This, then, is the grand peculiarity of the disciples of Christ, they are a saved people. By nature they are no better than others. Grace makes them to differ. And the grand distinction is found in what they are saved from. There are dispositions and appetites which in themselves are sinful. They answer no good purpose. They were not a part of man’s nature at the beginning. They result from the fall. No one is sanctified wholly till he is saved from these depraved dispositions and appetites.
Holiness implies deliverance from selfishness. A selfish person cannot, at the same time, be a holy person. Selfishness is that disposition which prompts us to seek our own interests or our own gratification without due regard to the rights or happiness of others. The second great commandment is,
“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”—Matthew 19:19
This certainly supposes that we are, within proper limits, to love ourselves. The Scriptures not only allow, but command us, to have a due regard for our own happiness. Every promise of the Bible is based upon the principle that it is right for us, within proper limitations, to pursue our own welfare. Abraham, in going out from his father’s house,
“Looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”—Hebrews 11:10
Moses, in giving up the treasures and honors of Egypt, “had respect to the recompense of reward.”—Hebrews 11:26
But this principle so proper in itself must be carefully regulated and kept within the bounds which God has prescribed or it becomes sinful and pernicious. Self-love takes into account the whole of our existence for time and for eternity. Selfishness looks at present interest and present gratification. Self-love has due respect for the happiness of others; selfishness inclines us to seek our own gratification without regard to the duties which we owe, either to God or to our neighbor. Self-love is a principle which God gave man for his own preservation: selfishness is the sinful substitute which man at the fall adopted. The one is the alcohol which maddens: the other is the corn that gives strength and the delicious grape that gives health to man.
There is scarcely a crime which man commits, or a sin of which he is guilty, which does not originate in selfishness. It is the bitter fountain in which every corrupt stream has its source. It is the evil tree which bears every manner of pernicious fruit. It is a vice that is never satisfied; it grows by what it feeds upon. The more it is gratified, the more inordinate are its cravings. It becomes most intense when there is least apology for its existence. It has the utmost tenacity of life, and never dies a natural death. It can be slain, only by the Sword of the Spirit—it can be destroyed only by the fire of the Holy Ghost. It can wear out the strongest constitution, but it is never worn out itself. It exists under a thousand different forms, and in every state of society. The most refined, and the most highly educated, are as much under its influence as the most ignorant and uncultivated.
Popular churches sanction and foster this selfish spirit, in selling, or renting the seats in their houses of worship. The rich man, if saved from selfishness, would not want, on account of his riches, better accommodations in the house of God, than his poorer brother. The rich and the poor would meet together as brethren, feeling that the Lord is the Maker of us all.
Every effort to raise money for religious or benevolent purposes by means of fairs, festivals, or similar contrivances, is an appeal to selfishness. Thus the sanction of the Church is given to a corrupt principle which underlies all wickedness and saps the very foundation of the Christian character. It fosters that for the extirpation of which it should put forth its mightiest energies.
Years ago, when we were first brought into the experience of the blessing of holiness, and began to realize something of its importance, we saw clearly that the enjoyment of this grace could never become general in a church, so long as pews were rented, and fairs held for the benefit of the finances of the church. We took our stand firmly against all these appeals to selfishness, as standing in the way of the great work of the Church of Christ—the spreading of Scriptural holiness throughout the land.
Holiness and Selfishness cannot dwell together. When the Spirit was poured out, upon the opening of the Christian dispensation, the selfish spirit was utterly rooted out,
“And all that believed had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” Acts 2:44, 45
Whether this is, or is not, to be regarded as a model for Christians, in all ages, to follow, it is certainly a specimen of the spirit which Christian holiness is to produce. It is an extirpation of the selfish principle.
To this end are such precepts and declarations as these:
“Let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”—Philippians 2:3, 4. “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.”—Romans 14:7. “But to do good and to communicate, forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”—Hebrews 13:1. “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”—Galatians 6:2. “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”—Colossians 3:2.