1. It consists in the exercise of benevolence itself. The human mind is so constructed
by its Author, that the exercise of benevolence in itself, is exceedingly sweet and
grateful to the mind. It has an excellent relish and sweetness that enters into the
very substance of the exercise. There is a conscious happiness diffused through the
mind, that seems to be woven into the very texture of benevolence itself. This is
to the benevolent mind like the perennial fountain, pouring forth continually the
sweet and refreshing waters of life.
- 2. Another element of Christian happiness is, that which consists in the gratification
of the benevolent disposition. I have already said, there is a sweet satisfaction
in the exercise itself. But still, the exercise is one thing, and its gratification
another. The gratification is another ingredient that greatly augments the sum of
happiness. To will to do good, is sweet, but to really succeed in doing the good
that we desire, is sweeter still.
- 3. Another element of the Christian's happiness is the self-complacency that
follows and accompanies the exercise or gratification of benevolence. This is indispensable
to complete happiness. Men may experience a kind and degree of happiness, in indulging
in those things in which all the powers of the mind do not harmonize; but if they
are indulging in things to which their consciences are opposed, the inward mutiny
and conflict thus produced, mingles in their cup of gratification the gall of bitterness.
But benevolence always has the approbation of conscience. And the mind, from its
very structure, necessarily feels a self-complacent satisfaction in the exercise
of benevolent affections.
- 4. Another element of this happiness is the life and harmonious action of all
the powers of the soul in its exercise. The mind is so constructed, that it will
not, cannot harmonize in any other course of action. It was made to be benevolent.
Benevolence is its proper element, and it can no more properly enjoy life in the
exercise of selfish affections, than a fish can live out of water. But there is an
excellent harmony, like an exquisitely tuned instrument, in the movements of all
the powers of the mind in the exercise and gratification of benevolence. Like an
exquisite machine, that is made of such materials, kept so clean, and so oiled as
to cut off all friction as far as possible, it moves so still, so sweet, so safe,
there is a loveliness in the harmony of its movements. So the soul in the exercise
of benevolence is made to harmonize. Every power of the mind consents. There is no
jarring, no grating, no friction, no inward mutiny or repellancy to grate like discord;
but all is loveliness; quietness, and assurance for ever.
- 5. Another element of the Christian's happiness is the full assurance that he
pleases God. The mind is so constructed, that when it is conscious of exercising
perfect benevolence, it can no more doubt that it pleases God, than it can doubt
its own existence. Love naturally and necessarily casts out all fear. There is in
the very workings of benevolence itself, the accompanying assurance, that these affections
and this course of conduct please God.
- 6. Another element in the Christian's happiness is joy and rejoicing in the happiness
and the glory of God. Remember, the happiness of being is the benevolent man's object
of pursuit. He always rejoices in true happiness, wherever he sees it; and of course
he feels the greater satisfaction, by how much the more happiness he contemplates
or beholds as existing. To him the happiness of God is infinitely the greatest good
in the Universe, and the glory of God, as it stands connected with the happiness
of God and that of His whole government, is considered by him as the supreme good.
The consideration then of God's infinite and eternal happiness, of His infinite and
eternal glory, is the source of present, perpetual, boundless, and eternal consolation.
What a consideration for a benevolent mind to dwell upon, is the infinite and unchanging
happiness of God--an infinite, fathomless, shoreless ocean of perfect, infinite blessedness.
To a benevolent mind this is an unfailing source of eternal joy.
