By Elmer Ellsworth Shelhamer
THE ENVIOUS PREACHER
By J. M. Humphrey
Solomon says, "Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous, but who is able to stand before envy?" Therefore, by this statement we are made to see clearly that envy is an unnatural characteristic, and is quite out of place even in the hearts of the unsaved, and is still more so in the heart of the child of God; but when it is found lurking in the breast of a mouthpiece of God, it is intolerable.
No doubt on judgment day when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed it will be discovered that envy was one of the chief enemies of the religion of Jesus Christ. If it were unmasked and making a bold attack upon the church, like the saloon, gambling dens and pleasure halls, we would know how to meet it, but since it has bedecked itself in the soft, downy robe of piety, and taken its seat in the pew and pulpit, it has become an almost unconquerable foe. For beneath the gilded robe of lamb-like piety, lies its red scorpion head, green eyes, forked tongue, and deadly sting. It has made a bloody trail all the way from creation's dawn to the present day. "We find it in Cain, who slew his brother. We find it in the dark, revengeful spirit of Saul who plotted for years the slaughter of David. We find it in the King of Israel when he pined for the vineyard of Naboth and shed his blood to gain it. Yes, it was envy that perpetrated that most atrocious crime ever planned in hell or executed on earth, on which the sun refused to look, and at which Nature gave signs of abhorrence by the rending of the rocks, the crucifixion of Christ; for the evangelist tells us that "for envy, the Jews delivered our Lord. Envy, like the worm, never infests but the fairest fruit; like a cunning bloodhound, it singles out the fattest deer in the flock."
Lord Clarendon says, "Envy is a weed that grows in all soils and climates, and is no less luxuriant in the country than in the court; it is not confined to any rank of men or extent of fortune, but rages in the breast of all degrees."
1. The first lamentable thing about the envious preacher is that he is not sanctified wholly, but is still in possession of a heart brimful of envy, jealousy, anger, pride, selfishness, covetousness, and every other trait of carnality found in the catalogue of sin. For carnality is a unit, hence wherever one trait exists all exist.
2. The next prominent thing in his disposition is "he is greatly pained and grieved at the sight of superior excellence or happiness enjoyed by another. He wishes the force of goodness to be restrained and the measure of happiness to be abated." He laments over the prosperity of another and secretly rejoices in his downfall.
"And next to him malicious Envy rode
Upon a ravenous wolf, and still did chaw
Between his cankered teeth a venomous toad
That all the poison ran about his jaw;
But inwardly he chawed his own maw
At neighbor's wealth that made him ever sad,
For death it was when any good he saw;
And wept, that cause of weeping none he had;
And when he heard of harm he waxed wondrous glad."
3. Still another thing about the envious preacher is, he always manages to find some flaw in the minister who eclipses him in preaching, even if he has to go back and dig up some old thing which occurred before he became a Christian. If he fails to succeed here, he will proceed to criticize his doctrine, grammar, pulpit-manners, or his lengthy discourses. If God honors his labor by giving him many souls for his hire, the envious preacher will be heard speaking disrespectfully of his work and pronouncing it superficial. Tacitus says, "When men are full of envy they disparage everything whether it is good or bad." The Apostle John came to Jesus and said, "Master, we saw one casting out devils in Thy name and we forbade him, because he followed not us. Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not; for he that is not against us is for." I hope the reader will not mistake my meaning and think that I endorse the method used by the popular evangelist who gets souls to profess religion by signing a card, turning over a new leaf and joining the church, for I do not. I am as greatly opposed to these sham revivals as I am to "Mormonism," "Christian Science," and "Millennium Dawnism," for they are all death-traps, ensnaring and ruining immortal souls. What I have reference to in the above statement is when the preacher, by the help of the Holy Ghost, really gets the devil of drunkenness, profanity, lying, stealing and wrongdoing cast out of men's hearts and gets them into "The Narrow Way."
4. The envious preacher is also quite restless and nervous when his congregation is contributing too liberally to the evangelist or missionary. Oftentimes he strives in an indirect way to prevent them shaking too much money into the hand of the evangelist, by publicly announcing that if anyone has anything toward defraying the expenses of the evangelist, they are requested to hand it in to the pastor so that a correct account may be kept.
5. The next earmark of envy is a feeling of gloominess and inward discontent when the bishop, presiding elder or former pastor visits his church and one of the members who has never invited him home for a meal prepares a reception for the visiting minister, and, in the meantime, forgets to invite the present pastor. If there is a vestige of carnality remaining in the heart of a preacher this will bring it to the surface.
