ON THE VICE OF ENVY
Consider first, that envy is a repining or an uneasiness of mind at another’s good; which the envious man conceives to be an evil to himself, as lessening or obscuring his glory, or the esteem and excellence which he aims at. So that envy, though commonly reckoned among the capital sins, because of the many other crimes that spring from it, is indeed a daughter of pride and, generally speaking, bears her company, and keeps close to this her unhappy mother. ‘The proud,’ as St. Augustine takes notice ‘through the love they have of their own excelling, envy them that are their equals, because they come up to them; their inferiors, from an apprehension they should become their equals; and them that are superior to them, because they cannot equal them’ This envy, like her mother, is a mortal sin of the spiritual kind, which makes a dreadful havoc in the soul; and yet, too often, is scarce taken notice of by the unthinking children of the world. Christians, look well into yourselves that this devouring serpent may have no lurking hole in your interior, there to prey upon the vitals of your soul. Watch and pray continually against it.
Consider 2ndly, that the malignity of envy proceeds from its direct opposition to charity, the queen of all virtues. For charity is a joy in the glory of God, and in the good of our neighbours; whereas envy grieves at both the one and the other. God ought to be glorified for all his gifts and graces, which with a bountiful hand he so plentifully bestows upon his creatures. Now the envious man, instead of giving glory to God on those occasions, is grieved at his goodness, and would willingly, if he could, stop the channel of his divine bounties; and can there be a greater perversity? Again, the love that we owe to our neighbours, by Christian charity, requires that we should consider their good as our own, since we are to love them as ourselves; and thus the good Christian meets with daily occasions of satisfaction and joy in every good thing that befalls any one of his neighbours, because the charity he has for them makes him consider them all as his dear friends and brethren in Christ. But envy grieves where charity rejoices, and makes its slaves every day more and more miserable by giving them fresh sadness and pain, as often as they see or hear of any advantage of their neighbours. And is not this again a strange perversity, to prefer sadness before joy, and all the gnawings and gripings of envy before the sweets of charity? But how true it is that sin can never escape unpunished, since every vice, (but more particularly envy,) carries with it, even here, its own torment, besides the judgment of hell it will meet with hereafter. Oh! thou art just, O Lord, and thy judgment is right!
Consider 3rdly, the malignity of this vice of envy, from its hideous offspring, that is, from the innumerable crimes it gives birth to. Envy is the parent of hatred and malice. The envious are always prone to judge, censure, and condemn their neighbours; to put the worst construction on all they say or do; and daily to backbite and slander them. They are generally whisperers and tale-bearers, seeking upon every occasion to set all others against them whom they envy; they ever oppose, both by word and action, whatsoever tends to their good, and take a malicious satisfaction in all the evil that happens to them. And what mischief is there that such a disposition as this is not capable of? Oh! ’tis true that even the greatest of all crimes have often proceeded from envy. It was envy made Cain murder his brother Abel; it was envy made the brethren of Joseph sell him into Egypt; it was envy made Saul so often seek the life of David; in fine, it was through envy the Jews crucified the Son of God.
Conclude to detest this monster with all its imps, and to resist with all thy power even the first motions of it. It is a child of the devil, by which envy, death, and all other evils first came into the world, and who is continually seeking our ruin, through pure envy, without any manner of advantage to himself. O let us hate and abhor it!