Well, it’s been a couple of weeks now since I have posted about my Gurnall reading, and here’s the reason: I’m behind! I hate to admit it, but with other pressing commitments and responsibilities, I have gotten a week or two behind in my reading. However, I determined that being behind is not going to keep me from writing a post about my reading. While my plan is to really push hard this week to catch up, I want to share with you a section that has been incredibly profitable to me over the last couple of weeks — Gurnall’s discussion of pride.
This section on pride falls under his discussion of “spiritual sins.” The first spiritual sin that he identified was error in principle (188-191) and the second is spiritual pride (191-213). Gurnall says of this sin:
“It is hard starving this sin, because there is nothing almost but it can live on — nothing so base that a proud heart will not be lift up with, and nothing so sacred but it will profane; [it will] even dare to drink in the bowls of the sanctuary, nay, rather than starve, it will feed on the carcases of other sins” (192).
So there are 3 types of spiritual pride that Gurnall says the Christian is especially prone to:
- Pride of Gifts (195-199)
- Pride of Grace (199-208)
- Pride of Privileges (208-213)
Pride of Gifts
It is the first sort of spiritual pride, the pride of gifts, that I want to focus on. By gifts, here, Gurnall is referring to the supernatural gifts and abilities that the Holy Spirit gives to believers. It may be a gift of preaching, teaching, serving, mercy, etc. But, oddly enough, Christians are prone to puff themselves up because of these gifts, though the gifts are just that … GIFTS … Given to us by God. Rather than puff ourselves up, we should divert all glory to God for giving us those abilities. But we often don’t, do we?
After some helpful discussion about how this sort of pride manifests itself in the life of the Christian, Gurnall offers two points of application … To those who have mean (or weak) gifts, and to those who have great gifts. He has some great words of application to those who have seemingly weak gifts, but it is the application to those who have great gifts that I want to share with you.
To those whom the Lord has gifted greatly, there is much more opportunity for pride to puff them up. It is an inherent danger that comes with the territory. But, Gurnall says:
“Thy safety lies in thy humility; if this lock be cut, the legions of hell are on thee. Remember who thou wrestlest with — spiritual wickedness — and their play is to lift up, that they may give the sorer fall” (195).
But how, you may ask, can the Christian continue in humility? How can the Christian humble himself, so as not to give Satan a foothold, when the Lord has gifted him in such a mighty way? Gurnall gives us a few things to consider …
Six “Soul-Humbling” Considerations To Humble Us
1. These spiritual gifts are not thy own
This should be the obvious one, but for some reason, we often forget it. This truth is inherent in the word “gift,” is it not? We must remember that all that we have, all of our abilities, talents, strengths, etc. do not come from us, but come from God, as gifts.
2. Gifts are not merely for thyself
This is probably one of the most often-forgotten truths about the gifts that the Spirit gives us. He does not give them to us for ourself, but for the sake of others. Gurnall illustrates this truth this way:
“As the light of the sun is ministerial — it shines not for itself — so all thy gifts are for others — gifts for the edifying of the body. Suppose a man should leave a chest of money in your hands to be distributed to others, what folly is it in this man to put this into his own inventory, and applaud himself that he hath so much money? Poor soul, thou art but God’s executor, and by that time thou hast paid all the legacies, thou wilt see little left for thee to brag and boast of” (195).
3. Thou shalt be accountable for these talents
As we were reminded in point #2, God has given us these gifts for the sake of others … and we will be accountable for how we use them before God. Did we use the gifts He gave us to build up ourselves, or to build up those around us?
4. Thy gifts commend thee not to God
This is simply to say that your great preaching, or your great prayers, or your great acts of mercy do not make God love you more. Indeed, it is pleasing to God when we use our gifts that He has given us in the way that He would have us use them, but the temptation for us is to think that God will accept us more because of our great abilities. That is a lie.
5. While thou art priding in thy gifts, thou art dwindling and withering in thy grace
As you are focusing on how great you are and how great your abilities and talents are, you are simultaneously downplaying and neglecting grace. As Gurnall says:
“Grace is too much neglected where gifts are too highly prized; we are commanded to be clothed with humility. Our garments cover the shame of our bodies, humility the beauty of the soul. And as a tender body cannot live without clothes, so neither can grace without this clothing of humility” (196).
6. It is the forerunner of some great sin, or some great affliction
Finally, Gurnall gives us this frightening reminder, that God will not often allow this sort of spiritual pride to go unchecked. He says:
“God will not suffer such a weed as pride to grow in his garden without taking some course or other to root it up; may be he will let thee fall into some great sin, and that shall bring thee home with shame…If God’s honour be in danger through thy pride, then expect a rod, and most likely the affliction shall be in that which will be most grievous to thee, in the thing thou art proud of” (196).
I hope that these reminders from Gurnall will be helpful to you as you meditate on these truths and search your heart for any pride that you may have in relation to the gifts and abilities that God has given you. Feel free to comment below about any thoughts you had on this section on pride, or any other section in the book. I’d love to hear from you.