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SELFISHNESS THE ROOT OF SIN. throne when a desire to gratify the thirst of pleasure, grandeur, and power, is the governing principle in a monarch's heart. Selfishness guides the general when spreading desolation through peaceful realms, that he may be extolled as a mighty conqueror. Selfishness rules the philosopher when pursuing his studies or forming his theories, that his name may be applauded through distant days. Selfishness governs the merchant and the tradesman when labouring for riches, that they or their children may be great upon earth. Selfishness ascends the pulpit, when the preacher labours not to exalt the Lord, but to charm his hearers, and to advance his own reputation. Selfishness governs the dissolute youth, whose pur. suit is worldly pleasure ; and the giddy girl, whose object is the admiration of the vain flutterers around her, or whose ambition it is to be more admired than some rival trifler like herself. Selfishness descends to the lowest sphere, it governs even in a beggar's breast; and the lowly peasant, whose ambition rises no higher than to be the first man in his native village, is as much under its corrupt influence as a Napoleon, disturbing the peace, and coveting the possession, of a world. The principle is the same, the sphere of action makes the
§ 10. When this corruption of human nature is not subdued, it creeps into every action, and pollutes all it touches. Generosity in relieving distress may spring from selfish motives, from a desire to be seen of men ; but then, whatever benefit the relieved sufferer finds, the giver finds none; his charity is polluted by selfishness, and changed into sinful ostentation. Activity and zeal may spring from this wicked source, and their real motive be the desire of human applause. We even read of prayers offered to be seen of men ; prayers that, springing from so polluted a source, must bring curses, not blessings, down on the heads of the pretended but wicked worshippers.
This is in fact the root of innumerable sins. It produces pride and ambition. Man exalts himself in his own esteem; and would fain be exalted higher. It is the source of avarice and worldly-mindedness. Man covets much for himself. It is the parent of resentment and envy. He is resentful, because self has received a real or fancied hurt; he is envious, because he would not have any rise higher or prosper more than him
GOD CLAIMS THE HEART. self. This makes man indifferent to his fellow-creatures' good. While self does not suffer, it is a trifle to him that others do. This evil root produces slothfulness and inactivity. Even some professors of religion sit down contented with enjoying the blessings of the gospel, and careless of a perishing world; for they (at least they think so) feel no want. Selfishness produces deceit, and treachery, and dishonesty. These are pursued to advance its ends. Discontent is its offspring. : From thinking highly of what himself is or deserves, man becomes dissatisfied with the conduct of his God towards him. Nay, murders, the single murders of villains, the wholesale murders committed by hostile nations, or by heroes, are to be ascribed to this. Had man been a stranger to this corruption, and loved his God and his fellow-creatures, the earth would never have been dyed with human blood.
Could this radical corruption of human nature enter heaven, even heaven would become a scene of discord and confusion. Its inhabitants would each have an interest of his own, distinct from that of all around him, and opposed to the glory of God. God, instead of being universally loved and enthroned in every heart, would be comparatively disregarded; while each would exalt himself, at least in his own esteem and desires, to his Creator's place. Harmony and holiness would flee away; and the wicked scenes of earth be acted over again in heaven. Hence it is, that to meeten man for heaven, he must be born again.
It is an awful and alarming thought, that all short of the vital power of religion may exist where selfishness, instead of God, governs in the heart. Consider, therefore, what real religion demands, and inquire whether yours is such as leads you to devote yourself entirely, unreservedly, and eternally io God. « Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with ALL thy heart, and with ALL thy soul, and with ALL thy mind, and with ALL thy strength. This is the first and great commandment."a “ Whether ye eat or drink, or wbatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”b “Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.”'c
Behold what an unreserved surrender of yourself to God is here enjoined. Nothing less than consecrating to him all la) Matt. xxii. 37, 38. Luke x. 27. (6) 1 Cor. x. 31. (c) 1 Cor. vi, 20.
BELIEVERS CHILDREN OF GOD,
19 your powers, and all your faculties, all you have, and all you are. With your whole heart you are bound to love him. Our days are to be spent for him, our property considered as his. You are called upon to offer your body a living sacrifice to the Lord; to esteem yourself no more your own, but his; your feet to move at his bidding, your hands to labour for his honour, your tongue to speak to his glory, and your body with all its powers to be holy and devoted to the Lord. So that even in the common actions of life, God may be regarded and honoured by you. Nor is this a mere matter of choice, which may be chosen as a higher good, but neglected without any considerable harm. It is the very object the gospel is designed to promote. There is no piety without devotedness to God. All professions of religion without this are as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. Nay, worse. The unconscious brass, when it emits a sound, is not false and hypocritic, but professions of religion, without devotedness to God, are glaring hypocrisy.
