The omnipotence of Jehovah is ruled by His wisdom and holiness, His justice and love. He can do everything consistent with those attributes — but nothing contrary to them. God’s omnipotence is altogether on the believer’s side. All that God consistently can do — He will do for His people. Nothing is too hard for the Lord. He can make us contented in the most trying circumstances — and happy in the deepest affliction. He can so bring down our minds to our condition — that we shall glory in tribulation; and in the midst of fiery persecution, triumph in Christ. He can turn darkness into light, and bitter into sweet; and bring the richest joy out of the deepest sorrow. The omnipotent God is your God! His omnipotence is engaged for you! And in consequence, all things are possible to you, through believing.
Do not dwell on your own weakness — but on the Lord’s strength. Do not think of difficulties — call nothing impossible. “Is anything too hard for me? Do not I fill Heaven and earth, says the Lord?” David sings, “The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life — of whom shall I be afraid? Though a host should encamp against me — my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me — in this will I be confident.”
Do not look at your difficulties — but at the omnipotent God as engaged for you! Do not dwell on what you are called to suffer — but on what God can enable you to suffer, and that with patience, resignation, and gratitude. He can make you a most patient and grateful sufferer — and so mold your spirit to His will, as to cause you to prefer sickness to health, pain to ease, poverty to plenty, and disgrace to honor — if He can but be glorified thereby. Yes, He can so fill you with His grace and Spirit, as you shall have no will but His; and no desire but that He may be glorified in you, by life or by death.
Do not look too much at what you are — but at what your God can make you! Look at the Apostles and martyrs — they endured as seeing Him who is invisible, and in the strength of God were more than a match for the rage of men, or the greatest tortures.
“Is it possible,” you may say, “that I could be a child of God — and yet be so tried, and feel so weak, and not feel the presence of God with me, though I am in trouble?” Oh yes, more than possible. You shall be held up, for God is able to make you stand. You are safe — though not comfortable. The Lord is with you, though He does not shine upon you. He cannot leave you — because of His faithfulness. He may conceal Himself from you — because of His wisdom and love. His ways are in the sea, His paths in the mighty waters, and His footsteps are not known! It is possible for God to hold you fast in the most slippery path, when surrounded by the most determined foes, and feeling the greatest weakness — and He will do so! None shall be able to pluck you out of His hand. It is possible for God to supply all your needs, in the most trying times; as He did Elijah by the ravens, and the poor widow by the increase of the oil and meal. And He will do so; only seek the Lord, trust in the Lord, leave difficulties with the Lord — and you shall not lack any good thing. He will display His wisdom, sovereignty, pity, and power in dealing with you; and perhaps fill you with wonder, surprise, and love, at His ways.
All that God is — He is to you!
All He has — He has for you!
All He has promised — He will fulfill in you!
Ever, ever remember that all things are possible to . . .
and your Friend!
“I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength!” Philippians 4:13
Jesus, my Savior and my Lord!
‘Tis good to trust your name;
Your power, your faithfulness, and love,
Will ever be the same!
What, though my griefs are not removed
— yet why should I despair?
While everlasting arms support,
I can the burden bear!
Weak as I am — yet through your grace,
I all things can perform;
And triumph in your saving name,
Amid the raging storm!
Could there be a more touching “Thus says the Lord” than this? The voice of Jesus, as it echoed over the mountains and along the valleys of our unregenerate distance from God, seeking and finding and bringing us home, was inexpressibly sweet and irresistibly gracious. But, to hear that same voice, after our many wanderings, our repeated relapses, our sad backslidings, still seeking, still inviting, still imploring us to return, though we had “played the harlot with many lovers,” oh, there is music in that voice such as the heavenly minstrelsy must bend their ear to catch.
My soul, you are “bent upon backsliding, even as a backsliding heifer.” Your heart is as a broken bow, treacherous to the arrow fixed upon the string, and ready for its flight. Your purposes of good formed, but thwarted; resolutions of amendment made, but broken; plans of usefulness laid, but frustrated; prayers for grace offered, but forgotten; desires and aspirations after God sent up, but, through a deceitful and wicked heart, dissolving into air. Oh! how many and aggravated have your backslidings from God been–backslidings in heart, backslidings in deed–secret wanderings, open wanderings. You have “left your first love,” have “forgotten your resting-place;” and, straying from the cross, have gone back to walk no more with Jesus. Truly, your “heart is like a deceitful bow.”
