Skeletons of a Course of
By Charles G. Finney
Moral. Government.--No. 3.
Whose Right It Is To Govern.
1. Moral beings exist.
2. They must of necessity be happy or miserable.
3. Happiness is a good in itself, and therefore desirable for its own sake.
4. Misery is an evil in itself and therefore to be dreaded for its own sake.
5. Moral law is that mode of moral action that exactly accords with the nature and relations of moral beings.
6. Conformity to this law is virtue.
7. Virtue is the cause of happiness.
8. Happiness is an ultimate good.
9. Happiness is the ultimate end of government.
10. Upon moral government as a means of promoting this end, both ruler and ruled are dependent.
11. He has a right to govern, who possesses such attributes, such a character, is so circumstanced, and sustains such relations as to be both able and willing to secure the highest good of the whole.
12. Upon him all eyes are, or ought to be turned, to sustain this office. It is both his right and his duty to govern; for upon him all are naturally dependent, for securing the highest interests of the whole.
13. It is therefore the right and the duty of God to administer the moral government of the universe. In showing which I observe:
I. That God is a moral being.
A moral being is one who possesses understanding, reason, conscience and free will. That God is such a being has been already shown, is discussing his moral attributes. But in addition to what was there said, I remark:
1. That many of our notions of God are derived from our knowledge of ourselves. We are conscious of possessing the powers of moral agency. And because the works and providence of God exhibit phenomena corresponding to those of which we are conscious, we naturally and necessarily infer that he is a moral being like ourselves.
2. The whole argument for the existence of God, as fully establishes the truth that he is a moral being as that he exists. That the Maker of the universe must possess understanding, reason, conscience, and will, there can be no doubt.
3. We are conscious that all power to produce any effect without ourselves, consists in the will or power of volition. Understanding, reason, and conscience, might exist without any power to produce any effect without ourselves.
4. We conceive of the physical power of God as consisting in his will or volitions.
5. We are moral beings, and God is our Creator. God, therefore, must have had the idea of a moral being. He must have possessed the knowledge of what constitutes a moral being, or he could not have created one. But if he possessed sufficient knowledge of what constitutes a moral being, to enable him to create moral beings, with all the circumstances that render them responsible, he must be himself a moral being, if his will is free.
6. That the will of God is free, must be --
(1.) Because volition is nothing else but the will acting in view of motive.
(2.) It cannot but be free, if it has the power and liberty of choice, in view of motives.
(3.) Choice and necessity are terms of opposition.
(4.) It is as absurd to say that volition can be produced by physical force or necessity, as to say that the planets can be influenced by motives.
(5.) If God is not free he has no moral character.
(6.) But from the laws of our being, we must and do conceive of God as possessing moral character.
(7.) All nations have ascribed moral character to God.
(8.) The Bible every where represents God as a moral being, and as possessing the perfection of moral character.
II. God is a Moral Governor.
A moral governor is one who does or has a right to exercise a supreme moral control over moral beings. Under this head I remark:
1. That it is impossible that government should not exist.
2. Every thing must be governed by laws suited to its nature.
3. Matter must be governed by physical laws.
4. Mind must be governed by motives. And moral agents must be governed by moral considerations.
5. We are conscious of moral agency, and can be governed only by a moral government.
6. Our nature and circumstances demand that we should be under a moral government; because --
(1.) Moral happiness depends upon moral order.
(2.) Moral order depends upon the harmonious action of all our powers, as individuals and as members of society.
(3.) No community can perfectly harmonize in all their views and feelings, without perfect knowledge, or, to say the least, the same degree of knowledge on all subjects on which they are called to act.
(4.) But no community ever existed or will exist, in which every individual possesses exactly the same amount of knowledge, and where they are, therefore, entirely agreed in all their thoughts, views and opinions.
(5.) But if they are not agreed in opinion, or have not exactly the same amount of knowledge, they will not in every thing harmonize, as it respects their courses of conduct.
(6.) There must therefore be in every community some standard or rule of duty, to which all the subjects of the community are to conform themselves.
(7.) There must be some head or controlling mind, whose will shall be law, and whose decisions shall be regarded as infallible by all the subjects of the government.
(8.) However diverse their intellectual attainments are, in this they must all agree, that the will of the lawgiver is right, and universally the rule of duty.
