First. By gifts, I mean those supernatural abilities, with which the Spirit of God doth enrich and endow the minds of men for edification of the body of Christ; of which gifts the apostle tells us there is great diversity, and all from the same Spirit, I Cor. 12:4. There is not greater variety of colours and qualities of plants and flowers, with which the earth like a carpet of needle-work is variegated for the delight and service of man, than there is of gifts, natural and spiritual, in the minds of men, to render them useful to one another, both in civil societies and Christian fellowship. The Christian, as well as man, is intended to be a sociable creature, and for the better managing of this spiritual commonwealth among Christians, God doth wisely and graciously provide, and impart, gifts suitable to the place every one stands in [relative] to his brethren, as the vessels are larger or less in the body natural, according to the place therein. Now Satan labours what he can, to taint these gifts, and fly-blow them with pride in the Christian, that so he may spoil the Christian’s trade and commerce, which is mutually maintained by the gifts and graces of one another. Pride of gifts hinders the Christian’s trade—at least [its] thriving by their commerce, two ways. First. Pride of gifts is the cause why we do so little good with them to others. Second. Pride of gifts is the cause why we receive so little good from the gifts of others.
First. Pride of gifts is the cause why we do so little good with them to others, and that upon a threefold account.
- Pride diverts a man from aiming at the end. So far as pride prevails, the man prays, preaches, &c., rather to thought good by others, than to do good to others; rather to enthrone himself, than Christ, in the opinions and hearts of his hearers. Pride carries the man aloft, to be admired for the height of his parts and notions, and will not suffer him to stoop so low as to speak of plain truths, or if he does, not plainly; he must have some fine lace, though on a plain stuff. Such a one may tickle the ear, but [is] very unlikely to do real good to the soul. Alas! it is not that he attends.
- If this painted Jezebel of pride be perceived to look out at the window in any exercise, whether of preaching, prayer, or conference, it doth beget a disdain in the spirits of those that hear such a one, both good and bad. It is a sin very odious to a gracious heart, and oft-times makes the stomach go against the food, though good, through their abhorrency of that pride they see in the instrument. It is, indeed, their weakness, but woe to them that by their pride lead them into temptation! nay, those that are bad and may be in the same kind, like not that in another which they favour in themselves, and so prejudiced [they] return as bad as they went.
- Pride of gifts robs us of God’s blessing in the use of them. The humble man may have Satan at his right hand to oppose him; but be sure the proud man shall find God himself there to resist him, whenever he goes about any duty. God proclaims so much, and would have the proud man know wherever he meets him [that] he will oppose him. He ‘resisteth the proud.’ Great gifts are beautiful as Rachel, but pride makes them also barren like her. Either we must lay self aside, or God will lay us aside.
Second. Pride of gifts is the cause why we receive so little good from the gifts of others. Pride fills the soul; and a full soul will take nothing from God, much less from man, to do it good. Such a one is very dainty; it is not every sermon, though wholesome food, not every prayer, though savoury, [that] will go down. He must have a choice dish. He thinks he hath better than this of his own. And is such a one like to get good? And truly we may see it, that as the plain ploughman, that can eat of any homely food if wholesome, hath more health, and is able to do more work in a day, than many enjoy or can do in their whole life, that are nice, squeamish, and courtly in their fare; so the humble Christian that can feed on plain truths, and ordinances which have not so much of the art of man to commend them to their palate, enjoy more of God, and can do more for God, than the nicer sort of professors, who are all to be served in a lordly dish of rare gifts. The church of Corinth was famous for gifts above other churches, I Cor. 1, but not in grace; none [were] so charged for weakness in that, I Cor. 3:2. He [Paul] calls them carnal babes in Christ, so weak as not able to digest man’s meat. ‘I have fed you,’ saith Paul, ‘with milk, and not with meat; for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.’ Why? what is the matter? the reason lies, ‘Ye are yet carnal: there is among you envying, and strife;’ ver. 3, ‘One saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos,’ ver. 4. Pride makes them take parts, and make sides, one for this preacher, another for that, as they fancied one to excel another. And this is not the way to thrive. Pride destroys love, and love wanting edification is lost. The devil hath made foul work in the church by this engine. Zanchy tells of one in Geneva, who being desired to go hear Calvin, answered his friend, ‘If Paul were to preach, I would leave Paul himself to hear Calvin.’ And will pride in the gifts of another so far transport, even to the borders of blasphemy, what work will then pride make when the gifts are a man’s own?