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hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God; for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth *.”
ON THE LOVE OF POWER; OR, THE PRINCIPLE OF AMBITION.
This is another of the evils which are directly opposed to the virtue and happiness of man. Ambition is the inordinate desire of distinction generally, and, consequently, of those things by which distinction is obtained. It consists in the love of greater power, and in the effort to obtain it, than is actually possessed. The desires from which this passion originates are restless, importunate, and, when long indulged, absorb every other feeling, and engross the whole mind. Their sinfulness appears by the dissatisfaction and disobedience which they indicate in regard to God; their pernicious influence on the character and happiness of the individual who indulges them; and the misery of which they are productive in reference to society.
I. Ambition shews dissatisfaction and disobedience in regard to God. He has allotted to all the situation which each occupies, the enjoyment which it yields, and the respect which it secures. Being infinitely wise and good, this arrangement of his wisdom and goodness must be the best. But is it not an impeachment of this wisdom, and a disparagement of his goodness, to give way to impatience and discontent, and inordinately to desire the station, the influence, the blessings possessed by others? Is not this, partially at least, to withdraw our allegiance from God, and to assume an independence inconsistent with our character and circumstances as creatures ? It was by indulging the wish to become as gods, and to know good and evil, that sin was first introduced into the world; and it is by cherishing inordinate desire, that sin, in every case, originates.
* Deut. viii. 11-17.
It is unnecessary to say how incompatible this spirit is with the power and the practice of true religion. When it takes possession of the heart, the love and fear of God are excluded; and a course of disobedience to the divine authority, and of rebellion against God, is already entered upon.
II. Let us notice the pernicious influence of ambition on the virtue and happiness of the man who indulges' it. The feelings of which it consists, and to which it gives rise, are directly opposed to both, These are dissatisfaction, envy, hatred, selfishness,feelings which it becomes more difficult to gratify, the more they are cherished.
How can the man who aims at setting himself loose from the direction and government of God, and every ambitious man does so,-reasonably hope to secure to himself happiness? Is the object of his wishes political power :-though he should obtain all that he now ventures to desire, when he had reached the summit to which his view is now limited, would he not wish to climb the still higher eminence beyond ; and then, after he had ascended, till he had reached the highest pinnacle to which he dared to aspire, should he not feel as dissatisfied as ever, or, rather, more dissatisfied than ever, with the nature and the amount of his enjoyments? What though he rose, not to be a monarch merely, but to be the sovereign of many monarchs, and the possessor of many crowns and many realms, where, or how could his ambition be gratified when he had subdued the world, and when there remained for him no other world to subdue!
Is his ultimate end literary fame :-this seems a nobler object than the former, and one from which, in the estimation of many, greater satisfaction might be derived. But in reality, it is not less criminal, and not less injurious to the happiness of the individual who devotes himself to it. Though he should succeed in acquiring celebrity in the district in which he resides, or even in the kingdom to which he belongs, or through the whole of the civilized world, what is this to the universe? Would he not find, after he had gained the highest literary reputation, that the enjoyment which he had promised to reap from it had eluded him, and that all was vanity and vexation of spirit!
The dissatisfaction of the ambitious man must increase in proportion as he advances in his career, because, however successful, there will be wealth and power which he cannot attain. The king of Israel could not enjoy his kingdom, because he coveted the vineyard of one of his subjects. The captive Haman, whom the Persian Monarch made his prime-minister,
and who had honours, and places, and provinces at his disposal, was discontented and miserable, merely because an obscure Jew refused to pay him homage. “ The queen did let no man 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. Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai, the Jew, sitting at the king's gate.”
III. Let us observe the evils of which ambition is always productive. Within the narrowest limits in which it is cherished, it leads the individual under its control to sacrifice his principle, his peace, and his future and eternal well-being. His heart is away from God; and whatever be the object on which it is fixed, it is the idol to which he gives his homage, and from which he promises to derive his happiness.
When indulged on a more extended scale, how ruinous is its influence on the best interests of mankind! Does it aim at literary honour and distinction :-how often has ambition, in this way, sought its object at the expense of truth ; by disparaging, if not denying the character, the government, and the providence of God; by vilifying the revelation which he has given of his will, and of his merciful designs; and by flattering the vanity, and stimulating the sensuality and corruption of man! It is this guilty principle that has filled the world with a species of literature with which it is dangerous to be acquainted, which is the vehicle of infidelity in all its forms of refinement and coarseness, and which addresses itself in sarcasm, in wit, in ridicule, in polluting insinuation, to the passions of the reader. It exists under
the garb of history, of poetry, of philosophy, and of periodical journals ;-assailing the highest interests of man as a moral, a religious, an immortal being.
Does ambition seek political distinction and power: -how destructive has it been in this way in all ages of the world! Animated and carried along by this principle, to what madness and crime has it led individuals both in ancient and in modern times! How many thousand human beings have been sacrificed to gratify the ambition of a single Cæsar! If we beheld hamlets and cities in ruins, the means of subsistence, the domestic enjoyments of multitudes wasted, and war spreading misery and death over the face of that world on which the Creator lavishes his bounty, we should only witness some of the evils which cruel and hard-hearted ambition voluntarily produces.
Nor let us deceive ourselves by thinking that in our humble station we are beyond the reach of its influence. There is no principle that has so wide a control over mankind. Paltry as the object may be which we covet, and to which we give the homage of our heart, it will prove, should we love it to the neglect of God and of our true interests, our certain and everlasting ruin. While many are ever saying, Who will shew us any good-may it be the unfeigned language of our hearts, “ Lord lift thou up upon us the light of thy countenance. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee."