The Unmistakable Signs of Spiritual Pride

I Corinthians 8:1; John 9:34
       Knowledge puffeth up.
       Thou wast altogether born in sins, and does thou teach us?

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): The Apostle uses the term “puffed up”—Knowledge puffeth up. What an expression! What does he mean? He is describing a proud man, is he not? Here is a man who thinks he really “knows it all;” he is not like those other people, he knows; he is a man of knowledge and understanding. He knows it all! He is not like those others who never read; he is a great reader. And, of course, as the result of this he has arrived, and he is proud of it. “Puffed up!”

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): Pride is naturally in every man’s heart; converted persons are not without it; knowledge, gifts, and revelations are apt to puff up with spiritual pride, unless counterbalanced and over poised by the grace of God.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: All kinds of knowledge tend to puff us up. But Biblical knowledge in particular tends to do so. A man becomes proud of his knowledge and of his understanding; he becomes an authority; and, in turn, he despises others…It manifests itself also in an impatience of any restraint and any correction; and still more in an impatience of any opposing view. It is intolerant of anything else. It “knows” and nothing else must even be suggested. No opposing view has a right to exist, and must not even be considered.

JONATHAN EDWARDS (1703-1758): Another pattern of spiritually proud people is to behave in ways that make them the focus of others. It is natural for a person under the influence of pride to take all the respect that is paid to him. If others show a disposition to submit to him and yield in deference to him, he is open to it and freely receives it. In fact, they come to expect such treatment and to form an ill opinion of those who do not give them what they feel they deserve…The spiritually proud person is full of light already and feels that he does not need instruction, so he is ready to despise the offer of it.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): Proud men scorn to be taught.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Spiritual pride is of all kinds of pride the most dangerous.

JONATHAN EDWARDS: By nature, pride is a person having too high a thought of himself. Is it any surprise, then, that a person who has too high a thought of himself is unaware of it? He thinks the opinion he has of himself has just grounds and therefore is not too high. As a result, there is no other matter in which the heart is more deceitful and unsearchable. The very nature of it is to work self-confidence and drive away any suspicion of evil respecting itself…Since spiritual pride in its own nature is secretive, it cannot be well discerned by immediate intuition of the thing itself. It is best identified by its fruits and effects―Spiritual pride often disposes people to act different in external appearance, to assume a different way of speaking, countenance, or behaviour.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: How do we know that he is proud of his knowledge? Well, he is always parading it. The heavy, important, Puritan gait! The way of speaking and so on! That is a part of the parading that is inevitably one of the manifestations of being “puffed up.”

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): In all such persons, however high the pretense of religion may be carried, it cannot proceed from a nobler principle, or aim at a nobler object than self…The man who, fond of his fancied attainments and scrupulous exactness in externals, despises all who will not conform to his rules, and challenges peculiar respect on account of his superior goodness, is a proud Pharisee.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: But still more serious is the way in which this manifests itself in its attitude to others.

JONATHAN EDWARDS: Proud people take great notice of opposition and injuries, and are prone to speak often about them with an air of bitterness or contempt.

R. C. CHAPMAN (1803-1902): Pride nourishes the remembrance of injuries.

JONATHAN EDWARDS: Proud people tend to speak of other’s sins, the miserable delusion of hypocrites, the deadness of some saints with bitterness, or the opposition to holiness of many believers…Spiritually proud people often speak of almost everything they see in others in the harshest, most severe language. Commonly, their criticism is directed against not only wicked men but also toward true children of God and those who are their superiors.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Self is always at the back of it, and it is always a manifestation of self-righteousness, a feeling of superiority, and a feeling that we are all right while others are not. That then leads to censoriousness, and a spirit that is always ready to express itself in a derogatory manner. And then, accompanying that, there is the tendency to despise others, to regard them with contempt…I am describing all who have the spirit of the Pharisee. It seems to me, further, that a very vital part of this spirit is the tendency to be hypercritical. Now there is all the difference in the world between being critical and being hypercritical. True criticism is an excellent thing…Criticism in a true sense is never merely destructive; it is constructive, it is appreciation. There is all the difference in the world between exercising criticism and being hypercritical―the man who is hypercritical delights in criticism for its own sake and enjoys it. I am afraid I must go further and say that he is a man who approaches anything which he is asked to criticize expecting to find faults, indeed, almost hoping to find them.

JAMES DURHAM (1622-1658): There is often some pride and conceit in them that have faith, disposing them to think themselves to be better than other folks. But, if you have faith, whence is it? Or will you be [conceited] of that which is the purchase of another? This is a spiritual poor pride, that stinks in the nostrils of the holy Lord, so to abuse His goodness, as to be proud because He has bought and bestowed that which you could never have procured nor attained yourselves.

THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): If we excel in gifts and graces, double caution is necessary; this is a real excellency, 2 Corinthians 12:7. It is a question, whether real grace may make men proud? Gifts, to be sure, may―yea, [even] grace through corruption.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): “By grace are ye saved,” Ephesians 2:5. This text lays the axe to the very root of spiritual pride, and all glorying in ourselves.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Can you be proud then?—proud of mercy which, if I may use the term, has been forced upon you?—proud of grace which has been given you against your will, until your will was changed by sovereign grace?

MATTHEW HENRY: Spiritual pride is abominable: it is making use of the greatest favours of God to feed our own vanity, and make idols of ourselves.

THOMAS WATSON (1620-1686): As God hath two dwelling-places, heaven and a contrite heart, so hath the devil—hell and a proud heart.

THOMAS BROOKS (1608-1680): Spiritual pride is a white devil.


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