CHARLES G. FINNEY
ATTRIBUTES OF SELFISHNESS.
WHAT IS IMPLIED IN DISOBEDIENCE TO THE LAW 0F GOD.
19. Enmity against God is also an attribute of selfishness.
Enmity is hatred. Hatred may exist either as a phenomenon of the sensibility or as a state or attitude of the will. Of course I am now to speak of enmity of heart or will. It is selfishness viewed in its relations to God. That selfishness is enmity against God will appear,
(l.) From the Bible. The Apostle expressly says that "the carnal mind (minding the flesh) is enmity against God." It is fully evident that the Apostle by the carnal mind means obeying the propensities or gratifying the desires. But this is selfishness as I have defined it.
(2.) Selfishness is directly opposed to the will of God as expressed in his law. That requires benevolence. Selfishness is its opposite, and therefore enmity against the lawgiver.
(3.) Selfishness is as hostile to God's government as it can be. It is directly opposed to every law and principle and measure of his government.
(4.) Selfishness is opposition to God's existence. Opposition to a government, is opposition to the will of the governor. It is opposition to his existence in that capacity. It is and must be enmity against the existence of the ruler as such. Selfishness must be enmity against the existence of God's government, and as He does and must sustain the relation of Sovereign Ruler, selfishness must be enmity against his life. Selfishness will brook no restraint in respect to securing its end. There is nothing in the universe it will not sacrifice to self. This is true, or it is not selfishness. If then God's happiness, or government, or life come into competition with it, they must be sacrificed.
(5.) But God is the uncompromising enemy of selfishness. It is the abominable thing his soul hateth. He is more in the way of selfishness than all other beings. The opposition of selfishness to Him is and must be supreme and perfect.
(6.) That selfishness is mortal enmity against God, is not left to conjecture nor to a mere deduction or inference. God once took to himself human nature and tried the experiment. Men could not brook his presence upon earth, and they rested not until they had murdered him.
(7.) Again. Selfishness is supreme enmity against God. That is, it is more opposed to God than to all other beings.
[1.] This must be because God is more opposed to it and more directly and eternally in its way. Selfishness must be relinquished or put itself in supreme opposition to God.
[2.] Enmity against any body or thing besides God can be overcome more easily than against him. All earthly enmities can be overcome by kindness and change of circumstances; but what kindness, what change of circumstances can change the human heart, can overcome the selfishness and enmity that reigns there?
(8.) Selfishness offers all manner and every possible degree of resistance to God. It disregards God's commands. It contemns his authority. It spurns his mercy. It tramples on his feelings. It tempts his forbearance. Selfishness in short is the universal antagonist and adversary of God. It can no more be reconciled to God or subject to his law than it can cease to be selfishness.
20. Madness is another attribute of selfishness.
Madness is used sometimes to mean anger, sometimes to mean intellectual insanity, and sometimes to mean moral insanity.
I speak of it now in the last sense.
Moral insanity is not insanity of the intelligence, but of the heart. Insanity of the intelligence destroys for the time being moral agency and accountability.
Moral insanity is a state in which the intellectual powers are not deranged, but the heart refuses to be controlled by the intelligence and acts unreasonably as if the intellect were deranged. That madness or moral insanity is an attribute of selfishness or of a sinful character is evident,
(1.) From the bible. "The heart of the sons of men is of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live."--Eccles. 9:3.
(2.) It has been shown that sinners or selfish persons act in every instance directly opposite to right reason. Indeed, nothing can be plainer than the moral insanity of every selfish soul. He prefers to seek his own interest as an end and prefers a straw to a universe. But not only so: he does this with the certain knowledge that in this way he can never secure his own highest interest. What an infinitely insane course that must be, first to prefer his own petty gratification to the infinite interests of God and of the universe, and secondly, to do this with the knowledge that in this way nothing can be ultimately gained even to self, and that if the course is persisted in, it must result in endless evil to self, the very thing which is supremely dreaded! Sin is the greatest mystery and the greatest absurdity, and the greatest contradiction in the universe.
But madness is an essential element or attribute of selfishness. All sinners, without any exception, are and must be mad. Their choice of an end is madness. It is infinitely unreasonable. Their pursuit of it is madness persisted in. Their treatment of every thing that opposes their course is madness. All, all is madness infinite. This world is a moral Bedlam, an insane hospital where sinners are under regimen. If they can be cured, well. If not, they must be confined in the mad-house of the universe for eternity.
The only reason why sinners do not perceive their own and each other's madness is, that they are all mad together and their madness is all of one type. Hence they imagine that they are sane, and pronounce Christians mad. This is no wonder. What other conclusion can they come to unless they can discover that they are mad?
But let it not be forgotten that their madness is of the heart, and not of the intellect. It is voluntary and not unavoidable. If it were unavoidable it would involve no guilt. But it is a choice made and persisted in in the integrity of their intellectual powers, and therefore they are without excuse.
Sinners are generally supposed to act rationally on many subjects. But this is an evident mistake. They do every thing for the same ultimate reason and are as wholly irrational in one thing as another. There is nothing in their whole history and life, not an individual thing, that is not entirely and infinitely unreasonable. The end is mad; the means are mad; all, all is madness and desperation of spirit. They no doubt appear so to angels, and so they do to saints; and were it not so common to see them their conduct would fill the saints and angels with utter amazement.
