The Purposes of God
Charles G. Finney. "Systematic Theology"
Lecture 77 (1851) - Page 5 of 5 pages

Part VI
Wisdom and Benevolence of the Purposes of God

VI We have seen that God is both wise and benevolent. This is the doctrine both of reason and of revelation.

  • *Reason* intuitively affirms that God exists, and is perfect.
  • The Bible assumes that He exists, and declares that He is perfect.
  • Both wisdom and benevolence must be attributes of the infinite and perfect God. These attributes enter into *Reason's* idea of God. *Reason* could not recognize any being as God to whom these attributes did not belong.
  VI-1 If infinite wisdom and benevolence are moral attributes of God, it follows of course that all His designs or purposes are both perfectly wise and benevolent.

VI-2 God has chosen the best possible end, and pursues it in the use of the best practicable means. His purposes embrace the end and the means necessary to secure it, together with the best practicable disposal of the sin, which is the incidental result of His choosing this end and using these means; and they extend no further; they are all therefore perfectly wise and good.

Part VII
The Immutability of the Divine Purpose

VII We have seen that immutability is not only a natural, but also a moral attribute of God.

  • *Reason* affirms, that the self-existent and infinitely perfect God is unchangeable in all His attributes. The ground of this affirmation it is not my purpose here to inquire into. It is sufficient here to say, what every one knows, that such is the affirmation of *REASON*.
  • This is also everywhere assumed and taught in the Bible. God's moral attributes are not immutable in the sense of necessity, but only in the sense of certainty.
  VII-1 Although God is not necessarily benevolent, yet He is as immutably so, as if He were necessarily so.

VII-2 If God's benevolence were necessary, it would not be virtuous
, for the simple reason that it would not be free. But being free, its immutability renders it all the more praise-worthy.

The Purposes of God --
A Ground of Eternal & Joyful Confidence

VIII The purposes of God are a ground of eternal and joyful confidence. That is, they may reasonably be a source of eternal comfort, joy, and peace.

  • Selfish beings will not of course rejoice in God's purposes, but benevolent beings will and must.
  • Because God's purposes are infinitely wise and good, and sure to be accomplished, they must form a rational ground of unfailing confidence and joy.
  {God said: "I ordain...} "... the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.' " Isa 46.10

The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations.
Psalm 33.11

There are many plans in a man's heart, nevertheless the LORD'S counsel-that will stand.
Prov 19.21

Part IX
The Relation of God's Purposes to His Foreknowledge

IX We have seen that God is omniscient, that is, that He necessarily and eternally knows whatever is, or can be, an object of knowledge.

  • His purposes must also be eternal and immutable, as we have seen.
  • In the order of time, therefore, His purposes and His foreknowledge must be co-eternal.

IX-1 But in the order of nature, God's knowledge of what He could do, and what could be done, must have preceded His purposes.

  • That is, God could not, so to speak, in the order of nature, have formed His purpose and made up His mind what to do, until He had considered what could be done, and what was best to be done.
  • Until all possible ends, and ways, and means, were weighed and understood, it was of course impossible to make a selection, and settle upon the end with all the necessary means; and also settle upon the ways and means of overruling any evil, natural or moral, that might be seen to be unavoidably incidental to any system.

IX-2 Thus it appears, that, in the order of nature, fore-knowledge of what could be done, must have preceded the *purpose* to do.

  • The *purpose* resulted from God's fore-knowledge. He knew what He could do, before He decided what He would do.
  • But, on the other hand, the purpose to do must, in the order of nature, have preceded the knowledge of what He should do, or of what would be done, or would come to pass as a result of His purpose.
  IX-3 Viewed relatively to what God could do, the Divine fore-knowledge must in the order of nature have preceded the Divine purposes.

IX-4 But viewed relatively to what God would do, and would come to pass, the Divine purposes must, in the order of nature, have preceded the Divine fore-knowledge. But I say again, as fore-knowledge was necessarily eternal with God, His purposes must also have been eternal, and therefore, in the order of time, neither His prescience could have preceded His purposes, nor His purposes have preceded His prescience. They must have been contemporaneous and co-eternal.

Part X
God's Purposes Demand the Use of *Means*

X God's purposes are not inconsistent with, but demand the use of means both on His part, and on our part, to accomplish them.

X-1 The great purpose upon which God has set His heart necessarily depends upon the use of means, both moral and physical, to accomplish it.

X-2 God's purpose is to provide for the highest well-being of the whole universe.

  • This purpose can be secured only by securing conformity to the laws of matter and of mind.
  • Mind is influenced by motives, and hence moral and physical government are naturally necessary means of securing the great end proposed by the Divine mind.
  • Hence also results the necessity of a vast and complicated system of means and influences, such as we see spread around us on every hand.

X-3 The history of the universe is but the history of creation, and of the means which God is using to secure His end, with their natural and incidental results.

  • It has already been shown, that the Bible teaches that the purposes of God include and respect both means and ends.
  • I will only add, that God's purposes do not render any event, dependent upon the acts of a moral agent, necessarily certain, or certain with a certainty of necessity.

X-4 Although, as was before said, all events are certain with some kind of certainty, and would be and must be, if they are ever to come to pass, whether God purposes them, or whether He fore-knows them or not; yet no event, depending upon the will of a free agent, is, or can be, certain with a certainty of necessity.

X-5 The agent could by natural possibility do otherwise than he will do, or than God purposes to suffer him to do, or wills that he shall do.

  • God's purposes, let it be understood, are not a system of fatality. They leave every moral agent entirely free to choose and act freely.
  • God knows infallibly how every creature will act, and has made all His arrangements accordingly, to overrule the wicked actions of moral agents on the one hand, and to produce or induce, the holy actions of others on the other hand.
  • But be it remembered, that neither the Divine fore-knowledge nor the Divine purpose, in any instance, sets aside the free agency of any person.
  • Each person, in every instance, acts as freely and as responsibly, as if God neither knew nor purposed anything respecting his conduct, or his destiny.

X-6 God's purposes extend to all events in some sense, as has been shown.

  • They extend as really to the most common events of life as to the most rare.
  • But in respect to the every day transactions of life, men are not wont to stumble, and cavil, and say, "Why, if I am to live, I shall live, whatever I may do to destroy my health and life; and if I am to die, I cannot live, do what I will."
  • No, in these events they will not throw off responsibility, and cast themselves upon the purposes of God; but on the contrary, they are as much engaged to secure the end they have in view, as if God neither knew nor purposed anything about it.

X-7 Why then human beings do as they often do, in regard to the salvation of their souls, cast off responsibility, and settle down in listless inactivity, as if the purposes of God in respect to salvation were but a system of iron fatality, from which there is no escape?

  • Surely "madness is in their hearts while they live."
  • But let them understand, that, in thus doing, they sin against the Lord, and be sure their sin will find them out.
  Thus ends # 77 in Charles Finney's classical lectures on Systematic Theology.

I hope that it blessed and instructed you as much as it did me.

Papa T - Editor, Aloha Bible Net


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