Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

grafted upon every stock in the neighbourhood. His own sons, if not broken down by his hard-handed parsimony, or induced by their sufferings to detest it, and rush into the opposite extreme of profusion, become proficients in all the mysteries of fraud and oppression : not instructed, and led, only, but drilled into the eager, shrewd, and gainful pursuit of wealth. From him they learn to undervalue all rules of morality, except the law of the land; to violate the dictates of compassion; to burst the bonds of conscience; and to regard with indifference, and contempt, the Will of God. In his house, as in a second Newgate, young men soon become old in villainy; and with a heart prematurely hardened into stone, and hands trained to mischief by transferred experience, are turned loose to prey upon the vitals of Society. The Public Mischiefs of Avarice are not less numerous; and are of incomprehensible magnitude. It was one of the glorious characteristics of the men, recommended by Jethro to Moses, to fill the stations of Rulers, that they hated covetousness : a characteristic indispensable to him, who would rule justly, and be a minister of God for good to his people. When Avarice ascends the chair of state, mingles with the councils of princes, seats herself on the bench of justice, or takes her place in the chamber of le. gislation; nay, when she takes possession of subordinate departments, particularly of those, which are financial, in the administration of government; her views become extended, and her ravages terrible. The man, over whom she has established her dominion, sees, even in the humblest of these stations, prospects of acquir. ing wealth opening suddenly upon him, of which he before never formed a conception. In the mysterious collection of revenues, the mazy management of taxes, the undefined claims for perqui. sites, the opportunities of soliciting and receiving customary bribes, and in the boundless gulf of naval and military contracts, he beholds new means, and new motives, for the exercise of all his talents, fraud, and rapacity, and for the speedy acquisition of opulence, crowding upon him at once. The alluring scene he surveys with the same spirit, with which a vulture eyes the field of blood. Every thing, on which he can fasten his talons, here becomes his prey. The public he cheats without compunction:

individuals he oppresses without pity. There is sufficient wealth in the world to supply all its inhabitants with comfort. But, when some become suddenly, and enormously, rich, multitudes must sink into the lowest depths of poverty. To enable a single farmer of revenues, or a single contractor, to lodge in a palace, to riot at the table of luxury, and to roll on wheels of splendour, thousands have sweat blood, and wrung their hands in agony. But what is all this to him 2 He is rich; whoever else may be poor. He is fed; whoever else may starve. The frauds and ravages of public agents, which find palliation, countenance, and excuse, from the fact, that they have become customary, constitute no small part of that oppression, which has awakened the groans and cries of the human race, from the days of JNimrod to the present hour. But Avarice is not confined to subordinate agents. Often it ascends the throne, and grasps the sceptre. The evils, of which it is the parent in this situation, are fully proportioned to its power; and outrun the most excursive wanderings of imagination. A large part of the miseries, entailed on mankind by oppressive taxes at home, and ruinous wars abroad, are created by the lust for plunder. This fiend hurried the Spaniards to America; and stung them into the perpetration of all those cruelties, which laid waste the Empires of JMearico and Peru. The same foul spirit steered the slave-ships of America and Europe to the African shores; tore from their friends, children, and parents. ten millions of the unoffending natives; transported them, in chains, across the Atlantic; and hurried them to the grave by oppressive toil, torture, and death. Every where, and in every age, she has wasted the happiness, wrung the heart, and poured out the blood, of man. Relentless as death, and insatiable as the grave, she has continually opened her mouth without measure; and the glory, the multitude, and the pomp of cities, states, and empires, have descended into the abyss'

SERMON CXXXII.

TENTH COMMANDMENT.

AMIBITION.

Romans xii. 16.
JMind not high things.

The subject of the preceding discourse, you may remember, was Avarice. In the present, I shall consider the other great exer. cise 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 self-complacency, 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 distl Inction. 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 were 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 possessVol. IV. 56

ed 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 Caesar 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 restless 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, eloquence, 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 ambitious men, especially by those whose ambition has been peculiarly ardent and insatiable, fame, splendour, place, and power, have held the first rank. Splendour has been sought as the means of fixing, and dazzling, the eyes of their fellow-men; place, and fame, as being partly the means of distinction, and partly the

« AnteriorContinuar »