Now, if those who are admitted into the visible church of Christ are said to be partakers of the divine nature, are styled followers of God as dear children, are described as putting on Christ, walking even as he walked, partakers of his spirit, and are represented as having his law written upon their hearts, what are we to think of those who live only to themselves; who, though they profess to receive the gospel, whose spirit is mercy, whose design is benevolence, are yet governed by a principle wholly selfish? Surely, when they behold themselves in this pure mirror, they must perceive a palpable inconsistency, and acknowledge an important deficiency. If the great principle of love to God be not predominant in the heart, we are as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals.
Again: For any man to seek his own in preference to the things of Christ, is contrary to the nature of true religion. The great requirement which is a summary of the decalogue, you well know: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself. This principle of love is one, that is, it is the same: the difference of its exercise springs only from the difference of its objects. Love is the fulfilling of the whole law. He who loves God will, from the same affection, love his neighbour. The nature of true religion, as described in the Bible, is benevolence. Witness those striking words of Jesus Christ, He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me, and he that taketh not his cross and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. Whosoever forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. For if ye love them that love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. But love ye your enemies; and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again: and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest, for he is kind to the unthankful, and to the evil Observe, also, that declaration of the apostle, Charity seeketh not her own; that is, is wholly destitute of any selfish character.
Now, if true religion consists in loving God supremely, in denying ourselves, in seeking the general good, it must be a serious charge, brought against one of its professed friends, that he makes all his duties subserve his own interest; that he loves most, and is most anxious to promote, his own purposes; that his feelings are most awake, and his heart most devoted, to his secular concerns. Thirdly: For every man to seek his own in preference to the things of Christ, is contrary to the vows made in our dedication to God. Those who join themselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant, profess to esteem it both a privilege and a duty, and they would be considered as doing it from a principle of supreme attachment to God and his cause. In this solemn and interesting transaction, of which heaven, earth, and hell are witnesses, they avouch The Lord Jehovah to be their God for ever, to the exclusion of all idols; and they consecrate to him all that they have, and are, or may possess, without any reservation — to the abandonment of all selfish ends.