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

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    All the powers of body and mind are to be held at the service and disposal of God. Just so much of physical, intellectual, and moral energy are to be expended in the performance of duty, as the nature and the circumstances of the case require. And nothing is further from the truth than that the law of God requires a constant, intense state of emotion and mental action, on any and every subject alike.

    6. Entire obedience does not imply that God is to be at all times the direct object of attention and affection. This is not only impossible in the nature of the case, but would render it impossible for us to think of or love our neighbor as ourselves.

    The law of God requires the supreme love of the heart. By this is meant that the mind's supreme preference should be of God that God should be the great object of its supreme regard. But this state of mind is perfectly consistent with our engaging in any of the necessary business of life giving to that business that attention, and exercising about it all those affections and emotions, which its nature and importance demand.

    If a man love God supremely, and engage in any business for the promotion of His glory, if his eye be single, his affections and conduct, so far as they have any moral character, are entirely holy when necessarily engaged in the right transaction of his business, although, for the time being, neither his thoughts nor affections are upon God; just as a man, who is intensely devoted to his family, may be acting consistently with his supreme affection, and rendering them the most important and perfect service, while he does not think of them at all. The moral heart is the mind's supreme preference. The natural heart propels the blood through all the physical system. Now there is a striking analogy between this and the moral heart. And the analogy consists in this, that as the natural heart, by its pulsations, diffuses life through the physical system, so the moral heart, or the supreme governing preference, or ultimate intention of the mind, is that which gives life and character to man's moral actions. For example, suppose that I am engaged in teaching mathematics; in this, my ultimate intention is to glorify God in this particular calling. Now in demonstrating some of its intricate propositions, I am obliged, for hours together, to give the entire attention of my mind to that object. While my mind is thus intensely employed in one particular business, it is impossible that I should have any thoughts about God, or should exercise any direct affections, or emotions, or volitions, towards Him. Yet if, in this particular calling, all selfishness is excluded, and my supreme design is to glorify God, my mind is in a state of entire obedience, even though, for the time being, I do not think of God.

    It should be understood, that while the supreme preference or intention of the mind has such efficiency as to exclude all selfishness, and to call forth just that strength of volition, thought, affection, and emotion, that is requisite to the right discharge of any duty to which the mind may be called, the heart is in a right state. By a suitable degree of thought and feeling, to the right discharge of duty, I mean just that intensity of thought, and energy of action, that the nature and importance of the particular duty, to which, for the time being, I am called, demand, in my honest estimation.

    In making this statement, I take it for granted, that the brain together with all the circumstances of the constitution are such that the requisite amount of thought, feeling, etc., are possible. If the physical constitution be in such a state of exhaustion, as to be unable to put forth that amount of exertion which the nature of the case might otherwise demand, even in this case, the languid efforts, though far below the importance of the subject, would be all that the law of God requires. Whoever, therefore, supposes that a state of entire obedience implies a state of entire abstraction of mind from everything but God, labors under a grievous mistake. Such a state of mind is as inconsistent with duty, as it is impossible, while we are in the flesh.

    The fact is that the language and spirit of the law have been and generally are, grossly misunderstood, and interpreted to mean what they never did, or can, mean, consistently with natural justice. Many a mind has been thrown open to the assaults of Satan, and kept in a state of continual bondage and condemnation, because God was not, at all times, the direct object of thought, affection, and emotion; and because the mind was not kept in a state of perfect tension, and excited to the utmost at every moment.

    7. Nor does it imply a state of continual calmness of mind. Christ was not in a state of continual calmness. The deep peace of His mind was never broken up, but the surface or emotions of His mind were often in a state of great excitement, and at other times, in a state of great calmness. And here let me refer to Christ, as we have His history in the Bible, in illustration of the positions I have already taken. For example: Christ had all the constitutional appetites and susceptibilities of human nature. Had it been otherwise, He could not have been "tempted in all points like as we are" (Heb. 4:15), nor could He have been tempted in any point as we are, any further than He possessed a constitution similar to our own. Christ also manifested natural affection for His mother and for other friends. He also showed that He had a sense of injury and injustice, and exercised a suitable resentment when He was injured and persecuted. He was not always in a state of great excitement. He appears to have had His seasons of excitement and of calm of labor and rest of joy and sorrow, like other good men. Some persons have spoken of entire obedience to the law, as implying a state of uniform and universal calmness, and as if every kind and degree of excited feeling, except the feeling of love to God, were inconsistent with this state. But Christ often manifested a great degree of excitement when reproving the enemies of God. In short, His history would lead to the conclusion that His calmness and excitement were various, according to the circumstances of the case. And although He was sometimes so pointed and severe in His reproof, as to be accused of being possessed of a devil, yet His emotions and feelings were only those that were called for, and suited to the occasion.

    8. Nor does it imply a state of continual sweetness of mind, without any indignation or holy anger at sin and sinners. Anger at sin is only a modification of love to being in general. A sense of justice, or a disposition to have the wicked punished for the benefit of the government, is only another of the modifications of love. And such dispositions are essential to the existence of love, where the circumstances call for their exercise. It is said of Christ, that He was angry. He often manifested anger and holy indignation. "God is angry with the wicked every day" (Psalms 7:11). And holiness, or a state of obedience, instead of being inconsistent with, always implies, the existence of anger, whenever circumstances occur which demand its exercise.

    9. It does not imply a state of mind that is all compassion, and no sense of justice. Compassion is only one of the modifications of love. Justice, or willing the execution of law and the punishment of sin, is another of its modifications. God, and Christ, and all holy beings, exercise all those dispositions that constitute the different modifications of love, under every possible circumstance.

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