6. Another noticeable thing in the disposition of the envious preacher is to feel secretly tried and aggravated when a member, commending the sermon delivered by the visiting minister, says he received more definite help through it than any sermon he had previously heard, or that it was the best and clearest sermon on that subject that he ever listened to; while at the same time the pastor had preached several sermons on the same subject which he considered fifty per cent more spiritual, logical, rhetorical, helpful and scriptural.
"Oh that malignant envy which turns pale,
And sickens, even if a friend prevail,
Which merit and successes pursue with hate
And damn the worth it cannot imitate."
7. The envious minister is also rather reluctant in recommending and pushing forward young ministers, especially those whose gifts and graces excel his. He does not make many openings for them in his field of labor. And during his absence, he always prefers leaving the work in the hands of a local preacher or some one greatly inferior to himself. He will sometimes retard or close a revival meeting which is being conducted in his own church, fearing that if it continues too long the evangelist might too completely win the hearts of the people and draw away some after him.
8. The minister of whom I am writing also feels ignored and slighted when his members ask counsel and spiritual advice of the presiding elder and former pastor, rather than of him. He also feels inwardly sore and secretly stirred when a member dies and leaves a request that a certain minister should preach the funeral. It also ruffles his feelings when the former pastor is called by some of the members to perform a marriage ceremony. I do not say it is right to treat the pastor thus, but he should be in possession of that love which "beareth all things, endureth all things" and never faileth.
9. The next bone which the envious preacher finds quite difficult to masticate, is when a brother evangelist delivers a less powerful sermon than he did the night previous, yet, notwithstanding that being a fact, troops of the very same sinners who sat under his sermon and acted as indifferently as the devil, were immediately touched by this last man's sermon and came flocking to the altar screaming for mercy. This sometimes strikes the envious preacher such a terrible blow that he finds it quite difficult to conceal his feelings. Poor fellow! He should have gone to the altar himself and been prayed for.
10. Still another prominent thing seen in the disposition of the above mentioned individual is, he feels secretly relieved and pleased when the star preacher or conference favorite gets into the "brush," makes a failure or fails to strike fire in his sermon, or when a slanderous report is circulated about him, whether it be true or false, just so it crops his feathers and causes him to pass out of public favor. He is also quick to take exception and pick up statements not clearly explained and thus give them a different meaning from what was intended. He does this in order to make it appear that the favorite preacher is not sound in doctrine or a safe teacher. Hence, by so doing, he hopes to cripple his influence and hinder his usefulness.
11. Again, this unhappy man does not relish hearing his members too frequently quoting the statements or sayings of the former pastor, neither does he like to hear them speak too often about his good sermons, helpful instruction, good management, thoughtfulness, self-sacrifice and piety; but rather enjoys hearing of his mistakes, ignorance, extravagance, and indolence. He also feels secretly pleased to find on visiting the neighbors that there are several families who did not take to the former pastor and are much delighted with the change. However, it sometimes causes him seasons of uneasiness and discontent when he is informed that some of the members still correspond with the former pastor or that he is coming to town.
12. The next manifestation of envy discovered in this diseased man is seen when he is placed on the "Stationing Committee." When the committee arrives at a certain juncture, he holds back and does not make any suggestions, neither does he vote or make any motions, especially when that favorite minister is in the field to be reelected to that prominent office or sent back to that star circuit or mother church. He will either suggest the name of some inefficient preacher to be sent there, or else remain silent with a secret hope that he himself may be elected and sent. He is willing to vote for and assist any brother who does not excel him in gifts and graces.
13. The only sermon he was ever known to commend and apparently enjoy, was when some strange minister came to the convention or camp ground and preached a sermon that surpassed all those previously delivered by the local brethren, who up until that time had been considered the big guns of the district. And while this sermon was being delivered, the envious preacher's joy was uncontrollable. His "Hallelujah," "Praise God for the truth," could be heard clear across the camp. He also told every friend he chanced to meet about that wonderful, powerful, unequaled sermon. It was not his love for truth that caused him to be so elated, but the fact of the matter was this -- those preachers who for years had eclipsed and outshone him were at last being surpassed and outshined. Therefore, he was more delighted in this than he would have been over the gift of a corner lot.
Friend, since reading this chapter, have you discovered that this germ of endless death lurks in your breast? If so, the only way to obtain a complete cure for this ulcer of hell is to seek with earnest prayer, fasting and faith the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire, which eradicates every trait of carnality from the heart and fills it with holy love which "ENVIETH NOT, vaunteth not itself, its not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not provoked, thinketh not evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things," and "never faileth."