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who educates his family in this manner, cannot be believed to perform, of design, a single parental duty.
As the Ambitious man regards not the real interest of his own family; it cannot be believed, that he will exercise any greater tenderness for those of his fellow-men. I have already remarked, that his mind can furnish no room for the admission of benevolence, equity, and compassion. Without these attributes, it is hardly necessary to observe, no duty to mankind can be performed.
To God, this lofty-minded being cannot be expected to render any part of that homage, which be demands from all other beings to himself
. The only language of his heart, while looking down from the height, to which he imagines himself raised by a series of prosperous efforts, is, I will ascend into Heaven: I will exalt
my throne above the stars of God: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds : I will be like the Most High. What submission, what obedience, what worship, can co-exist with this language, and the thoughts from which it springs !
At the same time, the Ambitious man surrounds himself with a host of temptations. The unclean spirit, which originally dwelt in his heart, after having gone out, and walked in dry places, seeking rest, and finding none; after saying, I will return to my house, whence I came out; has already entered it again, and found it empty, swept, and garnished, for his reception. Already has he gone, and taken with himself seven other spirits, more wicked than himself ; and they have entered in, and taken final possession of this convenient residence. His temper, his ruling passion, his course of life, holds out a welcome to every temptation ; a call to every sin; a summons to every fiend. His mind is a cage clean and furious passions. His purposes demand for their accomplishment the continual intervention of falsehood, fraud, injustice, and cruelty, of impiety and irreligion. The sins of such a man, instead of following after him, march before him in regular array; and fight, maraud, and plunder, to fulfil his designs, and to satiate the malignity of those evil spirits, who have taken
their final habitation in his bosom.
3. Ambition is the source of numerous and terrible evils to mankind.
To comprehend the import of this truth, even in the imperfect manner in which it can be comprehended by us, it would be necessary to recur to the history of the human kind. In all ages, and in all nations, this vast record has been little else, than a delineation of the miseries, which this malignant passion has produced. It has been a tale of sorrows, and groans, and sighs, and tears. The earth has rung throughout its immense regions
with the melancholy murmur; and the walls of Heaven have echoed back mourn. ing, lamentation, and wo. In a short discourse, like this, were it to be changed into a mere vocabulary, the very names of the various sufferings, wrought by Ambition, could not be alphabetically
recited. A loose and general specification of very few of these evils, is all that can be accomplished, and, therefore, all that will be attempted.
Among the several adventurers in the field of distinction, none appears so likely to be harmless, as the Candidate for literary fame. Learning is an object, naturally so useful, and the pursuit of it an employment so quiet, and so little ominous to the public peace, as to induce us very easily to believe, that Ambition, here at least, would be innoxious and unalarming. Should this, however, be our conclusion ; we should find ourselves not a little disappointed. There has been a period, of which but too many traces still remain ; a period, in which it was fashionable, and
1 therefore an object of ambition, to be a free-thinker. Literary men, of this description, trumpeted so loudly, and so incessantly, the learning, genius, and philosophy, of themselves, and their coadjutors ; vapoured with so much parade concerning their superiority to superstition, their independence, their liberality, and their exemption from prejudice; and promised so magnificently to rescue their fellow-men from the mists of error, and from the bondage of the mind, that the young, the ignorant, and the silly, dazzled by these splendid pretensions, became ambitious of this distinction; and without examination, or conviction, became free-thinkers, in numerous instances, merely that they might have the honour of being united to this cluster of great men.
The men themselves, finding that they had become great, in the estimation of others, by means of these lofty pretensions, went on, and became still greater by increasing their pretensions. By the mere dint of study and reflection, they claimed to understand, and teach, the Will of God concerning the duty and salvation of men; to explore the future designs of Omniscience; and to prescribe rules of justice, and propriety, according to which, if they were to be believed, God himself was bound to conduct his Administrations to mankind. The Scriptures they not only discarded, but loaded with every calumny, and every insult. The Redeemer of the world they insulted even more grossly, than the ancient Jews had done; stained his character with vice and infamy; and annihilated his Mediation. In the mean time, they poured out a torrent of immoral principles, which they dignified with the name of Philosophy; and which they proposed as proper rules to direct the con'duct of men. By these principles the faith of mankind was perplexed; their morality unhinged; the distinction between virtue and vice destroyed; the existence of both denied; and the bonds of society cut asunder. Men, of course, were let loose upon each other without the restraint of moral precepts; without the checks of Conscience; without the Fear of God.
The late Revolution in France, that volcanic explosion, which deluged the world with successive floods of darkness and fire, had all its materials collected, and its flames kindled, by men of this description. It is not intended, that literary consequence was the only distinction, sought by those who were the prime agents in producing this terrible shock of nature. The lust of power had undoubtedly its full share in bringing to pass this astonishing event. But the desire of fame had its share also. Had not the principles of the French nation been deeply corrupted, their morals dissolved, and their sense of religious obligation destroyed, by the pen of sophistry; it is incredible, that they should, at once, have burst all the bonds of nature and morality, transmigrated in a moment from the character of civilized men into that of wolves and tigers, and covered their country with havoc and blood.
