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“ Lovers of their own selves.”
To love one's self is a duty, and our neighbours as ourselves is no less so. But in the last times intense selfishness will be a wide-spread and governing passion. Every one for himself will be the ruling law. That blessed sympathy which sees in every man a brother-in every spectacle of suffering an irresistible appeal for succour—in every sorrow a demand for consolation, and in every trouble a reason for a helping hand or a kindly word, already begins to die out; and self-aggrandizement, self-glorification, self-enrichment, self-wilfulness creep in and occupy the once hallowed but now rapidly forsaken hearts of millions. Self becomes more generally the central stand-point from which we woigh and estimate all about us, and the world at large to a jaundiced eye presents itself as the source of plunder for the glory and enrichment of self. Instead of being a fountain welling forth waters of refreshment for all the parched places of human hearts, self has become a vortex-a maelstroomsucking into its insatiable depths all that lies or comes within its centripetal force. An ache in the little finger of self gives more anxious disquiet than the earthquake that swallows up a distant city, or the fire that devours a village. Such ignoble life leaves behind it no beautiful and holy reminiscences, no grateful hearts that will not let it go-never ripens into a happy old age, and seldom succeeds in accomplishing its own mean and selfish designs. Beautiful exceptions there are in our world; but they are
exceptions. The Church, the market, the exchange, the parliament, too terribly and too widely reproduce in life the prophetic mark described in sacred writ.
Money is the object of an almost universal worship. How shall I become rich, and at the greatest speed, and with the least exertion, is the all-pervading question of the day. Men inspired by this mammon idolatry, plunge into speculations of the wildest kind, and risk their all on some airy and baseless enterprise, and not their all only, but the all of hundreds dependant on them or their speculations for bread. Traffic has to a prodigious extent become gambling. Commerce has in many instances degenerated into speculation, and business of every sort too frequently degenerates into a lottery. Thousands to make money sell in successive pennyworths the integrity and happiness of their souls ; under fair appearances and false pretences too many grow rich. Practices that will not bear review are commercially legitimate. Deceptions, which discussed apart from their profitableness would provoke sentence of utter reprobation, become by habitual use part and parcel of the way of business. Such a dealer may stand acquitted of dishonesty according to the codes of worldly traffic, but to himself and before God he is dishonest. Thus houses of business that might be the centres of all that is honourable, elevating, and good, become the gates of ruin and the ways of death. Making haste to be rich is making haste to ruin. The love of
money becomes the root of incalculable evils. Riches honourably reached do not give the happiness in possession which was expected in prospect, and riches dishonestly or selfishly accumulated invariably fret the spirit of the aged, and eat out of the heart the happiness which otherwise might have been its treasure and its enjoyment. The consequence of this mean passion is a growing unmitigated contempt of poverty—that poverty which the Son of man consecrated in his own divine life, and along His journey to a grave. Poverty in these times is fled from as the pestilence, or deprecated as death ; feared as the vulture of Prometheus or the rock of Sisyphus. It is sometimes denounced as a crime; regarded with suspicion, and turned from the door helplessly adrift, as a disturber of the rich man's peace; an intruder on the market; a scandal and a shame, and by men who read and profess to believe, “Though rich for our sakes he became poor.” Poverty is no shame, nevertheless, whatever else it may be ; and wealth need be no crime; but the love of money hardens the heart, ruins the soul, and even in this life conducts down on the head of him in whose soul it reigns the just judgments of Heaven, and no less surely fails to gather over his memory and his grave any holy and bright reminiscences.
Ours is surely the age of boasters. We boast of our superiority to all past and contemporary generations ; of our higher civilization ; of our scientific attain
ments; of our charities, our commerce, our greatness, of our railroads, our ocean steamers, our electric telegraphs, our wealth, our wisdom, our learning, our victories, unmindful of the solemn admonition, “A haughty spirit goes before a fall,” or of the divine
prohibition, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom.”
We thus take the glory from Him, to whom it exclusively belongs, and bestow it on ourselves, to whom it does not in any degree belong. The autocrat of Babylon boasted, and perished in the fulness of his pride. The woman on the seven hills boasts that she reigns as a queen and shall see no sorrow, on the very eve of her tremendous destruction.
Real greatness is humble. True genius is least given to boasting. The profoundest piety thinks little of itself and highly of God.
God dwells in the humble and contrite heart. Acceptable worship tolerates no boasting in its ascending adoration. Peter, being the least reliable and most vacillating of the followers of Christ, was ever readiest to boast. Paul, the scholar exhibiting in every discourse the faithfulness of the confessor, the logic of the accomplished reasoner, and the urbanity of the Christian gentleman, acknowledged himself “the least of saints,” “the chiefest of sinners."
It is sad to think that 1800 years after Christianity broke upon our world, and our progress in science has shown how little we know, so many should be found too plainly entitled to the humiliating name of “ boasters.”
“We shall be as gods," is the voice that rises over workshops, and battle fields, and railways, and ocean steamers, and electric telegraphs, and all the other marvellous achievements of genius. But the soul, rid of one series of limitations, discovers it is the captive of another, and that Satan's prophecy is a boasting falsehood.
This is a detestable feature of those on whom the end of our dispensation comes.
Pride is the distinctive mark of Lucifer. Magnifying himself, and looking through the mists and hazes of self, the proud man sees all things small and mean in comparison ; the most prosperous lot received, not earned, he regards as too little for his deserts. Rich and increased in goods, he thinks he has need of nothing. Puffed up by a delusive sense of having learned, or at least deserved all by his genius, his strength, or his merits, he gives no glory to any but to himself.
When a flower is full of dewdrops it bends downward under the weight of the heaven-descended dews; but pride, the more it receives, the prouder it becomes. The branch that is covered with fruit bows toward the earth, as if conscious of its unworthiness. Man laden with blessings he does not deserve, thinks he has less than his merits demand, and that God owes him more than he has yet paid. But in the light of true religion there is nothing to be seen or discovered that should encourage pride in man.
Is he proud of his strength ? a day's fever will