- 7. Another element of the Christian's happiness is the happiness and good things
of all other beings. A truly benevolent mind participates in the happiness, and really
enjoys the happiness of all around him, as if those things were his own. And nothing
can prevent a benevolent mind from tasting the cup of every man's happiness and sharing
with every man, the happiness of those good things which God bestows upon him, and
that too without, in the least degree, diminishing the bliss of him whose happiness
he shares. He is entirely satisfied and rejoiced to see things bestowed upon others
that are withholden from himself. If, in time of great drought, for example, a cloud
arises that promises fair to water his farm, his garden, or his neighborhood; if
a change of wind carries the blessing to another town, where it is as much needed,
he is equally well pleased, and enjoys the refreshing of his neighbors as if it were
- 8. Another element of the Christian's happiness consists in his direct personal
efforts to promote the good of others. His very toils and labors have in them the
relish of an excellent sweetness, as carry with them and in them their own reward.
Why, a benevolent mind is a disposition to do good to others. Now in doing good he
is gratifying his natural propensities; he is acting out his governing disposition;
so that while he is not seeking his happiness as an end at all, he is surely finding
an exquisite enjoyment, in his disinterested efforts to do good.
- 9. The Christian's happiness consists in the present and eternal indulgence of
a ruling propensity or disposition to do good. A Christian has nothing else to do
any more than God has. And from the very moment of his conversion, he has nothing
to do to all eternity but to pursue uninterruptedly and as zealously as he pleases,
the ruling disposition of his soul. And God has so circumstanced him, as to surround
him continually with objects upon which he can gratify his benevolence. He has an
ample field for the exercise and pouring out of all the benevolence of his soul,
in efforts to do good; without ever, for one hour, being called off from that which
constitutes his chief delight--from pursuing and indulging without restraint, the
grand, peculiar, absorbing disposition of his soul.
III. Several forms of delusion.
- 1. Many seem to mistake light for religion. They get some new views of religious
truth which produce a corresponding excitement of mind, and they bustle about, under
the impression that this excitement is religion; when, at the same time, if they
would narrowly watch, it would be seen that their heart is still selfish, and not
benevolent--that their ruling propensity or disposition is not changed--that while
they are excited by their new views of religious truth, it is emotion and not will
that is active. Their business habits and transactions will soon develop the fact,
that selfishness is, after all, in some form, the ruling propensity of their mind.
In all such cases, there is of course a radical mistake, a fatal delusion, under
which the mind is laboring.
- 2. Many are deceiving themselves, by the exercise of a legal religious zeal.
Paul testified of his countrymen, that "they had a zeal of God, but not according
to knowledge." I have long been convinced, that much of the zeal manifested
by professors of religion, and many of the professed converts, is of this character.
They slumber on, until awakened by the thunders of Sinai; when they bluster about,
urged by a sense of duty and conscience, and a multitude of legal considerations,
while they are conscious, that they are not influenced by the deep love of God and
of souls. The evidences of their legal spirit are:
- (1.) A manifest want of a deeply heart-broken and humble spirit.
- (2.) A manifest want of a deep satisfaction of mind in the work itself.
- (3.) The absence of that abiding soul satisfaction which belongs to the exercise
and gratification of benevolent feeling. Many very zealous persons are any thing
but truly happy in the exercise of the affections which are working within them.
They carry with them all the while a sense of condemnation. They feel as if their
holiest exercises needed to be confessed as sins, and there is all the time a grating
and friction within, and a felt consciousness, that all is not right, a sense of
defilement, a want of integrity and perfect uprightness of intention, and a consciousness
of more or less selfishness in every thing they say or do. Now persons in this state
of mind do not conceive what a clean heart is. They do not understand the immense
and radical difference between their feelings and the exercises of a purely benevolent
mind. How a person can live without condemnation, they cannot understand. And their
experience being what it is, they of course look with great suspicion upon any who
profess to live without a sense of condemnation, and judge of course that it is because
they are not well acquainted with their own hearts, and also are ignorant of the
purity of God's law. Now I can understand very well, from my own experience, what
this state of mind is. I know very well what it is to have a legal zeal, that would
compass sea and land to make a proselyte, and yet carry with it, as if woven into
its very texture, the sense of condemnation. The fact is, the mind is so constructed
that whenever it is enlightened, it cannot be satisfied with a legal zeal. Nothing
but the exercise of unmixed benevolence can make it happy. Nothing but a conscious
exercise of right affections can free it from the sting of self-condemnation. Herein
is a vast delusion. Persons in this state of mind are very apt to suppose that there
is no other state than this to which Christians may attain in this life, and to judge,
and censure, and condemn all who profess the consciousness of a clean heart.
