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and cast himself into the arms of Providence, than a due consideration of the nature and the workings of envy. For how fierce and cruel, how watchful and diligent, how remorseless and implacable, and, which is worst of all, how causeless for the most part, and how unprovoked, is this vile thing in all its assaults upon its neighbour; not acting upon any injury or motive from without, but boiling over upon all about it, through an overflowing fulness of malice from within !
The greatest strength which God has vouchsafed men, to secure themselves by in this world, are innocence and wisdom; and yet both of them together are not always an equal match for envy. Thou perhaps art busied in the honest employments of thy estate or calling, neither doing nor thinking hurt to any one; but in the mean time envy may chance to be much busier than thou, dropping poison into the ears of thy prince or patron, and so dashing thy innocent name and fortune with such a killing whisper, as shall strip thee of all in a moment, before thou shalt know either the tongue that hurt thee or the hand that smote thee. Hast thou a large estate ? So had Naboth; yet envy quickly found a Jezebel to alter the title, and dispossess the true owner of his rich vineyard. Hast thou friends in the world ? Their minds may change, and their friendship fail thee, when the envy of two or three back-friends shall be continually stabbing and pecking at their good opinion of thee, till at length they strike thee through and through, and so pierce thy heart before it even reaches thy ear. And lastly, hast thou a fair reputation and name in the world ? Know that it is but as glass, the foul breath of envy can quickly. sully, and the least touch of the hand easily break it. For it is God only who must watch over thy good name, and protect thy reputation. For envy will be awake against it when thou art asleep, and still present to asperse thee when thou art absent, and so not able to vindicate or speak one word for thyself. And therefore none but that great Keeper of Israel, who neither slumbers nor sleeps, and whose omnipresence makes him actually present in all places, can preserve thee in this great concern. It is he, I I say, who must keep thee secretly in his pavilion from the strife of tongues, control their virulence, and rebuke the foul and restless spirit of slander and detraction. For otherwise, he who reckons himself out of the reach and power of envy, by any pitch of greatness or goodness whatsoever, is like that man whom Solomon represents lying down to sleep upon the top of a mast, and never considers either the winds and storms roaring about him, or the cruel devouring deep gaping under him ; a very unsecure place certainly to sleep in, though never so high.
Nor has that man pitched upon a safer dormitory, who thinks to rest quietly over a much more merciless element, and more dangerous a deep of the two, (as we have proved envy to be,) unless the man's sense and reason should have first left him, and fallen fast asleep before him. In a word, what mortal can stand his ground against this irresistible engine of all mischief? Even the wisest have perished by its wiles, and the most innocent been taken by its snares; the noblest, and most valiant; the ablest ministers of state, and most renowned commanders in war; nay, even kings themselves have sometimes fallen before it; so impossible is it for any thing in nature to be sure of protection against it; but that man only, who, under the cover of an almighty wing, has made the King of kings his refuge, and the God of gods his everlasting habitation.
To whom therefore be rendered and ascribed,
as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for evermore. Amen.
PREACHED AT CHRIST-CHURCH, OXON,
ON THE 30th OF APRIL, 1668,
LUKE xxi. 15.
your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. IT
being the great design of our Saviour's coming into the world to declare and prove himself the Messias, and to establish a church upon that belief, we have him here encouraging the ministers of it with this notable promise, left them as a kind of legacy not long before his death; together with a prediction of what should befall them after it; which was so dreadful and discouraging, that nothing but such a promise could support them against the terrors of such a prediction. And therefore, as a tender master, all made up of goodness and compassion, while he delivers them this bitter cup with one hand, he reaches them as great a cordial with the other; all that he here promised, or said to them, being but a pledge of what he would more abundantly do for them after his ascension : when having finished his dolorous course here, and triumphantly sat down at the right hand of his Father, his glorious employment ever after should be, as a king to make good, what
as a prophet he had foretold. And this he did with so exact a conformity of his actions to his words, that no instance can be given through all the records of time, where there is so perfect and punctual a correspondence between past and present, as we see and find in the predictions and promises of our Saviour in his life, and the completion of them since his death. A most clear and full proof doubtless of his doctrine, and consequently as infallible a demonstration of the divinity of his person, and the authentic truth of his commission.
In the words we have these two things considerable.
I. Something implied by way of prediction, viz. that the apostles should be sure to meet with adversaries, who would both gainsay and resist them in the discharge of their apostolic function.
II. Something declared by way of promise, viz. that they should find such succour and assistance from their Lord and Master, after the resumption of his glory, as should make and overcome all this opposition.
Which two heads comprehend all that is in the text, and accordingly I shall give some brief account of both. And,
I. For the first of these, the prediction here implied, viz. that the apostles should not fail of adversaries to oppose them. This indeed was to be no small argument of their apostolic mission, though by no means to be reckoned amongst miracles, it being so far from having any thing of miracle or wonder in it, that nothing can be more frequent, usual, and indeed fashionable, than for the generality of men to malign a preacher, and persecute an apostle. For