« הקודםהמשך »
forms; and if self-love should cease, every appetite and propensity would cease with it. Food is desirable only as it is the means of happiness. Knowledge, if it had no tendency to make us happy, would lose all its value. Even beauty, which we so much admire in every thing, if it should lose its tendency to gratify selflove in the form of taste, would lose all its charms and be no longer lovely; and only transfer this single tendency from beauty to deformity, and deformity would captivate and delight us just as much as beauty now does. The very idea of having these specific desires without having the more general desire, called selflove, would be like having, in the language of logicians, a species without a genus. In these forms then, in the forms of appetite and propensity, we are well acquainted with self-love. We are also familiar with it in our hopes and fears; for hope is nothing but our desire of happiness joined with the expectation of securing it, while fear is only the same desire accompanied with the apprehension of losing it, or incurring positive evil. In short, those thousand wishes and desires which are constantly ruffling the otherwise smooth surface of the soul, as well as the passions which at times agitate and vex it, are nothing more than the various forms of self-love. So that we are perfectly familiar with this state of mind; and now when we come to the inquiry, is self-love right or wrong? or has it any moral character ? we are able to say with confidence, whether such and such things that are essential to moral character do or do not belong to it.
Has then self-love any moral character? We think it has none,-therefore to desire happiness, and to be influenced in our conduct by that desire, is nothing praise-worthy or blame-worthy in us; but, on the other hand, that we are compelled to do so by an absolute necessity, by the very constitution of our being.
It is alike the dictate of philosophy and common-sense, that moral character belongs only to free voluntary mental action. There can be no such thing as right or wrong where there is no good or bad intention, preference, or choice. But intention, preference, choice, is action, voluntary action. To be moral, it must also be free action, that is, there must be at the same time power adequate to opposite action : this is freedom, nothing short of it
Where this is wanting, there can be no moral character, for every knows he is not responsible for what he cannot help.
And now is the state of mind called self-love a voluntary state? and is it free? That it is not voluntary, is proved by the fact, that it precedes every voluntary state. Every one knows he never chooses an object without first desiring it; for to choose without desiring it, would be to choose either from indifference or from aversion, which we know we never do: and we know we never could choose that to which we are perfectly indifferent, or that which we hate and only hate. And as desire must always precede choice, it cannot depend on choice for its own existence, of course it must itself be involuntary. But all our desires are only different forms of selflove; they are nothing but the soul going forth after happiness, or the means of it, (for we desire nothing else.) Self-love, then, is an involuntary state, and lacks one of the essentials of moral character.
Nor is it under our own control. We may indeed decide how self-love shall be gratified, whether in this way or that, but whether it shall or shall not exist, it is not for us to say,—that has been decided already by the Power that made us, and we find the seal of his decision stamped on our nature. We do desire happiness, and can never cease to desire it until our constitution is changed, and we cease to be sensitive and voluntary beings. Did this desire depend for its existence on our own choice, how soon might we put an end to all the misery that springs from desires ungratified and wishes crossed! But if no desires were ungratified, nor wishes crossed, we should be in that quiet state called contentment, which, if it brings with it no positive enjoyment, is freedom from all pain. Only place self-love within our own power, and we could laugh at such enemies to our peace as anxiety, grief and sorrow, for we could dismiss them at any time, by just saying to self-love, when it pants for relief,“ peace,” “be still," and the soul would instantly become quiet as unruffled waters; no wish would be crossed, no desire thwarted, for we should have neither wishes nor desires to be crossed or thwarted. If it were so, how soon might all the sorrows of earth, yes, and the agonies of bell, end! for what spirit here or there need longer pant for good, and cry" I thirst"? Self-love, then, lacks another of the essentials of moral character, freedom.
These plain and obvious remarks ought to decide the question, whether right action may be prompted by self-love? For if the two positions we have taken are correct, that sin consists only in action which is free and voluntary, and that self-love is neither free nor voluntary, but necessarily precedes all such action ; it follows, that for us to desire happiness, and always to be influenced by that desire, is neither praise-worthy nor blame-worthy in us. It makes us neither better nor worse.
But here we are met by objections. In the first place, it is said, that there is no difference between self-love and selfishness. To this we reply, there is no resemblance except in the two words. The things described by them are very unlike. Dugald Stewart, speaking of the phrase self-love, says, “it is often confounded in consequence of an unfortunate connection in their etymology) with the word selfishness, which, in strict propriety, denotes a very different disposition of mind. In proof of this,” he adds, “it is
sufficient to observe, that the word selfishness is always used in an unfavorable sense, whereas self-love, or the desire of happiness, is inseparable from our nature, as rational and sensitive beings." (Stewart's Philosophy, vol.i. p. 113.) Surely these states are not the same, one of which is voluntary and the other involuntary ; one of which is under our own control, the other beyond it; one of which is a part of our nature, while the other may or may not belong to us. Self-love is simply our constitutional desire of happiness. Benevolence and selfishness respect simply the mode in which this desire is to be gratified. Selfishness is a purpose to gratify it at the expense of the happiness of others, while benevolence is a purpose to gratify it by promoting the happiness of others. It differs just as much from selfishness as it does from benevolence ; and if it may be called selfish, it may with the same propriety be called benevolent, for it stands in the same relation to both.
Again, it is said that self-love must be a state of mind morally wrong, because it is the cause of all wrong moral action. We answer, it is in the same sense the cause of all right moral acrion. “Man's self-love,” says Edwards, "does in innumerable respects, restrain from acts of true wickedness, and, not only so, but puts men upon seeking true virtue.” And though Edwards regarded it as the cause of wrong action, he also regarded it as the cause of right action. It must be so, for it is the cause of all voluntary action. If it is sinful because it is the cause or occasion of sin, our constitutional power to choose is sinful, for the same reason, as it is in the same sense the cause of sin. But no one says we are guilty for having a will, neither ought any one to say that we are guilty for desiring happiness. We are guilty only for seeking it in one way rather than another, just as we are for using our wills wrong; but not for having this constitutional desire any more than for having a will.
But it is not mean and mercenary, as Shaftesbury claims, to do right for the sake of the happiness it brings us. How so? Is it mean to seek our highest happiness in making others happy ? Would it be more noble, if it were possible, to do good to others from perfect indifference, without caring whether they are benefited or not? Who of us would wish for nobler praise, than to have it said of himself with truth, "he, like his God, finds his chief delight in blessing others"? Is it mean to love ourselves, if we also love our neighbor as ourselves,--mean to act on that maxim of the Savior's, which Paul bids men remember, “it is more blessed to give than to receive"? If this is mean, what is noble ? When the four and twenty elders fell down before him that sat on the throne, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honor, and power, for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created ;" did they render no ascriptions of noble praise to him that sat thereon ? or did they ascribe to him mean and ignoble conduct ?
And is such conduct mercenary? We call him mercenary who sells his character or his conscience. He who holds his character to be invaluable, and his conscience to be priceless, he is no mercenary. But does he sell his character in the view of God or man, who, like his Savior, parts with every other good to obtain the joy that springs from blessing others? Would you esteem him more highly, if, when you saw him scattering blessings around him, you knew he took no delight in doing it ? Conscience, too,—who would part with her favor soonest? he who, with a light heart and a smile always flies at her bidding, or he who must wait till with her whip of scorpions she lashes him to his duty, and then, like a trembling slave, goes heartlessly about it? Which would probably sell his conscience cheapest ? No, it is not mercenary to do right for the sake of the happiness it brings us. It was no stain on the character of the Jewish law-giver, that he “had respect unto the recompense of reward;" nor did it tarnish the Redeemer's glory, that he, "for the joy set before him, endured the cross.
The perplexity which this subject has occasioned in morals and theology, has arisen principally from this single cause,—from overlooking the well-known fact, that self-love is involuntary. Regarding it as voluntary, some, like Shaftesbury, have denounced it, and held, that we must cease to desire happiness, or never be virtuous; while others, fixing on sone of its more useful and pleasing forms, such as our constitutional desire to relieve suffering, called pity, or the involuntary affection of parents for their offspring, have extolled them as so many real virtues. The consequence has been, among those who preach the gospel, that while one bas been satisfied if he could only excite such constitutional emotions as Milton describes in the breast of Satan, when, looking on the grace and purity of an unfallen fellow-spirit, he
“felt how awful goodness is, and saw
Virtue in her shape how lovely,” another has been afraid to appeal to man's self-love, as the bible does, by all that is moving to a sensitive being, lest he should excite selfish feelings. And among their hearers, one in the piety of his heart blames himself for feelings beyond his power to control ; while another, in his pride, thinks his bosom heaving with holy emotions, when it is only the working of a power within him which, if he would, he cannot resist.
Destroy self-love, as some would do, and all the motives to holiness which the universe presents, would fall on the sinner's heart powerless as water on the rock. Tell him of heavenly joys; he can never choose them, for he feels no desires prompting him to such a choice. Talk of the agonies of hell; no involuntary dread thrills through his soul, urging him to escape them. He can look down on its fiery billows, or upward on heaven's dazzling glories, alike unmoved, and must forever do so. Annibilate self-love, throughout the universe of being, and all voluntary action must instantly cease : with no desires to gratify, there would be no motive for action. God himself would henceforth set inactive on his throne, to look coldly down on a still motionless universe. For still and motionless it must be, unless, perchance, nature should keep on a while in her wonted course by the mere power durance; but she, too, for tbe want of his sustaining arın, must, at length, flag, and finally sink down to sleep in original chaos.
ART. V.-MITCHELL'S PRACTICAL CHURCH-MEMBER.
The Proptical Church-Member: being a Guide to the principles and practice of the Congregational churches of New-England. By John MITCHELL, Pastor of the Congregational Church, Fair-Haven, Conn. New-Haven : 1835.
For a few of the last years, there has been very manifest, in the Congregational churches of New-England, an increasing attachment to their own system of external order and discipline. This is more especially the case, in the comparison of it with the system to which it is most nearly allied. To prelacy we have never had any affinity; but to Presbyterianism, there was extensively, within the memory of some now living, a strong partiality. Our harmony with the Presbyterian church in doctrine and discipline; its prominence in our country; our habits of intercourse with it; the transfer to it of many of our licentiates, of some of our most distinguished pastors, and of a multitude of our emigrating members; and our welcomed and ever to be cherished connections sormally established with it, contributed to this result. Much also was said in commendation of its polity; the promptness and energy of its discipline; its adaptedness to prevent debate and party feeling in judicial examinations ; its power to exclude heretical and unqualified teachers, and to remove those who become such; and its influence upon the public mind, by cornbining its members under one organization. In consequence of this, many of our young ministers began to whisper their dissatisfaction with Congregationalism, as informal and inefficacious; some of them proceeded to model their churches by the powers delegated to committees, after the pattern of the session, as nearly as the nature of the case, and the predilections of the people would admit; and the sentiment was general, that it was not only admissible, but Vol. VII.