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do in order to his eternal salvation, if he were assured that he had not one day more to live? And would not the probable nearness of death influence him in like manner in proportion as it was felt?]
The whole world standing greatly in need of this caution, we proceed to,
II. Enforce it
The reason urged by Solomon commends itself immediately to our hearts and consciences:
1. We know not what shall be on the morrow
[We are to-day perhaps enjoying all that our hearts can wish; ; our bodies are vigorous, our spirits gay, our friends numerous, our means of gratification greatly diversified, and accessible at all times. To-morrow we may be cast down from our pinnacle of happiness; our honour may be laid in the dust; we may be languishing on a bed of sickness; and deprived of all the comforts of life; and our reverse of fortune may be yet further aggravated by the loss of all our friends. The case of Job, if more recent instances were wanting, would sufficiently shew what may happen to us all. Shall we then be promising ourselves years of happiness in the enjoyment of earthly things, when we consider how unstable they are? Again: to-day we are sinning in expectation that we shall, at some future period, repent. To-morrow possibly we may, like Nebuchadnezzar, be deprived of reason; or, like Pharaoh, be sealed up by God under final impenitence. Now is it not madness to risk the salvation of our souls upon the hope of having every thing that can conduce to our eternal welfare continued to us to the latest period of our lives? Should we not rather set ourselves to redeem the present time, and to "work while it is day, lest the night should come wherein no man can work?"]
2. We know not whether we shall even live to see the morrow—
[What man is there that has "made a covenant with death, and an agreement with the grave" so as to be assured he shall live another day? Has he this assurance from within himself, or from those around him, or from God? Not from within himself, since neither youth nor health is any security against the stroke of death: not from others, since physicians, however useful in their place, can afford us no help, when God shall call away our souls: not from God; for though he promised to protract Hezekiah's life for fifteen years, he has not engaged to preserve ours so many minutes. If, with the Rich a Job i. See, in spiritual concerns, the case of David, Ps. xxx. 6,7. b Eph. v. 16. John ix. 4.
Man in the Gospel we are saying, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years," God may say to us, "Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee." Who then, that knows the uncertainty of life, will presume upon its continuance? Let us look at the many thousands who, though but lately they seemed as likely to live as ourselves, are gone into eternity, gone too, before they had prepared to give up their account to God; and surely we shall cry with the Psalmist, "Lord, so teach us to number our days, that we may instantly apply our hearts unto wisdom?"]
This subject naturally leads us to address,
1. The careless
[Is it not sufficient that God has exercised such longsuffering towards you, but will you still continue to provoke hime? "O be wise, and consider your latter end." "To-day, while it is called to-day, harden not your hearts;" lest while you are saying, Peace and safety, sudden destruction come upon you.]
2. The lukewarm
[Lukewarmness in religion is as odious to God as an utter neglect of it. It is not by a round of formal duties, but a strenuous exertion of all your powers that you are to obtain the prize: for though heaven is the gift of God through Christ, it is bestowed on those only who labour for it". Whatever then your hand findeth to do, do it with all your might'.] 3. The zealous
[Endeavour to realize more and more the uncertainty of life, that, like the Apostle, you may "die daily." And, as you know not but that on the morrow you may be numbered with the saints in glory, let nothing be deferred till to-morrow, which you can do for God to-day. Thus will death, however sudden, be welcome to you.]
c Luke xii. 19, 20.
h John vi. 27.
e Jam. iv. 13—16.
8 Rev. iii. 15, 16.
i Eccl. ix. 10.
Prov. xxvii. 4. Who is able to stand before envy?
MAN is an enemy to his fellow man: nor is there any one who does not on some occasion experience reason for this complaint. But, if some find means of aggression, others obtain means of defence; some in
their own powers; others in the assistance of friends; others in the arm of the law: others, where all these powers fail them, derive a measure of consolation from submission or flight. The most "cruel wrath, and most outrageous anger," may, by one or other of these means, be withstood, or tolerated, or escaped. But there is one weapon from which there is no flight, and against which there is no protection; and that is, envy : "Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who can stand before envy?"
In order to bring the subject of envy fully before you, I will shew,
I. What an odious principle it is—
1. Consider what envy is
[Envy, as existing in the soul, is a sense of pain arising from the real or supposed excellence of another, accompanied with a desire to deprive him of it, and to possess it ourselves. The excellence may be either natural or acquired. Any faculty of body or mind which renders a man estimable in the world is a proper object for envy to fix upon, and against which to direct its shafts. So, in like manner, any attainment of wealth or honour will call forth its malignant efforts against the person in whom such a distinction has been found, especially if the distinction so obtained has been an object of desire to the person beholding it, and apparently within his reach: for envy finds scope for operation only between persons amongst whom some kind of rivalry exists. A peasant does not envy either a king or a philosopher; because the dignity of the one, and the wisdom of the other, are altogether beyond a hope, I had almost said a possibility, of his attainment. Envy includes in it a desire of the distinction that calls it forth, and a pain of seeing it possessed by another, when by possibility it might have been possessed by one's-self.]
