What Saith the Scripture?


Phila delphia > Lectures on SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY by Charles G. Finney (page 3 of 11)

Lectures On Systematic Theology


Page 3

Charles G. Finney

A Voice from the Philadelphian Church Age

  Wisdom is Justified

by Charles Grandison Finney


"SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY" in 12 html pages-

Introduction ---New Window

LECTURES 1-7 of page 1 ---New Window

LECTURES 8-16 of page 2 ---New Window

LECTURES 17-30 of page 3 (this page)

LECTURES 31-38 of page 4 ---New Window

LECTURES 39-47 of page 5 ---New Window

LECTURES 48-57 of page 6 ---New Window

LECTURES 58-67 of page 7 ---New Window

LECTURES 68-74 of page 8 ---New Window

LECTURES 75-80 of page 9 ---New Window

LECTURES 81-83 of page 10 ---New Window

APPENDIX on page 11 ---New Window

To avoid broken links, due to file length, please wait for the page to
load completely
before selecting ANY link below.
The links above can be used immediately.

Suggestions during load time:
Take a look at Mr. Finney's extensive
Table of Contents.

Table of Contents
page 3

LECTURE XVII. -- Moral Government--Continued.
What is implied in obedience to the moral law . . Call attention to certain facts in mental philosophy, as they are revealed in consciousness . . Point out the attributes of that love which constitutes obedience to the law of God . . Voluntariness . . Liberty . . Intelligence . . Virtuousness . . Disinterestedness . . Impartiality . . Universality

LECTURE XVIII. -- Attributes of Love.
Efficiency . . Penitence . . Faith . . Complacency

LECTURE XIX. -- Attributes of Love--Continued.
Opposition to Sin . . Compassion

LECTURE XX. -- Attributes of Love--Continued.
Mercy . . Justice . . Veracity

LECTURE XXI. -- Attributes of Love--Continued.
Patience . . Meekness . . Long-suffering . . Humility

LECTURE XXII. -- Attributes of Love--Continued.
Self-denial . . Condescension . . Candour . . Stability . . Kindness . . Severity

LECTURE XXIII. -- Attributes of Love--Continued.
Holiness, or Purity . . Modesty . . Sobriety . . Sincerity . . Zeal . . Unity . . Simplicity

LECTURE XXIV. -- Attributes of Love--Continued.
Gratitude . . Wisdom . . Grace . . Economy

LECTURE XXV. -- Moral Government.
Revert to some points that have been settled . . Show what disobedience to moral law cannot consist in . . What disobedience to moral law must consist in

LECTURE XXVI. -- Moral Government.
What constitutes disobedience . . What is not implied in disobedience to the law of God

LECTURE XXVII. -- Attributes of Selfishness.
What constitutes disobedience to moral law . . What is implied in disobedience to moral law . . Attributes of Selfishness. Voluntariness . . Liberty . . Intelligence . . Unreasonableness . . Interestedness . . Partiality . . Impenitence . . Unbelief

LECTURE XXVIII. -- Attributes of Selfishness--Continued.
Efficiency . . Opposition to benevolence or to virtue . . Cruelty . . Injustice

LECTURE XXIX. -- Attributes of Selfishness--Continued.
Oppression . . Hostility . . Unmercifulness . . Falsehood, or lying . . Pride

LECTURE XXX. -- Attributes of Selfishness--Continued.
Enmity . . Madness . . Impatience . . Intemperance . . Moral recklessness . . Unity

This lecture was typed in by Spencer Rawlins.




It has been shown that the sum and spirit of the whole law is properly expressed in one word--love. It has also been shown, that this love is benevolence or good willing; that it consists in choosing the highest good of God and of universal being for its own intrinsic value, in a spirit of entire consecration to this as the ultimate end of existence. Although the whole law is fulfilled in one word--love, yet there are many things implied in the state of mind expressed by this term. It is, therefore, indispensable to a right understanding of this subject, that we inquire into the characteristics or attributes of this love. We must keep steadily in mind certain truths of mental philosophy. I will, therefore--

I. Call attention to certain facts in mental philosophy which are revealed to us in consciousness: and--

II. Point out the attributes of that love which constitutes obedience to the law of God; and, as I proceed, call attention to those states of the intelligence and of the sensibility, and also to the course of outward conduct implied in the existence of this love in any mind, implied in it as necessarily resulting from it, as an effect does from its cause.

I. Call attention again to certain facts in mental philosophy as they are revealed in consciousness.

Again: We are conscious of affirming to ourselves our obligation to obey the law of the intellect rather than the impulses of the sensibility; that to act virtuously we must act rationally, or intelligently, and not give ourselves up to the blind impulses of our feelings.

Now, inasmuch as the love required by the moral law consists in choice, willing, intention, as before repeatedly shown; and inasmuch as choice, willing, intending, controls the states of the intellect and the outward actions directly, by a law of necessity, and by the same law controls the feelings or states of the sensibility indirectly, it follows that certain states of the intellect and of the sensibility, and also certain outward actions, must be implied in the existence of the love which the law of God requires. I say, implied in it, not as making a part of it, but as necessarily resulting from it. The thoughts, opinions, judgments, feelings, and outward actions must be moulded and modified by the state of the heart or will.

Here it is important to remark, that, in common language, the same word is often used to express either an action or attitude of the will, or a state of the sensibility, or both. This is true of all the terms that represent what are called the Christian graces or virtues, or those various modifications of virtue of which Christians are conscious, and which appear in their life and temper. Of this truth we shall be constantly reminded as we proceed in our investigations, for we shall find illustrations of it at every step of our progress.

Before I proceed to point out the attributes of benevolence, it is important to remark, that all the moral attributes of God and of all holy beings, are only attributes of benevolence. Benevolence is a term that comprehensively expresses them all. God is love. This term expresses comprehensively God's whole moral character. This love, as we have repeatedly seen, is benevolence. Benevolence is good-willing, or the choice of the highest good of God and the universe, as an end. But from this comprehensive statement, accurate though it be, we are apt to receive very inadequate conceptions of what really belongs to, as implied in, benevolence. To say that love is the fulfilling of the whole law; that benevolence is the whole of true religion; that the whole duty of man to God and his neighbour, is expressed in one word, love--these statements, though true, are so comprehensive as to need with all minds much amplification and explanation. Many things are implied in love or benevolence. By this is intended, that benevolence needs to be viewed under various aspects and in various relations, and its nature considered in the various relations in which it is called to act. Benevolence is an ultimate intention, or the choice of an ultimate end. But if we suppose that this is all that is implied in benevolence, we shall egregiously err. Unless we inquire into the nature of the end which benevolence chooses, and the means by which it seeks to accomplish that end, we shall understand but little of the import of the word benevolence. Benevolence has many attributes or characteristics. These must all harmonize in the selection of its end, and in its efforts to realize it. By this is intended that benevolence is not a blind, but the most intelligent, choice. It is the choice of the best possible end in obedience to the demand of the reason and of God, and implies the choice of the best possible means to secure this end. Both the end and the means are chosen in obedience to the law of God, and of reason. An attribute is a permanent quality of a thing. The attributes of benevolence are those permanent qualities which belong to its very nature. Benevolence is not blind, but intelligent choice. It is the choice of the highest well-being of moral agents. It seeks this end by means suited to the nature of moral agents. Hence wisdom, justice, mercy, truth, holiness, and many other attributes, as we shall see, are essential elements, or attributes, of benevolence. To understand what true benevolence is, we must inquire into its attributes. Not everything that is called love has at all the nature of benevolence. Nor has all that is called benevolence any title to that appellation. There are various kinds of love. Natural affection is called love. The affection that exists between the sexes is also called love. Our preference of certain kinds of diet is called love. Hence we say we love fruit, vegetables, meat, milk, &c. Benevolence is also called love, and is the kind of love, beyond all question, required by the law of God. But there is more than one state of mind that is called benevolence. There is a constitutional or phrenological benevolence, which is often mistaken for, and confounded with, the benevolence which constitutes virtue. This so called benevolence is in truth only an imposing form of selfishness; nevertheless it is called benevolence. Many of its manifestations are like those of true benevolence. Care, therefore, should be taken, in giving religious instruction, to distinguish accurately between them. Benevolence, let it be remembered, is the obedience of the will to the law of reason and of God. It is willing good as an end, for its own sake, and not to gratify self. Selfishness consists in the obedience of the will to the impulses of the sensibility. It is a spirit of self-gratification. The will seeks to gratify the desires and propensities, for the pleasure of the gratification. Self-gratification is sought as an end, and as the supreme end. It is preferred to the claims of God and the good of being. Phrenological, or constitutional benevolence, is only obedience to the impulse of the sensibility--a yielding to a feeling of compassion. It is only an effort to gratify a desire. It is, therefore, as really selfishness, as is an effort to gratify any constitutional desire whatever.

It is impossible to get a just idea of what constitutes obedience to the divine law, and what is implied in it, without considering attentively the various attributes or aspects of benevolence, properly so called. Upon this discussion we are about to enter. But before I commence the enumeration and definition of these attributes, it is important further to remark, that the moral attributes of God, as revealed in his works, providence, and word, throw much light upon the subject before us. Also the many precepts of the Bible, and the developements of benevolence therein revealed, will assist us much, as we proceed in our inquiries upon this important subject. As the Bible expressly affirms that love comprehends the whole character of God--that it is the whole that the law requires of man--that the end of the commandment is charity or love--we may be assured that every form of true virtue is only a modification of love or benevolence, that is, that every state of mind required by the Bible, and recognized as virtue, is, in its last analysis, resolvable into love or benevolence. In other words, every virtue is only benevolence viewed under certain aspects, or in certain relations. In other words still, it is only one of the elements, peculiarities, characteristics, or attributes of benevolence. This is true of God's moral attributes. They are, as has been said, only attributes of benevolence. They are only the essential qualities that belong to the very nature of benevolence which are manifested and brought into activity wherever benevolence is brought into certain circumstances and relations. Benevolence is just, merciful, &c. Such is its nature, that in appropriate circumstances these qualities, together with many others, will manifest themselves in executive acts.* This is and must be true of every holy being.

*A recent writer has spoken contemptuously of "being," as he calls it, "sophisticated into believing, or rather saying, that faith is love, justice is love, humility is love." I would earnestly recommend to that and kindred writers, the study of the thirteenth chapter of the first Corinthians. They will there find a specimen of what they please to call sophistry. If it is "sophistry," or "excessive generalization," as other writers seem to regard it, to represent love as possessing the attributes which comprise the various forms of virtue, it surely is the "generalization" and "sophistry" of inspiration. Generalization was the great peculiarity of Christ's preaching. His epitomizing all the commandments of God, and resolving the whole of obedience into love, is an illustration of this, and in no other way could he have exposed the delusion of those who obeyed the letter, but overlooked and outraged the spirit of the divine commandments. The same was true of the apostles, and so it is of every preacher of the gospel. Every outward act is only the expression of an inward voluntary state of mind. To understand ourselves or others, we must conceive clearly of the true spirit of moral law, and of heart-obedience to it.

II. I will now proceed to point out the attributes of that love which constitutes obedience to the law of God.

As I proceed I will call attention to the states of the intellect and of the sensibility, and also to the courses of outward conduct implied in the existence of this love in any mind--implied in its existence as necessarily resulting from it by the law of cause and effect. These attributes are--

If it consist in choice, if it be a phenomenon of the will, it must control the thoughts and states of the sensibility, as well as the outward action. This love, then, not only consists in a state of consecration to God and the universe, but also implies deep emotions of love to God and man. Though a phenomenon of the will, it implies the existence of all those feelings of love and affection to God and man, that necessarily result from the consecration of the heart or will to their highest well-being. It also implies all that outward course of life that necessarily flows from a state of will consecrated to this end. Let it be borne in mind, that where these feelings do not arise in the sensibility, and where this course of life is not, there the true love or voluntary consecration to God and the universe required by the law, is not. Those follow from this by a law of necessity. Those, that is, feelings or emotions of love, and a correct outward life, may exist without this voluntary love, as I shall have occasion to show in its proper place; but this love cannot exist without those, as they follow from it by a law of necessity. These emotions will vary in their strength, as constitution and circumstances vary, but exist they must, in some sensible degree, whenever the will is in a benevolent attitude.
Because voluntariness, liberty, and intelligence are natural attributes of this love, therefore, the following are its moral attributes.
In the exercise of this love or choice, the mind is conscious of uprightness, or of being conformed to moral law or moral obligation. In other words, it is conscious of being virtuous or holy; of being like God; of loving what ought to be loved, and of consecration to the right end.

Because this choice is in accordance with the demands of the intellect, therefore, the mind in its exercise, is conscious of the approbation of that power of the intellect which we call conscience. The conscience must approve this love, choice, or intention.

Again: Because the conscience approves of this choice, therefore, there is and must be a corresponding state of the sensibility. There is and must be in the sensibility a feeling of happiness or satisfaction, a feeling of complacency or delight in the love that is in the heart or will. This love, then, always produces self-approbation in the conscience, and a felt satisfaction in the sensibility, and these feelings are often very acute and joyous, insomuch that the soul, in the exercise of this love of the heart, is sometimes led to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. This state of mind does not always and necessarily amount to joy. Much depends in this respect on the clearness of the intellectual views, upon the state of the sensibility, and upon the manifestation of Divine approbation to the soul. But where peace, or approbation of conscience, and consequently a peaceful state of the sensibility are not, this love is not. They are connected with it by a law of necessity, and must of course appear on the field of consciousness where this love exists. These, then, are implied in the love that constitutes obedience to the law of God. Conscious peace of mind, and conscious joy in God must be where true love to God exists.
As disinterestedness is an attribute of this love it does not seek its own, but the good of others. "Charity (love) seeketh not her own." It grasps in its comprehensive embrace the good of being in general, and of course, of necessity, secures a corresponding outward life and inward feeling. The intellect will be employed in devising ways and means for the promotion of its end. The sensibility will be tremblingly alive to the good of all and of each, will rejoice in the good of others as in its own, and will grieve at the misery of others as in its own. It "will rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep." There will not, cannot be envy at the prosperity of others, but unfeigned joy, joy as real and often as exquisite as in its own prosperity. Benevolence enjoys everybody's good things, while selfishness is too envious at the good things of others even to enjoy its own. There is a Divine economy in benevolence. Each benevolent soul not only enjoys his own good things, but also enjoys the good things of all others so far as he knows their happiness. He drinks at the river of God's pleasure. He not only rejoices in doing good to others, but also in beholding their enjoyment of good things. He joys in God's joy and in the joy of angels and of saints. He also rejoices in the good things of all sentient existences. He is happy in beholding the pleasure of the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea. He sympathizes with all joy and all suffering known to him; nor is his sympathy with the suffering of others a feeling of unmingled pain. It is a real luxury to sympathize in the woes of others. He would not be without this sympathy. It so accords with his sense of propriety and fitness, that, mingled with the painful emotion, there is a sweet feeling of self-approbation; so that a benevolent sympathy with the woes of others is by no means inconsistent with happiness, and with perfect happiness. God has this sympathy. He often expresses and otherwise manifests it. There is, indeed, a mysterious and an exquisite luxury in sharing the woes of others. God and angels, and all holy beings know what it is. Where this result of love is not manifested, there love itself is not. Envy at the prosperity, influence, or good of others, the absence of sensible joy in view of the good enjoyed by others, and of sympathy with the sufferings of others, prove conclusively that this love does not exist. There is an expansiveness, an ampleness of embrace, a universality, and a Divine disinterestedness in this love, that necessarily manifests itself in the liberal devising of liberal things for Zion, and in the copious outpourings of the floods of sympathetic feeling, both in joys and sorrows, when suitable occasions present themselves before the mind.
But here it is important to repeat the remark, that the economy of benevolence demands, that where two interests are, in themselves considered, of equal value, in order to secure the greatest amount of good, each one should bestow his efforts where they can be bestowed to the greatest advantage. For example: every man sustains such relations that he can accomplish more good by seeking to promote the interest and happiness of certain persons rather than of others: his family, his kindred, his companions, his immediate neighbours, and those to whom, in the providence of God, he sustains such relations as to give him access to them, and influence over them. It is not unreasonable, it is not partial, but reasonable and impartial, to bestow our efforts more directly upon them. Therefore, while benevolence regards every interest according to its relative value, it reasonably puts forth its efforts in the direction where there is a prospect of accomplishing the most good. This, I say, is not partiality, but impartiality; for, be it understood, it is not the particular persons to whom good can be done, but the amount of good that can be accomplished, that directs the efforts of benevolence. It is not because my family is my own, nor because their well-being is, of course, more valuable in itself than that of my neighbours' families, but because my relations afford me higher facilities for doing them good, I am under particular obligation to aim first at promoting their good. Hence the apostle says: "If any man provide not for his own, especially for those of his own household, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." Strictly speaking, benevolence esteems every known good according to its intrinsic and relative value; but practically treats every interest according to the perceived probability of securing on the whole the highest amount of good. This is a truth of great practical importance. It is developed in the experience and observation of every day and hour. It is manifest in the conduct of God and of Christ, of apostles and martyrs. It is everywhere assumed in the precepts of the Bible, and everywhere manifested in the history of benevolent effort. Let it be understood, then, that impartiality, as an attribute of benevolence, does not imply that its effort to do good will not be modified by relations and circumstances. But, on the contrary, this attribute implies, that the efforts to secure the great end of benevolence, to wit, the greatest amount of good to God and the universe, will be modified by those relations and circumstances that afford the highest advantages for doing good.

The impartiality of benevolence causes it always to lay supreme stress upon God's interests, because his well-being is of infinite value, and of course benevolence must be supreme to him. Benevolence, being impartial love, of course accounts God's interests and well-being, as of infinitely greater value than the aggregate of all other interests. Benevolence regards our neighbour's interests as our own, simply because they are in their intrinsic value as our own. Benevolence, therefore, is always supreme to God and equal to man.
It is easy to see that universality must be a modification or attribute of true benevolence. It consists in good-willing, that is, in choosing the highest good of being as such, and for its own sake. Of course it must, to be consistent with itself, seek the good of all and of each, so far as the good of each is consistent with the greatest good upon the whole. Benevolence not only wills and seeks the good of moral beings, but also the good of every sentient existence, from the minutest animalcule to the highest order of beings. It of course produces a state of the sensibility tremblingly alive to all happiness and to all pain. It is pained at the agony of an insect, and rejoices in its joy. God does this, and all holy beings do this. Where this sympathy with the joys and sorrows of universal being is not, there benevolence is not. Observe, good is its end; where this is promoted by the proper means, the feelings are gratified. Where evil is witnessed, the benevolent spirit deeply and necessarily sympathizes.

This lecture was typed in by Spencer Rawlins.




Efficiency, therefore, is an attribute of benevolent intention. It must, it will, it does energize in God, in angels, in saints on earth and in heaven. It was this attribute of benevolence, that led God to give his only begotten Son, and that led the Son to give himself, "that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

If love is efficient in producing outward action, and efficient in producing inward feelings; it is efficient to wake up the intellect, and set the world of thought in action to devise ways and means for realizing its end. It wields all the infinite natural attributes of God. It is the mainspring that moves all heaven. It is the mighty power that is heaving the mass of mind, and rocking the moral world like a smothered volcano. Look to the heavens above. It was benevolence that hung them out. It is benevolence that sustains those mighty rolling orbs in their courses. It was good-will endeavouring to realize its end that at first put forth creative power. The same power, for the same reason, still energizes, and will continue to energize for the realization of its end, so long as God is benevolent. And O! what a glorious thought, that infinite benevolence is wielding, and will for ever wield, infinite natural attributes for the promotion of good. No mind but an infinite one can begin to conceive of the amount of good that Jehovah will secure. O blessed, glorious thought! But it is, it must be a reality, as surely as God and the universe exist. It is no vain imagination; it is one of the most certain, as well as the most glorious, truths in the universe. Mountains of granite are but vapour in comparison with it. But will the truly benevolent on earth and in heaven sympathize with God? The power that energizes in him, energizes in them. One principle animates and moves them all, and that principle is love, good-will to universal being. Well may our souls cry out, Amen, go on, God-speed the work; let this mighty power heave and wield universal mind, until all the ills of earth shall be put away, and until all that can be made holy are clothed in the garments of everlasting gladness.

Since benevolence is necessarily, from its very nature, active and efficient in putting forth efforts to secure its end, and since its end is the highest good of being, it follows that all who are truly religious will, and must, from the very nature of true religion, be active in endeavouring to promote the good of being. While effort is possible to a Christian, it is as natural to him as his breath. He has within him the very main-spring of activity, a heart set on the promotion of the highest good of universal being. While he has life and activity at all, it will, and it must, be directed to this end. Let this never be forgotten. An idle, an inactive, inefficient Christian is a misnomer. Religion is an essentially active principle, and when and while it exists, it must exercise and manifest itself. It is not merely good desire, but it is good-willing. Men may have desires, and hope and live on them, without making efforts to realize their desires. They may desire without action. If their will is active, their life must be. If they really choose an ultimate end, this choice must manifest itself. The sinner does and must manifest his selfish choice, and so likewise must the saint manifest his benevolence.
Repentance will, and must, secure a God-justifying and self-condemning spirit. It will take all shame and all blame to self, and fully acquit God of blame. This deep self-abasement is always and necessarily a characteristic of the true penitent; where this is not, true repentance is not.

It should, however, be here remarked, that feelings of self-loathing, of self-abasement, and of abhorrence of sin, depend upon the view which the intelligence gains of the nature, and guilt, and aggravation of sin. In a sensible and manifested degree, it will always exist when the will has honestly turned or repented; but this feeling I have described gains strength as the soul, from time to time, gains a deeper insight into the nature, guilt, and tendencies of sin. It is probable that repentance, as an emotion, will always gain strength, not only in this world but in heaven. Can it be that the saints can in heaven reflect upon their past abuse of the Saviour, and not feel their sorrow stirred within them? Nor will this diminish their happiness. Godly sorrow is not unhappiness. There is a luxury in the exercise. Remorse cannot be known in heaven, but godly sorrow, I think, must exist among the saints for ever. However this may be in heaven, it certainly is implied in repentance on earth. This attribute must, and will, secure an outward life conformed to the law of love. There may be an outward morality without benevolence, but there cannot be benevolence without corresponding purity of outward life.
Faith, then, must certainly be a phenomenon of the will, and must be a modification, or attribute, of benevolence. It is good-will or benevolence considered in its relations to the truth of God. It is good-will to God, manifested by confiding in his veracity and faithfulness. It cannot be too distinctly borne in mind, that every modification or phase of virtue is only benevolence, existing in certain relations, or good will to God and the universe, manifesting itself in the various circumstances and relations in which it is called to act.
This term also expresses both a state of the intelligence and of the sensibility. Moral agents are so constituted, that they necessarily approve of moral worth or excellence; and when even sinners behold right character, or moral goodness, they are compelled to respect and approve it, by a law of their intelligence. This they not unfrequently regard as evidence of goodness in themselves. But this is doubtless just as common in hell as is it on earth. The veriest sinners on earth or in hell, have, by the unalterable constitution of their nature, the necessity imposed upon them, of paying intellectual homage to moral excellence. When a moral agent is intensely contemplating moral excellence, and his intellectual approbation is emphatically pronounced, the natural, and often the necessary result, is a corresponding feeling of complacency or delight in the sensibility. But this being altogether an involuntary state of mind, has no moral character. Complacency, as a phenomenon of will, consists in willing the highest actual blessedness of the holy being in particular, as a good in itself, and upon condition of his moral excellence.

This attribute of benevolence is the cause of a complacent state of the sensibility. It is true, that feelings of complacency may exist, when complacency of will does not exist. But complacency of feeling surely will exist, when complacency of will exists. Complacency of will implies complacency of conscience, or the approbation of the intelligence. When there is a complacency of intelligence and of will, there must follow, of course, complacency of the sensibility.

It is highly worthy of observation here, that this complacency of feeling is that which is generally termed love to God and to the saints, in the common language of Christians, and often in the popular language of the Bible. It is a vivid and pleasant state of the sensibility, and very noticeable by consciousness, of course. Indeed, it is perhaps the general usage now to call this phenomenon of the sensibility, love, and for want of just discrimination, to speak of it as constituting religion. Many seem to suppose that this feeling of delight in, and fondness for, God, is the love required by the moral law. They are conscious of not being voluntary in it, as well they may be. They judge of their religious state, not by the end for which they live, that is, by their choice or intention, but by their emotions. If they find themselves strongly exercised with emotions of love to God, they look upon themselves as in a state well-pleasing to God. But if their feelings or emotions of love are not active, they of course judge themselves to have little or no religion. It is remarkable to what extent religion is regarded as a phenomenon of the sensibility, and as consisting in mere feelings. So common is it, indeed, that almost uniformly, when professed Christians speak of their religion, they speak of their feelings, or the state of their sensibility, instead of speaking of their conscious consecration to God, and the good of being.

