The Signs of Pride by Richard Baxter

By | July 5, 2013

1 works of baxter

The Signs of Pride in and about Religious Duties

A proud person is most solicitous in and about that part of duty which is visible to man, and tendeth to advance him in men’s esteem: and therefore he is more regardful of the outside, than of the inside; of the words, than of the heart.

Proud men are apt to put on themselves to any public duty which may tend to magnify them or set out their parts, and think themselves fitter to be preferred before others, and employed, than indeed they are. They are forward to speak in preaching or praying among others, or in ordinary talk; a little knowledge maketh them think that they are fit to be preachers; whereas the humble say with Moses, “Who am I that I should go unto Pharaoh?”

The proud are loth to be clouded by the greater abilities of others: they are content that weaker men pray or preach with them, that will not obscure but put off their parts, that they may have the pre-eminence; as a dwarf, that makes another seem a proper man.

A proud man after his duty is more inquisitive how he was liked by men, and what they think or say of him, than whether God and conscience give him their approbation. He hath his scouts to tell him whether he be honored or dishonored: this is the return of prayer that he looks after, this is the fruit of preaching which he seeks to reap.  But these are inconsiderable things to a serious, humble soul; he hath God to please, his work to do, and sets not much by human judgment.

The heart of the proud is not inclined to humbling duties, to penitent confessions, and lamentations for sin, and earnest prayer for grace and pardon; but unto some formal observances and lip labor, or the Pharisee’s self-applause…And therefore the proud are least afraid of coming without right or preparation to the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ: they rush in with confident presumption; when the humble soul is trembling without, as being oft more fearful to enter than it ought.

Proud persons are of all others the most impatient of church discipline, and incapable of living under the government of Christ. If they sin, they can scarce endure the gentlest admonition; but if they are reproved sharply (or cuttingly) that they may be sound in the faith, you shall perceive that they smart by their impatience. But if you proceed to more public reproof and admonition, and call them to an open confession of their sin to those whom they have wronged, or before the congregation, and to ask forgiveness, and seriously crave the prayers of the church, you shall then see the power of pride against the ordinance and commands of God. How scornfully will they spurn at these reproofs and exhortations! How obstinately will they refuse to submit to their unquestionable duty! And how hardly are they brought to confess the most notorious sins! Or to confess that it is their duty to confess them; though they would easily believe that it is the duty of another, and would exhort another to do that which they refuse!

A proud man is unsatisfied with his standing in the communion with the church of Christ, and is either ambitiously aspiring to dominion over it, or is inclined to a separation from it.

Signs of Pride in Common Converse

A proud man is more disposed to command than to obey, and cannot serve God contentedly in a mean and low condition…He expecteth that his commands be obeyed, though God command the contrary; and is more offended at the neglect of his laws and honor, than at the contempt of the honor and laws of God.

If there be any place of office, honor, or preferment void, a proud man thinks that he is the fittest for it; and if he seek it he taketh it for an injury if another be preferred before him as more deserving.

A proud man is apt to overvalue his own knowledge, and to be much unacquainted with his ignorance: he is much more sensible of what he knoweth, than how much he is wanting of what he ought to know: he thinks himself fit to contradict the ablest divine, when he hath scarce so much knowledge as will save his soul.

No man is taken for so great a friend to the proud as their admirers; whatever else they be, they love those men best, that highliest esteem them; the faults of such they can extenuate and easily forgive.  But if the holiest servant of God think meanly of him, and speak to him but as he is; especially if he think they are disesteemers of him, or are against his interest and honor, all their wisdom and holiness will not reconcile him to them, if they were as wise or good as Peter or Paul.

A proud man is impatient of being contradicted in his speech; be it right or wrong you must say as he, or not gainsay him.

Wherever a proud man dwelleth, he is turbulent and impatient if he have not his will. If he is a public person, he will set a kingdom all on fire, if things may not go as he would have them…If they have to do in church affairs, they will have their will and way, or they will cast all into confusion, and hinder the gospel, and turn the churches upside down.

Proud men are passionate and contentious, and cannot put up injuries or foul words; when a humble man “giveth place to wrath,” and “avengeth not himself,” nor “resisteth evil;” but is meek and patient, “forbearing and forgiving,” and so heaping coals of fire on his enemies heads.”

