What Saith the Scripture?


by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College

from "The Oberlin Evangelist" Publication of Oberlin College
Lecture XII
August 2
, 1843

Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart

Text.--Heb. 3:19:"So we see that they could not enter in, because of unbelief."

In this discourse I shall notice,

I. What unbelief is not.

II. What it is.

III. Instances and evidence of unbelief.

IV. The tendency of unbelief.

V. The guilt of unbelief.

I. What unbelief is not.

II. What it is.

III. Instances and evidences of unbelief.

IV. The tendency of unbelief.

V. The guilt of unbelief.


1. We see what to think of those, who say they cannot realize that the promises will be fulfilled. Can't realize! Hark! Suppose your child should say, Pa, you promised to give me a New Year's present, but I can't realize that you will. You would say, my child, do you think I lie? Have I not given you my word, that I would give you a present? What higher evidence can men have than the solemn word and oath of God? What shall make it more sure? Who shall underwrite for Him? If what He has said does not satisfy you, He can give no security. Can't realize! Horrible!

2. We see what to think of those who say they believe, but are not duly influenced by their faith. They profess to believe in the necessity of salvation, and in the eternity of hell torments; but then neither act respecting themselves or others, as the magnitude of these truths demand. The fact is, they don't believe at all.

3. We see, that no doctrine is believed any farther than it influences the conduct. What is faith? It is, as we have shown, the delivering of the mind up to the influence of known truth. It follows, then, that there is no faith where the conduct remains uninfluenced.

4. Heretical conduct proves heretical faith. The truth is, all heresy belongs to the heart; and however holy a man's creed may be, if his conduct is wrong, he is heretical in heart.

5. We see the wickedness of admitting that the gospel proffers entire sanctification in this life, and yet not expecting it. There are those, as you know who admit that the gospel proffers entire sanctification, on condition of faith--they admit that its provisions are ample, and yet do not expect to possess it in this life. What is that, but unbelief?

6. We see also the wickedness of saying, that the expectation of it is unreasonable and erroneous. They say, that to believe we shall actually attain it in this life is a great, and dangerous error. What is that but unbelief in its worst form?

7. Also the guilt of those, who teach men, that it is an error to expect sanctification in this life, and raise the cry of heresy against those who do teach them to expect it. If it is promised, it must be sheer unbelief and dreadful guilt to doubt it.

8. The good men who formerly rejected this doctrine, did not see, and admit, the fulness of the provisions. President Edwards, for example, did not admit this, and it is manifest, from the account which he gives of his wife's experience, as well as from his writings generally, that he had no such idea before his mind.

9. But what shall we say of those who make this admission, and yet do not expect the blessing? They do not seem to understand that this is unbelief. They say, they do not distrust God, but they distrust themselves. This is a great mistake. If faith is implicit confidence in God's promises, and if these promises cover full provisions for sanctification, then there is no room left for self-distrust; and in that case, self-distrust is distrust in God. Take, for example, this promise. "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it." Here is a promise, covering the wants of our whole nature. Now, I want to know what state of mind that is, which does not expect its realization? Whether it is self-distrust, or distrust in God? It is downright unbelief. It is virtually saying, Lord, Thou hast promised to "sanctify me wholly in soul, body, and spirit," but I don't believe it. I don't believe thou canst, I have such distrust in myself.

10. There is no consistency in making the admission of full provisions, and then rejecting the expectation of being sanctified by them.

11. How can the expectation of being sanctified in this life, be rejected without unbelief, in view of I Thess. 5:23, 24. Suppose I get up, and read over this promise--"And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it," and then turn round and say, now brethren, I warn you against believing that He will sanctify you. But the promise comes thundering back--"Faithful is He that calleth you who also will do it." I rally again, and say, Edwards, and Payson, and Brainerd, were not sanctified, and why should you expect to be? What would that differ from the course adopted by most of the ministers at the present time? But here comes up the old cavil, that although provisions are made, yet they are conditioned on faith, and I have no right to expect sanctification till I believe. I answer, faith and expectation are identical; and if you do not expect sanctification, you do not believe God, and are making Him a liar.

12. To tell men not to expect to be wholly sanctified in this life, and preserved blameless, is to warn them not to believe God.

13. You can see why you do not enter into rest. It is because you have no faith. You have not cast your anchor within the vail. You are like a vessel, drifting along the majestic Niagara, towards the falls, and already approaching destruction; but will not let down its anchor, although it knows the rocks are within reach, upon which it might fasten and be safe. Or, like a man in a dungeon, to whom a golden chain is let down, and who is exhorted to lay hold and be drawn up, but will not.

14. It is wicked to expect to sin all our days. God has said, "Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law, but under grace." Therefore, to expect to live, carrying about a load of sin, till you die, is abominable wickedness.

15. The Church is never like[ly] to be holy, while it is exhorted to unbelief, instead of faith. It is a horrible thing, that much of the teaching of the present day, is nothing else than teaching men not to believe God. And lest they should expect sanctification, they are pointed back to those, who profess to come short of it--to antinomian perfectionism--and to every thing which may bring the doctrine into disrepute, and are warned against it, as if it were the pestilence. O, my soul, what is this! Is this the way the Church is to be sanctified? My brethren if you mean to be kept from sin, and antinomianism of every kind, and from every other delusion, take hold of these promises, and believe. Expect them to be fulfilled, and they will be. But if you doubt you shall walk in blindness. For says the Prophet, "If ye will not believe, ye shall not be established."


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).

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