Use 1. [To those that have mean gifts.] Doth Satan thus stir up saints to the spiritual pride of gifts? Here is a word to you that have mean gifts, yet truth of grace—be content with thy condition. Perhaps when thou hearest others, how enlargedly they pray, how able to discourse of the truths of God, and the like, thou art ready to go into a corner, and mourn to think how weak thy memory, how dull thy apprehension, how straitened thy spirit, hardly able, though in secret, to utter and express thy mind to God in prayer. O thou art ready to think those the happy men and women, and almost [to] murmur at thy condition. Well, canst thou not say, though I have no words, I hope I have faith? I cannot dispute for the truth, but I am willing to suffer for it. I cannot remember a sermon, but I never hear a word but I hate sin and love Christ more than ever. Lord, thou knowest I love thee. Truly, Christian, thou hast the better part; thou little thinkest what a mercy may be wrapt up even in the meanness of thy gifts, or what temptations their gifts expose them to, which God, for aught I know, may in mercy deny thee. Joseph’s coat made him finer than his brethren, but this caused all his trouble—this set the archers a shooting their arrows into his side. Thus, great gifts lift a saint up a little higher in the eyes of men, but it occasions many temptations which thou meetest not with that art kept low. What with envy from their brethren, malice from Satan, and pride in their own hearts, I dare say, none find so hard a work to go to heaven as such, [so] much ado to bear up against those waves and winds—while thou creepest along the shore under the wind to heaven. It is with such as with some great lord of little estate—a meaner man oft hath money in his purse, when he hath none, and can lend his lordship some at a need. Great gifts and parts are titles of honour among men, but many such may come and borrow grace and comfort of a mean-gifted brother, possibly, the preacher of his poor neighbour. O, poor Christians, do not murmur or envy them, but rather pity and pray for them, they need it more than others. His gifts are thine, thy grace is for thyself. Thou art like a merchant that hath his factor [who] goes to sea, but he hath his adventure without hazard brought home. Thou joinest with him in the prayer, hast the help of his gifts, but not the temptation of his pride.
Use 2. [To those that have great gifts.] Doth Satan labour thus to draw to pride of gifts? This speaks a word to you to whom God hath given more gifts than ordinary. Beware of pride, that is now your snare. Satan is at work; if possible he will turn your artillery against yourself. Thy safety lies in thy humility; if this lock be cut, the legions of hell are on thee. Remember whom thou wrestlest with—spiritual wickednesses—and their play is to lift up, that they may give the sorer fall. Now the more to stir up thy heart against it, I shall add some soul-humbling considerations on this pride of gifts.
- Consideration. These spiritual gifts are not thine own; and wilt thou be proud of another’s bounty? Is not God the founder, and can he not soon be the confounder of thy gifts? Thou that art proud of thy gourd, what wilt thou be when it is gone? Surely then thou wilt be peevish and angry, and truly thou takest the course to be stripped of them. Gifts come on other terms than grace. God gives grace as a freehold—it hath the promise of this and another world; but gifts come on liking. Though a father will not cast off his child, yet he may take away his fine coat and ornaments, if proud of them.
- Consideration. Gifts are not merely for thyself. As the light of the sun is ministerial—it shines not for itself—so all thy gifts are for others —gifts for the edifying of the body. Suppose a man should leave a chest of money in your hands to be distributed to others, what folly is it in this man to put this into his own inventory, and applaud himself that he hath so much money? Poor soul, thou art but God’s executor, and by that time thou hast paid all the legacies, thou wilt see little left for thee to brag and boast of.
- Consideration. Know, Christian, thou shalt be accountable for these talents. Now, with what face can a proud soul look on God? Suppose one left an executor to pay legacies, and this man should pay them, not as legacies of another, but [as] gifts of his own. Christ at his ascension gave gifts that his children should receive. Thou hast some in thy hand. Now a proud soul gives out all, not as the legacy of Christ, but as his own; he assumes all to himself. O how abominable is this, to entitle ourselves to Christ’s honour!
- Consideration. Thy gifts commend thee not to God. Man may be taken with thy expression and notion in prayer; but these are all pared off when thy prayer comes before God. ‘O woman,’ saith Christ, ‘great is thy faith!’ not, compt and flourishing thy language. It were good after our duties to sort the ingredients of which they are made up—what grace contributed, and what gifts, and what pride—and when all the heterogeneal stuff is severed, you shall see in what a little compass the actings of grace in our duties will lie.
- Consideration. Consider while thou art priding in thy gifts, thou art dwindling and withering in thy grace. Such are like corn that runs up much into straw, whose ear commonly is but light and thin. Grace is too much neglected where gifts are too highly prized; we are commanded to be clothed with humility. Our garments cover the shame of our bodies, humility the beauty of the soul. And as a tender body cannot live without clothes, so neither can grace without this clothing of humility. It kills the spirit of praise; when thou shouldst bless God, thou art applauding thyself. It destroys Christian love, and stabs our fellowship with the saints to the heart; a proud man hath not room enough to walk in company, because the gifts of others he thinks stand in his way. Pride so distempers the palate, that it can relish nothing that is drawn from another’s vessel.
- Consideration. It is the forerunner of some great sin, or some great affliction. God will not suffer such a weed as pride to grow in his garden without taking some course or other to root it up; may be he will let thee fall into some great sin, and that shall bring thee home with shame. God useth sometimes a thorn in the flesh, to prick the bladder of pride in the spirit; or at least some great affliction, the very end whereof is to ‘hide pride from man,’ Job 33:17,19. As you do with your hot mettled horses—ride them over ploughed lands to tame them, and then you can sit safely on their back. If God’s honour be in danger through thy pride, then expect a rod, and most likely the affliction shall be in that which shall be most grievous to thee, in the thing thou art proud of. Hezekiah boasted of his treasure. God sends the Chaldeans to plunder him. Jonah [is] fond of his gourd, and that is smitten. And if thy spirit be blown up with pride of gifts, thou art in danger of having them blasted, at least in the opinion of others whose breath of applause, possibly, was a means to overset thy unballasted spirit.