Page images
PDF
EPUB

our humor; hence on any such occasion our choler riseth, and easily we break forth into violent heats of passion.

From the like causes it is, that we cannot willingly stoop to due obeisance of our superiors, in reverence to their persons, and observance of their laws; that we cannot contentedly acquiesce in the station or portion assigned us by Providence; that we cannot patiently support our condition, or accept the events befalling us.

In fine, if surveying all the several kinds of naughty dispositions in our souls, and of miscarriages in our lives, we do scan their particular nature, and search into their original causes; we shall find inordinate self-love to be a main ingredient and a common source of them all: so that a divine of great name had some reason to affirm that original sin (or that innate distemper from which men generally become so very prone to evil and averse to good) doth consist in self-love, disposing us to all kinds of irregularity and excess: St. Paul therefore might well set this in the front of all those sins, which depraved the age he spake of; they having all such a dependence on it.

It is therefore very requisite that we should well understand this fault, that we may be the better able to curb and correct it; to which purpose I shall endeavor, by God's help, somewhat to declare its nature.

The word self-love is ambiguous; for all self-love is not culpable; there is a necessary and unavoidable, there is an innocent and allowable, there is a worthy and commendable selflove.

There is a self-love originally implanted by God himself in our nature, in order to the preservation and enjoyment of our being; the which is common to us with all creatures, and cannot anywise be extirpated ; for ‘no man,' as St. Paul saith, ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisbeth and cherisheth it :' every man living, by a natural and necessary instinct, is prompted to guard his life, shunning all dangers threatening its destruction; to purvey for the support and convenience of it; to satisfy those natural appetites, which importunately crave relief, and without intolerable pain cannot be denied it; to repel or decline whatever is very grievous and offensive to

nature; the self-love that urgeth us to do these things is no more to be blamed than it can be shunned.

Reason farther alloweth such a self-love, which moveth us to the pursuance of any thing apparently good, pleasant, or useful to us, the which doth not contain in it any essential turpitude or iniquity; doth not obstruct the attainment of some true or greater good; doth not produce some overbalancing mischief; doth not infer harm to the world, or wrong to other men,

Reason dictateth and prescribeth to us that we should have a sober regard to our true good and welfare; to our best interest and solid content; to that, which (all things being rightly stated, considered, and computed) will in the final event prove most beneficial and satisfactory to us : a self-love working in prosecution of such things common sense cannot but allow and approve.

God himself hath to these suggestions of nature, and dictates of reason, adjoined his own suffrage, having in various ways declared it to be his will and pleasure that we should tender our real and final good. He, as the author of nature, and fountain of reason, may be supposed to ordain that, unto which nature doth so potently incline, and which reason so clearly prescribeth. He plainly hath to every man committed himself in charge, so as to preserve his being from ruin, and to enjoy it with comfort. He by making so rich a provision for the sustenance of our lives, and satisfaction of our appetites, by framing our bodies to relish delight, and suiting so many accommodations in wondrous correspondence to our senses, hath sufficiently intimated it to be his pleasure that we should in reasonable measure seek them and enjoy them; otherwise his care would have been vain, and his work useless; yea, he might seem to have laid an ill design to tempt and ensnare us : he certainly had no such intent; but as he made us out of goodness, as he made us capable of tasting comfort, as he hath furnished us with means of attaining it, so he meaneth that we should partake thereof.

He also expressly hath commanded us to love all men, not excluding ourselves from the number; to love our neighbor, and therefore ourselves; who of all are nearest to ourselves ;

who occur as the first objects of humanity and charity; whose needs we most sensibly feel; whose good is in itself no less considerable than the single good of any other person ; who must first look to our own good before we can be capable to love others, or do any good to our neighbor.

He therefore hath made the love of ourselves to be the rule and standard, the pattern, the argument of our love to others; imposing on us those great commands of • loving our neighbors as ourselves,' and doing as we would be done unto;' which imply not only a necessity, but an obligation of loving ourselves.

He doth enforce obedience to all his commands, by promising rewards, yielding immense profit and transcendent pleasure to us, and by threatening punishments grievous to our sense ; which proceeding is grounded on a supposition that we do and ought greatly to love ourselves, or to regard our own interest and pleasure.

He doth recommend wisdom or virtue to us, as most agreeable to self-love; most eligible, because it yieldeth great benefit to ourselves; because, as the wise man saith, he that getteth it, doth love his own soul; he that keepeth it, shall find good.'

Aristotle saith of a virtuous man, that he is the greatest self-lover; Δόξειε δ' αν ο τοιούτος είναι μάλλον φίλαυτος: απονέμει γάρ εαντώ τα κάλλιστα, και μάλιστα αγαθά, και χαρίζεται εαυτού τώ κυριωτάτω. .

