Thursday, September 8, 2011

Richard Lovelace Quoting Edwards on Pride

(Jonathan) Edwards takes up the effects of pride on the aftermath of revival in a classic section of Thoughts on the Revival in New England. He judges it to be the greatest single cause of the miscarriage of revivals because it affects those who are most zealous to promote them:

This is the main door by which the devil comes into the hearts of those who are zealous for the advancement of religion… the chief inlet of smoke from the bottomless pit, to darken the mind and mislead the judgment… the main handle by which the devil has hold of religious persons, and the chief source of all the mischief that he introduces, to clog and hinder a work of God. Edwards, Thoughts on Revival, p. 414

Pride drastically hinders revival because it padlocks the spirit, shutting the soul off in its own darkness and blocking it from dealing not only with pride itself (for “those that are spiritually proud, have a high conceit of these two things, viz. their light, and their humility” (Thoughts on Revival, p. 416) but with every other area of the flesh. Because spiritual pride is so secretive, it is hard to detect except through its effects. Edwards proceeds therefore to analyze those effects, nothing that they are generally opposite counterparts to the fruits of the Spirit:

Spiritual pride is very apt to suspect others; whereas an humble saint is more jealous of himself, he is so suspicious of nothing in the world as he is of his own heart. The spiritually proud person is apt to find fault with other saints, that they are low in grace; and to be much in observing how cold and dead they are; and being quick to discern and take notice of their deficiencies. But the eminently humble Christian has so much to do at home… that he is not apt to be very busy with other hearts…. He is apt to esteem others better than himself, and is ready to hope that there is nobody but what has more love and thankfulness to God than he, and cannot bear to think that others should bring forth no more fruit to God’s honour than he. Edwards, Thoughts on Revival, p. 418

Pride magnifies the faults of other Christians and diminishes their graces, while it diminishes the faults and magnifies the graces of its subjects. It is apt to treat the needs of others as occasions of contempt and laughter than as sources of concern and shock….

Under the guise of prophetic righteousness, pride can move awakened believers to censorious attacks on other Christians, a lack of meekness in rebuking those who really need it and a hair-trigger readiness to separate from those less holy or less orthodox. It can do things to Christians which make their religion grate painfully on the sensibilities of fellow believers. It can engender an unholy boldness before God which expresses itself in undue familiarity and effusive religious talk. It can make people proud to be weird for Jesus and grateful for the persecution this provokes. As Edwards says, “Spiritual pride often disposes persons to singularity in external appearance, to affect a singular way of speaking, to use a different sort of dialect from others, or to be singular in voice, countenance, or behaviour” (Thoughts on Revival, p. 421)…. Edwards notes further:

Spiritual pride commonly occasions a certain stiffness and inflexibility in persons, in their own judgment and their own way; whereas the eminently humble person, though he be inflexible in his duty, and in those things wherein God’s honour is concerned… yet in other things he is of a pliable disposition… ready to pay deference to others’ opinions, loves to comply with their inclinations, and has a heart that is tender and flexible, like a little child…. And though he will not be a companion with one that is visibly Christ’s enemy… yet he does not love the appearance of an open separation from visible Christians… and will as much as possible shun all appearances of superiority, or distinguishing himself as better than others…. Spiritual pride takes great notice of opposition and injuries that are received, and is apt to be speaking of them, and to be much in taking notice of their aggravations, either with an air of bitterness or contempt. Edwards, Thoughts on Revival, p. 421-22

….Pride forces believers to either of two extremes in handling opponents: spiteful polemics (argumentation) or refusal to dialog.  Dynamics, pp. 245-47

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