What Saith the Scripture?

On Love To Our Neighbor- No. 2

by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College

from "The Oberlin Evangelist" Publication of Oberlin College
Lecture II
July 4
, 1860

Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart

Text.--Matt. 22:39: "And the second is like unto is; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

In speaking upon this portion of our Lord's epitome of the divine law, I will first enquire

I. What kind of love is here required;

II. Second, state some of the things implied in this love;

III. Third, show that nothing short of this love is true humanity; and

IV. Lastly, that nothing less is true morality.

I. The love required toward our neighbor is certainly not complacency in his character.

II. I pass now to name some things implied in this love.

So ministers who preach and their people who hear, should be mutally giving and receiving good, to and from each other. All of us, instead of being merely recipients of good from others, should strive to do good to others also, rendering back into their bosoms liberally.

Do you say "I don't owe Christ anything?" But you profess to be respectable. Yet who can respect you if you treat Jesus Christ so? Have you no sympathy with His great sacrifices and sufferings to save you? Would you leave all the labor and sacrifice for Him, and make no response of love or gratitude? Will you utterly refuse to love Him? Do you say -- "He is welcome to love me and to die for me; but I have nothing to pay him in return? I leave it for him to do and to suffer all, and not a word of things can he have from me." Do you think this is right? Is it generous? Ought it to be deemed respectable?

III. Nothing short of the love here required is true humanity.

It is not true humanity to do good only to one's own offspring. They are regarded as parts of one's self, and hence doing good to them only, is nothing beyond a slightly enlarged selfishness. Nothing is really love to man -- true humanity -- except that love which estimates human well-being for its intrinsic value, and loves man as man.

IV. Nothing short of this is true morality.


1. If all men obeyed the laws of God, society would be perfect. I do not mean that there would be no further progress, no advance, no improvement; no, not this, for much remains to be done. But this is true, that morality would be perfect; there would be no more war and strife. Every family would be a little emblem of heaven. Every community would bear the image of heaven. The wings of angels would come down so near, they would fan such loving hearts; and heaven's doors would stand open all day long before such a people.

2. We see how we are to treat those who are oppressed and in slavery. We are to put ourselves in their position and enquire what we should ask them to do for us, in their circumstances. Suppose that I and my family are in slavery. Election is coming on. Have I a right to expect that my friends in Ohio will cast their votes so as to bear most directly upon my liberation? I should be very prone to think that no man ought to cast his vote against my liberty, for the mere sake of money or office. Even politicians can see how shameful and how outrageously wrong it is to hold man as a chattel. That this should be deemed a Bible institution is of all monstrous things most monstrous! It is so revolting that I cannot well imagine how anybody can be honest in holding this opinion. Yet let us be candid: I can easily see that the merely legal relation may exist without any violation of the law of love.

3. This golden rule is equally applicable everywhere and in all circumstances. It is good when applied in the matter of asking favors. We ought not to ask a favor of any man when a knowledge of his circumstances and a proper sympathy for his welfare, such as we would have him feel for ours, would forbid it.

4. The same is true of receiving favors. This law, honestly applied, would show us what favors we should be willing to allow others to do for us. Sometimes we cannot properly allow others to do us favors. If a poor man has labored for me a month and refuses to receive compensation, I too must by all means refuse to receive his labor as a gift. A proper regard to his circumstances compels me to refuse so great a gift from him. He cannot afford to give it; there fore I cannot afford to receive it.

5. You may see from this subject what the morality of unregenerate men is. It is not morality at all, in any just sense. All their morals is only sin.

6. You may also see God's personal relations to selfishness. Every particle of selfishness is personally hostile and hateful to God. It is so utterly unlike his heart, so totally opposed to all his principles and to all his acts, he can have no fellowship with it. He must forever hold it in utter abhorrence.

7. You may also see his governmental relations to sin. He can bear the personal insult and he does -- does for the time, and, but for governmental reasons, would pass it over perhaps forever. He endures with sinners now; he does not fret; does not manifest excited passion, as men do under insult; but the governmental bearings of sin he cannot overlook. The selfishness of men towards himself and towards each other, he must see. He is a magistrate, bearing the highest responsibilities of the universe. All eyes are turned upon him. He must mark the iniquities that are done among his subjects and his creatures. He must see all their wickedness, biting and devouring one another, trampling each other down. All eyes are upturned towards him. What says the Judge of all the earth to this! Ah, this must be answered! God's relations to his government make it an awful thing for man to love selfishness.

