« AnteriorContinuar »
him; and 'twas envy which ministered fuel to all his fire. And Joseph was sold by his brethren from no better motive; for after he had revealed to them the advancement portended to him from his dream, in a plain and friendly manner, without reserve or design, as one brother should do to another, their envious minds could not, it seems, endure the thought of it! And what else was it which provoked Saul to hate David, and engaged him in various attempts to murder that excellent person, but his victory gained over the enemy Goliah. All the rage and venom which proceeded from Saul to David, sprang, I say, entirely, from this mischievous fountain. And to waste no more time upon instances of particular persons, we may observe a whole community lost from the same fatality. For were not, I beseech you, the Jews undone through the envy they bore to Christ instead of the belief they owed him? They envied the great and marvellous works performed by him; and whilst the blindness was upon them, which they thence contracted, their error continued, and they could not open their eyes to see the finger of God in the miracles which he wrought.
4. Upon these considerations, my beloved brethren, I hope you will be all prevailed with to be ever upon your guard against this fatal mischief, and never suffer it to gain admission into your breasts, which have been solemnly dedicated to the service of God. Let the fate of others be improved to your benefit, and let the punishment of the unwary teach you caution. No man can have reason to believe that this is a single species of sin, that it is of a narrow compass, or of a small extent. No! for envy is of a spreading nature, and fruitful in ill effects. It is the root of almost all the evils which can be named, the spring-head of various misfortunes, a nursery of manifold vices, and furnishes the occasion to all sorts of sin. Hatred and enmity have thence their rise; covetousness grows upon that root, when a man cannot be content with such things as he hath, because he observes another to have more; ambition springs out of this unhappy fountain, when others have more honours and offices heaped upon them than ourselves: and thus whilst the powers of our souls are under the government of this restless principle, and blinded by this haughty passion, all fear of God, and all subjection to Christ, are quite laid aside, and we think not at all upon a day of retribution. Pride and cruelty, impatience and breach of faith, wrath and discord, have all their turns of influence upon us; nor do we continue our own masters, after having thus put the government of our conduct into other hands. Thus brotherly love is lost, and the bonds of peace are broken; the truth of the gospel is sophisticated, the unity of the church divided.
5. What a strange corruption is this of human understanding, to envy any man either for his virtue, or his fortune; to turn our hatred either upon the merits of his person, or the mercies of providence; to ;make another's good fortune our own ill fortune; to torment ourselves with the prosperity of the great and flourishing, and to interpret their glory as our own shame; to put ourselves to the torture, and to play booty with our own repose and happiness; to break the peace of our minds, and to let in upon them a set of repining vexatious reflections; neither to eat nor drink with ease or comfort; to be always sighing, lamenting, grieving; to have no respite from the gnawing passion; but day and night to feel it plaguing us with never-ceasing demands! Other sins have some boundaries prescribed to them; and when the mischief they aim at is perfected, you hear of no farther pretensions from them. But envy is endless, and knows no bounds; it abides by the man possessed with it, and never leaves him ; but the greater the successes are which the envied person meets with, so much the stronger doth the envious man's passion grow, and increases upon him without measure or limitation. Hence you may observe him always with a threatening countenance, with a fierce and illnatured look; his complexion pale and sallow, his lips trembling, his teeth gnashing, his words perverse, disjointed and reviling, his hands ever ready for mischief, and for executing any purposes of his enraged heart: And therefore the psalmist well hath cautioned us, saying: "Fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way." And again: "The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth. The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming." These are the men who are stigmatised by the apostle, where he saith of them: "The poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes." The mischief and the danger of wounds inflicted by a sword are infinitely less than these: Where the hurt appears to the naked eye, there is some hope of a cure, because the case may immediately have relief from the application of proper helps; but the wounds which envy inflicts upon the soul of the person haunted by it, are secret and invisible, and therefore will not admit the application of proper remedies, but gnaw the very heart, and prey upon the vitals of the unhappy patient, unobserved and undiscovered. Do you then, whoever you are who have the misfortune of being subject to this hateful passion, do you consider with yourself, that you are no man's enemy so much as you are your own. Whomsoever you persecute with your malice and ill will, it may very possibly and probably be in his power to avoid you; but you can never avoid yourself;
wheresoever you are, your greatest enemy always accompanies you; he is lodged in your bosom, attached to you by such indissoluble bonds, that you can never hope to be rid of him; so that you must always drag your chain along with you, must continue in a state of perpetual bondage, without any allays of comfort to your sad condition, or any prospect of deliverance out of it. To persecute with your malice a man who is interested in the grace of God, is a mischief so deeply rooted, that you will never dislodge it; and to hate a man only for his happiness, is such an unhappiness upon yourself, as admits no remedy.
6. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, our blessed Lord having in view the mischief and danger of this passion, and being desirous to prevent its fatal consequences, made the following answer to his disciples, when they were solicitous to know "which of them should be greatesthe (said our Lord) "who is least amongst you shall be great." By this reply he cut off all occasion and pretence of envy, and drew off all the fuel which could, in any manner, feed that perverse affection. A disciple of Christ must have no such emulation in him; we can have no contention nor strife about greatness, who are to be exalted only by our humility, and have learnt to please our master, by our content with being little. The apostle St. Paul hath therefore well reminded us who have been enlightened with the grace of Christ, and