It is also somewhat common for them to speak of their views of Christ, and of truth, in a manner that shows, that they regard the states of the intellect as constituting a part, at least, of their religion. It is of great importance that just views should prevail among Christians upon this momentous subject. Virtue, or religion, as has been repeatedly said, must be a phenomenon of the will. The attribute of benevolence which we are considering, that is, complacency of will in God, is the most common light in which the scriptures present it, and also the most common form in which it lies revealed on the field of consciousness. The scriptures often assign the goodness of God as a reason for loving him, and Christians are conscious of having much regard to his goodness in their love to him; I mean in their good-will to him. They will good to him, and ascribe all praise and glory to him, upon the condition that he deserves it. Of this they are conscious. Now, as was shown in a former lecture, in their love or good will to God, they do not regard his goodness as the fundamental reason for willing good to him. Although his goodness is that, which, at the time, most strongly impresses their minds, yet it must be that the intrinsic value of his well-being is assumed, and had in view by them, or they would no sooner will good than evil to him. In willing his good they must assume its intrinsic value to him, as the fundamental reason for willing it; and his goodness as a secondary reason or condition; but they are conscious of being much influenced in willing his good in particular, by a regard to his goodness. Should you ask the Christian why he loved God, or why he exercised good-will to him, he would probably reply, it is because God is good. But, suppose he should be further asked, why he willed good rather than evil to God; he would say, because good is good or valuable to him. Or, if he returned the same answer as before, to wit, because God is good, he would give this answer, only because he could think it impossible for any one not to assume and to know, that good is willed instead of evil, because of its intrinsic value. The fact is, the intrinsic value of well-being is necessarily taken along with the mind, and always assumed by it, as a first truth. When a virtuous being is perceived, this first truth being spontaneously and necessarily assumed, the mind thinks only of the secondary reason or condition, or the virtue of the being in willing good to him.

The philosophy of the heart's complacency in God may be illustrated by many familiar examples. For instance: the law of causality is a first truth. Every one knows it. Every one assumes it, and must assume it. No one ever did or can practically deny it. Now, I have some important end to accomplish. In looking around for means to accomplish my end, I discover a certain means which I am sure will accomplish it. It is the tendency of this to accomplish my end, that my mind is principally affected with at the time. Should I be asked, why I choose this, I should naturally answer, because of its utility or tendency; and I should be conscious that this reason was upon the field of consciousness. But it is perfectly plain, that the fundamental reason for this choice, and one which was assumed, and had in fact the prime and fundamental influence in producing the choice, was the intrinsic value of the end to which the thing chosen sustained the relation of a means. Take another illustration: That happiness is intrinsically valuable, is a first truth. Every body knows and assumes it as such. Now, I behold a virtuous character; assuming the first truth, that happiness is intrinsically valuable, I affirm irresistibly that he deserves happiness, and that it is my duty to will his happiness in particular. Now, in this case, the affirmation, that he deserves happiness, and that I ought to will it, is based upon the assumption that happiness is intrinsically valuable. The thing with which I am immediately conscious of being affected, and which necessitated the affirmation of the obligation to will his particular good, and which induced me to will it, was the perception of his goodness or desert of happiness. Nevertheless, it is certain that I did assume, and was fundamentally influenced, both in my affirmation of obligation, and in my choice, by the first truth, that happiness is intrinsically valuable. I assumed it, and was influenced by it, though unconscious of it. And this is generally true of first truths. They are so universally and so necessarily assumed in practice, that we lose the direct consciousness of being influenced by them. Myriads of illustrations of this are arising all around us. We do really love God, that is, exercise good-will to him. Of this we are strongly conscious. We are also conscious of willing his actual blessedness upon conditions that he is good. This reason we naturally assign to ourselves and to others. But in this we may overlook the fact, that there is still another, and a deeper, and a more fundamental reason assumed for willing his good, to wit, its intrinsic value. And this reason is so fundamental, that we should irresistibly affirm our obligation to will his good, upon the bare perception of his susceptibility of happiness, wholly irrespective of his character.*

*Let the foregoing be read in connection with the lecture on the Moral Excellence of God being the Foundation of Obligation.

Before I dismiss this subject, I must advert again to the subject of complacent love, as a phenomenon of the sensibility, and also as a phenomenon of the intellect. If I mistake not, there are sad mistakes, and gross and ruinous delusions, entertained by many upon this subject. The intellect, of necessity, perfectly approves of the character of God where it is apprehended. The intellect is so correlated to the sensibility, that, where it perceives in a strong light the divine excellence, or the excellence of the divine law, the sensibility is affected by the perception of the intellect, as a thing of course and of necessity, so that emotions of complacency and delight in the law, and in the divine character, may and often do glow and burn in the sensibility, while the will or heart is unaffected. The will remains in a selfish choice, while the intellect and the sensibility are strongly impressed with the perception of the Divine excellence. This state of the intellect and the sensibility are, no doubt, often mistaken for true religion. We have undoubted illustrations of this in the Bible, and similar cases of it in common life. "Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice, they take delight in approaching to God." Isaiah lviii. 2. "And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not." Ezek. xxxiii. 32.

Nothing is of greater importance, than for ever to understand, that religion is always and necessarily a phenomenon of the will; that it always and necessarily produces outward action and inward feeling; that, on account of the correlation of the intellect and sensibility, almost any and every variety of feeling may exist in the mind, as produced by the perceptions of the intellect, whatever the state of the will may be; that unless we are conscious of good-will, or of consecration to God and the good of being--unless we are conscious of living for this end, it avails us nothing, whatever our views and feelings may be.

And also, it behoves us to consider that, although these views and feelings may exist while the heart is wrong, they will certainly exist when the heart is right; that there may be feeling, and deep feeling, when the heart is in a selfish attitude, yet, that there will and must be deep emotion and strenuous action, when the heart is right. Let it be remembered, that complacency, as a phenomenon of the will, is always a striking characteristic of true love to God; that the mind is affected and consciously influenced, in willing the actual and infinite blessedness of God, by a regard to his goodness. The goodness of God is not, as has been repeatedly shown, the fundamental reason for the good will, but it is one reason or a condition, both of the possibility of willing, and of the obligation to will, his blessedness in particular. It assigns to itself and to others, his goodness as the reason for willing his good, rather than the intrinsic value of good; because this last is so universally, and so necessarily assumed, that it thinks not of mentioning it, taking it always for granted, that this will, and must be understood.

This lecture was typed in by Jim Boyd.

LECTURE XIX. Back to Top



This attribute is simply benevolence contemplated in its relations to sin. This attribute certainly is implied in the very essence and nature of benevolence. Benevolence is good-willing, or willing the highest good of being as an end. Now there is nothing in the universe more destructive of this good than sin. Benevolence cannot do otherwise than be for ever opposed to sin, as that abominable thing which it necessarily hates. It is absurd and a contradiction to affirm, that benevolence is not opposed to sin. God is love or benevolence. He must, therefore, be the unalterable opponent of sin--of all sin, in every form and degree.

But there is a state, both of the intellect and of the sensibility, that is often mistaken for the opposition of the will to sin. Opposition to all sin is, and must be, a phenomenon of the will, and on that ground alone it becomes virtue. But it often exists also as a phenomenon of the intellect, and likewise of the sensibility. The intellect cannot contemplate sin without disapprobation. This disapprobation is often mistaken for opposition of heart, or of will. When the intellect strongly disapproves of, and denounces sin, there is naturally and necessarily a corresponding feeling of opposition to it in the sensibility, and emotion of loathing, of hatred, of abhorrence. This is often mistaken for opposition of the will, or heart. This is manifest from the fact, that often the most notorious sinners manifest strong indignation in view of oppression, injustice, falsehood, and many other forms of sin. This phenomenon of the sensibility and of the intellect, as I said, is often mistaken for a virtuous opposition to sin, which it cannot be unless it involve an act of the will.

But let it be remembered, that virtuous opposition to sin, is a characteristic of love to God and man, or of benevolence. This opposition to sin cannot possibly co-exist with any degree of sin in the heart. That is, this opposition cannot co-exist with a sinful choice. The will cannot, at the same time, be opposed to sin and commit sin. This is impossible, and the supposition involves a contradiction. Opposition to sin as a phenomenon of the intellect, or of the sensibility, may exist; in other words, the intellect may strongly disapprove of sin, and the sensibility may feel strongly opposed to certain forms of it, while, at the same time, the will may cleave to self-indulgence in other forms. This fact, no doubt, accounts for the common mistake, that we can, at the same time, exercise a virtuous opposition to sin, and still continue to commit it.

Many are, no doubt, labouring under this fatal delusion. They are conscious, not only of an intellectual disapprobation of sin in certain forms, but also, at times, of strong feelings of opposition to it. And yet they are also conscious of continuing to commit it. They, therefore, conclude, that they have a principle of holiness in them, and also a principle of sin, that they are partly holy and partly sinful, at the same time. Their opposition of intellect and of feeling, they suppose to be a holy opposition, when, no doubt, it is just as common in hell, and even more so than it is on earth, for the reason that sin is more naked there than it generally is here.

But now the inquiry may arise, how is it that both the intellect and the sensibility are opposed to it, and yet that it is persevered in? What reason can the mind have for a sinful choice, when urged to it neither by the intellect nor the sensibility? The philosophy of this phenomenon needs explanation. Let us attend to it.

I am a moral agent. My intellect necessarily disapproves of sin. My sensibility is so correlated to my intellect, that it sympathizes with it, or is affected by its perceptions and its judgments. I contemplate sin. I necessarily disapprove of it, and condemn it. This affects my sensibility. I loathe and abhor it. I nevertheless commit it. Now how is this to be accounted for? The usual method is by ascribing it to a depravity in the will itself, a lapsed or corrupted state of the faculty, so that it perversely chooses sin for its own sake. Although disapproved by the intellect, and loathed by the sensibility, yet such, it is said, is the inherent depravity of the will, that it pertinaciously cleaves to sin notwithstanding, and will continue to do so, until that faculty is renewed by the Holy Spirit, and a holy bias or inclination is impressed upon the will itself.

But here is a gross mistake. In order to see the truth upon this subject, it is of indispensable importance to inquire what sin is.

It is admitted on all hands, that selfishness is sin. Comparatively few seem to understand that selfishness is the whole of sin, and that every form of sin may be resolved into selfishness, just as every form of virtue may be resolved into benevolence. It is not my purpose now to show that selfishness is the whole of sin. It is sufficient for the present to take the admission, that selfishness is sin. But what is selfishness? It is the choice of self-gratification as an end. It is the preference of our own gratification to the highest good of universal being. Self-gratification is the supreme end of selfishness. This choice is sinful. That is, the moral quality of this selfish choice is sin. Now, in no case, is or can sin be chosen for its own sake, or as an end. Whenever any thing is chosen to gratify self, it is not chosen because the choice is sinful, but notwithstanding it is sinful. It is not the sinfulness of the choice upon which the choice fixes, as an end, or for its own sake, but it is the gratification to be afforded by the thing chosen. For example: theft is sinful. But the will, in an act of theft, does not aim at and terminate on the sinfulness of theft, but upon the gain or gratification expected from the stolen object. Drunkenness is sinful, but the inebriate does not intend or choose the sinfulness, for its own sake, or as an end. He does not choose strong drink because the choice is sinful, but notwithstanding it is so. We choose the gratification, but not the sin, as an end. To choose the gratification as an end is sinful, but it is not the sin that is the object of choice. Our mother Eve ate the forbidden fruit. This eating was sinful. But the thing that she chose or intended, was not the sinfulness of eating, but the gratification expected from the fruit. It is not, it cannot in any case be true, that sin is chosen as an end, or for its own sake. Sin is only the quality of selfishness. Selfishness is the choice, not of sin as an end, or for its own sake, but of self-gratification; and this choice of self-gratification as an end is sinful. That is, the moral quality of the choice is sin. To say that sin is, or can be, chosen for its own sake, is untrue and absurd. It is the same as saying that a choice can terminate on an element, quality, or attribute, of itself; that the thing chosen is really an element of the choice itself. This is absurd.

But it is said, that sinners are sometimes conscious of choosing sin for its own sake, or because it is sin; that they possess such a malicious state of mind, that they love sin for its own sake; that they "roll sin as a sweet morsel under their tongue;" that "they eat up the sins of God's people as they eat bread;" that is, that they love their own sins and the sins of others, as they do their necessary food, and choose it for that reason, or just as they do their food. That they not only sin themselves with greediness, but also have pleasure in them that do the same. Now all this may be true, yet it does not at all disprove the position which I have taken, namely, that sin never is, and never can be chosen as an end, or for its own sake. Sin may be sought and loved as a means, but never as an end. The choice of food will illustrate this. Food is never chosen as an ultimate end: it never can be so chosen. It is always as a means. It is the gratification, or the utility of it, in some point of view, that constitutes the reason for choosing it. Gratification is always the end for which a selfish man eats. It may not be merely the present pleasure of eating which he alone or principally seeks. But, nevertheless, if a selfish man, he has his own gratification in view as an end. It may be that it is not so much a present, as a remote gratification he has in view. Thus he may choose food to give him health and strength to pursue some distant gratification, the acquisition of wealth, or something else that will gratify him.

It may happen that a sinner may get into a state of rebellion against God and the universe, of so frightful a character, that he shall take pleasure in willing, and in doing, and saying, things that are sinful, just because they are sinful and displeasing to God and to holy beings. But, even in this case, sin is not chosen as an end, but as a means of gratifying this malicious feeling. It is, after all, self-gratification that is chosen as an end, and not sin. Sin is the means, and self-gratification is the end.

Now we are prepared to understand how it is that both the intellect and sensibility can often be opposed to sin, and yet the will cleave to the indulgence. An inebriate is contemplating the moral character of drunkenness. He instantly and necessarily condemns the abomination. His sensibility sympathizes with the intellect. He loathes the sinfulness of drinking strong drink, and himself on account of it. He is ashamed, and were it possible, he would spit in his own face. Now, in this state, it would surely be absurd to suppose that he could choose sin, the sin of drinking, as an end, or for its own sake. This would be choosing it for an impossible reason, and not for no reason. But still he may choose to continue his drink, not because it is sinful, but notwithstanding it is so. For while the intellect condemns the sin of drinking strong drink, and the sensibility loathes the sinfulness of the indulgence, nevertheless there still exists so strong an appetite, not for the sin, but for the liquor, that the will seeks the gratification, notwithstanding the sinfulness of it.

So it is, and so it must be, in every case where sin is committed in the face of the remonstrances of the intellect and the loathing of the sensibility. The sensibility loathes the sinfulness, but more strongly desires the thing the choice of which is sinful. The will in a selfish being yields to the strongest impulse of the sensibility, and the end chosen is, in no case, the sinfulness of the act, but the self-gratification. Those who suppose this opposition of the intellect, or of the sensibility, to be a holy principle, are fatally deluded. It is this kind of opposition to sin, that often manifests itself among wicked men, and that leads them to take credit for goodness or virtue, not an atom of which do they possess. They will not believe themselves to be morally and totally depraved, while they are conscious of so much hostility to sin within them. But they should understand, that this opposition is not of the will, or they could not go on in sin; that it is purely an involuntary state of mind, and has no moral character whatever. Let it be ever remembered, then, that a virtuous opposition to sin is always and necessarily an attribute of benevolence, a phenomenon of the will; and that it is naturally impossible, that this opposition of will should co-exist with the commission of sin.

As this opposition to sin is plainly implied in, and is an essential attribute of, benevolence, or true love to God, it follows, that obedience to the law of God cannot be partial, in the sense that we both love God and sin as the same time.
There is a compassion also which is a phenomenon of the sensibility. It may, and does often exist in the form of an emotion. But this emotion being involuntary, has no moral character in itself. The compassion which is a virtue, and which is required of us as a duty, is a phenomenon of the will, and is of course an attribute of benevolence. Benevolence, as has been often said, is good willing, or willing the highest happiness and well-being of God and the universe for its own sake, or as an end. It is impossible, therefore, from its own nature, that compassion for the miserable should not be one of its attributes. Compassion of will to misery is the choice or wish that it might not exist. Benevolence wills that happiness should exist for its own sake. It must therefore, wish that misery might not exist. This attribute or peculiarity of benevolence consists in wishing the happiness of the miserable. Benevolence, simply considered, is willing the good or happiness of being in general. Compassion of will is a willing particularly that the miserable should be happy.

Compassion of sensibility is simply a felling of pity in view of misery. As has been said, it is not a virtue. It is only a desire, but not willing; consequently does not benefit its object. It is the state of mind of which James speaks:--James ii. 15, 16: "If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body, what doth it profit?" This kind of compassion may evidently co-exist with selfishness. But compassion of heart or will cannot; for it consists in willing the happiness of the miserable for its own sake, and of course impartially. It will, and from its very nature must, deny self to promote its end, whenever it wisely can, that is, when it is seen to be demanded by the highest general good. Circumstances may exist that render it unwise to express this compassion by actually extending relief to the miserable. Such circumstances forbid that God should extend relief to the lost in hell. But for their character and governmental relations, God's compassion would no doubt make immediate effort for their relief.

Many circumstances may exist in which, although compassion would hasten to the relief of its object, yet, on the whole, the misery that exists is regarded as the less of two evils, and therefore, the wisdom of benevolence forbids it to put forth exertions to save its object.

But it is of the last importance to distinguish carefully between compassion, as a phenomenon of the sensibility, or as a mere feeling, and compassion considered as a phenomenon of the will. This, be it remembered, is the only form of virtuous compassion. Many, who, from the laws of their mental constitution, feel quickly and deeply, often take credit to themselves for being compassionate, while they seldom do much for the downtrodden and the miserable. Their compassion is a mere feeling. It says, "Be ye warmed and clothed," but does not that for them which is needful. It is this particular attribute of benevolence that was so conspicuous in the life of Howard, Wilberforce, and many other Christian philanthropists.

It should be said, before I leave the consideration of this attribute, that the will is often influenced by the feeling of compassion. In this case, the mind is no less selfish in seeking to promote the relief and happiness of its object, than it is in any other form of selfishness. In such cases, self-gratification is the end sought, and the relief of the suffering is only a means. Pity is stirred, and the sensibility is deeply pained and excited by the contemplation of misery. The will is influenced by this feeling, and makes efforts to relieve the painful emotion on the one hand, and to gratify the desire to see the sufferer happy on the other. This is only an imposing form of selfishness. We, no doubt, often witness displays of the kind of self-gratification. The happiness of the miserable is not in this case sought as an end, or for its own sake, but as a means of gratifying our own feelings. This is not obedience of will to the law of the intellect, but obedience to the impulse of the sensibility. It is not a rational and intelligent compassion, but just such compassion as we often see mere animals exercise. They will risk, and even lay down, their lives, to give relief to one of their number, or to a man who is in misery. In them this has no moral character. Having no reason, it is not sin for them to obey their sensibility, nay, this is a law of their being. This they cannot but do. For them, then, to seek their own gratification as an end is not sin. But man has reason; he is bound to obey it. He should will and seek the relief and the happiness of the miserable, for its own sake, or for its intrinsic value. When he seeks if for no higher reason than to gratify his feelings, he denies his humanity. He seeks it, not out of regard to the sufferer, but in self-defence, or to relieve his own pain, and to gratify his own desires. This in him is sin.

Many, therefore, who take to themselves much credit for benevolence, are, after all, only in the exercise of this imposing form of selfishness. They take credit for holiness, when their holiness is only sin. What is especially worthy of notice here, is, that this class of persons appear to themselves and others, to be all the more virtuous, by how much more manifestly and exclusively they are led on by the impulse of feeling. They are conscious of feeling deeply, of being most sincere and earnest in obeying their feelings. Every body who knows them can also see, that they feel deeply, and are influenced by the strength of their feelings, rather than by their intellect. Now, so gross is the darkness of most persons upon this subject, that they award praise to themselves and to others, just in proportion as they are sure, that they are actuated by the depth of their feelings, rather than by their sober judgment.

But I must not leave this subject without observing, that when compassion exists as a phenomenon of the will, it will certainly also exist as a feeling of the sensibility. A man of a compassionate heart will also be a man of compassionate sensibility. He will feel and he will act. Nevertheless, his actions will not be the effect of his feelings, but will be the result of his sober judgment. Three classes of persons suppose themselves, and are generally supposed by others, to be truly compassionate. The one class exhibit much feeling of compassion; but their compassion does not influence their will, hence they do not act for the relief of suffering. These content themselves with mere desires and tears. They say, Be ye warmed and clothed, but give not the needed relief. Another class feel deeply, and give up to their feelings. Of course they are active and energetic in the relief of suffering. But being governed by feeling, instead of being influenced by their intellect, they are not virtuous, but selfish. Their compassion is only an imposing form of selfishness. A third class feel deeply, but are not governed by blind impulses of feeling. They take a rational view of the subject, act wisely and energetically. They obey their reason. Their feelings do not lead them, neither do they seek to gratify their feelings. But these last are truly virtuous, and altogether the most happy of the three. Their feelings are all the more gratified by how much less they aim at the gratification. They obey their intellect, and, therefore, have the double satisfaction of the applause of conscience, while their feelings are also fully gratified by seeing their compassionate desire accomplished.

This lecture was typed in by Mike and Julie Clark.

LECTURE XX. Back to Top



Mercy, considered as a phenomenon of the will, is a disposition to pardon crime. Such is the nature of benevolence, that it will seek the good even of those who deserve evil, when this can be wisely done. It is "ready to forgive," to seek the good of the evil and unthankful, and to pardon when there is repentance. It is good-will viewed in relation to one who deserves punishment. Mercy, considered as a feeling or phenomenon of the sensibility, is a desire for the pardon or good of one who deserves punishment. It is only a feeling, a desire; of course it is involuntary, and has, in itself, no moral character.

Mercy will, of course, manifest itself in action, and in effort to pardon, or to procure a pardon, unless the attribute of wisdom prevent. It may be unwise to pardon, or to seek the pardon of a guilty one. In such cases, as all the attributes of benevolence must necessarily harmonize, no effort will be made to realize its end.

It was this attribute of benevolence, modified and limited in its exercise by wisdom and justice, that energized in providing the means, and in opening the way, for the pardon of our guilty race.

As wisdom and justice are also attributes of benevolence, mercy can never manifest itself by efforts to secure its end, except in a manner and upon conditions that do not set aside justice and wisdom. No one attribute of benevolence is or can be exercised at the expense of another, or in opposition to it. The moral attributes of God, as has been said, are only attributes of benevolence, for benevolence comprehends and expresses the whole of them. From the term benevolence we learn, that the end upon which it fixes is good. And we must infer, too, from the term itself, that the means are unobjectionable; because it is absurd to suppose that good would be chosen because it is good, and yet that the mind that makes this choice should not hesitate to use objectionable and injurious means to obtain its end. This would be a contradiction, to will good for its own sake, or out of regard to its intrinsic value, and then choose injurious means to accomplish this end. This cannot be. The mind that can fix upon the highest well-being of God and the universe as an end, can never consent to use efforts for the accomplishment of this end, that are seen to be inconsistent with it, that is, that tend to prevent the highest good of being.

