Ambition & the Pride of Life

Proverbs 16:18; Jeremiah 45:5
       Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
       Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): The pride of life. A vain mind craves all the grandeur, equipage, and pomp of a vain-glorious life; this is ambition, and thirst after honour and applause.

THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): Most men are too great and too good in their own esteem.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): The whole human race is infected with the disease of pride―pride or haughtiness, with which is connected ambition, boasting, contempt of others, blind love of self, headstrong self-confidence…Ambition deludes men so much that by its sweetness it not only intoxicates but drives them mad―and doubtless, ambition not only does injury to men, but exalts itself even against God.

J. B. GOUGH (1817-1886): Napoleon Buonaparte, intoxicated with success, and the height of his power, said, “I make circumstances.” Let Moscow, Elba, Waterloo, and St. Helena, that rocky isle where he was caged until he fretted his life away, testify to his utter helplessness in his humiliating downfall.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Ambition, like the crocodile, groweth while it liveth, or like the ivy, which rising at the foot, will overpeer the highest wall. Base it is and slavish; it will fall down to rise, crouch and creep to mount.

THOMAS ADAMS (1583-1656): Ambition, like the grave, is never full.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): The pleasures, cares, pursuits, and ambitions of the world swell in the heart when they once enter, and by-and-by they fill it completely.

J. B. GOUGH: The Venetian ambassador wrote of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey* [during the reign of king Henry VII]: I do perceive that every year he groweth more and more in power. When I first came to England, he used to say, “His Majesty will do so and so;” subsequently, he said, “We shall do so and so;” but now he says, “I shall do so and so.” But history records how Wolsey’s pride went before destruction, and his haughty spirit before a fall.

J. H. MERLE d’AUBIGNÉ (1794-1872): [Wolsey’s gentleman-usher] Cavenish ran to him, exclaiming “Good news, my lord! Sir William Kingston and twenty-four of the guard are come to escort you to His Majesty.”
      “Kingston!” exclaimed the cardinal, turning pale, “Kingston!” And then, slapping his hand on his thigh, he heaved a deep sigh. The news had crushed his mind. One day a fortune-teller whom he consulted had told him: “You shall have your end at Kingston;” and from that time the cardinal had carefully avoided the town of Kingston-on-Thames. But now he thought he understood the prophecy―Kingston, the constable of the Tower of London, was about to cause his death.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): We can as soon run from ourselves as run from death.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): Death is a mighty leveller.

THOMAS ADAMS (1583-1656): Death takes away the difference between king and beggar, and tumbles both the knight and the pawn into one bag.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): To live happily the evils of ambition and self-love must be plucked from our hearts by the roots…There is nothing less tolerable in the servants of Christ than ambition and vanity.

C. H. MACKINTOSH (1820-1896): As some one has remarked, “if two angels were sent from heaven, one to rule an empire, and the other to sweep the streets, they would not dispute about their respective work.” This is most true, and so should it be with us.

C. H. SPURGEON: Therefore be not discontented with your calling. Whatever God has made your position, or your work, abide in that, unless you are quite sure that He calls you to something else. Let your first care be to glorify God to the utmost of your power where you are. Fill your present sphere to His praise, and if He needs you in another He will show it you. This evening lay aside vexatious ambition, and embrace peaceful content.

ISAAC WATTS (1674-1748): Let it be our ambition to act on the stage of life as men who are devoted to the service of the God of heaven, to the real benefit of mankind on earth, and to their eternal interests.

MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): Ambition is the rankest poison to the church, when it possesses preachers…See to it, that these three dogs do not follow [you] into the pulpit—ambition, covetousness, and envy or contentiousness.

JOHN CALVIN: The chiefest thing the ministers of the Word of God have to do, is, not to be carried away with ambition, to get themselves credit, nor to desire things that have a goodly show, and are glorious in men’s eyes, but to content themselves to serve God, and their neighbours, and to instruct them fitly which are committed to their charge…Greed and ambition [are] the two sources from which stems the corruption of the whole of the ministry.

WILLIAM PERKINS (1558-1602): He who would be a faithful minister of the gospel must deny the pride of his heart, be emptied of ambition, and set himself wholly to seek the glory of God in his calling.

ROBERT MURRAY M’CHEYNE (1813-1843): It has always been my ambition to have no plans as regards myself.

C. H. SPURGEON: I know of nothing which I would choose to have as the subject of my ambition for life than to be kept faithful to my God till death.

JOHN CALVIN: If ambition is condemned in other matters, much more severely ought it to be condemned in “the office of a bishop.”

J. H. MERLE d’AUBIGNÉ: “Alas, Master Kingston, “ exclaimed Cardinal Wolsey,* “if I had served God as diligently as I have served the king, He would not have given me over in my grey hairs!”
*Editor’s Note: Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was the most powerful churchman in England during the reign of Henry VIII, and a chief counsellor to the king. He was a great lover of pomp and luxury, a persecutor of true Gospel ministers, and a devious plotter who had great desires of becoming Pope. But after offending the king, Wolsey was deposed and exiled to the countryside. In 1530, while being escorted back to London by Sir Thomas Kingston’s armed guard, Wolsey fell ill and died, and so never actually reached the scaffold to be executed for treason.


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