What Saith the Scripture?
The Kingdom of God In Consciousness
by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College
from "The Oberlin Evangelist" Publication of Oberlin College
April 24, 1861
Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
Text.--Rom. 14:17: "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
In speaking from these words, I inquire --
I. What is the kingdom of God?
II. Three particulars which constitute this kingdom of God.
I. What is the kingdom of God?
II. I notice the three particulars which are here said to constitute this kingdom of God, "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
It requires that God should be loved for his own sake, and supremely, because He is supremely and infinitely great and good; that man should be loved as we love ourselves; and that this love to God and man should be expressed in all appropriate ways in all the relations of life. This love, with all its appropriate expressions in the temper, and life, and spirit, is righteousness. It is a voluntary love; and therefore must reveal itself in uprightness of life in every relation in which we exist.
It is real active devotion to the whole mind of God, and also devotion to the interests and well being of man.
It always implies diligence, and industry, and study, to please God; it always implies the avoiding of everything that can displease him; and in short, it consists in the heart's being fully committed to do and suffer all the will of God, and that readily, and joyfully for his own sake.
This, then, is the righteousness which constitutes the great element or peculiarity of the kingdom of God in the soul.
It is Christ's righteousness imparted to the soul of man. It is Christ's law or will taking effect in the soul of man, and begetting his own righteousness in us; and thus we come to be partakers of the righteousness of God, not merely by imputation, but by actual experience, and active love and service. I pray you, let no one overlook the true end of righteousness. Do not forget that true righteousness is the very love in kind that is in Christ's own heart, and that led him to do all he had done for mankind.
This love, it should be understood, must necessarily express itself in the life, because the connection between this love and outward action is a connection of necessity. This love consists in the will's devotion to God and to the good of man. It is consecration; it is making common cause with God and man, and unifying ourselves with God's state of mind.
This state of mind is like the calm, deep flow of a river. It is a calm, deep flow of feeling in conscious harmony with God's state of mind. It is remarkable that in this state of mind we are conscious, not of the mind's lying still, and being in a quiescent state, but the sensibility seems to be flowing, a deep current of the mind. And it all flows in one direction. Like a river, there is no conflicting of different currents, some flowing in one direction, and some in another.
There may be ripplings in the current -- there may be obstructions so that the waters in one place may dam up and boil over the obstructions, but there are no counter currents forcing their way upward and conflicting with the general stream, with the little eddyings here and there, and the obstructions, and boilings up, and flowings around the obstructing objects here and there. Upon the whole, the whole movement of the mind, the intellect, the sensibility, the will, all come flowing in one direction, and the flow is harmony; the flow is peace, the flow is a deep, broad river of life and love.
This peace is like the subdued, settled, satisfied state of a weaned child. As the Psalmist says, "Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty; neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself as a child that is weaned of its mother; my soul is even as a weaned child."
Every one knows that an unsubdued child, unsettled in obedience, is continually chafing under parental authority; and there can be no real peace between the parent and the child unless the child be actually and thoroughly subdued, so that it will accept the will of the parent as its law of life. And when the child is really and thoroughly subdued, so that it is cheerful and satisfied with its state of subjection; when this state becomes its chosen adopted state, and this subjection is preferred to following its own counsels and its own will, then there is peace between the parent and the child. Then the child itself has peace of mind; then the child itself can be happy. It is not restive, and keeping up a constant friction with parental authority. Just so is it in the government of God. While the king is striving to set up his kingdom in the heart, and the sinner is resisting, there is conviction, remorse, dissatisfaction, struggling, evading, stubbornness, chafing, cavilling; and all the elements of disorder, of sin, of turmoil, are in the soul. In this state there can be no peace. This heart cannot be saved; it cannot, by any possibility, go to heaven. This mind can never have peace until it is completely, and joyfully, and universally subject to the will of God.
Now the peace of the gospel consists in this perfectly subdued, settled, confiding, joyful, quiescent state of mind, in respect to God, his government, character, requirements, and dealings.
I say, the opposite of these; in other words, we are conscious, as I have already intimated, of our being accepted; not only of our being at peace with God, but of his being at peace with us. A state of forgiveness, of being restored to favor, of being on good terms with God through his abounding grace, is always involved in this peace.
When the kingdom of God is set up in the soul, not only is it true that God's whole will is accepted; but the soul has such confidence in God, has such spirituality in regard to perceiving God in his universal providence, that recognizing God in all the movements of his providence, that unbelieving carefulness and corroding anxiety that so much disturbs the world, is shut out from the mind where the kingdom of God is set in.