Mercy, I have said, is the readiness of benevolence to pardon the guilty. But this attribute cannot go out in exercise but upon conditions that consist with the other attributes of benevolence. Mercy viewed by itself would pardon without repentance or condition; would pardon without reference to public justice. But viewed in connection with the other attributes of benevolence, we learn that, although a real attribute of benevolence, yet it is not and cannot be exercised, without the fulfilment of those conditions that will secure the consent of all the other attributes of benevolence. This truth is beautifully taught and illustrated in the doctrine and fact of atonement, as we shall see. Indeed, without consideration of the various attributes of benevolence, we are necessarily all in the dark, and in confusion, in respect to the character and government of God; the spirit and meaning of his law; the spirit and meaning of the gospel; our own spiritual state, and the developements of character around us. Without an acquaintance with the attributes of love or benevolence, we shall not fail to be perplexed--to find apparent discrepancies in the Bible and in the divine administration--and in the manifestation of Christian character, both as revealed in the Bible, and as exhibited in common life. For example: how universalists have stumbled for want of consideration upon the subject! God is love! Well, without considering the attributes of this love, they infer that if God is love, he cannot hate sin and sinners. If he is merciful, he cannot punish sinners in hell, &c. Unitarians have stumbled in the same way. God is merciful, that is, disposed to pardon sin. Well, then, what need of an atonement? If merciful, he can and will pardon upon repentance without atonement. But we may inquire, if he is merciful, why not pardon without repentance? If his mercy alone is to be taken in to view, that is, simply a disposition to pardon, that by itself would not wait for repentance. But if repentance is and must be, a condition of the exercise of mercy, may there not be, nay, must there not be, other conditions of its exercise? If wisdom and public justice are also attributes of benevolence, and conditionate the exercise of mercy, and forbid that it should be exercised but upon condition of repentance, why may they not, nay, why must they not, equally conditionate its exercise upon such a satisfaction of public justice, as would secure as full and as deep a respect for the law, as the execution of its penalty would do? In other words, if wisdom and justice be attributes of benevolence, and conditionate the exercise of mercy upon repentance, why may and must they not also conditionate its exercise upon the fact of an atonement? As mercy is an attribute of benevolence, it will naturally and inevitably direct the attention of the intellect to devising ways and means to render the exercise of mercy consistent with the other attributes of benevolence. It will employ the intelligence in devising means to secure the repentance of the sinner, and to remove all the obstacles out of the way of its free and full exercise. It will also secure the state of feeling which is also called mercy, or compassion. Hence it is certain, that mercy will secure efforts to procure the repentance and pardon of sinners. It will secure a deep yearning in the sensibility over them, and energetic action to accomplish its end, that is, to secure their repentance and pardon. This attribute of benevolence led the Father to give his only-begotten and well-beloved Son, and it led the Son to give himself to die, to secure the repentance and pardon of sinners. It is this attribute of benevolence that leads the Holy Spirit to make such mighty and protracted efforts to secure the repentance of sinners. It is also this attribute that energized the prophets, and apostles, and martyrs, and in saints of every age, to secure the conversion of the lost in sin. It is an amiable attribute. All its sympathies are sweet, and tender, and kind as heaven.
This term also expresses a state or phenomenon of the sensibility. As an attribute of benevolence, it is the opposite of mercy, when viewed in its relations to crime. It consists in a disposition to treat every moral agent according to his intrinsic desert or merit. In its relations to crime, the criminal, and the public, it consists in a tendency to punish according to law. Mercy would pardon--justice would punish for the public good.

Justice, as a feeling or phenomenon of the sensibility, is a feeling that the guilty deserves punishment, and a desire that he may be punished. This is an involuntary feeling, and has no moral character. It is often strongly excited, and is frequently the cause of mobs and popular commotions. When it takes the control of the will, as it often does with sinners, it leads to what is popularly called lynching, and a resort to those summary methods of executing vengeance which are so appalling.

I have said that the mere desire has no moral character. But when the will is governed by this desire, and yields itself up to seek its gratification, this state of will is selfishness under one of its most odious and frightful forms. Under the providence of God, however, this form of selfishness, like every other in its turn, is overruled for good, like earthquakes, tornadoes, pestilence, and war, to purify the moral elements of society, and scourge away those moral nuisances with which communities are sometimes infested. Even war itself is often but an instance and an illustration of this.

Justice, as an attribute of benevolence, is virtue, and exhibits itself in the execution of the penalties of law, and in support of public order, and in various other ways for the well-being of mankind.

There are several modifications of this attribute. That is, it may and must be viewed under various aspects, and in various relations. One of these is public justice. This is a regard to the public interests, and secures a due administration of law for the public good. It will in no case suffer the execution of the penalty to be set aside, unless something be done to support the authority of the law and of the lawgiver. It also secures the due administration of rewards, and looks narrowly after the public interests, always insisting that the greater interest shall prevail over the lesser; that private interest shall never set aside or prejudice a public one of greater value. Public justice is modified in its exercise by the attribute of mercy. It conditionates the exercise of mercy, and mercy conditionates its exercise. Mercy cannot, consistently with this attribute, extend a pardon but upon conditions of repentance, and an equivalent being rendered to the government. So, on the other hand, justice is conditionated by mercy, and cannot, consistently with that attribute, proceed to take vengeance when the highest good does not require it, and when punishment can be dispensed with without public loss. Thus these attributes mutually limit each other's exercise, and render the whole character of benevolence perfect, symmetrical, and heavenly.

Justice is reckoned among the sterner attributes of benevolence; but it is indispensable to the filling up of the entire circle of moral perfections. Although solemn and awful, and sometimes inexpressibly terrific in its exercise, it is nevertheless one of the glorious modifications and manifestations of benevolence. Benevolence without justice would be anything but morally lovely and perfect. Nay, it could not be benevolence. This attribute of benevolence appears conspicuous in the character of God as revealed in his law, in his gospel, and sometimes as indicated most impressively by his providence.

It is also conspicuous in the history of inspired men. The Psalms abound with expressions of this attribute. We find many prayers for the punishment of the wicked. Samuel hewed Agag in pieces; and David's writings abound in expressions that show, that this attribute was strongly developed in his mind; and the circumstances under which he was placed, often rendered it proper to express and manifest in various ways the spirit of this attribute. Many have stumbled at such prayers, expressions, and manifestations as are here alluded to. But this is for want of due consideration. They have supposed that such exhibitions were inconsistent with a right spirit. Oh, they say, how unevangelical! How un-Christ-like! How inconsistent with the sweet and heavenly spirit of Christ and of the gospel! But this is all a mistake. These prayers were dictated by the Spirit of Christ. Such exhibitions are only the manifestations of one of the essential attributes of benevolence. Those sinners deserved to die. It was for the greatest good that they should be made a public example. This the spirit of inspiration knew, and such prayers, under such circumstances, are only an expression of the mind and will of God. They are truly the spirit of justice pronouncing sentence upon them. These prayers and such-like things found in the Bible, are no vindication of the spirit of fanaticism and denunciation that so often have taken shelter under them. As well might fanatics burn cities and lay waste countries, and seek to justify themselves by an appeal to the destruction of the old world by flood, and the destruction of the cities of the plain by fire and brimstone.

Retributive justice is another modification of this attribute. This consists in a disposition to visit the offender with that punishment which he deserves, because it is fit and proper that a moral agent should be dealt with according to his deeds. In a future lecture I shall enlarge upon this modification of justice.

Another modification of this attribute is commercial justice. This consists in willing exact equivalents, and uprightness in business and all secular transactions.

There are some other modifications of this attribute, but the foregoing may suffice to illustrate sufficiently the various departments over which this attribute presides.

This attribute, though stern in its spirit and manifestations, is nevertheless one of prime importance in all governments by moral agents, whether human or divine. Indeed, without it government could not exist. It is vain for certain philosophers to think to disparage this attribute, and to dispense with it altogether in the administration of government. They will, if they try the experiment, find to their cost and confusion, that no one attribute of benevolence can say to another, "I have no need of thee." In short, let any one attribute of benevolence be destroyed or overlooked, and you have destroyed its perfection, its beauty, its harmony, its propriety, its glory. You have, in fact, destroyed benevolence; it is no longer benevolence, but a sickly, and inefficient, and limping sentimentalism, that has no God, no virtue, no beauty, nor form, nor comeliness in it, that when we see it we should desire it.

This attribute stands by, nay, it executes law. It aims to secure commercial honesty. It aims to secure public and private integrity and tranquillity. It says to violence, disorder, and injustice, Peace, be still, and there must be a great calm. We see the evidence and the illustrations of this attribute in the thunderings of Sinai, and in the agony of Calvary. We hear it in the wail of a world when the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and when the windows of heaven were opened, and the floods descended, and the population of a globe were swallowed up. We see its manifestations in the descending torrent that swept over the cities of the plain; and lastly, we shall forever see its bright, but awful and glorious displays, in the dark and curling folds of that pillar of smoke of the torment of the damned, that ascends up before God for ever and ever.

Many seem to be afraid to contemplate justice as an attribute of benevolence. Any manifestations of it among men, causes them to recoil and shudder as if they saw a demon. But let it have its place in the glorious circle of moral attributes; it must have--it will have--it cannot be otherwise. Whenever any policy of government is adopted, in family or state, that excludes the exercise of this attribute, all must be failure, defeat, and ruin.

Again: Justice being an attribute of benevolence, will prevent the punishment of the finally impenitent from diminishing the happiness of God and of holy beings. They will never delight in misery for its own sake; but they will take pleasure in the administration of justice. So that when the smoke of the torment of the damned comes up in the sight of heaven, they will, as they are represented, shout "Alleluia! the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth;" "Just and righteous are thy ways, thou King of saints!"

Before I pass from the consideration of this topic, I must not omit to insist, that where true benevolence is, there must be exact commercial justice, or business honesty and integrity. This is as certain as that benevolence exists. The rendering of exact equivalents, or the intention to do so, must be a characteristic of a truly benevolent mind. Impulsive benevolence may exist; that is, phrenological or constitutional benevolence, falsely so called, may exist to any extent, and yet justice not exist. The mind may be much and very often carried away by the impulse of feeling, so that a man may at times have the appearance of true benevolence, while the same individual is selfish in business, and overreaching in all his commercial relations. This has been a wonder and an enigma to many, but the case is a plain one. The difficulty is, the man is not just, that is, not truly benevolent. His benevolence is only an imposing species of selfishness. "He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear." His benevolence results from feeling, and is not true benevolence.

Again: Where benevolence is, the golden rule will surely be observed. "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." The justice of benevolence cannot fail to secure conformity to this rule. Benevolence is a just state of the will. It is a willing justly. It must then, by a law of necessity, secure just conduct. If the heart is just, the life must be.

This attribute of benevolence must secure its possessor against every species and degree of injustice; he cannot be unjust to his neighbour's reputation, his person, his property, his soul, his body, nor indeed be unjust in any respect to man or God. It will and must secure confession and restitution, in every case of remembered wrong, so far as this is practicable. It should be distinctly understood, that a benevolent or a truly religious man cannot be unjust. He may indeed appear to be so to others; but he cannot be truly religious or benevolent, and unjust at the same time. If he appears to be so in any instance, he is not and cannot be really so, if he is at the time in a benevolent state of mind. The attributes of selfishness, as we shall see in the proper place, are the direct opposite of those of benevolence. The two states of mind are as contrary as heaven and hell, and can no more co-exist in the same mind, than a thing can be and not be at the same time. I said, that if a man truly, in the exercise of benevolence, appears to be unjust in any thing, he is only so in appearance, and not in fact. Observe; I am speaking of one who is really at the time in a benevolent state of mind. He may mistake, and do that which would be unjust, did he see it differently and intend differently. Justice and injustice belong to the intention. No outward act can in itself be either just or unjust. To say that a man, in the exercise of a truly benevolent intention, can at the same time be unjust, is the same absurdity as to say, that he can intend justly and unjustly at the same time, and in regard to the same thing; which is a contradiction. It must all along be borne in mind, that benevolence is one identical thing, to wit, good-will, willing for its own sake the highest good of being, and every known good according to its relative value. Consequently, it is impossible that justice should not be an attribute of such a choice. Justice consists in regarding and treating, or rather in willing, every thing just agreeably to its nature, or intrinsic and relative value and relations. To say, therefore, that present benevolence admits of any degree of present injustice, is to affirm a palpable contradiction. A just man is a sanctified man, is a perfect man, in the sense that he is at present in an upright state.
Veracity, as an attribute of benevolence, is that quality that adheres to truth. In the very act of becoming benevolent, the mind embraces truth, or the reality of things. Then veracity must be one of the qualities of benevolence. Veracity is truthfulness. It is the conformity of the will to the reality of things. Truth in statement is conformity of statement to the reality of things. Truth in action is action conformed to the nature and relations of things. Truthfulness is a disposition to conform to the reality of things. It is willing in accordance with the reality of things. It is willing the right end by the right means. It is willing the intrinsically valuable as an end, and the relatively valuable as a means. In short, it is the willing of every thing according to the reality or facts in the case.

Veracity, then, must be an attribute of benevolence. It is, like all the attributes, only benevolence viewed in a certain aspect or relation. It cannot be distinguished from benevolence, for it is not distinct from it, but only a phase or form of benevolence. The universe is so constituted that if every thing proceeded and were conducted and willed according to its nature and relations, the highest possible good must result. Veracity seeks the good as an end, and truth as a means to secure this end. It wills the good, and that it shall be secured only by means of truth. It wills truth in the end, and truth in the means. The end is truly valuable, and chosen for that reason. The means are truth, and truth is the only appropriate or possible means.

Truthfulness of heart begets, of course, a state of the sensibility which we call the love of truth. It is a feeling of pleasure that spontaneously arises in the sensibility of one whose heart is truthful, in contemplating truth; this feeling is not virtue, it is rather a part of the reward of truthfulness of heart.

Veracity, as a phenomenon of the will, is also often called, and properly called, a love of the truth. It is a willing in accordance with objective truth. This is virtue, and is an attribute of benevolence. Veracity, as an attribute of the divine benevolence, is the condition of confidence in Him as a moral governor. Both the physical and moral laws of the universe evince, and are instances and illustrations of the truthfulness of God. Falsehood, in the sense of lying, is naturally regarded by a moral agent with disapprobation, disgust, and abhorrence. Veracity is as necessarily regarded by him with approbation, and, if the will be benevolent, with pleasure. We necessarily take pleasure in contemplating objective truth, as it lies in idea on the field of consciousness. We also take pleasure in the perception and contemplation of truthfulness, in the concrete realization of the idea of truth. Veracity is morally beautiful. We are pleased with it just as we are with natural beauty, by law of necessity, when the necessary conditions are fulfilled. This attribute of benevolence secures it against every attempt to promote the ultimate good of being by means of falsehood. True benevolence will no more, can no more, resort to falsehood as a means of promoting good, than it can contradict or deny itself. The intelligence affirms, that the highest ultimate good can be secured only by a strict adherence to truth. The mind cannot be satisfied with anything else. Indeed, to suppose the contrary is to suppose a contradiction. It is the same absurdity as to suppose, that the highest good could be secured only by the violation and setting aside of the nature and relations of things. Since the intellect affirms this unalterable relation of truth to the highest ultimate good, benevolence, or that attribute of benevolence which we denominate veracity or love of the truth, can no more consent to falsehood, than it can consent to relinquish the highest good of being as an end. Therefore, every resort to falsehood, every pious fraud, falsely so called, presents only a specious but real instance of selfishness. A moral agent cannot lie for God; that is, he cannot tell a sinful falsehood, thinking and intending thereby to please God. He knows, by intuition, that God cannot be pleased or truly served by a resort to lying. There is a great difference between concealing or withholding the truth for benevolent purposes, and telling a wilful falsehood. An innocent persecuted and pursued man, has taken shelter under my roof from one who pursued him to shed his blood. His pursuer comes and inquires after him. I am not under obligation to declare to him the fact that he is in my house. I may, and indeed ought to withhold the truth in this instance, for the wretch has no right to know it. The public and highest good demands that he should not know it. He only desires to know it for selfish and bloody purposes. But in this case I should not feel or judge myself at liberty to state a known falsehood. I could not think that this would ultimately conduce to the highest good. The person might go away deceived, or under the impression that his victim was not there. But he could not accuse me of telling him a lie. He might have drawn his own inference from my refusing to give the desired information. But even to secure my own life or the life of my friend, I am not at liberty to tell a lie. If it be said that lying implies telling a falsehood for selfish purposes, and that, therefore, it is not lying to tell a falsehood for benevolent purposes, I reply, that our nature is such that we can no more state a wilful falsehood with a benevolent intention, that we can commit a sin with a benevolent intention. We necessarily regard falsehood as inconsistent with the highest good of being, just as we regard sin as inconsistent with the highest good of being, or just as we regard holiness and truthfulness as the indispensable condition of the highest good of being. The correlation of the will and the intellect forbids the mistake that wilful falsehood is, or can be, the means or condition of the highest good. Universal veracity, then, will always characterize a truly benevolent man. While he is truly benevolent, he is, he must be, faithful, truthful. So far as his knowledge goes, his statements may be depended upon with as much safety as the statements of an angel. Veracity is necessarily an attribute of benevolence in all beings. No liar has, or can have, a particle of true virtue or benevolence in him.

This lecture was typed in by Mr. & Mrs. Michael Clark.

LECTURE XXI. Back to Top



This term is frequently used to express a phenomenon of the sensibility. When thus used, it designates a calm and unruffled state of the sensibility or feelings, under circumstances that tend to excite anger or impatience of feeling. The calmness of the sensibility, or patience as a phenomenon of the sensibility, is purely an involuntary state of mind, and although it is a pleasing and amiable manifestation, yet it is not properly virtue. It may be, and often is, an effect of patience as a phenomenon of the will, and therefore an effect of virtue. But it is not itself virtue. This amiable temper, may and often does, proceed from constitutional temperament, and from circumstances and habits.

Patience as a virtue must be a voluntary state of mind. It must be an attribute of love or benevolence; for all virtue, as we have seen, and as the Bible teaches, is resolvable into love or benevolence. The Greek term, upomone, so often rendered patience in the New Testament, means perseverance under trials, continuance, bearing up under afflictions or privations, steadfastness of purpose in despite of obstacles. The word may be used in a good or in a bad sense. Thus a selfish man may patiently, that is, perseveringly pursue his end, and may bear up under much opposition to his course.

This is patience as an attribute of selfishness, and patience in a bad sense of the term. Patience in the good sense, or in the sense in which I am considering it, is an attribute of benevolence. It is the quality of constancy, a fixedness, a bearing up under trials, afflictions, crosses, persecutions, or discouragements. This must be an attribute of benevolence. Whenever patience ceases, when it holds out no longer, when discouragement prevails, and the will relinquishes its end, benevolence ceases, as a matter of course.

Patience as a phenomenon of the will, tends to patience as a phenomenon of the sensibility. That is, the quality of fixedness and steadfastness in the intention naturally tends to keep down and allay impatience of temper. As, however, the states of the sensibility are not directly under the control of the will, there may be irritable or impatient feelings, when the heart remains steadfast. Facts or falsehoods may be suggested to the mind which may, in despite of the will, produce a ruffling of the sensibility, even when the heart remains patient. The only way in which a temptation, for it is only a temptation while the will abides firm to its purpose, I say, the only way in which a temptation of this kind can be disposed of, is by diverting the attention from that view of the subject that creates the disturbance in the sensibility. I should have said before, that although the will controls the feelings by a law of necessity, yet, as it does not do so directly, but indirectly, it may and does often happen, that feelings corresponding to the state of the will do not exist in the sensibility. Nay, for a time, a state of the sensibility may exist which is the opposite of the state of the will. From this source arise many, and indeed most, of our temptations. We could never be properly tried or tempted at all, if the feelings must always, by a law of necessity, correspond with the state of the will. Sin consists in willing to gratify our feelings or constitutional impulses, in opposition to the law of our reason. But if these desires and impulses could never exist in opposition to the law of reason, and, consequently, in opposition to a present holy choice, then a holy being could not be tempted. He could have no motive or occasion to sin. If our mother Eve could have had no feelings of desire in opposition to the state of her will, she never could have desired the forbidden fruit, and of course would not have sinned. I wish now, then, to state distinctly what I should have said before, that the state or choice of the will does not necessarily so control the feelings, desires, or emotions, that these may never be strongly excited by Satan or by circumstances, in opposition to the will, and thus become powerful temptations to seek their gratification, instead of seeking the highest good of being. Feelings, the gratification of which would be opposed to every attribute of benevolence, may at times co-exist with benevolence, and be a temptation to selfishness; but opposing acts of will cannot co-exist with benevolence. All that can be truly said is, that as the will has an indirect control of the feelings, desires, appetites, passions, &c., it can suppress any class of feelings when they arise, by diverting the attention from their causes, or by taking into consideration such views and facts as will calm or change the state of the sensibility. Irritable feelings, or what is commonly called impatience, may be directly caused by ill health, irritable nerves, and by many things over which the will has no direct control. But this is not impatience in the sense of sin. If these feelings are not suffered to influence the will; if the will abides in patience; if such feelings are not cherished, and are not suffered to shake the integrity of the will; they are not sin. That is, the will does not consent to them, but the contrary. They are only temptations. If they are allowed to control the will, to break forth in words and actions, then there is sin; but the sin does not consist in the feelings, but in the consent of the will, to gratify them. Thus, the apostle says, "Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath." That is, if anger arise in the feelings and sensibility, do not sin by suffering it to control your will. Do not cherish the feeling, and let not the sun go down upon it. For this cherishing it is sin. When it is cherished, the will consents and broods over the cause of it; this is sin. But if it be not cherished, it is not sin.

That the outward actions will correspond with the states and actions of the will, provided no physical obstacle be opposed to them, is a universal truth. But that feelings and desires cannot exist contrary to the states or decisions of my will, is not true. If this were a universal truth, temptation, as I have said, could not exist. The outward actions will be as the will is, always; the feelings generally. Feelings corresponding to the choice of the will, will be the rule, and opposing feelings the exception. But these exceptions may and do exist in perfectly holy beings. They existed in Eve before she consented to sin, and had she resisted them, she had not sinned. They doubtless existed in Christ, or he could not have been tempted in all points like as we are. If there be no desires or impulses of the sensibility contrary to the state of the will, there is not properly any temptation. The desire or impulse must appear on the field of consciousness before it is a motive to action, and of course before it is a temptation to self-indulgence. Just as certainly then as a holy being may be tempted, and not sin, just so certain it is that emotions of any kind, or of any strength, may exist in the sensibility without sin. If they are not indulged, if the will does not consent to them, and to their indulgence or gratification, the soul is not the less virtuous for their presence. Patience as a phenomenon of the will must strengthen and gird itself under such circumstances, so that patience of will may be, and if it exist at all, must be, in exact proportion to the impatience of the sensibility. The more impatience of sensibility there is, the more patience of will there must be, or virtue will cease altogether. So that it is not always true, that virtue is strongest when the sensibility is most calm, placid, and patient. When Christ passed through his greatest conflicts, his virtue as a man was undoubtedly most intense. When in his agony in the garden, so great was the anguish of his sensibility, that he sweat as it were great drops of blood. This, he says, was the hour of the prince of darkness. This was his great trial. But did he sin? No, indeed. But why? Was he calm and placid as a summer's evening? As far from it as possible.

Patience, then, as an attribute of benevolence, consists, not in placid feeling, but in perseverance under trials and states of the sensibility that tend to selfishness. This is only benevolence viewed in a certain aspect. It is benevolence under circumstances of discouragement, of trial, or temptation. "This is the patience of the saints."

Before dismissing the subject of patience as an emotion, I would observe that, the steadfastness of the heart tends so strongly to secure patience, that if an opposite state of the sensibility is more than of momentary duration, there is strong presumption that the heart is not steadfast in love. The first risings of it will produce an immediate effort to suppress it. If it continues, this is evidence that the attention is allowed to dwell upon the cause of it. This shows that the will is in some sense indulging it.

If it so far influences the will as to manifest itself in impatient words and actions, there must be a yielding of the will. Patience, as an attribute of benevolence is overcome. If the sensibility were perfectly and directly under the control of the will, the least degree of impatience would imply sin. But as it is not directly, but indirectly under the control of the will, momentary impatience of feeling, when it does not at all influence the will, and when it is not at all indulged, is not sure evidence of a sinful state of the will. It should always be borne in mind, that neither patience nor impatience, in the form of mere feeling, existing for any length of time, and in any degree, is in itself either holy on the one hand, or sinful on the other. All that can be said of these states of the sensibility is, that they indicate, as a general thing, the attitude of the will. When the will is for a long time steadfast in its patience, the result is great equanimity of temper, and great patience of feeling. This comes to be a law of the sensibility, insomuch that very advanced saints may, and doubtless do, experience the most entire patience of feeling for many years together. This does not constitute their holiness, but is a sweet fruit of it. It is to be regarded rather in the light of a reward of holiness, than as holiness itself.
Meekness, considered as a virtue, is a phenomenon of the will. This term also expresses a state of the sensibility. When used to designate a phenomenon of the sensibility, it is nearly synonymous with patience. It designates a sweet and forbearing temper under provocation. Meekness, a phenomenon of the will, and as an attribute of benevolence, is the opposite both of resistance to injury and of retaliation. It is properly and strictly forbearance under injurious treatment. This certainly is an attribute of God, as our existence and our being out of hell plainly demonstrate. Christ said of himself that he was "meek and lowly in heart;" and this surely was no vain boast. How admirably, and how incessantly did this attribute of his love manifest itself! The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah is a prophecy exhibiting this attribute in a most affecting light. Indeed, scarcely any feature of the character of God and of Christ is more strikingly exhibited than this. It must evidently be an attribute of benevolence. Benevolence is good-will to all beings. We are naturally forbearing toward those whose good we honestly and diligently seek. If our hearts are set upon doing them good, we shall naturally exercise great forbearance toward them. God has greatly commended his forbearance to us, in that, while we were yet his enemies, he forbore to punish us, and gave his Son to die for us. Forbearance is a sweet and amiable attribute. How affectingly it displayed itself in the hall of Pilate, and on the cross. "He is led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth."

This attribute has in this world abundant opportunity to develope and display itself in the saints. There are daily occasions for the exercise of this form of virtue. Indeed, all the attributes of benevolence are called into frequent exercise in this school of discipline. This is indeed a suitable world in which to train God's children, to develope and strengthen every modification of holiness. This attribute must always appear where benevolence exists, and wherever there is an occasion for its exercise.

It is delightful to contemplate the perfection and glory of that love which constitutes obedience to the law of God. As occasions arise, we behold it developing one attribute after another, and there may be many of its attributes and modifications of which we have as yet no idea whatever. Circumstances will call them into exercise. It is probable, if not certain, that the attributes of benevolence were very imperfectly known in heaven previous to the existence of sin in the universe, and that but for sin many of these attributes would never have been manifested in exercise. But the existence of sin, great as the evil is, has afforded an opportunity for benevolence to manifest its beautiful phases, and to develope its sweet attributes in a most enchanting manner. Thus the divine economy of benevolence brings good out of so great an evil.

A hasty and unforbearing spirit is always demonstrative evidence of a want of benevolence, or true religion. Meekness is, and must be, a peculiar characteristic of the saints in this world, where there is so much provocation. Christ frequently and strongly enforced the obligation to forbearance. "But I say unto you that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain." How beautiful!
This attribute is hardly distinguishable from meekness or forbearance. It seems to be an intense form of forbearance; or it is forbearance exercised long and under great suffering from persecution and unreasonable opposition. God's forbearance is lengthened out to long-suffering. Christ's forbearance, also, was and is often put to the severest trial, and is lengthened out to most affecting long-suffering. This is an intense state or form of benevolence, when it is most sorely tried, and, as it were, put upon the rack. The prophets, and Christ, and the apostles, the martyrs, and primitive saints, and many in different ages of the church, have given forth a glorious specimen and illustration of this sweet attribute of love. But for the existence of sin, however, it is probable and perhaps certain, that no being but God could have had an idea of its existence. The same, no doubt, may be said of many of the attributes of divine love. God has intended to exhibit strongly this attribute in himself, and in all his saints and angels. The introduction of sin, excuseless and abominable as it is, has given occasion for a most thorough developement, and a most affecting manifestation of this attribute of love. It is a sweet, a heavenly attribute. It is most opposite to the spirit and maxims of this world. It is the very contrast of the law and the spirit of honour, as it appears in this world. The law of honour says, If you receive an injury or an insult, resent it sharply, and retaliate it fully. This gentle spirit says, If you receive many insults and injuries, do not resent them, nor retaliate, but bear and forbear even to long-suffering. "If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink."
This term seems often to be used to express a sense of unworthiness, of guilt, of ignorance, and of nothingness, to express a feeling of ill-desert. It seems to be used in common language to express sometimes a state of the intelligence, when it seems to indicate a clear perception of our guilt. When used to designate a state of the sensibility, it represents those feelings of shame and unworthiness, of ignorance, and of nothingness, of which those are most deeply conscious who have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit, in respect to their true character.

But as a phenomenon of the will, and as an attribute of love, it consists in a willingness to be known and appreciated according to our real character. Humility, as a phenomenon either of the sensibility or of the intelligence, may co-exist with great pride of heart. Pride is a disposition to exalt self, to get above others, to hide our defects, and to pass for more than we are. Deep conviction of sin, and deep feelings of shame, of ignorance, and of desert of hell, may co-exist with a great unwillingness to confess and be known just as we are, and to be appreciated just according to what our real character has been and is. There is no virtue in such humility. But humility, considered as a virtue, consists in the consent of the will to be known, to confess, and to take our proper place in the scale of being. It is that peculiarity of love that wills the good of being so disinterestedly, as to will to pass for no other than we really are. This is an honest, a sweet, and amiable feature of love. It must perhaps, be peculiar to those who have sinned. It is only love acting under or in a certain relation, or in reference to a peculiar set of circumstances. It would, under the same circumstances, develope and manifest itself in all truly benevolent minds. This attribute will render confession of sin to God and man natural, and even make it a luxury. It is easy to see that, but for this attribute, the saints could not be happy in heaven. God has promised to bring into judgment every work and every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. Now while pride exists, it would greatly pain the soul to have all the character known. So that, unless this attribute really belongs to the saints, they would be ashamed at the judgment, and filled with confusion even in heaven itself. But this sweet attribute will secure them against that shame and confusion of face that would otherwise render heaven itself a hell to them. They will be perfectly willing and happy to be known and estimated according to their characters. This attribute will secure in all the saints on earth that confession of faults one to another, which is so often enjoined in the Bible. By this it is not intended, that Christians always think it wise and necessary to make confession of all their secret sins to man. But it is intended, that they will confess to those whom they have injured, and to all to whom benevolence demands that they should confess. This attribute secures its possessor against spiritual pride, against ambition to get above others. It is a modest and unassuming state of mind.

This lecture was typed in by Dara Kachel.




If we love any being better than ourselves, we of course deny ourselves when our own interests come in competition with his. Love is good-will. If I will good to others more than to myself, it is absurd to say that I shall not deny myself when my own inclinations conflict with their good.

Now the love required by the law of God, we have repeatedly seen to be good will, or willing the highest good of being for its own sake, or as an end.

As the interests of self are not at all regarded because they belong to self, but only according to their relative value, it must be certain, that self-denial for the sake of promoting the higher interests of God and of the universe, is and must be a peculiarity or attribute of love.

But again. The very idea of disinterested benevolence, and there is no other true benevolence, implies the abandonment of the spirit of self-seeking, or of selfishness. It is impossible to become benevolent, without ceasing to be selfish. In other words, perfect self-denial is implied in beginning to be benevolent. Self-indulgence ceases where benevolence begins. This must be. Benevolence is the consecration of our powers to the highest good of being in general as an end. This is utterly inconsistent with consecration to self-interest or self-gratification. Selfishness makes good to self the end of every choice. Benevolence makes good to being in general the end of every choice. Benevolence, then, implies complete self-denial. That is, it implies that nothing is chosen merely because it belongs to self, but only because of its relative value, and in proportion to it.

I said there was no true benevolence, but disinterested benevolence; no true love, but disinterested love. There is such a thing as interested love or benevolence. That is, the good of others is willed, though not as an end, or for its intrinsic value to them, but as a means of our own happiness, or because of its relative value to us. Thus a man might will the good of his family, or of his neighbourhood, or country, or of anybody, or anything that sustained such relations to self as to involve his own interests. When the ultimate reason of his willing good to others is, that his own may be promoted, this is selfishness. It is making good to self his end. This a sinner may do toward God, toward the church, and toward the interests of religion in general. This is what I call interested benevolence. It is willing good as an end only to self, and to all others only as a means of promoting our own good.

But again: when the will is governed by mere feeling in willing the good of others, this is only the spirit of self-indulgence, and is only interested benevolence. For example: the feeling of compassion is strongly excited by the presence of misery. The feeling is intense, and constitutes, like all the feelings, a strong impulse or motive to the will to consent to its gratification. For the time being, this impulse is stronger than the feeling of avarice, or any other feeling. I yield to it, and then give all the money I have to relieve the sufferer. I even take my clothes from my back, and give them to him. Now in this case, I am just as selfish as if I had sold my clothes to gratify my appetite for strong drink. The gratification of my feelings was my end. This is one of the most specious and most delusive forms of selfishness.

Again: when one makes his own salvation the end of prayer, of almsgiving, and of all his religious duties, this is only selfishness and not true religion, however much he may abound in them. This is only interested benevolence, or benevolence to self.

Again: from the very nature of true benevolence, it is impossible that every interest should not be regarded according to its relative value. When another interest is seen by me to be more valuable in itself, or of more value to God and the universe than my own, and when I see that, by denying myself, I can promote it, it is certain, if I am benevolent, that I shall do it. I cannot fail to do it, without failing to be benevolent. Two things in this case must be apprehended by the mind.

(1.) That the interest is either intrinsically or relatively more valuable than my own.

(2.) That, by denying myself, I can promote or secure a greater good to being, than I sacrifice of my own. When these two conditions are fulfilled, it is impossible that I should remain benevolent, unless I deny myself, and seek the higher good.

Benevolence is an honest and disinterested consecration of the whole being to the highest good of God and of the universe. The benevolent man will, therefore, and must, honestly weigh each interest as it is perceived in the balance of his own best judgment, and will always give the preference to the higher interest, provided he believes, that he can by endeavour, and by self-denial secure it.

That self-denial is an attribute of the divine love, is manifested most gloriously and affectingly in God's gift of his Son to die for men. This attribute was also most conspicuously manifested by Christ, in denying himself, and taking up his cross, and suffering for his enemies. Observe. It was not for friends that Christ gave himself. It was not unfortunate but innocent sufferers for whom God gave his Son, or for whom he gave himself. It was for enemies. It was not that he might make slaves of them that he gave his Son, nor from any selfish consideration whatever, but because he foresaw that, by making this sacrifice himself, he could secure to the universe a greater good than he should sacrifice. It was this attribute of benevolence that caused him to give his Son to suffer so much. It was disinterested benevolence alone that led him to deny himself, for the sake of a greater good to the universe. Now observe: this sacrifice would not have been made, unless it had been regarded by God as the less of two natural evils. That is, the sufferings of Christ, great and overwhelming as they were, were considered as an evil of less magnitude than the eternal sufferings of sinners. This induced him to make the sacrifice, although for his enemies. It mattered not whether for friends or for enemies, if so be he could, by making a less sacrifice, secure a greater good to them. When I come to consider the economy of benevolence, I may enlarge upon this topic.

Let it be understood, that a self-indulgent spirit is never, and can never be, consistent with benevolence. No form of self-indulgence, properly so called, can exist where true benevolence exists. The fact is, self-denial must be, and universally is, wherever benevolence reigns. Christ has expressly made whole-hearted self-denial a condition of discipleship; which is the same thing as to affirm, that it is an essential attribute of holiness or love; that there cannot be the beginning of true virtue without it.

Again: much that passes for self-denial is only a specious form of self-indulgence. The penances and self-mortifications, as they are falsely called, of the superstitious, what are they after all but a self-indulgent spirit? A popish priest abstains from marriage to obtain the honour, and emoluments, and the influence of the priestly office here, and eternal glory hereafter. A nun takes the veil, and a monk immures himself in a monastery; a hermit forsakes human society, and shuts himself up in a cave; a devotee makes a pilgrimage to Mecca, and a martyr goes to the stake. Now if these things are done with an ultimate reference to their own glory and happiness, although apparently instances of great self-denial, yet they are, in fact, only a spirit of self-indulgence and self-seeking. They are only following the strongest desire of good to self. They are obviously instances of choosing good to self, as the supreme and final end.

There are many mistakes upon this subject. For example; it is common for persons to deny self in one form, for the sake of gratifying self in another form. In one man avarice is the ruling passion. He will labour hard, rise early, and sit up late, eat the bread of carefulness, and deny himself even the necessaries of life, for the sake of accumulating wealth. Every one can see, that this is denying self in one form merely for the sake of gratifying self in another form. Yet this man will complain bitterly of the self-indulgent spirit manifested by others, their extravagance and want of piety.

One man will deny all his bodily appetites and passions for the sake of a reputation with men. This is also an instance of the same kind. Another will give the fruit of his body for the sin of his soul; will sacrifice everything else to obtain an eternal inheritance, and be just as selfish as the man who sacrifices to the things of time his soul and all the riches of eternity.

But it should be remarked, that this attribute of benevolence does and must secure the subjugation of all the propensities. It must, either suddenly or gradually, so far subdue and quiet them, that their imperious clamour must cease. They will, as it were, be slain, either suddenly or gradually, so that the sensibility will become, in a great measure, dead to those objects that so often and so easily excited it. It is a law of the sensibility--of all the desires and passions, that their indulgence developes and strengthens them, and their denial suppresses them. Benevolence consists in a refusal to gratify the sensibility, and in obeying the reason. Therefore it must be true, that this denial of the propensities will greatly suppress them; while the indulgence of the intellect and of the conscience will greatly develope them. Thus selfishness tends to stultify, while benevolence tends greatly to strengthen the intellect.
This attribute consists in a tendency to descend to the poor, the ignorant, or the vile, for the purpose of securing their good. It is a tendency to seek the good of those whom Providence has placed in any respect below us, by stooping, descending, coming down to them for this purpose. It is a peculiar form of self-denial. God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, manifest infinite condescension in efforts to secure the well-being of sinners, even the most vile and degraded. This attribute is called by Christ lowliness of heart. God is said to humble himself, that is, to condescend when he beholds the things that are done in heaven. This is true, for every creature is, and must for ever be, infinitely below Him in every respect. But how much greater must that condescension be, that comes down to earth, and even to the lowest and most degraded of earth's inhabitants, for purposes of benevolence. This is a lovely modification of benevolence. It seems to be entirely above the gross conceptions of infidelity. Condescension seems to be regarded by most people, and especially by infidels, as rather a weakness than a virtue. Sceptics clothe their imaginary God with attributes in many respects the opposite of true virtue. They think it entirely beneath the dignity of God to come down even to notice, and much more to interfere with, the concerns of men. But hear the word of the Lord: "Thus saith the High and Lofty One, who inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place; with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." And again, "Thus saith the Lord, the heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool, where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath my hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord. But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my word." Thus the Bible represents God as clothed with condescension as with a cloak.

This is manifestly an attribute both of benevolence and of true greatness. The natural perfections of God appear all the more wonderful, when we consider, that he can and does know and contemplate and control, not only the highest, but the lowest of all his creatures; that he is just as able to attend to every want and every creature, as if this were the sole object of attention with him. So his moral attributes appear all the more lovely and engaging when we consider that his "tender mercies are over all his works," "that not a sparrow falleth to the ground without him;" that he condescends to number the very hairs on the heads of his servants, and that not one of them can fall without him. When we consider that no creature is too low, too filthy, or too degraded for him to condescend to,--this places his character in a most ravishing light. Benevolence is good-will to all beings. Of course one of its characteristics must be condescension to those who are below us. This in God is manifestly infinite. He is infinitely above all creatures. For him to hold communion with them is infinite condescension.

This is an attribute essentially belonging to benevolence or love in all benevolent beings. With the lowest of moral beings it may have no other developement, than in its relations to sentient existences below the rank of moral agents, for the reason, that there are no moral agents below them to whom they can stoop. God's condescension stoops to all ranks of sentient existences. This is also true with every benevolent mind, as to all inferiors. It seeks the good of being in general, and never thinks any being too low to have his interests attended to and cared for, according to their relative value. Benevolence cannot possibly retain its own essential nature, and yet be above any degree of condescension that can effect the greatest good. Benevolence does not, cannot know any thing of that loftiness of spirit that considers it too degrading to stoop any where, or to any being whose interests need to be, and can be, promoted by such condescension. Benevolence has its end, and it cannot but seek this, and it does not, cannot think anything below it that is demanded to secure that end. O the shame, the infinite folly and madness of pride, and every form of selfishness! How infinitely unlike God it is! Christ could condescend to be born in a manger; to be brought up in humble life; to be poorer than the fox of the desert, or the fowls of heaven; to associate with fishermen; to mingle with and seek the good of all classes; to be despised in life, and die between two thieves on the cross. His benevolence "endured the cross and despised the shame." He was "meek and lowly in heart." The Lord of heaven and earth is as much more lowly in heart than any of his creatures, as he is above them in his infinity. He can stoop to any thing but to commit sin. He can stoop infinitely low.
Candour is a disposition to treat every subject with fairness and honesty; to examine and weigh all the evidence in the case, and decide according to testimony. It is a state of mind which is the opposite of prejudice. Prejudice is pre-judgment. It is a decision made up with but partial information. It is not a mere opinion. It is a committal of the will.

Candour is that quality of benevolence that holds the intellect open to conviction. It is that state of the will in which all the light is sought upon all questions, that can be obtained. Benevolence is an impartial, a disinterested choice of the highest good of being--not of some of them,--not of self--but of being in general. It inquires not to whom an interest belongs, but what is its intrinsic and relative value, and what is the best means of promoting it. Selfishness, as we shall see, is never candid. It never can be candid. It is contrary to its very nature. Benevolence can not but be candid. It has no reasons for being otherwise. Its eye is single. It seeks to know all truth for the sake of doing it. It has no by-ends, no self-will or self-interest to consult. It is not seeking to please or profit self. It is not seeking the interest of some favourite. No, it is impartial, and must be candid.

It should always be borne in mind, that where there is prejudice, benevolence is not, cannot be. There is not, cannot be such a thing as honest prejudice. There may be an honest mistake for want of light, but this is not prejudice. If there be a mistake, and it be honest, there will be, and must be, a readiness to receive light to correct the mistake. But where the will is committed, and there is not candour to receive evidence, there is, and there must be, selfishness. Few forms of sin are more odious and revolting than prejudice. Candour is an amiable and a lovely attribute of benevolence. It is captivating to behold it. To see a man where his own interest is deeply concerned, exhibit entire candour, is to witness a charming exhibition of the spirit of love. What can be more abhorrent to benevolence than the prejudices which are sometimes manifested, by professedly good men, against other men. They seem unwilling to believe any thing good of those against whom they are prejudiced. The great zeal for what they regard as orthodoxy, is often nothing more nor less than most revolting prejudice. This is often too manifest to require proof. Every one can see, in many cases, that this zeal is not a benevolent, but a selfish one.
The original word rendered kindness is sometimes rendered gentleness. This term designates that quality of benevolence that begets a gentleness and kindness of outward demeanour towards those around us. Benevolence is good-will. It must possess the attribute of kindness or gentleness toward its object. Love seeks to make others happy. It cannot be otherwise, than that the beloved object should be treated kindly and gently, unless circumstances and character demand a different treatment. A deportment regardless of the sensibilities of those around us, indicates a decidedly and detestably selfish state of mind. Love always manifests a tender regard for the feelings and well-being of its object; and as benevolence is universal love, it will and must manifest the attribute of gentleness and kindness toward all, except in those cases where either the good of the individual, or of the public, shall demand a different treatment. In such cases it will be love, and only love, that leads to different treatment; and in no case will benevolence treat any, even the worst of beings, more severely than is demanded by the highest good. Benevolence does every thing for one reason; it has but one end, and that is the highest good of being in general. It will and must treat all kindly, unless the public good demands a different course. But it punishes, when it does punish, for the same reason that it forgives, when it does forgive. It gives life, and takes it away; it gives health and sickness, poverty and riches; it smiles and frowns; it blesses and curses, and does, and says, and omits, gives and withholds every thing for one and the same reason, to wit, the promotion of the highest good of being. It will be gentle or severe, as occasions arise which demand either of these exhibitions. Kindness is its rule, and severity is its exception. Both, however, as we shall soon see, are equally and necessarily attributes of benevolence.

The gentleness and kindness of God and of Christ are strikingly manifested in providence and in grace. Christ is called a lamb, no doubt because of the gentleness and kindness of his character. He is called the good shepherd, and represented as gently leading his flock, and carrying the lambs in his bosom. Many such affecting representations are made of him in the Bible, and he often makes the same manifestations in his actual treatment, not only of his servants, but also of his enemies. Who has not witnessed this? and who cannot testify to this attribute of his character, as having been a thousand times affectingly manifested in his own history? Who can call to mind the dealings of his Heavenly Father without being deeply penetrated with the remembrances, not only of his kindness, but of his loving kindness, and tender mercy, and of its exceeding greatness? There is a multitude of tender representations in the Bible, which are all verified in the experience of every saint. "As the eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him." This lovely attribute will and must always appear where benevolence is. It is important, however, to remark, that constitutional temperament will often greatly modify the expression of it. "Charity is kind,"--this is one of its attributes; yet, as I just said, its manifestations will be modified by constitution, education, &c. A manifest absence of it, in cases where it would be appropriate, is sad evidence that benevolence is wanting.
Now, it is perfectly manifest, that good-will to the universe of being implies opposition to whatever tends to prevent the highest good. Benevolence is, and must be, severe, in a good sense, toward incorrigible sinners, like those against whom Christ prays in the psalm just quoted.

The term severity is used sometimes in a good, and sometimes in a bad, sense. When used in a bad sense, it designates an unreasonable state of mind, and of course, a selfish state. It then represents a state which is the opposite of benevolence. But when used in a good sense, as it is when applied to God and Christ, and when spoken of as an attribute of benevolence, it designates the sternness, firmness, purity, and justice of love, acting for the public good in cases where sin exists, and where the public interests are at stake. In such circumstances, if severity were not developed as an attribute of benevolence, it would demonstrate that benevolence could not be the whole of virtue, even if it could be virtue at all. The intelligence of every moral being would affirm, in such circumstances, that if severity did not appear, something was wanting to make the character perfect, that is, to make the character answerable to the emergency.

It is truly wonderful to witness the tendency among men to fasten upon some one attribute of benevolence, and overlook the rest. They, perhaps, have been affected particularly by the manifestation of some one attribute, which leads them to represent the character of God as all summed up in that attribute. But this is fatally to err, and fatally to misrepresent God. God is represented in the Bible as being slow to anger, and of tender mercy; as being very pitiful; long-suffering; abundant in goodness and truth; keeping mercy for thousands; forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; but also visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and that will by no means clear the guilty; and as being angry with the wicked every day. These are by no means contradictory representations. They only express the different qualities of benevolence, and represent it as manifesting itself under different circumstances, and in different relations. These are just the attributes that we can see must belong to benevolence, and just what it ought to be, and must be, when these occasions arise. Good-will to the universe ought to be, and must be, in a good sense, severe where the public weal demands it, as it often does. It is one of the most shallow of dreams, that the Divine character is all softness and sweetness, in all its manifestations and in all circumstances. Sin has "enkindled a fire in the Divine anger that shall set on fire the foundations of the mountains, and shall burn to the lowest hell." Severity is also always, and necessarily, an attribute of benevolence in good angels, and in good men. When occasions arise that plainly demand it, this attribute must be developed and manifested, or benevolence must cease. It is, indeed, impossible that good-will to the whole should not manifest severity and indignation to the part which should rebel against the interests of the whole. Benevolence will seek the good of all, so long as there is hope. It will bear and forbear, and be patient, kind, meek even to long-suffering, while there is not a manifestation of incorrigible wickedness. But where there is, the lamb is laid aside, and the lion is developed; and his "wrathful anger" is as awful as his tender mercies are affecting. Innumerable instances of this are on record in this world's history. Why, then, should we seek to represent God's character as all made up of one attribute? It is, indeed, all comprehensively expressed in one word, love. But it should be for ever remembered, that this is a word of vast import, and that this love possesses, and, as occasions arise, developes and manifests, a great variety of attributes; all harmonious, and perfect, and glorious. This attribute always developes itself in the character of holy men, when occasions occur that demand it. Behold the severity of Peter in the case of Ananias and Sapphira. Witness the rebuke administered by Paul to Peter, when the latter dissembled and endangered the purity of the church. Witness also his severity in the case of Elymas the sorcerer; and hear him say to the Galatians, "I would that they who trouble you were even cut off,"--and many such like things in the conduct and spirit of holy men. Now, I know that such exhibitions are sometimes regarded as un-Christlike, as legal, and not evangelical. But they are evangelical. These are only manifestations of an essential attribute of benevolence, as every one must see, who will consider the matter. It very often happens that such manifestations, whatever the occasions may be, are denounced as the manifestations of a wicked spirit, as anger, and as sinful anger. Indeed, it seems to be assumed by many, that every kind and degree of anger is sinful, as a matter of course. But so far is all of this from the truth, that occasions often, or at least sometimes arise, that call for such manifestations; and to be any otherwise than indignant, to manifest any other than indignation and severity, were to be and manifest anything but that which is demanded by the occasion.

I know that this truth is liable, in a selfish world, to abuse. But I know also that it is a truth of revelation; and God has not withheld it for fear of its being abused. It is a truth of reason, and commends itself to the intuitions of every mind. It is a truth abundantly manifested in the moral and providential government of God. Let it not be denied nor concealed; but let no one abuse and pervert it.

This lecture was typed in by Daniel F. Smith.




This term is used in the Bible, as synonymous with moral purity. In a ceremonial sense it is applied to both persons and things; to make holy and to sanctify are the same thing. To sanctify and to consecrate, or set apart to a sacred use, are identical. Many things were, in this sense, sanctified, or made holy, under the Jewish economy. The term holiness may, in a general sense, be applied to anything whatever which is set apart to a sacred use. It may be applied to the whole being of a moral agent, who is set apart to the service of God.

As an attribute of benevolence, it denotes that quality which leads it to seek to promote the happiness of moral agents, by means of conformity to moral law.

As a moral attribute of God, it is that peculiarity of his benevolence which secures it against all efforts to obtain its end by other means than those that are morally and perfectly pure. His benevolence aims to secure the happiness of the universe of moral agents, by means of moral law and moral government, and of conformity to his own subjective idea of right.

In other words, holiness in God is that quality of his love that secures its universal conformity, in all its efforts and manifestations, to the Divine idea of right, as it lies in eternal developement in the Infinite Reason. This idea is moral law. It is sometimes used to express the moral quality, or character of his benevolence generally, or to express the moral character of the Godhead.

It sometimes seems to designate an attribute, and sometimes a quality of all his moral attributes.

Holiness is, doubtless, a characteristic, or quality of each and all of his moral attributes. They will harmonize in this, that no one of them can consent to do otherwise than conform to the law of moral purity, as developed and revealed in the Divine Reason.

That holiness is an attribute of God is everywhere assumed, and frequently asserted in the Bible. If an attribute of God, it must be an attribute of love; for God is love. This attribute is celebrated in heaven as one of those aspects of the divine character that give ineffable delight. Isaiah saw the seraphim standing around the throne of Jehovah, and crying one to another, "Holy! holy! holy!" John also had a vision of the worship of heaven, and says "They rest not day nor night, saying, Holy! holy! holy! Lord God Almighty." When Isaiah beheld the holiness of Jehovah, he cried out "Woe is me! I am undone. I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" God's holiness is infinite, and it is no wonder that a perception of it should thus affect the prophet.

Finite holiness must forever feel itself awed in the presence of infinite holiness. Job says, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." There is no comparing finite with infinite. The time will never come when creatures can with open face contemplate the infinite holiness of Jehovah without being like persons overcome with a harmony too intensely delightful to be calmly borne. Heaven seems not able to endure it without breaking forth into strains of inexpressible rapture.

The expressions of Isaiah and Job do not necessarily imply that, at the time they were in a sinful state, but their expressions no doubt related to whatever of sin they had at any time been guilty of. In the light of Jehovah's holiness they saw the comparative pollution of their character, taken as a whole. This view will always, doubtless, much affect the saints.

This must be, and yet in another sense they may be, and are, as holy, in their measure as He is. They may be as perfectly conformed to what light or truth they have, as he is. This is doubtless what Christ intended when he said, "Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." The meaning is, that they should live to the same end, and be as entirely consecrated to it as he is. This they must be, to be truly virtuous or holy in any degree. But when they are so, a full view of the holiness of God would confound and overwhelm them. If any one doubts this, he has not considered the matter in a proper light. He has not lifted up his thoughts, as he needs to do, to the contemplation of infinite holiness. No creature, however benevolent, can witness the divine benevolence without being overwhelmed with a clear vision of it. This is no doubt true of every attribute of the divine love. However perfect creature-virtue may be, it is finite, and, brought into the light of the attributes of infinite virtue, it will appear like the dimmest star in the presence of the sun, lost in the blaze of his glory. Let the most just man on earth or in heaven witness, and have a clear apprehension of, the infinite justice of Jehovah, and it would no doubt fill him with unutterable awe. So, could the most merciful saint on earth, or in heaven, have a clear perception of the divine mercy in its fulness, it would swallow up all thought and imagination, and, no doubt, overwhelm him. And so also of every attribute of God. Oh! when we speak of the attributes of Jehovah, we often do not know what we say. Should God unveil himself to us, or bodies would instantly perish. "No man," says he, "can see my face and live." When Moses prayed, "Show me thy glory," God condescendingly hid him in the cleft of a rock, and covering him with his hand, he passed by, and let Moses see only his back parts, informing him that he could not behold his face, that is, his unveiled glories, and live.

Holiness, or moral harmony of character is, then, an essential attribute of disinterested love. It must be so from the laws of our being, and from the very nature of benevolence. In man it manifests itself in great purity of conversation and deportment, in a great loathing of all impurity of flesh and spirit. Let no man profess piety who has not this attribute developed. The love required by the law of God is pure love. It seeks to make its object happy only by making him holy. It manifests the greatest abhorrence of sin and all uncleanness. In creatures it pants, and doubtless ever will pant and struggle, toward infinite purity or holiness. It will never find a resting place in such a sense as to desire to ascend no higher. As it perceives more and more of the fulness and infinity of God's holiness, it will no doubt pant and struggle to ascend the eternal heights where God sits in light too intense for the strongest vision of the highest cherub.

Holiness of heart or of will, produces a desire or feeling of purity in the sensibility. The feelings become exceedingly alive to the beauty of holiness and to the hatefulness and deformity of all spiritual, and even physical impurity. This is called the love of holiness. The sensibility becomes, ravished with the great loveliness of holiness, and unutterably disgusted with the opposite. The least impurity of conversation or of action exceedingly shocks one who is holy. Impure thoughts, if suggested to the mind of a holy being, are instantly felt to be exceedingly offensive and painful. The soul heaves and struggles to cast them out as the most loathsome abominations.
This may exist either as a phenomenon of the sensibility, or of the will, or of both.

As a phenomenon of the sensibility, it consists in a feeling of delicacy, or shrinking from whatever is impure, unchaste; or from all boasting, vanity, or egotism; a feeling like retiring from public observation, and especially from public applause. It is a feeling of self-diffidence, and is the opposite of self-esteem and self-complacency. It takes on, as a mere feeling, a great variety of types; and when it controls the will, often gives its subject a very lovely and charming exterior. But when this is only a phenomenon of the sensibility, and manifests itself only as this feeling takes control of the will, it does not rise to the dignity of virtue, but is only a specious and delusive form of selfishness. It appears lovely because it is the counterfeit of a sweet and charming form of virtue.

As a phenomenon of the will, and as an attribute of benevolence, it is that quality which preserves it from ostentation and display, and disposes it to pursue an opposite course. It is nearly allied to humility. It is a state of heart the opposite of an egotistical spirit. It seeks not personal applause or distinction. It is the unostentatious characteristic of benevolence. "Love seeketh not its own, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly." Benevolence seeketh not its own profit, not its own honour. It seeks the good of being, with a single eye, and it is no part of its design to set off self to advantage. Hence modesty is one of its lovely characteristics. It manifests itself very much as the feeling of modesty manifests itself, when it takes control of the will, so that often it is difficult to distinguish modesty as a virtue, or as an attribute of religion, from the modesty of feeling which is a peculiarity of the constitution of some, and which comes to control the will.

True piety is always modest. It is unassuming, unostentatious, anti-egotistical, content to seek with a single eye its object--the highest good of being. In this work it seeks not public notice or applause. It finds a luxury in doing good, no matter how unobserved. If at any time it seeks to be known, it must be entirely disinterested in this. It is not the person, but the act that it exhibits, and that only for the sake of example. It seeks to be known only to make "manifest that its deeds are wrought in God," and to stimulate and encourage others to good works. Modesty as a virtue shrinks from self-display, from trumpeting its own deeds. It is prone to "esteem others better than self;" to give the preference to others, and hold self in very moderate estimation. It aims not to exhibit self, but God and Christ. After Paul had said, "I laboured more abundantly than they all;" he adds, "yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me."

This form of virtue is sometimes conspicuous in men and women whom the providence of God has placed in high stations, so that they are exposed to the public gaze. They seem never to aim at the exhibition or exaltation of self; they never appear flattered by applause, nor to be disheartened by censure and abuse. Having this attribute largely developed, they pursue their way, totally regardless both of the praise and the censure of men. Like Paul, they can say, "With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment." It seeks only to commend itself to God, and to the consciences of men.
Sobriety, as a virtue, is the opposite of levity. There is, as every one knows, a remarkable difference in the constitutional temperament of different persons, in regard to levity and sobriety, considered as tendencies of the sensibility. Sobriety, considered as a constitutional peculiarity, when existing in an excessive degree, is often attributable to a diseased state of the organs of life, and is then not unfrequently termed hypochondriasis. In other instances, it seems not to result from, or to indicate, ill health, but is a peculiarity not to be accounted for by any philosophy of ours.

Sobriety, as a phenomenon of the sensibility, often results from conviction of sin and fear of punishment, and from worldly troubles, and, indeed, from a multitude of causes.

But sobriety, considered as a virtue, and as a characteristic or attribute of benevolence, consists in that solemn earnestness which indicates an honest intention to pursue to the utmost the highest good of being.

Sobriety is not synonymous with moroseness. It is not a sour, fault-finding, censorious spirit. Neither is it inconsistent with cheerfulness--I mean the cheerfulness of love. It is the contrast of levity, and not of cheerfulness. It has no heart for levity and folly. It cannot brook the spirit of gossip and of giggling. Sober earnestness is one of the essential attributes of love to God and souls. It cannot fail to manifest this characteristic, because benevolence supremely values its object. It meets with many obstacles in attempting to secure it. It too deeply prizes the good of being, and sees too plainly how much is to be done, to have any time or inclination for levity and folly. God is always serious and in earnest. Christ was always serious and in earnest. Trifling is an abomination to God, and equally so to true and enlightened benevolence.

But let it never be forgotten that sobriety, as an attribute of benevolence, has nothing in it of the nature of moroseness and peevishness. It is not melancholy. It is not sorrowfulness. It is not despondency. It is a sober, honest, earnest, intense state of choice or of good will. It is not an affected, but a perfectly natural and serious, earnestness. Benevolence is in earnest, and it appears to be so by a law of its own nature. It can laugh and weep for the same reason, and at the same time. It can do either without levity on the one hand, and without moroseness, melancholy, or discouragement, on the other. Abraham fell on his face and laughed, when God promised him a son by Sarah. But it was not levity. It was benevolence rejoicing in the promise of a faithful God.

We should always be careful to distinguish between sobriety as a mere feeling, and the sobriety of the heart. The former is often easily dissipated, and succeeded by trifling and levity. The latter is stable as benevolence itself, because it is one of its essential attributes. A trifling Christian is a contradiction. It is as absurd as to speak of a light and foolish benevolence. These are of a piece with a sinful holiness. Benevolence has, and must have, its changeless attributes. Some of them are manifest only on particular occasions that develope them. Others are manifest on all occasions, because every occasion calls them into exercise. This attribute is one of that class. Benevolence must be seriously in earnest on all occasions. The benevolent soul may and will rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. He may be always cheerful in faith and in hope, yet he always has too great business on hand, to have a heart for trifling or for folly.
Sincerity is the opposite of hypocrisy. The terms sincerity and perfection seem, as used in the Bible, to be nearly synonymous. Sincerity, as an attribute of benevolence, implies whole-hearted honesty, singleness of aim, true uprightness of purpose. Where this attribute is, there is a consciousness of its presence. The soul is satisfied that it is really and truly whole-hearted. It cannot but respect its own honesty of intention and of purpose. It has not to affect sincerity--it has it. When the soul has this attribute developed, it is as deeply conscious of whole-heartedness, as of its own existence. It is honest. It is earnest. It is deeply sincere. It knows it, and never thinks of being suspected of insincerity, and of course has no reason for affectation.

This also is one of those attributes of benevolence that are manifest on all occasions. There is a manifestation of sincerity that carries conviction along with it, in the spirit and deportment of the truly benevolent man. It is exceedingly difficult so to counterfeit it that the deception shall not be seen. The very attempt to counterfeit sincerity will manifest hypocrisy to the discerning mind. There is a cant, a put-on seriousness, a hollow, shallow long-facedness, that reveals a want of sincerity; and the more pains men take to cover up insincerity, the more surely it reveals itself. There is a simplicity, an unguardedness, a transparency, a right up and down frankness, an open-heartedness in such sincerity, that at once commends it and gives it power. It tells the whole story, and carries with it, on its very face, the demonstration of its honesty. Sincerity is its own passport, its own letter of commendation. It is as transparent as light, as honest as justice, as kind as mercy, and as faithful as truth. It is all lovely and praiseworthy. It needs no hoods nor gowns, nor canonicals, nor ceremonials, to set it off; it stands on its own foundation. It walks abroad unsuspecting, and generally unsuspected of, hypocrisy. It lives in open day-light and courts no concealment. It inhabits love as its dwelling place; and where benevolence is, there is its rest.
In its lowest estate, benevolence is zealous. That is, the intellectual perceptions never sink so low as to leave benevolence to become like a stagnant pool. It must be a fountain, flowing forth. It is never lazy, never sluggish, never inactive. It is aggressive in its nature. It is essential activity in itself. It consists in choice, the supreme choice of an end--and in consecration to that end. Zeal, therefore, must be one of its essential attributes. A lazy benevolence is a misnomer. In a world where sin is, benevolence must be aggressive. In such a world it cannot be conservative. It must be reformatory. This is its essential nature. In such a world as this, a conservative, anti-reform benevolence is sheer selfishness. To baptize anti-reform and conservatism with the name Christianity, is to steal a robe of light to cover the black shoulders of a fiend. Zeal, the zeal of benevolence, will not, cannot rest while sin is in the world. God is represented as clothed with zeal as with a cloak; and after making some of his exceeding great and precious promises, he concludes by saying, "the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this."
Benevolence or love has but one end. It consists in one choice, one ultimate intention. It is always one and indivisible. It possesses may attributes or characteristics; but they are all only so many phases of one principle. Every modification of virtue, actual or conceivable, may be, and must be, resolvable into love, for in fact, it is only a modification of love or benevolence. It is easy to see, that an honest choice of the highest good of being as an end, will sufficiently and fully account for every form in which virtue has appeared, or ever can appear. The love or good-will of God is a unit. He has but one end. All he does is for one and the same reason. So it is, and must be, with love or benevolence in all beings. God's conduct is all equally good and equally praiseworthy.

(1.) Because he always has one intention.

(2.) Because he always has the same degree of light.

With creatures this light varies, and consequently they, although benevolent, are not always equally praiseworthy. Their virtue increases as their light increases, and must for ever do so, if they continue benevolent. But their end is always one and the same. In this respect their virtue never varies, while their benevolence continues. They have the same end with God.

It is of great importance that the unity of virtue should be understood, else that which really constitutes its essence is overlooked. If it be supposed, that there can be various sorts of virtue, this is a fatal mistake; the fact is, virtue consists in whole-hearted consecration to one end, and that end is, as it ought to be, and must be, the highest well-being of God and of the universe. This, and nothing else, more nor less, is virtue. It is one and identical in all moral agents, in all worlds, and to all eternity. It can never be changed. It can never consist in anything else. God, if he is himself unchangeable, could not alter its nature, nor one of its essential attributes. The inquiry, and the only inquiry is, for what end do I live? To what end am I consecrated? Not merely, how do I feel, and what is my outward deportment? These may indicate the state of my will. But these cannot settle the question. If a man knows anything, it must be that he knows what his supreme intention is. That is, if he considers at all, and looks at the grand aim of his mind, he cannot fail to see, whether he is really living for God and the universe, or for himself apart.

If God is love, his virtue or love must be itself a unit. If all the law is fulfilled in one word; if love is the fulfilling of the law; then all virtue must resolve itself into love; and this unity is, and must be, an attribute of benevolence.
By simplicity is intended singleness without mixture. It has, and can have, but one simple end. It does not, and cannot, mingle with selfishness. It is simple or single in its aim. It is, and must be, simple or single in all its efforts to secure its end. It does not, cannot, attempt to serve God and mammon. But, as I have dwelt at length upon this view of the subject in a former lecture, I need not enlarge upon it here.

This lecture was typed in by Daniel F. Smith.




This term also designates a state of the sensibility, or a mere feeling of being obliged to another, or benefited by him. This feeling includes an emotion of love and attachment to the benefactor who has shown us favour. It also includes a feeling of obligation, and of readiness to make such returns as we are able, to the being who has shown us favour. But, as a mere feeling or phenomenon of the sensibility, gratitude has no moral character. It may exist in the sensibility of one who is entirely selfish. For selfish persons love to be obliged, and love those who love to oblige them, and can feel grateful for favours shown to themselves, and desire or wish to make a return.

Gratitude, as a virtue, is only a modification or an attribute of benevolence or of good-will. It is that quality of benevolence that disposes it to acknowledge a favour, and to make suitable returns; to will and endeavour to promote the particular good of a benefactor. It always assumes of course the intrinsic value of the good willed, as the fundamental reason for willing it. But it always has particular reference to the relation of benefactor, as a secondary or additional reason for willing good to him in particular. This relation cannot be the foundation of the obligation to love or will the good of any being in the universe; for the obligation to will his good would exist, if this relation did not exist, and even if the relation of persecutor existed in its stead. But gratitude, always assuming the existence of the fundamental reason, to wit, the intrinsic value of the well-being of its object for its own sake, has, as I have just said, particular reference to the relation of benefactor; so particular reference to it, that, if asked why he loved or willed the good of that individual, he would naturally assign this relation as a reason. He would, as has been formerly shown, assign this as the reason, not because it is, or can be, or ought to be, the fundamental reason, much less the exclusive one, but because the other reason lies in the mind as a first truth, and is not so much noticed on the field of consciousness at the time, as the secondary reason, to wit, the relation just referred to.

This attribute of benevolence may never have occasion for its exercise in the Divine mind. No one can sustain to him the relation of benefactor. Yet, in his mind, it may, and no doubt does, exist in the form of good-will to those who are benefactors of others, and for that reason: just as finite minds ought to be affected by that relation. He has even gone much farther than this, and has been pleased to say, that good done to our fellowmen he will graciously consider and reward as good done to himself. This identification of good done to his creatures with good done to him and for his glory, raises benevolence to the highest conceivable point of dignity and honour.

That love will ever have an opportunity to develope all its attributes, and manifest all its loveliness, and take on every possible peculiarity, is more than we can know. Its loveliness can never be known nor conceived of by finite minds, except so far as occasions develope its charming attributes. Our love of gratitude to God finds abundant occasions of developement in all finite minds, and especially among sinners of our race. Our ill-desert is so infinite, and God's goodness, mercy, and long-suffering are so infinite, and so graciously manifested to us, that if we have any attribute of benevolence largely developed, it must be that of gratitude. Gratitude to God will manifest itself in a spirit of thanksgiving, and in a most tender and anxious regard to his feelings, his wishes, and all his commandments. A grateful soul will naturally raise the question on all occasions, Will this or that please God? There will be a constant endeavour of the grateful soul to please him. This must be; it is the natural and inevitable result of gratitude. It should be always borne in mind, that gratitude is good-will, modified by the relation of benefactor. It is not a mere feeling of thankfulness, but will always awaken that feeling. It is a living, energizing attribute of benevolence, and will and must manifest itself in corresponding feeling and action.

It should also be borne in mind, that a selfish feeling of gratitude or thankfulness often exists, and imposes upon its subject, and often upon those who witness its manifestations. It conceals its selfish foundation and character, and passes in this world for virtue; but it is not. I well recollect weeping with gratitude to God years previous to my conversion. The same kind of feeling is often, no doubt, mistaken for evangelical gratitude.

Benevolence is an all-comprehending, impartial principle. The benevolent soul regards all interests as his own, and all beings as parts of himself, in such a sense, as to feel obligations of gratitude for favours bestowed on others as well as on himself. Gratitude, as an attribute of benevolence, recognizes God as a benefactor to self in bestowing favours on others. Benevolence, regarding all interests as our own, acknowledges the favours bestowed upon any and upon all. It will thank God for favours bestowed upon the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and for "opening his hand and supplying the wants of every living thing."
Wisdom is that quality of benevolence that disposes it to be directed by knowledge. Its manifestation in life and action is that of love directed by discretion, evidently for this reason, that hereby it becomes more efficient for good. Wisdom, therefore, must mingle with benevolence, and take the directions of its zeal and activity. It chooses the best and most valuable end, and the most appropriate means of obtaining it. It is like all the other attributes, only benevolence viewed in a certain relation, or only a particular aspect of it.

Wisdom is a term that expresses the perfectly intelligent character of love. It represents it as not a blind and unintelligent choice, but as being guided only by the highest intelligence. This attribute, like all the others, is perfect in God, in an infinitely higher sense than in any creature. It must be perfect in creatures, in such a sense as to be sinless; but can in them never be perfect, in such a sense as to admit of no increase.

The manifold displays of the divine wisdom in creation, providence, and grace, are enough, when duly considered, to overwhelm a finite mind. An inspired apostle could celebrate this attribute in such a strain as this: "O the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out." The wisdom of the saints appears in their choice of an end. They choose invariably the same end that God does, but do not, for want of knowledge, always use the best means. This, however, is not a sinful defect in them, provided they act according to the best light they have or can obtain.

Wisdom is a term that is often and justly used to express true religion, and to distinguish it from everything else; it expresses both benevolence, or good-will, and the intelligent character of that choice, that is, that the choice is dictated by the intelligence, as distinguished from selfish choice, or choice occasioned by the mere impulses of feeling.
Grace is that quality of benevolence that disposes it to bestow gratuitous favour, that is, favour on the undeserving and on the ill-deserving.

Grace is not synonymous with mercy. It is a term of broader meaning.

Mercy is a disposition to forgive the guilty. Grace expresses not only a willingness to pardon, or exempt from penalty, but to bestow other favours of a positive character.

Mercy might pardon; but unless great grace were bestowed, our pardon would by no means secure our salvation.

Grace does not wait for merit as a condition of bestowing favour. It causes its sun to shine on the evil and on the good, and sends its rain on the just and the unjust.

Grace in the saints manifests itself in acts of beneficence to the most unworthy, as well as to the deserving. It seeks to do good to all, whether meritorious or not. It seeks to do good from a love to being. It rejoices in opportunities to bestow its gratuities upon all classes that need them. To grace, necessity or want is the great consideration. When we come to God, his grace is delighted with the opportunity to supply our wants. The grace of God is a vast ocean without shore, or bound, or bottom. It is infinite. It is an ever overflowing stream of beneficence. Its streams go forth to make glad the universe. All creatures are objects of his grace to a greater or less extent. All are not objects of his saving grace, but all are, or have been, the recipients of his bounty. Every sinner that is kept out of hell, is sustained every moment by grace. Every thing that any one receives who has ever sinned, which is better than hell, is received of grace.

Repentance is a condition of the exercise of mercy; but grace is exercised in a thousand forms, without any reference to character. Indeed, the very term expresses good-will to the undeserving and ill-deserving. Surely it must have been a gracious disposition, deep and infinite, that devised and executed the plan of salvation for sinners of our race. A sympathy with the grace of God must manifest itself in strenuous and self-denying efforts to secure, to the greatest possible number, the benefits of this salvation. A gracious heart in man will leap forth to declare the infinite riches of the grace of God, in the ears of a dying world. No man certainly has or can have a sympathy with Christ who will or can hesitate to do his utmost to carry the gospel, and apply his grace, to a perishing world. What! shall the gracious disposition of Christ prepare the way, prepare the feast; and can they have any sympathy with him, who can hesitate to go or send to invite the starving poor? If Christ both lived and died to redeem men, is it a great thing for us to live to serve them? No, indeed: he only has the spirit of Christ who would not merely live, but also die for them.
This term expresses that peculiarity of benevolence that makes the best use, and the most that can be made, of every thing to promote the public good. This attribute appears at every step in the works and government of God. It is truly wonderful to see how every thing is made to conduce to one end; and nothing exists or can exist in the universe, which God will not overrule to some good account. Even "the wrath of man shall praise him, and the remainder of wrath he will restrain." A most divine economy is every where manifest in the works and ways of God. If he is love, we might expect this. Nay, if he is love, it is impossible that this should not be. He lives only for one end. All things were created, and are ruled or overruled by him. All things, then, must, directly or indirectly, work together for good. He will secure some benefit from every thing. Nothing has occurred, or will occur, or can ever occur to all eternity, that will not in some way be used to promote the good of being. Even sin and punishment will not be without their use. God has created nothing, nor has he suffered anything to occur, in vain. Sin, inexcusable and ruinous as it is, if left to work out its natural results, is not without its use. And God will take care to glorify himself in sinners, whether they consent or not. He says, "He has created all things for himself, even the wicked for the day of evil." That is, he created no man wicked, but he created those who have become wicked. He created them not for the sake of punishing them, but knowing that they would become incorrigible sinners, he designed to punish them, and by making them a public example, render them useful to his government. He created them, not because he delighted in their punishment for its own sake, but that he might make their deserved punishment useful to the universe. In this sense, it may be truly said, that he created them for the day of evil. Foreseeing that they would become incorrigible sinners, he designed, when he created them, to make them a public example.

