SELFISHNESS NOT TRUE RELIGION.
Seeketh not her own. 1 Corinthians 13:5.
That is, Charity, or Christian love, seeketh not her own.
The proposition which I design to establish this evening, isthe following:
That a supreme regard to our own happiness is inconsistentwith true religion.
This proposition is naturally the first in the series thatI have been laboring to illustrate in the present lectures, andwould have been the first to be discussed, had I been aware thatit was seriously called in question by any considerable numberof professed Christians. But I can honestly say, that when I commencedthese lectures, I did not expect to meet any serious difficultyhere; and therefore I took it in a great measure for granted,that selfishness is not; religion. And hence, I passed over thispoint with but a slight attempt at proving it. But since, I learnthat there are many professed Christians who maintain that a supremeregard to our own happiness is true religion, I think it necessaryto examine the subject more carefully, and give you the argumentsin favor of what I suppose to be the truth. In establishing myproposition, I wish to distinguish between things that differ;I shall therefore,
I. Show what is not intended by the proposition, that a supremeregard to our own happiness is not religion. II. Show what ismeant by it. III. Attempt to prove it.
I. I am to explain what is not meant by the proposition.
1. The point in dispute is not, whether it is lawful to haveany regard to our own happiness. On the contrary; it is admittedand maintained to be a part of our duty to have a due regard toour own happiness, according to its real value, in the scale withother interests. God has commanded us to love our neighbor asourselves. This plainly makes it a duty to love ourselves or regardour own happiness, by the same rule that we regard that of others.
2. The proposition is not that we ought to have no regard tothe promises and threatenings of God, as affecting ourselves.It is plainly right to regard the promises of God and threateningsof evil, as affecting ourselves, according to the relative valueof our own interests. But who does not see that a threateningagainst us is not so important as a threatening against a largenumber of individuals. Suppose a threatening of evil against yourselfas an individual. This is plainly not so important as if it includedyour family. Then suppose it extends to the whole congregation,or to the state, or the whole nation, or the world. Here, it iseasy to see, that the happiness of an individual, although great,ought not to be regarded as supreme.
I am a minister. Suppose God says to me, "If you do notdo your duty, you shall be sent to hell." This is a greatevil, and I ought to avoid it. But suppose him to say, "Ifyour people do not do their duty, they will all be sent to hell;but if you do your duty faithfully, you will probably save thewhole congregation. "Is it right for me to be as much influencedby the fear of evil to myself, as by the fear of having a wholecongregation sent to hell? Plainly not.
3. The question is not whether our own eternal internal interestsought to be pursued in preference to our temporal interests. Itis expressly maintained by myself, and so it is by the Bible,that we are bound to regard our eternal interests as altogetherof more consequence than our temporal interest.
Thus the Bible tells us "Labor not for the meat that perisheth,but for that which endureth unto everlasting life." Thisteaches that we are not to regard or value our temporal interestsat all, in comparison with eternal life.
So, where our Savior says, "Lay not up for yourselvestreasures on the earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, andwhere thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselvestreasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt,and where thieves break not through nor steal." Here thesame duty is enjoined, of preferring eternal to temporal interests.
There is another. When Christ sent out his disciples, two andtwo, to preach and to work miracles, they came back full of joyand exultation, because they found even the devils yielding totheir power. "Lord, even the devils are subject to us."Jesus saith, "Rejoice not that the devils are subject toyou; but rather rejoice in this, that your names are written inheaven." Here he teaches, that it is a greater good to haveour names written in heaven, than to enjoy the greatest temporalpower, even authority over devils themselves.
The Bible everywhere teaches, that eternal good is to be preferredin all our conduct to temporal good. But this is very differentfrom maintaining that our own individual eternal interest is tobe aimed at as the supreme object of regard.
4. The proposition is not, that hope and fear should not influenceour conduct. All that is implied is, that when we are influencedbyhope and fear, the things that are hoped or feared should be putinto the scale according to their real value, in comparison withother interests.
5. The question is not, whether the persons did right, whoare spoken of in the Bible, as having been at least in some degreeinfluenced by hope and fear, or having respect unto the recompenseof reward, or to the joy that was set before them. This is admitted.Noah was moved with fear and built the ark. But was it the fearof being drowned himself, or fear for his own personal safetythat chiefly moved him? The Bible does not say it. He feared forthe safety of his family; yea, more, he dreaded the destructionof the whole human race, with all the interest depending thereon.
