Extracted from the Works of Burroughs and Baxter

    By Francis Asbury
By Francis Asbury.

Edited in 1855 by Thomas Q. Summers, D.D.

Direction II.

Observe well the secret and subtle workings of spiritual pride: and how deep-rooted and dangerous a sin it is; and what special temptations to this odious sin the younger and empty-headed Christians have; that the resistance of them may be your daily care.

Pride is the self-idolizing sin; the great rebel against God; the chief part of the Devil's image; that one sin which breaketh every commandment; the heart of the old man; the root, and parent, and summary of all other sin; the anti-Christian vice which is most directly contrary to the life of Christ; the principal object of God's hatred and disdain, and the mark of those whom he delighteth to tread down; and the certain prognostic of dejection and abasement, either by humbling repentance or damnation. It is called spiritual pride from the object; when men are proud of spiritual excellences, real or supposed. And this is so much worse than pride in beauty, apparel, riches, high places, or high birth, as the abuse of great and excellent things is worse than the abuse of vanities and trifles; and as things spiritual are in themselves more contrary to the nature of pride; and therefore the sin hath the greater enormity. The common exercise of this religious or spiritual pride is first about knowledge, and secondly about our godliness or goodness. 1st. Pride of our understandings worketh thus: First, a man that was formerly in darkness, is much affected with the new-come light, and perceiveth that he knoweth much more than he did before; and then groweth to a carnal and corrupt estimation of it, valuing it more as nature is pleased with it, than as it is sanctified by it: delighting in knowledge for itself, more than for the purity, love, and heavenliness which it should effect. Then he looketh about him on the ignorant sort of people, who know not what he knoweth, and seeth how far they are below him; and he thinketh within himself, What a difference hath God made between me and them! And because thankfulness is a duty, he observeth not how pride doth twist itself with it, and creeps in under the protection of its name; and how thankfulness and pride have the same expressions, and both of them say, "I thank thee, O Father, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to babes." "I thank thee, O God, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican." Luke xviii. 11. And then he is so taken up with the things he knoweth, that he perceiveth not what knowledge he yet wanteth. And the deep affection which his knowledge worketh in him, or the tickling pleasure which he hath in knowing, joined with this ignorance of his in other things, doth make him over-confident of all his apprehensions, as if every thing which he imagineth were an absolute certainty; and so he wanteth that humble suspicion of his own understanding, which a true acquaintance with his ignorance would have caused in him. And thus he groweth to overvalue all his own conceivings, and to undervalue all the opinions and reasonings of others which are contrary to his own. And thence he proceeds to corrupt his religion with such misapprehensions, rejects divine institutions, and sanctifies human traditions as divine dictates; and having made him a religion of his own, he confidently thinketh that it is of God. He chooseth whom he will join with by the test of this religion, which his pride hath chosen. He zealously declaimeth against the opposers of this way, as against the adversaries of truth and godliness, and consequently of God himself. He prayeth up his opinions, and preacheth them up, and contendeth for them; and prayeth, and preacheth, and disputeth down all this is against them. He laboreth to strengthen the party that is for them, and to weaken that which is against them. And thus he divideth the kingdom and family of Christ: he destroyeth first the love of his brother and neighbor in himself, and then laboreth to destroy it in all others, by speaking against those that are not of his mind with contempt and obloquy, to represent them as an unlovely sort of men; and if the interest of his cause do require it, perhaps he will next destroy their persons. And yet all this is done in zeal for God, and as an acceptable service to him; and they think all are neuters and lukewarm, who prosecute not the schism so fervently as they, and fight not against love with as much vehemency: yea, and in all this they are still confident that they love the brethren with a special love, and make it the mark that they are Christ's disciples, and that they are passed from death unto life, because they love the persons who are of their own opinion and way, and because they love their own image, which is only self-love reflected.

And thus pride insensibly, which they perceive it not at all, doth choose their opinions, their religions, their parties, and make their duties and their sins, and rule their judgements, affections, and actions; which is all but the same thing which the Scripture in one word calleth heresy, And all that I have said, you may find said in other words in the third chapter of James. And there are two things which greatly promote this sin: the one is conceit that all their apprehensions are the Spirit's dictates, or the effects of its illumination; and the works and teachings of the Spirit are not to be contradicted, or suspected, but to be honored. Therefore they think it is a resisting of the Spirit to resist their judgment. And they are persuaded that their apprehensions are caused by the Spirit, partly because they had no such thing while they lived in wickedness, but it came in either with their change, or shortly after, and therefore they think that the same light which showed them their sinful state, doth show them also all these principals; and partly because they find themselves as deeply affected with these misapprehensions, as with others which are sound and right; therefore they are confident that they come from the same Spirit. And especially when these thoughts come in upon the reading of the Scripture, or in meditation, or after earnest prayer to God to teach them by his Spirit, and lead them into the truth, and not to suffer them to err; and when they find they have good ends and meanings, and a desire to know the truth; all this persuadeth them that it is the Spirit from whom their thoughts proceed, when yet it may be no such thing.

