Augustine and Aquinas held the essence of sin to be pride; Luther and Calvin regarded its essence to be unbelief. Krebig (Versohnungslehre) regards it as ?world-love?; still others consider it as enmity to God. In opposing the view that sensuality is the essence of sin, Julius Muller says: ?Wherever we find sensuality, there we find selfishness but we do not find that where there is selfishness there is always sensuality. Selfishness may embody itself in fleshly lust or inordinate desire for the creature but this last cannot bring forth spiritual sins which have no element of sensuality in them.?
Covetousness or avarice makes, not sensual gratification itself, but the things that may minister thereto, the object of pursuit and, in this last chase often loses sight of its original aim. Ambition is selfish love of power and vanity is selfish love of esteem. Pride is but the self- complacency, self-sufficiency, and self-isolation of a selfish spirit that desires nothing so much as unrestrained independence. Falsehood originates in selfishness, first as self-deception, and then, since man by sin isolates himself and yet in a thousand ways needs the fellowship of his brethren, as deception of others. Malice, the perversion of natural resentment (together with hatred and revenge), is the reaction of selfishness against those who stand, or are imagined to stand, in its way. Unbelief and enmity to God are effects of sin, rather than its essence; selfishness leads us first to doubt, and then to hate the Lawgiver and Judge. Tacitus: ?Humani generis proprium est odisse quem leseris.? In sin, self-affirmation and self-surrender are not coordinate elements, as Dorner holds, but the former conditions the latter.
As love to God is love to God?s holiness, so love to man is love for holiness in man and desire to impart it. In other words, true love for man is the longing to make man like God. Over against this normal desire which should fill the heart and inspire the life, there stands a hierarchy of lower desires which may be utilized and sanctified by the higher love but which may assert their independence and may thus be the occasions of sin. Physical gratification, money, esteem, power, knowledge, family, virtue, are proper objects of regard, so long as these are sought for God?s sake and within the limitations of his will. Sin consists in turning our backs on God and in seeking any one of these objects for its own sake, which is the same thing as for our own sakes. Appetite gratified without regard to God?s law is lust and the love of money becomes avarice. The desire for esteem then becomes vanity, the longing for power becomes ambition, the love for knowledge becomes a selfish thirst for intellectual satisfaction, parental affection degenerates into indulgence and nepotism, the seeking of virtue becomes self-righteousness and self-sufficiency. Kaftan,
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