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When the term is used to express a state of the will, it de signates an attitude of resistance to God's providential dispensations. Selfishness has no faith in God, no confidence in his wisdom and goodness, and being set upon self-gratification, is continually exposed to disappointment. God is infinitely wise and benevolent. He also exercises a universal provi-. dence. He is conducting every thing with reference to the greatest good of the whole universe. He of course will often interfere with the selfish projects of those who are pursuing an opposite end to that which He pursues. They will of course be subject to almost continual disappointment under the providence of one who disposes of all events in accordance with a design at war with their own. It is impossible that the schemes of selfishness under such a government should not frequently be blown to the winds, and that such an one should not be the subject of incessant crosses, vexations and trials. Self-will can not but be impatient under a benevolent government. Selfishness would of course have every thing so dis posed as to favor self-interest and self-gratification. But infinite wisdom and benevolence can not accommodate itself to this state of mind. The result must be a constant rasping and collision between the selfish soul and the providence of God. Selfishness must cease to be selfishness before it can be otherwise.
A selfish state of will must of course not only resist crosses and disappointments, but must also produce a feverish and fretful state of feeling in relation to the trials incident to life. Nothing but deep sympathy with God and that confidence in his wisdom and goodness and universal providence that annihilates self-will and begets universal and unqualified submission to him, can prevent impatience. Impatience is always a form of selfishness. It is resistance to God. It is self-will. Selfishness must be gratified or displeased of course. should always be understood that when trials produce impatience of heart the will is in a selfish attitude. The trials of this life are designed to develop a submissive, confiding and patient state of mind. A selfish spirit is represented in the bible as being, under the providence of God, like a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke, restive, self-willed, impatient and rebellious.
When selfishness or self-will is subdued and benevolence is in exercise, we are in a state not to feel disappointments, trials and crosses. Having no way or will of our own about any thing, and having deep sympathy with and confidence in
God, we can not be disappointed in any such sense as to vex the spirit and break the peace of the soul.
The fact is that selfishness must be abandoned, or there is, there can be no peace to us. "There is no peace to the wicked, saith my God." "The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it can not rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt." An impressive figure this to represent the continually agitated state in which a selfish mind must be under a perfectly benevolent providence. Selfishness demands partiality in provi dence that will favor self. But benevolence will not bend to its inclinations. This must produce resistance and fretting, or selfishness must be abandoned. Let it be borne in mind that impatience is an attribute of selfishness and will always be developed under crosses and trials.
Selfishness will of course be patient while providence favors its schemes, but when crosses come, then the peace of the soul is broken.
22. Intemperance is also a form or attribute of selfishness. Selfishness is self-indulgence. It consists in the committal of the will to the indulgence of the propensities. Of course some one, or more, of the propensities have taken the control of the will. Generally there is some ruling passion or propensity the influence of which becomes overshadowing and overrules the will for its own gratification. Sometimes it is acquisitiveness or avarice, the love of gain; sometimes alimentiveness or epicurianism; sometimes it is amativeness or sexual love; sometimes philoprogenitiveness or the love of our own children; sometimes self-esteem or a feeling of confidence in self; sometimes one and sometimes another of the great variety of the propensities, is so largely developed as to be the ruling tyrant that lords it over the will and over all the other propensities. It matters not which of the propensities or whether their united influence gains the mastery of the will: whenever the will is subject to them, this is selfishness. It is the carnal mind.
Intemperance consists in the undue or unlawful indulgence of any propensity. It is therefore an essential element or attribute of selfishness. All selfishness is intemperance: of course it is an unlawful indulgence of the propensities. Intemperance has as many forms as there are constitutional and artificial appetites to gratify. A selfish mind can not be temperate. If one or more of the propensities is restrained, it is only restrained for the sake of the undue and unlawful indulgence of another. Sometimes the tendencies are intellectual,
and the bodily appetites are denied for the sake of gratifying the love of study. But this is no less intemperance and selfishness than the gratification of amativeness or alimentiveness. Selfishness is always and necessarily intemperate. It does not always or generally develop every form of intemperance in the outward life, but a spirit of self-indulgence must be the spirit of intemperance.
Some develop intemperance most prominently in the form of self-indulgence in eating; others in sleeping; others in lounging and idleness; others are gossippers; others love exercise and indulge that propensity; others study and impair health and induce derangement or seriously impair the nervous systems. Indeed there is no end to the forms which intemperance assumes because of the great number of propensities natural and artificial that in their turns seek and obtain indulgence.
