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  • OBEDIENCE TO THE MORAL LAW - A,
    CHARLES FINNEY SYS. THEOLOGY

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    We have seen, that all the law requires is summarily expressed in the single word, love, that this word is synonymous with benevolence; that benevolence consists in the choice of the highest well-being of God and of the universe, as an end, or for its own sake; that this choice is an ultimate intention. In short, we have seen, that good will to being in general is obedience to the moral law. Now the question before us is, what is not implied in this goodwill, or in this benevolent ultimate intention?

    Since the law of God, as revealed in the Bible, is the standard, and the only standard, by which the question in regard to what is not, and what is, implied in entire sanctification, is to be decided, it is of fundamental importance, that we understand what is, and what is not, implied in entire obedience to this law. Our judgment of our own state, or of the state of others, can never be relied upon, till these inquiries are settled. Christ was perfect, and yet so erroneous were the notions of the Jews, in regard to what constituted perfection, that they thought Him possessed with a devil, instead of being holy, as He claimed to be. I will state then, what is not implied in entire obedience to the moral law, as I understand it. The law, as epitomized by Christ, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength, and thy neighbor as thyself" (Deut. 6:5), I understand to lay down the whole duty of man to God, and to his fellow creatures. Now, the questions are, what is not, and what is, implied in perfect obedience to this law?

    What is not implied in perfect obedience to this law.

    1. Entire obedience does not imply any change in the substance of the soul or body, for this the law does not require; and it would not be obligatory if it did, because the requirement would be inconsistent with natural justice, and, therefore, not law. Entire obedience is the entire consecration of the powers, as they are, to God. It does not imply any change in them, but simply the right use of them.

    2. It does not imply the annihilation of any constitutional traits of character, such as constitutional ardor or impetuosity. There is nothing, certainly, in the law of God that requires such constitutional traits to be annihilated, but simply that they should be rightly directed in their exercise.

    3. It does not imply the annihilation of any of the constitutional appetites or susceptibilities. It seems to be supposed by some, that the constitutional appetites and susceptibilities are in themselves sinful, and that a state of entire conformity to the law of God implies their entire annihilation. I have been not a little surprised to find, that some persons who, I had supposed, were far enough from embracing the doctrine of physical moral depravity, were, after all, resorting to this assumption, in order to set aside the doctrine of entire sanctification in this life. But let us appeal to the law. Does the law anywhere, expressly or impliedly, condemn the constitution of man, or require the annihilation of any thing that is properly a part of the constitution itself? Does it require the annihilation of the appetite for food, or is it satisfied merely with regulating its indulgence? In short, does the law of God any where require any thing more than the consecration of all the powers, appetites, and susceptibilities of body and mind to the service of God?

    4. Entire obedience does not imply the annihilation of natural affection, or natural resentment. By natural affection I mean, that certain persons may be naturally pleasing to us. Christ appears to have had a natural affection for John. By natural resentment I mean, that, from the laws of our being, we must resent or feel opposed to injustice or ill treatment. Not that a disposition to retaliate or revenge ourselves is consistent with the law of God. But perfect obedience to the law of God does not imply that we should have no sense of injury and injustice, when we are abused. God has this, and ought to have it, and so has every moral being. To love your neighbor as yourself, does not imply, that if he injure you, you should feel no sense of the injury or injustice, but that you should love him and do him good, nevertheless his injurious treatment.

    5. It does not imply any unhealthy degree of excitement of the mind. Moral law is to be so interpreted as to be consistent with physical law. God's laws certainly do not clash with each other. And the moral law cannot require such a state of constant mental excitement as will destroy the physical constitution. It cannot require any more mental excitement than is consistent with all the laws, attributes, and circumstances of both soul and body. It does not imply that any organ or faculty is to be at all times exerted to the full measure of its capacity. This would soon exhaust and destroy any and every organ of the body. Whatever may be true of the mind, when separated from the body, it is certain, while it acts through a material organ, that a constant state of excitement is impossible. When the mind is strongly excited, there is of necessity a great determination of blood to the brain. A high degree of excitement cannot long continue, without producing inflammation of the brain, and consequent insanity. And the law of God does not require any degree of emotion, or mental excitement, inconsistent with life and health. Our Lord Jesus Christ does not appear to have been in a state of continual mental excitement. When He and His disciples had been in a great excitement for a time, they would turn aside, "and rest a while" (Mark 6:31).

    Who that has ever philosophized on this subject, does not know that the high degree of excitement which is sometimes witnessed in revivals of religion, must necessarily be short, or that the people must become deranged? It seems sometimes to be indispensable that a high degree of excitement should prevail for a time, to arrest public and individual attention, and draw off people from their pursuits, to attend to the concerns of their souls. But if any suppose that this high degree of excitement is either necessary or desirable, or possible to be long continued, they have not well considered the matter. And here is one grand mistake of the church. They have supposed that the revival consists mostly in this state of excited emotion, rather than in conformity of the human will to the law of God. Hence, when the reasons for much excitement have ceased, and the public mind begins to grow more calm, they begin immediately to say, that the revival is on the decline; when, in fact, with much less excited emotion, there may be vastly more real religion in the community. Excitement is often important and indispensable, but the vigorous actings of the will are infinitely more important. And this state of mind may exist in the absence of highly excited emotions.

    Nor does it imply that the same degree of emotion, volition, or intellectual effort, is at all times required. All volitions do not need the same strength. They cannot have equal strength, because they are not produced by equally influential reasons. Should a man put forth as strong a volition to pick up an apple, as to extinguish the flames of a burning house? Should a mother, watching over her sleeping nursling, when all is quiet and secure, put forth as powerful volitions, as might be required to snatch it from the devouring flames? Now, suppose that she were equally devoted to God, in watching her sleeping babe, and in rescuing it from the jaws of death. Her holiness would not consist in the fact, that she exercised equally strong volitions, in both cases; but that in both cases the volition was equal to the accomplishment of the thing required to be done. So that persons may be entirely holy, and yet continually varying in the strength of their affections, emotions, or volitions, according to their circumstances, the state of their physical system, and the business in which they are engaged.

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