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emolument, or advantage: and by looking on our own things the considering of our interest, being anxious about it, and taking every necessary measure to promote it. Now the prohibition is not absolute. This is evident from the reason and nature of the thing, and from the apostle's using the connective particle also in the latter clause of the text : Let not every man look on his own things, that is, on his own things only, but also on the things of others. Here then it will be of importance to enquire how far, and under what restrictions, we may be allowed to consult our own interests. Our interests may be considered as either spiritual or temporal.
By our spiritual interests we mean the health, prosperity, and final salvation of our souls. It is of infinite consequence to a guilty depraved creature, that he be restored to the favour and likeness of his offended Creator; and so escape the wrath to come, and attain to the happiness of heaven. Wherefore, if dread of misery, and desire of happiness, are passions connatural to us, and if the evils and blessings just mentioned are the greatest imaginable; doubtless it is not only allowable, but our incumbent duty, to take every possible measure to avoid the former, and obtain the latter. To be indifferent about our salva. tion is highly criminal; to make it our first and principal object highly commendable. Such is the language both of reason and Scripture. And it were easy to shew, that the minding religion is not only infinitely beneficial to a man himself, but is the direct means to dispose him to look after the interests of others, and to enable him more effectually to promote them. If however, under a notion of taking care of their souls, and acquiring an extraordinary degree of exalted piety, men retire from society into silence and inactivity, they give too sad evidence that they are of a private selfish spirit: and it is much to be questioned, amidst all their splendid professions, whether they have any just idea of the nature of religion, or have ever entered into the genuine spirit of it. But the conduct we are cautioned against in our text, bath respect chiefly to our temporal interests.
. Now our temporal interests may be all, comprehended under the ideas of health, prosperity, and reputation. And surely no one will assert that these are to be treated with perfect indifference and contempt. Indeed enthusiasm, under the specious pretence of piety, has precipitated some people into austerities strongly expressive of this. But enthusiasm itself can never make men fall in love with poverty and misery. The utmost it can do is to reconcile them to these evils upon the idea of acquiring applause, a kind of good which in their apprehension will more than balance all their painful feelings. For this boast, ed mortification of theirs is only a bartering two sorts of earthly good, namely, ease and wealth, for a third, fame, which they account more splendid. But the truth is, these enjoyments, in their proper place, have, each of them, their value.
As to Health, we not only may but ought to take care of it. The same apostle who spake the words of our text, bids us do ourselves no harm a, and assures us that no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it b. Nor is it merely for the purpose of enjoying life that we are to covet health, but for the further purpose of usefulness. For it is impossible that a man oppressed with pain and sickness should attend with vigour, however benevolent his heart may be, to the active duties of social life. If therefore we would serve our generation, we may, we ought to take every measure in our power to preserve and establish our health.
In like manner we may affirm concerning Wealth, that it is a teal good. It will procure us the necessaries and accommodations of life, and put it in our power to make multitudes of our fellow-creatures happy. There is, therefore, neither wisdom nor virtue in treating riches with an heir of haughty contempt, as certain visionaries have done. Indeed, as to these men, it is to be apprehended, without breach of charity, that a criminal passion for ease and sloth is at the bottom of all this affected self, denial of theirs. No. Industry is a virtue. He that is diligent in business shall stand before kings, and not before mean
And he who provides not for his own, especially for those of his own house, has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel d. Study to be quiet, says our apostle, and to do your own business e. And in another place, If a man will not work, neither should he eat f. The ingenuity, shrewdness, and strength our Creator 'has endowed us with, are applied to their proper objects, when used, under the restrictions that will be hereafter mentioned, to the purposes of improving our worldly circumstances, and so augmenting our own happiness and that of others.
a Acts xvi. 28.
6 Eph. v. 29.
c Prov. xxii. 29. f 2 Thess. iii. 10.
And if bodily health and worldly prosperity may be lawfully desired and pursued, so may Reputation and honour likewise. It is an argument of a benevolent heart to wish to please, and of a generous mind to aim to excel. A good name is better than precious ointment a. No virtuous man can be indifferent to his reputation. As he holds wisdom, integrity and piety, in the highest esteem, and actually does in his measure possess them, so it would be affected humility, and putting an unnatural force upon himself, to decline all passion for that respect to which he stands entitled among his fellow-creatures.