Whenever it is said that good men were influenced by hope andfear, it is admitted. But in order to make it bear on this subject,itmust be shown that this hope or fear respecting their own personalinterest was the controlling motive. Now, this is no where affirmedin the Bible. It was right for them to be influenced by promisesand threatenings. Otherwise they could not obey the second partof the law: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
II. I am to show what is meant by the proposition, that supremeregard to our own interest is inconsistent with true religion.
The question is, whether supreme regard to our own happinessis religion. It is, whether we are to fear our own damnation morethan the damnation of all other men, in the dishonor of God thereby.And whether we are to aim at securing our own happiness more thanthe happiness of all other men, and the glory of God. And whether,if we do this, we act according to the requirements of the truereligion, or inconsistent with true religion. This is the properpoint of inquiry, and I wish you to bear it constantly in mind,and not to confound it with any of the other points that I havereferred to.
III. For the proof of the proposition.
Before proceeding to the proof of the proposition, that a supremeregard to our own happiness is inconsistent with true religion,I will observe that all true religion consists in being like God;in acting on the same principles and grounds, and having the samefeelings towards different objects. I suppose this will not bedenied. Indeed, if cannot be, by any sane mind. I then observe,as the first proof of the proposition,
1. That a supreme regard to our own happiness is not accordingto the example of God; but is being totally unlike him.
The Bible tells us that "God is love." That is, benevolenceis the sum total of his character. All his other moral attributes,such as justice, mercy, and the like, are but modifications ofhis benevolence. His love is manifested in two forms. One is thatof benevolence, good willing, or desiring the happiness of others.The other complacency, or approving the character of others whoare holy. God's benevolence regards all beings that are capableof happiness. This is universal. Towards all holy beings, he exercisesthe love of complacency. In other words, God loves his neighboras himself. He regards he interests of all beings, according totheir relative value, as much as his own. He seeks his own happiness,or glory, as the supreme good. But not because it is his own,but because it is the supreme good. The sum total of his happiness,as an infinite being, is infinitely greater than the sum totalof the happiness of all other beings, or of and possible numberof finite creatures.
Take a very familiar illustration. Here is a man that is kindto brutes. This man and his horse fall into the river. Now, doestrue benevolence require the man to drown himself in order toextricate his horse? No. It would be true disinterested benevolencein him, to save himself, and, if need be, leave his horse to perish;because his happiness is of so much greater value than that ofthe horse. You see this at a glance. But the difference betweenGod and all created beings is infinitely greater than betweena man and a horse, or between the highest anger and the meanestinsect, God, therefore, regards the happiness of all creaturesprecisely according to its real value. And unless we do the samewe are not like God. If we are like God, we must regard God'shappiness and glory in the same light that he does; that is, asthe supreme good, beyond every thing else in the universe. Andif we desire our own happiness more than God's happiness, we areinfinitely unlike God.
2. To aim at our own happiness supremely is inconsistent withtrue religion, because it is contrary to the spirit of Christ.
We are told, that "if any man have not the spirit of Christ,he is none of his." And it is repeatedly said of him as aman, that he sought not his own, that he sought not his own glory,and the like. What was he seeking? Was it his own personal salvation?No. Was it his own personal happiness?
No. It was the glory of his Father, and the good of the universe,through the salvation of men. He came on an errand of pure benevolence,to benefit the kingdom of God, not to benefit himself. This was"the joy that was set before him," for which "heendured the cross, despising the shame." It was the greatgood he could do by thus throwing himself out to labor and sufferfor the salvation of men.
3. To regard our own happiness as the supreme object of pursuitis contrary to the law of God.
I have mentioned this before, but recur to it again for thesake of making my present demonstration complete. The sum of thatlaw is this "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thyheart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and withall thy strength; and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
This is the great thing required; benevolence towards God andman. The first thing is really to love the happiness and gloryof God, above all other things, because it is so infinitely lovelyand desirable, and is properly the supreme good. Some have objectedthat it was not our duty to seek the happiness of God, becausehis happiness is already secured. Suppose, now, that the kingof England is perfectly independent of me, and has his happinesssecured without me; does that make it any the less my duty towish him well, to desire his happiness, and to rejoice in it?Because God is happy, in himself, independent of his creatures,is that a reason why we should not love his happiness, and rejoicein it? Strange.
Again: We are bound by the terms of God's law to exercise complacencyto God, because he is holy, infinitely holy.
