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since both have one divine Author.* In the natural world we find the various parts of the material system are kept together, and their motions rendered regular, by means of the great law of attraction. In this system all attract and are attracted, whether they be near together, or far apart. The greater the body and the nearer its position, the greater attractive power it exerts. Were one of these bodies to exist alone, it would even then have the same attractive power. But by being surrounded with other bodies of the same nature, there is an opportunity for this to be very beautifully exhibited. Let this natural law be violated, so that every part shall have a repulsive, instead of an attract. ive power, the consequence would be, that the harmony of the spheres would be disturbed, and the present order of the material system would be immediately exchanged for disorder and confusion.
The attraction which binds together the material system, is a beau. tiful illustration of that benevolence which embraces in its arms the intellectual universe. Were such an affection to govern the minds of all intelligent beings, it would secure universal order, peace, and happiness. Selfishness answers to repulsion; and its direct tendency is to destroy the harmony and happiness of the moral system. Reason now demands, Has the Creator given the law of attraction to the material system, as the means of preserving its harmony, and must he not have made a moral law for the moral system, the tendency of which would be to preserve a holy harmony among all intelligent beings!
II.' This distinction between holy and unholy characters, is sup. ported by revelation. It is to be hoped that we shall take heed to this, as to a light shining in a dark place. Who can but be anxious to know what the word of God has said on an article, so fundamental to the religion of the heart? I remark,
1st. That the distinction of character made by benevolence and selfishness, is manifestly recognized in the holy scriptures. I do not say that the words themselves frequently occur. Benevolence occurs but once, and selfishness not at all. But the ideas these terms are adapted to convey, are of frequent occurrence. Nor is there any valid objection against using terms in theological discourses, which occur but seldom, or which are not found at all in the Bible. As to forming our sentiments on religious subjects, we are to be strictly held to the law and to the testimony; but these sentiments we have a right to express in that language which will now be best understood. It may become quite necessary to select other words and phrases, besides those which we find in the scriptures themselves, for the purpose of making known more explicitly what are the opinions we adopt, concerning the doctrines they contain. The necessity arises from this circumstance ; that all sects, however different their creeds, profess to give their assent to every article of faith which is taught in the scrip. tures. If therefore you ask the Unitarian, if he does not believe that the Word is God; he will tell you, Yes, but I do not believe that Christ is God supreme. Hence it becomes necessary to distinguish the sen. timents of Trinitarians on this subject, by saying that they believe in
I have heard of a certain noted teacher of theology, who used repeatedly to say to his students, “ Young men, I would have you to know, that the same God made the heavens and the earth, who made the Bible.”
the proper divinity of the Savior, although this phrase is not found in the scriptures. The terms total and entire are never used by our trans. lators in application to human depravity; and yet they answer an important purpose, to mark the sentiments of such as believe that men in their uprenewed state are wholly under the dominion of sin.
I repeat the remark, that the word of God recognizes the distinction of character which is made by benevolence and selfishness. It speaks of some men as living unto themselves ; and of others, as not living unto themselves. The former exhibit a selfish, and the latter a disinterested character. Some are said to lay up treasure for themselves, in distinction from being rich toward God. This implies as great a differ. evice, as between seeking the least, or the greatest good. The same moral difference is discovered in this injunction : "Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth.” Seeking his own, to the exclusion of another's wealth, is entire selfishness; while the seeking of another's wealth, as an object dear to his heart, like his own, is benevolence, disinterested and universal. When it is said that charity “ seeketh not her own,” it supposes the existence of a love which does not make its own interest its ultimate end. What I wish to establish under this particular head, is merely this; that the distinction, which we are in the habit of making between good and bad characters, by the terms benevolence and selfishness, is not a human invention, but is manifestly sanctioned by the word of God. If this matter is established, I shall proceed to show,
2dly. That the word of God not only recognizes such a difference of character, but evidently employs these two opposite characteristics, to describe moral good and evil. When Paul said concerning Timothy, “ I have no man like minded, who will naturally care for your state ; for all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's;" two interests are supposed to exist, the one benevolent, and the other selfish ; and to seek the former is represented as indicative of moral excellence, while to seek the latter, namely, a selfish interest, is stigmatized as being unworthy of men, especially men engaged in the ministry of reconciliation. Phil. ii. 20, 21. In Paul's second epistle to Timothy, he informs him that in the last days perilous times should come ; for, said he, “men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, &c. Here we find selfishness placed at the head of a frightful catalogue of unholy tempers and practices ; which implies, not only, that it has a vile nature in common with the rest, but that it may be considered as a fountain of iniquity. What an entire contrast to this vile affection does the apostle himself manifest, when he says to the Corinthians, “ I will very gladly spend and be spent for you, though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.” 2 Cor. 12, 15. He was willing to spend his money and his strength for their benefit. And this he was cheerful in doing, even in case his efforts for their good, instead of raising, should lower him in their esteem. But why do I bring into view the examples of Timothy and Paul, to prove that the scriptures speak honorably of that love which is expansive and dig. interested? Their benevolence was of the right kind, but it was mea. gre when compared with that of their Lord and Master. know," said Paul,“ the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he
6 For ye
was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his pov. erty might be rich."
