Skeletons of a Course of
By Charles G. Finney
Moral Government.--No. 6.
Law Of God.
First. What is intended by the Law of God.
1. We are not to understand that the arbitrary will of God is law.
2. Nor that anything is law, merely because it is his will.
3. Nor that he in any case creates or makes moral law. But --
4. By the Law of God is intended that rule of universal benevolence, which is obligatory upon him as being in accordance with the laws of his own being.
5. The Law of God is that rule, to which he invariably conforms all his actions, or that law of his being which he himself obeys.
6. The Law of God is that rule of universal, perfect benevolence, which it is both his right and his duty to declare and enforce upon all moral agents for their good and his glory.
7. By the Law of God is intended that rule of universal benevolence to which himself and all moral beings are under immutable obligations, to conform their whole being.
8. The Law of God then is a unit. It is one, and only one principle. It is the one grand rule that every moral being shall regard and treat every being, interest, and thing, according to its relative value.
Second. All the commandments are declaratory, etc.
1. All God's moral attributes are modifications of one principle; that is--benevolence. This we have already seen in a former lecture.
2. Benevolence expresses his whole character, including his affections and acts.
3. All virtue in moral beings is only different modifications of benevolence.
4. Perfect, perpetual, and universal benevolence, modified by the relations and circumstances of moral beings, is their whole duty.
5. Complacency in right character, is only a modification of benevolence.
6. If benevolence, in its various modifications, is the whole of virtue, then all God's requirements must be in spirit one. Love expresses and comprehends the whole.
7. The command to love God with all the heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, is identical in spirit and meaning with the command, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
8. These two commands might both be united in one precept: Thou shalt regard and treat all interests, beings and things according to their relative value.
9. Thus it appears, that what are called the two great principles of the law are really one in essence though two in form. They are identical in spirit, yet two in their letter.
Third. The ten commandments are proofs and illustrations of this truth.
Exodus 20:3. 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me.'
I. Reasons for this commandment:
1. God's happiness is infinitely the greatest good in the universe, and therefore, thus to regard and treat it is right in itself.
2. God's virtue is infinitely greater than that of all other beings. Therefore, to love him with all possible complacency is right in itself.
3. We have infinitely greater cause of gratitude to God, than to any other and all other beings. Therefore, the highest degree of the love of gratitude is right in itself.
4. To render to God the highest degree of benevolence, gratitude, and complacent love, is demanded by the very laws of our being.
5. No moral being can be truly happy without it.
6. Nor can any moral being fail of being happy, if he exercise the perfection of these modifications of love to God.
7. The one universal law of benevolence requires it. It is, therefore, God's duty to require it.
8. He can neither abrogate nor relax the obligation.
II. The true meaning and spirit of this command:
1. Every law has its letter and its spirit. Its letter is its general statement in words. Its spirit is its real meaning as applied to specific cases and circumstances.
2. To the letter of the law there may be exceptions. To the spirit and meaning of the law never.
3. As no will can create law, so no will can make exceptions to the spirit of law.
4. This command prohibits the love of any being or thing more than God.
5. It prohibits the loving of any being or thing in comparison with God.
6. It requires the highest degree of benevolence or good will to God, of which we are capable.
7. It requires that this benevolence be real; that is--good will to GOD, or willing his good and happiness for its own sake, as infinitely valuable and desirable in itself, irrespective of its resulting in or being promotive of our own happiness.
8. It requires that this benevolence be uninterrupted.
9. That in all possible ways, the most perfect regard to the feelings, happiness, and glory of God be expressed.
10. It requires the highest degree of complacency in him of which we are capable.
11. That this complacency be expressed in all possible acts of obedience.
12. That this love of complacency be perpetual and perpetually expressed, in every appropriate way.
13. It requires the highest degree of the love of gratitude, of which we are capable.
14. That this love of gratitude be perpetual and perpetually expressed in every appropriate way.
15. This command requires the most perfect confidence.
16. That this confidence be perpetual and perpetually expressed, as above.
17. It requires the deepest repentance on the part of sinners, of which they are naturally capable, and that this repentance be as perpetual and as perpetually and fully expressed, in every appropriate way, as is consistent with their natural ability.
18. It requires the most perfect self abhorrence and self abasement, perpetual and perpetually expressed, of which the sinner is capable.
19. It requires the most perfect and perpetual subjection of our will to his, in all things.
20. It requires the most perfect and perpetual consecration of our whole being, time, talent, possessions, and all we have and are, to God.
21. All this must be implied in the command, 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me.'
22. It is plainly only a declaratory precept or a specific and authoritative application of the only law of love, universally obligatory on all moral agents, as will readily be seen, by comparing the expositions of it which have been given with the reasons for its enactment.
Exodus 20:4 6. 'Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.'
I. Reasons for this commandment:
1. God is a Spirit.
2. All sensible representations of God, by pictures, images, or other means, are utterly deceptive, and utterly gross, false, abominable, and ruinous ideas of God.
3. Therefore, all such attempts to convey to our own minds, or the minds of others, any apprehensions of the true God, by any image, picture, resemblance, or sensible manifestations whatever, are inconsistent with the great and only law of benevolence, or good willing.
II. This shows the true meaning and spirit of the law to prohibit any attempt to give human beings the knowledge of God, by pictures, images, visible or tangible representations of any kind whatever.
Exodus 20:7. 'Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.'
I. The true spirit of this requirement:
1. It does not imply that the word expressing the name of God, is more sacred than any other word.
2. It prohibits all unnecessary mention of the name of God.
3. It prohibits every light and irreverent use of it.
4. It prohibits every feeling that might lead to this.
5. It requires a feeling of the utmost holy awe, reverence, love, and respect for God.
6. It requires a constant and perfect recognition of what he is, of what we are, of his relations to us, and ours to him, so far as our circumstances and natural capabilities will allow.
7. It admits the use of the name of God, only when necessary, and then only in accordance with a perfect state of heart.
II. Reasons for this commandment:
1. God's infinite greatness and excellence.
2. His relation to the universe as Supreme Ruler.
3. The strength, stability, and influence of his government, depend upon the estimation in which he is held by his subjects.
4. Every light and irreverent mention of his name, tends to diminish awe, veneration, confidence, and respect, and of course to weaken his influence, and the power of his government.
5. The happiness of the universe depends on their virtue. Their virtue consists in obedience to God; and their obedience to God depends upon the light in which they regard him.
6. Therefore, the highest good of the universe demands that God should respect his own name, and never suffer it to be trifled with.
7. The highest good of the universe also demands that all moral beings should treat the name of God with the utmost awe, veneration, and respect.
8. Therefore, this command as above explained, is only a declaratory precept, and an application of the one great and only law of love, equally obligatory upon God, and upon all moral beings.