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That infants are the subjects of not naturally expect that no dismoral depravity, is taught, in the position or action would be promost ample manner, in the scrip- nounced sinful, except on account tures; and will not be called in of the selfishness which it discoquestion by those, whose opinion vers; and one action would be prowe are considering. But in what, nounced more sinful than another, we would ask, does their depravity for no other reason than because it consist: Does it consist in selfish discovers more selfishness? This exercises of the will, in the view of undoubtedly would be the natural motives? Or does it consist in a consequence. Our moral judgment corrupt nature distinct from moral would condemn no exercises of acts, and prior to them! The for- mind, except those which appeared mer cannot be asserted without the to us, to be selfish; and the sinfulmost evident absurdity-without ness of different exercises, would doing violence to the very first prin- be estimated by the proportion, and ciples of reason. It is a primary intensity of selfish feeling, which dictate of the human understand
appeared to be involved in them. ing, that infants are not capable of But does this representation cormoral action; are not capable of respond with fact? Do we promoral exercises, either of self-love nounce wanton acts of malice, maor of benevolence. It follows, there- lignity, and cruelty towards men; fore, as a necessary consequence, or profaneness, and blasphemy that all sin is not comprehended in against God, to be more dreadful self-love.
wickedness, than intemperance, 2. The divine law requires per- theft, and other crimes, in which fect conformity to all its precepts, private interest is manifest, merely and condemns every degree of im- because the former display a greatperfection, and every omission of er degree of selfishness than the latduty, no less than positive trans- ter? This cannot be asserted withgression.
out contradicting the clearest dicMen are required to possess the tates of our minds. knowledge, and the fear of God; to We may illustrate the argument exercise faith, and repentance, and by the following example. In the love; and are pronounced guilty not capture of a city, a soldier of the only on account of positive acts of victorious army is beheld, apart wickedness, but also on account of from the immediate scene of danger, the want of those principles, and anxiously solicitous for his own exercises, which the law requires. safety, and diligently employed in
Accordingly divines, and Chris- collecting whatever he supposes tians, have generally held, that “sin will contribute to his personal grais any want of conformity unto, or tification; on the contrary, another transgression of, the law of God.” soldier is beheld in the midst of
By what efforts of ingenuity, then, the greatest carnage, and confusion; can the mere want of conformity to alike regardless of his own safety, the divine law; or the imperfection and the rich spoils around him; inincident to the best of men, in the tent upon nothing, but a savage, and performance of duty, be identified
promiscuous slaughter of the innowith “positively selfish exercises po cent, and defenceless inhabitants. In fact, no ingenuity can render Every person, without a moments such a statement even plausible; hesitation, would declare the forand consequently “self-love” does mer to be the most selfish, but the not constitute " the sum of wicked- latter incomparably the most wickness."
ed. 3. If it were true that “all sin From these instances it appears, consists in selfishness,” might we that when we judge whether any Vol. I.
act is sinful or not, and also when struments to promote our happiwe estimate the comparative ma- ness, by gratifying some original lignity of different sinful acts, we principle of our nature. But when unavoidably take into the account we reflect, that men often sacrifice many dispositions of mind, which all the pleasures of life, and even are distinct from selfishness.
life itself, for the sake of gaining the 4. A correct analysis of the ac- esteem and applause of their fellow tive principles of our nature, fur- creatures, and sometimes, also, for nishes the most conclusive evidence the sake of knowledge; we shall be that selfishness does not constitute convinced, that they are not in all the sum and essence of all sin.* cases regarded as instruments to
The original and ultimate princi- promote our happiness. It is a palples of human action are numerous,
pable absurdity to imagine, that any more numerous, perhaps, than they person should sacrifice his happiare generally supposed to be. Some ness to gain the esteem of men, if of them may be called selfish, using the latter is desirable solely as a the word in a favourable sense, be- means to acquire the former. Incause their ultimate object is our deed, the single consideration that own happiness.
the praise of men contributes to our Some may be called social or be- enjoyment, is a sufficient proof, that nevolent, because their ultimate ob- the former is in itself previously ject is the happiness of others; and desirable. some, again, are neither selfish nor Many seek posthumous fame at benevolent; their ultimate object is the
present and future neither our own happiness, nor the happiness; by pursuing a course of happiness of others; but something conduct in direct opposition to the else, which is naturally agreeable law of God. The passion for mili
tary glory is sometimes so strong as Of this last kind, the desires of to prompt the soldier, voluntarily, esteem, of knowledge, of power, and to engage in an enterprise, which of liberty, are remarkable examples. he knows will end his life; without These desires, together with the being the least influenced by “pridifferent benevolent affections, are vate personal happiness," either in primary and ultimate principles of
this world or in the world to come. our constitution; they are coeval Many other examples might be with the first development of our given; but these are sufficient to intellectual and active
and show, that the desire of esteem is cannot with any plausibility be de- an original principle of action, disduced from any one principle of ac
tinct from self-love; when, theretion; much less can they be deduced fore, it is exercised contrary to the from mere self-love.
