Fifteen Sermons presents Butler’s thoughts on several key Christian concepts, including the love of one’s neighbor and the love of God. Regarding the command of Jesus to love our neighbors as ourselves, Butler notes that an overabundance of self-love can hinder us from being truly happy, but he also points out that benevolence, or love of one’s neighbor, need not prevent us from being happy ourselves. An affection may tend to produce the happiness of others, but this in no way prevents it from producing self-happiness as well. Butler’s view is that benevolence is its own reward.
What does it mean to love one’s neighbor as oneself? Butler points out that a perfectly good being would love the entire universe. However, scripture commands us to love our neighbors, those who are in our spheres of existence and with whom we come in contact in our daily lives. There are three different ways to understand this command. First, we might think that we should have the same kind of love for our neighbors that we have for ourselves, such that we pursue their good and seek to prevent harm from coming to them. Second, it could be taken to mean that we are to have a particular proportion of love for our neighbor as compared to self-love. One person may have more benevolence than another, but if her self-love outweighs her benevolence when she is deciding what to do, then this is undesirable. It is not the amount of benevolence that is crucial, but...
(The entire section is 570 words.)