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  • EVIDENCES OF REGENERATION - B,
    CHARLES FINNEY SYS. THEOLOGY

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    5. Moral agents constitutionally approve of what is right and disapprove of what is wrong. Of course, both saints and sinners may both approve of and delight in goodness. I can recollect weeping at an instance of what, at the time, I supposed to be goodness, while at the same time, I was not religious myself. I have no doubt that wicked men, not only often are conscious of strongly approving the goodness of God, but that they also often take delight in contemplating it. This is constitutional, both as it respects the intellectual approval, and also as it respects the feeling of delight. It is a great mistake to suppose that sinners are never conscious of feelings of complacency and delight in the goodness of God. The Bible represents sinners as taking delight in drawing near to Him. "Yet they seek Me daily, and delight to know My ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of Me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God" (Isaiah 58:2). "And lo, Thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear Thy words, but they do them not" (Ezek. 33:32). "For I delight in the law of God after the inward man" (Romans 7:22).

    6. Saints and sinners may alike not only intellectually approve, but have feelings of deep complacency in, the characters of good men, sometimes good men of their own time and of their acquaintance, but more frequently good men either of a former age, or, if of their own age, of a distant country. The reason is this: good men of their own day and neighborhood are very apt to render them uneasy in their sins; to annoy them by their faithful reproofs and rebukes. This offends them, and overcomes their natural respect for goodness. But who has not observed the fact, that good and bad men unite in praising, admiring, and loving, so far as feeling is concerned good men of by-gone days, or good men at a distance, whose life and rebukes have annoyed the wicked in their own neighborhood? The fact is, that moral agents, from the laws of their being necessarily approve of goodness wherever they witness it. Multitudes of sinners are conscious of this, and suppose that this is a virtuous feeling. It is of no use to deny, that they sometimes have feelings of love and gratitude to God, and of respect for, and complacency in good men. They often have these feelings, and to represent them as always having feelings of hatred and of opposition to God and to good men, is sure either to offend them, or to lead them to deny the truths of religion, if they are told that the Bible teaches this. Or, again, it may lead them to think themselves Christians, because they are conscious of such feelings as they are taught to believe are peculiar to Christians. Or again, they may think that, although they are not Christians, yet they are far from being totally depraved, inasmuch as they have so many good desires and feelings. It should never be forgotten, that saints and sinners may agree in their opinions and intellectual views and judgments. Many professors of religion, it is to be feared, have supposed religion to consist in desires and feelings, and have entirely mistaken their own character. Indeed, nothing is more common than to hear religion spoken of as consisting altogether in mere feelings, desires, and emotions. Professors relate their feelings, and suppose themselves to be giving an account of their religion. It is infinitely important, that both professors of religion and non-professors, should understand more than most of them do of their mental constitution, and of the true nature of religion. Multitudes of professors of religion have, it is to be feared, a hope founded altogether upon desires and feelings that are purely constitutional, and therefore common to both saints and sinners.

    7. Saints and sinners agree in this, that they both disapprove of, and are often disgusted with, and deeply abhor, sin. They cannot but disapprove of sin. Necessity is laid upon every moral agent, whatever his character may be, by the law of his being, to condemn and disapprove of sin. And often the sensibility of sinners, as well as of saints, is filled with deep disgust and loathing in view of sin. I know that representations the direct opposite of these are often made. Sinners are represented as universally having complacency in sin, as having a constitutional craving for sin, as they have for food and drink. But such representations are false and most injurious. They contradict the sinner's consciousness, and lead him either to deny his total depravity, or to deny the Bible, or to think himself regenerate. As was shown when upon the subject of moral depravity, sinners do not love sin for its own sake; yet they crave other things, and this leads to prohibited indulgence, which indulgence is sin. But it is not the sinfulness of the indulgence that was desired. That might have produced disgust and loathing in the sensibility, if it had been considered even at the moment of the indulgence. For example: suppose a lascivious man, a drunkard, a gambler, or any other wicked man, engaged in his favorite indulgence, and suppose that the sinfulness of this indulgence should be strongly set before his mind by the Holy Spirit. He might be deeply ashamed and disgusted with himself, and so much so as to feel a great contempt for himself, and feel almost ready, were it possible, to spit in his own face. And yet, unless this feeling becomes more powerful than the desire and feeling which the will is seeking to indulge, the indulgence will be persevered in, nevertheless this disgust. If the feeling of disgust should for the time overmatch the opposing desire, the indulgence will be, for the time being, abandoned for the sake of gratifying or appeasing the feeling of disgust. But this is not virtue. It is only a change in the form of selfishness. Feeling still governs, and not the law of the intelligence. The indulgence is only abandoned for the time being, to gratify a stronger impulse of the sensibility. The will, will of course return to the indulgence again, when the feelings of fear, disgust, or loathing subside. This, no doubt, accounts for the multitudes of spurious conversions sometimes witnessed. Sinners are convicted, fears awakened, and disgust and loathing excited. These feelings for the time become stronger than their desires for their former indulgences, and consequently they abandon them for a time, in obedience, not to the law of God or of their intelligence, but in obedience to their fear, disgust, and shame. But when conviction subsides, and the consequent feelings are no more, these spurious converts "return like a dog to his vomit, and like a sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire" (2 Peter 2:22). It should be distinctly understood, that all these feelings of which I have spoken, and indeed any class or degree of mere feelings, may exist in the sensibility; and further, that these or any other feelings may, in their turn, control the will, and produce of course a corresponding outward life, and yet the heart be and remain all the while in a selfish state, or in a state of total depravity. Indeed, it is perfectly common to see the unrepentant sinner manifest much disgust and opposition to sin in himself and in others, yet this is not principle in him; it is only the effect of present feeling. The next day, or perhaps hour, he will repeat his sin, or do that which, when beheld in others, enkindled his indignation.

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