Charles Buck Theological Dictionary
Is that instinctive principle which impels every animal, rational and irrational, to preserve its life and promote its own happiness. "It is very generally confounded with selfishness; but, perhaps, the one propensity is distinct from the other. Every man loves himself, but every man is not selfish. The selfish man grasps at all immediate advantages, regardless of the consequences which his conduct may have upon his neighbour. Self-love only prompts him who is actuated by it to procure to himself the greatest possible sum of happiness during the whole of his existence. In this pursuit, the rational self-lover will often forego a present enjoyment to obtain a greater and more permanent one in reversion; and he will as often submit to a present pain to avoid a greater hereafter.
Self-love, as distinguished from selfishness, always comprehends the whole of a man's existence; and, in that extended sense of the phrase, every man is a self-lover; for, with eternity in his view, it is surely not possible for the most disinterested of the human race not to prefer himself to all other men, if their future and everlasting interests could come into competition. This, indeed, they never can do; for though the introduction of evil into the world, and the different ranks which it makes necessary in society, put it in the power of a man to raise himself in the present state by the depression of his neighbour, or by the practice of injustice; yet, in the pursuit of the glorious prize which is set before us, there can be no rivalship among the competitors. The success of one is no injury to another; and therefore, in this snese of the phrase, self-love is not only lawful, but absolutely unavoidable." Self-love, however, says Jortin (ser. 13. vol. 4: ) is vicious,
1. When it leads us to judge too favourably of our faults.
2. When we think too well of our righteousness, and over-value our good actions, and are pure in our own eyes.
3. When we over-value our abilities, and entertain too good an opinion of our knowledge and capacity.
4. When we are proud and vain of inferior things, and value ourselves upon the station and circumstances in which, not our own deserts, but some other cause, has placed us.
5. When we make our worldly interest, convenience, ease or pleasure, the great end of our actions. Much has been said about the doctrine of disinterested love to God. It must be confessed, that we ought to love him for his own excellences; yet it is difficult to form an idea how we can love God unconnected with any interest to ourselves. What, indeed, we ought to do, and what we really do, or can do, is very different. There is an everlasting obligation on men to love God for what he is, however incapable of doine it; but, at the same time, our love to him is our interest; nor can we, in the present state, I think, while possessed of such bodies and such minds, love God without including a sense of his relative goodness. "We love him, " says John, "because he first loved us."
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Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Self-Love'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/cbd/s/self-love.html. 1802.