echoes of thought in love with God through Christ crucified

Tag: self-love

I dare say that I would not willingly and resolvedly sin against Christ for a world. I will rather leap into a bonfire than wilfully to commit wickedness, wilfully to sin against God. I can say, through grace, were I this moment to die, that my greatest fear is of sinning against Christ, and my greatest care is of pleasing Christ. I know there was a time, when my greatest care was to please myself and the creature, and my greatest fear was to displease myself and the creature. I can remember with sorrow and sadness of heart, how often I have displeased Christ to please myself, and displeased Christ to please the creature; but now it is quite otherwise with me, my greatest care is to please Christ, and my greatest fear is of offending Christ.

—Thomas Brooks
Works, 3:79.

They who have true love to God love him so as wholly to devote themselves to God. This we are taught in the sum of the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength” (Mark 12:30). Here is contained in these words a description of a right love to God; and they teach us that they who love him aright do devote all to him, all their hearts, and all their souls, all their mind and all their strength, or all their powers and faculties. Surely, a man who gives all this wholly to God keeps nothing back, but devotes himself wholly and entirely to God. He who gives God all his heart, and all his soul, and all his mind, and all his powers or strength, keeps nothing back; there is no room for any reserve. All who have true love to God have a spirit thus to do. This shows how much a principle of true love to God is above a selfish principle. For if self be devoted wholly to God, then there is something above self which influences the man; there is something superior to self which takes self and makes an offering of it to God. A selfish principle never devotes self to another; the nature of it is to devote all others to self. They who have true love to God, love God as God, and as the supreme good; whereas the nature of selfishness is to set up self for God, to make an idol of self. That being which men respect as God, they devote all to. They who idolize self devote all to self, but they who love God as God devote all to him.

—Jonathan Edwards
Ethical Writings, WJE (Yale University Press, 1989), 264–265.

We make ourselves our own end in frequent self-applauses, and inward overweening reflections. Nothing more ordinary in the natures of men, than a dotage on their own perfections, acquisitions, or actions in the world. Most “think of themselves above what they ought to think” (Rom12:3-4). Few think of themselves so meanly as they ought to think: this sticks as close to us as our skin; and as humility is the beauty of grace, this is the filthiest soil of nature. Our thoughts run more delightfully upon the track of our own perfections than the excellency of God; and when we find any thing of a seeming worth, that may make us glitter in the eyes of the world, how cheerfully do we grasp and embrace ourselves!

To magnify ourselves is a form of self-idolatry, which itself is a form of atheism in the practice of rejected our Creator in favor of the creature.

We magnify ourselves in ascribing the glory of what we do or have to ourselves, to our own wisdom, power, virtue, etc. How flaunting is Nebuchadnezzar at the prospect of Babylon, which he had exalted to be the head of so great an empire: “Is not this great Babylon that I have built?” (Dan 4:30). He struts upon the battlements of his palace, as if there were no God but himself in the world, while his eye could not but see the heavens above him to be none of his own framing. Attributing his acquisitions to his own arm, and referring them to his own honour, for his own delight; not for the honour of God, as a creature ought; nor for the advantage of his subjects, as the duty of a prince. He regards Babylon as his heaven, and himself as his idol, as if he were all, and God nothing.

An example of this we have in the present age; but it is often observed that God vindicates His own honour, brings the most heroical men to contempt and unfortunate ends, as a punishment of their pride, as he did here: “When the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven” (Dan 4:31). This was Herod’s crime, to suffer others to do it. He had discovered his eloquence actively, and made himself his own end passively, in approving the flatteries of the people, and offered not with one hand to God the glory he received from his people with the other (Acts 12:22-23). Samosatenus is reported to put down the hymns which were sung for the glory of God and Christ, and caused songs to be sung in the temple for his own honour.

When anything succeeds well, we are ready to attribute it to our own prudence and industry. If we meet with a cross, we fret against the stars and fortune and second causes, and sometimes against God, as they curse God as well as their king (Isa 8:21), not acknowledging any defect in themselves. The psalmist, by his repetition of “Not unto us, not unto us, but to thy name give glory” (Ps 115:1), implies the naturality of this temper, and the difficulty to cleanse our hearts from those self-reflections. If it be angelical to refuse an undue glory stolen from God’s throne (Rev 22:8-9), it is diabolical to accept and cherish it. “To seek our own glory is not glory” (Prov 25:27). It is vile, and the dishonour of a creature, who, by the law of his creation, is referred to another end. So much as we sacrifice to our own credit, to the dexterity of our hands, or the sagacity of our wit, we detract from God.

—Stephen Charnock
Adapted from The Complete Works of Stephen Charnock, 1:226–227.

We make an idol of our own wills

As man naturally disowns the rule God sets him, and owns any other rule than that of God’s prescribing, so man does this in order to the setting himself up as his own rule, as though our own wills, and not God’s, were the true square and measure of goodness.

As much as self is exalted, God is deposed.

No prince but would look upon his authority as invaded, his royalty derided, if a subject should resolve to be a law to himself in opposition to his known will.

True piety is to utterly humble ourselves, deny ourselves, and cleave solely to the service of God.

The more we esteem our own wills, the more we endeavour to annihilate the will of God; account nothing of him, the more we account of ourselves; and endeavour to render ourselves his superiors by exalting our own wills.

To make ourselves our own rule, and the object of our chiefest love, is atheism.

If self-denial be the greatest part of godliness, the great letter in the alphabet of religion, self-love is the great letter in the alphabet of practical atheism.

Self is the great antichrist and antigod in the world, that ‘sets up itself above all that is called God’ (2 Tim 3:2)

Self-love is the captain of that black band. It sits in the temple of God, and would be adored as God. Self-love begins, but denying the power of godliness, which is the same with denying the ruling power of God, ends the list. It is so far from bending to the righteous will of the Creator, that it would have the eternal will of God stoop to the humour and unrighteous will of a creature.

This is the ground of the contention between the flesh and the Spirit in the heart of a renewed man.

Flesh wars for the godhead of self, and Spirit fights for the Godhead of God. The one would settle the throne of the Creator, and the other maintain a law of covetousness, ambition, envy, lust, in the stead of God.

—Stephen Charnock,
Adapted from The Complete Works of Stephen Charnock, 1:211.

Self-love may be the foundation of a supposed love to God

Self-love, through the exercise of a mere natural gratitude, may be the foundation of a sort of love to God many ways. A kind of love may arise from a false notion of God that men have some way imbibed, as though he were only goodness and mercy and not revenging justice, or as though the exercises of his goodness were necessary and not free and sovereign, or as though his goodness were dependent on what is in them and as it were constrained by them.

Men, on such grounds as these, may love a God of their own forming in their imaginations when they are far from loving such a God as reigns in heaven.

—Jonathan Edwards
The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1, 276.

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