Praise and Pride
As Christians, we ought to be very careful in our praise of each other. Praise very often feeds pride, and then instead of the Master, the servant begins to think about himself. Rather than focusing on the Giver of his gift, he becomes occupied with his gift. Whereas once he felt himself to be nothing, now he imagines himself to be something. He may not admit it, may not even realise it, but he has been snared by pride.
Pride is one of the greatest of the evils that beset us, and of all our enemies, the one which dies slowest. God hates pride above all things, because it gives to man the place that belongs to Him who is exalted over all. It draws down His chastisement, “for God sets himself against [the] proud” (1 Pet. 5: 5). He will destroy the name of the proud and we are told that there is a day appointed when “the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low; and Jehovah alone shall be exalted in that day” (Is. 2: 17).
One cannot do another Christian a greater injury than by praising him and feeding his pride. “A flattering mouth worketh ruin” (Prov. 26: 28) and “A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his steps” (Prov. 29: 5). You and I are too short–sighted to be able to properly judge the degree of a brother’s piety or committal. We are not able to judge it aright without the balance of the sanctuary, and that is in the hand of Him who searches the hearts. “So that do not judge anything before [the] time, until the Lord shall come, who shall also both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and shall make manifest the counsels of hearts; and then shall each have [his] praise from God” (1 Cor. 4: 5). Appearances can be very deceptive. I may preach a very good sermon, and be praised by others, but unhappily, we are not always what our sermons are. Truly, “we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassingness of the power may be of God, and not from us” (2 Cor. 4: 7).
Again, if I tell you the opinion I have of myself, in doing so I shall quite likely all the while be seeking my own glory while appearing humble. Better to find out what my Master thinks of me––he that searches the heart, and speaks the truth, and who is “the faithful and true witness” (Rev. 3: 14). He will never tell me anything that feeds my pride. On the contrary he tells me by His Word that if I knew my right place I should find it as the chief of sinners and least of all the saints. His judgment is surely best.
Let us seek to praise the Lord alone. He only is worthy of being praised, revered and adored. His goodness is never sufficiently celebrated. The song of the blessed in Revelation 5 praises none but Him who redeemed them by His blood. It contains not one word of praise for any of their own number. Let us strive to bring our hearts into unison with that song in which all our voices will one day mingle. Indeed, giving God the glory should be our happy portion even here below, a glory which is wronged by the praise that Christians too often bestow on one another. We cannot have two mouths––one for God’s praise and one for man’s.
May we take a lesson from the seraphim above who with two wings cover their faces, as a token of their confusion before the holy presence of the Lord, with two more wings cover their feet, as if to hide their steps from themselves, and with the remaining two wings fly to execute their Lord’s will, while at the same time crying “Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Is. 6: 3).
The Danger of Pride
I believe we need to keep the body of Christ before us, and seek to build up the saints simply as belonging to that, wherever they may be found. We know how the saints are scattered, but love seeks them out, and seeks to minister to them, because they are Christ’s. I find it very easy to sink down into a kind of sectarian spirit, even though the doctrine of the one body may be held intellectually clear enough. It is easy to be seeking to build up something that is for man’s eye. May the Lord keep us from having our hearts set on anything but that which he loves - the Church for which He gave Himself.
It is a fact that apart from Him we can do nothing, and yet have we not greatly lacked this sense of dependence upon Him? Instead of pursuing the lowly path of Him who could say, “I am a worm, and no man”, (Ps. 22: 6), we have thought ourselves to be something, and exalted ourselves - alas! Only to be abased. Even so, how much better that in mercy he should abase us now, than allow us to go on in pride of heart! He brings us low that he may lift us in the sense of His own wonderful grace. I do believe that many of us have not sufficiently realised the utter ruin of all that has been committed to man’s responsibility. We have spoken and written of the ruin of the Church, while secretly in our own hearts we are priding ourselves that at least there was one little circle where all was right, and we are in that.
Of course, God’s Word and truth does not change, and it remains true that where two or three are gathered to Christ’s name there He is “in the midst” of them. The truth is as simple, and the path as plain as ever it was, and thus there is always a resource for faith. If pride though is lurking in our hearts, thinking we are all right, that we are a kind of asylum into which the people of God are to be gathered, where they can be in safe keeping and cared for till the Lord comes, surely that is not learning well the truth of the Church’s ruin. And has there not been more of this than perhaps we are aware of? Thus God is allowing us to learn the ruin of the Church among ourselves, as well as our folly in setting up to be anything. Oh! May we learn the lesson well! May Christ become everything to us, not only an object of our hearts individually, but the centre to which we gather, and the One who can never fail, but who, in spite of the Church’s failure, and even of apostasy which threatens everything, “is able to keep you without stumbling, and to set [you] with exultation blameless before his glory”, (Jude 24).