But, has the Lord, by some gentle movement of His grace, or by some solemn event of His providence, aroused, overtaken, arrested you? Has He set a hedge around your path, that you could not find your lovers, bringing you to reflection, to penitence, to prayer? Then, listen, O my soul, to the gracious words of your “first husband;” “Yet return again to Me, says the Lord.”
Spiritual restoration implies a spiritual re-conversion. In this sense we are to interpret our Lord’s words to His fallen apostle Peter–“When you are converted, strengthen your brethren,”–that is, when you are restored, recovered, turned back again, employ your restored grace, the experience you have derived, and the lessons you have learned by your fall and recovery, in strengthening your weak brethren–in warning and exhorting, in restoring and comforting those who have been alike tempted, and have alike fallen.
There is something very expressive, tender, and touching in the word–“Again.” “Yet return again.” It sounds like the “forgiveness of seventy times seven.” Lord! I have wandered from You times without number–“Yet return again.” Lord! I have so often sinned and repented–“Yet return again.” Lord! You have received and forgiven me more than seventy times seven–“Yet return again.” Lord! I come confessing the same sins, deploring the same backslidings, acknowledging the same self-will and base ingratitude–“Yet return again to me, says the Lord.” Then, Lord! I come with weeping, and mourning, and confession, since Your tenderness, grace, and changeless love, and outstretched hand bid me.
“Return toMe.” My soul, rest not until you rest in Jesus. Let nothing come between your returning heart and your advancing, loving, forgiving Father. There is no true return of a backsliding believer but that which takes him past his repentance, past his tears, past his confessions, past his amendments, past his minister, and brings him at once close to Christ. There is no healing of the hurt, no binding up of the wound, no cleansing, no peace, no comfort, no joy, but as the soul comes to the blood, and nestles once more within the very heart of Jesus. “Return unto ME.”
Fellow-Christian, we live in trying times. Nations are convulsed, thrones are tottering, crowns are falling, confusion reigns, and men’s hearts are failing them for fear! We cannot but feel; but we ought not to fear. There is enough to make us watch and pray — but not enough to deject or cast us down The Lord reigns. Our Savior has all power in Heaven and in earth. He directs every event, and will overrule every occurrence for the fulfillment of his word, and the good of his beloved people. “He works all things after the counsel of his own will.” Men may rage, infidels may blaspheme, professors may murmur, and real Christians may be filled with alarm; but He says, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” The Lord sits above the water-floods, he remains King forever! Therefore, let no man’s heart fail him. Let us look to the divine word. Let us look out for the Lord’s hand. There is the rainbow of mercy in every cloud; but only the eye of faith can discern it.
Beloved, are you passing through storms, tempests, and trials? Hope in God — whatever your trial may be.
Are you sick?He will make your bed, and sanctify your pain.
Are you poor?He will answer your prayers, and supply your need.
Are you sorrowful? He will comfort you, and give you joy for your sorrow.
Are you tempted?He will not allow you to be tempted above that you are able to bear.
Are you bereaved?He will be better to you than ten children. He will be a father to the fatherless, and a husband to the widow. He is a friend that loves at all times, and ever lives to manifest his friendship.
Are you in perplexity? He will bring the blind by a way which they knew not, and make your way plain before you.
Do you imagine that your trials are singular? He assures you that no temptation has taken you but such as is common to men, and he bids you not to think it strange concerning the fiery trial that is to try you.
Do you doubt your interest in Jesus, and your title to the promises? Read his sweet invitations, cast yourself afresh into his arms, and still hope in his mercy. Whatever may be your trial, whether inward or outward, personal or relative, spiritual or temporal, still “hope in God.”
Hope, and do not fret, though the wicked prosper, and everything seems to be against you.
Hope, and do not murmur; for you have a thousand mercies more than you deserve, and more than some of your fellow-pilgrims.
Hope,and do not despond; for all things shall work together for your good; your God has his way in the whirlwind and in the storm.
Hope, and do not forebode; for light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.
Hope, and do not complain; for your Lord forewarned you of all that has happened. He told you that in the world you should have tribulation — but in him you should have peace.
Hope, and do not dread; no, not even death: for he who has delivered does deliver, and he will yet deliver you. He has delivered you in six troubles, and in seven he will not forsake you.
Hope in God— for he is gracious, merciful, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth. He is faithful to his word. He is full of love to his children. He is pledged by his word to be a father to you. He will not fail you, nor forsake you. He will surely do you good, and do you good even by your present trials and troubles.
