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them who seek to justify the envy which they bear to their more prosperous neighbours. But if such persons wish not to be thought unjust, let me desire them to enquire, whether they have been altogether fair in the comparison they have made of their own merit with that of their rivals? and whether they have not themselves to blame more than the world, for being left behind in the career of fortune? The world is not always blind or unjust, in conferring its favours. Instances, indeed, sometimes occur, of deserving persons prevented, by a succession of cross incidents, from rising into.public acceptance. But in the ordinary course of things, merit, sooner or later, receives a reward, while the greater part of men's misfortunes and disappointments can generally be traced to some misconduct of their own. Wisdom bringeth to honour: The hand of the diligent maketh rich; and, it has been said, not altogether without reason, that, of his own fortune in life, every man is the chief artificer. If Joseph was preferred by his father to all his brethren, his subsequent conduct shewed how well he merited the preference.
Supposing, however, the world to have been unjust, in an uncommon degree, with regard to you, this will not vindicate maligni
ty and envy towards a more prosperous competitor. You may accuse the world ; but what reason have you to bear ill-will to him, who has only improved the favour which the world shewed him? If, by means that are unfair, he has risen, and, to advance himself, has acted injuriously by you, resentment is justifiable; but, if you cannot accuse him of any such improper conduct, his success alone gives no sanction to your envy. You, perhaps, prefer the enjoyment of your ease, to the stir of a busy, or to the cares of a thoughtful life. Retired from the world, and following your favourite inclinations, you were not always attentive to seize the opportunities which offered, for doing justice to your character, and improving your situation. Ought you then to complain, if the more attentive and laborious have acquired what you were negligent to gain? Consider, that if you have obtained less preferment, you have possessed more indulgence and ease. Consider, moreover, that the rival to whom up with reyou look pining eyes, though more fortunate in the world, may perhaps, on the whole, not be more happy than you. He has all the vicissitudes of the world before him. He may have much to encounter, much to suffer, from which you are protected by the greater obscurity of
your station. Every situation in life has both
a bright and a dark side. Let not Let not your attention dwell only on what is bright on the side of those you envy, and dark on your own. But bringing into view both sides of your respective conditions, estimate fairly the sum of felicity.
Thus I have suggested several considerations, for evincing the unreasonableness of that disquietude which envy raises in our breasts; considerations, which tend at least to mitigate and allay the workings of this malignant passion, and which, in a sober mind, ought totally to extinguish it. The scope of the whole has been to promote, in every one, contentment with his own state. Many arguments of a different nature may be employed against envy; some taken from its sinful and criminal nature; some from the mischiefs to which it gives rise in the world; 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 shew, 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 it is 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 aukward approbation insi
nuate 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