What Saith the Scripture?
God's Commandments Not Grievous
by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College
Oberlin Evangelist" Publication of Oberlin College
June 21, 1854
Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
Text.--1 John 5:3:
"His commandments are not grievous."
The commandments here spoken of are God's. The whole verse reads--"For this
is the love of God, that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not grievous."
It is elsewhere said, we may know we love God because we love His children. Here
the order is reversed;--"we know we love the children of God when we love God
and keep His commandments." Both statements are true. If we truly and rightly
love men we shall love God also; and if God, then we shall love His children too.
"Grievous," in our text means oppressive, heavy to be borne; yet not heavy
in the physical, but in the moral, sense.
I. When a commandment may be said to be grievous.
II. When a commandment is not grievous.
III. I am next to consider in special the commandments of God, to see whether they
can rightly be deemed grievous.
IV. What God's law does require.
I. And here in the outset we must enquire when a commandment may be said to be
grievous, and how we may know whether it is truly so regarded or not.
What are those qualities and relations which constitute a commandment really grievous?
Have we any certain test, any sure means of knowing?
We have. God has given us a moral nature by which we may judge, and by which indeed
we cannot but judge. Indeed, God requires us to judge by the decisions of this very
nature, a requisition which assumes that His written word imposes no precepts on
us inconsistent with the moral nature He has given us. It should not be overlooked
that God has given us two volumes of revelation, the one written; the other implanted
in our constitution. It is safe therefore to assume that the precepts of the one
cannot be in conflict with the unquestionable decisions of the other.
Upon this principle, we know,
- 1. That a commandment, impossible to be fulfilled, must be pronounced grievous.
We cannot help pronouncing it so, let who ever will affirm the contrary.
- 2. The same is true of a commandment that is unreasonable, one which our moral
sense affirms to be so.
A commandment may be unreasonable in many respects; e.g. if it be manifestly unnecessary;
the result of capricious severity. If we say this, we should say, that the command
is unreasonable, and therefore grievous.
Supposing we know beyond question that the commandments are unnecessary, then if
they require great things under great and solemn penalties, they are a great grievance;
if under infinite penalties, then they are infinitely grievous; if under light penalties,
then they are a light grievance. If the things required are not important, and yet
are enforced by grave and fearful penalties, the commands are clearly grievous. Every
sane mind necessarily affirms this to be the case.
- 3. A partial commandment is grievous. If it requires different things of persons
under the same circumstances; if it has respect of persons, we condemn it as grievous.
Again, if it were difficult to be obeyed, even by the well disposed, and great
penalties were attached to disobedience; if under the best circumstances and with
the utmost facilities, obedience were scarcely possible, and failure almost certain,
this would be grievous.
Again, if we were required to secure any given end and the requisite means were not
within our reach, and are not furnished us by the Power that makes the requisition;
if we were required to make brick without straw, or to convert the world without
the requisite agencies and powers, and the commands were enforced by heavy penalties,
this must be regarded as greatly grievous.
- 4. Or, if the command were unadapted to our nature or opposed to our highest
and best interests; or if the possibility of obeying it were precluded by our circumstances,
or by our relations, and we are laid under the burden of heavy penalties to do these
things, this would be truly grievous. We could not possibly regard it otherwise.
- 5. We should regard a commandment grievous if it required anything more than
honest intention and best endeavor, inasmuch as whatever lies outside of and beyond
this must be impossible to us. What we cannot do with the best intention and the
utmost endeavor, we cannot do at all. This, therefore, would be grievous.
- 6. Or yet again, if the interests to be protected by law were of vast importance,
and yet were protected by only a slight penalty, such a law might well be deemed
grievous by those who had interests demanding protection. You would regard it as
a most grievous law which should propose to protect your life by a penalty of only
37 1/2 cents.
- 7. Or if a trifling end were set up, but a fearful penalty were attached, this
also would be grievous.
II. When a commandment is not grievous.
- 1. It is not grievous merely because it conflicts with our unreasonable desires.
If the desires are contrary to reason, it is not unreasonable that laws should cross
- 2. Law is not grievous because opposed to the selfishness of men. A precept may
be perfectly, infinitely opposed to selfishness, and yet be far from being grievous.
- 3. It is not grievous because of its being opposed to our self-will. A self-will
that is arbitrary and capricious is no standard by which to judge of law.