Hope in God— for he has an infinite variety of blessings to bestow. He has all you need — and has it for you. He has all you ever will want — and he will supply all your need. He has all you can consistently desire — and he will fulfill the desire of those who fear him; he also will hear their cry, and will save them.
Hope in God— for he has said to the coming sinner, “I will never cast out.” To the tried saint, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he shall sustain you.” To every believer, “My grace is sufficient for you.” To the weary, way-worn pilgrim to the celestial country, “Your shoes shall be iron and brass, and as your days so shall your strength be.” To each Christian, “I will never leave you, I will never, no never, forsake you!”
Hope in God— for he will do as he has said; yes, he will do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think. He will make all his goodness pass before us, and show us great and mighty things which we know not.
Hope in God— for you may; his invitations warrant you.
You ought; for his commands lay you under obligation.
You should; for his promises are exceedingly great and very precious.
Hope, then, in God—
not in circumstances — however favorable;
not in creatures — however kind;
not in events — however propitious;
not in connections — however encouraging;
not in evidences — however bright;
not in prospects — however blooming.
Hope in God —
when you read his word,
when you attend his ordinances,
when you face his foes,
when you circulate his truth,
when he hides his face,
when your comforts wither,
when your gourds die,
when your friends forsake you,
when your foes slander you,
when your health declines,
when poverty approaches,
when storms gather,
when Satan assaults, and
when death stares you in the face!
Hope— and be not dismayed. Let hope be . . .
the helmet that guards your head;
the anchor that steadies your vessel;
the friend that holds up your head when the water-floods overflow you.
In a word, at all times, in all places, under all circumstances — hope in God, for you shall yet praise him, who is the health of your countenance and your God!
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.“ — Revelation 3:20
There is no rowing to paradise except upon the stream of repenting tears. Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet. Why are the wells of repentance stopped? Do not the sinners of the land know that they should repent? Have they no warning? Have not God’s faithful messengers lifted up their voice as a trumpet and cried to them to repent? But many of these tools in the ministry have been spent and worn out upon rocky hearts. Do we think that God will always put up with our affronts?
Some bless themselves that they have a stock of knowledge, but what is knowledge good for without repentance? Learning and a bad heart is like a fair face with a cancer in the breast. Knowledge without repentance will be but a torch to light the way to hell. Repentant tears may be compared to myrrh, which though it is bitter in taste, has a sweet smell and refreshes the spirit. So repentance, though it is bitter in itself, yet it is sweet in the effects. It brings inward peace.
We are to find as much bitterness in weeping for sin as ever we found sweetness in committing it. Surely David found more bitterness in repentance than ever he found comfort in Bathsheba. Tears have four qualities: they are moist, salt, hot, and bitter. It is true of repenting tears, they are hot to warm a frozen conscience; moist, to soften a hard heart; salt, to season a soul decaying in sin; bitter, to wean us from the love of the world. And I will add a fifth, they are sweet, in that they make the heart inwardly rejoice.
David, who was the great weeper in Israel, was the sweet singer of Israel. The sorrows of the repentant are like the sorrows of a travailing woman: “A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world” (John 16:21).
Be as speedy in your repentance as you would have God be speedy in His mercies. Many are now in hell that purposed to repent. Satan does what he can to keep men from repentance. When he sees that one begins to take up serious thoughts of reformation, he bids them wait a little longer. It is dangerous to procrastinate repentance. The longer any go on sinning, the harder they will find the work of repentance. Delay strengthens sin and hardens the heart and gives the devil fuller possession.
A plant at first may be easily plucked up, but when it has spread its roots deep in the earth, a whole team cannot remove it. It is hard to remove sin when it comes to be rooted. The longer the ice freezes the harder it is to be broken. The longer a man freezes in security, the harder it will be to have his heart broken.
Presuming upon God’s mercy can be eternally fatal. Many suck poison from this sweet flower. Oh, one says, “Christ has died; He has done all for me; therefore I may sit still and do nothing.” Thus they suck death from the tree of life and perish by a savior. So I may say of God’s mercy, it accidentally causes the ruin of many. Because of mercy, some men presume and think they may go on sinning. But should a king’s clemency make his subjects rebel? The psalmist says, “there is mercy with God, that he may be feared,” (Psalms 130:4) but not that we may sin. Can men expect mercy by provoking justice? God will hardly show those mercy who sin because mercy abounds. Many would rather go sleeping to hell than weeping to heaven.