- 3. Many mistake emotion for disposition. They do not distinguish between the
emotions which constitute their excitement of mind and that controlling disposition,
or state of the will, that constitutes true benevolence.
- 4. Others still mistake mere assent for disposition. They are enlightened, and
hold correct opinions; and knowing that religion does not consist in emotion, they
are satisfied without emotion, and do not consider, that although emotion may sometimes
exist independent of the will, yet as a matter of fact and philosophy, the emotions
take fire most easily in accordance with the disposition, and men feel most naturally
and easily on that subject, that most fully chimes with the leading disposition of
their minds. Therefore if an individual supposes that he has a benevolent disposition,
while his emotions are not easily enkindled and fanned into a flame, upon the presentation
of the objects of benevolence, he is deceived. He has the religion of opinion, and
not the propensity or ruling disposition.
- 5. There are many instances in which individuals are deceived, by setting down
to the account of benevolence that which as a matter of fact, is only one form of
selfishness triumphing over another. As for example:
- (1.) The love of reputation may be the supreme ruling propensity of mind, and
triumph over lust, intemperance, and a host of other subordinate propensities. So
that a man or a woman may be liberal in giving, chaste in conversation and deportment,
and of temperate habits; and all this may be put to the account of true benevolence,
or religion, when it should be ascribed only to the love of reputation.
- (2.) Again, a literary ambition may triumph over sloth or appetite, and many
other evil, but subordinate, propensities of the mind.
- (3.) A spirit of avarice may be the ruling propensity of the mind, and triumph
over lust, intemperance and many forms of sin.
- (4.) Selfish fears and hopes may restrain inward wickedness, and all these restraints
may be, and often are, supposed to result from pure benevolence, when in fact they
are only one form of selfishness, controlling and subordinating other forms of the
- 6. The only remaining form of delusion, that I shall now notice, is, where the
individual's happiness consists, not in the exercise of his benevolence, but in the
consideration of his own safety. We sometimes see persons settle down into an Antinomian
security, and manifest great quietness and peace of mind, where happiness and peace
are manifestly based upon the consideration of their own safety. Now this is as far
as possible from a truly religious state of mind. Real religious happiness arises
out of the true saint. To be sure, the contemplation of the grace of Christ, the
joys of Heaven, and an eternity of blessedness at God's right hand, come in to make
up the aggregate of a Christian's happiness; but the basis and foundation of the
whole is that which belongs to the exercise and gratification of benevolent affections
1. The natural heart does not apprehend the true nature of religion. I have often
wondered what sceptics can be thinking about, and how it is that they can have any
doubts of the necessity of a change of heart. But a consideration of the selfishness
of their hearts, explains the whole difficulty. God's state of mind is the exact
opposite of their own. Benevolence is the contrast of a selfish disposition. Selfishness
finds its happiness in getting; benevolence, in giving. Selfishness is always endeavoring
to promote its own, and benevolence the happiness of others.
2. This remark leads me to say, that we can here see the necessity of examples, to
illustrate the true nature of religion. A leading object of Christ in taking to Himself
human nature was, to associate with men, and possess their minds of the true idea
of God's character, so to live and associate with them, that they might observe what
God would be as a Neighbor, or Brother, or Son, or Friend; what spirit and temper
He possessed, and would manifest, under the circumstances in which men are. As soon
as a few had caught the rare idea, that God was love, He sends them forth, "as
sheep among wolves," to lay down their lives, as He had done, for a rebellious
world. They catch His spirit, imitate His example, and the waves of salvation roll
wherever they go; and a few years had well nigh seen a world prostate at the feet
of Christ. But alas! the state, with her selfish and polluting embrace, soon seduced
the Church into selfishness and apostacy from God. And the world can never be converted,
only as examples and illustrations of what true religion is, are held up in the lives
of professed Christians, before the eyes of men.