- 4. Law is not grievous when it merely opposes what conscience also opposes. If
law does not conflict with a good and sound conscience, all is right, for conscience
is the reason judging on moral subjects--the faculty constituted of God for this
end. If conscience be for it, therefore, it cannot be grievous.
- 5. No law is grievous which requires only that which is for our highest good.
This, our reason necessarily affirms.
- 6. If the object of the precept is to secure our own highest good, it cannot
be regarded by us as grievous, for its spirit is altogether good.
Now do not say that in these statements I am dogmatizing. I am only affirming
self-evident propositions. They need only a clear statement to appear to every mind
- 7. If the law forbids nothing except what would be injurious to us, it is all
- 8. If it requires us to deny ourselves for the good of others, all is right,
provided this self-denial will be for our own highest good. If it will be greater
good to us than the sacrifice is an evil; if the self-denial, though real and great,
gives us back more than an equivalent, the law which requires it is by no means grievous.
Especially is this true if the self-denial not only gives us a greater good, but
is an essential and only means of securing our highest good. By no means can this
be deemed grievous, requiring of us a self-denial, of which the more we exercise,
the greater good we secure.
- 9. A law is not grievous where it requires of us simple honesty--a regard to
the rights of others, equal to our regard for our own. This cannot be grievous. This
may be honest and right if it requires no more of us than we require of others conscientiously.
Who can pronounce such a commandment to be grievous?
I shall proceed by and by to enquire whether God's commandments have these qualities
and this character; but at present, I am discussing the subject only in its general
and abstract form. So doing, we may perhaps better establish the principles that
underlie the subject.
- 10. A command cannot be said to be grievous when it requires of us only the reasonable
employment of all we have and are. For so much is reasonable, no matter what the
particular service may be under the circumstances. It were a contradiction to say
it is unreasonable to require a reasonable service of active powers, made for useful
action, or of means of usefulness, put in our hands by our Creator.
- 11. That cannot be unreasonable or grievous which simply requires of us a right
voluntary state. We know ourselves to have a free will, the power to originate our
own volitions. This is a thing of which we are absolutely certain from our consciousness.
We do not certainly know that we can move our own muscles. The law of connection
between the will and the muscles is sometimes suspended. You might find it to be
so in any effort you might make. But you know you can control your own will. You
may try this at any time; and you will find it so. You also believe and assume it
to be so, of everybody else, of sane and sound mind.
- 12. Now, therefore, if God's love requires of you only a right state of your
will, and those acts and states which follow naturally from a right state of the
will, no man can reasonably feel that this is grievous, or can honestly pronounce
it to be so.
- 13. A commandment is not grievous when it requires nothing capricious, nothing
unnecessary, nothing hard to the well-disposed; and threatens disobedience with only
the proper penalties.
Again, it cannot be deemed grievous when we could not be satisfied if it required
nothing less than it does; when we ourselves, in all honesty, are constrained to
say, it is all right; but if anything less were required, or if its requisitions
were enforced by a less penalty, we should say--it is wrong. Especially if we are
aware that any other course than that indicated in the precept would be hard or even
ruinous--hard in the sense in which sin is hard, and ruinous in the sense in which
sin is ruinous.
Again, if it requires us to do nothing for which help is not provided--all the help
requisite in the case--this is not grievous. If it tenders to us all the appropriate
instrumentalities necessary to make us practically obedient, we cannot regard it
Nor again, when it is easily understood by the well disposed. If the law were above
our reach, as the ancient king nailed his on a pillar too high to read,--you might
complain; but since the law is made so plain that he who runs may read it, you cannot
regard it as grievous. Especially you cannot so regard it, since the will is taken
for the deed, and it is always accepted if there be a winning mind and a good intention.
e.g. Suppose the command be to convert the world. You set yourself to do it. You
live for this purpose. You honestly intend to do all you can for this end. You fail
only because, having exhausted your powers, the work has proved too great for your
strength. Very well; you shall have your reward, as if you had succeeded and done
all. What! say you, is the will taken for the deed? Yes; when the whole heart is
in it and you do your utmost. Ah, said that missionary, as he returned with ruined
health and blighted hopes, "I have failed! My mission purpose and endeavors
have been a failure!" Perhaps not. You have been to Africa, and are driven back
by the climate. Very well, you have obeyed the command and you shall not fail of
III. I am next to consider in special the commandments of God, to see whether
they can rightly be deemed grievous.
