Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?
The wise man compares envy with two very exorbitant commotions of man's mind, wrath and anger. Worse than these, more unkind and uncharitable, more unjust, violent and mischievous, is envy. There is neither any goodness, nor yet any strength, that is a sufficient guard against it.
1. There is no man's innocency, no man's virtue, that can secure him from the direful strokes of envy. Sometimes a man's goodness actually inflames the hearts of the envious. See case of Cain and Abel; of Esau; of the brethren of Joseph; of Saul, etc. The greatest instance of all is the envy of Scribes and Pharisees against our Saviour.
2. There is no man so great and powerful, or of so secure an estate or fortune, but the violence of envy hath been capable of overthrowing him. Illustrate case of Abner.
I. A JUST DESCRIPTION OF ENVY. It is a displeasure or trouble arising in a man's mind from the sight or knowledge of another man's prosperity, and causing a man to hate such person, and try to ruin him. It commonly arises on the sight of the prosperity of inferiors or equals. Men envy that to others which they think themselves as well or better to deserve. They seldom envy things or persons that are much above them. Distinguish envy from emulation. Illustrate by these two qualities in Saul and Jonathan, on the occasion of David's killing Goliath. Emulation is a great and noble virtue, envy a poor and sneaking vice. It is always hiding itself. No man will own himself to be envious. He disguises it under a mighty pretended zeal for the truth; or a great love for the public welfare; or a charitable concern for the credit of his neighbour. How few men are wholly free from this vice.
II. THE MISCHIEVOUS EFFECTS PRODUCED BY ENVY. See these, that we may be more set against it; that we may avoid it ourselves; that we may beware of it in others; that we may use our utmost endeavours to quench this flame. Disturbances in the state, schism in the Church, and trouble in a neighbourhood, or in a private family, are generally traceable to envy. To what end is all this evil done by envious men? What do they get by it? Envy is its own punishment. No man can find a greater torment for an envious man than he inflicts upon himself. Even if it succeeds in pulling down a man, it very rarely gets into his place. How is it that God endures, and seems to leave alone, these mischief-making, envious men? They are agents in doing His disciplinary work in His people. It makes men self-watchful. The envious quickly light upon and show up faults that we might have passed over. The envious calumniate failings, not virtues. Remedies are —
1. A right apprehension of the things of this world.
2. A due submission to the will of God.
3. A true humility.
4. A Christian charity.This last plucks it up by the very roots; and plants in our hearts what is most contrary thereto.
(Jonathan Blagrave, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?