Pride: The Source of Error, Envy & Every Evil Work

Proverbs 13:10; James 4:1; James 3:14, 16
       Only by pride cometh contention.
       From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members.
       If ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not…for where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.

JONATHAN EDWARDS (1703-1758): The first and worst cause of error that prevails in our day is spiritual pride…It is the chief inlet of smoke from the bottomless pit to darken the mind and mislead the judgment, and the main handle by which Satan takes hold of Christians to hinder a work of God.

THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): Wrath and contention come by pride. Every one seeks to be eminent, and would excel, not in graces and gifts; that is, a holy emulation; but in rank and place. We set too high a price on ourselves; and, when we meet not with that respect and honour which we affect, we fall into contention, and break out into strifes, supposing ourselves neglected.

RICHARD BAXTER (1615-1691): A proud mind is high in conceit, self-esteem, and carnal aspiring.

THOMAS MANTON: But this should not be: Let each esteem other better than themselves, Philippians 2:3…Most men are too great and too good in their own esteem. Self-love representeth ourselves to ourselves in a feigned shape and likeness, much more wise, and holy, and just, than we are.

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…You cannot find a man who holds any false doctrine of religion who is not proud of it.

WILLIAM TYNDALE (1490-1536): The source of all heresies is pride.

RALPH ERSKINE (1685-1752): Pride of reason founds Socinianism;* pride of the will, Arminianism;* pride of self-righteousness, Neonomianism.*

JOHN FLAVEL (1630-1691): Errorists are usually hot and passionate, proud and daring persons…Hence arise debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): I am persuaded some men take more pains to furnish themselves with arguments to defend some one error they have taken up, than they do for the most saving truths in the Bible; yea, they could sooner die at a stake to defend one error they hold, than for all the truths they profess…O it is hard to reduce a person deeply engaged in the defence of an error! How oft had the Pharisees their mouths stopped by our Saviour? yet few or none reclaimed. Their spirits were too proud to recant…They will rather go on, and brave it out as well as they can, than come back with shame, though the shame was not to be ashamed of their error, but ashamed to confess it.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): Hence proceed divisions, subdivisions, distinctions, refinements, bitterness, strife, envyings.

THOMAS MANTON: Another expression of pride is impatiency of admonitions and reproofs.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): Hypocrites can never endure to have their beloved lusts touched, and persons that have drunk in an error have no patience to hear it contradicted.

THOMAS MANTON: Contempt is the fruit of pride…Surely it argueth a proud spirit, when men cannot endure friendly counsel, and will not have their secret sores touched, but they grow fierce and outrageous, especially when they excel others in rank and power; as when the Prophet reproved Amaziah, “Art thou made of the king’s counsel? forbear; why shouldest thou be smitten?” 2 Chronicles 25:16.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Pride is the egg of persecution.

WILLIAM GURNALL: Satan comes first with a spirit of error and then of persecution. He first corrupts men’s minds with error, and then enrageth their hearts against the professors of truth. It is impossible that error, being a brat of hell, should be peaceable.

THOMAS MANTON: Proud men would be admired by all, well thought of and spoken of by all, and preferred above all; and, if it be not so, they are discontented, and a secret enmity and malignity invaded their spirits, and settleth itself there; it is an apparent fruit of natural corruption; “The spirit that dwelleth in us, lusteth to envy,” James 4:5. Men cannot endure either the real or reputed excellency of others. The proud creature would shine alone. Therefore we are secretly nibbling at the credit of others, blasting their reputation, and desire by all means to lessen them, or that they should be lessened.

JOHN ROBINSON (1575-1625): Persons oftener slander others out of love to themselves, than of hatred to them; thinking therein to build their own credit, upon the ruins of other men’s.

THOMAS MANTON: And, where this disposition prevaileth into any degree of strength and tyranny, it groweth outrageous: “Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?” Proverbs 27:4. For when we are grieved at the prosperity and excellency of others, we seek to undermine them by all the means we can devise, as when the brothers of Joseph sought to put him out of the way. And when Saul envied David, he was still plotting his destruction: so when the Pharisees envied Christ, “If we let him alone, all men will run after him;” this brought them to “crucify the Lord of glory.” Anger venteth itself in sudden flashes, and wrath in some present act of violence; but envy is injurious and treacherous. Anger and wrath suppose some offence; but envy is troubled at the goodness and excellency of others. Anger and wrath are assuaged by degrees, and, when the raging billows and tempest cease, there is a calm; but envy groweth by time, and is exasperated more and more, the longer those whom we envy are in good condition.

R. C. CHAPMAN (1803-1902): Pride has always an envious eye and an envious tongue: envy is but the vexation of pride.

THOMAS MANTON: Envy. It is a sin that feeds upon the mind…Envy is an evil disease that dwelleth in the heart, and betrays itself mostly in thoughts.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): If we ever know the feeling of being rather pleased when we hear something unpleasant about another, that is this wrong spirit. If we are jealous, or envious, and then suddenly hear that the one of whom we are jealous or envious has made a mistake and find that there is an immediate sense of pleasure within us, that is it.

WILLIAM GURNALL: I have known one that, when he had some envious unkind thoughts stirring in him against any one―and who so holy as may not find such vermin sometimes creeping about him―he would go to the throne of grace where he would most earnestly pray for the increase of those good things in them which he before had seemed to grudge.
*Editor’s Note: Briefly, these errors are as follows: Socinianism rejects the eternal Deity of Jesus Christ, the Trinity, and original sin; Arminianism rejects unconditional election and believes that man is saved by the exercise of his own free will (see the sitemap series on election and predestination); Neonomianism turns the Gospel of salvation by grace into salvation by works, whereby man is saved by keeping the law by faith.


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