law of God, which is very often the When, however, they are direct- case, it is sinful, and consequently ed to improper objects; or when
all sin cannot, with any propriety, they are indulged beyond the pre- be said to consist in self-love. scribed limits, they become sinful, When we desire knowledge for no less than self-love becomes sin- the sake of promoting our own priful, when it degenerates into mere vate happiness, we are influenced selfishness.
by self-love; when we desire it for Some, indeed, have supposed that the sake of promoting the happiness esteem, and knowledge, &c. are not of others, we are influenced by bedesired for their own sake; but nevolence; when we desire it for merely as means to an end; as in- the sake of gaining literary reputa
tion, we are then influenced by a * See Reid on the Principles of Ac
desire of esteem; but when we detion.
sire it for its own sake, which alone
can with strict propriety be called How this sordid and unnatural the desire of knowledge, we are in- passion is acquired, is of no imporAuenced neither by self-love nor by tance in the present argument; it benevolence: it is then properly
will be sufficient for our purpose, if denominated an original and ulti- it be admitted, that the love of momate principle of action, of which ney may exist, distinct from “a re no other account can be given than gard to private personal happiness:” that such is the constitution of our for as the love of money is declared nature. It is, however, in this pro- by the apostle to be the root of all per sense of the words, that the de- evil, it follows, unavoidably, that sire of knowledge most commonly the assertion is very far from being becomes irregular, excessive, and true, that “self-love is the essence sinful.
or root of every sin." The observations which have been That all sin does not consist in made with respect to the love of selfishness, may be proved in the esteem, and of knowledge, are for most satisfactory manner from the the most part, applicable to the love operations of conscience. All men, of power, the love of liberty, &c.; who enjoy the exercise of reason, they are all primary principles of have a sense of moral obligation; human action; when influenced and they perceive themselves bound to directed by the divine law, and in perform some actions, and to avoid subordination to the divine glory, others, independently of any conthey are virtuous, otherwise they siderations of private interest. The are sinful, no less than the unlawful moral judgments of their minds are indulgence of self-love.
often exceedingly erroneous and The love of money sometimes be- perverted; but they continue, notcomés a principle of action: it is so withstanding, to exercise a comin the miser: he loves money for its manding influence over many of own sake, and not on account of its their most important actions. furnishing him with the means of A mistaken sense of duty has enjoyment. This we believe is prompted men to the perpetration universally acknowledged. Misers of some of the greatest crimes, have been known to deprive them- which appear in the annals of hisselves of all the enjoyments, and tory. “I verily thought with mynot unfrequently of even the neces- sell,” says the apostle Paul, that saries of life. It must indeed be I ought to do many things contrary admitted that such persons are
to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” sometimes considered as extremely In speaking of the Hindoos, Mr. selfish. This results from the fact, Ward, a missionary to India, rethat the temper of the miser, is, in marked, that they did indeed
posa great measure, incompatible with sess a conscience; but this, instead the exercise of those dispositions, of promoting their conversion, rawhich have a tendency to promote ther contributed, on account of its the happiness of others. He is blindness, and depravity, to keep therefore pronounced entirely self- them bound in the chains of Satan; ish. But this mode of speaking is and to urge them to the practice of manifestly improper; because al- the grossest superstition, and idolathough nearly destitute of the social try. affections, he yet loves his money,
As therefore it would be a maniwithout
immediate views of pri- fest perversion of language, and vate interest. So far, therefore, as an outrage upon common sense, to he loves money for its own sake, he identify conscience with self-love, is entirely free from that disposition it follows as a legitimate consewhich can with propriety be called quence, that self-love is not the selfishness.
sum of all wickedness.
We will now proceed to make a few remarks upon those affections, which are commonly called social, or benevolent; and it will not be difficult to prove, that their exercise is often sinful.
The natural affections between parents and children, and between other near relations, may be mentioned in the first place; as they cannot with any plausibility, be supposed to originate in self-love. Many instances might be mentioned in which they are sinful; indeed they are sinful in every case, in which they are not exercised in subordination to the love of God, and in conformity to his law. Hence our Saviour says, “ he that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me.” The same remarks may be made in regard to the love between the sexes : accordingly, Milton, who was well acquainted with human nature, makes the transgression of Adam to proceed from his love to Eve. “ How can I live without thee, how forego Thy sweet converse and love so dearly
joined, However I with thee have fix'd my lot Certain to undergo like doom; if death Consort with thee, death is to me as life.”
