What Saith the Scripture?

Way to Be Holy

by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College

from "The Oberlin Evangelist" Publication of Oberlin College
Lecture VII
March 29
, 1843

Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart

Text.--Rom. 10:4: "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."

In this lecture I am to show,

I. What is not intended by the assertion that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness.

II. What is intended by this assertion.

III. How Christ becomes the end of the law for righteousness.

I. What is not intended by the assertion that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness.

What a jumble of nonsense is this! Is this the gospel of the blessed God? Impossible!

II. What is intended by the assertion that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness.

The text affirms that he is the end of the law for righteousness. Righteousness is obedience to the law. He is, then, the end of the law for obedience. He secures the very end aimed at by the law; that is, He makes Christians holy; as it is said--"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." What have we here? Why, an express assertion of the Apostle, that Christ, by his Atonement, and indwelling Spirit, had secured in Christians, the very obedience which the law required.

III. How Christ becomes the end of the law for righteousness or obedience.


1. From this subject, we may see why the gospel lays so much stress on faith. It is the only way of salvation.

2. This method of saving men is perfectly philosophical. And as we have seen, Christ thus works Himself into the very heart of believers.

3. It is the only possible way, in the very nature of the case, to secure love. God might command, and back up the command with threatenings. But this would only fill the selfish mind with terror, leaving its selfishness unbroken, and even grasping at its objects amid the roar of its thunders. In the very nature of mind, then, to secure obedience, He must secure confidence. Why, look at Eve. The moment she doubted, she fell. And so would all heaven fall if they should lose confidence in God. Yes, they would fall! They would no more retain their obedience, than the planets would retain their places, if the power of gravitation were broken. Every one knows that if the power of attraction were destroyed, suns, and stars, and planets would run lawless through the universe, and desolation would drive her ploughshare through creation. So, break the power of confidence in heaven, and every angel there would fall like Lucifer, and universal anarchy prevail.

4. What I have said, does not represent virtue or holiness as consisting in mere emotions of complacency; or in loving God merely for his favors; but the exhibition of his character in Christ begets in us real benevolence. It shows us what benevolence is, and stimulates us to exercise it. Nearly all preachers and writers, of the present day, confound religion, with mere complacency in God for his favors. Both gratitude and complacency may, and often do, exist in the impenitent mind. It must, therefore, be a fundamental mistake, to confound these with true religion.

5. Christ, by exhibiting his benevolence, begets his own image in them that believe; that is, they are naturally led to yield themselves up to the transforming tendency of this view of his character. This, the law could never secure in a selfish mind.

6. I said the doctrine of imputed righteousness, is another gospel, or no gospel at all. And here I would ask, is not this quite another way of salvation? According to this way, instead of imputing righteousness to them, God makes them righteous.

7. The gospel is not an evasion of the law. It comes in as an auxiliary to accomplish what the law aims at, but cannot effect, because it is "weak through the flesh."

8. We see who are true believers. Those who love God supremely and their neighbor as themselves; and unless your faith begets obedience, it is not the faith of the gospel.

9. We can see the sustaining power of faith. This is not well considered by many. If the head of a family secures its confidence, he controls it easily; but if not, there is a perpetual tendency to resist him. The same principle operates in state governments. They are firm, just so far and no farther, than they are based upon the confidence of their subjects. So it is in the business world. Every thing is prosperous, so long as confidence is secured. This gone, and the tide immediately sets forth the other way. Why are so many houses in this country, which were once supposed to be perfectly stable, tumbling down around the heads of the merchants? Because confidence is destroyed. Restore that, and immediately things will assume a different aspect. Every merchant in New York will feel the impulse; and ships from abroad will come freighted down with merchandize. This principle is equally efficient and necessary in the divine government. This, the devil well understood. Hence his first effort was directed to its overthrow. But ministers too often put it in the back ground, and hence the reason of so much failure in the work of reforming the world. Christ, on the other hand, always put it foremost, and his declaration, "He that believeth shall be saved," is the unalterable law of his government.

10. Unbelievers cannot be saved, for their want of confidence, necessarily keeps the soul from hearty obedience.

11. Do you ask, "How can I believe?" I turn on you, and ask, "How can you help believing?" Christ has died for you to win your confidence. He stands at your door, offering blessings, and assuring you of his good will. And can't you believe! What! And the Son of God at the door! But perhaps you stand away back, and say, Christians can believe, but how can I? a poor, guilty wretch. And why not you? Come, let your anchor down upon the character of God, and then if the winds blow, let them blow; if the ocean tosses itself, and yawns till it lays bare its very bottom, you are secure, for God rules the wind and the waves. But I hear some one say, I am such a backslider. Yes, and you are like to be. Unless you believe, you will continue to go right away from God. Come, instantly, and believe. Come all you professors; come, all you sinners; come now, and He will write his law in your hearts; and it will no longer be to you a law on tables of stone. Can't you believe it? Yes, O yes. Then let us come around the throne of grace, and receive Christ, as the end of the law for righteousness.


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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