What Saith the Scripture?


Phila delphia > Owing God- No. 2 by Charles G. Finney from "The Oberlin Evangelist"

The Oberlin Evangelist

Lecture II
Owing God- No. 2

Charles G. Finney

Charles G. Finney

A Voice from the Philadelphian Church Age

  Wisdom is Justified

by Charles Grandison Finney

Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart

from "The Oberlin Evangelist"
July 8, 1857

Lecture II.

by the Rev. C. G. Finney

Text.--Luke 16:5: "How much owest thou unto my Lord?"

The rights of God in regard to His creatures imply corresponding obligations on their part. It remains for us to consider what these obligations are.

The question -- How much owest thou unto my Lord, requires us to ask and consider -- How much hast thou already paid? In the light of this question you may find how much remains yet due.

These, be it remembered, are not merely abstract questions, however much they may be so regarded. It is astonishing to see how much infidelity attaches itself to these questions in the minds of men, and how little, consequently, they care for any claims God may be shown to have on their hearts. It is because these things take hold so feebly on human hearts that the Divine Spirit is needed and is sent to open our eyes to see these things truly, and to quicken our sensibility to their bearing on ourselves. It is because of this intense moral insensibility that, in regard to our moral relations, fiction seems to us to be reality, and reality fiction.

Resuming our main question, I ask once more -- How much you have already paid? Have you kept your account carefully? Can you tell from that how the case stands?

II. How much hast thou already paid?

It is a curious fact, developed often in business between man and man, that men who keep no formal account, will have yet a sort of general idea of the way the matter stands. The men who run to the store and get little things on credit, are apt to suppose they know about how their account stands; but often they find, on comparing their ideal of the matter with the merchant's books, that they were widely mistaken. Some of you may be under an equal and far more dangerous mistake in the matter of your accounts with your Maker.

III. The question to which we must continually return is this -- What has been the foundation-motive for this act?

IV. This brings us to our next great point: What does God propose to do in the case? And what does He propose to have done?

Again, will you continue to contend for your own rights, while you refuse to respect God's? Is not such conduct outrageous? What would you think of a man here among us who should trample on everybody else's rights, but should none the less clamor violently for his own? Would you like the man as a neighbor who should crowd and prosecute other men to pay him and steadfastly refuse to pay his own debts? Will you do precisely this sort of thing towards God? Will you stringently insist on your own demands both upon God and your fellow-beings, while yet you are reckless of His rights? Will you deny your guilt, or make light of it? Will you call in question your desert of eternal damnation? Will you consent to receive neither mercy nor justice? Are you prepared to reject mercy and yet with the same breath complain of God's administration of justice? Indeed! And do you expect to carry out your scheme and withdraw from the government of Jehovah? He offers mercy and you scorn it. He falls back of necessity upon justice, and you complain of that. Thinkest thou, O man, that thou shalt evade the sweep of Jehovah's justice? Can you escape from His power, or convict His administration of wrong?

Again, when you think seriously of your case, is not this seriousness produced by a sense of danger and not by a sense of guilt? Is it not much more the fear lest you shall be cast off and lose your soul, than the conviction of great sin and guilt and wrong, of which you ought to repent? You think little of restoring what you have withheld. You are even enquiring how you are to be forgiven before you have taken the first step towards forsaking your sins and breaking them off by righteousness! And does this look like fair dealing towards God?

Again, will you treat God's claims as last and least of all? You talk as if you were doing all your duty, and yet you utterly neglect God and set aside His claims on you as if they were altogether false and fictitious.

Do you flatter yourself that this treatment of God will conciliate His good will, and put your relations in a shape favorable for your final blessedness?

Once more; can you for one moment doubt that you must utterly fail to meet your obligations? Are you not certain of bankruptcy? Are you not shut up to it, past all escape? Then why will you not now acknowledge your sins; restore all that remains; and cast yourself at once on His clemency? He wants you to do this now! O come; give up the last thing you have, and throw yourself on His great mercy!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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