What Saith the Scripture?
Great Peace- No. 1
by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College
Oberlin Evangelist" Publication of Oberlin College
February 12, 1862
Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
"Great peace have they who love thy law, and nothing shall offend them."
In speaking from this text, the first enquiry is --
I. What is intended by the term "law"?
II. What is it to love the law of God?
III. What is the peace here spoken of?
IV. The text asserts two facts.
I. What is intended by the term "law"?
- 1. The term is used in the Bible in a variety of senses. Sometimes it means properly
the ten commandments. At other times it manifestly includes the ceremonial law. Sometimes
it means the entire Old Testament, as being then the whole revealed will of God.
When the law is contrasted with the gospel, it evidently means the Old Testament
scriptures as distinct from the New.
- 2. As used here, the term manifestly means the whole revealed will of God, considered
as a rule of duty, whether made known to us through Moses, or any other prophet of
- 3. The term law here manifestly includes both precept and penalty; every precept
revealing God's will as to our duty, and also the penalty of violating it. Let no
one think that to love the precept, and yet reject the penalty as unjust and cruel,
is loving the law of God in the sense here intended.
II. The next enquiry is what is it to love the law of God?
- 1. I answer, It is more than approbation. The conscience of every moral agent,
whether he be holy or sinful, approves the law of God. The wickedest of men are sometimes
very conscious of strongly approving the great law of right, that is, the revealed
will of God, as the rule of universal duty. Approbation belongs to the conscience.
It is an intellectual state, and does not imply virtue or true religion. I think
I can say myself that I as thoroughly approved the law of God before I was converted
as after, so far as my conscience is concerned. This is no doubt a common experience
of unconverted men.
- 2. To love the law of God is more than admiration of it. Admiration is more than
an intellectual state; it is the decided approval of the conscience, together with
a corresponding state of the sensibility. It includes a real feeling.
- 3. To love the law of God is more than delight in it. In Rom. 7, Paul, representing
a legal experience, says -- "I delight in the law of God after the inner man."
The state of mind here expressed doubtless includes approbation, admiration, and
a very conscious delight or pleasure in the purity and moral beauty of God's law.
Delight, by itself, is commonly intended to express a feeling of pleasure or satisfaction
in a thing. It does not by any means always imply that this delight has the sympathy
of the will -- the executive faculty of the soul. I think it is a common experience
for persons to be pleased and very much affected in view of moral beauty, and of
moral fitness and rightness in any thing. I know it was so with me before I was converted.
I recollect that at one time, I wept with delight in view of an act of great moral
beauty. I was conscious at the time, that I should not myself have done the thing
that affected and delighted me so much. I seemed to be aware at the time, that such
acts were not like me, and that my heart would not prompt me to them. Many persons
seem to think that if they have a feeling of pleasure in hearing a sermon, or in
reading of a good and noble act, or in the contemplation of a godly character, that
this is evidence that they love goodness in the sense in which this text speaks of
loving God's law. But this is a hasty conclusion. The prophet Isaiah represents the
people of Israel as "seeking God daily," and delighting to know his ways
as a nation that did righteousness; he even said "they take delight in approaching
to God;" when in fact they were in a very apostate and rebellious state. The
Lord said to Ezekiel -- "They come before thee as the people cometh, and they
sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them;
for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.
And lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a very pleasant
voice, and can play well on an instrument; for they hear thy words, but they do them
not." Indeed I believe it is a common experience for the sensibility to sympathize,
to a considerable extent, with the decisions of the conscience, and to take an intense
feeling of pleasure in view of the purity of Christ's life, the excellence of his
teachings, the spiritual beauty of the law of God, and the spiritual beauty of holy
character in general. When the soul does not feel particularly pressed with a sense
of personal obligation, it may and often does, feel a sense of satisfaction and delight
in the contemplation of the law of God.
But let no one think that this feeling is true religion. It may and must exist
where true religion is; but it may exist where true religion is not.
- 4. To love the law of God in the sense of the text, is to embrace it as the rule
of our own lives. It is a cordial acceptance of it by the will, a cordial submission
to its requirements, a cordial yielding of one's self to be governed by this universal
and beautiful rule of duty. There is certainly in human experience a complacency
of conscience, also a complacency of the sensibility, and a complacency of the will.
We are all at times conscious of this distinction.