1. This, then, must be a matter of consciousness. A religion of which we could not be conscious, could not be of much importance to us, at any rate. If we did not know whether we had it or not, surely it could not be worth having, so far as we are concerned.
But the fact is, if we can be conscious of anything, we can be, and must be, conscious of the kingdom of God existing within us.
Just think! the kingdom of God is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost; and yet, I can remember the time when it was thought a very dark and suspicious circumstance if a person expressed great confidence that he was a Christian. It was gravely suspected by even grave divines, that such a one was not acquainted with his heart; but to express great doubts with respect to one's own conversion, was regarded as an evidence of profound humility. And we would frequently hear the very excellent Mr. So and So, and Dr. Such a One, spoken of as having so many doubts as to whether they were Christians. Now we might earnestly and prayerfully ask, were did such views of religion come from?
2. It must also be a matter of observation, in the sense, as I have said, that the kingdom of God within a man must reveal itself in his outward life, temper, and spirit; in his business transactions; in his social and domestic relations; in his public relations; and indeed, in every relation of life.
If the kingdom of God is within him, he is an upright man; he is a benevolent man; he is a man devoted to the service of God, and to the interests of man. In business he is equitable, in politics he is honest and honorable, in every relation he is a Christian.
3. How very different is this account of the religion of Jesus, from the experience narrated in the seventh chapter of Romans, which is plainly a legal experience, in which the kingdom of God is not set up, but is striving to get possession of the heart. The eighth chapter of Romans portrays an experience in which the kingdom of God is set up in the heart; in which "the righteousness of God is fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit."
But the seventh of Romans is an experience the opposite of the eighth. Here it is all bondage, resolution, purpose, and failing. Here, instead of righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, the soul is bound fast in the cords of its own sins; floundering in a pit of mire and clay, and having neither righteousness, nor peace, nor joy in the Holy Ghost. And yet, strange to tell, this seventh of Romans has been regarded as Christian experience by a great portion of the church for centuries. There is reason to fear that millions of souls have stopped in the seventh of Romans, taking it for granted that they were converted, having mistaken conviction for conversion, and have gone down to hell.
4. How different is this account of the kingdom of God in consciousness, from the peaceless religion of a great many professors. They have no peace of mind. They are restless, restive, chafing, complaining, murmuring, resisting, and are in a constant state of turmoil and agitation in regard to their relations to God. Indeed, they know that they have no peace of mind; they know that God's whole will is not cordially accepted by them; they know that they are living in the neglect of known duty; they know that they are shunning the cross daily; they know that they are not universally devoted to God; they know that they are not devoted to the interests of men. Of course peace is impossible to them, and they are aware that they have not this peace of mind, and this state of cordiality between themselves and God. And yet they think themselves Christians! But the kingdom of God is not within them, for Christ does not reign in their hearts, and they are in no sense prepared for heaven. Now if the kingdom of God is not within them, why should they call themselves Christians?
It is very common for persons in this state to fall back, and say, they have no dependence except upon Christ; but they depend on Christ. But surely, this is a mistake. They do not truly depend on Christ, unless Christ has really set up his throne within their hearts. If they have true faith in Christ, they have true peace, they have true righteousness, they have true joy in the Holy Ghost; but wanting these, it is a sheer delusion to say that they depend on Christ.
But they say, I do not depend on anything within myself. I do not depend on my prayers, on my own righteousness, on my peace of mind, on my joy, or upon any experience I have. No, I answer, you should not depend on any of these as the ground of your acceptance with God. But as the condition of your going to heaven, as being that without which you cannot go to heaven you must depend on this righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. This state of mind is that without which you can never go to heaven.
However perfect it may be, it is not that for which, on the ground of justice, you could be admitted to heaven, but it is that without which heaven is a natural impossibility to you.
Do not, therefore, I pray you, say, O, I am to be saved by grace, therefore I lay no stress upon my own holiness. But I ask you, my dear sir, what is salvation? Is not an element of salvation personal holiness, or righteousness? True, if saved at all, you are saved by grace. But mark! to be saved by grace is to be made holy by grace, to be made righteous by grace. It is to have by grace, the very state of mind which the text describes, righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.
