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  • UNITY OF MORAL ACTION - B,
    CHARLES FINNEY SYS. THEOLOGY

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    5. Christ certainly obeyed the moral law; and yet nothing is more evident than that His faculties were not always on the strain.

    Every one knows that the intensity of the will's action depends, and must depend, upon the clearness with which the value of the object chosen is perceived. It is perfectly absurd to suppose that the will should, or possibly can, act at all times with the same degree of intensity. As the mind's apprehensions of truth vary, the intensity of the will's action must vary, or it does not act rationally, and consequently not virtuously. The intensity of the actions of the will, ought to vary as light varies, and if it does not, the mind is not honest. If honest, it must vary as light and ability vary.

    That an intention cannot be right and honest in kind and deficient in the degree of intensity, I argue:

    1. From the fact that it is absurd to talk of an intention right in kind, while it is deficient in intensity. What does rightness in kind mean? Does it mean simply that the intention terminates on the proper object? But is this the right kind of intention, when only the proper object is chosen, while there is a voluntary withholding of the required energy of choice? Is this, can this be, an honest intention? If so, what is meant by an honest intention? Is it honest, can it be honest, voluntarily to withhold from God and the universe what we perceive to be their due, and what we are conscious we might render? It is a contradiction to call this honest. In what sense then may, or can, an intention be acceptable in kind, while deficient in degree? Certainly in no sense, unless known and voluntary dishonesty can be acceptable. But again, let me ask, what is intended by an intention being deficient in degree of intensity? If this deficiency be a sinful deficiency, it must be a known deficiency. That is, the subject of it must know at the time that his intention is in point of intensity less than it ought to be, or that he wills with less energy than he ought; or, in other words, that the energy of the choice does not equal, or is not agreeable to, his own estimate of the value of the end chosen. But this implies an absurdity. Suppose I choose an end, that is, I choose a thing solely on account of its own intrinsic value. It is for its value that I choose it. I choose it for its value, but not according to its value. My perception of its value led me to choose it; and yet, while I choose it for that reason, I voluntarily withhold that degree of intensity which I know is demanded by my own estimate of the value of the thing which I choose! This is a manifest absurdity and contradiction. If I choose a thing for its value, this implies that I choose it according to my estimate of its value. Happiness, for example, is a good in itself. Now, suppose I will its existence impartially, that is, solely on account of its intrinsic value; now, does not this imply that every degree of happiness must be willed according to its real or relative value? Can I will it impartially, for its own sake, for and only for its intrinsic value, and yet not prefer a greater to a less amount of happiness? This is impossible. Willing it on account of its intrinsic value implies willing it according to my estimate of its intrinsic value. So, it must be that an intention cannot be sincere, honest, and acceptable in kind, while it is sinfully deficient in degree.

    As holiness consists in ultimate intention, so does sin. And as holiness consists in choosing the highest well-being of God and the good of the universe, for its own sake, or as the supreme ultimate end of pursuit; so sin consists in willing, with a supreme choice or intention, self-gratification and self-interest. Preferring a less to a greater good, because it is our own, is selfishness. All selfishness consists in a supreme ultimate intention. By an ultimate intention, as I have said, is intended that which is chosen for its own sake as an end, and not as a means to some other end. Whenever a moral being prefers or chooses his own gratification, or his own interest, in preference to a higher good, because it is his own, he chooses it as an end, for its own sake, and as an ultimate end, not designing it as a means of promoting any other and higher end, nor because it is a part of universal good. Every sin, then, consists in an act of will. It consists in preferring self-gratification, or self-interest, to the authority of God, the glory of God, and the good of the universe. It is, therefore, and must be, a supreme ultimate choice, or intention. Sin and holiness, then, both consist in supreme, ultimate, and opposite choices, or intentions, and cannot by any possibility, coexist.

    Five suppositions may be made, and so far as I can see, only five, in respect to this subject.

    1. It may be supposed, that selfishness and benevolence can coexist in the same mind.

    2. It may be supposed, that the same act or choice may have a complex character, on account of complexity in the motives which induce it.

    3. It may be supposed, that an act or choice may be right, or holy in kind, but deficient in intensity or degree. Or

    4. That the will, or heart, may be right, while the affections, or emotions, are wrong. Or

    5. That there may be a ruling, latent, actually existing, holy preference, or intention, coexisting with opposing volitions.

    Now, unless one of these suppositions is true, it must follow that moral character is either wholly right or wholly wrong, and never partly right and partly wrong at the same time. And now to the examination.