3. You can see from this subject, what constitutes real apostacy from God. The moment
you set up a selfish interest as the object of pursuit, go to any place, engage in
any business, marry, or take any other step, inconsistent with the exercise and pursuit
of the great ends at which God aims, you are in a state of apostacy from God; you
have forsaken the fountain of living waters, and are "hewing out broken cisterns
that can hold no water."
4. You see from this subject, what constitutes the happiness of God. Benevolence
is His whole character. His benevolence is infinite. His happiness is, therefore,
infinite and unchangeable.
5. You see, that Christians may and ought to be as happy, in proportion to their
capacity, as God is.
6. You see what constitutes the unhappiness of many professors of religion. It is
selfishness. It is naturally impossible, that a selfish mind should be happy. Selfishness
lets loose an infernal brood of scorpions and vipers, to sting the soul's happiness
7. You see also, what constitutes the misery of all men. They are pressing after
happiness but cannot obtain it. And the reason is, they are seeking it in that in
which it cannot consist. If a man pursues his own happiness as an end, he may as
well expect to overrun his own shadow. The mind is so constituted that it cannot
possibly be obtained in this way. To be disinterestedly benevolent, is the only possible
way to be happy. To seek not your own, but another's good, is for ever and unalterably
indispensable to the happiness of a moral being.
8. What striking evidence does the human constitution afford of the benevolence of
God! He has so constructed it, that happiness is the certain and necessary result
of benevolence, and that no other possible working of the constitution can result
in happiness. What striking and unanswerable testimony is this to the benevolence
of the Author of our nature!
9. Those who do not enjoy the good things of others, or find occasions of gratitude,
and really feel the spirit of gratitude, for blessings bestowed upon others, are
not Christians. I have already said, that true benevolence is the love or desire
of our neighbor's happiness, or rather the willing or choosing his happiness. Now
whenever blessings are conferred upon others, then we are pleased. It is what we
choose. It is in accordance with and a gratification of the ruling propensity of
our minds. It is just as certain then as our existence, that if we are benevolent,
we shall rejoice with them that rejoice, and weep with them that weep; that we shall
participate in the joys and sorrows of those around us, and rejoice in and be thankful
for all the good bestowed upon the world.
10. From this subject it is easy to see, of what spirit those are who are ready to
murmur at others possessing good things, of which themselves are deprived. Did you
ever see a family of selfish children, and witness their complainings and murmurings,
whenever something was bestowed upon one, which the others had not received? "Now,
Ma, you have given brother such a thing and have not given it to me. Now let me have
the best things; let me have the largest piece, and the most and best of every thing."
Now this is a supremely hateful spirit; but it is exactly the spirit of many professors
of religion. Instead of rejoicing to see their brothers and sisters blest with temporal
or spiritual good things, they are ready to murmur and be offended, because these
thing are not bestowed on them. This manifests the supreme selfishness of their minds,
and affords the highest demonstration that they are not Christians.
11. They are not Christians, who have no heart to thank God for bestowing blessings
upon their enemies. There is no religion in selfish gratitude. A supremely selfish
mind might be thankful for blessings bestowed upon itself, or upon its friends who
are accounted as parts of itself. But a truly benevolent mind will rejoice in blessings
bestowed on enemies as well as friends.
