2 Timothy 3:2-5
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,…
Here you see how far self-love is from being proposed to our practice, when you find it standing in the front of a black and dismal catalogue of the most odious and abhorred qualities. That I may contribute, if possible, to the making men less tenacious, and more communicative, I shall make it my present business to set the two characters in an opposite light, and to show —
I. THE ODIOUSNESS OF SELF-LOVE.
II. THE AMIABLENESS OF A GENEROUS AND PUBLIC SPIRIT. There is, indeed, a kind or degree of self-love which is not only innocent; but necessary. The laws of nature strongly incline every man to be solicitous for his own welfare, to guard his person by a due precaution from hurts and accidents; to provide food and raiment, and all things needful for his bodily sustenance, by honest industry and labour; to repair as far as he is able, such decays as may attend his bodily constitution, by proper helps and the best means that are afforded him; and much more to make it his grand concern to secure the everlasting happiness of his immortal part. Such a self-love as this goes little farther than self-preservation, without which principle implanted in us the human species would be soon lost and extinguished, and the work of our great Creator be defeated. But that which St. Paul speaks of with abhorrence is a love merely selfish, that both begins and terminates in a man's single person, exclusive of all tender regards for any one else: this is, in the worst and most criminal sense, taking care of one only. If we will but look into our own nature, and reflect on the end and design of our creation, the reach and extent of our faculties, our subordination to one another, and the insufficiency of every man as he stands by himself alone, we shall soon be convinced, that doing good and affording each other reciprocal assistance is that for which we were formed and fashioned, that we are linked together by our common wants, as well as by inclination, and that tenderness of disposition and natural sympathy that is implanted in us. That we are born and educated, that we enjoy either necessaries or comforts, that we are preserved from perils in our greener, or ever arrive at riper years, next under the watchfulness and protection of Almighty God, is owing to the care of others. And can anything be more just and reasonable than that we, too, in our turn, should give that succour we have received, and do, not only as we willingly would, but as we actually have been done unto? There is a certain proportion of trouble and uneasiness, as well as of pleasure and satisfaction, that must of necessity be borne by the race of men; insomuch that he who will not sustain some share of the former, is unworthy to partake of any of the comforts of the latter. But here the selfling will interpose, and say: "It is true I have occasion for the help of others, and the help of others I have. I have occasion for the attendance of servants, and by servants I am attended. I want to be supplied with those conveniences of life which artificers provide in their respective occupations, and I am supplied accordingly. So long as I am furnished with sufficient store to pay them an equivalent, I am in no danger of being left destitute of anything that money can procure. This is the commerce I carry on in the world; thus I approve myself a social member of the commonwealth. But what have I to do in parting with my substance to them who can give nothing to me in return?" And sometimes we see it does please Almighty God to make examples of this sort: to humble such haughty and self-confiding men, by reducing them from their towering height, and all the wantonness of prosperity, to the extremity of want and misery. And whenever this happens to be the case, who are then so pitifully abjected? But the universal hatred which such a person naturally contracts will not always be suppressed, nor his former aversion to doing good offices be covered by a charitable oblivion, nor be lost under the soft relentings and a melting commiseration of his present sufferings. In short, since every man has an equal right to confine all his care and endeavours to the promoting his own separate interest, that any one man has, what must be the consequence if such a narrow way of thinking and acting should become universal? Love and friendship terminate at once if every man were to regard himself alone, and to extend his care no farther! Such a situation would put an end to all intercourse and commerce; men would be destitute of all confidence and security, and afraid to trust each other. And this may suffice to show that odious and malignant quality of selfishness, or mere self-love. Let us now consider —
II. THE AMIABLENESS OF A GENEROUS AND PUBLIC SPIRIT. He who has a heart truly open and enlarged, over and above that reasonable thoughtfulness and contrivance with which every prudent man will be possessed, about providing for his own, and how to proportion his expenses to his revenue, as well as how to obtain more ample acquisitions, if fair and honourable methods of advancing his fortunes present themselves in his way; I say, beyond this domestic care, he will have room enough in his thoughts to let them be employed sometimes in the service of his friends, his neighbours, and his country; which have not only his best wishes and hearty desires for the success of their affairs, but he makes it his study to promote their welfare, and puts himself to a voluntary trouble and expense in order to extricate them from difficulties and free them from dangers. He has the pleasure of reflecting that a beneficial act is done, and that although he has not been able to animate others to promote it in the same degree with himself, he has, however, been instrumental in causing some good to be done, and the receivers are heartily welcome both to his pains and his contributions. This may appear but a poor satisfaction to little and grovelling minds, who have no idea of any joy that can arise from the reflection on anything that is not attended with present profit, and look upon everything as a losing bargain where more is expended than received. But large and capacious souls have far nobler sentiments; they know how to value and enjoy a loss, and find a secret pleasure in the diminution of their fortune when honourably and worthily employed. We are sure that God Almighty, who gives everything, and receives nothing, is a most perfectly blest and happy being; and the nearer we resemble Him in any of our actions, by so much we advance our own happiness. Such a friendly promoter of the good of others may survey the objects of his love with some degree of that satisfaction wherewith God beheld His workmanship when He had finished the several parts of the Creation, and pronounced that they were good. And as for a man's name and character, who would not rather choose not to have it mentioned at all, than not mentioned with respect? This seems to be the only end that is sought after by those who delight in show and pomp; and yet this very end might be much better compassed by another way than by that which they affect. For does it not give a sweeter fragrancy to a man's name? And does not every one speak of him with higher expressions of honour and esteem, who has been a common benefactor, and relieved a multitude of necessitous persons?
(Andrew Snape, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,