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  • ATTRIBUTES OF SELFISHNESS - 2 - A,
    CHARLES FINNEY SYS. THEOLOGY

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    11. 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 seizes 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, tells 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 pretense 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 favor 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.

    12. 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 favor 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" (Isaiah 5:21).

    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 allow 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 develop the great truth that where selfishness is, there must be, in a state either of development or of undevelopment, 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 development 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 develop 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 lava-tides 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 forever" (Jere. 17:1), 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.

    13. 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:

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