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A Sermon on Envy

A Sermon on Envy

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Published by glennpease


For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.


For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.

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Published by: glennpease on Sep 29, 2013
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A SERMO O EVYBY ROBERT SOUTH, D.D.JAMES III. 16.For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.OF the sins and ill qualities that the comiption of man'snature has poisoned and polluted his mind with, there isnone of greater malignity and baseness than envy. For thecondemnation of which, we need not bring it to the bar of religion and Christianity; there being enough to sentence andcondemn it from bare reason and philosophy.For the prosecution of the words I shall do these fourthings :I. I shall shew what envy is, and wherein the nature of itdoes consist.II. What are the grounds and causes of itIII. What are its effects and consequences. AndIV . And lastly, make some use and improYcment of thewhole.And first for the first of these ; what euTy is, and wh^eiathe nature of it does consist. And for this we shall find, thatmoralists generally give us this description of it; that it is adepraved affection or passion of the mind, disposing a man tohate or malign another for some good or excellency belongingto him, which the envious person judges him unworthy of, andwhich for the most part he wants himself. Or yet morebriefly ; envy is a certain grief of mind conceived upon thesight of another'^s felicity, whether real or supposed : so that
Digitized by VjOOQ ICJambs iii. 16.] 7%« ^lo^r^ am? aitMe« e^/*^^* SSSwe see that it consists partly of hatred and partly of grief. Inrespect of which two passions, and the proper actings of both,we are to observe, that as it shews itself in hatred, it strikes atthe person envied ; but as it affects a man in the nature of gzief, it recoils, and does execution upon the envier ; both of them are hostile affections, and vexatious to the breast whichharbours them. Acts of love indeed have naturally somethingof pleasure still attending them, and please the mind, whilethey proceed from it. But no man perfectly enjoys himself while ho hates another ; hatred being a quality that sours thewhole soul, and puts all the faculties of it, as it were, into aposture of offence. It is really war begun, and commonly so,bef<r<e it is proclaimed ; it gives the first charge, and strikesthe first stroke in all acts of hostility. And can there be anything of enjoyment in all this ? A battle certainly can be nopresent pleafiure, though it should end in a victory. Andduring a man*s actual pursuit of his hatred, he is much in thesame condition, restless and unquiet ; his head contriving, andhis hands laying about them to do the hated person all themischief he can : in a word, he lives in the fire, fighting andfencing, and forced to carry on a constant opposition. Forhatred being too active and mercurial a passion to lie stillynever takes up with the bare theory of mischief, with sluggishthoughts and secret grudges, but, as opportunity serves, wiUcertainly be doing ; and till such opportunity falls in with it^which frequently it does not, it must needs afflict, and grate>and feed upon the man himself, and make him as miserable a&he wishes others.And thus hatred having done its part towards die disturb-ance of the mind in which it is, the other passion of grief ishereupon presently set on work : for when any of the other
passions are defeated about their respective objects or opera-tions, then this passion immediately comes upon the stage, andtakes its turn to act. So that, when a man cannot vent hisrage outwardly, he is sure to grieve and mourn, and bleed in-wardly ; like a wretch falling on his own sword, because hecannot thrust it into the body of his enemy. This is thenature of envy, always exerting itself in and by these twoafflicting passions ; first, in the way of hatred carrying its mis.Digitized by VjOOQ ICS84 The nature, causes, [Sebm. 58.chievous influence abroad, and then in the way of grief playingthe tyrant at home ; but whether in the one or in the other,guilt and sadness are its inseparable companions : it beingutterly impossible upon all principles, both of nature and re-ligion, for an envious person to have either a good conscienceor a cheerful mind.But to shew the malignity of this ill quality yet further, itis observable, that in all or most of the other passions of themind, there is, as to the general nature of them, an indiffer*ence to good or evil ; as being, under that consideration,determined to neither. Thus, for instance, we find it, in theforementioned affections of grief and hatred, taken singly andby themselves, and likewise in fear, anger, despair^ and thelike ; of all which there is none but what may be lawful inthe respective actings of each, provided they pitch upon r^htobjects, and proceed in a due manner : for a man may grieve^hate, fear, be angry, and despair of the accomplishment of thisor that design, without transgressing any of the rules of mo-rality. So that there may be such things as an honest grief,hatred, fear, anger, and despondency, as we have said, if dulyplaced and directed ; but notwithstanding all this, there canbe no such thing in nature as an honest and a lawful envy ;but it is intrinsically evil, and imports in it an essential obli-quity, not to be taken off or separated from it. For though I

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