12. It is easy to see, that the covetous and the ambitious are not and cannot be
13. That a spirit of worldly competition is utterly inconsistent with the spirit
14. We see what that state of mind must be, that is never willing to do a neighbor
a kindness without taking pay for it. Some persons seem never to have the spirit
of doing good, or of obliging any body but themselves. The pay seems to be the sole
motive in doing almost any thing and every thing for those around them. They seem
never to enjoy a luxury in making those around them happy, for its own sake. And
if they do any thing for a neighbor, it is, by no means, for the sake of doing good,
but for the sake of the pay. Now every one can see, that if a minister should be
actuated by such motives in visiting the sick, and in preaching the gospel, every
one would say there was no virtue in it. They will go and visit the sick as often
as the physician does, and take as much pains to restore the health of the soul as
the physician does the health of the body; and in all this they are expected to be
actuated by pure benevolence. And for all this they never think of asking any pay,
whether they have any salary or not. What minister has not traveled hundreds of miles,
and spent hours, and days, and weeks, and months, in such labors of love, without
ever expecting or desiring to receive an earthly remuneration for it. He found in
the very exercise itself an excellent solace, and an exquisite relish, that was to
his benevolent mind worth more than gold. But what is expected of ministers of the
gospel in this respect, should be true of all men. They should as far as possible,
"do good and lend, hoping for nothing again." They should be actuated by
disinterested benevolence, knowing that "with whatsoever measure they mete it
shall be measured to them again."
15. We see what we should think of those who are unwilling to exercise any self-denial,
for the sake of doing good to others. There is one man, who will not give up what
he calls the temperate use of alcohol, for the sake of doing good. He contends, that
it is lawful for him to use it moderately; that others have no right to make a stumbling-block
of his use of it; and as for practising a little self-denial for the sake of the
example, he will not do it. Here is a woman, who professes to love God supremely,
and her neighbor as herself. She prays for the heathen, and thinks herself truly
religious; and yet, she will not deny herself the use of tea and coffee, to save
the heathen world from hell. The wail of eight hundred millions of human beings is
coming upon every wind of heaven, crying out, "send us tracts, send us Bibles,
send us missionaries, send us the means of eternal life; for we are dying in our
sins." "But ah!" says these professing Christians, men and women--
"It is hard times; money is scarce; we are in debt; we must turn away our ears
from hearing these wailings of woe." Now brother--sister--let me sit down at
your table. What have you here? How much does this tea and coffee cost you a year?
How much do these worse than useless articles of luxury curtail your ability to send
the gospel to the perishing? My sister, how many Bibles and tracts have you used
up in this way? How many Bibles, at five shillings each, might be sent by you to
the heathen every year, were you willing to exercise a little self-denial, and that
too, a self-denial which your own health and highest good demand? Brother, perhaps
you use tobacco. How long have you used it? The price of how many Bibles does it
cost you a year? And how many heathen might this day have had Bibles in their hands,
who will now go down to hell, without ever hearing of the Savior, who might have
had the Bible and eternal life, had you had one particle of benevolence in your heart?
Will you make the calculation? Will you ask, how many Bibles and tracts might have
been purchased by the money you have squandered in this manner? And will you settle
the question, definitely, whether you are influenced by the love of God and of souls?
Whether you eat and drink these things for the glory of God, or for the gratification
of your own lust? Surely, the question is of no less importance, than whether benevolence
or selfishness constitutes your character.
16. Again, we see what to think of those whose religious duties are not a source
of the highest enjoyment to them. The religion of many persons seems to make them
miserable, and whatever they do for the cause of Christ they seem to do painfully
and grudgingly. The reason is, they are not actuated by love. If love were the ruling
disposition of their hearts, their religion would be a source of the sweetest enjoyment
17. We see what to think of those who prefer getting, to giving for the cause of
Christ. The truly benevolent value property, only as the means of forwarding the
great object upon which their heart is set. Every thing is esteemed by them in proportion
as it relates to and bears upon the Kingdom of Christ. Life, health, time, property,
talents, all things, are brought into the service of God, and regarded only as they
are the means of promoting His glory, and the good of souls. A truly benevolent mind
places no value upon money for its own sake. It no more desires to hoard up money
to gratify and please self, than it would board up chips and stones. In short, it
places no earthly value upon money, or any thing else, only as it can be made instrumental
in doing good. When, therefore, you see a man that loves to make great bargains,
who is engaged in getting all he can, and gives to the poor and to the cause of Christ
grudgingly and sparingly, it is a simple matter of fact, that he is a selfish, worldly
man, and no Christian at all. In this connection you can see the delusion of that
professor of religion, who will be more zealous in seasons of speculation, and enter
with more enthusiasm into a money-making enterprise, than into a money-giving enterprise
for the cause of Christ.