Negatively, as to what they are not and do not require.
- 1. Not one of them requires anything above the use of our own powers, and nothing
which goes beyond the dictates and approval of our own reason. The precepts of the
law and of the gospel are identical in spirit and in general character, neither requiring
of us anything more than we can do, nor anything not in harmony with our reason.
- 2. God's law does not require us to undo anything we have done that is wrong--in
the season of putting it back to its position before being done. This might be, and
usually would be, impossible. God only requires us to undo our present wrong purposes
and states of mind; the wrong deeds of the past. He has provided a way to forgive;
the present wrong of our heart He makes our concern.
- 3. He does not require us to make satisfaction for the wrong done, either by
atonement, or by making up for the wrong we have done.
- 4. He does not require us to save ourselves and secure the salvation of our own
souls, without His aid and grace. He neither requires or expects that we shall save
anybody else by our own wisdom or efforts. He knows this is naturally impossible.
- 5. He does not ask us to work out a legal righteousness for the future. He does
not make perfect obedience to law the condition of our salvation. This, if required,
would be grievous, inasmuch as we have entirely broken the law and forfeited all
hope in that direction.
- 6. Nor does He require us to fulfil the law in the future without reference to
His grace, and without His aid, presented in the gospel. Nor does He demand that
we shall bear our own burdens, overcome our temptations, and fight our spiritual
battles--without His grace, guidance and strength. He does not expect us to be our
own guide, to find our own way, and to create our own success.
Again, God requires nothing that will in the least mar our own happiness, or interfere
with our true interests. Nothing inconsistent with our highest progress in true improvement;
nothing that naturally retards our rapid advancement in all that is good.
- 7. He does not require us to love Him above our ability.
The law specifies--"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,
with all thy soul, with all thy mind and with all thy strength." With whose
mind--and whose strength? Only thine own. And with how much of this mind and strength?
Only with all. Nothing more. It were simply absurd to say that this is impossible;
and therefore it is impious to think or speak of it as grievous.
- 8. The law does not require us to regard and treat our Heavenly Father in any
respect better than He deserves to be treated, and never better than we know He deserves,
or than we affirm that we ought to treat Him. When we can honestly and conscientiously
be satisfied with ourselves as to our treatment of God, He will be satisfied. No
one shall ever be able, honestly, to say--"I think Thou requirest me to obey
to love Thee more than Thou deservest to be obeyed and loved." There is nothing
in either law or gospel which requires anything beyond the legitimate demands of
our own reason. Nay more; the law appeals to him in its own vindication and makes
his own conscience the rule. God appeals to every moral agent to judge for himself
what is right. "Are not My ways equal, says He; are not your ways unequal?"
"Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who has
trodden under foot the Son of God?" So throughout the Scripture God makes His
appeal to man's own mind to judge for himself of the rectitude of the law imposed
on him and of the equity of the threatened penalty. Who then should say that the
spirit of His government is overbearing, capricious, unreasonable? Who can regard
His commandments grievous?
Again, God never requires His interests to be estimated above their real value.
Yet some think God to be very selfish, in requiring everybody to love Him. But what
less could He require? God does not ask you to love Him more than He deserves to
be loved; nor more than it is right you should love Him. This love which God requires
of you towards Himself is good-willing, and it has intrinsically for its object the
happiness of sentient beings, and should be in proportion to the amount of being,
so to speak, which each individual may have; or (which amounts to the same result)
to the amount of happiness each is capable of enjoying. Now God's capacity for happiness
is infinite and therefore is an end of infinite value and rightly claims the utmost
good-willing of all created beings. When God asks you to love Him supremely, He only
asks you to love Him in proportion to the importance of the object--on His own happiness.
If His interests are supreme, why not accord to them your supreme regard?
- 9. But He requires of you also the love of complacency; a delight in His character
as good. He asks that this should be supreme, and why should He not? Is He not infinitely
worthy of your complacency and regard?
- 10. Yet further; God never requires us to regard any interest not known, or which
we are not capable of knowing; nor does He ask us to regard any interest beyond its
perceived or perceivable value. Thus universally, God measures His demands by our
powers of obedience, love and service. He never requires us to do things we cannot
reach and grasp; never, to treat Him with any more confidence than He deserves, nor
to love Him when He is unworthy of our love, or at all beyond His worthiness.
