2. THE OPPOSITE OF HUMILITY: PRIDE
1. He is proud who overestimates his own worth, or the value of his earthly possessions, and shows openly that he does so.
The giant Goliath was proud; he exalted himself overmuch (1 Kings xvii.). Many a one overrates the worth of his body, is proud of his fine physique, the beauty of his features; others over rate the worth of their wealth, their learning, their birth, the virtues they imagine themselves to possess, etc. The proud man resembles the devil, or a drunkard, for pride is a kind of intoxication which fills one with strange fancies and makes one talk in a foolish manner and do irrational things. Pride is like a bubble that looks large, but whose size is deceptive; it is a color which fades in the sun, for the proud will appear in all their native vileness when, after death, they stand in the light of the Sun of justice. They are like the frog in the fable who puffed himself out in the hope of appearing as large as the ox.
The proud man manifests the undue opinion he has of himself in the following manner: He tries to attract notice by his conversation and his dress, he strives after honor, distinctions, and earthly riches, he despises the assistance and grace of God, and relies only on himself and on earthly things.
Pride is a mimicry of God. The proud man desires to appear greater than he is. If he has done anything good, he boasts loudly of it, as a hen cackles when she has laid an egg. Sometimes he speaks depreciatingly of himself, but only in the hope of hearing others praise him the more. He slanders others and thinks evil of them, as the Pharisee did in the Temple (Luke xviii. 11). Pride makes itself manifest in dress; the proud dress above their station, they dress showily, in the latest fashion, and wear a great many unnecessary ornaments. The people who attach so much importance to dress are not as a rule the most virtuous. They are extravagant, hard hearted to the poor, and deceitful, for by dressing unsuitably to their class they give themselves out for what they are not. Love of dress often leads to worse sins, for those who spend so much care on the adornment of their person lose sight of their final end, and lead a godless life. He who stands well in God’s sight has no need of choice and costly apparel; good and holy people have generally dressed in a simple, quiet manner. The Emperor Heraclius found that he could not carry the true cross, which had been recovered from the Saracens, back to Jerusalem, until he had laid aside his rich garments; an unseen hand held him back. One ought however to dress properly and suitably to one’s position, and have a strict regard to cleanliness. The proud pursue honors as boys hunt after butterflies; and when they have gained them, they exult as loudly as if they had achieved something wonderful, although they have nothing to boast of in reality; for the honor and applause of men are like the morning dew, glittering with rainbow tints, but quickly disappearing in the sun, or like smoke which the wind carries away. How foolish are they who covet earthly glory! The proud man despises the help and grace of God, and relies upon himself alone, trusting in the things of earth. He is his own deity. “The beginning of the pride of man is to fall off from God” (Ecclus. x. 14). The proud neglect prayer and the ordinances of religion; they are not sensible of their own sinfulness and misery, or if they are they will not apply to the physician, but try to heal themselves. Hence it is that God is the enemy of the proud. “God resisteth the proud” (1 Pet. v. 5). Pride is hateful before God and man (Ecclus. x. 7).
2. Pride leads to all manner of vices, to degradation here and eternal damnation hereafter; it also destroys the value of all our good works.
Pride leads to all manner of vices. Pride is the beginning of all sin (Ecclus. x. 15), the parent of vice; many and evil are her progeny. Pride leads more especially to disobedience (witness Absalom); to cruelty (as in Herod’s case, to the murder of the innocents), to apostasy (as with Luther, who was offended because he was slighted at Rome); to strife, envy, ingratitude and impurity. God punishes secret pride by open sin. He permits the proud to fall into sin in order that they may be humbled and amend. He who has vanquished pride has vanquished all other vices. When Goliath fell, the Philistines took to flight; when the root is torn up the tree withers. Pride leads to degradation. “He that exalteth himself shall be humbled” (Luke xiv. 11). The lightning strikes what is highest; a lofty tree is often struck down by the bolt. Apply that to the proud. Aman, the chief minister of the King of Persia, persecuted the Jews and arrogated to himself regal honors; he ended by being hung on a gib bet (Esth. vii. 10). King Herod was delighted at being called a god; he was eaten of worms and died (Acts xii. 22). God hath over turned the thrones of proud princes (Ecclus. x. 17). He often chastises the pride of nations, and even destroys them altogether (witness the fall of the Roman empire). God even abolishes the memory of the proud (Ecclus. x. 21) (witness the destruction of the tower of Babel). Abasement and disgrace follow in the footsteps of pride. Pride also leads to eternal damnation. It was the cause of the angels being cast out of heaven, and our first parents being expelled from paradise. As one scale in a balance drops as the other rises, so those will be abased in the world to come who exalt themselves in this world. Pride destroys the value of our good works. The proud have received their reward already (Matt. vi. 5). Pride pulls down the structure that justice raises. As a drop of gall spoils the flavor of the most delicious wine, so pride ruins virtue. It is like the little worm that caused Jona’s ivy to wither. Whatever good a man may have done, if he pride himself upon it, he is utterly destitute.
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