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CONTENTS OF THE FOURTH VOLUME.
SERMON CXXXVI. The Ordinary Means of Grace. What they are; and
what is their Influence.- Cor. iv. ló.
SERMON CXLVIII. The Ordinary Means of Grace. Tho Manner in which
Religious Education is to be conducted. Motives to thts Duty.- Prov.
SERMON CLVII. The Extraordinary Means of Grace. The Objections
TENTH COMMANDMENT. AMBITION.
Romans xii. 16.–Mind not high things.
THE subject of the preceding discourse, you may remember, was Avarice. In the present, I shall consider the other great exercise of a covetous spirit, viz. Ambition.
Ambition is an affection of the mind, nearly related to Pride and Vanity. Vanity is the self-complacency, which we feel in the consciousness of being superior to others. Pride is the same selfcomplacency, united with a contempt for those, whom we consider as our inferiors.
Ambition is the desire of obtaining, or increasing, this superiority. Vanity, usually makes men civil and complaisant. Pride, renders them rude, imperious, and overbearing. Vanity, chiefly subjects men to the imputation of weakness; and excites mingled emotions of pity and contempt. Pride, is often attended with a kind of repulsive dignity ; is rather seen to be deserving of contempt, than realized as the object of it; sometimes awakens awe; and always creates hatred and loathing. Vain men are always ambitious; proud men generally; but they sometimes appear satisfied with their present envied superiority to all around them. Ambitious men are frequently vain, and sooner or later are always proud. Vanity rests chiefly on personal attributes. Pride, in addition to these, fastens on every thing, which is supposed to create distinction.
This love of superiority is the most remarkable exercise of Covetousness; and, united with the discontentment and envy, by which it is regularly accompanied, appears to constitute the principal corruption of the human mind. It is impossible, without wonder, to observe the modes, in which mankind exercise it; and the objects, in which it finds its gratification. They are of every kind; and are found every where. We are proud and vain of whatever, in our own view, raises us above others; whether a gift of nature, an attainment of our own, or a mere accident. Our pride and vanity are excited by the possession of personal beauty, strength, or agility ; by a lively imagination, clear judgment, and tenderness of feeling; by patrimonial wealth, and distinction of family; by the fact, that we live in the same neighbourhood, or even in the same country, with persons of eminence; that we know them; or even that we have seen them. No less commonly are we proud and vain of bodily feats, graceful motions, and
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, these emotions are excited by every thing, from which a roving, eager 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 ; they 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 inore 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, eloquence, courage, place, and power. To these are to be added those remarkable actions, which excite the admiration and applause of mankind.