He dissuadeth from vice, as therefore detestable, because the embracing it doth imply hatred of ourselves, bringing mischief and damage to us; because, as the wise man doth express it, • he that sinneth, wrongeth his own soul; he that despiseth instruction, despiseth his own soul; he that committeth injury, hateth his own soul.'

He commendeth his laws to our observance, by declaring them in their design and tendency chiefly to regard our good and advantage; made apt to preserve the safety and quiet, to promote the wealth and prosperity of our lives; to bring ease and comfort to our minds, grace and ornament to our names, salvation and happiness to our souls.

In fine, God chargeth and encourageth us to affect and pur

[ocr errors]

sue the highest goods whereof we are capable; most ample riches, most sublime honors, most sweet pleasures, most complete felicity; He,' saith St. Paul, will render to them, who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory, and honor, and immortality, eternal life;' to seek such things is the highest instance, is the surest argument of self-love that can be; he therefore who obligeth, who encourageth us thereto, doth plainly show his approbation of a self-love.

So it appeareth that all self-love is not culpable, but that some kind thereof is very commendable ; how then shall we distinguish; how shall we 'sever,' to use the prophet's language, the precious from the vile?'

To this we may answer in general, that all love of ourselves which is unreasonably grounded, or which is excessive in its degrees and limits; or which venteth itself in wrong instances; or which driveth our mind, will, and affections toward bad objects; or which produceth effects noxious to ourselves or others, is culpable. If we esteem ourselves for things not true or really for things indifferent or mean, for things nowise excellent or valuable; if we affect ourselves beyond compass, so as to postpone the love of God, or exclude the love of our neighbor ; if out of regard to ourselves we do things base or mischievous ; if thence we dote on vain profits, embrace foul pleasures, incur sinful guilt, expose ourselves to grievous danger, trouble, remorse, and punishment; if thereby we are engaged to forsake our true interest, and forfeit our final happiness; then assuredly it is a foolish and vicious self-love; it is indeed not a proper, but a false and equivocal love, usurping that goodly name; it is a real hatred, or enmity, disguised under the semblance of friendship; it more properly may be called cruelty, treachery, flattery, mockery, delusion, and abuse of ourselves.

But for a more distinct and clear resolution of the case, we may do well to consider the proper acts of love, which do constitute it, or inseparably do adhere thereto; such as those : a good esteem of the person, which is the object of our love; an earnest good-will toward him, or desire of his good; a complacence in good, and dissatisfaction in evil arriving to him; a readiness to yield or procure good to him; a desire of union and enjoyment, that is, of intimate conversation and intercourse

with him, a deference of regard to him, a compliance with his desires, and care to please him. Now if these acts toward ourselves are in their kind, in their grounds, in their measures conformable to reason, piety, and justice, then is our self-love innocent or worthy: if they are not so, it is criminal and vicious.

If we do rightly esteem ourselves, (both absolutely, and in comparison to others ;) if we desire to ourselves what is fit and just; if we are pleased with true goods, and displeased at real evils incident to us; if we do in lawful ways endeavor to procure things truly convenient and beneficial to us; if we maintain a faithful and cheerful correspondence with ourselves; if we have a sober regard to ourselves, agreeable to our nature and state; if we comply with the dictates of our reason, and satisfy our desires conforming thereto; then do we love ourselves innocently, then are we true friends to ourselves.

But if we overvalue ourselves; if we do wish to ourselves things incommodious or hurtful; if we are delighted or dissatisfied in false shows of good or evil befalling us ; if we strive to acquire for ourselves things bad or mischievous ; if our converse with ourselves is naughty or vain; if we make indecent applications to ourselves; if we stoop to our fond humors, or sooth our unreasonable desires; then is our self-love spurious, then are we indeed enemies to ourselves.

Farther, toward an exact discussion and trial of this case, we should do well, divesting ourselves of selfishness, to consider ourselves as other persons, or abstractedly as mere objects of those acts which love doth imply; for what rectitude or what obliquity there would be in them in regard to any object, the same would be in reference to ourselves. For instance,

If we should value any person justly according to his real worth, allowing a just rate to his virtue, to his parts, to his endowments, to his advantages of nature or fortune; not ascribing to him things which belong not to him, nor overprizing those he hath, not preferring him in any respect before those which are his superiors or equals therein; we shall herein do wisely and justly: but if (having our judgment anywise perverted) we do admire a person beyond his worth, and advance him above his rank; if we overlook his apparent defects and blemishes, or

« PreviousContinue »