Public spirit, or a love to the community, or country, to which we belong, is another social, and benevolent affection. Whether it is grafted upon other social affections, which regard a more limited range of objects, it will not be necessary to inquire; but that it is distinct from self-love, cannot be questioned.
When directed by a due regard to the rights of others, it is eminently virtuous, highly useful; but, on the contrary, when it is permitted to deviate from the laws of rectitude, it becomes highly criminal, and is often the cause of the most bitter animosities, and desolating wars.
Admiration for eminent endowments, and splendid achievements,
is a natural sentiment of the human mind. But unfortunately for the interest of virtue, and human happiness, men have too generally admired and applauded, not those who are truly great and good, but the most pre-eminent in wickedness, and the destroyers of their species. Hence it is, that the brilliant, but atrocious exploits of the military conqueror, are celebrated in the most rapturous strains; and the dismal deeds of an Alexander, and a Cæsar, instead of receiving universal reprobation, have exalted them to the rank of heroes and demi-gods.
That this foolish admiration is sinful, cannot be doubted; but how it can be resolved into mere selflove, into “an ultimate and chief regard to one's own private personal happiness, we confess ourselves incapable of comprehending.
We might proceed to show, that sin sometimes springs from the irregular exercise of other social affections, such as friendship, compassion for the miserable, and gratitude to benefactors:-It is thought, however, that enough has been said to render it evident that self-love, or selfishness, by no means constitutes the sum and essence of all sin.
So far from believing that all sin consists in self-love, we think it might be shown with much more appearance of truth, (although it would not be true) that all sin consists in the exercise of those desires and affections which cannot be deduced from self-love. The thoughts of the great majority of mankind, are almost constantly occupied about external objects; and their desires and affections are strongly attached to them.
There are some principles of human nature so powerful, as not unfrequently, entirely to supersede the usual influence of self-love. Many examples of this might be mentioned. The sense of shame has prompted men to destroy their own lives; a man rather than see his beloved wife and children come
to poverty, has been known to do Dr. Barrow in one place advances the same thing. The unsuccessful a theory not much different from patriot prefers falling upon his own that which we have been considersword, to witnessing the loss of his ing: “If we scan,” says he, “ the country's liberty and glory. In all particular nature, and search into these cases, and in many more, the original causes of the several which might be mentioned, we dis- kinds of naughty dispositions in our cover in human nature, principles souls, and of miscarriages in our of moral action which completely lives, we shall find inordinate selfovercome the influence of self-love. love to be a main ingredient, and a Not that self-love is extinguished, common source of them all; so that for this is impossible; but its natural a divine of great name had some operation is counteracted by a more reason to affirm—that original sin powerful principle. This is un- doth consist in self-love disposing doubtedly the plain statement of us to all kinds of irregularity and the matter; and as the exercise of
But in another, he says, these principles in the instances reason dictateth and prescribeth mentioned, constitutes the most to us, that we should have a sober dreadful wickedness, we are again regard to our true good and welfare; led to the conclusion, that all sin -a self-love working in prosecution does not consist in self-love.
of such things common sense canWith respect to such phraseology not but allow and approve.” as “disinterested love, 9 « disinter- After quoting these passages, Mr. ested benevolence," "disinterested Stuart makes the following just reaffection,” so frequently employed mark: “Of these two opposite and by some writers; it may be observ- irreconcilable opinions, the latter is ed, that the epithet disinterested, incomparably the least wide of the adds nothing to what is expressed by the word love, and by the other We cannot therefore avoid exwords mentioned. The terms inter- pressing our extreme regret, that ested, and disinterested, may be
the toused in reference to the external tal depravity of all men by nature, profession of love; but to the inter- by showing that they are the subnal disposition of mind itself, they jects of no moral exercises but those cannot be applied, without an evi- which are selfish. This, we appredent impropriety. Circumstances | hend, is a very slippery foundation, intimately connected with our per- upon which to place a doctrine so sonal happiness, may be the occa- important in the Christian religion ; sion of exciting or increasing our and were it susceptible of no other love; but whenever it exists, and as proof, we would reject it, from our far as it prevails, it is disinterested creed, without hesitation. of course. This is true, whether
Μαθητης. . love be holy or unholy; the latter is often quite as distinct from any considerations of private advantage as the former.
ON THE RELIGIOUS EDUCATION OF Such words, therefore, as selfish
CHILDREN. or interested, and disinterested, are properly applied in reference to “ The rod and reproof give wisdom: those words and actions which are
but a child left to himself bringeth his
mother to shame.”—Prov. xxix. 15. the usual indications of love; but when applied to the disposition of There is no parental duty of more mind, they amount either to an im- importance to be observed, than that plied contradiction, or to an unmeaning tautology,
* First Preliminary Dissertation, p. 112.
FOR THE PRESBYTERIAN MAGAZINE.