Three Doors Whence This Enemy Comes Forth
Question. But how would you direct us against this?
Answer. Arguments you have had before; I shall only therefore point to two or three doors where your enemy comes forth upon you; and surely the very sight thereof, if thou beest loyal to Christ, will stir thee up to fall upon it.
First Door. This kind of pride discovers itself in dwelling upon the thoughts of our gifts, with a secret kind of content to see our own face, till at last we fall in love with it. We read of some whose eyes are full of the adulteress, and cannot cease from sin. A proud heart is full of himself; his own abilities cast their shadow before him. They are in his eye wherever he goes. The great subject and theme of his thoughts in what he is, and what he hath above others, applauding himself; as Bernard confesseth, that—when one would think he had little leisure for such thoughts—even in preaching; pride would be whispering in his ear, Bene fecisti Bernarde—O well done, Bernard. Now have a care, Christian, of chatting with such company. Run from such thoughts as from a bear. If the devil can get thee to stand on this pinnacle, while he presents thee with the glory of thy spiritual attainments and endowments, for thee to gaze on them thy weak head will soon turn round in pride; and therefore labour to keep the sense of thy own infirmities lively in thy soul, to divert the temptation. As those who are subject to some kind of fits carry about them things proper for the disease, that when the fit is coming—which is oft occasioned with a sweet perfume—they may use them for their help; sweet scents are not more dangerous for them, than anything they may applaud thee is to thy soul. Have a care, therefore, not only of wearing such thoughts in thy bosom, but also of sitting by others that bring the sweet scent of thy perfections to thee by their flattery.
Second Door. This kind of pride appears in a forwardness to expose itself to view, I Sam. 17:28. David’s brethren were mistaken in him indeed, but oft the pride and naughtiness of the heart breaks out at this door. Christ’s carnal friends bid Christ show himself; pride loves to climb up, not as Zacchaeus, to see Christ, but to be seen himself. ‘The fool,’ Solomon tells us, ‘hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself,’ Prov. 18:2. Pride would be somebody, and therefore comes abroad to court the multitude; whereas humility delights in privacy. As the leaves do cover and shade the fruits, that some hand may gently lift up them, before they can see the fruit; so should a humility and holy modesty conceal the perfections of the soul, till a hand of providence by some call invites them out. There is a pride in naked gifts, as well as in naked breasts and backs. Humility is a necessary veil to all other graces, and therefore, 1. Christian, look whenever thou comest forth to public duty, that thou hast a call. It is obedience to be ready to answer when God calls thee forth, but it is pride to run before God speaks. 2. When called, earnestly implore divine strength against this enemy. Shun not a duty for fear of pride—thou mayest show it in the very seeming to escape it—but go in the strength of God against it. There is more hope of overcoming it by obedience than [by] disobedience.
Third Door. This kind of pride discovers itself in envying the gifts of others, when they seem to blind our own that they are not so fair a prospect as we desire. This is a weed may grow too rank in a good soil. Aaron and Miriam could not bear Moses his honour, Num. 12.1; that was the business, though they pick a quarrel with him about his wife, because an Ethiopian, as appears plainly, ‘Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us?’ ver. 2. They thought Moses went away with too much of the honour, and did repine that God should use him more than themselves. And it is observable, that the lusting for flesh broke out among the mixed multitude, and baser sort of people, Num. 11:4,5; but this of pride and envy took fire in the bosoms of the most eminent for place and piety. O what need then have we, poor creatures, to watch our hearts when we see such precious servants of God led into temptation? ‘The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy,’ James 4:5. Our corrupt nature is ever putting on to this sin. It is as hard to keep our hearts and this sin asunder, as it is to keep two lovers from meeting together. Thatch is not more ready to be fired with every flash of lightning, than the heart to be kindled at every shining forth of any excelling gift or grace in another. It was of the first windows that corrupt nature looked out at—a sin that shed the first blood. Cain’s envy hatched Abel’s murder. Now if ever thou meanest to get the mastery of this sin,
- Call in help from heaven. No sooner hath the apostle set forth how big and teeming full the heart of man is with envy, but he shows where a fountain of grace is, infinitely exceeding that of lust: ‘The Spirit within us lusteth to envy, but he giveth more grace,’ James 4:5,6. And therefore sit not down tamely under this sin: it is not unconquerable. God can give thee more grace than thou hast sin—more humility than thou hast pride. Be but so humble as cordially to beg this grace, and thou shalt not be so proud as wickedly to envy his gifts or grace in others.