18. You see the delusion of that professor of religion, who more readily loses the
spirit of revival than the spirit of speculation--in other words, whose religious
zeal can be cooled down by an opportunity to make money, and who can be driven away
from God and prayer, by the opening of navigation, the coming in of the business
season, or when any new project of money-making comes up before the public. There
are many painful instances, in which professors of religion will seem to bustle about
and be active in religion, at seasons of the year when they have little else to do,
or when little can be done at money-making; but are ever ready to backslide, and
are sure to do so, whenever an opportunity occurs to favor their own interests. But
this is almost too plain a case of delusion to need remark.
19. In the light of this subject, you can see that there is no true spirituality
without real benevolence of heart and life. Many persons seem to be engaged in a
most absurd attempt to keep up spirituality and a spirit of prayer and intercourse
with God, while they live and conduct their business upon principles of selfishness.
Now nothing can be a greater insult to God, than this--to pray for His Spirit, to
attempt to have intercourse with Him, or even pretend to be His friend, while as
a matter of fact selfishness is the rule of your life.
20. If "it is more blessed to give than to receive," what infinitely great
satisfaction must God take in supporting so great a family. He is pouring out, from
His unwasting fulness, an ocean of blessings continually. And what an infinite gratification
it must be to His benevolent mind to plan and execute all the good that He is planning,
and executing, and will plan and execute to all eternity.
21. We see from this subject, how to understand that declaration concerning Christ,
"that for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the
shame, and is for ever set down at the right hand of God." Although multitudes
of things connected with the Atonement were in themselves painful, yet, upon the
whole, the great work was a source of infinite satisfaction to the Father and the
Son. And God is virtuous in the Atonement, just in proportion as he really enjoys
the making of it Himself. "The Lord loveth a cheerful giver;" and we always
regard that self-denial as most virtuous, that is exercised most willingly. And where
the greatest self-denial is exercised, not only with great willingness, but with
great joyfulness, for the sake of doing good to others, we pronounce that the highest
degree of virtue. The Father is represented as being well pleased with the conduct
of Christ in the Atonement. He was greatly gratified with the virtue of His Son,
and to see Him count the work a joyous one, in so freely and joyfully denying Himself
to save His enemies from death.
22. If God finds it "more blessed to give than to receive," why should
we not abound with every blessing that we need? Why should we, by our narrow-mindedness
and unbelief, render it impossible for God to gratify His benevolent heart in giving
us great things?
23. You see the secret of all unbelief in prayer. It is our own selfishness. I have
already said that a selfish mind finds it difficult to conceive of the true character
of God. A selfish man knows that he gives grudgingly; and he very naturally conceives
of God, as being altogether such a one as himself. He finds it exceedingly difficult
to get hold of the rare and great idea, that God is his exact opposite in this respect--that
giving is His happiness--that He has infinitely more satisfaction in giving good
things, than we have in receiving them--that He has greater pleasure in giving things,
than the most avaricious man on earth has in getting. But it is no wonder that selfish
minds are slow to understand and believe this.
24. There is no religion but that which consists in a sympathy with God, in being
benevolent as He is benevolent; in having a benevolent disposition--a settled, fixed,
abiding disposition to benevolence. 1 John 4:7, 8, 16: "Beloved, let us love
one another: for love is of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not
God; for God is love. And he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him."
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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