Third. Pride of privileges is the third kind of spiritual pride, with which these wicked spirits labour to blow up the Christian. To name three [of these privileges]: First. When God calls a person to some eminent place, or useth him to do some special piece of service. Second. When God honours a saint to suffer for his truth or cause. Third. When God flows in with more than ordinary manifestations of his love, and fills the soul with joy and comfort. These are privileges not equally dispensed to all; and therefore, where they are, Satan takes advantage of assaulting such with pride.
First Privilege. When God calls a person to some eminent place, or useth him to do some special piece of service. Indeed it requires a great measure of grace to keep the heart low, when the man stands high. The apostle, speaking how a minister of the gospel should be qualified, saith he must not be ‘a novice,’ or a young convert, ‘lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil,’ I Tim 3:6; as if he had said, ‘This calling is honourable, if he be not well balanced with humility, a little gust from Satan will topple him into this sin.’ The seventy that Christ first sent out to preach the gospel, and [who] prevailed so miraculously over Satan—even these, while they trod on the serpent’s head, he turned again, and had like to have stung them with pride. This our Saviour perceived, when they returned in triumph, and told what great miracles they had wrought; and therefore he takes them off that glorying, lest it should degenerate into vainglory, and bids them ‘rejoice not that spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven,’ Luke 10:20. As if he had said, ‘It is not the honour of your calling, and success of your ministry [that] will save you. There shall be some cast to the devils, who shall then say, “Lord, Lord, in thy name we have cast out devils,” and therefore value not yourselves by that, but rather evidence to your souls, that you are mine elect ones, which will stand you more in stead at the great day than all this.’
Second Privilege. A second privilege is, when God honours a person to suffer for his truth. This is a great privilege. ‘Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake,’ Php. 1:29. God doth not use to give worthless gifts to his saints, there is some preciousness in it, which a carnal eye cannot see. Faith, you will say, is a great gift, but perseverance greater —without which faith would be little worth—and perseverance in suffering is, above both, honourable. This made John Careless, our English martyr—who, though he died not at the stake, yet [died] in prison for Christ—say, ‘Such an honour it is, as angels are not permitted to have, therefore God forgive me mine unthankfulness.’ Now when Satan cannot scare a soul from prison, yet then he will labour to puff him up in prison; when he cannot make him pity himself, then he will flatter him till he prides in himself. Affliction from God, exposeth to impatience, affliction for God, to pride; and therefore, Christians, labour to fortify yourselves against this temptation of Satan. How soon you may be called to suffering work you know not—such clouds oft are not long arising. Now to keep thy heart humble when thou art honoured to suffer for the truth, consider,
- Though thou dost not deserve those sufferings at man’s hand, thou canst and mayst, in that regard, glory in thy innocency [that] thou sufferest not as an evildoer; yet thou canst not but confess it is a just affliction from God in regard of sin in thee, and this methinks should keep thee humble. The same suffering may be martyrdom in regard of man, and yet a fatherly chastening for sin in regard of God. None suffered without sin but Christ, and therefore none may glory in sufferings but he—Christ in his own, we in his. ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,’ Gal. 6:14. This kept Mr. Bradford humble in his sufferings for the truth. None more rejoiced in them, and blessed God for them, yet none more humble under them, than he. And what kept him in this humble frame? Read his godly letters, and you shall find almost in all how he bemoans his sins, and the sins of the Protestants under the reign of king Edward, ‘It was time,’ saith he, ‘for God to put his rod into the Papists’ hands. We were grown so proud, formal, unfruitful, yea, to loathe and despise the means of grace, when we enjoyed the liberty thereof, and therefore God hath brought the wheel of persecution on us.’ As he looked at the honour to make him thankful, so to sin to make him humble.