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swer is we may cease to watch, when our spiritual enemy ceases to assail. We may be off our guard when there is no longer any temptation without.' We may cease our selfdenial when there is no more corruption within. We may give the reins to our imagination when we are sure its tendencies will be towards heaven. We may dismiss repentance when sin is abolished. We may indulge sel. fishness when we can do it without danger to our souls.
We may neglect prayer when we no longer need the favour of God. We may cease to praise him when he ceases to be gracious to us.—To discontinue our vigilance at any period short of this will be to defeat all the virtues we have practised on earth, to put to hazard all our hopes of happiness in heaven.
The idol Self,” says an excellent old divine*, “ has made more desolation among men than ever was made in those places where idols were served by human sacrifices. It has preyed more fiercely on human lives, than Moloch or the Minotaur."
To worship images is a more obvious, but it is scarcely a more degrading idolatry, than to set up self in opposition to God. To devote ourselves to this service is as perfect slavery as the service of God is perfect freedom. If we cannot imitate the sacrifice of Christ in his death, we are called upon to imitate the sacrifice of himself in his will. Even the son of God declared, “I came not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me." This was his grand lesson, this was his distinguishing character.
Self-will is the ever-flowing fountain of all the evil tempers which deform our hearts, of all the boiling passions which inflame and disorder society ; the root of bitterness on which all its corrupt fruits grow. We set up our own understanding against the wisdom of God, and our own passions against the will of God. If we could ascertain the precise period when sensuality ceased to govern in the animal part of our nature, and pride in the intellectual, that period would form the most memorable æra of the Christian life ; from that moment he begins a new date of liberty and happiness; from that stage he sets out on a new career of peace, liberty, and virtue.
Self-love is a Proteus of all shapes, shades, and complexions. It has the power of dilatation and contraction as best serves the occasion. There is no crevice so small through which its subtle essence cannot force its way, no space so ample that it cannot stretch itself to fill.It is of all degrees of refinement ; so coarse and hungry as to gorge itself with the grossest adulation, so fastidious as to require a homage as refined as itself ; so artful as to elude the detection of ordinary observers, so specious as to escape the observation of the very heart in which it reigns paramount : yet, though so extravagant in its appetites, it can adopt a mode
ration which imposes, a delicacy which veils its deformity, an artificial character which keeps its real one out of sight.
We are apt to speak of self-love as if it were only a symptom, whereas it is the distemper itself ; a malignant distemper which has possession of the moral constitution, of which malady every part of the system participates. In direct opposition to the effect produced by the touch of the fabled king, which converted the basest materials into gold, this corrupting principle pollutes, by coming in contact with it, whatever is in itself great and noble.
Self-love is the centre of the unrenewed heart. This striking principle, as has been observed, serves indeed
the virtuous mind to wake;
but it disturbs it from its slumber to ends and purposes directly opposite to those assigned to it by our incomparable bard.* Self-love is by
" the small pebble which stirs the peaceful lake.”
It is rather the pent-up wind within, which causes the earthquake ; it is the tempest which agitates the sleeping ocean. Had the image been as just as its cloathing is beautiful ; or rather had Mr. Pope been as sound a theologian as he was an exquisite
Essay on Man, 1. 362
poet, the allusion in his hands might have conveyed a sounder meaning without losing a particle of its elegance. This might have been effected by only substituting the effect for the cause ; that is, by making benevolence the principle instead of the consequence, and by discarding self-love from its central situation in the construction of the metaphor.
But by arraying a beggarly idea in princely robes, he knew that his own splendid powers could at any time transform meanness into majesty, and deformity into beauty.
After all however, le vrai est le seul beau. Had he not blindly adopted the misleading system of the noble sceptic, “ His guide, philosopher and friend,” he might have transferred the shining attributes of the base-born thing which he has dressed out with so many graces to the legitimate claimant, Benevolence; of which self-love is so far from being, as he represents, the moving spring, that they are both working in a course of incessant counteraction, the spirit striving against the flesh, and the flesh against the spirit.
To Christian benevolence all the happy effects attributed to self-love might have been fairly traced. It was only to dislodge the idol and make the love of God the centre, and the