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wise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them." What could have been more pertinent than this discourse to the multitudes, who united with his disciples in following him, and who practically expressed so much regard for him? It was suited to make them all see and feel that essential distinctiòn, which there is between true love and false, and between saints and sinners. He first describes that pure, disinterested love, which forms the character of saints, and then contrasts it with that selfishness, which forms th character of sinners; and finally appeals to sinners themselves, whether they deserve the character of saints, while they love only those that love them. There is now, perhaps, as much need as ever there was, to set this subject in a just and intelligible light. And in order to this, it is proposed to consider why sinners love themselves; why they love others; and why there is no moral goodness in their loving themselves and others.
1. Let us consider why sinners love themselves. It is plainly supposed in the text, that sinners love themselves, for they are said to love those that love them, which could not be accounted for, if they were wholly destitute of love to themselves. In other passages of scripture, they are said to be lovers of their ownselves, and to seek their own things, and not the things of others. But this is too evident from experience and observation to need any proof.
Sinners certainly love themselves. But why? Not for the same reason that saints love themselves: if they did, they would be saints. Nor do they love themselves from mere instinct, as the lower species of animals do. But they love themselves because they are themselves, which is neither true love, nor a mere animal affection, but
proper selfishness. Pleasant and painful sensations are common to saints and sinners, and to all sensitive natures, and have no moral quality belonging to them. Every creature, perhaps whether rational or irrational, takes pleasure in receiving its proper food; but this love to its food is not love to itself, or selfishness. The saint and the sinner may equally love honey, because it is agreeable to the taste; but this love to honey is neither interested, nor disinterested love, and of course is neither virtuous nor vicious. Men never love any particular food from a moral motive, but from the constitution of their nature, in which they are passive, and have no active concern. The case is different in loving themselves. In this they properly act, and act from a moral motive. Sinners love themselves not because they are a part of the intellectual system, nor because the general good requires them to regard their personal happiness, but because they are themselves. They love their own interest because it is their own, in distinction from the interest of all other created, or uncreated beings. This is a free, voluntary exercise, which is contrary to their reason and conscience, and which they know to be in its own nature wrong. Their interest is really no more valuable for being theirs, than if it belonged to others; and they themselves are no more valuable, than other creatures of the same character and capacity. To love them. selves, therefore, because they are themselves, is to love themselves from a motive peculiar to selfish crea
II. We are to consider why sinners love others. Our Saviour said to his disciples, that if they were of the world, the world would love them. And he said in the text, that sinners love those that love them, Though the love of sinners always centres in them. selves, yet it may extend to others, and take in a large circle of mankind, and even God himself. Sinners loved Christ, and cried hosannah, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. The whole people of Israel loved the God of Moses, when he carried them through the red sea, delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh, and gave them manna from heavcn. But the question before us is, Why do such selfish creatures love others? The answer is easy. It is because they have received, or expect to receive benefit from them. This is the reason our Lord assigns. “If ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.” For the same reason that sinners love themselves, they naturally love those that love them, and are disposed to do them good. As they love their own interest, because it is their own, so they love every person or object, which serves to increase or preserve their own interest. They do not value and love others, because they are valuable and worthy to be loved; but merely because they view them as means or instruments of securing or advancing their own personal happiness. They value their fellow men, for the same reason that they value their own houses and lands, flocks and herds. They love these, not on their own account, but because they serve their selfish purposes. So they love their fellow men, not on their own account, but because they deem them some way or other subservient to their private, separate interest,
III. It remains to inquire, why there is no moral goodness in the loye, which sinners exercise towards
themselves and others. Christ
supposes, that they all know the nature of their love, and that there is nothing virtuous or praise-worthy in it. “If ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? If ye do good to them that do good to you, what thank have ye? And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive as much again; what thank have ye?" Is there any thing truly virtuous and amiable, in men’s loving themselves, or in loving others, from mere selfish, mercenary motives? All men in the world know, that there is no moral goodness in such selfish affections; and they are always unwilling to acknowledge that they are actuated by mercenary motives. Who is willing to allow, that he loves himself merely because he is himself? Or that he loves others merely because they love him? Or that he never does good to others, only when he thinks it will be for his private advantage? Who in publick life is willing to avow, that he is not seeking the publick good, but only his private interest? Who is willing to own, that he has ever given or taken a bribe? Who is willing to be seen in doing any act of selfishness? Who ever thanked another for doing him a benefit, only for the sake of gaining a much greater benefit? We never thank men for loving themselves, nor for loving us merely for their own sake. It is the unanimous sentiment of mankind, that there is no virtue in that love, which flows entirely from mercenary motives. But why? This is the point now to be illustrated. Here then I would observe,
1. That there is no moral goodness in the love which sinners feel and express, because it is not a conformity to that love, which God feels and expresses. He is good unto all, and his tender mercies are over all his works. He seeks not only his own glory, but the real good of others. Christ, therefore, sets him up as the standard of perfection, and commands them to conform to him, who loves those that hate him, and does good to his most inveterate enemies. “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” There is no conformity in the love of sinners to the love of God. His love is virtuous and excellent, because it terminates upon all proper objects; but there is no moral beauty or excellence in their love, because it wholly terminates upon an improper object, that is, their own selfish interest. God does not love them exclusively, and merely because they are themselves, but because he regards the good of every creature according to its worth. This is a holy and disinterested love; but when sinners love themselves, because they are themselves, and love others, because they are beneficial to them, there is no moral virtue or excellence in it. It bears no conformity to the love of God, which is the standard of all moral perfection.
2. The selfish love of sinners has no moral goodness in it, because it is no obedience to the divine law. This law requires them to love God with all the heart, and to love their fellow men as themselves. But when they love themselves because they are themselves, and love others only because they have received, or expect to receive benefit from them, do they obey the divine law? Do they feel towards God, as they would that he should feel towards them? Or do they feel towards others, as they would that others should feel towards them? Does their selfish affection in the least degree anwer the demands of that law, which requires pure, disinterested love? It is morally