The Baptist Pillar ©      Brandon Bible Baptist Church     1992-Present

"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15

The Selfishness of Man

J. N. Brown

From The Baptist Pulpit, 1850, Joseph Belcher, Editor

Sin is but selfishness in its ten thousand forms; and every selfish spirit acts upon a latent maxim the very reverse of that inculcated by the Lord Jesus, when he said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive." The maxim of selfishness, brought out from its disguises, and put into words, would be, “It is more blessed to receive, than to give;” or, as the modern phrase is, “Keep all you can get, and get all you can."

Now for the application of this principle in practice "Keep all you get;" that is to say, let no one be the better for your strength, talents or learning—for your labor, skill or experience—for your prayers, property or influence. Happiness is your being's end, and happiness consists, in the free gratification of your favorite desires.

If your taste be for good eating and drinking, for fine clothes, houses, furniture, or equipage, indulge yourselves, without regard to others, except to see that you lose nothing by them. Waste nothing upon the wants of the improvident poor, who are idle, impudent, and ungrateful.

If your taste be for books, gratify yourself alone. Shut yourself up in your library. Never lend a book, for it will be sure to be injured or lost; never communicate your knowledge, for people always hate to be told the truth.

If you care for none of these things, and love nothing but money, secure your drawers and chests; see that your securities are good, and your stocks safe; comfort yourself with looking over your notes and bonds, your deeds and mortgages, your houses and lands, your silver and gold.

Never think of any good your money might do to others—how many destitute sufferers it might relieve—how many schools it might establish--how many tracts and other useful books it might procure for the benefit of thousands—how many evangelists and colporteurs it might send out in our neglected settlements—how many missionaries it might support among the heathen—how many Bibles it might translate, print, and circulate in the languages of the perishing people, to make them wise unto salvation.

No, these are all visionary schemes with which no prudent man will trouble his head. Keep all you get for yourself; and when you must leave it in the course of nature, leave it all to your children or family connections—whether they need it or not—whether it will be likely to benefit or ruin them. In a word, you may be a glutton, you may be a bookworm, or you may be a miser, only keep all you get.

But the one-half of this miserable story is not yet told. The latter part of the maxim of selfishness infinitely exceeds the former. “Get all you can;" that is to say, be the spunge of the community. Stick at nothing to get along in the world; drive your business night and day, early and late; allow yourself no pause for prayer, no parenthesis for reflection.

Determine to be rich; no matter though thereby you plunge yourself into temptation and a snare, and into foolish and hurtful lusts, which the Bible says drown men in destruction and perdition; all this is nothing, if you can only become independent—if you can only acquire the character of an industrious, sharp, and stirring man, who knows how to do his own work, and drives his own bargains.

But you say you cannot dig. Never mind; then beg. Be a drone in the hive of society, and suck the honey from everyone who is generous enough to feed you. Ask favors and kind offices of all, but render as few as possible in return. “Get all you can." But you say, perhaps, to beg you are ashamed. Well then, continues the lying spirit of selfishness, since you must live in some way, and cannot afford to live honestly, get over all scruples of conscience, as you have those of honor—covet that which is your neighbor's, and get all you can. Steal, lie, cheat, swindle; be a forger, a counterfeiter, a highwayman.

Or, if you despise being a vulgar villain, be a genteel one. Get into some lucrative office, no matter what, or how; never trouble yourself about discharging its duties beyond what is unavoidable; neither be scrupulous about accounting for all that you receive—that is the concern of your employers. If ejected at length for abuse of trust, be sure to get all you can.

If that be not sufficient, resolve at least "to die game;” gamble, drink, quarrel, kill your man like a hero, or be killed yourself; as to consequences, you have nothing to fear after death—hell is all a bugbear--heaven a dream—death an eternal sleep—religion superstition, and of all superstitions, that of the Bible is the worst.

Do you say, “Hold on! This is too horrible.” I know it is most horrible. But it is a most horrible reality. All this is but selfishness fully acted out. All this is the natural, and alas, too frequently the actual consequence of the diabolical principle—it is better to receive than to give. How many thousands has it landed in irreligion, libertinism, and atheism?

All these forms and more, selfishness assumes; to all these tremendous results it necessarily tends; and, however kept under check and restraint by the benignant providence of God, still every desire, every thought that springs from this odious principle has essentially the same hateful and abominable character.

O, how can we expect the church to prosper; how can the world be made happy; how can we hope for the approbation of conscience, the esteem of virtuous beings, or the blessing of a holy God, till we from the heart abjure all the specious and glozing maxims of selfishness, and mourn in brokenness of spirit that the time past of our life has been so much under their accursed and withering dominion?