(9.) This will must be authoritative and not merely advisory.
(10.) There must of necessity be a penalty attached to and incurred by every act of disobedience to this will.
(11.) If disobedience be persisted in, exclusion from the privileges of the government is the lowest penalty that can consistently be inflicted.
(12.) The good then of the universe imperiously requires, that there should be a moral government and a moral governor.
That God is a Moral Governor, we infer --
1. From our own consciousness. From the very laws of our being we naturally feel ourselves responsible to him for our conduct. In the last lecture it was shown, that God is himself the subject of moral obligation, or under a moral obligation, to be benevolent. As God is our Creator, we are naturally responsible to him for the right exercise of our moral powers. And as our good and his glory depend upon our conformity to the same rule, to which he conforms his whole being, he is under a moral obligation to require us to be holy as he is holy.
2. His natural attributes qualify him to sustain the relation of a moral governor to the universe.
3. His moral character, also, qualifies him to sustain this relation.
4. His relation to the universe as Creator and Preserver, when considered in connection with his nature and attributes, confers on him the right of universal government.
5. His relation to the universe, and our relations to him and to each other, render it obligatory upon him to establish and administer a moral government over the universe.
6. The honor of God demands that he should administer such a government.
7. His conscience must demand it. He must know that it would be wrong for him to create a universe of moral beings, and then refuse or neglect to administer over them a moral government.
8. His happiness must demand it, as he could not be happy unless he acted in accordance with his conscience.
9. If God is not a moral governor, he is not wise. Wisdom consists in the choice of the best ends, and in the use of the most appropriate means to accomplish those ends. If God is not a moral governor, it is inconceivable that he should have had any important end in view in the creation of moral beings, or that he should have chosen the best or any suitable means for the accomplishment of the most desirable ends.
10. The conduct or providence of God plainly indicates a design to exert a moral influence over moral agents.
11. His providence plainly indicates that the universe of mind is governed by moral laws, or by laws suited to the nature of moral agents.
12. Consciousness proves the existence of an inward law, or knowledge of the moral quality of actions.
13. This inward moral consciousness or conscience implies the existence of a rule of duty which is obligatory upon us. This rule implies a ruler, and this ruler must be God.
14. If God is not a moral governor, our very nature deceives us,
15. If God is not a moral governor, the whole universe, so far as we have the means of knowing it, is calculated to mislead mankind in respect to this fundamental truth.
16. If there is no such thing as moral government, there is, in reality, no such thing as moral character.
17. All nations have believed that God is a moral governor.
18. Our nature is such, that we must believe it. The conviction of our moral accountability to God, is in such a sense the dictate of our moral nature, that we cannot escape from it.
19. We must abhor God, if we ever come to a knowledge of the fact that he created moral agents and then exercised over them no moral government.
20. The connection between moral delinquency and suffering is such as to render it certain that moral government does, as a matter of fact, exist.
21. The Bible, which has been proved to be a revelation from God, contains a most simple and yet comprehensive system of moral government.
22. If we are deceived in respect to our being subjects of moral government, we are sure of nothing.
1. If God's government is moral, it is easy to see how sin came to exist. That a want of experience in the universe, in regard to the nature and natural tendencies and results of sin, prevented the due influence of motive.
2. If God's government is moral, we see that all the developments of sin are enlarging the experience of the universe in regard to its nature and tendencies, and thus confirm the influence of moral government over virtuous minds.
3. If God's government is moral, we can understand the design and tendency of the Atonement.
4. If God's government is moral, we can understand the philosophy of the Spirit's influences in convicting and sanctifying the soul.
5. If the government of God is moral, we can understand the influence and necessity of faith.
6. If God's government is moral, faith will produce obedience, with the same certainty as if it acted by force.
7. If God's government is moral, we can see the necessity and power of Christian example.
8. If God's government is moral, his natural or physical omnipotence is no proof that all men will be saved.
9. If God's government is moral, we see the importance of watchfulness, and girding up the loins of our minds.
10. If God's government is moral, we see the necessity of a well instructed ministry, able to wield the motives necessary to sway mind.
11. If God's government is moral, we see the philosophical bearings, tendencies, and power of the providence, law, and gospel of God, in the great work of man's salvation.