Pride: The Popular Preacher’s Peril

I Corinthians 4:7; I Corinthians 5:6
       Who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?
       Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?

JONATHAN EDWARDS (1703-1758): Spiritual pride. This is the main door by which the devil comes into the hearts of those who are zealous for the advancement of Christ.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): The greatest of all the temptations that assail a preacher is pride.

THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): They need caution, that have the great presence of God with them as to success, when eminently employed in God’s service. Credit by worldly eminency and esteem falleth in with their services, and secretly insinuates high thoughts of their own excellencies.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): We must not glory if we be extolled unto the skies in the opinion of men, and if by their voices and consents we be judged to be most excellent men.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): It is difficult, I believe, to go through the fiery trial of popularity and applause untainted.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): If opposition has hurt many, popularity has wounded more―It is like walking upon ice. When you shall see an attentive congregation hanging upon your words: when you shall hear the well-meant, but often injudicious commendations, of those to whom the Lord shall make you useful: when you shall find, upon an intimation of your preaching in a strange place, people thronging from all parts to hear you, how will your heart feel? It is easy for me to advise you to be humble, and for you to acknowledge the propriety of the advice; but, while human nature remains in its present state, there will be almost the same connection between popularity and pride, as between fire and gunpowder: they cannot meet without an explosion, at least not unless the gunpowder is kept very damp. So, unless the Lord is constantly moistening our hearts―if I may so speak―by the influences of His Spirit, popularity will soon set us ablaze. You will hardly find a person, who has been exposed to this fiery trial, without suffering loss.

JOHN BUNYAN (1628-1688): I have also, while found in this blessed work of Christ, been often tempted to pride and liftings up of heart; and though I dare not say I have not been infected with this, yet truly the Lord, of His precious mercy, hath so carried it towards me, that, for the most part, I have had but small joy to give way to such a thing; for it hath been my every day’s portion to be let into the evil of my own heart, and still made to see such a multitude of corruptions and infirmities therein, that it hath caused hanging down of the head under all my gifts and attainments; I have felt this thorn in the flesh, the very mercy of God to me, 2 Corinthians 12:7-9.

JOHN NEWTON: Sometimes, if His ministers are not watchful against the first impressions of pride, He permits it to gather strength; and then it is but a small thing that a few of their admirers may think them more than men in the pulpit, if they are left to commit such mistakes, when out of it, as the weakest of the flock can discover and pity. And this will certainly be the case, while pride and self-sufficiency have the ascendant.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): Pride of gifts. If once, like Hezekiah, we call in spectators to see our treasure and applaud us for our gifts and comfort, then it is high time for God to send some messengers to carry these away from us, which carry our hearts from Him, 2 Chronicles 32:31…Great gifts lift a saint up a little higher in the eyes of men, but it occasions many temptations―envy from their brethren, malice from Satan, and pride in their own hearts, I dare say none find so hard a work to bear up against those waves and winds.

JOHN NEWTON: Beware, my friend, of mistaking the ready exercise of gifts for the exercise of grace. The minister may be assisted in public for the sake of his hearers; and there is something in the nature of our public work, when surrounded by a concourse of people, that is suited to draw forth the exertion of our abilities, and to engage our attention in the outward services, when the frame of the heart may be far from being right in the sight of the Lord. When Moses smote the rock, the water followed; yet he spoke unadvisedly with his lips, and greatly displeased the Lord. However, the congregation was not disappointed for his fault, nor was he put to shame before them; but he was humbled for it afterwards.

THOMAS ADAM (1701-1784): A heart full of pride is but a vessel full of air; this self-opinion must be blown out of us.

WILLIAM GURNALL: Pride of gifts robs us of God’s blessing in the use of them. The humble man may have Satan at his right hand to oppose him; but be sure the proud man shall find God Himself there to resist him, whenever he goes about any duty. God proclaims so much, and would have the proud man know that He will oppose him; He “resisteth the proud,” James 5:6. Great gifts are beautiful as Rachel, but pride makes them also barren like her. Either we must lay self aside, or God will lay us aside.

D. L. MOODY (1837-1899): There are many people who start out with idea that they are great and other people are small, and they are going to bring them up on the high level with themselves. God never yet used a man of that stamp.

WILLIAM GURNALL: While thou art priding in thy gifts, thou art dwindling and withering in thy grace. Such are like corn that runs up much into straw, whose ear commonly is light and thin. Grace is too much neglected where gifts are too highly prized…Art thou humble under the assistance and strength God hath given thee? Pride stops the conduit. If the heart begin to swell, it is time for God to hold His hand, and turn the cock, for all that is poured on such a soul runs over into self-applauding, and so is as water spilt, in regard of any good it doth the creature, or any glory it brings to God.

THOMAS CHALMERS (1780-1847): Guard against that vanity which courts a compliment, or is fed by it.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): The success of the ministry must be derived from the divine blessing: Neither he that planteth is any thing, nor he that watereth, but God who giveth the increase, I Corinthians 3:7. Even apostolic ministers are nothing of themselves, and can do nothing with efficacy and success unless God give the increase. The best qualified and most faithful ministers have a just sense of their own insufficiency, and are very desirous that God should have all the glory of their success.

AMY CARMICHAEL (1867-1951): Those who think too much of themselves don’t think enough.


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