2 Timothy 3:2-5
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,…
1. To inquire what this self-love is which the apostle here speaks of, and wherein the nature and evil of it consists.
2. To show that wherever such self-love spreads and becomes general there must needs be perilous or bad times.
3. To use several arguments to prevent men's being poisoned and over-run with this dangerous and pernicious principle of self-love.
I. LET US INQUIRE WHAT THIS SELF-LOVE IS WHICH THE APOSTLE HERE SPEAKS OF, AND WHEREIN THE NATURE AND EVIL OF IT CONSISTS. Now all self-love when taken in an ill sense, as it is plain this is here by the apostle, must come under one or other of these following notions.
1. Self-love may be considered in opposition to a love of God, and a making His glory and the interests of religion the principal and ultimate end of all our designs and actions; to our loving Him with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our minds, and our seeking first, or before all other things, His kingdom and righteousness. And then we may be properly said to be self-lovers in this sense, when we are so very intent upon ourselves and our own interests as not to concern ourselves at all, or to be sure not much and chiefly about God and religion.
2. Self-love may be considered in opposition to that honest and commendable self-love which every man oweth to himself, which is a love of our whole beings, soul as well as bodies, and of every part of them in due measure and proportion to the excellence and worth of them; and then it signifieth a love only of one part of ourselves, or at least an immoderate and disproportionate love of one part above any or all the rest. And in this sense it is to be feared most men are guilty of self-love. And, agreeably to this notion, we find the word self used in Scripture to signify the sensual and carnal part of man.
3. Self-love may be considered in opposition to charity or a love of our brethren; and then it signifieth such a stinginess and narrowness of soul as will not suffer us to have any concern, or take any care for anybody but ourselves, such a temper as is the exact reverse of that which the apostle commendeth, which seeketh not its own, but the things of another, and hardly ever thinks, much less acts, but for itself. Nature has implanted in us a most tender and compassionate sense and fellow-feeling of one another's miseries, a most ready and prevailing propension and inclination to assist and relieve them; insomuch that pity and kindness towards our brethren have a long time passed under the name of humanity, as properties essential to, and not without violence to be separated from, human nature. And then as to reason, what can possibly be more reasonable than that we who are of the same mass, of one blood, members of each other, and children of the same Father, should love as brethren? That we, who live in a very fluctuating and uncertain state, and though rich to-day, may be poor to-morrow, should act so now towards others as we shall then wish others may act towards us?
4. And then, lastly, as to religion, especially the Christian, besides that this doth acquaint us with a new and intimate relation to each other in Christ Jesus, and consequently a new ground and obligation to love and assist each other. Nay, so great a value do the Scriptures set upon this duty of mercy or charity to our brethren, that wherever they give us, either in the Old or New Testament, a short summary of religion, this is sure to be mentioned, not only as a part, but a main and principal part of it. Nay, farther yet, it sometimes stands for the whole of religion, as that universal name of righteousness given to it is said to be the fulfilling of the law.
5. Self-love may be considered in opposition to a love of the public and a zeal for the common good, and then it signifieth a preferring of our own particular and private interests to those of the whole body.
II. TO SHOW THAT WHEREVER SUCH SELF-LOVE SPREADS AND BECOMES GENERAL THERE MUST NEEDS BE PERILOUS OR BAD TIMES.
1. I say, self-love will make men neglect the public and decline the service of it, especially in times of danger, when their service is most needed. And for this reason we always find it a very difficult task, if not impossible, to engage such men in any public service merely upon a prospect of doing public good. They will use a thousand little shifts and artifices to get themselves excused. Nay, and which is rare in self-lovers, who have always a good stock of self-conceit, rather than fail, they will speak modestly and humbly of themselves, and plead incapacity and want of ability for their excuse. But never is this so plainly to be seen as in times of public danger, when there is most occasion for their assistance. For self-love is constantly attended with a very great degree of self-fear, and this makes mere weather-cocks of such people as are acted by it, continually bandying them about, hither and thither, backwards and forwards, and never suffering them to fix any where till the storm is over, the weather begins to clear up, and they can pretty certainly discern the securest side.
2. That though they do pretend to serve the public, yet it is for their own private ends, and consequently their self-love will suffer them to serve it no farther or longer than these shall be advanced by their so doing. And this but a very poor and uncertain service, and even worse than none at all; for their supreme end being their own private interest, all other ends must of course crouch and become subordinate to this.
3. Their self-love will probably turn them against the public, and instead of preserving and securing it, make them undermine and destroy it; and if so, it is still better they should have no concern with it, because the more concern they have with it the greater will be their opportunity of doing mischief to it. Self-love is a very tyrannical and domineering principle, and generally makes perfect slaves of her subjects, and carrieth them on to all such excesses and extravagances as she shall think fit. For, alas! self-love is the blindest, as well as the greediest, and least able to deny itself of all loves, and will very hardly be brought to see any objections against itself; or at least, if it must see them, it will accept of very easy answers to them, and be a wondrous gentle casuist to itself; so, that, if there but come a good lusty temptation in our way, it is too much to be feared that our self-love will close with it, be it attended with never such hard terms, and that, out of eagerness for the bait, hook and all will go down.
III. TO USE ALL THE ARGUMENTS WE CAN TO PREVENT MEN'S BEING POISONED AND OVERRUN WITH THIS DANGEROUS AND PERNICIOUS PRINCIPLE. And —
1. As to ourselves, there cannot certainly be a better argument than the danger which we were brought into by some men's immoderate love of their private interest in the late reign.
2. Let us consider that this principle of self-love is a very foolish principle, and really defeats its own end. For this, I take it for granted, I may lay down as a maxim, that every man's private good is best secured in the public, and, consequently, whatever weakens the public, doth really weaken every private man's security; and, therefore —
3. This self-love is a most base, pitiful, and mean principle, and will certainly make us odious and contemptible in the sight both of God and man.
(William Dawes, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,