Again: This law binds us to exercise the same good will, orbenevolence, towards others that we do to ourselves; that his,to seek both their interests and our own, according to their relativevalue. Who of you is doing this? And we are bound to exercisethe love of complacency toward those who are good and holy.
Thus we see that the sum of the law of God is to exercise benevolencetowards God and all beings, according to their relative value,and complacency in all that are holy. Now I say that to regardour own happiness supremely, or to seek it as our supreme end,is contrary to that law, to its letter and to its spirit. And,
4. It is as contrary to the gospel as it is to the law.
In the chapter from which the text is taken, the apostle begins"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, andhave not charity, I am become as sounding brass, of a tinklingcymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understandall mysteries and all knowledge; and though I have all faith,so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing."Charity here means love. In the original it is the same word thatis rendered love. "And though I bestow all my goods to feedthe poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have notcharity, it profiteth me nothing."
Now mark! In no stronger language could he have expressed theidea that charity, or benevolence, is essential to true religion.See how he throws out his guards on every side, so that it isimpossible to mistake his views. If a person has not true charity,he is nothing. He then proceeds and shows what are the characteristicsof this true charity. "Charity suffereth long, and is kind;charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffedup, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is noteasily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity,but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth allthings, hopeth all things endureth all things." Here yousee that one leading peculiarity of this love is, that charity"seeketh not her own." Mark that. If this is true religion,and without it there is no religion, then one peculiarity of truereligion is, that it "seeketh not her own."
Those of you who have Bibles with marginal references can followout these references and find a multitude of passages that plainlyteach the same thing. Recollect the passages I quoted in the lastlecture. I will just refer to one of them "Whosoever willsave his life shall lose it." Here you see it laid down asan established principle of God's government, that if a personaims supremely at his own interest he will lose his own interest.
The same is taught in the tenth chapter of this epistle, verse24: "Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth."
If you look at the passage, you will see that word "wealth"is in italic letters, to show that it is a word added by the translators,that is not in the Greek. They might just as well have used theword happiness, or welfare, as wealth. So in the 33rd verse: "Evenas I please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit,but the profit of many, that they may be saved."
Therefore I say, that to make our own interest the supremeobject of pursuit, is as contrary to the gospel as it is to thelaw.
5. It is contrary to conscience.
The universal conscience of mankind has decided that a supremeregard to our own happiness is not virtue. Men have always knownthat to serve God and benefit mankind is what is right, and toseek supremely their own personal interest is not right. Theyhave always regarded it mean and contemptible for individualsto seek their own happiness as the supreme object, and consequently,we see how much pains men take to conceal their selfishness andto appear benevolent. It is impossible for any man, unless hisconscience is strangely blunted by sin, or perverted by falseinstruction, not to see that it is sinful to regard his own happinessabove other interests of more importance.
6. It is contrary to right reason.
Right reason teaches us to regard all things according to theirreal value. God does this, and we should do the same. God hasgiven us reason for this very purpose, that we should weigh andcompare the relative value of things. It is a mockery of reason,to deny that it teaches us to regard things according to theirreal value. And if so, then to aim at and prefer our own interest,as the supreme end, is contrary to reason.
7. It is contrary to common sense.
That has the common sense of mankind decided on this point?Look at the common sense of mankind in regard to what is calledpatriotism. No man was ever regarded as a true patriot, in fightingfor his country, if his object was to subserve his own interest.Suppose it should appear that his object in fighting was to gethimself crowned king; would anybody give him credit for patriotism?No. All men agree that it is patriotism when a man is disinterested,like Washington; and fights for his country, for his country'ssake. The common sense of mankind has written reprobation on thatspirit that seeks its own things, and prefers its own interest,to the greater interests of others. It is evident that all menso regard it. Otherwise, how is it that every one is anxious toappear disinterested.
8. It is contrary to the constitution of the mind.
I do not mean, by this, that it is impossible, by our veryconstitution, for us to seek our own happiness as the supremeobject. But we are so constituted that if we do this, we nevercan attain it. As I have said in a former lecture, happiness isthe gratification of desire. We must desire something, and gainthe object we desire. Now, suppose a man to desire his own happiness,the object of his desire will always keep just so far before him,like his shadow, and the faster he pursues it the faster it flies.Happiness is inseparably attached to the attainment of the objectdesired. Suppose I desire a thousand dollars. That is the thingon which my desire fastens, and when I get it that desire is gratified,and I am happy, so far as gratifying this desire goes to makeme happy. But if I desire the thousand dollars for the purposeof getting a watch, a dress, and such like things, the desireis not gratified till I get those things.
