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others, from the misery which it produces to him who nourishes this viper in his bosom. But, undoubtedly, the most efficacious arguments are such as show that the circumstances of others, compared with our own, afford no ground for envy. The mistaken ideas which are entertained of the high importance of certain worldly advantages and distinctions, form the principal cause of our repining at our own lot, and envying that of others. To things light in themselves, our imagination has added undue weight. Did we allow reflection and wisdom to correct the prejudices which we have imbibed, and to disperse those phantoms of our own creating, the gloom which overcasts us would gradually vanish. Together with returning contentment, the sky would clear up, and every object brighten around us. It is in the sullen and dark shade of discontent, that noxious passions, like venomous animals, breed and prey upon the heart.
Envy is a passion of so odious a nature, that not only is it concealed as much as possible from the world, but every man is glad to dissemble the appearances of it to his own heart. Hence it is apt to grow upon him unperceived. Let him who is desirous to keep his heart chaste and pure from its influence, examine himself strictly on those dispositions which he bears towards his prosperous neighbours. Does he ever view, with secret uneasiness, the merit of others rising into notice and distinction? Does he hear their praises with unwilling ear? Does he feel an inclination to depreciate what he dares not openly blame? When obliged to commend, does his cold and awkward approbation insinuate his belief of some unknown defects in the applauded character? From such symptoms as these he may infer that the disease of envy is forming ; that the poison is beginning to spread its infection over his heart.
The causes that nourish envy are principally two; and two which, very frequently, operate in conjunction; these are, pride and indolence. The connection of pride with envy, is obvious and direct. The high value which the proud set on their own merit, the unreasonable claims which they form on the world, and the injustice which they suppose to be done to them by any preference given to others, are perpetual sources, first of discontent, and next of envy. When indolence is joined to pride, the disease of the mind becomes more inveterate and incurable. Pride leads men to claim more than they deserve.
Indolence prevents them from obtaining what they might justly claim. Disappointments follow ; and spleen, malignity, and envy, rage within them. The proud and indolent are always envious. Wrapt up in their own importance, they sit still, and repine, because others are more prosperous than they ; while, with all their high opinion of themselves, they have done nothing either to deserve, or to acquire prosperity. As, therefore, we value our virtue, or our peace, let us guard against these two evil dispositions of mind. Let us be modest in our esteem, and, by diligence and industry, study to acquire the esteem of others. So shall we shut up the avenues that lead to many a bad passion; and shall learn, in whatsoever state we are, therewith to be content.
FINALLY, in order to subdue envy, let us bring often into view those religious considerations which
regard us particularly as Christians. Let us remember how unworthy we are in the sight of God; and how much the blessings which each of us enjoy, are beyond what we deserve. Let us nourish reverence and submission to that Divine Government, which has appointed to every one such a condition in the world as is fittest for him to possess. Let us recollect how opposite the Christian spirit is to envy; and what sacred obligations it lays upon us, to walk in love and charity towards one another. Indeed, when we reflect on the many miseries which abound in human life ; on the scanty proportion of happiness which any man is here allowed to enjoy ; on the small difference which the diversity of fortune makes on that scanty proportion; it is surprising that envy should ever have been a prevalent passion among men, much more that it should have prevailed among Christians. Where so much is suffered in common, little room is left for envy. There is more occasion for pity and sympathy, and inclination to assist each other. To our own good endeavours for rectifying our dispositions, let us not forget to add serious prayers to the Author of our being, that he who made the heart of man, and knows all its infirmities, would thoroughly purify our hearts from a passion so base and so criminal, as envy. Create in me, O God, a clean heart; and renew a right spirit within me. Search me, and know my heart. Try me, and know my thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me, aud lead me in the way everlasting. *
* Psalm li. 10. -- cxxxix. 23, 24.
MATTHEW, xx. 6.
Why stand ye here all the day idle ?
IT is an observation which naturally occurs, and has
been often made, that all the representations of the Christian life in Scripture are taken from active scenes; from carrying on a warfare, running a race, striving to enter in at a straight gate; and, as in this context, labouring in a vineyard. Hence the conclusion plainly follows, that various active duties are required of the Christian ; and that sloth and indolence are inconsistent with his hope of heaven.
But it has been sometimes supposed, that industry, as far as it is matter of duty, regards our spiritual concerns and employments only; and that one might be very busy as a Christian, who was very idle as a man. Hence, among some denominations of Christians, an opinion has prevailed, that the perfection of religion was to be found in those monastic retreats where every active function of civil life was totally excluded, and the whole time of men filled
with exercises of devotion. They who hold such opinions proceed on the supposition, that religion has little or no concern with the ordinary affairs of the world; that its duties stand apart by themselves, and mingle
not in the intercourse which men have with one another. The perfect Christian was imagined to live a sort of angelic life, sequestered from the business or pleasures of this contemptible state. The Gospel, on the contrary, represents the religion of Christ, as intended for the benefit of human society. It assumes men as engaged in the business of active life ; and directs its exhortations, accordingly, to all ranks and stations; to the magistrate and the subject, to the master and the servant, to the rich and the poor, to them that buy and them that sell, them that use and them that abuse the world. Some duties, indeed, require privacy and retreat. But the most important must be performed in the midst of the world, where we are commanded to shine as lights, and by our good works to glorify our Father which is in heaven. This world, as the context represents it, is God's vineyard, where each of us has a task assigned him to perform, In every station, and at every period of life, labour is required. At the third, the sixth, or the eleventh hour, we are commanded to work, if we would not incur, from the great Lord of the vineyard, this reproof, Why stand ye here all the day idle ? We may, I confess, be busy about many things, and yet be found negligent of the One thing needful. We may be very active, and, withal, very ill employed. But though a person may be industrious without being religious, I must at the same time admonish you that no man can be idle without being sinful. This I shall endeavour to show in the sequel of the discourse; wherein I purpose to reprove a vice which is too common among all ranks of men. Superiours admonish their inferiours, and parents tell their children, that idleness is the mother of every sin ; while,