WITH the Hon. William J. Bryan’s politics or statesmanship, we have nothing all to do. But when a gentleman of Mr. Bryan’s vast influence makes a false stroke in ethics, with all respect to him his statements may in the interests of sound thinking be examined.
In his great speech to the nation, at the Chicago conference on trusts, Mr. Bryan said that “God made man selfish.” We are sorry to see such a statement from such a source.
Now, the Scriptures which tell us that God made man, also tells us that God made man “in his own image.” Therefore since God is essentially character; and since God made man his own image, to take the position that God made man selfish, is to be at once shut up to the conclusion that God is selfish. But the cross of Christ is the eternal witness to the universe that God is not selfish. He gave himself for his enemies.
In explaining such a broad statement, Mr. Bryan said: “I do not mean to say he made a mistake when He made did [make man selfish]; because selfishness is merely the outgrowth of an instinct of self-preservation. It is the abnormal development of a man’s desire to protect himself.” But as man was made there was no possible ground for any thought of protecting himself. He was made upright and was expected forever to remain so. And he ever would remain so, had he only obeyed the simple and plain word of God. And he being upright, righteous, and holy, and all about him being the same, there could never be any possible ground of self-protection, because there could never possibly have been any encroachment from others.
That this only was, and was intended to be, the condition of man, is shown in the fact that the first of all the commandments of God to intelligences is, “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. And the second is like unto it, thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.” These commandments beeng [sic.] fulfilled, there could not possibly be any encroachment, any aggression, any invasion, by any one, of the perfect right of any other. Love is the opposite of selfishness. And as only perfect love was intended to characterize man in all possible relations, there could not possibly be any place for self-protection, and consequently no selfishness, which is but the abnormal development of the desire to protect self, and an outgrowth of the instinct of self-preservation.
It is true that the theory that “Self-preservation is the first law of nature,” is universally recognized in nature is nature is. And indeed as nature is, that is the truth. But nature as it is, is not as God made it. Nature is perverted. And though it be true that in nature as nature is, “Self-preservation is the first law of nature,” that is not true as an original principal. It is true only as a consequence: a consequence of the entrance of sin. Sin broke up man’s original and true connection with God, banished perfect love, and established selfishness, in all relations of man. This brought in self-exaltation, the disregard of the rights of others. This demanded self-protection against the aggressions of the self-exalted, and from the encroachments of each upon all the others. And this in turn begat the instinct of self-preservation. Every vestige of it is only the consequence of the entrance of sin. Hence the truthful deduction of Augustine: “All selfishness is sin; and all sin and selfishness.”
Self-preservation is the first law of nature; but self-sacrifice is the first law of grace.
Self-protection is the only means of self-preservation; Self-surrender is the only means of self-sacrifice.
Force is the only means of self-protection; love is the only means of self-surrender.
Force is of the earth; love is of heaven. Forces of the state; love is of the church—the true church, the church of Christ.
Force is only of evil; love is only of the good. Force is of Satan; love is of God.
God made all things “very good“: he made Lucifer good, and Lucifer made himself evil—Satan.
God made man loving; Satan by seduction made him selfish.
It God had made man selfish, how then could man have ever been saved? And what could be the use of the cross, and the all-important injunction, “If any man will be my disciple, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me?”
It will never do to allow that God made man selfish. Men are entirely too selfish in spite of all the love and self-sacrifice of God to prevent it. What would they become if they should believe that God made man selfish? Bad as men are when the devil is the author of selfishness, what would they be if God were the author of it? God is love, not selfishness. God gave himself, surrendered himself, “emptied himself,” absolutely; and neither protected nor preserved himself from attack, nor from crucifixion.
A. T. J.