Let no one then pretend to fall back upon Christ who does not suffer Christ to reign in his heart. The religion of many is sheer Antinomianism. They really suppose that they are going to be saved by an imputed without an imparted righteousness.
They know that they are living in the daily indulgence of sin; that they do shun the cross, and always have done so; that they never have made a clean breast of confession, or washed their hands by restitution; in short, they have never become personally upright, honest, holy, and yet they think they are going to saved by Christ! They say, we have believed, and therefore we are forgiven and accepted. They think that by one act of faith they come into a state of perpetual justification.
But this is naked Antinomianism. If this be true, then the law must indeed be repealed and abolished; for if the moral law remains in force, the soul must be condemned if it indulges in sin.
5. How different is the religion of this text from the joyless religion of multitudes of professors. Indeed, it is mournfully common to see professors of religion who seldom or never profess any religious joy. It is no wonder they do not, for they themselves will admit that they are living in the constant indulgence of known sin. In this state, true religious joy is entirely out of the question.
If in this state they have any joy, it will be rejoicing in themselves; in their own supposed safety, and not in God. A joyless religion is a very repulsive religion.
6. To have this kingdom of God in consciousness is indispensable to our rightly teaching religion. I say teaching religion. We may warn others of their danger; we may prove to them their guilt; we may hold forth the threatenings, and even the promises; we may teach them the doctrines, but this is not teaching them religion, it is not presenting to them religion. It is teaching them certain things about religion, or rather, saying certain things of religion. But religion is a state of mind, a voluntary state, a state of love, with which joy and peace are necessarily connected. Now unless we have this joy and peace, it is impossible that we should convey a correct idea of what religion is.
If we do not ourselves love, if we have not ourselves peace and joy, if we attempt to preach religion we shall continually betray ourselves, and show that we are preaching but a hearsay gospel, and trying to teach a religion which we do not experimentally understand.
The fact is, experience always has a language of its own, and this language can never be supplied by any theory. Truly to preach peace and good will, they must be a matter of personal experience and consciousness; truly to preach joy, the heart must be flowing with it.
7. The experience of this kingdom in consciousness, is essential to rightly living it before the world. It cannot be really counterfeited. A man may be very sanctimonious in his outward life and in his looks, in his words and tones; but after all there will be cant in it, there will be something unnatural, it will be a manifest affection. To be lived, Christianity must be experienced. If it be in the heart, it will be looked, it will be acted, it will be spoken; it will be made manifest in the very tones of the voice, in an obliging manner, in pains-taking to honor God and to do good to men. It will be unselfish, honest, generous, cheerful, joyful. But these things cannot be so counterfeited as to set well upon a man.
8. Where this consciousness really exists it will produce conviction. It cannot conceal itself; it will be noticeable in any relation of life.
A husband will notice it in his wife; he will be struck with it; it will produce conviction. A wife will be struck with it in her husband; parents in children, and children in parents; and in every relation of life, it will produce conviction.
Religion is a thing so diverse from the spirit of this world, the kingdom of God is so opposite to the kingdoms of this world, and to the kingdom of Satan, that where it is really set up in any heart it must so express itself in the life, and temper and spirit, as to force conviction wherever it has an opportunity really to manifest itself.
9. If the human soul has not this consciousness, it will of course seek worldly good. To seek for happiness, satisfaction, enjoyment, is natural to man; and he will either seek his own selfishly, or he will seek the general good unselfishly. If the kingdom of God is established in him, he is an unselfish devotee to the glory of God and the good of man. In this he will find his enjoyment, here he will find the truest enjoyment, and the highest kind of enjoyment.
In this state of mind he does not seek his own enjoyment as an end; but he inevitably finds it. In this state of mind, he does not seek his own peace, nor his own joy, these are not the objects of his search, nor the end at which he aims; yet he inevitably finds them while he does not seek, and all the more surely because he does not seek them. But if a man has not this enjoyment, if he has not happiness in God, he will seek it in the world. It is in vain to shut him up to a truly religious life, unless this kingdom be established in his heart. If converts stop short of this consciousness, they will surely turn back.
10. If the soul has this satisfaction in God, it will not go lusting after worldly good, It has found a joy too sublime, too high, too spiritual, too all-pervading, to leave the mind restless and craving after worldly good. It will not lust for worldly pleasure and worldly ways; it will not plead for merely worldly amusements, and pastimes, and social intercourse. No! it has found the society of God; it has entered into communion with him; it resides in the same palace with the King of Kings. It has an altar, and a worship, and a sanctuary, within itself; it is at home when engaged in the worship and service of God. But deprive the soul of this satisfaction in God, and you cannot keep it; it will go abroad, inquiring, "Who will show us any good?"