3dly. This distinction of character is exhibited in the moral law, which requires disinterested love, and forbids selfishness. In requiring me to love God, my neighbor, and myself, it presents before me the whole intelligent system as the object of my regard. That this law does not allow an individual to make himself the ultimate end of his actions, is evident ; for, first, it requires him to love God supremely,– secondly, it requires him to love his neighbor as himself,—and thirdly, it threatens his disobedience with death, the destruction of all his happiness forever. Such a threatening, in connection with such requirements, serves to show, that since God does not make as much of the happiness of an individual, as of the general good, it must be wrong for us, the subjects of his government; to do it. Supreme love to one's self is perfect hostility to the law; and nothing short of universal good will harmonizes with its precepts and penalties.
4thly. The unregenerate and the regenerate are distinguished by their selfishness and their benevolence; which shows these to be the characteristics constituting the difference between sinful and holy be. ings. That this is the real difference between the unconverted and the converted, is clearly taught by the apostle in this passage : “And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him that died for them and rose again. 2 Cor. v. 15. The whole of a wicked unregenerate life is here comprised in one thing, viz. selfishness; for this is clearly the import of the charge brought against them of living unto themselves. And wherein do they differ from this, when they have passed from death unto life? They Jive not unto themselves, but unto him that died for them. This is as much as to tell us, that the new birth changes selfish into benevolent men; for living to him who died for us, as contrasted with living unto ourselves, implies not only a disposition to glorify Christ, but also to act in concert with him in doing all the good of which we are capable. When the same apostle, in another of his epistles, says, « For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself; for whether we live, we live unto the Lord ; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord”-he is describing the subjects of grace, as rising above that sor. did selfishness which characterized them when they were the servants of sin. While such as remain servants of sin live unto themselves, and die unto themselves, the subjects of regenerating grace widely differ from them; since their ultimate end in wishing to live or to die, is not selfish, but disinterested. See Rom. xiv, 7, 8, and Phil. i. 20—25.
5thly. Another argument derived from the scriptures, in confirma. tion of the distinction we have made between holy and sinful charac. ters, is this : They who by profession have a holy character, are represented as evincing their hypocrisy, as soon as they make it appear that their religion is founded on selfishness. Thus it is said, “Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself.” Again it is said, “ Did ye fast at all unto me, even unto me? And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did ye not eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves ?" Hos. x. 1. Zech. vii. 5, 6. These passages clearly teach us, that however pious any may appear, it is all hypocrisy, if
selfishness, instead of God's glory, be their ultimate end. The scripture never considers men to be possessed of a holy character, because they pray and fast and give alms, if self-love be the actuating principle. Nor does it represent them as holy, because they repent and believe, unless their repentance and faith work by love. Nor does it represent their love as possessed of any moral worth, let it be ever so ardent, in case it terminate on themselves. “ If ye love them that love you, (said the divine teacher,) what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same?”
6thly. That disinterested love and selfishness form the grand discriminations of character among intelligent beings, is made clear by the controversy between the Lord and Satan in relation to the religion of Job. The Lord asserted Job's superior moral excellence, declaring him to be a perfect and upright man, one who feared God and eschew. ed evil. Satan did not pretend to dispute Job's being a religious man, even more religious than any of his cotemporaries: but he insinuated that all his religion (and he designed no doubt to include the religion of all God's other servants,) was of a selfish character; and that nothing would be necessary to prove it to be so, only for the Lord to take away those blessings of his providence that he had so profusely heaped upon him. With a view to establish this cardinal point, namely, that the religion of his faithful servants is not based on love to themselves, but is of a disinterested character, the Lord suffered Satan to strip Job of his great possessions and of his children ; to fill his body with a painful and loathsome disease, and in other ways to afflict him, as far as was consistent with sparing his life. Now the very circumstance, that the Lord consented to have his servant thus severely tried, for the purpose of deciding the point in dispute, is sufficient proof that in His estimation there is such a thing as a religion which is not built upon self-love ; and that such is the only religion which will meet his approbation. See Job i. and ii.