But now suppose the thing I desired was my own happiness. Gettingthe thousand dollars then does not make me happy, because thatis not the thing my desire was fixed on. And so getting the watch,and dress, and other things, do not make me happy, for they gratifynot my desire. God has so constituted things, and given such lawsto the mind, that man never can gain happiness by pursuing it.This very constitution plainly indicates the duty of disinterestedbenevolence. Indeed, he has made it impossible for them to behappy, but in proportion as they are disinterested.
Here are two men walking along the street together. They comeacross a man that has just been run over by a cart, and lies welteringin his gore. They take him up, and carry him to the surgeon, andrelieve him. Now it is plain that their gratification is in proportionto the intensity of their desire for his relief. If one of themfelt but little and cared but little about the sufferings of thepoor man, he will be but little gratified. But if his desire tohave the man relieves amounted to agony, his gratification wouldbe accordingly. Now suppose a third individual that had no desireto relieve the distressed man; certainly relieving him could beno gratification to that person. He could pass right by him, andsee him die. Then he is not gratified at all. Therefore you see,happiness is just in proportion as the desires are gratified byobtaining the things desired.
Here observe, that in order to make the happiness of gratifieddesire complete, the desire itself must be virtuous. Otherwise,if the desire is selfish, the gratification will be mingled withpain, from the conflict of the mind.
That all this is true, is a matter of consciousness, and isproved to us by the very highest kind of testimony we can have.And for any one to deny it, is to charge God foolishly, as ifhe had given us a constitution that would not allow us to be happyin obeying him.
9. It is also inconsistent with our own happiness, to makeour own interest the supreme object. This follows from what Ihave just said. Men may enjoy a certain kind of pleasure, butnot true happiness. The pleasure which does not spring from thegratification of virtuous desire, is a deceptive delusion. Thereason why all mankind do not find happiness, when they are allso anxious for it, is that they are seeking it. If they wouldseek the glory of God, and the good of the universe as their supremeend, it would pursue them.
10. It is inconsistent with the public happiness. If each individualis to aim at his own happiness as his chief end, these interestswill unavoidably clash and come into collision, and universalwar and confusion will follow in the train of universal selfishness.
11. To maintain that a supreme regard to our own interest istrue religion, is to contradict the experience of all real saints.I aver, that every real saint knows that his supreme happinessconsists in going out of himself, and regarding the glory of Godand the good of others. If he does not know this he is no saint.
12. It is also inconsistent with the experience of all thosewho have had a selfish religion, and have found out their mistakeand got true religion. This is a common occurrence. I supposeI have known hundreds of cases. Some members in this church haverecently made this discovery; and they can all testify that theynow know, by experience, that benevolence is true religion.
13. It is contrary to the experience of all the impenitent.Every impenitent sinner knows that he is aiming supremely at thepromotion of his own interest, and knows that he has not truereligion. The very thing that his conscience condemns him foris this, that he is regarding his own interest instead of theglory of God.
Now just turn the leaf over, for a moment, and admit that asupreme regard for our own happiness is true religion; and thensee what will follow.
1. Then it will follow that God is not holy. That is, if asupreme regard to our own interest, because it is our own, istrue religion, then it will follow that God is not holy. God regardshis own happiness, but it is because it is the greatest good,not because it is his own. But he is love, or benevolence; andif benevolence is not true religion, God's nature must be changed.
2. The law of God must be altered. If a supreme regard to ourown happiness is religion, then the law should read, "Thoushalt love thyself with all thy heart and with all thy soul, andwith all thy mind, and with all thy strength, and God and thyneighbor infinitely less than thyself."
3. The gospel must be reversed. Instead of saying "Whetherye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God,"it should read, "Do all for your own happiness." Insteadof "He that will save his life shall lose it," we shouldfind it saying, "He that is supremely anxious to save hisown life shall save it; but he that is benevolent, and willingto lose his life for the good of others, shall lose it."
4. The consciences of men should be changed so as to testifyin favor of selfishness, and condemn and reprobate every thinglike uninterested benevolence.
5. Right reason must be made not to weigh things accordingto their relative value, but to decide our own little interestto be of more value than the greatest interests of God and theuniverse.
6. Common sense will have to decide, that true patriotism consistsin every man's seeking his own interest instead of the publicgood, and each one seeking to build himself up as high as he can.
