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becoming manners; of our gains; of our learning, inventions, sallies of wit, efforts of eloquence, and exploits of heroism; of the employments, to which we are devoted; of the taste, which we display in our dress, entertainments, manner of living, building, and planting; of our industry, prudence, generosity, and piety; of our supposed interest in the Favour of God; nay, even of our penitence, and humility. We are proud, also, of the town, in which we are born ; of the Church, to which we are attached; of the country, in which we live; of the beauty of its surface, the fertility of its soil, and the salubrity of its climate. In a word, hese emotions are excited by every thing, from which a roving, ager imagination, and a corrupt heart, can elicit the means of personal distinction.
So far as these gratifications of pride are not in our possession, but are yet supposed to be attainable; or so far as they are supposed capable of being increased, when already possessed by us ; ihey become objects of Ambition. We eagerly covet them, and labour strenuously to acquire them.
In the humble circles of life, the first, and very frequently the last, aim of this desire of superiority is to rise above those, who are in the same humble station. To be the first in a village would, it is said, have been more acceptable to Cæsar himself, than to have been the second in Rome. Most men certainly raise their ambition no higher than this very limited superiority. Neither their views, nor their circumstances, permit them to grasp at more extensive and more elevated objects. Persons, who move in a larger sphere, are apt to look down with contempt and pity upon the lowly struggles for pre-eminence, which spring up in the cottage, and agitate the hamlet, without remembering, that they are just as rational, and just as satisfactory, while they are less distressing, and less guilty, than their own more splendid, and violent, efforts to obtain superior consequence.
Minds of a more resiless cast, of more expanded views, and more inordinate wishes, never stop, voluntarily, at such objects as these. The field of distinction is co-extended with the globe. The means, by which it may be acquired, are endless in their multitude, and their application ; and the prize is always ready to crown the victor. It cannot be wondered at, that minds of such a cast should, therefore, enter the race, and struggle vigorously to gain the prize.
I have remarked, that the means of distinction are endless in their multitude, and their application. The objects, from which it is immediately derived, are, however, comparatively few. These are chiefly wealth, splendour, learning, strength of mind, genius, sloquence, courage, place, and power. To these are to be added those remarkable actions, which excite the admiration and applause of mankind.
Among the objects, most immediately coveted by ambitiou men, especially by those whose ambition has been peculiarly ardent and insatiable, fume, splendour, place, and power, have held the first rank. Splendour has been sought, as the means of fixmg, and dazzling, the eyes of their fellow-men; place, and fame, as being partly the means of distinction, and partly the distinction isell; and power, as involving in its nature the most decisive and .cknowledged superiority; as including place, fume, and splenfour; and as furnishing all the earthly means of distinction. Inso the chase for these objects, the great body of mankind have entered, whenever they have found an opportunity. The humble have striven for little places, and the show, wliich was intended to excite the stare of a neighbourhood. The aspiring have aimed at stations of high political consequence, and struggled to set the world agape. Men of limited views have confined their labours to the attainment of a character, which should circulate, with respect, through a village; or be engraved, with marks of distinction, upon a tombstone; while the lofty-minded have demanded a name, which should sound through the world, and awaken the wonder of future generations. The powers of subaltern magistracy have satisfied multitudes; while others have panted to grasp the sceptre of the monarch, and the sword of the conqueror.
The Text is directed against this spirit in every form and de free. Mind not high things, says St. Paul to the Christians at Rome. The English word mind, appears very happily to express the meaning of the original term, PgovxvTES : Gire not your minds to high things with either allention or desire. It will be casily seen, that this precept cuts up by the roots both the spirit, and the consequences, of Ambition. If we pay not the regard, here forbidden, to the objects of Ambition, it is plain, that we shall peither cherish the spirit, nor pursue the conduct, which it dictates. 1: is hardly necessary to observe, that the precept is directed to us, with the same force and obligation, as to the Christians at Rome.
The reasons for this prohibition are of the most satisfactory and sufficient nature. As proofs of this truth I shall allege the following:
1. Ambition is a primary part of our Rebellion against the Law and Government of God.
In the first discourse on the Tenth Command, I observed, that en inordinate desire of Natural good seems to be the commencement of sin, in a being, originally virtuous. The two great branches of this spirit, or the two great modes in which it operates, are Ambition and Avarice. Of these, Ambition is, without a question, the most universal, and the most powerfully operative. It extends to more objects; exerts itself in a far greater variety of modes; occupics, so far as we can judge, the minds of much greater mul
titudes; is more restless, vehement, and, if possible, more craving. In every just consideration it holds, of course, the primary place.
God has assigned his place and duties, his situation and enjoyments, to every Intelligent creature. Impatience, with regard to this situation, and the duties which it involves ; discontentment with the enjoyment, which it furnishes ; and those inordinate desires for the stations and allotments of others, out of which impatience and discontentment spring; are, I think, evidently the first risings of the mind against its Maker. In these emotions, the mind declares, that its Maker's Government is, in its own view, unreasonable and unjust ; and that his Dispensations are such, as to make it justifiably unwilling to regard them with obedience and submission. Thus it arraigns the Wisdom and Goodness of Jehovah ; and withdraws itself from allegiauce to the Ruler of all things. Ambition, then, the principal branch of this spirit, is the original rebellion against the Government of God. Accordingly, the principal ingredient in the first transgression, was the ambition of our first Parents to become as gods, knowing good and evil. A precept, which forbids the assumption of so dangerous a character, and the pursuit of such fatal conduct, can need no additional proof of its rectitude. Sull, that, which is unnecessary to produce conviction, may be useful for the purpose of making impressions on the heart. I observe, therefore,
2. That Ambition is futal to the Happiness of the Ambitious man.
It is proverbially acknowledged, that Envy and Discontent are only other names for misery. Yet these wretched attributes are always attendant on ambition. No mind can be contented, whose desires are ungratified. When those desires are eager, it will be still more discontented; and when he, who cherishes those desires, sees the good which he covets, in the possession of others, he cannot fail to be envious. But the desires of an ambitious man are always ungratified. That they are cager, needs no proof; and eager desires invariably overrun the measure of the expected enjoyment. When it is attained, therefore, it falls regularly short of the expectations, and wishes ; and thus the mind regularly fails of being satisfied, even when its efforts are crowned with success. The happiness of Heaven, we are taught, will be commensurate to the utmost desires of its inhabitants. In this world, ardent wishes were never satisfied; nor high hopes ever indulged without disappointment.