“I hate pride and arrogance.” Proverbs 8:13 “The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sureof this: They will not go unpunished.” Prov. 16:5
Of all sins pride seems most deeply imbedded in the very heart of man. Unbelief, sensuality, covetousness, rebellion, presumption, contempt of God’s holy will and word, hatred and enmity against the saints of the Most High, deceit and falsehood, cruelty and wrath, violence and murder–these, and a forest of other sins have indeed struck deep roots into the black and noxious soil of our fallen nature; and, interlacing their lofty stems and gigantic arms, have wholly shut out the light of heaven from man’s benighted soul. But these and their associate evils do not seem so thoroughly interwoven into the very constitution of the human heart, nor so to be its very life blood as pride. The lust of the flesh is strong, but there are respites from its workings; unbelief is powerful, but there are times when it seems to lie dormant; covetousness is ensnaring, but there is not always a bargain to be made, or an advantage to be clutched. These sins differ also in strength in different individuals. Some seem not much tempted with the grosser passions of our fallen nature; others are naturally liberal and benevolent, and whatever other idol they may serve, they bend not their knee to the golden calf. Strong natural conscientiousness preserves many from those debasing sins which draw down general reprehension; and a quiet, gentle, peaceable disposition renders others strangers not only to the violent outbreaks, but even to the inward gusts of temper and anger.
But where lust may have no power, covetousness no dominion, and anger no sway–there, down, down in the inmost depths, heaving and boiling like the lava in the crater of a volcano, works that master sin, that sin of sinspride! As Rome calls herself the Mother and Mistress of all the churches, so is Pride the Mother and Mistress of all the sins; for where she does not conceive them in her ever-teeming womb, she instigates their movements, and compels them to pay tribute to her glory.
The origin of evil is hidden from our eyes. Whence it sprang, and why God allowed it to arise in his fair creation, are mysteries which we cannot fathom; but thus much is revealed, that of this mighty fire which has filled hell with sulphurous flame, and will one day involve earth and its inhabitants in the general conflagration, the first spark was pride!
It is therefore emphatically the devil’s own sin; we will not say his darling sin, for it is his torment, the serpent which is always biting him, the fire which is ever consuming him. But it is the sin which hurled him from heaven and transformed him from a bright and holy seraph into a foul and hideous demon. How subtle, then, and potent must that poison be, which could in a moment change an angel into a devil! How black in nature, how concentrated in virulence that venom, one drop of which could utterly deface the image of God in myriads of bright spirits before the throne, and degrade them into monsters of uncleanness and malignity!
Be it, then, borne in mind that the same identical sin which wrought such fearful effects in the courts of heaven was introduced by the Tempter into Paradise. “You shall be as gods,” was the lying declaration of the father of lies. When that declaration was believed, and an entrance thus made into Eve’s heart, through that gap rushed in pride, lust, and sinful ambition. The fruit of the forbidden tree was “pleasant to the eyes;” there was food for lust. It was a tree “to be desired to make them wise;” there was a bait for pride. “They would be as gods;” there was a temptation to sinful ambition. The woman tempted the man, as the serpent had tempted the woman; and thus, “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (Rom. 5:12.)
There are sins which men commit that devils cannot. Unbelief, infidelity, and atheism, are not sins of devils; for they believe and tremble, and feel too much of the wrath of God to doubt his threatenings or deny his existence. The love of money is a sin from which they are exempt, for gold and silver are confined to earth, and the men who live on it. The lusts of the flesh in all their bearings, whether gluttony, drunkenness, or sensuality, belong only to those who inhabit tabernacles of clay. But pride, malignity, falsehood, enmity, murder, deceitfulness, and all those sins of which spirits are capable, in these crimes, devils as much exceed men as an angelic nature exceeds in depth, power, and capacity a human one.
The eye of man sees, for the most part, only the grosser offences against morality; it takes little or no cognizance of internal sins. Thus a man may be admired as a pattern of consistency, because free from the outbreaks of fleshly and more human sins, while his heart, as open to God’s heart-searching eye, may be full of pride, malignity, enmity, and murder, the sins of devils. Such were the scribes and pharisees of old; models of correctness outwardly, but fiends of malice inwardly. So fearful were these holy beings of outward defilement, that they would not enter into Pilate’s judgment-hall, when at the same moment their hearts were plotting the greatest crime that earth ever witnessedthe crucifixion of the Son of God!
