A. T. Schofield
Plain Papers for Young Believers
The sin of selfishness, of which we spoke last, may be specially characterized as the sin most unlike Christ; but the sin of pride is directly of the devil. The one is anti-Christian, and the other is Satanic. Such, indeed, is the calm language of Scripture. In 1 Timothy 3:6 we read that being lifted up with pride was the cause of “the condemnation of the devil”; and in Ezekiel 28 we read the detailed account of how the heart of one who was once “full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty” was lifted up because of his beauty, and his wisdom corrupted by reason of his brightness, and who therefore fell from heaven to hell.
Pride Springs From the Heart
Pride is in every human heart; it runs in man's blood; all are afflicted with this disease, though by too many, alas, it is regarded rather as an ornament than a blemish. The Word of God says simply of “a high look, and a proud heart,” so much thought of in the world, that they are sin (Prov.21:4). They are hateful to God (Prov.6:16,17; 16:5), and to Christ, typified by wisdom (Prov.8:13).
The root of all pride is in the heart; “Out of the heart of men, proceed … pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21,22). How can a young believer get rid of a proud heart? There is indeed but one way, that is by sitting at the feet of Him who is meek and lowly in heart until we are ashamed any longer to cherish a quality so unlike Christ, so like Satan.
Let us consider one or two varieties of pride spoken of in the Word. We find the type of one variety, spiritual or religious pride, in the Pharisees of old, who were not ashamed to come before God with words like these, “God, I thank Thee, that I am not as other men are.” Surely no vestige of such an expression finds a place in the prayers of our readers.
We must remember that pride is one of the characteristics of the last days (2 Tim.3:2), and therefore we have need to be greatly on our watch against it. Spiritual pride is perhaps the worst variety, because it is not ashamed to show itself in connection with Christ's name, a terrible thing when we think that such profess to be followers of the meek and lowly Jesus. Let this sin at least then be kept far from us, and let none who read these lines sin so fearfully against God as to use His truth to help them to commit the very sin of the devil—spiritual pride. When we really get into His presence, this can never be the case. “Then went king David in, and sat before the Lord, and he said, Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that Thou hast brought me hitherto?” 2 Sam.7:18. But when we are out of God's presence, then boasting begins (2 Cor.12:7).
Pride of Position
Another sort of pride arises from riches and position. We may see an instance of this in Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:13), in Nebuchadnezzar (Dan.4:30), in Belshazzar (Dan.5:22), in Herod (Acts 12:21), and in many others. The question is. Is it seen in us? Do we in any of our acts betray this mean, this debasing, this un-Christlike spirit to any who are poorer and humbler than ourselves? Surely not; for if spiritual pride is terrible, this is contemptible, and clearly shows that we have never really understood the place where God's sovereign grace has set us. It is alluded to in James 3.
But it does not need riches to produce pride; this fatal seed is seen, alas, everywhere, and often those who are poorest are most proud; and this is especially the case among the Lord's people. Many having become Christians and mixing freely on equal terms as Christians with those they never could have met on any other, instead of increasing in humility, have lost what little they possessed, and developed a proud heart.
When we talk of having very sensitive feelings, and being hurt by remarks of others, it is often only pride, and shows how miserably we are taken up with ourselves. Another variety of pride is shown in outward adornment, dressing after the fashion of the world, and in a manner unstated to Christian position. Another variety is being puffed up by any gifts God may have bestowed upon me.
But I am sure that we have spoken enough of the evil; for the remedy let us look for a moment at the Lord Jesus Christ.
We find in the first place that He Himself expressly declares that He is “meek and lowly in heart” (Matt.11:29). We find Him showing this in various ways — by taking our nature, sin apart (Phil. 2:7; Heb.2:16), in His choice of station in life (John 9:29). How many of us who profess to show His spirit, if left to ourselves to choose our place in this world, would have made such a selection? We are called to be conformed to the image of our Lord. Which among us is so? We may well ask this question when we see Christians trying to be more than their fathers were, and pushing their children still higher than themselves. We strictly obey the first half of James 1:9,10, but how many rich rejoice when they are made low?
Christ or Self
There is a line visible from heaven whether we on earth can distinguish it or no. On one side of it are those who, be what they may, would still be something more, or seem to be something they are not; who cannot enjoy what they have, because they desire more, and cannot be gratified because they are not satisfied. There are those who are ashamed of the position their Master chose, and who are proud of one He refused to occupy. Christ and those that bear His image are not on this side of the line. It is not that we are called to change our station, but we are called to change our mind. But we must pass on.
The Lord took a lower place even than being a carpenter, and became the servant of all (Matt.20:28; Luke 22:27), even washing His disciples' feet (John 13:5). On account of all this He was despised (Mark 6:3; John 9:29), and those who follow Him will be despised too. They will be called mean spirited, and will be pushed aside and trodden down by the proud and ambitious. It matters not. If they have but drunk at the pure spring of humility in Philippians 2, their souls will be so refreshed that they will be full of joy at bearing ever so little of the beauty of their Lord.
What God Thinks of the Humble
Hear what God has to say of them. He hears them (Psa.9:12), they enjoy His presence (Isa.57:15), He delivers them (Job 22:29), exalts them (Luke 14:11; 18:14), gives them more grace (Jas.4:6), while He resists the proud. Saints are exhorted to put on humility and be clothed with it (1 Pet.5:5) (a beautiful word, meaning that on whatever side we are approached, humility is seen), to walk in humility (Eph.4:1,2), but to beware of false humility (Col.2:18, 23), which is only pride in disguise.
Nothing perhaps shows more the transforming power of the grace of Christ than when a man naturally proud and haughty becomes really meek and lowly in spirit; and nothing tells more strongly of the way in which the letter of truth held apart from Christ corrupts, than when we see a humble quiet person after coming among Christians become vain and puffed up—a sight, alas, which is not rarer than the former.
We plead then, in closing, that our dear readers will seek to cultivate the two graces of which we have already spoken— unselfishness and humility—and thus get a long way on in becoming like Christ, putting away from them, as hateful things, the anti-Christian sin of selfishness and the Satanic sin of pride.
But who is sufficient for these things? Thank God, the answer is not far to seek, “Our sufficiency is of God”; the meek will He teach His way. May we look to Him there in all meekness to put upon us more of the grace of Christ, and fit us better to become humble followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Oh, may that mind in us be found,
That shone so bright in Thee—
The humble, meek, and lowly mind
From pride and envy free.”
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