In the career of political distinction, the progress is usually more rapid, and the change more astonishing. In this career, men of fair moral reputation, and decent life, when seized by the disease of Ambition, lose suddenly all their former apparent principles, and are changed at once into office-hunters and demagogues. To obtain a place, or to acquire suffrages, they become false, venal, and treacherous; corrupt and bribe others, and are themselves corrupted and bribed; become panders to men of power, and sycophants to the multitude ; creep through the serpentine mazes of electioneering; and sell their souls for a vote, or an appointment, in the dark recesses of a cabal.
Their rivals also, they calumniate with all the foul aspersions, which ingenuity can invent, malignity adopt, obloquy utter, or falsehood convey. The more virtuous, wise, and respected, these rivals may be; the more artsul and incessant will be their calumnies ; because from such men they feel the danger of defeat to be peculiarly alarming. Wisdom and worth, therefore, are pre-eminently the objects of their hatred, and persecution; and fall by the scythe of Ambition, as by the scythe of death.
The people at large, in the mean time, are duped by every false tale, which the cunning of these men enables them to invent; terrified by every false alarm; corrupted by every false principle; and misled into every dangerous and fatal measure. Neighbours in this manner are roused to jealousy, hatred, and hostility, against neighbours ; friends against friends; brothers against brothers ; the father against the son ; and the son against the father Truth and justice, kindness, peace, and happiness, fly before these evil genii. Anarchy, behind them, summons her hosts to the civil conHict. Battles are fought with unnatural rage, and fell violence: fields are covered with carnage, and drenched in blood; until there are none left to contend, and the country is converted into a desert. Then despotism plants his throne on the ruins, and
. stretches his iron sceptre over the miserable reliques, of the nation. Such was often the progress of political ambition in the ancient and modern Republics of Europe ; and such, there is no small reason to fear, may one day be its efficacy on our own happy land.
When, instead of the love of place and political distinction, the
passion for power, and a determination to rule, has taken possession of the heart; the evils have been far more numerous, extensive, and terrible. These evils have been the chief themes of history in all the ages of time. It cannot be necessary, that they should be particularized by me. In some countries of Asia and Africa, the candidate for the throne secures his possession of that proud and dangerous eminence, by imprisoning, for life, every heir, and every competitor; in others, by putting out their eyes; and, in others, by murdering them in cold blood. Thus nations are by this infernal passion shut out from the possibility of being governed by mild, upright, and benevolent rulers. Ambition knows no path to a throne, but a path of blood; and seats upon it none but an assassin. The adherents to an unsuccessful candidate, although supporting their lawful prince, and performing a duty, which God has enjoined, and from which they cannot be released, are involved in his ruin. Prisons are crowded with hundreds and thousands of miserable wretches, guilty of no crime, but that of endeavouring to sustain the government, and resisting usurpation. The axe and the halter, the musket and the cannon, desolate cities, and provinces, of their inhabitants; and thin the ranks of mankind, to make the seat of the tyrant secure. Not one of these unhappy wretches was probably worse, all were probably better, men, than he, who bathed his hands in their blood. Casar fought fifty-six pitched battles, and killed one million two hundred thousand human beings, to secure to himself the Roman sceptre. More than three millions of such beings have been slaughtered to place the modern Caesar in the undisputed possession of his imperial greatness. To all these miserable sufferers, God gave life, and friends, and comforts, with a bountiful hand. Why were they not permitted to enjoy these blessings, during the period allotted to man? Because Ambition was pleased to put its veto upon the benevolent dispensations of the Creator: because, to satiate one man, it became necessary to sacrifice the happiness of millions, better than himself: because such a being could be pleased to see himself seated upon a throne, although it was erected in a stall of slaughter, and environed by a lake of blood.
MAN'S INABILITY TO OBEY THE LAW OF GOD.
Ronans viii. 7. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not sub
ject lo the Law of God, neither indeed can be.
IN a long series of discourses, I have examined the Law of God; or the Preceptive part of the Scriptures. This examination I have distributed into two great divisions : the first involving that Summary of the Law, which, Christ informs us, contains the substance of all that is enjoined in the Old Testament: the second, including the Decalogue ; in which this summary is enlarged from two precepts to ten; and the duties, which it requires, are
1 more particularly exhibited. In both of these divisions I have considered, as I found occasion, those Comments, also, of Christ, the Prophets, and the Apostles, which explain and enforce the various requisitions. The importance of these Precepts does more than justify; it demands the extensive place, allotted to them in this system, and the attempts, which have here been made, to recommend them to the faith, and the obedience, of this Assembly. The end of all useful speculation is practice. The use of all truth is, ultimately, to regulate the conduct of Intelligent beings. Those, which are called the doctrines of the Scriptures, are necessary, and profitable, to mankind in two respects. The first is, that they involve immediate practical duties, to a vast extent: the second is, that by teaching us our character, situation, and relations to God and each other, and the character of God, together with his relations to us, they show us the foundation of all our duty; the reasons of it; the motives to it; and the manner, in which it is to be performed. Most of these things are unfolded to us by the Precepts of the Scriptures. They are also attended by some advantages, which are peculiar to themselves. They declare our duty directly; and declare it in the form of law. An authoritative rule is given in each of them, announcing the Will of the Lawgiver, requiring our obedience, and prohibiting our disobedience, with rewards and penalties, annexed to every precept : not, indeed, annexed to every precept in form; but so as to be always, easily present to the eyes of those for whom the law was made. Instruction, communicated in this manner, is attended by a force and efficacy, of which all other teaching is incapable.