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scriptures do, in an interesting light, is not inconsistent with reason, or with common sense.
It has been objected to the Bible, by some unbelievers, by one at least, that it is a selfish system. That it teaches us to love God and virtue, not for God's and virtue's sake, but for our own sake.
Now, it must be admitted, that the holy scriptures set life and death before men, to persuade them to forsake the ways of sin, and turn their feet unto the testimonies of the Lord and likewise that the inspired writers address themselves to our natural gratitude, by representations of the goodness of God to the children of men, as an inducement to love, adore and serve him. But it has been proved, I apprehend, in the preceding discourse, that neither natural self-love, nor natural gratitude thence proceeding, is a principle in itself sinful, or from which it is wrong to be influenced to act. It has also been seen, that though the Bible makes use of motives adapted to work upon the natural feelings of men, to awaken their attention to the things which belong to their peace and duty; yet it never supposes that we have any true holiness, unless we love God and virtue for their own sake; or not merely from selfish principles. The scripture system of morals, is certainly as disinterested as it ought to be, according to reason and common sense. By manifestation of the truth, it will commend itself to every man's conscience, as being perfectly right in this respect.
2. What has been said may furnish an answer to one very metaphysical objection, on the other hand, against the doctrine of disinterested benevolence. It is sometimes contended, that there can be no such thing as disinterestedness. That, on supposition any place their happiness in glorifying God, and doing good; still their own happiness, is their only ultimate object.
To this, the answer is; one who has no ultimate regard to the glory of God, or the good of his neighbor, cannot place his happiness in glorifying the one, or in doing good to the other. As well might one whose palate nauseates every sweet thing, persuade himself to love honey, by representing to himself the pleasure he should take in eating it, if he did. In this sense, the saying of Solomon is true, "If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would be utterly contemned;" that is, totally unavailing. One may wish for his own sake, that he loved God and virtue; but neither this wish, nor all the world if he had it to give, could make a man sincerely love them, who has no disinterested goodness. Taking pleasure in glorifying God, and doing good to men, presupposes that we love them for their own sake; and cannot be the effect of a desire to love them, for the sake of that pleasure. This, therefore, cannot be the happiness of a totally selfish man; or a selfish kind of happiness.
3. The preceding observations upon this subject, may administer comfort to some doubting christians. I have heard some bemoan themselves, and express anxious fears that they have no grace, because they find so much in their hearts of self-love. Because, in denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, and living soberly, righteously and religiously, they feel themselves so much influenced by the dread of future misery, and the hope of eternal happiness.
Let such be reminded, that looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of Jesus Christ, is the very motive by which "the grace of God that bringeth salvation teacheth us," so to deny ourselves, and so to live. That the promise of a crown of life, is an inducement to be faithful unto death, set before us by our righteous Judge.
Let them also be told, that the natural desire of their own safety, though not a virtue, is as strong in
the godly, as in the ungodly. Neither the desire of happiness, nor the dread of being miserable, though ever so ardent, is any evidence that one is not a christian; though something more is necessary to make it evident that one is a christian.
4. From what has been said, the self-deception of some others, who have perhaps no doubts of their good estate, may be detected. It seems to be thought by many, that if the happiness of heaven be the main object of one's pursuit, he has certainly been born from above. This is true indeed, if the happiness of heaven be rightly understood, and really desired. But a mistake here is very possible. An idea of heaven suited to the natural dispositions of men, is not confined to Pagans and Mahometans. The thoughts of white robes, crowns of gold, and rivers of pleasures, not spiritualized, may be very delightful to a carnal mind. By such hopes, the sensualist, the worldly-minded, and the vain-glorious, may be animated to do and suffer great things. Unless you hunger and thirst after righteousness; unless you are seeking for spiritual happiness, your hopes of heaven are vain You are yet in your sins.
5. Let this text and subject be improved in a use of exhortation to all, to seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.
Moses, we are told, when he was come to years, chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. And did he not make a prudent choice? Had he continued in the court of Egypt, as the son of Pharaoh's daughter, he might have indulged the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, in a high degree. But how long ago would all these gratifications have been at an end? Great were the afflictions which he suffered with the people of God: but all these sufferings, likewise, have now long
been over. Long has he enjoyed the glorious recompence of reward to which he had respect; and he will enjoy it to all eternity.
Will you not then, those of my readers who are come to years of discretion, though young, be persuaded to make a similar choice? Will you not renounce the vanities of this present world, and the service of diverse lusts and pleasures, and make that happiness which will be permanent and soul-satisfying, the object of your most earnest pursuit? Should you hereafter see innumerable others in the kingdom of heaven, and yourselves shut out, how bitter will be your lamentation and self-reproach? Be persuaded to have respect to such eternal consequences; to pay a serious attention to the one thing needful; and to choose the good part, which shall not be taken from you,