God's glorious economy in overruling all events for the public benefit, is affectingly displayed in the fact, that all things are made to work together for good to them who love God. All beings, saints and sinners, good and evil angels, sin and holiness; in short, there is not a being nor an event in the universe, that is not all used up for the promotion of the highest good. Whether men intend it or not, God intends it. If men do not design it, no thanks to them, what every use God may make of them. He will give them, as he says, according to their endeavours or intentions; but he will take care to use them in one way or another for his glory. If men will consent to live and die for his glory and the good of being, well; they shall have their reward. But if they will not consent, he will take care to dispose of them for the public benefit. He will make the best use of them he can. If they are willing and obedient, if they sympathize with him in promoting the good of the universe, well. But if not, he can make them a public example, and make the influence of their punishment useful to his kingdom. Nothing shall be lost, in the sense that God will not make it answer some useful purpose. No, not even sin with all its deformities and guilt, and blasphemy with all its desolating tendencies, shall be suffered to exist in vain. It will be made useful in innumerable ways. But no thanks to the sinner; he means no such thing, as that his sin shall thus be made useful. He is set upon his own gratification, regardless of consequences. Nothing is further from his heart than to do good, and glorify God. But God has his eye upon him; has laid his plans in view of his foreseen wickedness; and so surely as Jehovah lives, so surely shall the sinner, in one way or another, be used up for the glory of God, and the highest good of being.

Economy is necessarily an attribute of benevolence in all minds. The very nature of benevolence shows that it must be so. It is consecration to the highest good of being. It has no other end. Now all choice must respect means or ends. Benevolence has but one end; and all its activity, every volition that it puts forth, must be to secure that end. The intellect will be used to devise means to promote that end. The whole life and activity of a benevolent being is, and must be, a life of strenuous economy for the promotion of the one great end of benevolence. Extravagance, self-indulgence, waste, are necessarily foreign to love. Everything is devoted to one end. Everything is scrupulously and wisely directed to secure the highest good of God and being in general. This is, this must be, the universal and undeviating aim of every mind, just so far as it is truly benevolent. "He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear."

There are many other attributes of benevolence that might be enumerated and enlarged upon, all of which are implied in entire obedience to the law of God. Enough has been said, I hope, to fix attention strongly upon the fact, that every modification of virtue, actual, conceivable, or possible, is only either an attribute or manifestation of benevolence; and where benevolence is, there all virtue is, and must be, and every form in which virtue does or can exist, must develope itself as its occasions shall arise.

This lecture was typed in by Daniel F. Smith.

LECTURE XXV. Back to Top



In discussing this question, I will,

I. Revert to some points that have been settled.

II. Show what disobedience to the moral law cannot consist in.

III. What it must consist in.

I. Revert to some points that have been settled.

II. Show in what disobedience to moral law cannot consist.

(1.) That the choice of an end implies the choice of it, not for no reason, but for a reason, and for its own intrinsic value, or because the mind prizes it on its own account. But moral agents are so constituted, that they cannot regard misery as intrinsically valuable. They cannot, therefore, choose it as an ultimate end, nor prize it on its own account.

(2.) To will misery as an ultimate end, would imply the choice of universal misery, and every degree of it, according to its relative amount.

(3.) The choice of universal misery as an end, implies the choice of all the means necessary to that end.

(4.) The end chosen is identical with the reason for choosing it. To say that a thing can be chosen without any reason, is to say that nothing is chosen, or that there is no object of choice, or that there is actually no choice. Misery may be chosen to assert our own sovereignty; but this were to choose self-gratification, and not misery, as an ultimate end. To choose misery as an ultimate end, is to choose it, not to assert my own sovereignty, nor for any other reason than because it is misery.

(5.) To choose an end is not to choose without any reason, as has been said, but for some reason.

(6.) To choose misery as an end, is to choose it for the reason that it is misery, and that misery is preferred to happiness, for its own sake, which is absurd. Such a supposition overlooks the very nature of choice.

(7.) To will misery as a means is possible, but this is not malevolence, but might be either benevolence or selfishness.

(8.) The constitution of moral beings renders malevolence, or the willing of misery for its own sake, impossible. Therefore disobedience to moral law cannot consist in malevolence.
If sin is but an element or attribute of choice or intention, then to suppose the sinner to choose it as an end, were to make choice or intention terminate on an element or attribute of itself, to suppose him to choose as an end an element of his own choice. This also is absurd and a contradiction.

The nature of a moral being forbids that he should choose sin for its own sake. He may choose those things the choosing of which is sinful, but it is not the sinfulness of the choice upon which the intention terminates. This is naturally impossible. Sin may be chosen as a means of gratifying a malicious feeling, but this is not choosing it as an end, but as a means. Malevolence, strictly speaking, is in itself impossible to a moral agent. That is, the choice of moral or natural evil for its own sake, contradicts the nature of moral agents, and the nature of ultimate choice, and is therefore impossible. In common language we may charge them with malevolence; but, strictly speaking, the evil is not the end, but the gratification of the malicious feeling of the selfish being is the end.

III. What disobedience to moral law must consist in.

It consists in choosing self-gratification as an end, or for its own sake, instead of choosing, in accordance with the law of the reason and of God, the highest well-being of God and of the universe as an ultimate end. In other words still, sin or disobedience to the moral law, consists in the consecration of the heart and life to the gratification of the constitutional and artificial desires, rather than in obedience to the law of the intelligence. Or, once more, sin consists in being governed by impulses of the sensibility, instead of being governed by the law of God, as it lies revealed in the reason.

That this is sin, and the whole of sin, viewed in its germinating principles, will appear, if we consider:--
1. That this state of mind, or this choice is the "carnal mind," or the minding of the flesh, which the apostle affirms to be "enmity against God."

2. It is the universal representation of scripture, that sin consists in the spirit of self-seeking.

3. This spirit of self-seeking is always in the Bible represented as the contrast or opposite of disinterested benevolence, or the love which the law requires. "Ephraim bringeth forth fruit to himself," is the sum of God's charges against sinners.

4. Selfishness is always spoken of in terms of reprobation in the Bible.

5. It is known by every moral agent to be sinful.

6. It is, in fact, the end which all unregenerate men pursue, and the only end they pursue.

7. When we come to the consideration of the attributes of selfishness, it will be seen that every form of sin, not only may, but must resolve itself into selfishness, just as we have seen that every form of virtue does and must resolve itself into love or benevolence.

8. From the laws of its constitution, the mind is shut up to the necessity of choosing that, as an ultimate end, which is regarded by the mind as intrinsically good or valuable in itself. This is the very idea of choosing an end, to wit, something chosen for its own sake, or for what it is in and of itself, or, because it is regarded by the mind as intrinsically valuable to self, or to being in general, or to both.

9. The gratification or happiness of being is necessarily regarded by the mind as a good in itself, or as intrinsically valuable.

10. Nothing else is or can be regarded as valuable in itself, or finally, but the good of being.

11. Moral agents are, therefore, shut up to the necessity of willing the good of being, either partially or impartially, either good to self, or good to being in general. Nothing else can possibly be chosen as an end or for its own sake. Willing the good of being impartially, as we have seen, is virtue. To will it partially is to will it, not for its own sake, except upon condition of its relation to self. That is, it is to will good to self. In other words, it is to will the gratification of self as an end, in opposition to willing the good of universal being as an end, and every good, or the good of every being, according to its intrinsic value.

12. But may not one will the good of a part of being as an end, or for the sake of the intrinsic value of their good? This would not be benevolence, for that, as we have seen, must consist in willing good for its own sake, and implies the willing of every good, and of the highest good of universal being. It would not be selfishness, as it would not be willing good to, or the gratification of, self. It would be sin, for it would be the partial love or choice of good. It would be loving some of my neighbours, but not all of them. It would, therefore, be sin, but not selfishness. If this can be, then there is such a thing possible, whether actual or not, as sin that does not consist in selfishness. But let us examine whether this supposition would not resolve itself into selfishness.

To say that I choose good for its own sake, or because it is valuable to being, that is, in obedience to the law of my reason, and of God, implies that I choose all possible good, and every good according to its relative value. If, then, a being chooses his own good, or the good of any being as an ultimate end, in obedience to the law of reason, it must be that he chooses, for the same reason, the highest possible good of all sentient being.

The partial choice of good implies the choice of it, not merely for its own sake, but upon condition of its relations to self, or to certain particular persons. Its relations conditionate the choice. When its relations to self conditionate the choice, so that it is chosen, not for its intrinsic value, irrespective of its relations, but for its relations to self, this is selfishness. It is the partial choice of good. If I choose the good of others besides myself, and choose good because of its relations to them, it must be either--

1. Because I love their persons with the love of fondness, and will their good for that reason, that is, to gratify my affection for them, which is selfishness; or--

2. Because of their relations to me, so that good to them is in some way a good to me, which also is selfishness; or--

3. Upon condition that they are worthy, which is benevolence; for if I will good to a being upon condition that he is worthy, I must value the good for its own sake, and will it particularly to him, because he deserves it. This is benevolence, and not the partial choice of good, because it is obeying the law of my reason. If I will the good of any being, or number of beings, it must be for some reason. I must will it as an end, or as a means. If I will it as an end, it must be the universal or impartial choice of good. If I will it as a means, it must be as a means to some end. The end cannot be their good for its own sake, for this would be willing it as an end, and not as a means. If I will it as a means, it must be as a means of my own gratification.

Again: If I will the good of any number of beings, I must do it in obedience to the law either of my intelligence and of God, or of my sensibility. But, if I will in obedience to the law of my intelligence, it must be the choice of the highest good of universal being. But if I will in obedience to the law or impulse of my sensibility, it must be to gratify my feelings or desires. This is selfishness.

Again: As the will must either follow the law of the reason and of God, or the impulses of the sensibility, it follows that moral agents are shut up to the necessity of being selfish or benevolent, and that there is no third way, because there is no third medium, through which any object of choice, can be presented. The mind can absolutely know nothing as an object of choice, that is not recommended by one of these faculties. Selfishness, then, and benevolence, are the only two alternatives.

Therefore, disobedience to the moral law must essentially consist in selfishness, and in selfishness alone.

It has been said, that a moral agent may will the good of others for its own sake, and yet not will the good of all. That is, that he may will the good of some for its intrinsic value, and yet not will universal good. But this is absurd. To make the valuable the object of choice for its own sake, without respect to any conditions or relations, is the same as to will all possible and universal good: that is, the one necessarily implies and includes the other. It has been asserted, for example, that an infidel abolitionist may be conscious of willing and seeking the good of the slave for its own sake, or disinterestedly, and yet not exercise universal benevolence. I reply, he deceives himself, just as a man would, who would say, he chooses fruit for its own sake. The fact is, he is conscious of desiring fruit for its own sake. But he does not and cannot choose it for its own sake. He chooses it in obedience to his desire, that is, to gratify his desire. So it is, and must be, with the infidel abolitionist. It cannot be that he chooses the good of the slave in obedience to the law of his intelligence and of God; for if he did, his benevolence would be universal. It must be, then, that he chooses the good of the slave, because he desires it, or to gratify a constitutional desire. Men naturally desire their own happiness, and the happiness of others: this is constitutional. But when, in obedience to these desires, they will their own or others' happiness, they seek to gratify their sensibility or desires: this is selfishness.

Let it be remembered, then, that sin is a unit, and always and necessarily consists in selfish ultimate intention, and in nothing else. This intention is sin; and thus we see that every phase of sin resolves itself into selfishness. This will appear more and more, as we proceed to unfold the subject of moral depravity.

This lecture was typed in by Daniel F. Smith.




In this discussion, I will

I. State briefly what constitutes disobedience.

II. Show what is not implied in it.

I. What constitutes disobedience.

We have seen that all sin or disobedience to moral law is a unit, and that it consists in selfishness, or in the choice of self-gratification as an end; in other words, that it consists in committing the will to the impulses of the sensibility, to the desires, emotions, feelings, and passions, instead of committing it to the good of being in general, in obedience to the law of the reason, or to the law of God as it is revealed in the reason. Selfishness is the intention to gratify self as an end. It is the preference of self-interest to other and higher interests.

II. What is not implied in disobedience to the law of God.

But in the vast majority of instances, where the law is violated and sin committed, the wrong of the doing is no part of the sinner's aim or intention. He intends to gratify himself at all events. This intention is wrong. But it is not an intention to do wrong, nor is the wrong in any case the end upon which the intention terminates. There is a great mistake often entertained upon this subject. Many seem to think that they do not sin unless they intend to sin. The important truth, that sin belongs only to the ultimate intention, than which nothing is more true or more important, has been perverted in this manner. It has been assumed by some that they had not done wrong, nor intended wrong, because they were conscious that the wrong was not the end at which they aimed. "I did not intend the wrong," say they, "and therefore I did not sin." Now here is a fatal mistake, and a total perversion of the great and important truth, that sin and holiness belong only to the ultimate intention.
But again. It is not true that sinners have a constitutional appetency and craving for sin. They have a constitutional appetite or desire for a great many things around them. They crave food, and drink, and knowledge. So did our first parents; and when these desires were strongly excited, they were a powerful temptation to prohibited indulgence. Eve craved the fruit, and the knowledge which she supposed she might attain by partaking of it. These desires led her to seek their indulgence in a prohibited manner. She desired and craved the food and the knowledge, and not the sin of eating. So, all sinners have constitutional and artificial appetites and desires enough. But not one of them is a craving for sin, unless it be the exception already named, when the mind has come into such relations to God, as to have a malicious satisfaction in abusing him. But this is not natural to man, and if it ever exists, is only brought about by rejecting great light, and inducing a most terrible perversion of the sensibility. But such cases are extremely rare; whereas, it has been strangely and absurdly maintained that all sinners, in consequence of the fall of Adam, have a sinful constitution, or one that craves sin, as it craves food and drink. This is false in fact, and absurd in philosophy, and wholly inconsistent with scripture, as we shall see, when we make moral depravity the special subject of attention. The facts are these: men have constitutional desires, appetites, and passions. These are not sinful in themselves; they all terminate on their respective objects. Selfishness, or sin, consists in choosing the gratification of these desires as an end, or in preferring their gratification to other and higher interests. This choice or intention is sinful. But, as I have said, sin is not the object intended, but self-gratification is the end intended.

Again: that disobedience to the law of God does not imply the choice of sin, or the wrong for its own sake, has been shown in a former lecture. But I must so far repeat as to say, that it is impossible that sin should be chosen as an end. Sin belongs to the ultimate intention. It either consists in, and is identical with, selfish intention, or it is the moral element or attribute of that intention. If it be identical with it, then to intend sin as an end, or for its own sake, were to intend my own intention as an end. If sin be but the moral element, quality, or attribute of the intention, then to intend sin as an end, I must intend an attribute of my intention as an end. Either alternative is absurd and impossible.
Now every moral agent does, and must, and this fact constitutes him a moral agent, assume all these, and divers other truths, at every moment of his moral agency. He assumes them all, one as really and as much as the other, and they are all assumed as first truths; and in the great majority of instances, the mind is not more taken up with the consciousness of the assumption, or with attending to those truths, as a subject of thought, than it is with the first truths, that space exists and is infinite, that duration exists and is infinite. It is of the highest importance, that this should be distinctly understood--that sin does not imply, that the moral character of an act or intention should be distinctly before the mind, at the time of its commission. Indeed, it is perfectly common for sinners to act thoughtlessly, as they say, that is, without reflecting upon the moral character of their intentions. But hereby they are not justified. Indeed, this very fact is often but an evidence and an instance of extreme depravity. Think you than an angel could sin thoughtlessly? Could he form a selfish intention without reflection, or thinking of its wickedness? Sinners, in sinning thoughtlessly, give the highest evidence of their desperate voluntary depravity. A sinner may become so hardened, and his conscience so stupified, that he may go on from day to day without thinking of God, of moral obligation, of right or wrong; and yet his sin and his guilt are real. He does and must know, and assume all these truths at every step, just as he assumes his own existence, the law of causality, his own liberty or free agency, &c. None of these need to be made the object of the mind's attention: they are known and need not to be learned. They are first truths, and we cannot act at all without assuming them. They are in the reason.
It has been strangely and absurdly assumed, that sin in action implies a sinful nature. But this is contrary to fact and to sound philosophy, as well as contrary to the Bible, which we shall see in its proper place.

As it was with Adam and Eve, so it is with every sinner. There is not, there cannot be, sin in the nature of the constitution. But there are constitutional appetites and passions, and when these are strongly excited, they are a strong temptation or inducement to the will, to seek their gratification as an ultimate end. This, as I have said, is sin, and nothing else is or can be sin. It is selfishness. Under its appropriate head, I shall show that the nature or constitution of sinners has become physically depraved or diseased, and that as a consequence, the appetites and passions are more easily excited, and are more clamorous and despotic in their demands; and that, therefore, the constitution of man in its present state, tends more strongly than it otherwise would do, to sin. But to affirm that the constitution is in itself sinful, is worse than nonsense; it is contradicting God's own definition of sin. It is to stultify the whole question of morality and religion. But this we shall more fully see in a future lecture.

This lecture was typed in by Daniel F. Smith.




In the discussion of this question, I must--

I. Remind you of what constitutes disobedience to moral law.

II. Show what is implied in it.

I. What constitutes disobedience to moral law?

II. What is implied in disobedience to moral law?

The inquiry, it will be seen, naturally divides itself into two branches. The first respects the moral character of selfishness, the second respects the attributes of selfishness. We will attend to these two inquiries in their order, and--

(1.) Disobedience to moral law implies the possession of the powers of moral agency. These have been so often enumerated as to render any enlargement upon this point unnecessary, except to say, that it is impossible for any but a moral agent to violate moral law. Mere animals may do that which the moral law prohibits in moral agents. But the moral law does not legislate over them; therefore, those things in them are not sin, not a violation of moral law.

(2.) It implies knowledge of the end which a moral agent is bound to choose. We have seen that the moral law requires love, and that this love is benevolence, and that benevolence is the disinterested and impartial choice of the highest good of God and of being in general, as an end. Now it follows, that this end must be apprehended, before we can possibly choose it. Therefore, obligation to choose it implies the perception or knowledge of it. Disobedience to moral law, then, implies the developement in the reason of the idea of the good or valuable to being. A being therefore who has not reason, or the ideas of whose reason on moral subjects are not at all developed, cannot violate the law of God; for over such the moral law does not extend its claims.

(3.) It implies the developement of the correlatives of the ideas of the good or the valuable, to wit, the ideas of moral obligation to will or choose it for the sake of its intrinsic value, and also the ideas of right and wrong. When the idea of the valuable to being is once developed, the mind is so constituted, that it cannot but instantly or simultaneously affirm its obligation to will it as an end, and every good according to its perceived relative value.

(4.) Disobedience, &c., also implies the developement of the correlative of the ideas of right and wrong, namely: the ideas of praise or blame-worthiness, or of merit and demerit. This idea, that is, the idea of moral character, is the correlative of that of right and wrong, in such a sense, that the idea of right and wrong necessitates and implies the idea of moral character, or of praise and blame-worthiness. When these conditions are fulfilled, and not till then, does the spirit of self-seeking, or the choice of our own gratification as an end, become sin, or constitute a breach of moral law. It will follow, that no beings are subjects of moral government, and capable of disobedience to moral law, but such as are moral agents, that is, such as possess both the powers of moral agency, and have these powers in such a state of developement and integrity, as to render obedience possible. It will follow, that neither the brute animals nor idiots, nor lunatics, nor somnambulists, nor indeed any being who is not rational and free, can disobey the moral law.
(1.) Voluntariness is an attribute of selfishness.

Selfishness has often been confounded with mere desire. But these things are by no means identical. Desire is constitutional. It is a phenomenon of the sensibility. It is a purely involuntary state of mind, and can in itself produce no action, nor can it, in itself, have moral character. Selfishness is a phenomenon of the will, and consists in committing the will to the gratification of the desires. The desire itself is not selfishness, but submitting the will to be governed by the desires, is selfishness. It should be understood, that no kind of mere desire, and no strength of mere desire, constitutes selfishness. Selfishness commences when the will yields to the desire, and seeks to obey it, in opposition to the law of the intelligence. It matters not what kind of desire it is; if it is the desire that governs the will, this is selfishness. It must be the will in a state of committal to the gratification of the desire.

(2.) Liberty is another attribute of selfishness.

That is, the choice of self-gratification is not necessitated by desire. But the will is always free to choose in opposition to desire. This every moral agent is as conscious of as of his own existence. The desire is not free, but the choice to gratify it is and must be free. There is a sense, as I shall have occasion to show, in which slavery is an attribute of selfishness, but not in the sense that the will chooses, by a law of necessity, to gratify desire. Liberty, in the sense of ability to make an opposite choice, must ever remain an attribute of selfishness, while selfishness continues to be a sin, or while it continues to sustain any relation to moral law.

(3.) Intelligence is another attribute of selfishness.

By this it is not intended, that intelligence is an attribute or phenomenon of will, nor that the choice of self-gratification is in accordance with the demands of the intellect. But it is intended, that the choice is made with the knowledge of the moral character that will be involved in it. The mind knows its obligation to make an opposite choice. It is not a mistake. It is not a choice made in ignorance of moral obligation to choose the highest good of being, as an end, in opposition to self-gratification. It is an intelligent choice in the sense, that it is a known resistance of the demands of the intellect. It is a known rejection of its claims. It is a known setting up of self-gratification, and preferring it to all higher interests.

(4.) Unreasonableness is another attribute of selfishness.

By this it is intended, that the selfish choice is in direct opposition to the demands of the reason. The reason was given to rule, that is, to affirm obligation, and thus announce the law of God. It affirms law and moral obligation. Obedience to moral law, as it is revealed in the reason, is virtue. Obedience to the sensibility in opposition to the reason, is sin. Selfishness consists in this. It is a dethroning of reason from the seat of government, and an enthroning of blind desire in opposition to it. Selfishness is always and necessarily unreasonable. It is a denial of that divine attribute that allies man to God, makes him capable of virtue, and is a sinking him to the level of a brute. It is a denial of his manhood, of his rational nature. It is a contempt of the voice of God within him, and a deliberate trampling down the sovereignty of his own intellect. Shame on selfishness! It dethrones human reason, and would dethrone the divine, and place mere blind lust upon the throne of the universe.

The very definition of selfishness implies that unreasonableness is one of its attributes. Selfishness consists in the will's yielding itself to the impulses of the sensibility, in opposition to the demands of the intelligence. Therefore, every act or choice of the will is necessarily altogether unreasonable. The sinner, while he continues such, never says nor does one thing that is in accordance with right reason. Hence the Bible says, that "madness is in their heart while they live." They have made an unreasonable choice of an end, and all their choices of means to secure their end are only a carrying out of their ultimate choice. They are, every one of them, put forth to secure an end contrary to reason. Therefore, no sinner who has never been converted, has, even in a single instance, chosen otherwise than in direct opposition to reason.

They are not merely sometimes unreasonable, but uniformly, and, while they remain selfish, necessarily so. The very first time that a sinner acts or wills reasonably, is when he turns to God, or repents and becomes a Christian. This is the first instance in which he practically acknowledges that he has reason. All previous to this, every one of the actions of his will and of his life, is a practical denial of his manhood, of his rational nature, of his obligation to God or his neighbour. We sometimes hear impenitent sinners spoken of as being unreasonable, in such a manner as to imply that all sinners are not so. But this only favours the delusion of sinners by leaving them to suppose that they are not all of them, at all times, altogether unreasonable. But the fact is, that there is not, and there never can be, in earth or hell, one impenitent sinner who, in any instance, acts otherwise than in direct and palpable opposition to his reason.

It had, therefore, been infinitely better for sinners if they had never been endowed with reason. They do not merely act without consulting their reason, but in stout and determined opposition to it.

Again: They act as directly in opposition to it as they possibly can. They not only oppose it, but they oppose it as much, in as aggravated a manner, as possible. What can be more directly and aggravatedly opposed to reason than the choice which the sinner makes of an end? Reason was given him to direct him in regard to the choice of the great end of life. It gives him the idea of the eternal and the infinite. It spreads out before him the interests of God and of the universe as of absolutely infinite value. It affirms their value, and the infinite obligation of the sinner to consecrate himself to these interests; and it promises him endless rewards if he will do so. On the contrary, it lays before him the consequences of refusal. It thunders in his ear the terrible sanctions of the law. It points him to the coming doom that awaits his refusal to comply with its demands. But behold, in the face of all this, the sinner, unhesitatingly, in the face of these affirmations, demands, and threatenings, turns away and consecrates himself to the gratification of his desires with the certainty that he could not do greater despite to his own nature than in this most mad, most preposterous, most blasphemous choice. Why do not sinners consider that it is impossible for them to offer a greater insult to God, who gave them reason, or more truly and deeply to shame and degrade themselves, than they do in their beastly selfishness? Total, universal, and shameless unreasonableness, is the universal characteristic of every selfish mind.

(5.) Interestedness is another attribute of selfishness.

