Are you proud of the brilliancy of your genius, the extent of your learning, the splendor of your imagination, the acuteness of your understanding, your power to argue or speak publicly?
Do any of these things form the object of self-esteem and the reasons of that disdain which you may pour upon all who are inferior to yourself in mental endowments?
Do you admire yourself as a member of the only true church, and as the covenant people of God?
Do you boast inwardly of belonging to the true church and look with contempt on all who belong to a different ecclesiastical order?
Do you pride yourself on the greater purity of your ecclesiastical order?
I see some of these characteristics taking hold and growing in some of the most highly gifted men of our time and it concerns me. When I attempt to sound a warning call, I am told things like, "You should not criticize him. God is using him to help and encourage many".
This attitude of defending a man against criticism is dangerous and actually feeds the pride that so easily besets those who have gained highly respected positions in the ministry. Let us listen to the warnings heralded by John Angell James in 1828.
Whatever leads us to think highly of ourselves in matters of religion, and to despise others, whether it be the distinctions of earthly greatness, the practice of religious duties, or the independence of our mode of thinking—is opposed to the spirit of Christian love.
Superior LIGHT on the subject of revealed truth is no unusual occasion of pride. We are all suseptable to it: The Arminian pharisee dwells with fondness on the goodness of his heart; the Antinomian, with equal haughtiness, values himself on the clearness of his head; and the Socinian, as far from humility as either of them, is inflated with a conceit of the strength of his reason, and its elevation above vulgar prejudices—while not a few moderate Calvinists regard with complacency their sagacity in discovering the happy medium.
As men are more proud of their understanding than of their disposition, it is very probable that religious opinions are more frequently the cause of conceit and self-importance, than anything else which could be mentioned. "It is knowledge," says the apostle, "that puffs up." "We are the men and wisdom will die with us"—is the temper of multitudes.
Religious giftdeness is sometimes the ground of self-admiration. Fluency and fervor in public prayer, ability to converse on doctrinal subjects, especially if accompanied by a ready utterance in public, have all through the influence of Satan and the depravity of our nature, led to the vile pride which we are now condemning.
None are in more danger of this than the ministers of religion—it is the besetting sin of their office. There is no one gift which offers so strong a temptation both to vanity and to pride—as that of public speaking. If the orator really excels, and is successful, he is the immediate spectator of his success, and has not even to wait until he has finished his discourse; for although the decorum of public worship will not allow of audible tokens of applause, it does of visible ones—the look of interest, the tear of penitence or of sympathy, the smile of joy, the deep impression on the mind, the death-like stillness, cannot be concealed—all seem like a tribute of admiration to the presiding spirit of the scene; and then the compliments which are conveyed to his ear, after all the silent plaudits which have reached his eye—are equally calculated to puff him up with pride. No men are more in danger of this sin than the ministers of the Gospel; none should watch more sleeplessly against it.