And another much greater and more common cause of this self-conceitedness, is this: all men's understandings are naturally imperfect. Our knowledge about natural things is small and dark, much more about the supernatural: the wisest must say, We know but in part. And the variety of men's degrees of knowledge, joined with the difference of their education, and advantages, and foregoing thoughts, do make as great a diversity of understandings as of complexions; and yet it is very hard to any man to have a sufficient diffidence and suspicion of his mistaken mind. For what a man knoweth, he knoweth that he knoweth. But no man that erreth doth know that he erreth; for that is a contradiction.

And there is a religious pride of goodness, as well as of knowledge, which must yet more carefully be avoided, as being yet worse than the former, as the thing abused is much better. And this worketh as secretly and as subtly as the former. It may not only consist with many complaints, and confessions of sinfulness, weakness, and unworthiness, but even with doubts of sincerity, and so much dejectedness as seemeth to draw near to desperation. It is an ordinary thing to hear the same persons talking in a complaining, doubting, and almost despairing manner of speech, and yet to have high expectations of respect from others, and to be most proudly impatient of the least undervaluing or neglect. Yea, pride will make an advantage to itself of all those humble confessions and complaints; and it is an old observation, that many are proud of their humility. For though it be true, as Austin saith, that grace is a thing that no man can use amiss; the meaning is only, that grace efficiently can do nothing amiss; (for if it do amiss, so far it is not grace:) yet objectly all grace may be abused; that is, a man may make it the object of his pride, and the occasion of many other sins. And this religious pride of goodness doth ordinarily work under the pretext of thankfulness to God for his grace, and zeal for holiness; but it may be known by this, that it always tendeth to lift us up, and to the diminishing of love to others, and the contempt of the weak, and the censuring of our brethren, and the divisions and disturbance of the Church of God. They are lamentable effects which this pride produceth in the Church, and all societies where it cometh. It maketh all men's goodness seem little, except our own: it causeth the people to undervalue their pastors, and turneth compassion of men's weakness into a sour contempt: it setteth a man, in his own conceit, so near to God, that he looketh down on other men as earthly animals in comparison of himself: it maketh new terms of church communion, and teacheth men to make narrower the door of the Church than God hath made it: it causeth men to deny and vilify God's grace, in those that answer not their expectations, and to think that the Church is not worthy of their communion: and to think that none are so fit as they to be the reformers of the Church and of the world. I entreat those who are in danger of this pernicious sin, to think with themselves,

1. What a heinous crime and folly it is for one that but lately was a child of the Devil, and a sink of sin, to be proud so quickly of his goodness; and for one that so lately was groaning and weeping with a broken heart, for a sinful life, to be already puffed up with the conceits of godliness; and for one who daily maketh confession to God of a sinful heart and a faulty life, and of great unworthiness, to contradict all this by an overvaluing of his own piety. And what an odious self-contradiction it is, to make yourself like the Devil in pride, because you think you are like God in holiness!

2. Consider that the more you are proud of your goodness, the less you have to be proud of. If this sin be predominant, it is certain that you have no saving grace at all. And what an odious thing and miserable case is it, to be proud of holiness, when you are unholy; and to be damned both for the want of it and for being proud of it; that a man should be proud of that, for want of which he must suffer the fire of hell! But if your pride be not predominant, yet it is certain that in what measure soever you have this pride, in that measure you are destitute of grace; for true grace and pride are as contrary as life and death.

3. And study well the meaning of all these scriptures: (for you shall not say that I misinterpret them to you:) Why was it that Christ mentioneth the parable of the Pharisee and the publican? one thanking God that he was not so bad as others, and the other thinking himself unworthy to look up to heaven. Luke xviii. 10, 11, etc. Why did he give us the parable of the prodigal, who confessed that he was unworthy to be called a son; and of his elder brother, who swelled with envy at his entertainment? Why was it that Christ seemed not strict enough to the Pharisees in keeping the Sabbath, nor in his diet, nor in his company; but they called him a gluttonous person, and a wine-bibber, and a friend of the publicans and sinners? Was it not because their pride and superstition made them think too highly of their own religiousness; and to make sins and duties which God never made, and then to condemn the innocent for want of this human religiousness? What was the sin condemned in Isaiah lxv. 5, which says, "Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou?"

What meaneth that command in Phil. ii. 3, "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves?" Read this verse over upon your knees, and beg of God to write it on your hearts; and join with it Rom. xii. 10: "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love, in honor preferring one another;" that is, before yourselves. But especially read and study James iii. In a word, if God would cure the Church of religious pride--the pride of wisdom, and the pride of piety and goodness--the Church would have fewer heresies and contentions, and have much more peace, and much more true wisdom and goodness in itself.


Let us pardon those who have wronged us. For that which others scarcely accomplish -- I mean the blotting out of their own sins by means of fasting and lamentations, and prayers, and sackcloth and ashes -- this it is possible for us easily to effect without sackcloth and ashes and fasting, if only we blot out anger from our heart, and with sincerity forgive those who have wronged us. -- St. John Chrysostom (345?-407)

If our common life is not a common course of humility, self-denial, renunciation of the world, poverty of spirit, and heavenly affection, we do not live the lives of Christians. -- William Law (1686-1761)

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