- 11. God's requisitions upon us never go beyond our honest convictions of what
they should be. He does not require things, the propriety of which is to our own
minds questionable. He is never despotic, never tyrannical. His intelligent creatures
are always under the conviction that God's will ought to be obeyed and ought to be
the universal law. He requires of no creature of His in any world more obedience
or love than His own intelligence sees and affirms to be right.
- 12. No one can rightly ask of us any more or other feelings than those which
naturally result from right intentions and a right state of the will. The feelings,
it should be considered, are involuntary and therefore are not directly controlled
by the will; yet they are so related to the will that certain feelings naturally
follow a right state of the will and certain other feelings, a wrong state. Hence
moral responsibility truly attaches to the state of the will; and it is on this principle
that God acts, declaring that "if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted."
- 13. In accordance with this, God never requires any other action or course of
life except what naturally flows from right intention. Hence He lays His requisitions
on the will or heart, requiring only that this be right and thus virtually requiring
its natural results and out-flowings.
IV. What God's law does require.
- 1. An equitable state of mind; one that regards every known interest according
to our judgment of its value. God requires us to regard the universal good of each
being according to its perceived value. This is an equitable and right state of mind.
It is a voluntary and a simple state of mind, a mere unit. Instead of being embarrassed
with points of casuistry, it comes to you asking only that you give your heart to
God and merge your will in homage to His because His is infinite reason. It simply
requires you to regard all interests according to their perceived value. If your
neighbors interests are equal to your own, regard them so; if less, regard them less;
if greater, regard them more. God never requires any being to sacrifice his own interest
for a less valuable interest of another. Hence, when He requires of us universal
benevolence, this does not demand that we love others and not ourselves--God and
not ourselves; but only each, according to its value. Hence this law never drops
from regard our own interest, but most effectually secures it.
- 2. This Christian, virtuous, life, is the natural and certain result of the state
of mind which drops selfishness, and puts self and all other interests in their proper
places. You have only to maintain that state of mind and abide in it; then your acts
and state will meet the entire demands of the law.
- 3. Let us now look into the gospel. This requires the same as the law, and something
more. It comes, in most inviting and impressive form, to win us back to the love
and obedience which the law enjoins. Its special requisition for this end is that
we receive the Holy Ghost as the condition and means of practical obedience and a
practical realization of the great result of holiness in heart and life. Man needs
such an influence; therefore God provides it. Whatever else did or did not occur
at the fall of man in Eden, it is plain that the Holy Ghost was grieved. Man tore
himself away from his God and from communion with Him, so that God no longer dwelt
within him. But now God is seeking to restore that state of communion and fellowship.
He now returns to man in the person of His Spirit, and asks of the sinner to open
his heart and make this Heaven agent welcome.
- 4. I need not here speak of the case of those who know not the gospel, only to
say that all such are plainly under the law only, and not under the gospel. They
have the work of the law written in their heart; and by this light they stand or
fall. But of us, who have the gospel, God requires that we should receive the Holy
Ghost. Some will say--is not this unreasonable? No; for the Holy Ghost is not far
away in some remote quarter of the universe where you cannot reach Him, but is present,
and needs only be made welcome and He will take up His abode with you. He comes in
connection with His word, to teach, enforce and impress it; and the thing for you
to do is to yield yourself to the conviction of the truth, thus revealed. To yield
to truth, is to yield to God. When the Bible shows you that you ought to believe
and trust God, then to do this is to yield to the Spirit of God and to welcome His
presence to your heart. When you know that you ought to give up your sins, then to
yield to this conviction is to consent to the claims of His Spirit and to receive
it to your soul. Else you resist the Holy Ghost. He does not expect you to rise of
yourself and without His aid from the state of death in which you are plunged, but
requires you to receive the Holy Ghost, and continually, to yield to every conviction
of duty. By presentation of the truth, He draws; you are to yield; He constrains;
you acquiesce. He requires you to be led and filled with the Spirit; to lean on Him
and to avail yourself of His help. He bids you obey His perfect law; and by this
divine agency, offered through the Spirit, He provides all requisite aid and strength
for this purpose. This provision is both full and free. If it were otherwise, you
might find or feel it hard to be required to be filled with the Holy Ghost. If you
must needs ascend into heaven to bring Him down, or descend into the deep to bring
Him up, this might be grievous. But only to receive a present and offered Spirit;
how can you think this hard? Jesus comes to restore and reinstate you in holiness
and love; does He require you to do all this unaided? He neither expects nor requires
it. He tenders to you His advocacy; proposes to advocate your cause without cost.
