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ON EMULATION AND ENVY.
The following tract, concerning Emulation and Envy,- was written upon much the same occasion with the preceding one, and strikes indeed at the root of very many differences, which may happen at any time to arise among Christians of the same communion.
L. My brethren, there are many who judge it a slight offence against the laws of virtue, to be picqued at what they observe to be good in any one, and to envy their betters. Thus whilst they think the crime to be small and trivial, they are not afraid of it; from being not afraid of it. they grow to despise it; when they despise it, they are in no manner careful to avoid it; and so the mischief creeps upon them unobserved. By not appearing to them in its proper shape and colour, their caution is not armed against it; but they suck in the poison without the least apprehension of its fatal consequences. Our Lord hatli therefore well and pertinently forewarned us to be wise and provident, and to watch with all holy jealousy and solicitude; lest our adversary, who is ever himself upon the watch, should steal into our hearts, and there kindle a mighty flame out of a spark of fire; or by soothing us, whilst off our guard, with a soft and gentle gale, should lull us asleep, and then raise a storm and hurricane about us, which should make shipwreck of our faith, and bring our life and salvation into peril. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, it is incumbent upon us, to be always upon our guard against him, always armed against those many and various darts which he is perpetually aiming at us wherever he sees his advantage, or finds it likely to wound and hurt us. We must hold ourselves in constant readiness to make head against him according to the advice we have received from the apostle St. Peter, who in his epistle hath thus admonished and instructed us: "Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour." He walketh, indeed, round about each of us, and, like an enemy besieging us, pries into our strength, observes our weak side, what avenues are most faintly guarded, and where he may form his attack with the greatest appearance of success and victory. He hath somewhat to propound to every sense and member; he hath tempting beauties to engage our eyes, and easily taints the purity of our hearts by pleasures thence offering themselves without any obstacle or difficulty. He hath all the entertainments of music to charm our ears, and therewith to unbend the vigour of our christian virtue. He hath his setters to provoke and exasperate, and thereby to let loose our tongues in railing and reviling, or else to employ our hands in murder and bloodshed. He lures us with the prospect of injurious gain, to engage us thereby in fraud and extortion; and if money be the bait most likely to take with us, he points out the shortest way to be rich, and to make the most of it. He flatters our ambition with the honours of this world, that he may with the more advantage deprive us of our interest in the honours of another. He substitutes appearance and shadow to cheat us the better of truth and substance; and when his arts and stratagems prove unsuccessful, he then betakes himself to open force; then he proceeds in the way of fury and persecution against the servants of God, giving them no rest nor respite, but trying all conclusions which he can think of, for their ruin. Thus, in times of peace, he proceeds by art and stratagem; and in times of persecution by violence and force.
2. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, we should equally be armed and provided against the force and fraud of our ghostly enemy; and should be as diligent in resisting him as he is in attacking us. And because his greatest and most usual resort is to those weapons which fly in the dark unobserved, and the less notice we take of these attempts, the more likely we are to suffer damage from them, we should therefore be the more careful in our endeavours to discover and countermine these depths of satan, amongst which emulation and envy are not the least considerable. So that if any man will set himself to consider this matter rightly, and will go to the bottom of it, he will find that no duty is more strictly incumbent upon every Christian, than this of guarding, with all his might and caution, against the mischiefs springing out of these unhappy fountains. For indeed the danger is great and imminent, whilst he is thus entangled in the snare of his subtle adversary, and the envy he bears to his brother gradually proceeds to a settled rancour, that the edge of his own weapon should be turned upon himself, and wound and ruin him, whilst he is not enough aware of it. To set this whole matter in a better light we will trace this evil to its original, and take our view of it from its first beginning.
3. Let us then observe, as we propounded, when, upon what occasion, and in what manner* this mischief had its rise, that we may the more easily and successfully escape the snare of it. In the infancy of the world the devil himself was split upon this rock, and drew in others to share with him in his guilt and punishment. He, though fortified with the powers of his angelic nature, though in a state of high acceptance and favour with God, yet broke out into all the rage of jealousy and envy when he saw that man was made after the image of God; his envy had ruined him before it tempted him to ruin others; he was himself in bondage before he sought to bring any one else into it; and was lost in his own person ere he attempted to undo another. Indeed whilst his own envy prompted him to lead away man from the blessing of immortality, he fell himself from the blessed state to which he was created. Now how great, my brethren, must that evil be which proved so fatal to an angel of light? Which had weight enough to sink a being of such an illustrious and exalted nature, and to deceive even the great deceiver? Envy could not otherwise make such a fatal progress if the devil were not its author and encourager, and if there were not a great propensity in mankind to follow his example, as it is written: "Through envy of the devil death came into the world; and they who hold of his side do imitate him." From this unhappy principle the first quarrel which ever was in the world commenced between the two brothers, and murder was the consequence; whilst unrighteous Cain envied righteous Abel, and the good man fell a sacrifice to the wicked one through the suggestions of this mischievous passion ; the rage of which had such a fatal issue, and finished so black a scene of villany, that neither the endearments of so near a relation, nor the heinousness of such an act, nor the fear of God, nor the sure vengeance which could not but follow upon such an atrocious sin, had any influence towards preventing the attempt. It was this passion which made Esau Jacob's enemy: because his father Isaac had blessed Jacob, therefore did Esau labour to persecute and injure