By interestedness is meant self-interestedness. It is not the disinterested choice of good, that is, it is not the choice of the good of being in general as an end, but it is the choice of self-good, of good to self. Its relation to self is the condition of the choice of this good. But for its being the good of self, it would not be chosen. The fundamental reason, or that which should induce choice, to wit, the intrinsic value of good, is rejected as insufficient; and the secondary reason, namely, its relation to self, is the condition of determining the will in this direction. This is really making self-good the supreme end. In other words, it is making self-gratification the end. Nothing is practically regarded as worthy of choice, except as it sustains to self the relation of a means of self-gratification.

This attribute of selfishness secures a corresponding state of the sensibility. The sensibility, under this indulgence, attains to a monstrous developement, either generally, or in some particular directions. Selfishness is the committal of the will to the indulgence of the propensities. But from this it by no means follows, that all of the propensities will be indiscriminately indulged, and thereby greatly developed. Sometimes one propensity, and sometimes another, has the greatest natural strength, and thereby gains the ascendancy in the control of the will. Sometimes circumstances tend more strongly to the developement of one appetite or passion than another. Whatever propensity is most indulged, will gain the greatest developement. The propensities cannot all be indulged at once, for they are often opposed to each other. But they may all be indulged and developed in their turn. For example, the licentious propensities, and various other propensities, cannot be indulged consistently with the simultaneous indulgence of the avaricious propensities, the desire of reputation and of ultimate happiness. Each of these, and even all the propensities, may come in for a share, and in some instances may gain so equal a share of indulgence, as upon the whole to be about equally developed. But in general, either from constitutional temperament, or from circumstances, some one or more of the propensities will gain so uniform a control of the will, as to occasion its monstrous developement. It may be the love of reputation; and then there will be at least a public decent exterior, more or less strict, according to the state of morals in the society in which the individual dwells. If it be amativeness that gains the ascendency over the other propensities, licentiousness will be the result. If it be alimentiveness, then gluttony and Epicurism will be the result. The result of selfishness must be, to develope in general, or in particular, the propensities of the sensibility, and to beget a corresponding exterior. If avarice take the control of the will, we have the haggard and ragged miser. All the other propensities wither under the reign of this detestable one. Where the love of knowledge prevails, we have the scholar, the philosopher, the man of learning. This is one of the most decent and respectable forms of selfishness, but is nevertheless as absolutely selfishness as any other form. When compassion, as a feeling, prevails, we have, as a result, the philanthropist, and often the reformer; not the reformer in a virtuous sense, but the selfish reformer. Where love of kindred prevails, we often have the kind husband, the affectionate father, mother, brother, sister, and so on. These are the amiable sinners, especially among their own kindred. When the love of country prevails, we have the patriot, the statesman, and the soldier. This picture might be drawn at full length, but with these traits I must leave you to fill up the outline. I would only add, that several of these forms of selfishness so nearly resemble certain forms of virtue, as often to be confounded with them, and mistaken for them. Indeed, so far as the outward life is concerned, they are right, in the letter, but as they do not proceed from disinterestedly benevolent intention, they are only specious forms of selfishness.

(6.) Partiality is another attribute of selfishness. It consists in giving the preference to certain interests, on account of their being either directly the interests of self, or so connected with self-interest as to be preferred on that account. It matters not, whether the interest to which the preference is given be of greater or of less value, if so be it is preferred, not for the reason of its greater value, but because of its relation to self. In some instances the practical preference may justly be given to a less interest, on account of its sustaining such a relation to us that we can secure it, when the greater interest could not be secured by us. If the reason of the preference, in such case, be, not that it is self-interest, but an interest that can be secured while the greater cannot, the preference is a just one, and not partiality. My family, for example, sustain such relations to me, that I can more readily and surely secure their interests, than I can those of my neighbour, or of a stranger. For this reason I am under obligation to give the practical preference to the interests of my own family, not because they are my own, nor because their interests sustain such a relation to my own, but because I can more readily secure their interests than those of any other family.

The question in such a case turns upon the amount I am able to secure, and not on their intrinsic value merely. It is a general truth, that we can secure more readily and certainly the interests of those to whom we sustain certain relations; and, therefore, God and reason point out these interests as particular objects of our attention and effort. This is not partiality but impartiality. It is treating interests as they should be treated.

But selfishness is always partial. If it gives any interest whatever the preference, it is because of its relation to self. It always, and, continuing to be selfishness, necessarily, lays the greatest stress upon, and gives the preference to, those interests the promotion of which will gratify self.

Here care should be taken to avoid delusion. Oftentimes selfishness appears to be very disinterested and very impartial. For example: here is a man whose compassion, as a mere feeling or state of the sensibility, is greatly developed. He meets a beggar, an object that strongly excites his ruling passion. He empties his pockets, and even takes off his coat and gives it to him, and in his paroxysm he will divide his all with him, or even give him all. Now this would generally pass for most undoubted virtue, as a rare and impressive instance of moral goodness. But there is no virtue, no benevolence in it. It is the mere yielding of the will to the control of feeling, and has nothing in it of the nature of virtue. Innumerable examples of this might be adduced, as illustrations of this truth. It is only an instance and an illustration of selfishness. It is the will seeking to gratify the feeling of compassion, which for the time is the strongest desire.

We constitutionally desire not only our own happiness, but also that of men in general, when their happiness in no way conflicts with our own. Hence selfish men will often manifest a deep interest in the welfare of those, whose welfare will not interfere with their own. Now, should the will be yielded up to the gratification of this desire, this would often be regarded as virtue. For example: a few years since much interest and feeling were excited in this country by the cause and sufferings of the Greeks, in their struggle for liberty; and since in the cause of the Poles. A spirit of enthusiasm appeared, and many were ready to give and do almost anything for the cause of liberty. They gave up their will to the gratification of this excited state of feeling. This, they may have supposed, was virtue; but it was not, nor was there a semblance of virtue about it, when it is once understood, that virtue consists in yielding the will to the law of the intelligence, and not to the impulse of excited feelings.

Some writers have fallen into the strange mistake of making virtue to consist in seeking the gratification of certain desires, because, as they say, these desires are virtuous. They make some of the desires selfish, and some benevolent. To yield the will to the control of the selfish propensities is sin; to yield the will to the control of the benevolent desires, such as the desire of my neighbour's happiness and of the public happiness, is virtue, because these are good desires, while the selfish desires are evil. Is not this the doctrine taught by Bishop Butler? Now this is, and has been, a very common view of virtue and vice. But it is fundamentally erroneous. None of the constitutional desires are good or evil in themselves; they are all alike involuntary, and all alike terminate on their correlated objects. To yield the will to the control of any one of them, no matter which, is sin; it is following a blind feeling, desire, or impulse of the sensibility, instead of yielding to the demands of the intelligence, as the law affirming power. To will the good of my neighbour, or of my country, and of God, because of the intrinsic value of those interests, that is, to will them as an end, and in obedience to the law of the reason, is virtue; but to will them to gratify a constitutional but blind desire, is selfishness and sin. The desires terminate on their respective objects, but the will, in this case, seeks the objects, not for their own sake, but because they are desired, that is, to gratify the desires. This is choosing them, not as an end, but as a means of self-gratification. This is making self-gratification the end after all. This must be a universal truth, when a thing is chosen merely in obedience to desire. The benevolence of these writers is sheer selfishness, and their virtue is vice.

The choice of any thing whatever, because it is desired, irrespective of the demands of the reason, is selfishness and sin. It matters not what it is. The very statement, that I choose a thing because I desire it, is only another form of saying, that I choose it for my own sake, or for the sake of appeasing the desire, and not on account of its own intrinsic value. All such choice is always and necessarily partial. It is giving one interest the preference over another, not because of its perceived intrinsic and superior value, but because it is an object of desire. If I yield to mere desire in any case, it must be to gratify the desire. This is, and in the case supposed must be, the end for which the choice is made. To deny this is to deny that the will seeks the object because it is desired. Partiality consists in giving one thing the preference over another for no good reason. That is, not because the intelligence demands this preference, but because the sensibility demands it. Partiality is therefore always and necessarily an attribute of selfishness.

(7.) Impenitence is another modification of selfishness. Perhaps it is more proper to say, that impenitence is only another name for selfishness. Penitence, or repentance, is the turning of the heart from selfishness to benevolence. Impenitence is the heart's cleaving to the commission of sin under light, or under the pressure of affirmed obligation or, more properly, cleaving to that, the willing and doing of which is sin. But this we shall more fully see in another place.

(8.) Unbelief is another modification or attribute of selfishness. Unbelief is not a mere negation, or the mere absence of faith. Faith, as an attribute of benevolence, is that quality which commits it to truth and to the God of truth, to veracity as a condition of securing its end. Unbelief, as an attribute of selfishness, is that quality that withholds confidence, and refuses to trust in God, or to commit itself to truth. Faith, as an attribute of benevolence, is the quality, in the nature of benevolence, that causes it to commit itself to truth in specific executive acts. This attribute of benevolence causes it to commit the life and the whole being to be moulded and influenced by truth. Unbelief, as an attribute of selfishness, is that quality that causes it to withhold specific acts of confidence in God and in truth. It is saying--I will take care of my own interests and let God take care of his. "Who is God that I should serve him? and what profit should I have, if I pray unto Him?" It is that in selfishness which is the ground of the refusal to commit ourselves to the guidance of God, and which leads us to trust in our own guidance. It is self-trust, self-dependence; and what is this but selfishness and our own self-seeking? Christ says to the Jews, "How can ye believe which seek honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?" This assumes that unbelief is a modification of selfishness; that their regard to their reputation with men, rendered faith, while that self-seeking spirit was indulged, impossible. They withheld confidence in Christ, because it would cost them their reputation with men to believe. So every sinner, who ever heard the gospel and has not embraced it, withholds confidence from Christ, because it will cost self too much to yield this confidence. This is true in every case of unbelief. Confidence is withheld, because to yield it involves and implies the denying of ourselves all ungodliness and every worldly lust. Christ requires the abandonment of every form and degree of selfishness. To believe is to receive with the heart Christ's instruction and requirements; to trust in them,--to commit our whole being to be moulded by them. Unbelief, then, is only a selfish withholding of this confidence, this committal. The fact is, that faith implies and consists in the renunciation of selfishness; and unbelief is only selfishness, contemplated in its relation to Christ and his gospel.

This lecture was given to us by Dennis Carroll.




(9.) Efficiency is another attribute of selfishness.

Desire never produces action until it influences the will. It has no efficiency or causality in itself. It cannot, without the concurrence of the will, command the attention of the intellect, or move a muscle of the body. The whole causality of the mind resides in the will. In it resides the power of accomplishment.
Again: the whole efficiency of the mind, as it respects accomplishment, resides in the choice of an end, or in the ultimate intention. All action of the will, or all willing, must consist in choosing either an end, or the means of accomplishing an end. If there is choice, something is chosen. That something is chosen for some reason. To deny this is a denial that any thing is chosen. The ultimate reason for the choice and the thing chosen, are identical. This we have repeatedly seen.

Again: we have seen that the means cannot be chosen until the end is chosen. The choice of the end is distinct from the volitions or endeavours of the mind to secure the end. But although the choice of an end is not identical with the subordinate choices and volitions to secure the end, yet it necessitates them. The choice once made, secures or necessitates the executive volitions to secure the end. By this it is not intended that the mind is not free to relinquish its end, and of course to relinquish the use of the means to accomplish it; but only that, while the choice or intention remains, the choice of the end by the will is efficient in producing volitions to realize the end. This is true both of benevolence and selfishness. They are both choices of an end, and are necessarily efficient in producing the use of the means to realize this end. They are choices of opposite ends, and, of course, will produce their respective results.

The Bible represents sinners as having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; that while the will is committed to the indulgence of the propensities, they cannot cease from the indulgence. There is no way, therefore, for the sinner to escape from the commission of sin, but to cease to be selfish. While selfishness continues, you may change the form of outward manifestation, you may deny one appetite or desire for the sake of indulging another; but it is and must be sin still. The desire to escape hell, and to obtain heaven may become the strongest, in which case, selfishness will take on a most sanctimonious type. But if the will is following desire, it is selfishness still; and all your religious duties, as you call them, are only selfishness robed in the stolen habiliments of loving obedience to God.

Be it remembered, then, that selfishness is, and must be, efficient in producing its effects. It is cause: the effect must follow. The whole life and activity of sinners is founded in it. It constitutes their life, or rather their spiritual death. They are dead in trespasses and in sins. It is in vain for them to dream of doing anything good, until they relinquish their selfishness. While this continues, they cannot act at all, except as they use the means to accomplish a selfish end. It is impossible, while the will remains committed to a selfish end, or to the promotion of self-interest or self-gratification, that it should use the means to promote a benevolent end. The first thing is to change the end, and then the sinner can cease from outward sin. Indeed, if the end be changed, many of the same acts which were before sinful will become holy. While the selfish end continues, whatever a sinner does, is selfish. Whether he eats, or drinks, or labours, or preaches, or, in short, whatever he does, is to promote some form of self-interest. The end being wrong, all is, and must be, wrong.

But let the end be changed; let benevolence take the place of selfishness, and all is right. With this end in view the mind is absolutely incapable of doing anything or of choosing anything, except as a means of promoting the good of the universe.

I wish to impress this truth deeply upon the mind, and, therefore, give the substance of the preceding remarks in the form of definite propositions.

i. All action consists in, or results from, choice.

ii. All choice must respect or consist in the choice of an end or of means. The mind is incapable of choosing unless it has an object of choice, and that object must be regarded by the mind either as an end or as a means.

iii. The mind can have but one ultimate end at the same time.

iv. It cannot choose the means until it has chosen the end.

v. It cannot choose one end and use means to accomplish another, at the same time.

vi. Therefore, while the will is benevolent or committed to the glory of God and the good of being, it cannot use the means of self-gratification in a selfish sense, or, in other words, it cannot put forth selfish volitions.

vii. When the will is committed to self-indulgence it cannot use the means designed to glorify God and promote the good of men as an end. This is impossible.

viii. The carnal heart or mind cannot but sin; "it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be," because it is "enmity against God."

ix. The new or regenerate heart cannot sin. It is benevolence, love to God and man. This cannot sin. These are both ultimate choices or intentions. They are from their own nature efficient, each excluding the other, and each securing, for the time being, the exclusive use of means to promote its end. To deny this, is the same as to maintain either that the will can, at the same time, choose two opposite ends, or that it can choose one end only, but, at the same time, choose the means to accomplish another end, not yet chosen. Now either alternative is absurd. Then holiness and sin can never co-exist in the same mind, at the same time. Each, as has been said, for the time being, necessarily excludes the other. Selfishness and benevolence co-exist in the same mind! A greater absurdity and a more gross contradiction was never conceived or expressed. No one for a moment ever supposed that selfishness and benevolence could co-exist in the same mind, who had clearly defined ideas of what they are. When desire is mistaken on the one hand for benevolence, and on the other for selfishness, the mistake is natural, that selfishness and benevolence can co-exist in the same mind. But as soon as it is seen, that benevolence and selfishness are supreme ultimate opposite choices, the affirmation is instantaneous and irresistible, that they can neither co-exist, nor can one use means to promote the other. While benevolence remains, the mind's whole activity springs from it as from a fountain. This is the philosophy of Christ. "Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things." Matt. xii. 33, 35. "Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig-tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh." James iii. 11, 12. "For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit: for of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that which is evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh." Luke vi. 43-45.

(10.) Opposition to benevolence, or to virtue, or to holiness and true religion, is one of the attributes of selfishness; this quality belongs to the nature of selfishness.

Selfishness is not, in its relations to benevolence, a mere negation. It cannot be. It is the choice of self-gratification as the supreme and ultimate end of life. While the will is committed to this end, and benevolence, or a mind committed to an opposite end, is contemplated, the will cannot remain in a state of indifference to benevolence. It must either yield its preference of self-indulgence, or resist the benevolence which the intellect perceives. The will cannot remain in the exercise of this selfish choice, without as it were bracing and girding itself against that virtue, which it does not imitate. If it does not imitate it, it must be because it refuses to do so. The intellect does, and must, strongly urge the will to imitate benevolence, and to seek the same end. The will must yield or resist, and the resistance must be more or less resolute and determined, as the demands of the intellect are more or less emphatic. This resistance to benevolence or to the demands of the intellect in view of it, is what the Bible calls, hardening the heart. It is obstinacy of will, under the light and the presence of true religion and the admitted claims of benevolence.

This opposition to benevolence or true religion, must be developed in specific action, whenever the mind apprehends true religion, or selfishness must be abandoned. Not only must this opposition be developed, or selfishness abandoned, under such circumstances, but it must increase as true religion displays more and more of its loveliness. As the light from the radiant sun of benevolence is poured more and more upon the darkness of selfishness, the opposition of this principle of action must of necessity manifest itself in the same proportion, or selfishness must be abandoned. Thus selfishness remaining under light, must manifest more and more opposition, just in proportion as light increases, and the soul has less the colour of an apology for its opposition.

This peculiarity of selfishness has always been manifested just in proportion as it has been brought into the light of true religion. This accounts for all the opposition that has been made to true religion since the world began. It also proves that where there are impenitent sinners, and they retain their impenitence, and manifest no hostility to the religion which they witness, that there is something defective in the professed piety which they behold; or at least they do not contemplate all the attributes of a true piety. It also proves, that persecution will always exist where much true religion is manifested to those who hold fast their selfishness.

It is indeed true, that selfishness and benevolence are just as much opposed to each other, and just as much and as necessarily at war with each other, as God and Satan, as heaven and hell. There can never be a truce between them; they are essential and eternal opposites. They are not merely opposites, but they are opposite efficient causes. They are essential activities. They are the two, and the only two, great antagonistic principles in the universe of mind. Each is heaving and energizing like an earthquake to realize its end. A war of mutual and uncompromising extermination necessarily exists between them. Neither can be in the presence of the other, without repulsion and opposition. Each puts forth all its energy to subdue and overcome the other; and already selfishness has shed an ocean of the blood of saints, as well as the precious blood of the Prince of life. There is not a more gross and injurious mistake, than to suppose that selfishness ever, under any circumstances, becomes reconciled to benevolence. The supposition is absurd and contradictory; since for selfishness to become reconciled to benevolence, were the same thing as for selfishness to become benevolence. Selfishness may change the mode of attack or of its opposition, but its real opposition it can never change, while it retains its own nature and continues to be selfishness.

This opposition of the heart to benevolence often begets deep opposition of feeling. The opposition of the will engages the intellect in fabricating excuses, and cavils, and lies, and refuges, and often greatly perverts the thoughts, and excites the most bitter feelings imaginable toward God and toward the saints. Selfishness will strive to justify its opposition, and to shield itself against the reproaches of conscience, and will resort to every possible expedient to cover up its real hostility to holiness. It will pretend that it is not holiness, but sin that it opposes. But the fact is, it is not sin but holiness to which it stands for ever opposed. The opposition of feeling is only developed when the heart is brought into a strong light, and makes deep and strong resistance. In such cases, the sensibility sometimes boils over with feelings of bitter opposition to God, and Christ, and all good.

The question is often asked, May not this opposition exist in the sensibility, and those feelings of hostility to God exist, when the heart is in a truly benevolent state? To this inquiry, I would reply: If it can, it must be produced by infernal or some other influence that misrepresents God, and places his character before the mind in a false light. Blasphemous thoughts may be suggested, and, as it were, injected into the mind. These thoughts may have their natural effect in the sensibility, and feelings of bitterness and hostility may exist without the consent of the will. The will may all the while be endeavouring to repel these suggestions, and divert the attention from such thoughts, yet Satan may continue to hurl his fiery darts, and the soul may be racked with torture under the poison of hell, which seems to be taking effect in the sensibility. The mind, at such times, seems to itself to be filled, so far as feeling is concerned, with all the bitterness of hell. And so it is, and yet it may be, that in all this there is no selfishness. If the will holds fast its integrity; if it holds out in the struggle, and where God is maligned and misrepresented by the infernal suggestions, it says with Job, "Although he slay me, yet will I trust in him." However sharp the conflict in such cases, we can look back and say, "We are more than conquerors through him that loved us." In such cases it is the selfishness of Satan, and not our own selfishness, that kindled up those fires of hell in our sensibility. "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life."

(11.) Cruelty is another attribute of selfishness.

This term is often used to designate a state of the sensibility. It then represents that state of feeling which has a barbarous or savage pleasure in the misery of others.

Cruelty, as a phenomenon of the will, or as an attribute of selfishness, consists, first, in a reckless disregard of the well-being of God and the universe, and secondly, in persevering in a course that must ruin the souls of the subjects of it, and, so far as they have influence, ruin the souls of others. What should we think of a man who was so intent on securing some petty gratification, that he would not give the alarm if a city were on fire, and the sleeping citizens in imminent danger of perishing in the flames? Suppose that sooner than deny himself some momentary gratification, he would jeopard many lives. Should we not call this cruelty? Now there are many forms of cruelty. Because sinners are not always brought into circumstances where they exercise certain forms of it, they flatter themselves that they are not cruel. But selfishness is always and necessarily cruel--cruel to the soul and highest interests of the subject of it; cruel to the souls of others in neglecting to care and act for their salvation; cruel to God, in abusing him in ten thousand ways; cruel to the whole universe. If we should be shocked at the cruelty of him who should see his neighbour's house on fire, and the family asleep, and neglect to give them warning, because too self-indulgent to rise from his bed, what shall we say of the cruelty of one, who shall see his neighbour's soul in peril of eternal death, and yet neglect to give him warning?

Sinners are apt to possess very good dispositions, as they express it. They suppose they are the reverse of being cruel. They possess tender feelings, are often very compassionate in their feelings toward those who are sick and in distress, and who are in circumstances of any affliction. They are ready to do many things for them. Such persons would be shocked, should they be called cruel. And many professors would take their part, and consider them abused. Whatever else, it would be said, is an attribute of their character, surely cruelty is not. Now, it is true that there are certain forms of cruelty with which such persons are not chargeable. But this is only because God has so moulded their constitution, that they are not delighted with the misery of their fellow men. However, there is no virtue in their not being gratified at the sight of suffering, nor in their painstaking to prevent it while they continue selfish. They follow the impulses of their feelings, and if their temperament were such that it would gratify them to inflict misery on others; if this were the strongest tendency of their sensibility; their selfishness would instantly take on that type. But though cruelty, in all its forms, is not common to all selfish persons, it is still true that some form of cruelty is practised by every sinner. God says, "The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel." The fact that they live in sin, that they set an example of selfishness, that they do nothing for their own souls, nor for the souls of others; these are really most atrocious forms of cruelty, and infinitely exceed all those comparatively petty forms that relate to the miseries of men in this life.

(12.) Injustice is another attribute of selfishness.

Justice, as an attribute of benevolence, is that quality that disposes it to regard and treat every being and interest with exact equity.

Injustice is the opposite of this. It is that quality of selfishness which disposes it to treat the persons and interests of others inequitably, and a disposition to give the preference to self-interest, regardless of the relative value of the interests. The nature of selfishness demonstrates, that injustice is always and necessarily one of its attributes, and one that is universally and constantly manifested.

There is the utmost injustice in the end chosen. It is the practical preference of a petty self-interest over infinite interests. This is injustice as great as possible. This is universal injustice to God and man. It is the most palpable and most flagrant piece of injustice possible to every being in the universe. Not one known by him to exist who has not reason to bring against him the charge of most flagrant and shocking injustice. This injustice extends to every act and to every moment of life. He is never, in the least degree, just to any being in the universe. Nay, he is perfectly unjust. He cares nothing for the rights of others as such; and never, even in appearance, regards them except for selfish reasons. This, then, is, and can be, only the appearance of regarding them, while in fact, no right of any being in the universe is, or can be, respected by a selfish mind, any further than in appearance. To deny this, is to deny his selfishness. He performs no act whatever but for one reason, that is, to promote his own gratification. This is his end. For the realization of this end every effort is made, and every individual act and volition put forth. Remaining selfish, it is impossible that he should act at all, but with reference directly or indirectly to this end. But this end has been chosen, and must be pursued, if pursued at all, in the most palpable and outrageous violation of the rights of God and of every creature in the universe. Justice demands that he should devote himself to the promotion of the highest good of God and the universe, that he should love God with all his heart, and his neighbour as himself. Every sinner is openly, an universally, and as perfectly unjust as possible, at every moment of his impenitence.

