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bottom of his heart, than to have no ultimate regard to any one's honor or happiness, but his own.
We may further take notice, that those advocates for native human virtues, who do not adopt the selfish system, suppose things virtuous, which are not of the nature of christian virtue, or true holiness. Such, for instance, as the love of one's country; the tenderness between the sexes ; the affection of parents for their children, and natural compassion for the miserable.
Respecting these, I observe, that several of them may proceed from mere self-love; but that, if there be somewhat of disinterestedness in any of them, yet, because of their want of universality and impartiality, they can never produce the peaceable fruits of righteousness, or be the fulfilling of the divine law. On the contrary, transgression, and the grossest iniquities, are their natural tendency and common effects. This is the case, particularly in regard to the love between the sexes, parental fondness, and that patriot. ism which has been so much the boast of Pagans, and of many who are called christians. These are among those lusts of men which war in their members, whence come wars and fightings; envying and strife, confusion and all manner of evil works. All partial benevolence, like self-love, will naturally produce enmity toward those who are without the limited sphere of its friendly operation.
As to that natural compassion for the misérable, which operates more extensively : this is too limit: ed in another view, to have a tendency to universal happiness, or to be of the nature of righteousness and true holiness. Persons most remarkable for this, are frequently as remarkable for many vicious tempers and practices, hurtful to others, as well as to themselves. They are often, not only irreligious and profane, but intemperate, lewd, envious, revengeful, false, fraudulent and unjust. As common family affection, and love of one's country, will not
influence to the whole duty of man, because they embrace only a part of mankind, and have no respect to God : so this natural humanity will not, because it is felt for no individual, only in a partial view, and under particular circumstances. The man whose heart is easily touched with tender sensibility for a neighbor in extreme distress, would be grieved as much, perhaps, to see that same neighbor more prosperous and happy than himself. Nor is it every kind of suffering, however great, that will move the compassion of these good natured, wicked men. The sight of one wounded, bleeding and half dead, powerfully excites their commisseration ; but to see or hear the good name of the most worthy person, mangled and torn in pieces, by the tongue or pen of malice and falsehood, gives them pleasure, very often, instead of any resentment or uneasiness.
This partial, common compassion, appears to be nothing more than a mere animal instinct ; similar to what we observe in most kinds of the inferior cre. ation. As far as it goes, it is a good thing, as rain and sunshine are good. It answers good purposes in the present wretched state of man, but is not at all adapted to that world of happiness where are no objects of pity, and where millions will be seen exalted in felicity and glory far higher than ourselves. Notwithstanding all such humanity, we must be born again, before we can see the kingdom of God. We must have a more uniform good nature, or we can never be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. We must have a better principle of good works created in us, before we can do any thing that will be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
There is one way more, which I will just mention, whence some may be led to think human nature virtuous, when really it is not. They may mistake a rightly dictating conscience, for a good disposition. There is undoubtedly in natural men; not only reason, which enables them to judge, but
also a moral sense, whereby they feel, of themselves what is right. This is that of which the apostle speaks, Rom. ii. 14, 15, “ For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves : Which shew the works of the law written in their hearts ; their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing, or else excusing one another.”
Man, in a state of nature, has something in him besides reason—something in his breast, as well as in his head, which bears witness in favor of truth, justice, and goodness : which always gives a verdict, when cases are fairly understood, on the side of the eternal rule of right: which approves what is moral- -ly good, and condemns what is morally evil. This some have called the moral sense ; and is what the Bible calls conscience. But this is a different thing from a disposition to refuse the evil, and choose the good. It is not the public sense, or universal beneyolence of heart; which inclines a man to the practice of whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. If there be
If there be any virtue, or any thing worthy of praise as proceeding from, or comprehended in, an honest and good heart, this is not the thing. It is found in the worst of all rational beings. It will be the worm that never dies, gnawing the souls of all the wicked in hell, with everlasting shame and self-condemnation.
Let us now apply and improve this whole subject, for our further learning and profit.
1. We may hence learn why it is that gooch thoughts and impressions are apt to be so transient and unabiding in natural men. Vain thoughtstrifling, foolish, wicked thoughts, lodge within them. But it is not so in regard to good thoughts, or thoughts of things that are good. If these obtrucle
themselves at any time, (like troublesome beggars at our doors,) they are treated with great coldness and neglect. It may be said to them, “Depart in peace; be warmed, be filled :" or a pittance of some poor thing may be given them, just to silence their clamorous importunity ; but they are dismissed as soon as possible. It is the same case, generally, respecting any serious purposes and resolutions of sinners. Thus Ephraim's goodness, it is said, was as a morning cloud, and as the early dew, it went away. This is represented by our Saviour, in his parable of the şower : “ Some seed fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up it withered away, because it lacked moisture.”
2. Hence let not any think that their depravity is not great, or not very criminal ; if it be only the want of good principles : principles so very good, as the disinterested love of God, and of all their fellowcreatures. The worst creature on earth, or in hell, need not be supposed any more depraved than this, in the bottom of his heart. This alone, in a moral agent, who has self-love, and its subservient appetites and passions, will account for all ungodliness and unrighteousness, in thought, word and deed. Let men have no disposition to glorify, or desire to enjoy God, and they will naturally be enemies to him in their minds ; they will hate his laws, and murmur against his Providence and grace; and it will be the latent wish of their heart to have no God. Let men be lovers of none but their own selves, and they will be
covetous, boasters, proud, disobedient to parents, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded.” As far as they are not restrained by the fear of punishment, a regard to reputation, or some other selfish'or partial motive, they will be full of all unrighteousness and iniquity. Their throat will be an open sepulchre; with their tongues they will use
deceit ; the poison of asps will be under their lips; their mouth will be full of cursing and bitterness ; their feet will be swift to shed blood. Let a sinner only know this plague of his own heart, the want of all good principles, and he will see cause enough for self-reproach and self-abhorrence.
3. It hence appears that such as hope they are christians, had need be very cautious and thorough in self-examination. Many are the ways in which men may experience a superficial conversion, and seem to be religious, when all, at bottom, is nothing but self-love. There is also great danger of mistaking conscience, for a good heart; or natural compassion, and other partial kind affections, for that love which is the fulfilling of the law-that charity which is the bond of perfectness. By these means, undoubtedly, multitudes are deceived; thinking themselves something, when they are nothing. And for these reasons, it greatly concerns supposed converts, again and again, to examine and prove their own selves.
4. Christians, the most assured and best of them, should hence be led to adore the sovereignty of divine grace ; and to walk humbly with God, and meekly among their fellow-men. To this purpose, I shall conclude with the words of Paul to Titus : “ Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness to all men. ourselves were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving diverse lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God appeared ; not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour."