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ON SELF-LOVE ; OR REGARDING ONE'S OWN HAP
HEBREWS XI. 26.
For he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.
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LUST not then the doctrine be false, which supposes disinterestedness, essential to all real virtue or religion ? Moses, the great law-giver of Israel, was certainly an eminent saint : and his early choice to which these words have reference, has al. ways been thought an illustrious instance, not only of a strong faith in the promises of God, but also of extraordinary piety and true patriotism : Yet, in thus choosing, it seems he was influenced by selfinterest. An expectation of being a gainer by it in the end, was his governing motive. Nor is this mentioned at all to his reproach ; but rather in his commendation. “ By faith, Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter ; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season ; esteeming the reproach of Christ, greater riches than the treasures in Egypt : for be bad respect unto the recompence of the reward.”
In order to a just statement, and right understanding of this matter, it is now proposed,
I. To consider what the recompence of reward was, to which Moses had respect; and how far he was influenced by this motive. And,
II. To inquire what the doctrine of scripture is, and what is the dictate of common sense, concerning self-love, and acting from motives of self-interest.
In the first place, let it be considered, what the recompence of reward was, to which Moses had respect.
Possibly the honor of delivering the people of God from their cruel oppressions in Egypt, and the expected happiness of inheriting with them the promised land of Canaan, flowing with milk and honey, might be motives of some weight with him. It is not to be believed, however, that any thing of an earthly nature was his principal, much less his only object. Nor are we to imagine that any temporal recompence, is at all intended by the apostle in our text. Unquestionably, the reward here meant, is the same that is spoken of in the tenth and sixteenth verses of this chapter ; as what Abraham, and others before mentioned, sought, desired and looked for “A city that hath foundations; a better country, that is, an heavenly.” Though little is said in the Old Testament scriptures, of the future blessedness of the righteous, compared with the gospel, wherein Christ hath brought life and immortality to light ; yet according to the apostle, those ancient patriarchs had some faith and hope of another world. And, beyond a doubt, the crown of righteousness--the inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, which animated the christian martyrs, is to be understood in our text, by the recompence of the reward.
. We were further to consider under the first head, how far Moses was influenced by this motive. It is not to be thought that his own happiness, even his eternal happiness, was the only thing to which he had an ultimate respect. From his subsequent history it very evidently appears, that he had a supreme regard for the glory of God, and a disinterested concern for the good of his people. On several occasions, when it seemed to be the divine purpose to destroy the whole congregation of Israel in the wilderness, at once, the grand anxiety of Moses, was for the honor of God's great name. He also often manifested a most generous concern for the preservation of the chosen tribes. At the foot of Sinai, when they had made a molten god, and offered sacrifice to the idol, and the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold it is a stiff-necked people : now, therefore, let me alone that I may consume them, and I will make of thee a great nation,” Moses still intercedes, “ Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold : Yet now, if thou wilt, forgive their sin: and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.”
I do not indeed apprehend his meaning to be, that he wished his name might be blotted out of the book of life, rather than to have the people of Israel cut off. He could not suppose that his being excluded for ever from the divine favor, would be of any avail for their salvation; nor does the manner of his intercession intimate that he offered to be blotted out of God's book, whatever he might mean by it, as the condition of their being spared. He does not say, If they cannot be forgiven without, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book ; but if they cannot be forgiven at all. That is, if they must die, let me die with them. It is only, I conceive, a strong manner of saying, that his being made a great nation, could by no means reconcile him to the thoughts of having all the other tribes and families destroyed.
But whatever construction we put upon the words, it is evident from them, and from the other passages to which I have refered, that Moses had a disinterested concern for the people of Israel, and for the glory of God : and that his own private good was not the only object, to which he had an ultimate respect.
II. We will now inquire what the general doctrine of scripture is, and what is the dictate of common sense, respecting self-love, and acting from motives of self-interest. And here,
1. It is agreeable to both, I think, that actions which proceed merely from self-love, have no praiseworthiness in a moral view : or, that when we have no ultimate regard to any thing but our own interest or honor in what we do, our most specious deeds are not at all virtuous.
Thus the scriptures plainly teach. “ If ye lend to them of whom ve hope to receive,” says our Saviour, “ what reward have ye ?” And the apostle says, 66 Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." It is the plain meaning of these passages, and of many others, that if self-love be the alone principle from which we act, or if our own interest or glory be our only ultimate end, however much we may promote the good of others, or the glory of God, with a subordinate view, there is nothing rewardable or praiseworthy in our seeming piety or liberality.
And this is evidently the common sense of mankind. Actions esteemed laudable, are ever supposed to imply disinterested goodness. When we know that the man who treats us with great courtesy and respect, is only courting our friendship; or that the man who relieves us in our straits and necessities, has nothing in view but to be thought liberal, or to