It should, therefore, always be understood, that no sinner at any time is at all just to any being in the universe. All his paying of his debts, and all his apparent fairness and justice, are only a specious form of selfishness. He has, and, if a sinner, it is impossible that he should not have, some selfish reason for all he does, is, says, or omits. His entire activity is selfishness, and, while he remains impenitent, it is impossible for him to think, or act, or will, or do, or be, or say, anything more or less than he judges expedient to promote his own interests. He is not just. He cannot be just, nor begin in any instance, or in the least degree, to be truly just, either to God or man, until he begins life anew, gives God his heart, and consecrates his entire being to the promotion of the good of universal being. This, all this, justice demands. There is no beginning to be just, unless the sinner begins here. Begin and be just in the choice of the great end of life, and then you cannot but be just in the use of means. But be unjust in the choice of an end, and it is impossible for you, in any instance, to be otherwise than totally unjust in the use of means. In this case your entire activity is, and can be, nothing else than a tissue of the most abominable injustice.

The only reason why every sinner does not openly and daily practise every species of outward commercial injustice, is, that he is so circumstanced that, upon the whole, he judges it not for his interest to practise this injustice. This is the reason universally, and no thanks to any sinner for abstaining, in any instance, from any kind or degree of injustice in practice, for he is only restrained and kept from it by selfish considerations. That is, he is too selfish to do it. His selfishness, and not the love of God or man, prevents.

He may be prevented by a constitutional or phrenological conscientiousness, or sense of justice. But this is only a feeling of the sensibility, and, if restrained only by this, he is just as absolutely selfish as if he had stolen a horse in obedience to acquisitiveness. God so tempers the constitution as to restrain men, that is, that one form of selfishness shall prevail over and curb another. Approbativeness is, in most persons, so large, that a desire to be applauded by their fellow-men so modifies the developements of their selfishness, that it takes on a type of outward decency and appearance of justice. But this is no less selfishness than if it took on altogether a different type.

This lecture was given to us by Dennis Carroll.




(13.) Oppression is another attribute of selfishness.

Oppression is the spirit of slaveholding. It is that quality of selfishness that disposes it, in practice, to deprive others of their rights. It is in the nature of selfishness to do this for the purpose of contributing to our own interest or gratification. To define it comprehensively: it is the disposition, inherent in the very nature of selfishness, to enslave God and all the universe; to make them all give up their interest, and happiness, and glory, and seek and live for ours. It is a willingness that all beings should live to and for us; that all interests should bend and be sacrificed to ours. It is a practical denial of all rights but our own, and a practical setting up of the claim that all beings are ours, our goods, and chattels, our property. It is a spirit that aims at making all beings serve us, and all interests subserve our own.

This must be an attribute of selfishness. Self-interest is the ultimate end; and such is the nature of the selfish choice of this end that the whole life, and activity, and aim, and effort, is to secure this end without any disinterested regard to the right, or personal liberty, of any being in existence. The sinner, while he remains such, has absolutely no other end in view, and no other ultimate motive in any thing he does. Selfishness, or self-gratification, under some form, is the reason for every volition, action, and omission. For this end alone he lives, and moves, and has his being. This being his only end, it is impossible that oppression should not be an attribute of his intention. The whole of oppression is included in the choice of this end of life. Nothing can be more oppressive to the whole universe than for a being to set up his own interest as the sole good, and account all other interests as of no value, except as they contribute to his own. This is the perfection of oppression, and it matters not what particular course it takes to secure its end. They are all equally oppressive. If he does not seek the good of others for its own sake, but simply as a means of securing his own, it matters not at all, so far as his character is concerned, whether he pamper and fatten his slaves, or whether he starve them, whether he work them hard or let them lounge, whether he lets them go naked, or arrays them in costly attire. All is done for one and but one ultimate reason, and that is to promote self-interest, and not at all for the intrinsic value of any interest but that of self. If such an one prays to God, it is because he is unable to command and govern Him by authority, and not at all out of any true regard to the rights, or character, or relations of God. He desires and solicits God's services, just because he cannot get them by force. God's interests and rights are practically treated as of no value by every sinner in the universe. They care nothing for God, except to enslave him; that is to make him serve them without any service in return. They have no design to live to and for him, but that he should live to and for them. They regard all other beings just in the same manner. If there is, in any instance, the semblance, of a regard to their interest for its own sake, it is only a semblance, and not a reality. It is not, and it cannot be, a reality. The assertion, that it is any thing more than hypocritical pretence, is absurd, and contradicts the supposition that he is a sinner, or selfish.

There are innumerable specious forms of oppression, that, to a superficial observer, appear very like a regard to the real interest of the oppressed for its own sake.

It may be gratifying to pride, to ambition, or to some other feeling of a slaveholder, to see his slaves well fed, well clad, full fleshed, cheerful, contented, attached to their master. For the same reason he might feed his dog, provide him a warm kennel, and an ornament his neck with a brazen collar. He might show a similar affection to his horse and his swine. But what is the reason of all this? Only to gratify himself. God has so moulded his constitution, that it would give him pain to whip his slave, or his dog, or his horse, or to see them hungry or neglected. It would trouble his conscience, and endanger his peace and his soul. There may often be the appearance of virtue in a slaveholder and in slaveholding; but it can absolutely be only an appearance. If it be properly slaveholding, it is and must be oppression; it is and must be selfishness. Can it be that slaveholding is designed to promote the good of the slave for its own sake? But this could not be slaveholding.

Should an individual be held to service for his own benefit; should the law of benevolence really demand it; this could no more be the crime of slaveholding and oppression, than it is murder or any other crime. It would not be selfishness, but benevolence, and therefore no crime at all, but virtue. But selfishness embodies and includes every element of oppression. Its end, its means, and its every breath, form but an incessant denial of all rights but those of self. All sinners are oppressors and slaveholders in heart and in fact. They practise continual oppression, and nothing else. They make God serve them without wages, and, as He says, "they make him to serve with their sins." God, all men, and all things and events are, as far as possible, made to serve them without the return of the least disinterested regard to their interests. Disinterested regard! Why the very terms contradict the supposition that he is a sinner. He has, he can have, in no instance, any other than selfish aims in appearing to care for any one's interest for its own sake.

All unconverted abolitionists are slaveholders in heart, and, so far as possible, in life. There is not one of them who would not enslave every slave at the south, and his master too, and all at the north, and the whole universe, and God himself, so far as he could. Indeed, he does it in spirit, and, remaining selfish, he cannot but aim to enslave all beings, make them as far as possible contribute to his interest and pleasure, without the least disinterested regard to their interest, in return.

Oppression is an essential attribute of selfishness, and always developes itself according to circumstances. When it has power and inclination, it uses the chain and the whip. When it has not power, it resorts to other means of securing the services of others without disinterested return. Sometimes it supplicates; but this is only because it is regarded as necessary or expedient. It is oppression under whatever form it assumes. It is in fact a denial of all rights but those of self, and a practical claiming of God and of all beings and events as ours. It is, to all intents, the chattel principle universally applied. So that all sinners are both slaves and slaveholders; in heart and endeavour, they enslave God and all men; and other sinners, in heart and endeavour, enslave them. Every sinner is endeavouring, in heart, to appropriate to himself all good.

(14.) Hostility, open or secret, is another attribute of selfishness.

Selfishness is a spirit of strife. It is opposed to peace or amity. Selfishness, on the very face of it, is a declaration of war with all beings. It is setting up self-interest in opposition to all other interests. It is a deliberate intention, prompting to an attempt to seize upon, and subordinate, all interests to our own. It is impossible that there should not be a state of perpetual hostility between a selfish being and all benevolent beings. They are mutually and necessarily opposed to each other. The benevolent are seeking the universal good, and the selfish are seeking their own gratification without the least voluntary regard to any interest but that of self. Here is opposition and war, of course and of necessity.

But it is no less true, that every selfish being is at war with every other selfish being. Each is seeking, and is fully consecrated to, his own interest, and is at the same time denying all rights but his own. Here is, and must be, strife and hostility. There is no use in talking of putting away slavery or war from earth, while selfishness is in it; for they both inhere in the very nature of selfishness; and every selfish being is, in spirit and principle, an oppressor, a slaveholder, a tyrant, a warrior, a duellist, a pirate, and all that is implied in making war upon all beings. This is no railing accusation, but sober verity. The forms of war and of oppression may be modified indefinitely. The bloody sword may be sheathed. The manacle and the lash may be laid aside, and a more refined mode of oppression and of war may be carried on; but oppression and war must continue under some form so long as selfishness continues. It is impossible that it should not. Nor will the more refined and specious, and, if you please, baptized forms of oppression and war, that may succeed those now practised, involve less guilt, or be less displeasing to God than the present. No, indeed. As light increases, and compels selfishness to lay aside the sword, and bury the manacle and the whip, and profess the religion of Christ, the guilt of selfishness increases every moment. The form of manifestation is changed, compelled by increasing light and advancing civilization and Christianization. Oppression and war, although so much changed in form, are not at all abandoned in spirit. Nay, they are only strengthened by increasing light. Nor can it be told with certainty, whether the more refined modifications of oppression and war that may succeed, will upon the whole be a less evil to mankind. Guilt will certainly increase as light increases. Sin abounds, and becomes exceeding sinful, just in proportion as the light of truth is poured upon the selfish mind.

Do you ask, then, what shall we do? Shall we do nothing, but let things go on as they are? I answer, No, by no means. Do, if possible, ten times more than ever to put away these and all the evils that are under the sun. But aim, not only at outward reforms, but also at the annihilation of selfishness; and when you succeed in reforming the heart, the life cannot but be reformed. Put away selfishness, and oppression and war are no more. But engage in bringing about any other reform, and you are but building dams of sand. Selfishness will force for itself a channel; and who can say, that its desolations may not be more fearful and calamitous, in this new modification, than before? Attempting to reform selfishness, and teach it better manners, is like damming up the waters of the Mississippi. It will only, surely, overflow its banks, and change its channel, and carry devastation and death in its course. I am aware, that many will regard this as heresy. But God seeth not as man seeth. Man looketh on the outward appearance, but God looketh on the heart. All the wars and filthiness of heathenism God winks at, as comparatively a light thing when put into the scale against the most refined form of intelligent but heartless Christianity that ever existed.

But to return. Let it be for ever understood, that selfishness is at war with all nations and with all beings. It has no element of peace in it, any further than all beings, and all interests, are yielded to the gratification of self. This is its essential, its unalterable, nature. This attribute cannot cease while selfishness remains.

All selfish men, who are advocates of peace principles, are necessarily hypocrites. They say, and do not. They preach, but do not practise. Peace is on their lips, but war is in their hearts. They proclaim peace and good-will to men, while, under their stolen robe of peace, they conceal their poisoned implements of war against God and the universe. This is, this must be. I am anxious to make the impression, and lodge it deep in your inmost hearts, so that you shall always practically hold, and teach, and regard, this as a fundamental truth, both of natural and revealed religion, that a selfish man, be he who he may, instead of being a Christian, a man of peace, and a servant of the Prince of peace, is, in heart, in character, in spirit, in fact, a rebel, an enemy, a warrior, truly and in fact at war with God and with all beings.

(15.) Unmercifulness is another attribute of selfishness.

Mercy is an attribute of benevolence; and, as such, has been defined to be that quality that disposes it to pardon crime. It will, and must, manifest itself in efforts to secure the conditions upon which crime can be reasonably forgiven, if such conditions can be secured. Unmercifulness is that attribute of selfishness that indisposes it to forgive sin; and, of course, it manifests itself, either by resisting efforts to secure its forgiveness, or by treating such efforts with coldness or contempt. The manner in which sinners treat the plan of salvation, the atonement of Christ, the means used by God the Saviour to bring about the pardon of sin, demonstrates that their tender mercies are cruelty. The apostle charges them with being "implacable, unmerciful." Their opposition to the gospel, to revivals of religion, and to all the exhibitions of his mercy which he has made to our world, show that unmercifulness is an attribute of their character.

Sinners generally profess to be the friends of mercy. They, with their lips, extol the mercy of God. But how do they treat it? Do they embrace it? Do they honour it as something which they favour? Do they hold it forth to all men as worthy of all acceptation? Or do they wage an unrelenting war with it? How did they treat Christ when he came on his errand of mercy? They brought forth the appalling demonstration, that unmercifulness is an essential attribute of their character. They persecuted unto death the very impersonation and embodiment of mercy. And this same attribute of selfishness has always manifested itself under some form, whenever a developement and an exhibition of mercy has been made. Let the blood of prophets and apostles, the blood of millions of martyrs--and above all, let the blood of the God of mercy speak. What is their united testimony? Why, this--that the perfection of unmercifulness is one of the essential and eternal attributes of selfishness.

Whenever, therefore, a selfish being appears to be of a merciful disposition, it is, it can be, only in appearance. His feelings may be sensitive, and he may sometimes, nay often, or always yield to them, but this is only selfishness. The reason, and the only reason why every sinner does not exhibit every appalling form of unmercifulness and cruelty is, that God has so tempered his sensibility, and so surrounded him with influences as to modify the manifestation of selfishness, and to develope other attributes more prominently than this. Unmerciful he is, and unmerciful he must be, while he remains in sin. To represent him as other than an unmerciful wretch, were to misrepresent him. No matter who it is. That delicate female, who would faint at the sight of blood, if she is a sinner, she is spurning and scorning the mercy of God. She lets others go down to hell unpardoned, without an effort to secure their pardon. Shall she be represented as other than unmerciful? No language can describe the hardness of her heart. See! the cup of salvation is presented to her lips by a Saviour's bleeding hand. She, nevertheless, dashes it from her, and tramples its contents beneath her feet. It passes from lip to lip; but she offers no prayer that it may be accepted; or if she does, it is only the prayer of a hypocrite, while she rejects it herself. No, with all her delicacy, her tender mercies are utter cruelty. With her own hands she crucifies the Son of God afresh, and would put him to open shame! O monstrous! A woman murdering the Saviour of the world! Her hands and garments all stained with blood! And call her merciful! O shame, where is thy blush?

(16.) Falsehood, or lying, is another attribute of selfishness.

Falsehood may be objective or subjective. Objective falsehood is that which stands opposed to truth. Subjective falsehood is a heart conformed to error and to objective falsehood. Subjective falsehood is a state of mind, or an attribute of selfishness. It is the will in the attitude of resisting truth, and embracing error and lies. This is always and necessarily an attribute of selfishness.

Selfishness consists in the choice of an end opposed to all truth, and cannot but proceed to the realization of that end, in conformity with error or falsehood, instead of truth. If at any time it seize upon objective truth, as it often does, it is with a false intention. It is with an intention at war with the truth, the nature, and the relations of things.

If any sinner, at any time, and under any circumstances, tell the truth, it is for a selfish reason; it is to compass a false end. He has a lie in his heart, and a lie in his right hand. He stands upon falsehood. He lives for it, and if he does not uniformly and openly falsify the truth, it is because objective truth is consistent with subjective falsehood. His heart is false, as false as it can be. It has embraced and sold itself to the greatest lie in the universe. The selfish man has practically proclaimed that his good is the supreme good; nay, that there is no other good but his own; that there are no other rights but his own, that all are bound to serve him, and that all interests are to yield to his. Now all this, as I said, is the greatest falsehood that ever was or can be. Yet this is the solemn practical declaration of every sinner. His choice affirms that God has no rights, that he ought not to be loved and obeyed, that he has no right to govern the universe, but that God and all beings ought to obey and serve the sinner. Can there be a greater, a more shameless falsehood than all this? And shall such an one pretend to regard the truth? Nay, verily. The very pretence is only an instance and an illustration of the truth, that falsehood is an essential element of his character.

If every sinner on earth does not openly and at all times falsify the truth, it is not because of the truthfulness of his heart, but for some purely selfish reason. This must be. His heart is utterly false. It is impossible that, remaining a sinner, he should have any true regard to the truth. He is a liar in his heart; this is an essential and an eternal attribute of his character. It is true that his intellect condemns falsehood and justifies truth, and that oftentimes through the intellect, a deep impression is or may be made on his sensibility in favour of the truth; but if the heart is unchanged, it holds on to lies, and perseveres in the practical proclamation of the greatest lies in the universe, to wit, that God ought not to be trusted; that Christ is not worthy of confidence; that one's own interest is the supreme good; and that all interests ought to be accounted of less value than one's own.

(17.) Pride is another attribute of selfishness.

Pride is a disposition to exalt self above others, to get out of one's proper place in the scale of being, and to climb up over the heads of our equals or superiors. Pride is a species of injustice, on the one hand, and is nearly allied to ambition on the other. It is not a term of so extensive an import as either injustice or ambition. It sustains to each of them a near relation, but is not identical with either. It is a kind of self-praise, self-worship, self-flattery, self-adulation, a spirit of self-consequence, of self-importance. It is a tendency to exalt, not merely one's own interest, but one's person above others, and above God, and above all other beings. A proud being supremely regards himself. He worships and can worship no one but self. He does not, and remaining selfish, he cannot, practically admit that there is any one so good and worthy as himself. He aims at conferring supreme favour upon himself, and, practically, admits no claim of any being in the universe to any good or interest, that will interfere with his own. He can stoop to give preference to the interest, the reputation, the authority of no one, no, not of God himself, except outwardly and in appearance. His inward language is, "Who is Jehovah, that I should bow down to him?" It is impossible that a selfish soul should be humble. Sinners are represented in the Bible as proud, as "flattering themselves in their own eyes."

Pride is not a vice distinct from selfishness, but is only a modification of selfishness. Selfishness is the root, or stock, in which every form of sin inheres. This it is important to show. Selfishness has been scarcely regarded by many as a vice, much less as constituting the whole of vice; consequently, when selfishness has been most apparent, it has been supposed and assumed that there might be along with it many forms of virtue. It is for this reason that I make this attempt to show what are the essential elements of selfishness. It has been supposed that selfishness might exist in any heart without implying every form of sin; that a man might be selfish and yet not proud. In short, it has been overlooked, that, where selfishness is, there must be every form of sin; that where there is one form of selfishness manifested, it is virtually a breach of every commandment of God, and implies, in fact, the real existence of every possible form of sin and abomination in the heart. My object is fully to develope the great truth that where selfishness is, there must be, in a state either of developement or of undevelopement, every form of sin that exists in earth or hell; that all sin is a unit, and consists of some form of selfishness; and that where this is, all sin virtually is and must be.

The only reason that pride, as a form of selfishness, does not appear in all sinners, in the most disgusting forms, is only this, that their constitutional temperament, and providential circumstances, are such as to give a more prominent developement to some other attribute of selfishness. It is important to remark, that where any one form of unqualified sin exists, there selfishness must exist, and there of course every form of sin must exist, at least in embryo, and waiting only for circumstances to develope it. When, therefore, you see any form of sin, know assuredly that selfishness, the root, is there; and expect nothing else, if selfishness continues, than to see developed, one after another, every form of sin as the occasion shall present itself. Selfishness is a volcano, sometimes smothered, but which must have vent. The providence of God cannot but present occasions upon which its lavatides will burst forth and carry desolation before them.

That all these forms of sin exist, has been known and admitted. But it does not appear to me, that the philosophy of sin has been duly considered by many. It is important that we should get at the fundamental or generic form of sin, that form which includes and implies all others, or, more properly, which constitutes the whole of sin. Such is selfishness. "Let it be written with the point of a diamond and engraved in the rock for ever," that it may be known, that where selfishness is, there every precept of the law is violated, there is the whole of sin. Its guilt and ill desert must depend upon the light with which the selfish mind is surrounded. But sin, the whole of sin, is there. Such is the very nature of selfishness that it only needs the providential occasions, and to be left without restraint, and it will show itself to have embodied, in embryo, every form of iniquity.

This lecture was given to us by Dennis Carroll.

LECTURE XXX. Back to Top



(18.) 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--
(i.) From the Bible. The apostle Paul 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, as I have defined it, is selfishness.

(ii.) 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.

(iii.) 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.

(iv.) 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 being. 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 being, come into competition with it, they must be sacrificed, were it possible for selfishness to affect it.

(v.) 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.

(vi.) 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 brought Divine benevolence into conflict with human selfishness. Men could not brook his presence upon earth, and they rested not until they had murdered him.

(vii.) Again: selfishness is supreme enmity against God. That is, it is more opposed to God than to all other beings.

(a.) 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.

(b.) 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 or enmity to God that reigns there?

(viii.) 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 outrages his feelings. It provokes 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.

(19.) 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 intellect, but of the heart. Insanity of the intellect 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 law of the intellect, and acts unreasonably, as if the intellect were deranged. That madness or moral insanity is an attribute of selfishness, is evident--

(i.) From the Bible. "The heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live."--Eccles. ix. 3.

(ii.) It has been shown that sinners, or selfish persons, act in every instance, in direct opposition to right reason. Indeed, nothing can be plainer than the moral insanity of every selfish soul. He chooses to seek his own interest as an end, and, in so doing, 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 morally mad. Their choice of an end is madness. It is infinitely unreasonable. Their pursuit of it is madness persisted in. Their treatment of everything 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, while in the integrity of their intellectual powers, and, therefore, they are without excuse.

Most sinners are supposed to act rationally on many subjects. But this is an evident mistake. They do everything 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 choice of the end is madness; the choice of means is madness; 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 and familiar a sight, their conduct would fill the saints and angels with utter amazement and horror.

(20.) 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 everything 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 the selfish person, whoever he may be, should not be the subject of incessant disappointments, vexations, and trials. Self-will cannot but be impatient under a benevolent government. Selfishness would of course have everything so disposed as to favour self-interest and self-gratification. But infinite wisdom and benevolence cannot accommodate themselves 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 the result can be otherwise.

A selfish state of will must, of course, not only sustain 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 produces 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, arraying itself against whatever thwarts or opposes its gratification. Selfishness must, of course, either be gratified or displeased. 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 develope 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 anything, and having deep sympathy with, and confidence in God, we cannot 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 for us. "There is no peace to the wicked, saith my God." "The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot 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 favour self. But divine benevolence will not bend to its inclinations. This must produce resistance and fretting, or selfishness must be abandoned. Let it then 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 favours its schemes, but when crosses come, then the peace of the soul is broken.

(21.) Intemperance is also a form or attribute of selfishness.

Selfishness is self-indulgence not sanctioned by the reason. It consists in the committal of the will to the indulgence of the propensities. Of course some one, or more, of the propensities must 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 cannot 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 develope every from of intemperance in the outward life, but a spirit of self-indulgence must manifest itself in the intemperate gratification of some one or more of the propensities.

Some develope self-indulgence most prominently in the form of intemperance in eating; others in sleeping; others in lounging and idleness; others are gossipers; others love exercise, and indulge that propensity; others study and impair health, and induce derangement, or seriously impair the nervous system. Indeed, there is no end to the forms which intemperance assumes, arising from the fact of the great number of propensities natural and artificial, that in their turn seek and obtain indulgence.

It should be always borne in mind, that any form of self-indulgence, properly so called, 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 service and 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; beside bubbling 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 suggestive of useful thoughts. 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 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 pleasurable. 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 by the intellect, as in the case just supposed, and in myriads of other cases that occur, 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 only not consulted, but even violated, it must be selfishness.

Intemperance, as a sin, does not consist in the outward act of indulgence, but in the 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 in order 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 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 a man 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. He wishes to do so, but it is impossible. 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,

(i.) That it is the committal of the will to self-indulgence; and of course--

(ii.) No one propensity would be denied but for the indulgence of another.

(iii.) 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.

(iv.) 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.

(v.) "He that looketh on a woman to lust after 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 perpetrate any sin and every sin, from which he was not deterred by some overpowering fear of consequences.

(22.) Moral recklessness is another attribute of selfishness. Moral recklessness is carelessness, or a state of mind that seeks to gratify self, regardless of ultimate consequences. It is a spirit of infatuation, a rushing upon ruin heedless of what may be the final issue.

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. This consideration is only a selfish one. It relates wholly to self-interest, and not at all to the good of being in general. 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 in some form. 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 cannot 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.

(23.) 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, and not diverse ultimate ends. The indulgence of one appetite or passion, or another, does not imply different ultimate 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 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 ever-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 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 vanish for ever.

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 may do for those who are unable, 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.


Introduction ---New Window

LECTURES 1-7 of page 1 ---New Window

LECTURES 8-16 of page 2 ---New Window

LECTURES 17-30 of page 3 (this page)

LECTURES 31-38 of page 4 ---New Window

LECTURES 39-47 of page 5 ---New Window

LECTURES 48-57 of page 6 ---New Window

LECTURES 58-67 of page 7 ---New Window

LECTURES 68-74 of page 8 ---New Window

LECTURES 75-80 of page 9 ---New Window

LECTURES 81-83 of page 10 ---New Window

APPENDIX on page 11 ---New Window


Topical Links: On Sound Doctrine

---New Window


Section Sub-Index for Finney: Voices of Philadelphia

What's New

Homepage Holy Bible .Jehovah Jesus Timeline .Prophecy Philadelphia Fellowship Promises Stories Poetry Links
Purpose ||.What's New || Tribulation Topics || Download Page || Today's Entry
Topical Links: Salvation || Catholicism || Sound Doctrine || Prayer
Privacy Policy