It should be always borne in mind that any form of self-indulgence is equally an instance of selfishness and wholly inconsistent with any degree of virtue in the heart. But it may be asked, are we to have no regard whatever to our tastes, appetites and propensities? I answer we are to have no such regard to them as to make their gratification the end for which we live even for a moment. But there is a kind of regard to them which is lawful and therefore a virtue. For example: I am on a journey for the glory of God. Two ways are before me. One affords nothing to regale the senses; the other conducts me through variegated scenery, sublime mountain passes, deep ravines; along brawling brooks and meandering rivulets; through beds of gayest flowers and woods of richest foliage; through aromatic groves and forests vocal with feathered songsters. The two paths are equal in distance and in all respects that have a bearing upon the business I have in hand. Now reason dictates and demands that I should take the path that is most agreeable and edifying. But this is not being governed by the propensities, but by the reason. It is its voice which I hear and to which I listen when I take the sunny path. The delights of this path are a real good. As such they are not to be despised or neglected. But if taking this path would embarrass and hinder the end of my journey, I am not to sacrifice the greater public good for a less one of my own. I must not be guided by my feelings but by my reason and honest judgment in this and in every case of duty. God has not given us propensities to be our masters and to rule us but to be our servants and to
to minister to our enjoyment when we obey the biddings of reason and of God. They are given to render duty pleasant, and as a reward of virtue; to make the ways of wisdom pleasant. The propensities are not therefore to be despised, nor is their annihilation to be desired. is it true that their gratification is always selfish. But when their gratification is sanctioned and demanded as in the case just supposed and in myriads of other cases that occur to the intelligence, the gratification is not a sin but a virtue. It is not selfishness but benevolence. But let it be remembered that the indulgence must not be sought in obedience to the propensity itself, but in obedience to the law of reason and of God. When reason and the will of God are not consulted, it must be selfishness.
Intemperance, as a sin, does not consist in the outward act of indulgence, but in an inward disposition. A dyspeptic who can eat but just enough to sustain life, may be an enormous glutton at heart. He may have a disposition, that is, he may not only desire, but he may be willing to eat all before him, but for the pain indulgence occasions him. But this is only the spirit of self-indulgence. He denies himself the amount of food he craves to avoid pain or to gratify a stronger propensity, to wit, the dread of pain. So a man who was never intoxicated in his life, may be guilty of the crime of drunkenness every day. He may be prevented from drinking to inebriation every day only by a regard to reputation or health, or by an avaricious disposition. It is only because he is prevented by the greater power of some other propensity. If one is in such a state of mind that he would indulge all his propensities without restraint were it not that it is impossible on account of the indulgence of some being inconsistent with the indulgence of the others, he is just as guilty as if he did indulge them all. For example: He has a disposition, that is, a will to accumulate property. He is avaricious in heart. He also has a strong tendency to luxury, to licentiousness and prodigality. The indulgence of these propensities is inconsistent with the indulgence of avarice. But for this contrariety he would in his state of mind indulge them all. Now he is really guilty of all those forms of vice, and just as blameworthy as if he indulged in them.
Again: That selfishness is the aggregate of all sin, and that he who is selfish, is actually chargeable with breaking the whole law, and of every form of iniquity, will appear, if we consider,
(1.) That it is the committal of the will to self-indulgence; and of course and of necessity,
(2.) No one propensity will be denied but for the indulgence of another.
(3.) But if no better reason than this exists for denying any propensity, then the selfish man is chargeable in the sight of God with actually in heart gratifying every propensity.
(4.) And this conducts to the plain conclusion that a selfish man is full of sin and actually in heart guilty of every possible or conceivable abomination.
(5.) "He that looketh on a woman to lust afer her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." He may not have committed the outward act for want of opportunity, or for the reason that the indulgence is inconsistent with the love of reputation or fear of disgrace, or with some other propensity. Nevertheless he is in heart guilty of the deed.
Intemperance, as a crime is a state of mind. It is the attitude of the will. It is an attribute of selfishness. It consists in the choice or disposition to gratify the propensities regardless of the law of benevolence. This is intemperance; and so far as the mind is considered, it is the whole of it. Now inasmuch as the will is committed to self-indulgence, and nothing but the contrariety there is betwen the propensities prevents the unlimited indulgence of them all, it follows that every selfish person, or in other words every sinner, is chargeable in the sight of God with every species of intemperance actual or conceivable. His lusts have the reign. They conduct him whithersoever they list. He has sold himself to self-indulgence. If there is any form of self-indulgence that is not actually developed in him, no thanks to him. The providence of God has restrained the outward indulgence while there has been in him a readiness to do it.
23. Recklessness is another attribute of selfishness. Recklessness is carelessness, or a state of mind that seeks to gratify self regardless of consequences. It is a spirit of infatuation, a rushing upon ruin heedless of what may come.
This is one of the most prominent attributes of selfishness. It is universally prominent and manifest. What can be more manifest and striking and astonishing than the recklessness of every sinner? Self-indulgence is his motto; and the only appearance of consideration and moderation about him is, that he is careful to deny one propensity for the sake and only for the sake of indulging another. He hesitates not whether he shall indulge himself, but sometimes hesitates and ponders and de