Are you rich? Give to your suffering fellow men and please God therein; Are you poor?
He requires of you only according to what you have.
- 5. He does not require you to live an anxious distracted life, bearing all your
own burdens alone, but has permitted you to be "without carefulness," casting
all your care upon Him. He gives you the fullest permission to let the peace of God
rule in your heart; and is this a hard thing? Is this state of mind a hard and grievous
one? Jesus said--"My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I
unto you." The men of the world give sparingly, grudgingly; they give today
and take back tomorrow; but not so does Christ give to His friends. Is this grievous?
- 6. He says--"Rejoice always." Many seem to think religion only fit
for sick-beds and funeral occasions, and they say, "What have we to do with
a religion so gloomy? Must we forego all our enjoyments? How grievous that would
be!" The "righteous should make their boast in Him and be glad." In
His salvation, let them "exceedingly rejoice." God invites them to look
up to Him hopefully, never desponding, much less despairing. If He had required you
to rejoice in worldly pleasure and be happy in the good things of earth, this were
indeed a hard saying and a grievous commandment.
- 7. But I have heard some of you say--"God wants nothing to do with me; He
has utterly cast me off; How then can I believe and trust in Him? I have abused Him
too long." Mark; God asks of you no such feelings, no such thoughts. On the
contrary He only asks you to take Him at His word and welcome to your soul a full
salvation. He gives you the full consolation of believing. Is this grievous?
- 8. He requires you to embrace every dispensation with a kiss; to believe that
all things shall work together for your good; and so believing, to rejoice in all
your afflictions and tribulations.
- 9. Of you, sinner, He requires that you should come today and bring all your
load of guilt to Him. Come, however deeply conscious of much past sin; come and hold
your soul under the flowing stream of His redeeming blood. And is this hard? Is this
too bad? Is it too bad that He should forgive so freely and tender you the waters
of life without money or price? He does not require you to hear a great many sermons
or make a great many impenitent prayers.
But you say--"Lord, if I were a Christian, I would come at once to Thee;
but now, I must certainly make myself better before I come." "No,"
says your Savior; "come now. Make no delay; offer no excuses for refusal."
"Can I come, you say, without His help?" Is He not helping you even now?
Suppose I should sit sullenly down and refuse to move, when everything is ready and
nothing wanting but the action of my own will? Suppose I should then plead that I
lacked the power and that I must wait! What nonsense!
Now He offers you His hand and asks you to take hold of it with your own. There must
be a reciprocal taking hold of hands, the Spirit's agency working together with your
own. The hand of your faith must take hold of the hand let down from heaven to you.
And is this hard or grievous?
1. What could God have required less than He does? Nothing. What could He have required
which would be more easy? I appeal to every sinner in this house; can you think of
anything more easy, more feasible, more available? Of course you cannot think of
His saving you in your sins. This would be no salvation. Do you complain that Christ's
commands are grievous? In what one particular could He have done better?
2. You know that Christ has always done as much as He could for your salvation. Can
you suggest a better, or more available system? Can you devise anything better than
for you to take hold of His strength? He gives you the entire influence of His example,
the utmost virtue of His blood and of His dying love; can you think of anything more
Let me ask these young women, can you think of anything better? Has He made salvation
less easy than He might? Did you ever tell Him so? Do you say--"Why did He not
over-rule my freedom?" If He had, He could not have saved you any how. Could
He have done anything more that would have been of service towards your salvation?
Has He refused to make any sacrifices that if made, would have done you good? Did
He avoid the cross? Did He shun the shame? Did He stay in heaven and bask in its
bliss? Oh No! He came down; He flew to your relief; although He saw how many groans
and how much blood it would cost Him.
Have you thought of any expression of love which He has not made? Of any words of
tenderness and forbearance He should have uttered, but did not? Have you acquainted
yourself with what He has said? Is it said guardedly? Is the fulfillment uncertain?
What is wanting?