11. True converts will soon learn to watch unto prayer, that they may pray in the Holy Ghost, and thus keep themselves in the love of God. At first, converts are not aware how easily they can mar their own peace; how easily they can throw themselves out of sympathy with God; how easily they can bring a cloud over their souls and wound their own spirits. But if they are really converted, have the kingdom of God in consciousness, they will soon learn what wounds, what brings darkness, what mars their union with God, what disturbs their peace, what separates them from that clear and heavenly union without which they cannot live. They will soon learn the necessity of watchfulness, of much prayerfulness, of engaging as little as is consistent with duty in promiscuous conversation. They will learn to guard against idle words, vain conversation, worldly associations, a mis-spending of their time, a misuse of their money, a misuse of their tongue -- in short they will learn to gird themselves up, and to walk softly with God. They will find this indispensable to their peace, indispensable to their joy, indispensable to their maintaining their righteousness. They will soon learn that they must either part with God, or part with sin; that they must gird up their loins, and live wholly a religious, devoted life, or they can never have religious joy and righteousness and peace at all.
12. Spurious conversions may generally be known by their not realizing the necessity of watchfulness and prayer, and constant communion with God.
It shows that they have not tasted of the grace of God; that they have not had communion with God; that they have not known what it is to be born of God, and to have the kingdom of God set up within them.
By watching the tendency of professed converts, we may generally tell whether true religion is really a matter of experience with them. If we find them loose in the use of their tongues, unwatchful, running hither and thither to please themselves, not caring to spend much time in prayer, not disposed to search their Bibles, not tender and easily wounded by any slip or sin into which they may fall -- we may know they are not truly converted; the King has not set up his throne in their hearts; holiness to the Lord is not written there; they know not what it is to walk and commune with God.
13. Sinners know that this which I have described must be true religion, and must be what they themselves need.
In preaching at a certain place I was discoursing upon religion as an experience; upon the love of God, the peace and joy of the salvation of Christ. As I came out of the pulpit, I was met at the foot of the pulpit stairs by a prominent lawyer, a stranger to me, who wished to be introduced to me. He said to me: "Mr. Finney, after tea, I wish you would make a religious call with me, I wish to introduce you to a friend of mine." I replied, "I suppose it is for a religious purpose." He answered yes. I told him I should be happy to accompany him. He called on me after tea, and took me to the house of his friend, and introduced me to an aged lady, who immediately expressed great joy to see me, and began to tell me what the Lord had done for her soul.
She poured out a sweet religious experience in a conversation of half an hour. Her joy was overflowing. She said the very atmosphere she breathed seemed to be love.
This lawyer sat where I could look him in the face without appearing to do so. I had learned that he was not a religious man. I saw the muscles of his face quiver; that it was with difficulty that he could suppress his emotions while the old lady was pouring off from her full heart this flood of religious experience.
After hearing what she had to say, we rose up and took our leave. As we stepped out into the street, he stepped before me and said, "See there! what do you think of that? I know that that is the Christian religion; I know that that is what I need, and I never was so determined not to rest short of it as I am now."
Thus I have found it common, when preaching religion as a matter of experience and consciousness, to find it carrying conviction to the minds even of the most skeptical. I have often heard of their saying -- "There, I understand that now; I see that is and must be true religion; this is what we all need, or certainly we cannot go to heaven."
14. Without this experience, we cannot enjoy what we call religious duties. If we attempt to perform them without this experience. we shall do it only as a task, as a matter of habit, or something that must not be neglected; yet as something in which we have no true satisfaction. But with this experience, prayer is a real luxury, and we will love to multiply occasions of prayer. So great is the enjoyment of communion with God, so sacred, so calm, so divinely serene and satisfying, that the soul is never, in this world, so deeply satisfied as when in the deepest communion with God.
Religious conversation with truly spiritual persons is a feast of the soul in which the kingdom of God is set up.
15. Labor, pains-taking, and even self-denial, for the salvation of souls and the glory of God, is spontaneous; is the natural outburst of an inward flame of love, an inward spring of joy and peace where the kingdom of God is set up.
