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proceeds from a sense of having done our duty, and so recommended ourselves to the favor of God.That pleasure which is annexed to any generous and worthy deed, may be compared to its opposite; namely, that remorse which is consequent to wickedness. And it may be questioned whether we should have any, or at least any permanent remorse, after having committed an ill action, if we were sure we could fence off all ill consequences, and neither be exposed to the scorn and hatred of the world, nor draw upon ourselves the divine vengeance. Just so it may admit of a dispute, whether the pleasure we are speaking of would not vanish, if we apprehended that mankind would neither commend and esteem us, nor the Deity reward us for our goodness." In another place the same author says, "The only things which influence our practice, are considerations which call forth the workings of self-love, that first great wheel of the soul, to which all the rest move in subordination."
A great part of our moral philosophers, and Arminian divines generally, are in the same sentiment. They conceive virtue to be a more selfish thing: only a well regulated regard to one's personal interest. And the Antinomians, in all their different ways of explaining themselves, consider all religion as nothing else. They suppose that what converts a sinner, and what excites the love of God in a saint, is only a belief of his love to them, in particular, or to mankind in general; thus making all religious affcctions turn upon the first great wheel of self-love.
Now these, I reckon some of the strongest human testimonies we could have, in proof of the total moral depravity of mankind by nature. From their own feelings, and from their observation of others, they are forced into the conclusion that man is a totally selfish creature. But we need not suppose the worst man on earth, or devil in hell, more depraved in the
bottom of his heart, than to have no ultimate regard to any one's honor or happiness, but his own.
We may further take notice, that those advocates for native human virtues, who do not adopt the selfish system, suppose things virtuous, which are not of the nature of christian virtue, or true holiness. Such, for instance, as the love of one's country; the tenderness between the sexes; the affection of parents for their children, and natural compassion for the miserable.
Respecting these, I observe, that several of them may proceed from mere self-love; but that, if there be somewhat of disinterestedness in any of them, yet, because of their want of universality and impartiality, they can never produce the peaceable fruits of righteousness, or be the fulfilling of the divine law. On the contrary, transgression, and the grossest iniquities, are their natural tendency and common effects. This is the case, particularly in regard to the love between the sexes, parental fondness, and that patriotism which has been so much the boast of Pagans, and of many who are called christians. These are among those lusts of men which war in their members, whence come wars and fightings; envying and strife, confusion and all manner of evil works. All partial benevolence, like self-love, will naturally produce enmity toward those who are without the limited sphere of its friendly operation.
As to that natural compassion for the miserable, which operates more extensively this is too limited in another view, to have a tendency to universal happiness, or to be of the nature of righteousness and true holiness. Persons most remarkable for this, are frequently as remarkable for many vicious tempers and practices, hurtful to others, as well as to themselves. They are often, not only irreligious and profane, but intemperate, lewd, envious, revengeful, false, fraudulent and unjust. As common family affection, and love of one's country, will not
influence to the whole duty of man, because they embrace only a part of mankind, and have no respect to God so this natural humanity will not, because it is felt for no individual, only in a partial view, and under particular circumstances. The man whose heart is easily touched with tender sensibility for a neighbor in extreme distress, would be grieved as much, perhaps, to see that same neighbor more prosperous and happy than himself. Nor is it every kind of suffering, however great, that will move the compassion of these good natured, wicked men. The sight of one wounded, bleeding and half dead, powerfully excites their commisseration; but to see or hear the good name of the most worthy person, mangled and torn in pieces, by the tongue or pen of malice and falsehood, gives them pleasure, very often, instead of any resentment or uneasiness.
This partial, common compassion, appears to be nothing more than a mere animal instinct; similar to what we observe in most kinds of the inferior creation. As far as it goes, it is a good thing, as rain and sunshine are good. It answers good purposes in the present wretched state of man, but is not at all adapted to that world of happiness where are no objects of pity, and where millions will be seen exalted in felicity and glory far higher than ourselves. Notwithstanding all such humanity, we must be born again, before we can see the kingdom of God. We must have a more uniform good nature, or we can never be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. We must have a better principle of good works created in us, before we can do any thing that will be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
There is one way more, which I will just mention, whence some may be led to think human nature virtuous, when really it is not. They may mistake a rightly dictating conscience, for a good disposition. There is undoubtedly in natural men, not only reason, which enables them to judge, but
also a moral sense, whereby they feel, of themselves what is right. This is that of which the apostle speaks, Rom. ii. 14, 15, "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the works of the law written in their hearts; their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing, or else excusing one another."
Man, in a state of nature, has something in him besides reason-something in his breast, as well as in his head, which bears witness in favor of truth, justice, and goodness: which always gives a verdict, when cases are fairly understood, on the side of the eternal rule of right: which approves what is morally good, and condemns what is morally evil. This some have called the moral sense; and is what the Bible calls conscience. But this is a different thing from a disposition to refuse the evil, and choose the good. It is not the public sense, or universal benevolence of heart; which inclines a man to the prac. tice of whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. If there be any virtue, or any thing worthy of praise as proceeding from, or comprehended in, an honest and good heart, this is not the thing. It is found in the worst of all rational beings. It will be the worm that never dies, gnawing the souls of all the wicked in hell, with everlasting shame and self-condemnation.
Let us now apply and improve this whole subject, for our further learning and profit.
1. We may hence learn why it is that good thoughts and impressions are apt to be so transient and unabiding in natural men. Vain thoughtstrifling, foolish, wicked thoughts, lodge within them. But it is not so in regard to good thoughts, or thoughts of things that are good. If these obtrude
themselves at any time, (like troublesome beggars at our doors,) they are treated with great coldness and neglect. It may be said to them, "Depart in peace; be warmed, be filled:" or a pittance of some poor thing may be given them, just to silence their clamorous importunity; but they are dismissed as soon as possible. It is the same case, generally, respecting any serious purposes and resolutions of sinners. Thus Ephraim's goodness, it is said, was as a morning cloud, and as the early dew, it went away. This is represented by our Saviour, in his parable of the sower: "Some seed fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up it withered away, because it lacked moisture."
2. Hence let not any think that their depravity is. not great, or not very criminal; if it be only the want of good principles: principles so very good, as the disinterested love of God, and of all their fellowcreatures. The worst creature on earth, or in hell, need not be supposed any more depraved than this, in the bottom of his heart. This alone, in a moral agent, who has self-love, and its subservient appetites and passions, will account for all ungodliness and unrighteousness, in thought, word and deed. Let men have no disposition to glorify, or desire to enjoy God, and they will naturally be enemies to him in their minds; they will hate his laws, and murmur against his Providence and grace; and it will be the latent wish of their heart to have no God. Let men be lovers of none but their own selves, and they will be "covetous, boasters, proud, disobedient to parents, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded." As far as they are not restrained by the fear of punishment, a regard to reputation, or some other selfish or partial motive, they will be full of all unrighteousness and iniquity. Their throat will be an open sepulchre; with their tongues they will use