    1. It may be supposed, that selfishness and benevolence can coexist in the same mind.

    It has been shown that selfishness and benevolence are supreme, ultimate, and opposite choices, or intentions. They cannot, therefore, by any possibility, coexist in the same mind.

    2. The next supposition is, that the same act or choice may have a complex character, on account of complexity in the motives. On this let me say:

    (1.) Motives are objective or subjective. An objective motive is that thing external to the mind that induces choice or intention. Subjective motive is the intention itself.

    (2.) Character, therefore, does not belong to the objective motive, or to that thing which the mind chooses; but moral character is confined to the subjective motive, which is synonymous with choice or intention. Thus we say a man is to be judged by his motives, meaning that his character is as his intention is. Multitudes of objective motives or considerations, may have concurred, directly or indirectly, in their influence to induce choice or intention; but the intention or subjective motive is always necessarily simple and indivisible. In other words, moral character consists in the choice of an ultimate end, and this end is to be chosen for its own sake, else it is not an ultimate end. If the end chosen be the highest well-being of God and the good of the universe if it be the willing or intending to promote and treat every interest in the universe, according to its perceived relative value, it is a right, a holy motive, or intention. If it be anything else, it is sinful. Now, whatever complexity there may have been in the considerations that led the way to this choice or intention, it is self-evident that the intention must be one, simple, and indivisible.

    (3.) Whatever complexity there might have been in those considerations that prepared the way to the settling down upon this intention, the mind in a virtuous choice has, and can have, but one ultimate reason for its choice, and that is the intrinsic value of the thing chosen. The highest well-being of God, the good of the universe, and every good according to its perceived relative value, must be chosen for one, and only one reason, and that is the intrinsic value of the good which is chosen for its own sake. If chosen for any other reason, the choice is not virtuous. It is absurd to say, that a thing is good and valuable in itself, but may be rightly chosen, not for that but for some other reason that God's highest well-being and the happiness of the universe are an infinite good in themselves, but are not to be chosen for that reason, and on their own account, but for some other reason. Holiness, then, must always consist in singleness of eye or intention. It must consist in the supreme disinterested choice, willing, or intending the good of God and of the universe, for its own sake. In this intention there cannot be any complexity. If there were, it would not be holy, but sinful. It is, therefore, sheer nonsense to say, that one and the same choice may have a complex character, on account of complexity of motive. For that motive in which moral character consists, is the supreme ultimate intention, or choice. This choice, or intention, must consist in the choice of a thing as an end, and for its own sake. The supposition, then, that the same choice or intention may have a complex character, on account of complexity in the motives, is wholly inadmissible.

    If it be still urged, that the intention or subjective motive may be complex that several things may be included in the intention, and be aimed at by the mind and that it may, therefore, be partly holy and partly sinful I reply:

    (4.) If by this it be meant that several things may be aimed at or intended by the mind at the same time, I inquire what things? It is true, that the supreme, disinterested choice of the highest good of being, may include the intention to use all the necessary means. It may also include the intention to promote every interest in the universe, according to its perceived relative value. These are all properly included in one intention; but this implies no such complexity in the subjective motive, as to include both sin and holiness.

    (5.) If by complexity of intention is meant, that it may be partly disinterestedly benevolent, and partly selfish, which it must be to be partly holy and partly sinful, I reply, that this supposition is absurd. It has been shown that selfishness and benevolence consist in supreme, ultimate, and opposite choices or intentions. To suppose, then, that an intention can be both holy and sinful, is to suppose that it may include two supreme, opposite, and ultimate choices or intentions, at the same time; in other words, that I may supremely and disinterestedly intend to regard and promote every interest in the universe, according to its perceived relative value, for its own sake; and at the same time, may supremely regard my own self-interest and self-gratification, and in some things supremely intend to promote my selfish interests, in opposition to the interests of the universe and the commands of God. But this is naturally impossible. An ultimate intention, then, may be complex in the sense, that it may include the design to promote every perceived interest, according to its relative value; but it cannot, by any possibility, be complex in the sense that it includes selfishness and benevolence, or holiness and sin.

    3. The third supposition is, that holiness may be right, or pure in kind, but deficient in degree. On this, I remark:

    (1.) We have seen that moral character consists in the ultimate intention.

    (2.) The supposition, therefore, must be, that the intention may be right, or pure in kind, but deficient in the degree of its strength.

    (3.) Our intention is to be tried by the law of God, both in respect to its kind and degree.

    (4.) The law of God requires us to will, or intend the promotion of every interest in the universe, according to its perceived relative value, for its own sake; in other words, that all our powers shall be supremely and disinterestedly devoted to the glory of God, and the good of the universe.

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