All sin must, from its very nature, be unspeakably hateful to the Holy One of Israel. It not only affronts his divine Majesty and is high treason against His authority and glory, but it is abhorrent to His intrinsic purity and holiness. It is, indeed, most difficult for us to gain a spiritual conception of the foul nature of sin as viewed by a Holy Jehovah; but there are, perhaps, times and seasons when, to a certain extent, we may realize a faint idea of it. It is when we are favored with the presence of God, see light in his light, and have the mind of Christ. Then how do we feel towards our base backslidings and filthy lusts? With what eyes does the new man of grace then view his sinful yoke-fellow–that base old man, that body of sin and death, that carnal mind in which dwells no good thing, that heaving reeking mass of all pollution and abomination, which he is compelled to carry about with him while life lasts? He views it, how can he but view it, except with loathing and abhorrence. But what is this, for the most part, short and transient, and, in its very nature, weak abhorrence of evil, compared with the enduring and infinite hatred of God against sin, though it may aid us in obtaining a dim and faint conception of it?
But among all the evils which lie naked and open before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do, pride seems especially to incur His holy abhorrence; and the outward manifestations of it have perhaps drawn down as much as, or more than, any other sin, his marked thunderbolts. His unalterable determination against it, and his fixed resolve to bring down to the dust every manifestation of it, is no where so pointedly or so fully declared as in that striking portion of Holy Writ which forms the second chapter of the Prophecies of Isaiah. And this is the theme of the whole, “And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low; and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.” (Isaiah 2:17.)
But, besides these general declarations, the sacred record teems with individual instances of God’s anger against this prevailing sin. Pride cost Sennacherib his army and Herod his life; pride opened the earth to Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and hung up Absalom in the boughs of an oak; pride filled the breast of Saul with murderous hatred against David, and tore ten tribes at one stroke from the hand of Rehoboam. Pride drove Nebuchadnezzar from the society of his fellow-men, and made him eat grass as oxen, and his body to be wet with the dew of heaven, until his hairs were grown as eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.
And as it has cut off the wicked from the earth, and left them neither son nor nephew, root nor branch, so it has made sad havoc even among the family of God. Pride shut Aaron out of the promised land; and made Miriam a leper white as snow; pride, working in the heart of David, brought a pestilence which cut off seventy thousand men; pride carried captive to Babylon Hezekiah’s treasure and descendants, and cast Jonah into the whale’s belly, and, in his feelings, into the very belly of hell. It is the only source of contention; (Prov. 13:10;) the certain forerunner of a fall; (Prov. 16:18;) the instigator of persecution; (Psalm 10:2;) a snare for the feet; (Psalm 59:12;) a chain to compass the whole body; (Psalm 73:6;) the main element of deceitfulness; (Jer. 49:16;) and the grave of all uprightness. (Hab. 2:4.) It is a sin which God especially abhors, (Prov. 8:13, 16:5,) and one of the seven things which he abominates; (Prov. 6:17;) a sin against which he has pronounced a special woe, (Isaiah 28:1) and has determined to stain it, (Isaiah 23:9,) to abase it, (Dan. 4:37,) to mar it, (Jer. 13:9,) to cut it off, (Zech. 9:6) to bring it down, (Isaiah 25:11,) and lay it low (Prov. 29:23.)
Pride was one of the crying sins of Sodom, (Ezek. 16:49), desolated Moab (Isaiah 16:6, 14,) and turned Edom, with Petra, its metropolis, into a land where no man should dwell, and which no man should pass through. (Obadiah 3, 4, 9, 10; Jerem. 49:16-18.)
But pride is not content with her dominion over the children of this world (Job 41:34), her native born subjects and willing slaves, among whom she rules with lordly sway, at once their tormenting mistress and adored sovereign. Not only does she set up her worship in every family of the land, and reigns and rules as much among the low as the high, swelling the bosom of the blind beggar who holds his hat for a half-penny as much as of that high-born dame who, riding by in her carriage, will not venture to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness. Not only does pride subject to her universal influence the world of which Satan is god and prince, but she must needs intrude herself into the Church of Christ, and exalt her throne among the stars of God.
She comes indeed here in borrowed garb, has put off her glittering ornaments and brave attire, in which she swells and ruffles among the gay flutterers of rank and fashion; and with demure looks, and voice toned down to the right religious key, and a dialect modeled after the language of Canaan, takes her seat among the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty, much as Satan stood up among the sons of God. (Job. 1:6.) And as she has put off her apparel, so has she changed her title, assuming that which shall give her the readiest and most unquestioned passport. “Humility” is the name with which she has newly christened herself; and, slipping into the camp by the most lowly portal, she moves onward, aiming at no lower seat than the throne, and no less weapon than the scepter.
Some, however, of Zion’s watchmen, and no one more than the writer of the work before us, have lifted up her veil, found out her real character, and, having first branded her on the forehead, “SPIRITUAL PRIDE,” have labored hard, though hitherto ineffectually, to cast her out of the congregation of the saints. But as all their labors have hitherto been ineffectual, and she still dwells in our midst, it may be well to describe some of the features of this dangerous intruder.
1. Ignorance, and that worst species of itignorance of one’s own ignoranceis evidently a main feature in her face. In this point she wonderfully resembles that stolid brother of hers who is so much in every companyworldly pride. We are all ignorant, sadly ignorant of everything that belongs to our peace; but the first step out of ignorance is to be conscious of it. No people are so thoroughly impracticable, so headstrong, so awkward to deal with, so deaf to all reason, so bent on their own will and way, so self-conceited, and so hopelessly disagreeable, as those unhappy people, whether in the world or in the church, who are ignorant of their own ignorance. Touchy, sensitive, quarrelsome, always grumbling and complaining, unable to lead and yet unwilling to follow, finding fault with everything and everybody, tyrannical where possessed of power, though abject enough where any advantage is to be gained, bungling everything they do and yet never learning to do any better, making up in a good opinion of themselves for the general ill opinion of them by otherssuch people are the plague of families, workshops, churches, and congregations. When people of this stamp become, as it is called, religious, being all the time really destitute of grace, their pride runs in a new channel, and with a strength in proportion to the narrowness of the banks. In them we see the disease at its height.
But there are many of the Lord’s people who exhibit strong symptoms of the same evil malady. Yet what can be more opposed to grace or to the spirit and example of Him who said, “Learn of me, for I am gentle and humble in heart?” Where the true light shines into the soul there is a discovery of the greatness and majesty of God, of his holiness, purity, power, and glory; and with this there is a corresponding discovery of our own nothingness, insignificance, sinfulness, and utter worthlessness. This divine light being accompanied by spiritual life, there is raised up a tender conscience as well as an enlightened understanding. Thus is produced self-abasement, which every fresh discovery of the holiness of God and of our own vileness deepens and strengthens. This lays the foundation for true humility; and when God’s mercy meets man’s misery, and Christ is revealed to the soul, it cannot too much abase itself before his blessed Majesty, nor lie low enough in the dust of self-loathing and self-abhorrence. Humility is the daughter of grace, as pride is the child of ignorance.
2. Another marked feature in this impostress, is her self-deceptiveness. She may not succeed in deceiving others, but she rarely fails in deceiving herself. Thus she usually hides her real character most from those who are under her special influence. They are ‘patterns of humility’ externally to othersand patterns of humility internally to themselves. Sweet is the incense which regales their nostrils from the admiration of others; but sweeter far is the odor of their own admiration of themselves. Other sins are not so self-deceptive, so self-blinding, so self-bewitching. Sensual thoughts, blasphemous or rebellious imaginations, anger, carnality, prayerlessness, deadness, coldness, unbeliefthese and similar sins wound conscience, and are, therefore, at once detected as essentially evil.
But the swellings of spiritual pride, though not hidden from a discerning eye and a tender conscience, are much concealed from those very religious people whose ‘amazing humility’ and undeviating obedience are ever sending forth a sweet savor to delight their approving nostrils.
3. The grossness and universality of her appetite is a no less prominent feature. Other sins feed only on a limited and appropriate diet. Covetousness is confined to the love of money; sensuality, drunkenness, gluttony, to their peculiar gratifications. But pride is omnivorous! To her greedy appetite, no food comes amiss. Like the eagle, she can strike down a living prey; or, like the vulture, banquet on putrid carrion. Some are proud of their knowledge, others of their ignorance; some of their consistency, others of their freedom from all tight restraints; some of their gifts, others of their very graces; some of their ready speech, others of their prudent silence; some of their long profession, others of their deep experience; some of their Pharisaic righteousness, others of their Antinomian security.
