Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

envious tongue reports, a credulous ear drinks in and believes ; but withal conceals and hides from the injured, defamed person, and thereby deprives him of all power to clear and vindicate himself: it is evident and unavoidable, that, so far as the malice of one and the greatness of the other can blast him, he must of necessity be ruined; as being for the present utterly destitute of all other relief, but the conscience of his own innocence, and a that Providence, which alone is able to bring light out of darkness, and in its own good time to make an injured and abused innocence, in spite of all the conjunctions of envy and power, clear and victorious.

3. The last and grand effect of envy, in respect of the person envied, is his utter ruin and destruction; for nothing less was intended from the very first, whatsoever comes to be effected in the issue. Its methods of destroying are indeed various; sometimes it assaults a man with open violence; sometimes it smites him secretly; sometimes it flies in his face ; and sometimes it reaches him more spitefully with some backstroke; and so, like the worst

;; of cowards, comes behind him, and runs him through. For (as I said before) nothing can satisfy envy, but a man's utter confusion, and (if it were possible) his very annihilation. It is not content only to asperse or defame a man, nor regards his mere infamy otherwise than as it is an instrument of his absolute and total ruin. No, it would see him begging at a grate, drawn upon an hurdle, and at length dying upon a gibbet. It would make him odious to his friends, and despised by his enemies. Nothing under death clothed with all the circumstances of

misery and disaster that human nature is capable of, can assuage the rage and fury of envy, which in all its persecutions of a man is as cruel as death, and as insatiable as the grave. What says the wise man of it, Prov. xxvii. 4. Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous ; but who is able to stand before

envy ?

It hunts and pursues a man without remorse or pity, and never rests nor gives him over, till it has sucked his blood, and drawn out his very breath and soul together. Nor does it stop here, or expire with the bare life of the envied person, but it tramples even upon his ashes also, lashes and tears his surviving memory, and possibly wreaks itself likewise upon his posterity. So that the child, as heir apparent, shall inherit all the calamities, succeed into all the enormities and disgusts, that worried the father while living; they shall, I say, all of them be charged upon the son's person, as debts are upon his estate. And lastly, envy has a peculiar malignity in it, that the grudges arising from it admit of no reconcilement. There is no buying a man's peace with an envious person : but the burnings of such an hatred are, like those of hell, intolerable and perpetual. For the truth is, all sort of reconcilement, in the very nature of the thing, supposes a deprecation of, or a satisfaction for some injury, which first caused a breach between the persons thus to be reconciled. But envy grounds not itself upon any injury offered or done it by any man; it has no provocation but its neighbour's virtue or felicity; crimes never pardoned by envy, wheresoever in any topping degree it finds them.

And thus having given some account of this vile


and accursed quality, and that both as to its nature and consequences; and likewise both in respect of him who envies another, as likewise of him also who is envied by him ; come we now to the third and last thing proposed for the handling of the words, and that was, to make some use and improvement of the subject hitherto treated of by us: and what better and more important use can we make of it, than to convince and remind us of these following things ? 1. First, of the extreme vanity of even the

most excellent and best esteemed enjoyments of this world. How do riches and honour, wit and beauty, strength and learning, shine and glister in the eyes of most men! and no doubt, but as all of them are the gifts, so are they also the blessings of God to those who can make a wise and sanctified use of them. But such is our unhappiness in this vale of weakness and mortality, that, like Jonah's gourd, no sooner do these things shoot out and flourish about us, and we begin to delight and please ourselves under the shadow of them, but God quickly provides a worm, even that killing one of envy, to smite the root of them, and then presently they decline, wither, and die over our heads. Shadows do not more naturally attend shining bodies, than envy pursues worth and merit, always close at the very heels of them, and, like a sharp blighting east wind, still blasting and killing the noblest and most promising productions of virtue in their earliest bud, and, as Jacob did Esau, supplants them in their very birth. For what made Saul so implacably persecute David ? Was it not the greatness of his valour and the glory of his actions, which drew after them the applause of the whole kingdom, and consequently the envy of the king himself? How comes history to tell us of so many assassinations of princes, downfalls of favourites, underminings and poisonings of great persons ? Why, in all or most of these sad events, still only worth has been the crime, and envy the executioner. What drew the blood of Cæsar, banished Cicero, and put out the eyes of the brave and victorious Belisarius, but a merit too great for an emperor to reward, and for envy to endure ? And what happiness then can there be in such things, as only make the owners of them fall a woful sacrifice to the base suspicions and cruelties of some wicked and ungrateful great ones ; but always worse than they are or can be great ? He indeed who is actually possessed of these glorious endowments, thinks them both his ornament and defence; and so does the man think the sword he wears, though the point of it may be sometimes turned upon his own breast; and it is not unheard of for a man to die by that very weapon, which he reckoned he should defend and preserve his life by.

2. This may convince us of the safety of the lowest, and the happiness of a middle condition. Take the poorest wretch who begs his bread from door to door, yet he does not this in fear of that life which he begs for the support of: for that he accounts safe, and thinks he needs no watch to guard it against the motions or designs of any potent adversary, but walks unconcernedly, and sleeps securely; for his poverty is his guard, and his rags his armour. No poisons or daggers are prepared in hospitals : these are entertainments which envy treats men with in courts and palaces. Only power and greatness are prize for enyy, whose evil eye al


[ocr errors]

ways looks upwards, and whose hand scorns to strike where it can place its foot. Life and a bare competence are a quarry too low for so stately a vice as envy to fly at. And therefore men of a middle condition are indeed doubly happy. First, that, with the poor, they are not the objects of pity ; nor, 2. with the rich and great, the mark of envy. Give me neither poverty nor riches, said Agar: and it is a question, whether the piety or prudence of that prayer were greater. The honest country gentleman, and the thriving tradesman, or country farmer, have all the real benefits of nature, and the blessings of plenty, that the highest and richest grandees can pretend to; and (which is more)

; all these without the tormenting fears and jealousies of being rivalled in their prince's favour, or supplanted at court, or tumbled down from their high and beloved stations. All those storms fly over their heads, and break upon the towering mountains and lofty cedars; they have no ill-got places to lose ; they are neither libelled nor undermined, but, without invading any man's right, sit safe and warm in a moderate fortune of their own, and free from all that grandeur and magnificence of misery, which is sure to attend an invidious greatness. And he who is not contented with such a condition must seek his happiness (if ever he have any) in another world, for Providence itself can provide no better for him in this.

3. And lastly, we learn from hence the necessity of a man's depending upon something, without him, higher and stronger than himself, even for the preservation of his ordinary concerns in this life. Nothing can be a greater argument to make a man fly,

« AnteriorContinuar »