« السابقةمتابعة »
every other selfish being. Each is seeking and fully consecrated to his own interest and denying all rights but his own. Here is and must be war. There is no use in talking of putting away slavery or war from earth while selfishness is in it; for they both inhere in the very nature of selfishness; and every selfish being is an oppressor, a slaveholder, a tyrant, a warrior, a duelist, a pirate, and all that is implied in making war upon all beings. This is no railing accusation, but sober verity. The forms of war and of oppression may be modified indefinitely. The bloody sword may be sheathed. The manacle and the lash may be laid aside, and a more refined mode of oppression and of war may be carried on; but oppression and war must continue under some form so long as selfishness continues. It is impossible that it should not. Nor will the more refined and specious, and if you please, baptized forms of oppression and war that may succeed those now practised involve less guilt and be less displeasing to God than the present. No indeed. As light increases and compels selfishness to lay aside the sword and bury the manacle and the whip and profess the religion of Christ the guilt of selfishness increases every moment. The former manifestation is changed, compelled by increasing light and advancing civilization and christianization. Oppression and war, although so much changed in form are not at all abandoned in fact. Nay, they are only strengthened by increasing light. Nor can it be told or so much as rationally conjectured whether the more refined modifications of oppression and war that may succeed, will upon the whole be a real benefit to mankind. Guilt will certainly increase as light increases. Sin abounds and becomes exceeding sinful just in proportion as the light of truth is poured upon the selfish mind; and whether it is a real good to promote mere outward reform without reforming the heart, who can tell? The fact is selfishness must be done away; the ax must be laid at the root of the tree. It is a mistaken zeal that wastes its energies in merely modifying the forms in which selfishness manifests itself in changing the modes of oppression and war and bringing about mere refinements in sin. I can not for my life respect in myself or in others such efforts. What do they amount to after all but to whitewash and baptize a sinner and gather about him a delusion deep as death and send him by the shortest way to hell? All such efforts remind me of an affirmation I once heard a preacher make, namely, "that selfrighteousness is good so far as it goes, but is like a coat without sleeves."
Many seem to think that to bring about mere outward reform is a good so far as it goes. But it is no real good unless true virtue and happiness be gained. Unless selfishness be put away it is no positive good. Whether, then, outward reforms will prove to be the less of two evils, who can tell? Do you ask, then, what shall we do? Shall we do nothing, but let things go on as they are? I answer, no, by no means. Do, if possible, ten times more than ever to put away these and all the evils that are under the sun. But aim at the annihilation of selfishness, and when you succeed in reforming the heart, the life can not but be reformed. Put away selfishness, and oppression and war are no more. But engage in bringing about any other reform, and you are but building dams of sand. Selfishness will force for itself a channel; and who can say that its desolations may not be more fearful and calamitous in this new modification than before? Attempting to reform selfishness and teach it better manners, is like daming up the waters of the Mississippi. It will only surely overflow its banks, and change its channel, and carry devastation and death in its course. I am aware that many will regard this as heresy. But God seeth not as man seeth. Man looketh on the outward appearance, but God looketh on the heart. All the wars and filthiness of heathenism God winks at as comparatively a light thing when put into the scale. against the most refined form of intelligent but heartless Christianity that ever existed.
But to return. Let it be forever understood that selfishness is at war with all nations and with all beings. It has no element of peace in it any further than all beings and all interests are yielded to the gratification of self. This is its essential, its unalterable nature. This attribute can not cease while selfishness remains.
All selfish men who are advocates of peace principles, are necessarily hypocrites. They say and do not. They preach but do not practice. Peace is on their lips, but war is on their hearts. They proclaim peace and good will to men, while under their stolen robe of peace, they conceal their poisoned implements of war agaist God and the universe. This is, this must be. I am anxious to make the impression. and lodge it deep in your inmost hearts, so that you shall always practically hold, and teach, and regard this as a fundamental truth both of natural and revealed religion, that a selfish man, be he who he may, instead of being a christian, a man of peace, and a servant of the Prince of peace, is, in
heart, in character, in spirit, in fact, a rebel, an enemy, a warrior, truly and in fact at war with God and all beings.
16. Unmercifulness is another attribute of selfishness. Mercy is a disposition to pardon crime, and will and must manifest itself in efforts to secure the conditions upon which crime can be reasonably forgiven, if such condition can be secured. Unmercifulness is an unwillingness to forgive sin, and of course manifests itself either by resisting efforts to secure its forgiveness, or by treating such efforts with coldness or contempt. The manner in which sinners treat the plan of salvation, the atonement of Christ, the means used by God and the church to bring about the pardon of sin, demonstrates that their tender mercies are cruelty. The apostle charges them with being "implacable, unmerciful." Their opposition to the gospel, to revivals of religion, and to all the exhibitions of the mercy of God which he has made to our world, show that unmercifulness is an attribute of their character.
Sinners generally profess to be the friends of mercy. They with their lips extol the mercy of God. But how do they treat it? Do they embrace it? Do they honor it as something which they favor? Do they hold it forth to all men as worthy of all acceptation? Or do they wage an unrelenting war with it? How did they treat Christ when he came on his errand of mercy? They brought forth the appalling demonstration that unmercifulness is an essential attribute of their character. They persecuted unto death the very impersonation and embodiment of mercy. And this same attribute of selfishness has always manifested itself under some form whenever a development and an exhibition of mercy has been made. Let the blood of prophets and apostles, the blood of millions of martyrs-and above all let the blood of the God of mercy speak. What is their united testimony? Why, this-that the perfection of unmercifulness is one of the essential and eternal attributes of selfishness.
Whenever, therefore, a selfish being appears to be of a merciful disposition, it is, it can be, only in appearance. His feelings may be sensitive, and he may sometimes, nay often, or always yield to them, but this is only selfishness. The reason and the only reason why every sinner does not exhibit every appalling form of unmercifulness and cruelty, is, that God has so tempered his sensibility, and so surrounded him with influences as to modify the manifestation of selfishness and to develop other attributes more prominently than this.
Unmerciful he is, and unmerciful he must be while he remains in sin. To represent him as other than an unmerciful wretch were to misrepresent him. No matter who it is. That delicate female who would faint at the sight of blood! if she is a sinner, she is spurning and scorning the mercy of God. She lets others go down to hell unpardoned without an effort to secure their pardon. Shall she be represented as other than unmerciful? No language can describe the hardness of her heart. See! the cup of salvation is presented to her lips by a Savior's bleeding hand. She nevertheless dashes it from her, and tramples its contents beneath her feet. It passes from lip to lip. But she offers no prayer that it may be accepted; or if she does, it is only the prayer of a hypocrite while she rejects it herself. No, with all her delicacy, her tender mercies are utter cruelty. With her own hands she crucifies the Son of God afresh and would put him to open shame! O monstrous! a woman murdering the Savior of the world! Her hands and garments all stained with blood! And call her merciful! O shame, where is thy blush?
17. Falsehood or Lying is another attribute of selfishness. Falsehood may be objective or subjective. Objective falsehood is that which stands opposed to truth. Subjective falsehood is a heart conformed to error and to objective falsehood. Subjective falsehood is a state of mind or an attribute of selfishness. It is the will in the attitude of resisting truth and embracing error and lies. This is always and necessarily an attribute of selfishness.
Selfishness consists in the choice of an end opposed to all truth, and can not but proceed to the realization of that end in conformity with error or falsehood instead of truth. If at any time it seize upon objective truth, as it often does, it is with a false intention. It is with an intention at war with the truth, the nature, and the relations of things.
If any sinner, at any time and under any circumstances, tell the truth, it is for a selfish reason; it is to compass a false end. He has a lie in his heart and a lie in his right hand. He stands upon falsehood. He lives for it, and if he does not uniformly and openly falsify the truth, it is because objective truth is consistent with subjective falsehood. His heart is false, as false as it can be. It has embraced and sold itself to the greatest lie in the universe. The selfish man has practically proclaimed that his good is the supreme good; nay, that there is no other good but his own, that there are no other rights but his own, that all are bound to serve him, and
that all interests are to yield to his. Now all this, as I said, is the greatest falsehood that ever was or can be. Yet this is the solemn practical declaration of every sinner. His choice affirms that God has no rights, that he ought not to be loved and obeyed, that he has no right to govern the universe, but that God and all beings ought to obey and serve the sinner. Can there be a greater, a more shameless falsehood than all this? And shall such an one pretend to regard the truth? Nay, verily. The very pretence is only an instance and an illustration of the truth that Falsehood is an essential element of his character.
If every sinner on earth does not openly and at all times falsify the truth, it is not because of the truthfulness of his heart, but for some purely selfish reason. This must be. His heart is utterly false. It is impossible that, remaining a sinner, he should have any true regard to the truth. He is a liar in his heart: this is an essential and an eternal attribute of his character. It is true that his intelligence condemns falsehood and justifies truth, and that oftentimes through the intelligence, a deep impression is or may be made on his sensibility in favor of the truth; but if the heart is unchanged, it holds on to lies, and perseveres in the practical proclamation of the greatest lies in the universe, to wit: that God ought not to be trusted; that Christ is not worthy of confidence; that one's own interest is the supreme good; and that all interests ought to be accounted of less value than one's own.
18. Pride is another attribute of selfishness.
Pride is a disposition to exalt self above others, to get out of one's proper place in the scale of being, and to climb up over the heads of our equals or superiors. Pride is a species of injustice on the one hand, and is nearly allied to ambition on the other. It is not a term of so extensive an import as either injustice or ambition. It sustains to each of them a near relation, but is not identical with either. It is a kind of self-praise, self-worship, self-flattery, self-adulation, a spirit of self-consequence, of self-importance. It is an exalting not merely one's interest, but one's person above others, and above God, and above all other beings. A proud being supremely regards himself. He worships and can worship no one but self. He does not, and remaining selfish, he can not, practically admit that there is any one so good and worthy as himself. He aims at conferring supreme favor upon himself, and practically admits no claim of any being in the universe to any good or interest that will interfere with his own. He