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

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    (1.) From the Bible. The apostle Paul expressly says that "the carnal mind (minding the flesh) is enmity against God" (Romans 8:7). It is fully evident that the apostle, by the carnal mind, means obeying the inclinations or gratifying the desires. But this, as I have defined it, is selfishness.

    (2.) 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.

    (3.) 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.

    (4.) 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 effect it. 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. 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.

    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? Selfishness offers all manner and every possible degree of resistance to God. It disregards God's commands. It condemns 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 His law, than it can cease to be selfish.

    14. 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 inclinations. Of course some one, or more, of the inclinations must have taken the control of the will. Generally, there is some ruling passion or inclination, 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 Epicureanism; 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 inclinations, is so largely developed, as to be the ruling tyrant, that lords it over the will and over all the other inclinations. It matters not which of the inclinations, 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 inclination. It is, therefore, an essential element or attribute of selfishness. All selfishness is intemperance: of course it is an unlawful indulgence of the inclinations. 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 inclinations 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 develop every form 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 inclinations.

    Some develop 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 inclination; 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 inclinations, 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 inclinations? 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 inclinations, 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 lesser 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 inclinations 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 inclinations 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 inclination 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.

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