« AnteriorContinuar »
ance, to reconcile ourselves to our great Judge; even that Judge, who has mercy for relenting sinners, but repays the obstinate, and those who hate him, to their face.
To whom therefore be rendered and ascribed,
as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for evermore. Amen.
'JAMES III. 16.
For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and
every evil work. OF the sins and ill qualities that the corruption of man's nature has poisoned and polluted his mind with, there is none of greater malignity and baseness than envy. For the condemnation of which, we need not bring it to the bar of religion and Christianity; there being enough to sentence and condemn it from bare reason and philosophy.
For the prosecution of the words I shall do these four things.
I. I shall shew what envy is, and wherein the nature of it does consist.
II. What are the grounds and causes of it.
IV. And lastly, make some use and improvement of the whole.
And first for the first of these ; what envy is, and wherein the nature of it does consist. And for this we shall find, that moralists generally give us this description of it; that it is a depraved affection or passion of the mind, disposing a man to hate or malign another for some good or excellency belonging to him, which the envious person judges him unworthy of, and which for the most part he wants himself. Or yet more briefly; envy is a certain grief of mind conceived upon the sight of another's felicity, whether real or supposed : so that we see that it consists partly of hatred and partly of grief. In respect of which two passions, and the proper actings of both, we are to observe, that as it shews itself in hatred, it strikes at the person envied; but as it affects a man in the nature of grief, it recoils, and does execution upon the envier; both of them are hostile affections, and vexatious to the breast which harbours them. Acts of love indeed have naturally something of pleasure still attending them, and please the mind, while they proceed from it. But no man perfectly enjoys himself while he hates another; hatred being a quality that sours the whole soul, and puts all the faculties of it, as it were, into a posture of offence. It is really war begun, and commonly so, before it is proclaimed; it gives the first charge, and strikes the first stroke in all acts of hostility. And can there be any thing of enjoyment in all this? A battle certainly can be no present pleasure, though it should end in a victory. And during a man's actual pursuit of his hatred, he is much in the same condition, restless and unquiet ; his head contriving, and his hands laying about them to do the hated person all the mischief he can: in a word, he lives in the fire, fighting and fencing, and forced to carry on a constant opposition. For hatred being too active and mercurial a passion to lie still, never takes up with the bare theory of mischief, with sluggish thoughts and secret grudges, but, as opportunity serves, will certainly be doing ; and till such opportunity falls in
with it, which frequently it does not, it must needs afflict, and grate, and feed upon the man himself, and make him as miserable as he wishes others.
And thus hatred having done its part towards the disturbance of the mind in which it is, the other passion of grief is hereupon presently set on work: for when any of the other passions are defeated about their respective objects or operations, then this passion immediately comes upon the stage, and takes its turn to act. So that, when a man cannot vent his rage outwardly, he is sure to grieve and mourn, and bleed inwardly; like a wretch falling on his own sword, because he cannot thrust it into the body of his enemy. This is the nature of envy, always exerting itself in and by these two afflicting passions ; first, in the way of hatred carrying its mischievous influence abroad, and then in the way of grief playing the tyrant at home; but whether in the one or in the other, guilt and sadness are its inseparable companions: it being utterly impossible upon all principles, both of nature and religion, for an envious person to have either a good conscience or a cheerful mind.
But to shew the malignity of this ill quality yet further, it is observable, that in all or most of the other passions of the mind, there is, as to the general nature of them, an indifference to good or evil; as being, under that consideration, determined to neither. Thus, for instance, we find it, in the forementioned affections of grief and hatred, taken singly and by themselves, and likewise in fear, anger, despair, and the like; of all which there is none but what may be lawful in the respective actings of each, provided they pitch upon right objects, and proceed in a due manner : for a man may grieve, hate, fear, be angry, and despair of the accomplishment of this or that design, without transgressing any of the rules of morality. So that there may be such things as an honest grief, hatred, fear, anger, and despondency, as we have said, if duly placed and directed; but notwithstanding all this, there
1 can be no such thing in nature as an honest and a lawful envy; but it is intrinsically evil, and imports in it an essential obliquity, not to be taken off or separated from it. For though I have shewn, that envy was made up of hatred and grief, and have since also affirmed, that these two affections may be good and lawful in their respective actings; yet we are to remember, that this is so only when they act singly, and withal upon due objects; but (when by being combined together, and pitched upon a wrong object, they both make up the passion of envy,) they then receive thereby such a different formality and nature, as stamps them absolutely evil, and that so unchangeably such, as no consideration or circumstances whatsoever can possibly render them otherwise; which shews, and proves too, an original necessary disagreeableness between envy and the soul of man : for nothing can agree with this, which consists not with its innocence; and for a man to be envious and innocent too, is contradictious and impossible. And this, by the way, will serve also to demonstrate to us what affections or passions are natural to the soul of man, and what is unnatural. And thus much for the nature of envy, shewing what it is, and wherein it does consist. I proceed now to the
Second thing proposed, viz. to shew what are