0, Reader, is such the life you lead ? Has God your heart? Can you, with the Psalmist, exclaim, My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed ?-fixed on thee, on Jesus, and on heaven ;-fixed on consecrating to thee my faculties and powers; and though my flesh and heart must fail, yet would I consecrate to thee all the nobler powers of my immortal mind, and in life and in death aspire to thee, my God, and my portion for ever.
The view thus offered of the nature and necessity of devotedness to God, is further confirmed and illustrated by those numerous passages, which represent the Christian as a child of God. Surely from the children of such a Father, all this consecration of their whole selves to him is demanded. The affection of parents claims much, but the love of God claims more; and shall it be thought wicked ingratitude not to requite theirs with obedience and affection, and does not his demand much more devoted obedience, much more fervent affection? How high, how noble a character is that of a child of God! Ask an angel what is his highest honour, his noblest joy, and he might reply, It is that I am a child of God. Is this yours also, and should not an angel's dispositions be cherished in your heart? How supreme is their devotedness to
(d) 1 John iii. 2. Gal. v. 26. Rom. viü. 16.
, TRUE DEVOTEDNESS TO GOD God! how fervent their love! how rapturous their delight! They have no will but his, no pleasure but in pleasing him. Why should they be more devoted to God than you! Are not you his child, his son, or daughter ? they are no more. Are not you his child, ransomed by the blood of his Son ? they are not so much. In this your nearness and dearness to him excels even theirs; and can you feel this, and not devote to him your body and your soul ?
$ 11. True devotedness to God is connected with deep self-abasement and child-like affection. It is not the devotedness of a servant, who employs his powers for his master, merely on account of the wages he expects to earn ; it is the devotedness of a ransomed criminal, who consecrates to the friend that redeemed him the life his kindness has prolonged. It is the devotedness of a penitent prodigal, when restored by undeserved compassion to his father's house and bosom. He serves God, not for the benefits he wishes to acquire, but for the mercies he has received.
Think of the case of a condemned criminal. Having vioJated his country's laws, he is justly doomed to death. His claim to life is forfeited. His interest in his property ceases. His connection with his friends terminates. His all is lost. Neither on liberty, nor possessions, nor friends, nor life has he a further claim. He stands a wretched, insulated being, cut off from his connexions with man, severed from all of which he was once a part, and unable to say of any thing that surrounds him, excepting misery, This is mine. Suppose some generous friend to pay a price sufficient for the ransom of this man, the sentence of death is reversed, he is restored to liberty, to friends, to possessions, to life. But if possessed of proper feeling, whose would these be? whose would he be ? Could he say of these things, They are mine. Must he not say, They are his, and I am his, who ransomed me.
An anecdote related in the life of Doddridge, may afford an impressive illustration of this subject. A poor Irishman had been convicted at Northampton of murder, and in consequence was doomed to die. Doddridge visited him in prison, and becoming convinced of his innocence, exerted himself to procure a reprieve. These exertions were vain, the man suffered death ; but that benevolent Christian observes, “ Among other things I remember he said, “Every drop of
PRODUCED BY REDEEMING LOVE.
my blood thanks you, for you have had compassion on every drop of it.' He wished he might before he died have leave to koeel at the threshold of my door, to pray for me and mine; which indeed he did on his knees, in the most earnest manner, as he was taking out to be executed. “You,' said he,' are my redeemer in one sense (a poor impotent redeemer :) and you have a right to me. If I live, I ain your property, and I will be a faithful subject. ”
“May I not learn from it gratitude to him, who hath redeemed and delivered me? How eagerly did he receive the news of a reprieve for a few days! How tenderly did he express bis gratitude; that he should be mine; that I might do what I pleased with him ; that had bought him! Spoke of the delight with which he should see and serve me; that he would come once a year from one end of the kingdom to the other, to see and thank me, and should be glad never to go out of my sight! O, why do not our hearts overflow with such sentiments on an occasion infinitely greater! We are all dead men. Execution would soon have been done upon us : but "Christ has redeemed us to God by his blood. We are not merely reprieved, but pardoned ; not merely pardoned, but adopted; made heirs of eternal glory, and near the borders of it. In consequence of all this, we are not our own, but bought with a price. May we glorify God in our bodies and spirits, which are his!'”
Every child of God was once as surely a condemned wretch as was the poor Irish criminal. And condemned to a more direful death, the death that never dies. What then should be the language of the Christian, who views himself and his condition rightly. “ Father, nothing that I have is mine; for I have forfeited all, and lost myself. Behind me were years of sin, before me the gloom of eternal night. I lay a helpless, ruined wretch, justly condemned to death and hell; and as able to pluck the sun from the firmament, as to blot out my
crimes, or to set aside the sentence of deserved condemnation. "I had lost thy favour. I had no claim upon the smallest blessing; nothing was mine but guilt; nothing awaited me but perdition ; without one gleam of hope, I was hastening to eternal night. Then didst thou interpose. Then did thy Son bleed and atone for me, and now I live. Thou hast given me more than a reprieve, a gracious pardon. I live, pardoned