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SUMMARY OF SERMON LX.
II TIMOTHY, CHAP. III.-Verse 2.
AMONG the many vices which St. Paul foresees will prevail in the world, self-love is placed in the van, as the capital or leading one, and as most noxious in its influence.
This indeed is of all vices the most common, and deeply rooted in our nature; so that no one is thoroughly exempt from it.
All impiety involves a loving of ourselves in an undue manner and measure, so that we set ourselves in our esteem and affection above God, and raise our pleasure above his will and authority.
Hence, by a manifest extraction, are derived those chief and common sins, pride, ambition, envy, avarice, intemperance, injustice, discontent, &c.
With regard to the first of these, it may be said we overvalue ourselves, our qualities and endowments, our abilities, fortunes, and external advantages: hence we become so proud, that is, lofty in our conceits, and disdainful in our demeanor: so also it may be said of the other vices enumerated in fine, if surveying all the several kinds of evil dispositions in us, we scan their nature, and search into their causes, we shall find inordinate self-love to be a main ingredient, and a common source of them all: St. Paul might then well set it in point of all those sins he speaks of. It is therefore requisite that we should well understand this fault, that we may be the better able to curb and correct it.
The word self-love is ambiguous; for all self-love is not
culpable; there being a necessary, innocent, and commendable self-love.
There is a self-love implanted by God in our nature, in order to the preservation and enjoyment of our being, which is common to us with all creatures, and cannot be extirpated. Reason farther allows such, as moving us to the pursuit of any thing apparently pleasant or useful, the which does not contain in it any essential turpitude or iniquity, and obstructs not the attainment of any greater good, &c. Reason dictates and prescribes to us a sober regard to our true good and welfare, to our best interest and solid contentment; and God himself both to these suggestions of nature and dictates of reason, joined his own suffrage; having in various ways declared it to be his will and pleasure; by making so rich a provision for our lives, and satisfaction of our appetites; by his express command that we should love all men, and making the love of ourselves to be the rule and pattern of our love towards our neighbor; by recommending wisdom or virtue to us, in his law, as most agreeable to self-love, and dissuading us from vice, as detestable because it implies hatred of ourselves; (Prov. viii. 36. xv. 32.) charging us to affect and pursue the highest goods of which we are capable, the sweetest pleasures and most complete felicity, &c.
So it appears that all self-love is not culpable: how then shall we distinguish and sever the precious from the vile?
To this we may answer in general, that all love of ourselves which is unreasonably grounded, or excessive, which tends toward bad objects, or produces bad effects, is culpable: this point enlarged on.
But for a more distinct and clear resolution of the case, we may consider the proper acts of love which constitute it; as a good esteem of the object of our love; an earnest good will towards him, with a readiness to yield or procure him any good; a desire of intimate conversation and intercourse with him, a deference of regard to him, a compliance with his de
sires, and care to please him: if these acts towards ourselves are in all respects conformable to reason, piety, and justice, then is our self-love innocent or worthy: if they are not so, it is criminal or vicious: this point enlarged on.
Farther, towards an exact discussion and trial of this case, we should do well, divesting ourselves of selfishness, to consider ourselves as other persons, or abstractedly as mere objects of those acts which love implies: for instance, if we should value any person justly, according to his real worth, his virtue, parts, endowments, or advantages of nature and fortune, not ascribing to him what he has not, nor overprizing what he has, nor preferring him before those who are his superiors, we should do wisely and justly: but if with perverted judgment, we admire a person beyond his worth, and advance him above his rank; if we overlook his faults, or take them for excellences, what is this but folly tempered with iniquity? and if it be such in regard to another, it is no less so in respect to ourselves. The same mode of argument continued in regard to wishing things suitable to our neighbor; and in yielding him advice or aid; and the application of it to ourselves.
Again, if we affect to hold free, sincere, cheerful, kind conversation with any person, for mutual instruction and comfort, this is sociable and friendly; but if we maintain frothy, foul, malicious, pestilent discourse, apt to corrupt or annoy him, this is loathsome and so it is, if we keep such intercourse with ourselves, harboring vain, impure, unjust, uncharitable thoughts in our minds this subject dilated on. By such reflexions and comparisons we may arrive at a knowlege of that bastard kind of self-love, which is so productive of other vices. The several sorts or qualities of it will be treated of in the following dis
OF SELF-LOVE IN GENERAL.
II TIMOTHY, CHAP. III.-VERSE 2.
For men shall be lovers of themselves.
ST. PAUL in this place out of a prophetical spirit instructing or warning his disciple Timothy, concerning difficult times,' or the calamitous state of things, which should ensue, induced on the world, as it useth to happen, by a general prevalency of vicious dispositions and practices among men, doth thence take occasion, by a specification of their vices, to characterise the persons who should concur to produce that hard state.
Among those vices he placeth self-love in the van, as the capital and leading vice; intimating thereby, that it is of all in its nature most heinous, or in its influence most noxious.
This indeed is of all vices the most common, so deeply radicated in our nature, and so generally overspreading the world, that no man thoroughly is exempted from it, most men are greatly tainted with it, some are wholly possessed and acted by it: this is the root from which all other vices do grow, and without which hardly any sin could subsist; the chief vices especially have an obvious and evident dependence thereon.
All impiety doth involve a loving ourselves in undue manner and measure; so that we set ourselves in our esteem and affection before God; we prefer our own conceits to his judgment and advice; we raise our pleasure above his will and authority; we bandy forces with him, and are like the profane Belshazzar,
of whom it is said, Thou hast lifted up thyself against (or above) the Lord of heaven.'
From hence particularly, by a manifest extraction, are derived those chief and common vices, pride, ambition, envy, avarice, intemperance, injustice, uncharitableness, peevishness, stubbornness, discontent, and impatience. For,
We overvalue ourselves, our qualities and endowments, our powers and abilities, our fortunes and external advantages; hence are we so proud, that is, so lofty in our conceits, and fastuous in our demeanor.
We would be the only men, or most considerable in the world; hence are we ambitious, hence continually with unsatiable greediness we do affect and strive to procure increase of reputation, of power, of dignity.
We would engross to ourselves all sorts of good things in highest degree; hence enviously we become jealous of the worth and virtue, we grudge and repine at the prosperity of others; as if they defalked somewhat from our excellency, or did eclipse the brightness of our fortune.
We desire to be not only full in our enjoyment, but free and absolute in our dominion of things; not only secure from needing the succor of other men, but independent in regard to God's providence; hence are we so covetous of wealth, hence we so eagerly scrape it, and so carefully hoard it up.
We can refuse our dear selves no satisfaction, although unreasonable or hurtful; therefore we so readily gratify sensual appetites in unlawful or excessive enjoyments of pleasure.
Being blinded or transported with fond dotage on ourselves, we cannot discern or will not regard what is due to others; hence are we apt on occasion to do them wrong.
Love to ourselves doth in such manner suck in and swallow our spirits, doth so pinch in and contract our hearts, doth according to its computation so confine and abridge our interests, that we cannot in our affection or in real expression of kindness tend outwards; that we can afford little good-will, or impart little good to others.
Deeming ourselves extremely wise and worthy of regard, we cannot endure to be contradicted in our opinion, or crossed in