A proud man is either an open or a secret boaster. If he be ashamed to show his pride by open boasting, then he learneth the skill of setting out himself, and making known his excellencies in a closer and more handsome way. His own commendations shall not seem the design of his speech…but one way or other, either by ostentation or insinuation, his work is to make known all that tendeth to his honor, and to see that his goodness, and wisdom, and greatness be not unknown or unobserved; and because he must have men’s approbation, the hypocrite’s reward: he is as buried if he be unknown.

A proud man loveth honorable names and titles; as the Pharisees to be called Rabbi, Matthew xxiii. And yet they have so much wit as to pretend, that it is but to promote their service for the common good, and not that they are so weak to care for empty names; or else that they were forced to it, by somebody’s kindness, without their seeking, and against their wills.

Pride doth tickle the heart of fools with content and pleasure to hear themselves applauded, or see themselves admired by the people, or to hear that they have got a great reputation in the world, or to be flocked after, and cried up, and have many followers. Herod loveth to hear in commendation of his oration, “It is the voice of a god, and not of a man,” Acts xi. 22.  Two sorts of troublers, under the name of pastors, pride hath in all ages thrust upon the church; devouring wolves, and dividing sect-masters.

Pride maketh men censorious and uncharitable: they extenuate other men’s virtues and good works, and suspect ungrounded their sincerity. A little thing serves to make them think or call a man a hypocrite. Very few are honest, or sincere, or godly, or humble, or faithful, or able, or worthy.

Pride causeth men to hate reproof: the proud are forward in finding faults in others, but love not a plain reprover of themselves…If they valued or honored you before, you have lost them or angered them if you have told them of their faults. If they love to hear a preacher deal plainly with others, they hate him when he dealeth so with them. This pride is the thing that hath made men so unprofitable to each other, by driving faithful reproof and admonition almost out of the world, because men are so proud that they will not hear it…He must be exceedingly skillful in smoothing and oiling every word, and making it more like to a commendation or flattery, than a reproof, that will escape their indignation.

When a proud man is justly reproved, he studieth presently to deny or extenuate his fault; to show you that he is more tender of his honor than of his honesty. It is a hard thing to bring him to free confession, and to thank you for your love and faithfulness, and to resolve upon more watchfulness for the time to come…This one sign may tell you how commonly pride reigneth in the world. How few are they among the many that are heartily thankful for a just and necessary reproof! Mark them, whether the first word they speak, in answer to you, be not either a denial, or an excuse, or an upbraiding you with something that they think you faulty in, or else a passionate, proud repulse, bidding you meddle with yourselves?

Pride maketh men talkative; and more desirous to speak than to hear, and to teach than to be taught: because such think highly of their own understandings, and think others have more need of their instructions, than they of other men’s.

Pride maketh men excessively loth to be beholden to others; so that some will starve or perish before they will stoop so far as to seek, or be obliged to thankfulness by any; especially if they be such as they have any quarrel with….But God hath caused all the members purposely to stand in need of one another, that none might be despised, and that all might still exercise love in communicating, and humility in accepting each other’s help.

Pride maketh people desirous to equal their superiors, and exceed their equals, in apparel, or handsome dwellings, and provisions, and entertainments, and all appearances that tend to set them out, and make them seem considerable in the world.

If a proud man be wronged, he looketh for great submission before he will forgive: you must lie down at his feet, and make a very full confession, and behave yourself with great submission; especially if the law be in his hands. And he is prone to revenge, and cruel in his revenge: but if he hath wronged others, he is hardly brought to confess that he wronged them; and more hardly to humble himself for reconciliation, and ask them forgiveness: when a humble person is ready to let go his right for peace, and easily forgiveth, and easily stoopeth to ask forgiveness.

Lastly; Pride maketh men inordinately desire to have an honorable memorial kept of their names when they are dead…Many an hospital, and almhouse, and school-house it hath built; and many a pound hath it given to charitable uses in pretension, but to proud and selfish uses in intention.

Thus I have been long in showing you the signs of pride, because the discovery is a great part of the cure.

-Richard Baxter, “The Practical Works of Richard Baxter, Volume I, A Christian Directory,” pages 199-206