2. Next mark its odiousness
[Nothing excites it but what is either really, or in the person's estimation, good: nor does it ever exert itself, but for the destruction of the happiness of him in whom that good is found. It is the happiness of another that gives pain to the envious man; and the destruction of that happiness is the great object that would afford him pleasure. Its actings, indeed, are not open, like those of wrath and anger: on the contrary, they are as secret as possible; and they put on, as far as possible, a specious garb, a garb of candour and of equity. But its
inseparable attendants are of the same odious character with itself: namely, "debates, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults." Indeed, it is very nearly allied to murder: for, as it is invariably connected with anger, it is murder in embryob: and hence in the Scriptures it is generally associated with murder: "The works of the flesh," says the Apostle, are hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders:" and in another place he says of unconverted men, that they are "full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity, whisperers, backbiters," and so on. It indeed may appear harsh to load this principle with such horrid accusations; but they are true, and all verified by experience. Wherefore did Cain slay his brother? it was because he saw his brother receiving from God tokens of approbation which were denied to hime. And whence was it that Joseph's brethren took counsel to slay him? it was on account of his enjoying higher favour with his father than they, and his receiving more remarkable communications from God. But, in truth, we do not view this principle aright, unless we see in it the very image of the devil himself. No other principle in the heart of man bears so strong a resemblance of the devil as this. See our first parents in Paradise, as happy as it was possible for creatures in a state of probation to be. The devil saw and envied them their bliss, and never rested till he had robbed them of it. Nor does he behold one of their descendants turning to the Lord, without using every effort in his power to divert them from their purpose, and to destroy their souls". And what does he gain by this? Is he himself rendered happier by depriving others of their bliss? No: he only augments his own guilt and misery; and yet such is the malignity of his disposition, that he can find no employment to his mind but this: and, so far as he is capable of a momentary mitigation of his pains, he finds it only in robbing man of his happiness, and God of his glory. This is the very character of the envious man, whose "wisdom," as St. James says, "is not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilishi."
The fact is, that so odious is this principle in the estimation of the whole world, that there is not to be found on earth a person who will acknowledge himself to be actuated by it: though the real truth is, that there is not an unconverted man in the whole universe who is not, as I shall have presently to shew, under its baneful influence. But the very circumstance of all persons disavowing it, whilst they will readily acknowledge that they are led captive by pride, or anger, or impurity, is sufficient to
a 2 Cor. xii. 20. d Rom. i. 29, 30. 8 2 Cor. xi. 3.
b 1 John iii. 15.
c Gal. v. 20, 21.
f Gen. xxxvii. 11, 18-20. i Jam. iii. 14-16.
shew how odious it is in itself, and how despicable in the eyes of every living man.]
The evil of envy will yet more strongly appear, whilst I shew,
II. What a destructive principle it is—
There is not a person in the universe able to stand before it. Its workings are inconceivably subtle— ·
[Persons are not always aware what principle it is which stirs within them, when they are under its influence. Joshua conceived that he was only shewing a commendable regard for the honour of Moses, when he desired that Eldad and Medad, who were prophesying in the camp, should be silenced. But Moses reproved him, saying, "Enviest thou for my sake? Would to God that all the Lord's people were prophets!" And doubtless those who, in order to grieve the Apostle Paul, preached Christ of envy and strife', gave themselves credit for a purer motive in their performance of that duty. There are a variety of ways by which men contrive to hide it from themselves. They see some evil in the conduct which they blame : or, if it was not evil in itself, it was faulty in the time, or manner, or measure, in which it was done: or, if no fault attach to it in any of those respects, it was from an improper motive. In short, something shall be found in every thing that a person does, either to make it appear blame-worthy, or, at all events, to abate its excellence: and the person judging of these things will not openly condemn them, but only utter praise in a fainter tone, and in more qualified terms, that so the measure of praise accorded to the agent may be diminished, and his merits be comparatively obscured. This, to the person forming the judgment, shall appear only strict justice: but God, who sees the heart, will designate it envy.]
It finds an advocate in every bosom
[There is in all a wish to be exalted among their equals: and if there be any who have raised themselves by their own merits above the common standard, every mind will be gratified with hearing of something which shall divest them of their imputed excellence, and reduce them to their former level. Hence the envious man finds an ally in every bosom, and a readiness in all around him to listen to any representation that is of an unfavourable nature; because every one seems to himself elevated in proportion as others are depressed. The means of misrepresentation are infinite in number: and if every statement were carefully investigated before it was received, a man
k Numb. xi. 29.
1 Phil. i. 15.