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  • Love and Liberty

Sin Lies In The Intention

"Temptation, or at least, a strong tendency towards it, may be constitutional and probably often is so. Probably ever since the fall of the first human pair, there has been in the human constitution an increased excitability towards temptation. By this means the race are exposed to strong temptation, some more strong in one direction and some in another; one to licentious indulgence, another to ambition, another to the abuse of power. Yet let it be strictly observed, all this tendency to temptation, however strong, is not itself sin. For however great these temptations and tendencies are, yet if they are resisted and steadfastly opposed, all the more does the soul soar aloft in the triumphs of victorious grace. If these temptations are firmly resisted, they are not to be regarded even as calamities. Take the case of a man born with a strong tendency in his constitution towards the excitement of intoxicating drink. If he resists this temptation, he grows in moral strength and in true moral elevation of character, with every successive resistance. The original tendency is more a blessing than a curse to him."

~ Charles Finney

"Many seem to assume that temptation implies the presence of sin. They think no being can be tempted unless there be sin in his heart or constitution already, to which temptation makes its appeal. Now if this view be just, it follows that Jesus Christ had sin in his heart or constitution; a conclusion which I need not say is utterly unscriptural and revolting to reason and to fact.

What then is sin?

(1.) It is not something which belongs to the very nature of man--something mysteriously incorporated into his very being, so that nature is itself sinful. To assume this is the greatest nonsense. What is sin? Is it a created substance? What sort of a substance can sin be? And who must bear the blame of sin if it be a created substance? On this supposition, is it possible to avoid the conclusion that the blame of sin must attach to that creative agency which gave it existence?

(2.) Sin does not consist in any involuntary state of mind. It does not belong to the substance of the mind, nor to any activities of the mind, apart from the will. It does not pertain to any involuntary state of the mind, nor to any state or action of either its thinking or its feeling faculties. Mind thinks and mind feels; yet in neither of these, strictly speaking, does sin inhere and to neither does sin primarily belong. When the Scriptures say--"The thought of wickedness is sin," the language is used only in the same sense in which it is said that muscular action is sin--that, for example, the muscular action of the arm wielding a club to kill a neighbor is sinful;--it is simply the development of a sinful state or act of the will. The mind's intention or will, is the sin in the case. This sin belongs to the muscles of the arm in no other sense than that these are made the instruments of sin. So the plotting and devising of the intellect to accomplish murder are only the instrumentalities which serve a depraved will or intention to murder. The sin lies not in the intellect, but in the intention."

~ Charles Finney

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