7. The human constitution must be reversed. If supreme selfishnessis virtue, the human constitution was made wrong. It is so made,that man can be happy only by being benevolent. And if this doctrineis true, that religion consists in seeking our own happiness asa supreme good, then the more religion a man has the more miserablehe is.
8. And the whole frame-work of society will have to be changed.Now it is so, that the good of the community depends on the extentto which every one regards the public interest. And if this doctrineholds, it must be changed, so that the public good will be bestpromoted when every man is scrambling for his own interest regardlessof the interests of others.
9. The experience of the saints will have to be reversed. Insteadof finding, as they now do, that the more benevolence they have,the more religion and the more happiness, they should testifythat the more they aim at their own good, the more they enjoyof religion and the favor of God.
10. The impenitent should be found to testify that they aresupremely happy in supreme selfishness, and that they find truehappiness in it.
I will not pursue this proof any farther; it would look liketrifling.
If there is any such thing as proof to be had, it is fullyproved, that to aim at our own happiness supremely, is inconsistentwith true religion.
I. We see why it is, that while all are pursuing happiness,so few find it.
The fact is plain. The reason is this; the greater part ofmankind do not know in what true happiness consists, and theyare seeking it in that which can never afford it. They do notfind it because they are pursuing it. If they would turn roundand pursue holiness, happiness would pursue them. If they wouldbecome disinterested, and lay themselves out to do good, theycould not but be happy. If they choose happiness as an end, itflies before them. True happiness consists in the gratificationof virtuous desires; and if they would set themselves to glorifyGod, and do good, they would find it. The only class of personsthat never do final it, in this world, or the world to come, arethose who seek it as an end.
II. The constitution of the human mind and of the universe,affords a beautiful illustration of the economy of God.
Suppose man could find happiness, only by pursuing his ownhappiness. Then each individual would have only the happinessthat himself had gained, and all the happiness in the universewould be only the sum total of what individuals had gained, withthe offset of all the pain and misery produced by conflictinginterests. Now mark! God has so constituted things, that whileeach lays himself out to promote the happiness of others, hisown happiness is secured and made complete. How vastly greaterthenis the amount of happiness in the universe, than it would havebeen, had selfishness been the law of Jehovah's kingdom. Becauseeach one who obeys the law of God, fully secures his own happinessby his benevolence, and the happiness of the whole is increasedby how much each receives from all others.
Many say, "Who will take care of my happiness if I donot? If I am to care only for my neighbor's interest, and neglectmy own, none of us will be happy." That would be true, ifyour care for your neighbor's happiness were a detraction fromyour own. But if your happiness consists in doing good and promotingthe happiness of others, the more you do for others, the moreyou promote your own happiness.
III. When I gave out the subject of this lecture, I avoidedthe use of the term, selfishness, lest it should be thought invidious.But I now affirm, that a supreme regard to our own interest isselfishness, and nothing else. It would be selfishness in God,if he regarded his own interest; supremely because it is his own.And it is selfishness in man. And whoever maintains that a supremeregard to our own interest is true religion, maintains that selfishnessis true religion.
IV. If selfishness is virtue, then benevolence is sin. Theyare direct opposites and cannot both be virtue. For a man to setup his own interest over God's interest, giving it a preference,and placing it in opposition to God's interest is selfishness.And if this is virtue, then Jesus Christ, in seeking the goodof mankind as he did, departed from the principles of virtue.Who will pretend this?
V. Those who regard their own interest as supreme, and yetthink they have true religion, are deceived. I say it solemnly,because I believe it is true, and I would say it if it were thelast word I was to speak before going to the judgment. Dear hearer,whoever you are, if you are doing this, you are not a Christian.Don't call this being censorious. I am not censorious. I wouldnot denounce any one.
But as God is true, and your soul is going to the judgment,you have not the religion of the Bible.
VI. Some will ask here, "What! are we to have no regardto our happiness, and if so, how are we to decide whether it issupreme or not?" I do not say that. I say, you may regardit according to its relative value. And now I ask, is there anyreal practical difficulty here? I appeal to your consciousness.You cannot but know, if you are honest, what it is that you regardsupremely. Are these interests, your own interest on one side,and God's glory and the good of the universe on the other, sonearly balanced in your mind, that you cannot tell which you prefer?It is impossible! If you are not as conscious that you preferthe glory of God to your own interest, as you are that you exist,you may take it for granted that you are all wrong.