Complacency of the conscience is a purely intellectual state, and has no moral
character. It is simply the intense approval, by the conscience, of that which is
Complacency of the will is in itself moral rightness. It is the will cordially and
intensely unifying itself with the law of right. It seems to me that people often
misconceive what choice really is, and think of it as a mere dry decision, involving
no fervor, no cordiality, nothing but a cold dry decision. Whereas the complacency
of the will or choice is a deep preference. It involves an earnest cordiality, and
intense embracing, a warm, ardent sympathizing with that which is right; for these
words -- embracing, cordiality, sympathy, may be applied to the will as well as to
the sensibility or to the intellect.
- 5. To love the law of God in the sense of this text, involves confidence in the
Law-Giver, and sympathy with his views, aim, and state of mind. It is the union of
our will with God's will, as expressed in his law, and requirements. It involves
the devotion to God, which the law requires. It is nothing else indeed, but that
love of God and man, which the law in its spirit requires. It is that state of mind
which truly prays, "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven." It
is a state which accepts and conforms itself to the whole will of God, so far as
that is known. It does this by a most cordial yielding and embracing; with a cordiality
that really implies true enjoyment in doing and suffering the whole will of God.
III. The next enquiry is: What is the peace here spoken of?
- 1. It is not apathy of the soul -- is not a state of listlessness -- a lack of
all interest in God or in divine things. Sometimes apathy that results from a seared
conscience, is mistaken for peace.
- 2. The "peace" of our text is the opposite of strife. Often persons
experience a great struggle of soul between the dictates of conscience under the
striving and light of God's Spirit, and the will or the feelings of the soul. The
soul sees duty, but is unwilling to do it. It sees the right, but cleaves to the
wrong. This produces a great struggle such as that represented in Rom. 7. Now it
is the opposite of this state of mind that is intended by peace.
- 3. Peace is the opposite of remorse. Remorse is a feeling of guilt and condemnation
in view of our sins. Unless the conscience becomes seared, there will always be more
or less remorse, so long as there is persistent neglect of any duty, or perseverance
in any wrong. This state of mind is always inconsistent with peace, and (as we shall
soon see) peace is an opposite state of mind to this.
- 4. It is a state opposite to a sense of condemnation. Remorse is a sense of guilt.
A sense of condemnation, is a feeling of being condemned -- of being under the displeasure
of God, not only of deserving condemnation, but of being actually under it. Not only
is peace of mind inconsistent with this, but as we shall soon see, it is the opposite
- 5. This peace is a state of mind that involves the inward harmony of the soul
with itself, and also the harmony of the soul with the will and providence of God.
It is a state in which the mind has the consciousness of intense satisfaction with
God's will. The intellect approves it; the feelings are satisfied with it; the will
Here there is harmony between the whole soul and God's will. It involves satisfaction
with God's will, and a deep repose of soul in its perfect wisdom and goodness. The
whole mind seems to be satisfied in respect to God and his will, character, and dealings.
It has nothing left to desire more.
- 6. This peace also implies that the soul has a sense of cordiality between itself
and God. There is a sense of acceptance, of forgiveness, and of union with God's
will, that constitutes a deep quiet, not in the sense of apathy, but rather in the
sense of a deep flowing, for this peace is sometimes said to be as a river. The soul
is conscious of not being apathetic but of being excited, yet the excitement has
in it no conflict, and there is no jar between the soul and God, or any of his ways
or doings. This peace has the elements of deep, quiet joy.
- 7. I said it was the opposite of a state of condemnation. There is in this peace
a sense of being accepted, and in this sense, justified. I said it was the opposite
of remorse. Although sin is remembered, still it is without the pang of remorse.
The mind remembers the sin, perhaps with the gushings of sorrow, but not with the
dry stings of remorse. There may be an ingenuous, loving sorrow, but it has in it
nothing of the feeling of remorse or condemnation.
- 8. I said it is the opposite of strife. In this state of mind, all struggling
against God, in any respect, has ceased, and the mind instead of struggling against
God, cleaves to him with an intense cleaving of cordiality and affection. Instead
of resisting his requirements, instead of any reluctance in obeying them, there is
a cordiality, an embracing, a loving of his commandments, and a real satisfaction
with them and in obeying them that distils [sic.] perpetual joy upon the soul, and
it feels that in obedience and in this consciousness of cordial acquiescence in the
whole will of God, there is a real life. It is a state of intense and loving quiet,
and repose in God.
IV. The text asserts two facts.
- 1. First, that all who love the law of God have great peace. Now that this is
a fact is evident.
- (1.) From what has been already said. If they love the law of God, they certainly
have peace within themselves. Their own powers all act harmoniously; the conscience,
the will, and the sensibility, are all as one. They experience therefore, no internal
friction, no jar; conscience does not condemn them. The will resists neither the
dictates of conscience, nor the authority of God; the sensibility is drawn into sympathy
with both the conscience and the will. Hence there is no inward warfare. There may
be a struggle against temptation, but there is no struggle against conscience by
the will, and no condemnation of the will by the conscience. Hence if there is pain
or any kind of struggle by the sensibility, it is not properly a conflict with self.