My quotations in support of the sentiments contained in the different Articles which I have placed before my readers, have hitherto nearly all of them been taken from the word of God; which indeed is the only book I can acknowledge as an infallible standard. Yet I would not undervalue the labors of those men who have not only diligently studied the inspired word, but who have also accompanied their studies with much prayer for divine illumination. And now, after having shown what, in my opinion, the scriptures have taught us on this leading article of experimental religion, I propose to throw before the reader the sentiments of a few of those theological writers, who, being dead, yet speak, and whose praise is in all the churches; that he may see that the views which I have exhibited on this subject are entertained by men of different countries, and belonging to different denom. inations of Christians. President Edwards
says, “ True virtue” (by which he intends true holiness,) "most essentially consists in benevolence to being in general.” And that which he made the opposite of benevolence to being in general, he denominated self-love. Dr. Scott says, “ The more disinterested our labors are, the more apostolical they must be allowed to e.” Abp. Leighton clearly represents self-love to be the basis of all
moral evil. Here are his words : “ It is self-love that contracts the heart, and shuts out all other love, both of God and man, save only so far as our own interest carries, and that is still self-love." Mr. Henry, in his striking manner, exhibits the same view of self-love, when he says, “Self is the unity in which the world's trinity centres.” That Mr. Fuller's views of the criminality of a selfish spirit, were in accordance with those of Edwards, Leighton and Henry, is very manifest : “Here. by," says he, “know we the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Ev. ery false system originates and terminates in self. This is the character of the spirit of error. -If self-love be the spring of our religion, it is declared by our Savior to be of no value, and that it will issue in no divine reward.” Dr. Bellamy gives us his views of both sides of the contrast. He says, “The gracious nature is a disposition to love God supremely, live to him ultimately, and delight in him superlatively; and this sinful nature is a disposition to love self supremely, live to self ultimately, and delight in that which is not God wholly.” That disinterested benevolence or universal good will is the sum of holiness, while selfishness is the fountain of all iniquity, is clearly exhibited in the Theology of Dr. Dwight. He
“ Selfishness consists in a pre. ference of ourselves to others, and to all others; to the universe and to God. This is sin; and all that in the scriptures is meant by sin. In every individual sin, this will invariably be found to be the essential and guilty character. Thus sensuality is the desire of self-gratification at the expense of any and all other happiness. Thus ambition is the desire of aggrandizing, and avarice the desire of enriching our. selves, in preference to the interests of all others. From this spirit arises all our opposition to God, and all our injustice to his creatures. He who has seriously and entirely preferred God to himself, or the good of the universe to his own private, separate good, has, in the com. plete sense, become virtuous.” Dr. Hopkins says, “ Holiness consists in disinterested benevolence, which is, in the nature of it, and in all its exercises, wholly contrary and opposed to self-love." Again, in speaking of the renovated character, he says, “ It consists in UNIVER. SAL BENEVOLENCE ; or benevolence to being in general capable of hap. piness, and all that affection or exercise of heart which is necessarily included in this. Universal benevolence, or goodness, is necessarily pleased with good and happiness, wherever it takes place ; for it seeks the general good, and that to the greatest possible degree; it must therefore be gratified wherever happiness takes place, and that in pro. portion to the degree of it."
Some object to the scheme of disinterested love, that it does not har. monize with that system of moral government adopted by the Supreme Ruler, in which he seeks to influence his subjects to obedience by promises and threatenings. This objection will be obviated by con. sidering;
First, That God's approbation of holiness and opposition to sin are not selfish exercises; for he loves the one for its moral excellence, and the other he hates because its very nature is hateful. And he would have his creatures feel towards these moral qualities, which are of such opposite natures, just as he does himself. For this purpose he mani. fests his feelings by the sanctions of his law; promising favor to the