You will say then, what is the true character of that private or selfish spirit which the apostle condemns? or, when may a man be said so to look on his own things as to merit the censure implied in our text? To this it is replied,--He is of a private selfish spirit who consults his outward ease, emolument, and honour, to the injury of his own best interests, and to the prejudice of the real interests of other men. These opposite interests do often come into competition, and so give occasion for a conduct which indelibly marks the characters of men as selfish or benevolent.
There is a criminal sense in which men may be said in regard of themselves, and without any reference to others, to seek their own things. Man is a complex being. He consists of soul and body; and the former is of far greater value than the latter. He therefore who pays such an attention to his bodily health, ease, and pleasure, as to be thereby precluded from those re* straints on his animal appetites, and from those means of religion, which have a direct tendency to promote the welfare and happiness of his soul; is chargeable with self-love, and is guilty of the great sin and folly of sacrificing his superior to his inferior interests. He looks on his own things, pampers his body to the destruction of his soul. The san:e may be said of him who makes the profits, or the honours of the world his grand
a Eccl. vii. 1.
object, to the neglect if not contempt of heavenly riches, and an interest in the favour of that great Being who made him.
But we are here principally concerned with the pursuits of mankind in the aspect they bear towards others. He certainly is of a private selfish spirit, who will not forego his temporal emolument for the salvation of his neighbour's soul. If God has given me talents for public instruction, and I will not be at the pains to meditate, read, study, preach, and exhort, but on the contrary spend my time in indolence and self-gratification, I seek
my own things to the injury of others. So if God has given me wealth, and I will apply none of it to the purpose of assisting others in their labours for the spiritual good of mankind, but on the contrary avariciously hoard up my gains, or squander them away on my pleasures; I am guilty of the same crime. The like may be said also of that unmanly, not to say unchristian, dread of the censure of a vain world, which holds too many back from efforts of the most generous kind for the salvation of their fellowcreatures. In short, it is a base and selfish temper to the last degree to prefer any worldly advantage whatever to the refined pleasure of being the instrument of saving an immortal soul. Again,
A selfish spirit is further to be considered in its reference to the temporal interests of others. The most shocking expression of it, is that of accumulating the enjoyments of this life to ourselves, at the expence of the happiness, yea even the lives of those around us. Innumerable wretched instances of this sort disgrace the faithful pages of history, and daily afflict the eye of humanity. What are the frauds practised in commerce, the contentions that prevail in societies, and the horrible ravages of war, but the effects of this miserable temper? Many, however, there are who dare not proceed to these lengths; yet their own interest they pur-. sue to the neglect of that of others. Although, in their eager chace after riches, honours, and pleasures, they leap not over the mounds of strict right and equity; yet they allow themselves little time to contemplate the miseries of their fellow--creatures, and to stretch forth the hand of benevolence to their assistance. Nor does the character censured in our text belong to these only. They too are of a private selfish spirit, who will not, at least in some instances, give up their own rights, and forego some advantages they might lawfully claim, in order to contribute to the
happiness of others. If a man has no generosity in his temper, though he is not strictly speaking unjust or inhuman, he fails in his duty as a man, and sinks infinitely beneath the denomination of a Christian, who glories in the character of being a man of a benevolent spirit. And this leads us,
II. To explain and illustrate more particularly the duties of Public-spirit.---Let every man look on the things of others.-Here two or three things are to be premised before we proceed: as,
First, That the interest of the whole is to be preferred to that of a part.
When the good of certain individuals comes into competition with that of the community at large, the former is no doubt to be sacrificed to the latter. It is better that one man should die for the people, than that the whole nation perish a. When the attaining an object of great importance to our country, to the church of God, or to our families, requires the omission of some offices of kindness to particular persons, which we would otherwise gladly render them; such omission becomes a duty rather than a sin. In short, a man of a public spirit will wish to do all the good he can; and since he has neither opportunity, or ability, equal to every service that may be demanded of him, it is his duty to exert himself in such ways as he judges upon the whole will best promote the interests of society. From whence it follows, that we should be cautious how we hastily censure others, as of a private and selfish spirit, because they do not take an active part with us in every scheme for the public good, to which our impetuosity would urge them. They may be pursuing a line of conduct, which Providence hath pointed out to them, and which may more essentially contribute to the general welfare than that to which we would divert their attention.
Secondly, The spiritual interests of others are to be preferred to their temporal. This
appears from what has been already observed, and must strike every considerate man as a most important truth. If there be a God, the duties we owe him ought to take the lead of those we owe our neighbour. If our souls are of infinitely greater value than our bodies, and the present is only an introduction to a future eternal life, there can be no doubt that the most im
& John xi. 50.