If you've checked our blog site in the last few days, you've noticed that we haven't put anything new on it. This is true for a couple of reasons: one is that Joshua has been away finishing his course work for his doctorate and the other is that Wayne has been out of pocket because he has been travelling from South Africa to the USA to teach some courses on biblical counseling in Little Rock, Arkansas and Santa Clarita, California. Now we're back to a more normal routine and can therefore put some new posts on our blog site. What you'll find on this post is the first in a series on the subject of what Dr. Joel Beeke calls God's first enemy or the first sin in paradise.The foreword that Dr. Joel Beeke wrote for our book, Humility: A Forgotten Virtue was so good and challenging that I decided it should be given wider circulation by featuring it on one of our blogs. Here is what he had to say:
Pride was God’s first enemy. It was the first sin in paradise and the last we will shed in death. "Pride is the shirt of the soul, put on first and put off last," wrote George Swinnock.…
As a sin, pride is unique. Most sins turn us away from God, but pride is a direct attack upon God. It lifts our hearts above Him and against Him. Pride seeks to dethrone God and enthrone itself. Pride also seeks to dethrone my neighbour, we are told. It always puts self-idolatry above neighbour-service. At root, pride breaks both tables of the law and all Ten Commandments. Pride is complex. "It takes many forms and shapes and encompasses the heart like the layers of an onion—when you pull off one layer, there is another underneath," wrote Jonathan Edwards.
Pride feeds off nearly anything: a fair measure of ability and wisdom, a single compliment, a season of remarkable prosperity, or a small accomplishment. "It is hard starving this sin, as there is nothing almost but it can live upon," wrote Richard Mayo.
Our forefathers did not consider themselves immune to this sin. "I know I am proud; and yet I do not know the half of that pride," wrote Robert Murray M’Cheyne. Twenty years after his conversion, Jonathan Edwards groaned about the "bottomless, infinite depths of pride" left in his heart. And Luther said, "I am more afraid of pope ‘self’ than of the pope in Rome and all his cardinals."
A godly person fights against pride, whereas a worldly person feeds pride. "Men frequently admire me, and I am pleased," said Henry Martyn, but adds, "but I abhor the pleasure I feel." Cotton Mather confessed that when pride filled him with bitterness and confusion before the Lord, "I endeavoured to take a view of my pride as the very image of the Devil, contrary to the image and grace of Christ; as an offense against God, and grieving of His Spirit; as the most unreasonable folly and madness for one who had nothing singularly excellent and who had a nature so corrupt." Thomas Shepard also fought pride. In his diary entry for November 10, 1642, Shepard wrote, "I kept a private fast for light to see the full glory of the Gospel… and for the conquest of all my remaining pride of heart."
How do we fight against pride? Do we understand how deeply rooted it is in us? Do we ever remonstrate ourselves like the Puritan Richard Mayo: "Should that man be proud that has sinned as thou hast sinned, and lived as thou hast lived, and wasted so much time, and abused so much mercy, and omitted so many duties, and neglected so great means?—that hath so grieved the Spirit of God, so violated the law of God, so dishonoured the name of God? Should that man be proud, who hath such a heart as thou hast?"
If we would kill worldly pride and live in godly humility, let us …. look at our Saviour, whose life, Calvin said, "was naught but a series of sufferings." Nowhere is humility so cultivated than at Gethsemane and Calvary. Confess with Joseph Hall:
Thy garden is the place,Where pride cannot intrude;For should it dare to enter there,T’would soon be drowned in blood.
And sing with Isaac Watts:
When I survey the wondrous cross,On which the Prince of glory died;My richest gain I count but loss,And pour contempt on all my pride.
Here are some other ways to help you subdue pride and cultivate humility:
Seek a deeper knowledge of God, His attributes, and His glory. Job and Isaiah teach us that nothing is so humbling as knowing God (Job 42; Is. 6).
Meditate much on the solemnity of death, the certainty of Judgment Day, and the vastness of eternity.
View each day as an opportunity to forget yourself and serve others. The act of service is innately humbling.
Read the biographies of great saints, such as Whitefield’s Journals, The Life of David Brainerd, and Spurgeon’s Early Years. As Dr. Lloyd-Jones says, "If that does not bring you to earth, then I pronounce that you are … beyond hope."
Remember daily that "pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" (Prov. 16:18). Pray daily for humility.