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against God, and his fellow creatures, and against him. self, that is, against his true interest, and renders him rcally miserable ; and prepares him to be completely mis. erable forever, unless it be removed. In short, there can be no kind or degree of moral depravity which has appeared among men, or of which there can be any con. ception, which does not consist in self love, in the various exercises and fruits of it : And where there is no selfishness, there is no sin, there can be no deviation from the law of God.
Therefore when the apostle Paul speaks of the nature of sin, and that in which he found it to consist when he came to the knowledge of it, he comprehends it all in selfishness, or coveting, which is the same. He had not known sin, but by the law: For I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not cover.” He refers to the tenth command in the decalogue, " Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, &c. nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.” Coveting that to our. selves, which belongs to others, is an exercise of self love. In this the apostle represents sin to consist ; even in the inmost latent exercises of this selfishness in the heart, being the root and fountain of all sin. Agreeable to this, the same apostle, when he describes the great degree of vice and wickedness which shall take place in the last days, sets self love at the head, as the source and root of the whole. “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves ; covetous, boasters, proud, &c.”* Any one who will attentively read over this catalogue of iniquity, will see, that every vice here
, mentioned, is implied in the self love which is first introduced, and is only a different modification of that which men will practise because they are lovers of their own selves : and consequently act out this self love in a variety of forms, which therefore are called by these different names.
It therefore appears, that as holiness is, in the holy scripture, reduced to one simple principle, love, and made to consist wholly in this, by which is evidently meant disinterested good will to being in general, capa
• 2 Timothy iii. 1-5.
ble of happiness, with all that affection necessarily included in this ; so sin is there represented as consisting in the simple principle or exercise of self love,
LOVE which, in its own nature, comprehends all sin, every exercise and affection which is a deviation from the divine law; and is directly and wholly opposed to that love which this law requires. *
It has been said, that every degree of self love cannot be sin, but must be lawful and right, since it is reasonable that we should have some regard, at least, for ourselves, and desire and seek our own interest and happiness, not inconsistent with that of others ; and were there no self love, men could not be influenced by promises and threatening ; and there would be no propriety in these, of which the Bible is full. Besides, the command to love our neighbour supposes and enjoins self love. “ Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Here the love of our own selves is mentioned as the stated measure, by which our love to others is to be
regulated. If we are forbid to exercise any degree of self love, the command is inconsistent, and comes to nothing.
Upon this it may be observed, that a person may have and exercise a proper regard for himself, and desire and seek his own interest and happiness, without the least degree of the self love which is opposed to disinterested benevolence, or which is not implied in it. The person who exercises disinterested good will to being in general must have a proper and proportionable regard to himself; as he belongs to being in general, and is includ: ed in it, as a necessary part of it. It is impossible he
Our Lord says, all which the law requires is love, therefore holiness consisted wholly in this. (Matt. xxii. 37—40.) And St. Paul says, “ He that loveth another hath fulfilled the law ; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Rom. 13.) And, as has been observed, he represents sin as consisting in the codering what belongs to others, which is forbidden in the tenth command ; which is self love. The love required, gives all to being in general, and reserves and desires nothing to self, as self, or as an object distinct fronı universal being.. The self love forbidden, covets and seeks all to self, as such, as distinguished from being in general, and opposite to it. It gives nothing to any other bring, but, so far as its grasp can reach, takes and holds all good to self, as such, and as opposed to every other being; and seeks to subordinate every other being and thing to his own self, will and interest. The former is required as that in which all holiness consists. The latter is forbidden, as the root and essence of all sin.
should love being in general, or universal being, and not love himself; because he is included in universal being. And the more he has of a disinterested, universal benev.olence, and the stronger his exercises of it are, the more regard will he have to his own being, and the more fervently will he desire and seek his own interest and happiness. But here it must be observed, that he will not desire and seek it as his own, or because it is his own interest, considered as distinct and detached from the interest of the whole, or of being in general ; but as included in it. Thus disinterested benevolence to being in gen. eral loves our neighbour as ourselves ; in which there is nothing selfish, but ourselves are loved as included in the general object of disinterested love. The least degree of selfish love necessarily destroys all due proportion, and sets up a selfish interest detached from that of others, and injurious to the whole. It is in the very nature of it an enemy to the harmony and happiness of the whole, and breaks in upon it, and tends to spread confu. sion and evil through the whole, in opposition to universal benevolence; and is inconsistent with our loving our neighbour as ourselves ; but, by the supposition, loves self and nothing else. Hence it appears that the command, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” excludes and forbids all self love, or selfishness, and enjoins that disinterested love to the whole, which necessarily includes a proper and proportionable love and regard to our own existence and interest, as implied in that of the whole. And in this view of the matter, it appears that he who has disinterested benevolence to the whole may be influenced by promises and threatenings, and is as proper a subject of them, and more so, than the most selfish person in the world. *
Thus it appears from scripture, and the reason and nature of things, that the sin which entered into the world by one man, the father of the human race, and has spread to all' his children, by which they are totally corrupted,
This subject is more particularly considered in “ An Inquiry into the Nature of True Holiness," published in the year 1773, and reprinted at New-York; in the year 1791 To which the reader is referred, who shall desire to see it more fully discussed.
and involved in guilt and ruin, consists wholly in self love. Nothing but that which has the nature of selfish. ness is sin ; and this is in its own nature, and in every degree, a transgression of the law of God, and contrary to true holiness. It is useful and important that we should have this scriptural idea of holiness and sin, as it will put us under advantage to know how far we ourselves are sinful, or what is sin in us, as well as to judge of the moral corruption of mankind.
1. IN the part the devil acted in seducing man, and leading him off into rebellion against God, may be seen the nature and tendency of sin, and what is the disposition or inclination of the sinner. When Satan became a rebel against his Maker, his inclination and desire was to disappoint and dethrone him, if possible, and to spread rebellion through the universe ; and he wished to have every creature that existed, or ever should exist, to join with him, and do as he had done : And his sinning had a mighty tendency to this, and did accomplish it, so far as his influence reached, and had its natural effect. He actually drew off into rebellion with him myriads of angels. And had it been in his power, and had not God prevented it, he would have drawn them all off from obedience to God. He wished to extinguish all holiness from the universe. He acted out this disposition, this enmity against God and man, and all holiness, in seducing man, and spreading sin and ruin through this world.
Sin in man is of the same nature and kind with the sin of the devil, by which man is inclined to do as he does, and in which man has joined with him, to desire and pursue the same thing which he seeks; and it tends to produce the same effects, the sin and ruin of the whole universe. Therefore our Saviour says to the Jews, “ Ye are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do."* That is, ye are of the same VOL. I.
38 * John viji. 41.
disposition with the devil, and desire and pursue the same things. “He that committeth sin is of the devil."* Here we are to look to see the nature and tendency of sin, when acted out, and the inclination and choice of the sinner; and to learn our own character as sinners, in which we imitate the devil, and exercise the same desires and lusts of self-love and pride, in which his first rebellion consisted; and in which consists his obsti. nate perseverance in disobedience, and all his attempts against God and man. This, if properly considered, will lead us to view ourselves, and the character of mankind, in a much worse light than that in which men generally view themselves ; and will serve to discover the infinite evil of all sin, as tending, and desiring and attempting, to spread unbounded mischief, and infinite natural evil through the universe. The consequence is, that the sinner deserves to be punished with infinite evil, or everlasting destruction.
Doubtless one reason why it was so ordered that one, the first act of sin, should spread total corruption and ruin over all the countless myriads of the human race, was to discover to all intelligent creatures the evil nature and tendency of sin. This constitution, as has been observed, was only ordaining that sin should, in this res. pect, have its natural course, and spread, agreeable to the inclination and desire of the first transgressor, through all his posterity: And hereby the evil there is in every act of sin, is held up to the view of men and angels, discovering to all that it deserves the endless punishment threatened in the divine law.
Let no one then condemn Satan for his rebellion and persisting in sinning, while he justifies himself, or even thinks better of himself, who is doing the same thing, and rendering himself like the devil, and joining with him, and justifying him, by every act of sin of which he is guilty. Nor let any of the children of Adam object to the constitution which connects their sin with his ; nor complain of the sin of their common father, while they are disposed to excuse and justify themselves in that conduct by which they consent to his sinning as he did, and imitate him, and desire to spread sin and ruin as far as
• 1 John üi. 8.