8. Every selfish sinner is in certain peril of eternal death. Men know this and cannot but know it. God's mercy flows at your feet, a deep, broad, glorious current; yet you heed it not! Yet you thrust Jesus away! You have done so often and long. Can you do it yet longer? Jesus with bleeding heart and loving hand pressing near to save you, but you are saying -- Depart from me! let me alone in my sins yet longer! I will not have this man to rule over me, nor to save me, on such terms of salvation!

O sinner! will you still pursue a course so ruinous, and so outrageously abusive to Jesus Christ?

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

  1. Complacency, or Esteem: "Complacency, as a state of will or heart, is only benevolence modified by the consideration or relation of right character in the object of it. God, prophets, apostles, martyrs, and saints, in all ages, are as virtuous in their self-denying and untiring labours to save the wicked, as they are in their complacent love to the saints." Systematic Theology (LECTURE VII). Also, "approbation of the character of its object. Complacency is due only to the good and holy." Lectures to Professing Christians (LECTURE XII).

  2. Disinterested Benevolence: "By disinterested benevolence I do not mean, that a person who is disinterested feels no interest in his object of pursuit, but that he seeks the happiness of others for its own sake, and not for the sake of its reaction on himself, in promoting his own happiness. He chooses to do good because he rejoices in the happiness of others, and desires their happiness for its own sake. God is purely and disinterestedly benevolent. He does not make His creatures happy for the sake of thereby promoting His own happiness, but because He loves their happiness and chooses it for its own sake. Not that He does not feel happy in promoting the happiness of His creatures, but that He does not do it for the sake of His own gratification." Lectures to Professing Christians (LECTURE I).

  3. Divine Sovereignty: "The sovereignty of God consists in the independence of his will, in consulting his own intelligence and discretion, in the selection of his end, and the means of accomplishing it. In other words, the sovereignty of God is nothing else than infinite benevolence directed by infinite knowledge." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LXXVI).

  4. Election: "That all of Adam's race, who are or ever will be saved, were from eternity chosen by God to eternal salvation, through the sanctification of their hearts by faith in Christ. In other words, they are chosen to salvation by means of sanctification. Their salvation is the end- their sanctification is a means. Both the end and the means are elected, appointed, chosen; the means as really as the end, and for the sake of the end." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LXXIV).

  5. Entire Sanctification: "Sanctification may be entire in two senses: (1.) In the sense of present, full obedience, or entire consecration to God; and, (2.) In the sense of continued, abiding consecration or obedience to God. Entire sanctification, when the terms are used in this sense, consists in being established, confirmed, preserved, continued in a state of sanctification or of entire consecration to God." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LVIII).

  6. Moral Agency: "Moral agency is universally a condition of moral obligation. The attributes of moral agency are intellect, sensibility, and free will." Systematic Theology (LECTURE III).

  7. Moral Depravity: "Moral depravity is the depravity of free-will, not of the faculty itself, but of its free action. It consists in a violation of moral law. Depravity of the will, as a faculty, is, or would be, physical, and not moral depravity. It would be depravity of substance, and not of free, responsible choice. Moral depravity is depravity of choice. It is a choice at variance with moral law, moral right. It is synonymous with sin or sinfulness. It is moral depravity, because it consists in a violation of moral law, and because it has moral character." Systematic Theology (LECTURE XXXVIII).

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

  9. Retributive Justice: "Retributive justice consists in treating every subject of government according to his character. It respects the intrinsic merit or demerit of each individual, and deals with him accordingly." Systematic Theology (LECTURE XXXIV).

  10. Total Depravity: "Moral depravity of the unregenerate is without any mixture of moral goodness or virtue, that while they remain unregenerate, they never in any instance, nor in any degree, exercise true love to God and to man." Systematic Theology (LECTURE XXXVIII).

  11. Unbelief: "the soul's withholding confidence from truth and the God of truth. The heart's rejection of evidence, and refusal to be influenced by it. The will in the attitude of opposition to truth perceived, or evidence presented." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LV).

Next "Oberlin Evangelist"

What's New

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