« AnteriorContinuar »
proper selfishness. Pleasant and painful sensations are common to saints and sinners, and to all sensitive natures, and have no moral quality belonging to them. Every creature, perhaps whether rational or irrational, takes pleasure in receiving its proper food; but this love to its food is not love to itself, or selfishness. The saint and the sinner may equally love honey, because it is agreeable to the taste; but this love to honey is neither interested, nor disinterested love, and of course is neither virtuous nor vicious. Men never love any particular food from a moral motive, but from the constitution of their nature, in which they are passive, and have no active concern. The case is different in loving themselves. In this they properly act, and act from a moral motive. Sinners love themselves not because they are a part of the intellectual system, nor because the general good requires them to regard their personal happiness, but because they are themselves. They love their own interest because it is their own, in distinction from the interest of all other created, or uncreated beings. This is a free, voluntary exercise, which is contrary to their reason and conscience, and which they know to be in its own nature wrong. Their interest is really no more valuable for being theirs, than if it belonged to others; and they themselves are no more valuable, than other creatures of the same character and capacity. To love them. selves, therefore, because they are themselves, is to love themselves from a motive peculiar to selfish creatures.
II. We are to consider why sinners love others. Our Saviour said to his disciples, that if they were of the world, the world would love them. And he said in the text, that sinners love those that love them. Though the love of sinners always centres in them
selves, yet it may extend to others, and take in a large circle of mankind, and even God himself. Sinners loved Christ, and cried hosannah, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. The whole people of Israel loved the God of Moses, when he carried them through the red sea, delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh, and gave them manna from heav
But the question before us is, Why do such self-, ish creatures love others? The answer is easy. It is because they have received, or expect to receive benefit from them. This is the reason our Lord assigns. “If ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if yo lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.” For the same reason that sinners love themselves, they naturally love those that love them, and are disposed to do them good. As they love their own interest, because it is their own, so they love every person or object, which serves to increase or preserve their own interest. They do not value and love others, because they are valuable and worthy to be loved; but merely because they view them as means or instruments of securing or advancing their own personal happiness. They value their fellow men, for the same reason that they value their own houses and lands, flocks and herds. They love these, not on their own account, but because they serve their selfish purposes. So they love their fellow men, not on their own account, but because they deem them some way or other subservient to their private, separate interest,
III. It remains to inquire, why there is no mora! goodness in the love, which sinners exercise towards
themselves and others. Christ supposes, that they all know the nature of their love, and that there is nothing virtuous or praise-worthy in it. “If ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? If ye do good to them that do good to you, what thank have ye? And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive as much again; what thank have ye?” Is there any thing truly virtuous and amiable, in men's loving themselves, or in loving others, from mere selfish, mercenary motives? All men in the world know, that there is no moral goodness in such selfish affections, and they are always unwilling to acknowledge that they are actuated by mercenary motives. Who is willing to allow, that he loves himself merely because he is himself? Or that he loves others merely because they love him? Or that he never does good to others, only when he thinks it will be for his private advantage? Who in publick life is willing to avow, that he is not seeking the publick good, but only his private interest? Who is willing to own, that he has ever given or taken a bribe? Who is willing to be seen in doing any act of selfishpess? Who ever thanked another for doing him a benefit, only for the sake of gaining a much greater benefit? We never thank men for loving themselves, nor for loving us merely for their own sake. It is the unanimous sentiment of mankind, that there is no virtue in that love, which flows entirely from mercenary motives. But why? This is the point now to be illustrated. Herc then I would observe,
1. That there is no moral goodness in the love which sinners feel and express, because it is not a conformity to that love, which God feels and expresses. He is good unto all, and his tender mercies are over all his works. He seeks not only his own glory, but the real good of others. Christ, therefore, sets him up as the
standard of perfection, and commands them to conform to him, who loves those that hate him, and does good to his most inveterate enemies. “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the highest; for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” There is no conformity in the love of sinners to the love of God. His love is virtuous and excellent, because it terminates upon all proper objects; but there is no moral beauty or excellence in their love, because it wholly terminates upon an improper object, that is, their own selfish interest. God does not love them exclusively, and merely because they are themselves, but because he regards the good of every creature according to its worth. This is a holy and disinterested love; but when sinners love themselves, because they are themselves, and love others, because they are beneficial to them, there is no moral virtue or excellence in it. It bears no conformity to the love of God, which is the standard of all moral perfection.
2. The selfish love of sinners has no moral goodness in it, because it is no obedience to the divine law. This law requires them to love God with all the heart, and to love their fellow men as themselves. But when they love themselves because they are themselves, and love others only because they have received, or expect to receive benefit from them, do they obey the divine law? Do they feel towards God, as they would that he should feel towards them? Or do they feel towards others, as they would that others should feel towards them? Does their selfish affection in the least degree anwer the demands of that law, which requires pure, disinterested love? It is morally
impossible for sinners to love God supremely, and their fellow men impartially, from a selfish heart: Let their love to God or man rise ever so high, it can have no moral goodness in it, because it is no obedience to the divine law, which requires nothing but pure, holy, disinterested love.
8. There is no moral goodness in the selfishness of sinners, because it is the very essence of all moral evil. All the wickedness of Satan consists in his selfishness. He loves himself because he is himself, and loves only those who love him, because their love serves to promote what he considers as his cause and interest. He desires to bring God and all his intelligent creatures into subjection to himself, and of course hates, and opposes, and endeavours to destroy all who stand in his way, and obstruct his malignant designs. He knows by his own feelings, that selfishness will hate God and oppose all good. Accordingly, when he accused Job of selfishness, he said that he would rise in enmity against God, and blaspheme his name, if he should only touch his selfish interest. “And Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast thou not made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the works of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.” Had Job been totally selfish, Satan's prediction would have been fulfilled, and he would have hated, and if he dared, would have blasphemed God, when he stripped him of all that he had given him. Our Saviour represented selfishness in the same light. He told such as followed him from mercenary motives, “I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you.” And he told certain persons who had