2l. Impatience is another attribute of selfishness.
This term expresses both a state of the sensibility and of the will. Impatience is a resistance of Providence. When this term is used to express a state of the sensibility, it designates fretfulness, ill temper, anger in the form of emotion. It is an unsubmissive and rebellious state of feeling in regard to those trials that occur under the administration of the providential government of God.
When the term is used to express a state of the will, it designates 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 providence. 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 disposed 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. It 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 providence 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[sic.] 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. Nor 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 af[t]er 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 between 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 deliberates in respect to the particular propensity to be indulged or denied. He is at all times perfectly reckless as it respects self-indulgence. This is settled. Whenever he hesitates about any given course, it is because of the strength of the self-indulgent spirit and with design upon the whole to realize the greatest amount of self-indulgence. When sinners hesitate about remaining in sin and think of giving up self-indulgence, it is only certain forms of sin that they contemplate relinquishing. They consider what they shall lose to themselves by continuing in sin, and what they shall gain to themselves by relinquishing sin and turning to God. It is a question of loss and gain with them. They have no idea of giving up every form of selfishness; nor do they consider that until they do, they are at every moment violating the whole law, whatever interest of self they may be plotting to secure, whether the interest be temporal or eternal, physical or spiritual. In respect to the denial or indulgence of one or another of the propensities, they may and indeed can not but be considerate consistently with selfishness. But in respect to duty; in respect to the commands and threatenings of God; in respect to every moral consideration, they are entirely and universally reckless. And when they appear not to be so, but to be thoughtful and considerate, it is only selfishness plotting its own indulgence and calculating its chances of loss and gain. Indeed it would appear, when we take into consideration the known consequences of every form of selfishness, and the sinner's pertinacious cleaving to self-indulgence in the face of such considerations, that every sinner is appallingly reckless, and that it may be said that his recklessness is infinite.
24. Unity is another attribute of selfishness.
By unity is intended that selfishness, and consequently all sin is a unit. That is, there are not various kinds of sin, nor various kinds of selfishness, nor, strictly speaking, are there various forms of selfishness. Selfishness is always one and but one thing. It has but one end, and not diverse ends. The indulgence of one appetite or passion, or another, does not imply different ends or forms of selfishness, strictly speaking. It is only one choice, or the choice of one end and the different forms are only the use of different means to accomplish this one end. Strictly speaking, there is but one form of virtue; and when we speak of various forms, we speak loosely and in accommodation to the general notions of mankind. Virtue, as we have before seen, is a unit. It always consists in ultimate intention; and this ultimate intention is always one and the same. It is the choice of the highest well-being of God and of the universe as an end. This intention never changes its form, and all the efforts which the mind makes to realize this end, and which we loosely call different forms of virtue, are after all only the one unchanged and unchangeable, uncompounded and indivisible intention, energizing to realize its one great end. Just so with selfishness. It is one choice, or the choice of one and only one end, to wit, self-gratification or self-indulgence. All the various, and every varying shifts and turns and modes of indulgence which make up the entire history of the sinner, imply no complexity in the form or substance of his choice. All are resorted to for one and only one reason. They are only this one uncompounded and uncompoundable, this never varying choice of self-indulgence, energizing and using various means to realize its one simple end. The reason why the idea is so common, and why the phraseology of men implies that there are really various forms of sin and of holiness is, that they unwittingly lose sight of that in which sin and holiness alone consist, and conceive of them as belonging to the outward act, or to the causative volition that is put forth by the intention to secure its end. Let it but always be remembered that holiness and sin are but the moral attributes of selfishness and benevolence, and that they are each the choice of one end and only one; and the delusion that there are various forms and kinds of sin and holiness will flee away forever.
Holiness is holiness, in form and essence one and indivisible. It is the moral element or quality of disinterested benevolence. Sin is sin, in form and essence one and indivisible; and is the moral attribute of selfishness or of the choice of self-indulgence as the end of life. This conducts us to the real meaning of those Scriptures which assert "that all the law is fulfilled in one word, love," that this is the whole of virtue, and comprises all that we loosely call the different virtues, or different forms of virtue. And it also explains this, "Whosoever shall keep the whole law and yet offend in one point he is guilty of all." That is, offending in one point implies the real commission of all sin. It implies, and is selfishness, and this is the whole of sin. It is of the greatest importance that religious teachers should understand this, and no longer conceive of sin as original and actual; as sins of heart and sins of life; as sins of omission and commission; as sins of licentiousness and gluttony, intemperance and the like. Now such notions and such phraseology will do for those who can not, or have no opportunity to look deeper into the philosophy of moral government; but it is time that the veil were taken away, and both sin and holiness laid open to the public gaze.
Let it not be inferred that because there is but one form or kind of sin or of holiness, strictly speaking, that therefore all sin is equally blameworthy, and that all holiness is equally praiseworthy. This does not follow, as we shall see under its proper head. Neither let it be called a contradiction that I have so often spoken and shall so often speak of the different forms of sin and of holiness. All this is convenient and as I judge indispensable in preparing the way, and to conduct the mind to the true conception and apprehension of this great and fundamental truth; fundamental in the sense that it lies at the foundation of all truly clear and just conceptions of either holiness or sin. They are both units and eternal and necessary opposites and antagonists. They can never dwell together or coalesce any more than heaven and hell can be wedded to each other.
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