The man is at peace with himself while he loves the law of God. So long as he is
conscious of loving the law of God, in the sense explained, he does not condemn his
present state of mind, that is, he has no sense of remorse or self-condemnation in
view of his present state. Hence thus far he has peace and must have.
- (2.) While he thus loves the law of God, God must be at peace with him, that
is, with his present state of mind. This state of mind which I have described as
constituting this love to the law of God, is really obedience to this law. It complies
with all present known obligation, both outward and inward. With this state of mind,
while it lasts, God must be at peace. While we have this love, there can be no friction
between God's Spirit and our souls. Remember, we accept God's whole will, so far
as known; therefore between us and God, there is a state of profound, present peace.
The will has ceased to reject his commands. It cordially accepts them all.
It cordially accepts the will of God as revealed in providence. Therefore the
peace of the soul in this state is great. It is not only peace, but great peace;
profound, deep, flowing, conscious peace.
- (3.) To one in this state of mind, God reveals a sense of pardon. Indeed the
very peace itself involves a sense of being accepted by God, else a sense of controversy
will still continue. Although we had no controversy with God, still if He really
had a controversy with us, we could not have peace. There would be conscious condemnation.
We should realize that God is displeased with us, even though we are pleased with
him, unless he reveals it to us that he is pacified and propitiated, and does not
frown but smiles upon our soul. It is a curious fact that when the love of God's
law possesses the soul, we are pardoned before we are aware of it, and the sense
of peace filling the soul gives us the mind of God in relation to us, and suggests
to us the fact of pardon and acceptance. I think that in every marked case of conversion,
thoughtful, self-reflecting minds observe this -- they have a sense of God's being
no longer angry or displeased with them. Their former sense of remorse, their struggle
and agony, their fearful forebodings, are gone; and in their place is a state of
mind that spontaneously cries -- My Father, my reconciled God and Father! I know
thou are reconciled; I know thou dost forgive me; I know thy sweet smile rests on
my soul, for all is great peace within.
Oftentimes this sense of acceptance comes in connection with some passage of Scripture,
which suggests that God has accepted or does accept us; but in every case, this sense
of acceptance involved in this great peace is no doubt the inward witness of the
Spirit. By this I mean, it is God himself revealing to us his own state of mind towards
us. We become in some way inwardly aware that God is pacified and at peace with us,
and the spirit of adoption, by which we cry Father, Father, is often a matter of
- (4.) This love of the law of God inevitably results in a state, the opposite
of conflict, remorse, self-condemnation. To my mind the fact that we are justified
by faith, becomes a simple matter of consciousness. Whoever has true faith, has this
love of God's law. And now he finds in fact that he is justified in the sense of
being at peace with God and God at peace with him. This is just what the Bible teaches.
It is an all-important fact, that whenever we put the truth of the Bible to the test
of experience and consciousness, we find it verified. That our text is true, every
real Christian can testify from his own consciousness. It is equally true of hundreds
and thousands of texts in the Bible. Whenever we put God's word to the test, by complying
with the conditions on which he gives us promises, we realize in our experience that
his promises are true. By this means Christians know that the Bible is true. It is
not with them a matter of speculation; it is not a fact that needs support from historical
evidence or from any other merely outward evidence; its truth has become to them
a matter of consciousness.
- (5.) This peace is the opposite of dissatisfaction with God in any respect. So
long as we are dissatisfied with any thing God says or does, we cannot have peace.
So long, there will be friction and collision between us and him.
But suppose that all manifest resistance should cease, and we should fall into
apathy and not think of God at all. Suppose his providence should move in such channels
as not to disturb us, and we should remain without feeling or any thought of God:--
this would not be peace. Peace is not the mere absence of dissatisfaction and opposition
to God. It is positive acquiescence, a cordial embracing of his will. It implies,
as already shown, complacency in God's whole will and in all his ways.
- (6.) This state of mind would have peace in hell, provided hell did not imply
a sense of God's present displeasure. Provided there were no conflict between God's
mind and ours -- that we have no friction against his will and he no displeasure
to manifest against us -- then no degree of pain on our part would forbid this peace
of soul. Therefore, if the pains of the second death could be inflicted on us while
in this state of loving the law of God, it could not destroy our peace. I do not
suppose the thing is possible, but I wish to make the impression that nothing can
disturb the repose of the soul while this peace remains.
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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