Billeder på siden
[ocr errors]

be more easily attained, and is capable of more minute subdivision, than fame. In the pursuit of wealth, men are led, by an attention to their own interest, to promote the welfare of each other: their advantages are reciprocal; the benefits which each is anxious to acquire for himself, he reaps in the greatest abundance from the union of society. The pursuits of vanity are quite contrary. The portion of time and attention mankind are willing to spare from their avocations and pleasures, to devote to the admiration of each other, is so small,. that every successful adventurer is felt to have impaired the common stock. The success of one, is the disappointment of multitudes: for though there be many rich, many virtuous, many wise men, fame must necessarily be the portion of but few. Hence every vain man regarding his competitor as his rival, is strongly tempted to rejoice in his miscarriage, and to repine at his success.*

There is not any kind of superiority, however low in its nature, or obscure in situation, which is not found to be sufficient to call forth the ill will and hatred of some inferior or disappointed spectator. Children and rustics, as well as philosophers, warriors, and princes, are subject to its influence. Like the venomous spider, it weaves its web, and directs its deadly glance, in the cottages of poverty, the mansions of affluence, and the halls of science. It is the epidemic of the human race, the most common operation of human depravity. Apostle seems to give it as a general description

See Mr. Hall's Sermon on Modern Infidelity.


of human nature, while unrenewed by divine grace. "Living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another." The whole Gentile world, before the coming of Christ, is described as having been "full of envy." "Envyings" bear a high place among the works of the flesh; and on the converts from Paganism, the churches of believers, there was no one evil of which the prohibition was more frequently, or more earnestly enjoined, than this: and the apostle James tell us, that it is still partially inherent in every man-"the spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy.".

But let us now contemplate ITS HATEFUL NATure. It is a vice of the utmost deformity and heinousness. To feel uneasiness at another's happiness, or excellence, and to dislike him on that account, is a sin that needs no analysis to prove its deadly nature-no dissection to expose its corruption; it presents at once, to the most superficial observer, a frightful and disgusting appearance-a kind of leprous surface. It stands directly opposed to the nature of God, whose love delights in excellence and in happiness, and whose grace produces both; and by whom this sin must be regarded with infinite loathing and abhorrence.

It is a secret murmuring against the appointments of heaven-an incessant quarrel with Providencean accusation preferred against the wisdom, equity, and goodness of the divine administration. As it is unlike God, so it is the image of Satan,-being the disposition, united with pride, which cast down the apostate angels from their seats in heaven, and which fills and fires their bosoms in the bottomless

pit; it is perfectly the state of hell, and unceasingly the passion of devils, who despair for themselves, and envy the happiness of men and angels, yet cannot rejoice either in the good or the evil they witness, although they endeavour to hinder the good, and promote the evil, with all the restlessness of malice, and the devices of a mighty understanding. It is a parent crime, and its progeny are as mischievous and as deformed as itself: for malice, hatred, falsehood, slander, are its ordinary brood; and not unfrequently murder: for when carried to excess, there is scarcely an injury within its reach which it would not inflict upon its object. It cannot even offer the excuses for itself which many vices sometimes bring forward: anger pleads the provocation it has received; but envy has received no offence, except the well-being of another be an insult: lust and intemperance plead the gratification which their objects yield, and robbery holds up its gain; but envy gains nothing but misery, and converts the happiness, of which it is the witness, into wormwood and gall for its own cup, and transvenoms the honey of another man's comfort into the poison of asps for its own bosom: it is a source of eternal vexation—an instrument of self-torment—a rottenness in the bones-a burning ulceration of the soul -a crime, which, partaking of the guilt, partakes as largely of the misery of hell.*

Such is envy; but who can describe it accurately, or do it justice? If we look for it as embodied in living characters, we shall find it in Cain, the proto

• See Bishop Jeremy Taylor.

murderer, who slew his brother at the instigation of this vice. We shall find it in the dark, and gloomy, and revengeful spirit of Saul, who, under the influence of envy, plotted for years the slaughter of David. We shall find it in the king of Israel, when he pined for the vineyard of Naboth, and shed his blood to gain it. Yea, it was envy that perpetrated that most atrocious crime, ever planned in hell or executed on earth, on which the sun refused to look, and at which nature gave signs of aborrence by the rending of the rocks; I mean the crucifixion of Christ: for the evangelist tells us, that for envy, the Jews delivered our Lord.

Bishop Hall has given us a very striking portraiture of the envious man, which I shall here introduce" He feeds on others evils; and hath no disease but his neighbour's welfare: whatsoever God does for him, he cannot be happy with company; and if he were put to choose whether he would rather have equals in a common felicity, or superiors in misery, he would demur upon the election. His eye casts out too much, and never returns home, but to make comparisons with another's good. He is an ill prizer of foreign commodity-worse of his own; for that he rates too high-this undervalues. You shall have him ever inquiring into the estates of his equals and betters, wherein he is not more desirous to hear all, than loth to hear any thing over-good; and if just report relate aught better than he would, he redoubles the question, as being hard to believe what he likes not; and hopes yet, if that be averred again to his grief, that there is somewhat concealed in the relation, which, if it were

known, would argue the commended party miserable, and blemish him with secret shame. He is ready to quarrel with God, because the next field is fairer grown; and angrily calculates his cost, and time, and tillage. Whom he dares not openly backbite, nor wound with a direct censure, he strikes smoothly with an over-cold praise: and when he sees that he must either maliciously oppugn the just praise of another (which were unsafe), or approve it by assent, he yieldeth; but shows, withal, that his means were such, both by nature and education, that he could not, without much neglect, be less commendable: so his happiness shall be made the colour of detraction. When a wholesome law is propounded, he crosseth it either by open or close opposition-not for any incommodity or inexpedience, but because it proceedeth from any mouth but his own; and it must be a case rarely plausible that will not admit some probable contradiction. When his equal should rise to honour, he striveth against it unseen, and rather with much cost suborneth great adversaries; and when he sees his resistance vain, he can give a hollow gratulation in pretence; but in secret disparageth that advancement: either the man is unfit for the place, or the place for the man; or, if fit, yet less gainful, or more common than opinion: whereto he adds, that himself might have had the same dignity upon better terms, and refused it. He is witty in devising suggestions to bring his rival out of love into suspicion; if he be courteous, he is editiously popular; if bountiful, he binds over his clients to faction; if successful in war, he is dangerous in peace; if wealthy, he lays up for a day;

« ForrigeFortsæt »