The minister is proud of his able sermons; the deacon of his wise and prudent government; the church member of his privileges above the rest of the congregation. Some are proud because they attend to the ordinances, others because they are not tied up in the yoke of church discipline; some are proud of the world’s contempt, and others of the world’s approbation; some are proud of their sophistication and culture, and others of their vulgarity; some of their learning, and not a few of their lack of it; some of their boldness to reprove, and others of their readiness to forgive; some of their amiability, and others of their austerity; some because others think well of them, and others because nobody thinks well of them, but themselves.
Thus, as some weeds flourish in every soil, and some animals feed on every food, so does pride flourish in every heart, and feast on every kind of food. When an apostle was caught up into the third heaven, pride assailed him as soon as he came back to earth, so that it was needful for a thorn to be given him to rankle in his flesh for the remainder of his life, in order to let out its venom. Pride would have been too much even for Paul’s grace, but for this messenger of Satan daily to buffet him. Pride set the twelve disciples to argue who would be the greatest; and pride widened, if it did not originate, the breach between Paul and Barnabas.
Pride was the pest of the first Christian churches as well as of our own. The pride of gifts was the besetting sin of the Corinthian church; the pride of legal observances the sin of the Galatian church, the pride of vain philosophy of the Colossian church. Timothy was not to allow novices to preach, for pride was their besetment; and he is especially cautioned against those who will not consent to wholesome words as being “proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof comes envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness.” (1 Tim. 6:4, 5.)
None are exempt from pride’s baneful influence. She works in the highest Calvinist as well as in the lowest Arminian; swells the bosom of the poorest, most illiterate dissenting minister, as well as puffs up the lawn sleeves of the most lordly bishop. And, what is far worse, even in those who know, love, and preach the truth, spiritual pride often sets brother against brother, friend against friend, minister against minister. She is full of cruel jealousy and murderous envy, greedily listens to the slanderous tales of whisperers and backbiters, drinks down flattery with insatiable thirst, measures men’s grace by the amount of their approbation, and would trample in the mire the most honored of God’s servants, that by standing upon them she might raise herself a few inches higher!
The very opposite to charity, pride is not patient, and is never kind. She always envies, and ever boasts of herself. She is continually puffed up, always behaves herself rudely, is ever self-seeking, is easily provoked, perpetually thinks evil of others, rejoices in the iniquity of others, but never rejoices in the truth. She never bears with others, believes nothing good in a brother, hopes nothing good for others, and endures nothing. She is ever restless and ever miserable, tormenting herself and tormenting others, the bane of churches, the fomentor of strife, and the extinguisher of love.
May it be our wisdom to see, our grace to abhor, and our victory to overcome pride!
“I hate pride and arrogance.” Proverbs 8:13
“The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure
of this: They will not go unpunished.” Prov. 16:5
“O my brethren, my heart is enlarged towards you. I trust I feel something of that hidden but powerful presence of Christ, while I am preaching to you. Indeed it is sweet—but it is exceedingly comfortable. All the harm I wish you who without cause are my enemies, is that you felt the like. Believe me, though it would be hell to my soul to return to a natural state again, yet I would willingly change states with you for a little while, that you might know what it is to have Christ dwelling in your hearts by faith.
Do not turn your backs. Do not let the devil hurry you away. Be not afraid of convictions. Do not think worse of the doctrine because preached outside the church walls. Our Lord, in the days of his flesh, preached on a mount, in a ship, and a field; and I am persuaded many have felt his gracious presence here. Indeed, we speak what we know. Do not therefore reject the kingdom of God against yourselves. Be so wise as to receive our witness.
“I cannot, I will not let you go. Stay a little, and let us reason together. However lightly you may esteem your souls, I know our Lord has set an unspeakable value on them. He thought them worthy of his most precious blood. I beseech you, therefore, O sinners, be reconciled to God. I hope you do not fear being accepted in the Beloved. Behold, he calls you. Behold, he follows you with his mercy, and has sent forth his servants into the highways and hedges to compel you to come in.
“Remember, then, that at such an hour of such a day, in such a year, in this place, you were all told what you ought to think concerning Jesus Christ. If you now perish, it will not be from lack of knowledge. I am free from the blood of you all. You cannot say I have been preaching damnation to you. You cannot say I have, like legal preachers, been requiring you to make bricks without straw. I have not bidden you to make yourselves saints and then come to God. I have offered you salvation on as cheap terms as you can desire. I have offered you Christ’s whole wisdom, Christ’s whole righteousness, Christ’s whole sanctification and eternal redemption, if you will but believe on him. If you say you cannot believe, you say right; for faith, as well as every other blessing, is the gift of God. But then wait upon God, and who knows but he may have mercy on you.
“Why do we not entertain more loving thoughts of Christ? Do you think he will have mercy on others and not on you? Are you not sinners? Did not Jesus Christ come into the world to save sinners?
“If you say you are the chief of sinners, I answer that will be no hindrance to your salvation. Indeed it will not, if you lay hold on Christ by faith. Read the Gospels, and see how kindly he behaved to his disciples, who had fled from and denied him. ‘Go, tell my brethren,’ says he. He did not say, ‘Go, tell those traitors,’ but, ‘Go, tell my brethren and Peter.’ It is as though he had said, ‘Go, tell my brethren in general, and Peter in particular, that I am risen. Oh, comfort his poor drooping heart. Tell him I am reconciled to him. Bid him weep no more so bitterly. For though with oaths and curses he thrice denied me, yet I have died for his sins; I have risen again for his justification: I freely forgive him all.” Thus slow to anger and of great kindness, was our all-merciful High Priest. And do you think he has changed his nature and forgets poor sinners, now he is exalted to the right hand of God? No; he is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and sits there only to make intercession for us.
“Come, then, you harlots; come, you publicans; come, you most abandoned sinners, come and believe on Jesus Christ. Though the whole world despise you and cast you out, yet he will not disdain to take you up. Oh amazing, oh infinitely condescending love! Even you, he will not be ashamed to call his brethren. How will you escape if you neglect such a glorious offer of salvation? What would the damned spirits now in the prison of hell give if Christ was so freely offered to them? And why are we not lifting up our eyes in torments? Does any one out of this great multitude dare say he does not deserve damnation? Why are we left, and others taken away by death? What is this but an instance of God’s free grace, and a sign of his good-will toward us? Let God’s goodness lead us to repentance. Oh, let there be joy in heaven over some of you repenting!”
Come, put ye on the Lord Jesus. Come, haste ye away and walk with God, and make no longer provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lust thereof. Stop, stop, O sinner! turn ye, turn ye, O ye unconverted men, for the end of that way you are now walking in, however right it may seem in your blinded eyes, will be death, even eternal destruction both of body and soul. Make no longer A tarrying, I say: at your peril I charge you, step not one step further on in your present walk. For how knowest thou, O man, but the next step thou takest may be into hell? Death may seize thee, judgment find thee, and then the great gulf will be fixed between thee and endless glory for ever and ever. O think of these things, all ye that are unwilling to walk with God.
Lay them to heart. Shew yourselves men, and in the strength of Jesus say, Farewell lust of the flesh, I will no more walk with thee! farewell lust of the eye, and pride of life Farewell carmal acquaintance and enemies of the cross, I will no more walk and be intimate with you ! Welcome Jesus, welcome thy word, welcome thy ordinances, welcome thy Spirit, welcome thy people, I will henceforth walk with you. O that there may be in you such a mind! God will set his almighty fiat to it, and seal it with the broad seal of heaven, even the signet of his holy Spirit. Yes, he will, though you have been walking with, and following after,the devices and desires of your desperately wicked hearts ever since you have been born. “I, the high and lofty One,” says the great Jehovah, “that inhabiteth eternity, will dwell with the humble and contrite heart, even with the man that trembleth at my word.” The blood, even the precious blood of Jesus Christ, if you come to the Father in and through him, shall cleanse you from all sin.
But the text leads me to speak to you that are saints as well as to you that are open and unconverted sinners. I need not tell you, that walking with God is not only honourable, but pleasant and profitable also; for ye know it by happy experience, and will find it more so and more every day. Only give me leave to stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance, and to beseech you by the mercies of God in Christ Jesus, to take heed to yourselves, and walk closer with your God than you have in days past: for the nearer you walk with God, the more you will enjoy of him whose presence is life, and be the better prepared for being placed at his right hand, where are pleasures for evermore.
This portrait of George Whitefield was printed by Andrew Miller (1690–1763) between 1751 and 1763 based on a 1750 painting by M. Jenkin (1750–1780).
FROM S E R M O N S ON IMPORTANT SUBJECTS; BY THE REV. GEORGE WHITEFIELD, A.M.