Page images

stance of enjoyment. And it has this peculiar malignancy in its nature, to wish to lessen that happiness, though it should not, by that means, make any addition to its own. It even seems to be uneasy that there should be any happiness in the world, but that which falls to itself, since they who are under its influence, are dissatisfied with their superiors, for being in better circumstances, with their equals, for being as happy as themselves, and with their inferiors, for seeming contented and happy in their condition, and especially, if in the way of improving it to an equality with their own.

The consequence of so malevolent a temper is, that wherever they look, they discover objects to offend and disquiet them. They are therefore, habitually fretful, gloomy and discontented; and so, incapable of enjoying what they possess, however sufficient for their happiness. Their secret disquietude and anguish, like a slow poison on the vitals, preys upon their spirits, and gradually consumes the powers of enjoyment, till their life becomes insipid and burdensome.* Solomon has therefore forcibly described it, in this view, as “the rottenness of the bones.” And while it thus affects the envious themselves, it prompts to subtle and malicious methods of obstructing the happiness and prosperity of those who are envied, to unprovoked resentments, defamation, injustice, and other injuries, equally dishonorable and criminal.

* There have been instances of persons being so affected by this passion, as to fall into lingering and incurable disease.

There is nothing indeed within the bounds of human malevolence which this vicious passion cannot perpetrate, when it has


full possession of the heart. And therefore, the wise man observes,

“Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous, but who is able to stand before envy.” . Through envy Cain killed his brother Abel, “because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.” Joseph's brethren envying him for the particular affection of his parents, and the honor and respect which he had dreamed would be paid him, by all his family, sold him to the Midianites, to be carried into Egypt, as a servant forever. Saul envying David the glory he obtained by his victory over Goliah, pursued him with inveterate hatred, and hunted him for his life. And to name no other instance, because none greater can be named, moved with envy, at the miracles, authority and reputation of Christ, the rulers of the Jews persecuted him with unrelenting malice; and at last, delivered him to the Romans to be put to death.

So great an evil is envy, and so necessary to be excluded from the breasts of all who would wish to preserve the peace of their own minds, and be clear of the guilt of destroying that of others!

you, for

In order to this, consider, that as far as some may be superior to you in


of the means of happiness, you may be superior to others, and that the same righteous providence which hath given you the particular advantages you enjoy, hath given to others, those which place them above you. There is therefore no more reason why you should be dissatisfied with others, for their enjoyments, whatever they be, than that others should be dissatisfied with

yours. Consider also, that to envy others the happiness that God hath given them, is to find fault with the distribution he hath made of his favors, which is highly criminal in his sight, “who give eth no account of any of his matters."

Endeavor to be contented with your lot, whatever disadvantages may attend it. There is nothing will make you easier, in the most unfavorable circumstances, so effectually prevent all the motions of


and its attendant disquietudes, as this. Should you have no more than the mere supports of life, remember that the best of men have sometimes been destitute even of these“both naked and without any certain dwelling place.”

Consider how certainly an envious temper will render

you incapable of enjoying the advantages that are in your possession; and disqualify you for those habits of benevolence which are neces



both as men and christians, and for that state of happiness hereafter, from which envy and competion will be utterly excluded.

Cul. tivate a vigorous good will to all men, and instead of repining at their happiness, you will make it an occasion of increasing your own. With such a temper, if others weèp you will weep with them, and your sympathy will be repaid with substantial pleasure; if others rejoice you will rejoice with them, and so your enjoyment will be doubled.

3. Ambition is also a turbulent and dangerous passion, against which it will be necessary for you to be as much on your guard.

This is sometimes called emulation—which in a qualified sense, is an argument of a generous spirit; and under proper regulations, highly useful both to individuals and society.

It gives animation and vigor both to the body and mind; and often produceth excellence in knowledge, art and enterprize, which without it, would never have appeared. It is however too commonly accompanied with envy, by which it is at least hurtful to those who possess it. Ambition in its customary acceptation, is generally attended with malevolence, in a less or greater degree, according to the objects to which it aspires. When it aims at distinction in wealth and figure, in fame of valor and conquest, in authority and dominion; and especially when it is intense and


violent, it occasions more disorder in the mind, and greater evils to society than any other passion. There is nothing, however mean and criminal in itself, or injurious to others, that it does not employ in its service. Dissimulation, flattery and falshood, bribery, injustice and cruelty, faction and tumult, bloodshed and desolation, are often made subservient to its purposes. Ņor

Nor are the ties of friendship or even of nature strong enough to restrain it, when it is necessary to its views, that they should be broken.

Indeed, the greatest part of the history of the world is made up of horrid details of war, cruelty and massacre, produced by the phrenzy and madness of ambition.

But happy for mankind, there are few in circumstances to admit of prospects sufficient to excite it to that ferocity, which equally destroys, without hesitation or remorse, the rights and peace of individuals, and nations.

In the bulk of men, it aims at nothing more than to gain some trifling advantage in name or appearance above those who are in the same way, or condition of life, or to make a show of dignity and importance, above their real merit and circum


The following are the more common instances of it; and therefore, most deserving of our attention. It prompts some to make a figure in dress,

« PreviousContinue »