The man, who enters the career of Political advancement, never acquires any thing like satisfaction, until he sees with absolute conviction, that he can gain nothing more. Then, indeed, he may sometimes sit down quietly ; because there is nothing within the horizon of his view to rouse his energy to new hopes, and new exertions. But his quiet is only the stagnant dulness, left by disap
pointment; the paralytic torpor of despair. At first, he aims at a humble office. He attains it; and with new eagerness raises his views to one which is higher. He attains this also ; and more eager still, bends his efforts to the acquisition of a third. The acquisition of this, only renders more intense his thirst for another. Thus he heats himself, like a chariot wheel, merely by his own career; and will never cease to pant more and more ardently for promotion, until he finds his progress stopped by obstacles, which neither art, nor influence, can remove.
In the same manner, the Candidate for Literary eminence, commences the chase of fame, with wishes usually moderate. His first success, however, enlarges his views; and gives new vigour to his desires. Originally, he would have been satisfied with the distinction of being celebrated through a village. Thence he wishes to spread his name through a city; thence through a counry; thence through the world, and thence through succeeding generations. Were sufficient means of communication furnished, he would be still more ardently desirous to extend his fame throughout the whole planetary regions; and from them to the ctmost extent of ine stellary system. Were all the parts of this imineasurable career possible, his mind, at the end of it, would be less contented, than at the commencement; and would find, with a mixture of astonishment and agony, that the moment, when the strife was terminated, the enjoyment, which it promised, was gone.
In the pursuit of Power, this truth is still more forcibly illustrated. He, who with distinguished political talents devotes himself to this acquisition, hurries with increasing vehemence from perty domination through all the grades of superior sway, until he becomes a Cromwell, or a King. He who aims at the same object through a military progress, starts from a school, in the character of a cadet, and pushes through the subordinate offices to the comwand of a Regiment; a Brigade; a Division; and an army. With an ambition, changing from desire into violence, from violence into rage, and from rage into frenzy, he then becomes a Consul; a King; an Emperor; a Monarch of many crowns, and many realms : and burns with more intense ardour to go on, subduing and ruling, until the earth furnishes nothing more to be ruled or subdued. Thus the ambition, which at first was a spark, is soon blown into a flame, and terminates in a conflagration. Alexander subdued, and ruled, the known world. When he had finished his course, he sat down and wept; because there was no other world for him to conquer.
Thus it is plain, that the desires of Ambition must ever be ungratified, because they increase faster than any possible gratificauon; and because they increase with a progressive celerity , expanding faster at every future, than at any preceding, period of enjoyment. Though all riders run into this ocean, still it is VOL. IV.
not full. Although millions continually crowd into this grave, still it says not, “ It is enough.” As Avarice would never cease to crave, until it had gorged the riches of the Universe; so Ambition would never rest, until it had ascended the Throne of the Creator.
But, after all its accumulations, there will be wealth, which Avarice cannot grasp. After all its achievements, there will be heights, which Ambition cannot climb. Discontentment, therefore, and murmuring, towards the God who will not give the coveted enjoyments, and envy, towards the created beings who possess them, will rankle in the insatiable bosom; and annihilate the comfort, which might otherwise spring from the mass of good, already acquired. Ahab, on the throne of Israel, made himself miserable, because he could not lay his hands on the humble vineyard of Naboth. Haman, an obscure captive, was elevated to the second place of power, and distinction, in the Empire of Persia ;, comprehending at that time, almost all the wealth, and people, of the known world. Yet, at this height of power and splendour, in an assembly of his family and friends, while he was reciting to them the glory of his riches, the multitude of his children, and all the things wherein the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the king ; when he said, Moreover, Esther, the queen, did let no mon come in with the king unto the banquet, that she had prepared, but myself : and to-morrow am I invited unto her, also, with the King: this aspiring, haughty wretch could add, Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai, the Jew, sitting al the king's gate.
Our first parents became discontented with their very nature; and under the influence of Ambition wished to become as gods. In this monstrous wish, they have been often followed by their descendants. Several of the Persian Emperors, Alexander the Great, and several of the Roman Emperors, claimed divine honours; and demanded sacrifices and libations. The Bishops of Rome, also, have arrogated to themselves the peculiar titles of Jehovah ;* and, have accordingly granted absolutions of sin, and passports to Heaven. Nay, they have abrogated the Commands of God; substituted for them contrary precepts; ascended the throne of the Redeemer; assumed the absolute Government of his Church; permitted, and interdicted, its worship, at their pleasure; claimed the world as their property; and declared all mankind to be their vassals. Beyond all this, they have given, openly and publicly, indulgences, or permissions, toʻsin. Thus has this Man of sin, this Son of perdition, exalted himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped. Thus has he, as God, sat in the temple of God, shewing himself to be God.
With all these boundless demands of enjoyment, however, this unvarying claim to the exclusive possession of natural good, 'Am
* Dominus, Deus noster, Papa.