250. 2. The worshipper of himself and of nature confirms himself against the Divine Providence when he sees the impious advanced to honours and become great in the state and leaders in the Church, and that they abound in riches and live in luxury and magnificence, while he sees the worshippers of God living in contempt and poverty. The worshipper of self and of nature believes that dignities and wealth are the supreme and the only happiness that can be granted, thus happiness itself. If in consequence of worship begun in infancy he has any thought of God, he calls them Divine blessings, and as long as he is not too puffed up by them, he thinks that there is a God, and even worships Him. But there lies hidden in the worship a desire, of which he is unaware at the time, that he may be raised by God to still higher dignities and to still greater wealth. If he attains these his worship tends more and more to outward things until it so falls away that at length he thinks God of little account* and denies Him; and the result is the same should he be cast down from the dignity and opulence on which he had set his heart. What then are dignities and wealth to the wicked but stumbling-blocks?  To the good, however, they are not so, for these do not set their heart on them but on the uses or goods in the performance of which dignities and wealth serve as means. Therefore, from the circumstance that the wicked are promoted to honours and wealth and become great in the state and in the Church no one but a worshipper of self and of nature can confirm himself against the Divine Providence. Moreover, what is greater and lesser dignity, and what is greater and lesser wealth? In itself is it anything but something imaginary? Is one person more blessed and happy than another? In the case of a great man in the state, even a king or an emperor, after a single year, is the dignity regarded as anything more than something common which no longer exalts his heart with joy but may become worthless in his sight? All men by virtue of their high position any happier than those in a lower position, even the lowest of all, as farm-workers and their servants? It is possible that these may even enjoy a greater measure of happiness when things go well with them and they are content with their lot. Who is more restless at heart, more frequently provoked and more violently enraged than the lover of self and this as often as he is not honoured according to the pride of his heart, and when anything does not succeed according to his wish and pleasure? What then is dignity, if it does not pertain to some office or use, but an idea? And this idea can only exist in thought concerning self and the world, and in itself it is the idea that the world is everything and eternity nothing.  Something will now be said concerning the reason why the Divine Providence permits the wicked at heart to be advanced to dignities and to acquire wealth. The impious or wicked can perform uses equally with the pious or the good; and, indeed, with greater zeal, for they have regard to themselves in the uses, and they regard the honours as uses. Therefore, whatever the height to which the love of self mounts up there burns within it the consuming desire of performing uses for the sake of its own glory. With the pious or good there is no such fire unless it is kindled from below by some feeling of honour. Therefore, the Lord governs the wicked at heart who are in positions of dignity by the reputation of their name, and moves them to perform uses to the community or country, society or city in which they dwell, and also to the fellow-citizen or neighbour with whom they associate. This is the Lord's government, which is called the Divine Providence, with such; for the Lord's kingdom is a kingdom of uses; and where there are but few who perform uses for the sake of uses He causes worshippers of self to be raised to the higher offices, in which everyone is moved to do good by means of his own love.  Suppose there were an infernal kingdom in the world, although there is none, where only self-love prevailed, and self-love itself is the devil, would not everyone perform uses from the zeal of self-love and the splendour of his own glory to a greater extent than in any other kingdom? Now with all such the public good is on the lips but their own good in the heart. As each one looks to his own prince for his own advancement, for he aspires to be greatest, can he see that there is a God? A smoke like that of a conflagration surrounds him, through which no spiritual truth in its own light can pass. I have seen that smoke about the hells of such. Light your lantern and seek out how many there are in the kingdoms of the present day who aspire to dignities who are not lovers of self and the world. You will not find fifty in a thousand who are lovers of God, and among these only a few who aspire to dignities. Since then there are so few who are lovers of God and so many who are lovers of self and the world, and since the lovers of self and the world from their zeal perform more uses than do the lovers of God from theirs, how can anyone confirm himself against the Divine Providence from the fact that the wicked are in greater eminence and opulence than the good?  This is established also by these words of the Lord:
The lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this age (A.V. world) are in their generation wiser than the children of light. And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. Luke xvi 8, 9. It is clear what is meant by these words in the natural sense; but in the spiritual sense by the mammon of unrighteousness are meant the rational conceptions of truth and good possessed by the wicked, which they employ solely to acquire for themselves dignities and wealth. It is these knowledges of which the good or the children of light are to make themselves friends, and which shall receive them into everlasting habitations. That many are lovers of self and the world, and that few are lovers of God, the Lord teaches in these words:
Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: but narrow and strait is the way (A.Y. because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way) which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Matt. vii. 13, 14. It may be seen above (n. 217) that dignities and wealth are either curses or blessings, and with whom they are the one or the other. * Original Edition has "vilipendet;" Tafel Latin edition (1855) and Worcester Latin edition (1899) have "vilipendat."