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tinctly observable. For if Christianity first detects, and then remedies the selfishness of the human heart, she will indeed prove that her designs upon man are great and excellent. And this she proposes to us in the text. She calls on man to live no longer to himself, but to his Savior and Lord. She proposes to him to overcome the selfishness of nature by the power of divine love.
This is, then, our topic, the commanding motive which Christianity employs to produce a devoted and benevolent life.
In considering which, we shall call your attention to the End which Christianity has in view; the Motive she proposes; and the deliberate Act of judgment by which she connects the motive with the end.
I. We begin with the end which the religion of the Bible keeps ever in view—“That we should live not unto ourselves, but unto him that died for us and rose again.”
Man since the fall is a selfish creature. Selfishness is the corruption of that strong principle of selfpreservation and self-love, which was implanted in the breast of man for the most beneficial purposes by his great Creator. Selfishness is an attention to our own interests, void of regard for those of others. Instead of seeking what is really good for ourselves, according to the command of God, and in connection with the duties we owe to others and the general happiness of mankind, it seeks merely what is apparently good; what seems desirable at the moment to its own perverted judgment and excited appetites and passions ; and in ways often contrary to the command of God, and without respect to the fair interests and claims of others. Selfishness is blinded and ungoverned self-love.
No one can look into his own breast without detecting something of this unreasonable regard to
self. All admit and complain of the prevailing evil. It is the theme of declamation to the moralist, the statesman, the philosopher. The institutions of civil society have this one object in view, to prevent the selfishness of men breaking forth into open outrage and crime. The maxim of law which go. verns our jurisprudence, that no man is to be a judge in his own cause, would but for this, be un. necessary and absurd.
The selfishness of man is so strong and steady a principle, that it is taken by our Lord as a good practical basis for our general conduct to others : Whatever would that men should do unto you, even so do unto them.” And amongst the wise of this world it is invariably considered that you cannot safely reckon on the volun. tary fulfilment of engagements, when the immediate interests of the parties strongly oppose.
Yet no man naturally allows of this in his own particular case, to any thing like its true extent. We are so blinded, each of us, by this evil, that we cannot discern in our own tempers and conduct what the same active principle leads us to see clearly, and resent with keenness, in others. How heinous and strange appear injuries and affronts done to ourselves; and how light and trivial the affronts and unkindnesses which we show to others. How positive do persons who dispute about the smallest amount of property appear, each that he is right; whilst those who are indifferent spectators, probably see how widely both err. In matters where the spirit of party creeps in, or any petty interests of our own or our family are concerned, how soon every thing is distorted. In cases, again, of evasion, fraud, craft, backbiting, the taking up and propagating of evil reports; how differently things appear if we do them to others, from what they do if others presume to inflict them on us. How much more calm, also, is our own judgmentof the very same points after a lapse
of years, and when the selfish passions are extin- turiste guished. How naturally people, again, talk of them and selves, of their own state, plans, health, duties, dif- nem ficulties ; unconscious how much it detracts from »r. Irené their influence in the judgment of others.' And what is contemporary biography, but the language Lee of flattery trembling before family-selfishness ? In questions of Church discipline, ceremonies, and government, how uniformly the disputants magnify the importance of the points they espouse! The quarrels of theologians have too often been acrimo. nious in an inverse ratio with the real moment of the points controverted. The extraordinary admiration, also, attached to any one who during a long series of years has been remarkably free from selfishness, shows the opinion of mankind both as to the excellency and the rarity of the attainment.
From this deeply-seated evil spring much of the worldliness, vanity, disordered passions, contentions, calumnies, crimes, injuries, wars, rapines, murders, which fill the world. All the varied passions and inclinations of men are but so many parts of selfish
As when a mirror is broken and shivered, your countenance seems to be multiplied in all the fragments, although it is still the same image ; so the selfishness of the heart, says Bossuet, appears in a thousand broken and disordered inclinations and actions, though it still shows itself the same in every
Christianity proposes, then, as her high end to begin the effectual cure of this malady of fallen man. The aim of the gospel is to put a stop to this miserable life of self, and to inspire a holy, disinterested, and benevolent temper of mind, governed by the will of God; embracing all that is good in the principle of self-love, but purifying it from its debasing alloys, elevating it to a nobler and wider range of exertion, and superadding all those habits and motives
which spring from the person and work of the great Redeemer.
With this view, Christianity first opens the real magnitude and extent of the evil. Other systems admit some of the leading effects which selfishness has produced ; the gospel alone traces it up to its true source,—the fall of man and his apostacy from God. Christianity teaches, that God "made man upright, but that he hath sought out many inventions." Christianity teaches, that the living inordinately to ourselves is not the original state of man, but the effect of his revolt from his Maker, of the rebellion of the creature against his Creator and Sovereign, the departure of man, a dependant being, from God the centre of his happiness. St. Austin observes, that “when man fell from righteousness and was precipitated from God to the creature, he first fell upon self, as upon a jutting rock.” Till this fatal malady of selfishness, then, is cured, nothing is done. A plague to himself and others man is and must be. All attempts to heal the state of the world whilst this worst of poisons is allowed to diffuse itself, is only to conceal the deeply-seated wound, and drive the irritation inward upon the vitals. There is no steady regard to truth, no real public spirit, no superiority to names and parties, no trust-worthiness in trying circumstances, no heartfelt generosity, no gratitude, no selfdenial for the good of others.
Christianity restores order and peace to man, both in private and in society, by teaching him to feel, deplore, oppose, subdue this state of disordered self-love, first of all in himself, and then in others ; by bringing him to see that it is “enmity against God;" that it constitutes the very essence of rebellion and iniquity, a "death in trespasses and sins.” Christianity restores happiness to man by disposing him to love his neighbor as himself, and to seek his own happiness, not by a disordered and inordinate self-love, but by a moderated and well-governed regard to his own interests, in connection with the interests of others, and derived in part from them; and all subordinated to a supreme love to Christ his Savior.
What a high end is this. What a tendency is there here to man's happiness. What a noble object. It is like its great Author. It goes to the root of all the moral disorders of man, and accomplishes at one stroke what all the particular statutes and enactments of a thousand laws could not reach. Governed by this, men would move like the planets in the universe, not in exorbitant and eccentric courses, but in their divinely allotted orbits, revolving around the centre of light and harmony and joy.
II. But it will naturally be asked, What motive can the Christian religion supply to produce this mighty effect? We answer, with the apostle in the text,
as the love of Christ constraineth us." The death and resurrection of Christ for the redemption of man from the guilt and power of this very selfishness, and all the other consequences of the fall, constrain us, when they are once duly apprehended, to become the willing servants of “ Him who thus loved us and gave himself for us.”
Weare thus brought back, not merely to exercise be. nevolence and the love of our neighbor, but to love our Savior in the first place; and then to take in our own true interest and those of others, whilst we are travelling onwards to glorify and honor that Savior.
Here, then, is a new principle set at work; a passion stronger than selfishness; an antagonist-power of adequate force. For what can arouse the affections of a reasonable and immortal being, sensible of his fearful guilt before God, and awakened to see the gulf of misery in which he lies, if the love of