Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

man's own impotence, I affirm to be one ground of envy, and a principal one too. In a word, a man is envious, because his desires are vast and immoderate, and he finds them cramped and stinted by the bounds which nature has put to his abilities. He would fain rise, but he finds something within that pulls him back, and stakes him down; and therefore he casts an evil eye upon others, because he finds such poor entertainment for it in himself.

4. The fourth and last cause of envy that I shall assign, is idleness ; for this often makes men envy the high offices, honours, and accomplishments of others. They will not be at the pains to fit themselves for preferment, and yet malign those who have it for their fitness, and owe that fitness to their pains. No, they would lie still and be great, sleep or play and be learned. Honours and dignities must come to their bedside, wait the time of their rising, (forsooth,) and even court their acceptance. But nature and providence has cast the course of things much otherwise; and honour and greatness will wait upon none but such as first wait upon them; which men must not think to do by lazing and sleeping; for as wisdom generally brings men to honour, so study and labour must bring them to wisdom, and the way to be wise is to consult their pillow less. Industry, for the most part, opens the way to preferment, but always to improvement; and it is the sweat of the brow that entitles it to the laurel. And therefore Caius Marius, a person of a plebeian extraction, but one who by his valour and labour had made himself the envy of the Roman nobility, defends himself against them in his speech to the people with great reason, Invident, says he, honori meo; ergo invideant la

bori, innocentia, periculis etiam meis, quoniam per hæc illum cepi. In like manner one man perhaps envies another's greatness or reputation ; but why then does he not also envy his labour, his abstinence, his night-watches, and all his other severities, which were the proper ways and means by which he acquired it? If men would be but true to themselves, in employing their parts, their time, and opportunities, they would probably have no provocation to envy their superiors; for this would be the direct way to keep them from having any, and to make them as great and eminent as the greatest. But their idle hours, or rather years, their cups and their sports, their gossipping visits and vain courtships, not suffering them to exert those faculties which God and nature had endowed them with, are the only things that keep them low ; and being so, they look upon such as ascend, and get into a region above them, like so many black clouds riding over their heads, and by a dark malign shade always obscuring and eclipsing them; though the true cause of all such eclipses is from men themselves standing in their own light.

But because I have stated envy upon idleness as one cause of it, we ought by all means to note the difference between envy and emulation; which latter is a brave and a noble thing, and quite of another nature, as consisting only in a generous imitation of something excellent; and that such an imitation as scorns to fall short of its copy, but strives, if possible, to outdo it. The emulator is impatient of a superior, not by depressing or maligning another, but by perfecting himself. So that while that sottish thing envy sometimes fills the whole soul, as a great dull fog

does the air ; this on the contrary inspires it with a new life and vigour, whets and stirs up all the powers of it to action. And surely that which does so, (if we also abstract it from those heats and sharpnesses that sometimes by accident may attend it,) must needs be in the same degree lawful and laudable too, that it is for a man to make himself as useful and accomplished as he can.

Having thus shewn the causes of envy on the part of him that envies, let us in the next place see the causes of it on his part also that is envied. Where in the first place we are to observe, that it is always caused by something either good or great; for no man is envied for his failures, but his perfections. Envy sucks poison out of the fairest and the sweetest flowers, and, like an ill stomach, converts the best nutriment into the worst and rankest humours. So that if we would give in an exact catalogue of all the motives of envy, , we must reckon up all the several virtues, ornaments, and perfections, both internal and external, that the nature of man is capable of being ennobled with. But I shall only mention some of the principal : as,

1. Great abilities and endowments of nature. 2. The favour of princes and great persons. 3. Wealth, riches, and prosperity. And

4. And lastly, a fair credit, esteem, and reputation in the world. And,

. First, for the first of these; great natural parts and abilities usually provoke men's envy. God is pleased to send some into the world better furnished and more liberally endowed with the gifts of nature than others, with a quicker apprehension, a further and a deeper reach, and generally a greater fitness for business and weighty affairs than others; which

VOL. IV.

I

qualifications, as they set them above the common level of mankind, so they make them to be maligned and struck at by most below them; for let a man stand never so low, he can yet shoot at him that stands higher ; much as it is with the lower parts of the world, the earth and the sea, which, not being able to vie with the upper and nobler parts of it, the heavens, for brightness, quit scores with them at least by obscuring them with mists and exhalations.

Envy makes a man think another of greater faculties only a continual blemish to himself. He thinks his candle cannot shine in the presence of the other's sun; that is, in truth, he is angry

with God for not making him better, and wiser, and stronger. He expostulates the supposed injuries of his creation, and questions his Maker for not coming up to his measures. For while envy spits its venom directly at men, much of it falls obliquely upon God himself; and while it quarrels with the effects of his goodness towards others, does by consequence blaspheme the cause.

So that we see how it strikes both at God and man with the same blow; in which, though God will

T be sure to maintain his own honour, yet it is seldom in the power of men to secure theirs; many having had but too frequent and sad cause to complain of the very bounties of nature towards them, that it made them too excellent to be safe and happy; so hard is it for any one to keep what another thinks it his interest to take away; according to that man's case, who, while he was rescuing from being drowned, had a ring spied upon his finger, which quickly procured him another death,

2. A second provocative of men's envy is the fa

vour of princes and great persons; which yet, one would think, no envy should presume to control: for the grace

of God and the favour of princes are absolute and unaccountable, and so far from being founded upon merit, that for the most part they serve instead of it, and are never more liberal than where they find none at all. Princes claim a sovereignty in their affection, as well as in their office and condition.

Nevertheless envy will be interposing its thwarting, countermanding power even here also, shutting up the breasts, and tying up the hands of princes, so that they must neither give nor do any thing but by law; and envy must give that law. Whereupon, if a prince casts an eye of favour upon any person of worth, and parts, and fitness for public service, if such an one commences favourite one day, envy shall vote him an evil counsellor the next; and then the public good and the rights of the subject run all presently to wreck, till the envious person steps into his place. Merit is an unpardonable piece of popery, with respect to men as well as to God, and to the rewards of this world as well as of the next.

But if, on the other side, a prince shall think fit to cast his eye downwards, and by the shine and warmth of his favour draw up some earthly, ignoble vapour to the upper region, and there make it glister like a star, envy shall never cease till it brings this down also; and then, though it is a pleasure to most eyes to view a star falling, yet none look after it when it is fallen.

So that we see, that whether sovereignty would serve itself by preferring men of sufficiency, or divert and sport itself by advancing men of none, envy

« AnteriorContinuar »