But where this kingdom is not, much prayer is a great burden; persons are shy of religious conversations, they have no heart to it; and labor for souls and with souls is what they can hardly bring themselves to do. It is a real cross to go and labor personally with souls, a real trial, a matter of fearfulness and timidity, where the kingdom of God is not truly set up in the soul. Men are ashamed and afraid to go and labor earnestly with their neighbors for the salvation of their souls, while they themselves are in bondage, and have no real experience of what they teach. Even ministers are ashamed to labor directly and personally with souls, if they have not this kingdom of God burning within them.
16. Without peace and joy we cannot earnestly and honestly recommend religion. If our religion is a bondage, void of peace and joy in God, we may warn others of their danger and their guilt; we can commend religion to them as a matter of personal prudence, as a thing not to be neglected, lest they should lose their souls; but we cannot recommend it in such a sense as to draw people out of the world into a present embracing of it. The fact is, man wants enjoyment for the present; he wants something now to interest him; he wants something that he can now feel, now realize, now interest himself in; and now find some satisfaction in. But if we have not this peace and joy, all our representations will naturally repel rather than attract the mind.
They will admit -- "O it is something we must attend to, but not now. Your religion is a necessity, we admit, some time before we die. We intend to become religious; but it is religion to die by, and not to live by. It is something to be associated with death-beds, and funerals, and mournful occasions; and not something in which we can find a present interest, enjoyment, and unction.
17. This is the true and only antidote to worldly-mindedness.
With this kingdom of God set up in his heart, a man is crucified to the world, and can well afford that the world should be crucified to him. With this love, peace, and joy in experience, he will naturally turn away and hide himself in God, rather than mix up unnecessarily with the bustle, the strife, the bitterness, the slang, and egotism, and insanity of this world.
There are many that stop short of this experience in consciousness; and of course if they are professors of religion, they make up the masses who are pleading for worldly enjoyment, for social intercourse, for the cultivation of worldly taste. They run after amusements, they journey, they do everything to find enjoyment. They must see sights, they must hear music, they must frequent musical entertainments, they must get up worldly pastimes and parties; these things they will seek because they have nothing better in experience.
If we ask why is it that the great mass of professors of religion are so worldly-minded, the answer is at hand -- they have not the kingdom of God in consciousness.
Not being rooted and grounded in love; not having the peace of God ruling in their hearts, not having the joy of God a perpetual fountain welling up within them, how can it be expected that they will not do as they do?
But the most surprising thing is, that these worldly professors still hold on to the idea that they are truly religious. If they would be consistent, and say, "why we have no religion; we have no consciousness of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost; we have no joy in God, and do you expect to deprive ourselves of all enjoyment? We have no satisfaction in our religious experience; and do you expect to deprive us of seeking satisfaction elsewhere? We know not God, and therefore we must have the world." Now if they would say this, and be consistent, they would cease to be stumbling blocks; people would understand them. The world would not hide behind them; they would not then be a standing contradiction of religion, and a shocking dishonor to Christ; for in that case they would avow their unreligious character.
But as it is, strange to tell, they will maintain their religious profession. They think themselves really religious. But they are not religious. They seek the world, and lust after it, simply because they have no religion in consciousness.
18. It is easy, therefore, for us to discriminate between those who love God and those who love him not.
They in whose heart the kingdom of God is established, follow on to know the Lord more and more perfectly. They are under the influence of a divine charm or enchantment; the love of Christ is constraining them. They have tasted and seen that the Lord is gracious; why should they turn back and lust after the flesh-pots of Egypt? Why should they gad about to seek love? They have found the home of their hearts in Christ. They have found their resting place, their joyful habitation, their all-satisfying portion. They cannot exchange these spiritual joys for the gross pleasures of earth; they cannot exchange these sacred moments of communion with God for communion with this world; they cannot afford to abandon God's heavenly ways for the insane ways of a wicked world.
19. But lastly, do any of you ask, how shall I come to have this experience of the kingdom of God in my soul?
The answer is plain and scriptural: Receive Christ, open your heart. He says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."
Give him the key of the whole habitation, of every room and every closet, and let him cleanse the whole -- cleanse every apartment; and write "Holiness to the Lord," upon every wall, and every ceiling, and every door, and everything within. Open your heart, and commit yourself to him for this very purpose, that he may write his law and establish his throne forever within you. Do it now, submit to this now. Invite him in; lay all upon his altar, and ask him to baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
of easily misunderstood terms as defined by Mr. Finney himself.
Compiled by Katie Stewart
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