VII. You see why the enjoyment of so many professors of religiondepends on their evidences. These persons are all the time huntingafter evidence; and just in proportion as that varies, their enjoymentswax and wane. Now, mark! If they really regarded the glory ofGod and the good of mankind, their enjoyment would not dependon their evidences. Those who are purely selfish, may enjoy muchin religion, but it is by anticipation. The idea of going to heavenis pleasing to them. But those who go out of themselves, and arepurely benevolent, have a present heaven in their breasts.
VIII. You see, here, that all of you who had no peace and joyin religion before you had a hope, are deceived. Perhaps I cangive an outline of your experience. You were awakened, and weredistressed, as you had reason to be, by the fear of going to hell.By and by, perhaps while you were engaged in prayer, or whilesome person was conversing with you, your distress left you. Youthought your sins were pardoned. A gleam of joy shot through yourmind, and warmed up your heart into a glow, that you took forevidence, and this again increased your joy. How very differentis the experience of a true Christian! His peace does not dependon his hope; but true submission and benevolence produce peaceand joy, independent of his hope.
Suppose the case of a man in prison, condemned to be hung thenest day. He is in great distress, walking his cell, and waitingfor the day. By and by, a messenger comes with a pardon. He seizesthe paper, turns it up to the dim light that comes through hisgrate, reads the word pardon, and almost faints with emotion,and leaps for joy. He supposes the paper to be genuine. Now supposeit turns out that the paper is counterfeit. Suddenly his joy isall gone. So in the case of a deceived person. He was afraid ofgoing to hell, and of course he rejoices if he believes he ispardoned. If the devil should tell him so, and he believed it,his joy would be just as great, while the belief lasts, as ifit was a reality. True Christian joy does not depend on evidence.He submits himself into the hands of God with such confidence,and that very act gives him peace. He had a terrible conflictwith God, but all at once he yields the controversy, and says,"God will do right, let God's will be done." Then hebegins to pray, he in subdued, he melts down before God, and thatvery act affords sweet, calm, and heavenly joy. Perhaps he hasnot thought of a hope. Perhaps he may go for hours, or even fora day or two, full of joy in God, without thinking of his ownsalvation. You ask him if he has a hope, he never thought of that.His joy does not depend on believing that he is pardoned, butconsists in a state of mind, acquiescing in the government ofGod. In such a state of mind, he should not but be happy.
Now let me ask which religion have you? If you exercise truereligion, suppose God should put you into hell, and there letyou exercise supreme love to God, and the same love to your neighboras to yourself, that itself is a state of mind inconsistent withbeing miserable.
I wish this to be fully understood. These hope-seekers willbe always disappointed. If you run after hope, you will neverhave a hope good for anything. But if you pursue holiness, hope,and peace, and joy, will come of course.
Is your religion the love of holiness, the love of God andof souls? Or is it only a hope?
IX. You see why it is that anxious sinners do not find peace.
They are looking at their own guilt and danger. They are regardingGod as an avenger, and shrinking from his terrors. This will renderit impossible they should ever come at peace. While looking atthe wrath of God, making them wither and tremble, they cannotlove him, they hide from him. Anxious sinners, let me tell youa secret. If you keep looking at that feature of God's character,it will drive you to despair, and that is inconsistent with truesubmission. You should look at his whole character, and see thereasons why you should love him, and throw yourself upon him withoutreserve, and without distrust; and instead of shrinking from him,come right to him, and say, "O, Father in heaven, thou artnot inexorable, thou art sovereignty, but thou art good, I submitto thy government, and give myself to thee, with all I have andall I am, body and soul, for time and for eternity."
The subject for the next lecture will be, the distinction betweenlegal submission and gospel submission, or between the religionof the law and the religion of faith. And here let me observe,that when I began to preach on the subject of selfishness in religion,I did not dream that it would be regarded by any one as a controversialsubject at all. I have no fondness for controversy, and I shouldas soon think of calling the doctrine of the existence of Goda controversial subject, as this. The question is one of the greatestimportance, and we ought to weigh the arguments, and decide accordingto the word of God. Soon we shall go together to the bar of God,and you must determine whether you will go there with selfishnessin your hearts, or with that disinterested benevolence that seekethnot her own. Will you now be honest? For as God is true, if youare seeking your own, you will soon be in hell, unless you repent.O be honest! and lay aside prejudice, and act for eternity.
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