How wicked of you if you complain! What have you to complain of? He has done the
best He could; and have you any right to complain of that? How wicked to regard and
treat His service and His gospel as if it were a hard thing!
A young woman said to me, "I am trying to become a Christian." What does
that mean? Real honest trying implies the full consent of the will, and that is all
that God requires. This consent is, being converted. People commonly deceive themselves
when they talk thus about trying.
3. How great a mistake, to suppose that we cannot obey God. If our circumstances
and nature were such that we absolutely could not obey Him, it would indeed be very
grievous for Him to require it. But how can it be difficult now, since the thing
He requires is only right willing? To say that a moral agent tries to will right
and yet cannot is a downright absurdity. Nobody ever tried to will right and found
it hard. This would be a contradiction in terms.
4. Inasmuch as the Spirit of God is freely given to us, it must be easy and not hard
for us to get it. The command therefore to "be filled with the Spirit"
is by no means grievous.
5. Only those complain of its being difficult to obey the law who would fain do it
without accepting the help offered in the gospel. With the heart all wrong, they
try to render an external obedience. This is always a hard up-hill business.
6. Without being at all aware of it many are trying to get along without Christ.
Their effort is to make themselves good enough by dint of resolutions and efforts
of their own, made quite in their own strength. Such persons, of course, will find
it hard to be religious.
7. In a little different mode, some try to get grace by works of love. They want
to come to Christ, but in order to get Christ, they try to work up a certain state
of feeling and perform some legal works. All this is quite aside from the simplicity
of gospel faith.
In like manner many try to get the Spirit without yielding to His present teachings.
Overlooking and disobeying these, they wait for more light and pray for more of the
Holy Spirit, while they refuse to obey what they have.
In fact, such persons fail to use a present offered Savior; do not realize how near,
and how free, and how rich, are His gifts, nor how truly they are available--that
they may as truly have and use the strength of Christ as they can use the strength
of their own muscles. You may hear them crying and shouting aloud for the Holy Ghost,
as if He were as far off as the fixed stars, not aware that He is really within them,
trying to bring them to take hold of His present help. Such people make religion
a hard and grievous matter. They do not understand its great simplicity and its ineffable
richness and adaptation to human want.
8. Those who refuse to take Christ at His word will find it hard to get religion.
You will hear them saying--
"Reason I hear, her counsels weigh,
And all I hear I approve;
but still I find it hard t'obey,
And harder still to love."
Is that your experience? If so, then you do not believe one word of Christ's promises.
You have failed to reach the simplicity of gospel faith. While Christ is trying by
every means to woo and to wed your heart to Himself, and lets down an almighty arm
to rescue and save you, what reception does He meet with! Each Sabbath evening in
this place, we meet persons who think it one of the hardest things in the world to
become Christians; who say--"I am trying to find Christ, but I must conclude
He is not to be found. I cannot come to Him." Are not all these conceptions
of Christ unkind to Him? Are they not false, injurious to Christ?
9. The great mass of professors of religion take ground directly opposed to our text.
Whereas the inspired word declares--"His commandments are not grievous,"
they represent God's service as very hard and full of grief. Reason; they are in
legal bondage, and have never broken out into the glorious liberty of the children
of God. Let me ask these sinners, have you not received the impression from what
you have heard Christians say, that it is a very difficult thing to get religion
and that its service is so hard and God's law so high, it requires an angel's heart
to keep it? Whereas the truth is, God requires nothing in anywise unreasonable. It
is easier to be well-disposed than ill-disposed. How then can you say, it is easier
to rebel that to obey? O sinner, all such notions are utterly false. His commandments
are not grievous.
Look at that young man who says--"If I become a Christian I shall be compelled
to preach the gospel, and O, what dull work and poor pay!" Does he forget that
they who "turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars forever and ever?"
Is this too hard?
But he says--"I must be a missionary and go to Africa; be sick there and die
an early death." Well; "he that will lose his life for My sake, the same
shall save it."
"But I am not eloquent." Oh, not eloquent! Can you not stammer out the
gospel story? If it were really in your heart filling all your soul with its rich
experience, could you not give some utterance to its glorious yet simple message?
Beware of ambition! If you could be the first preacher in all the land--the most
eloquent and the most applauded, that would do! Oh, that unholy ambition! You make
your religion insufferably hard if you try to serve both God and your own ambition!
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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