VIII. PUT AWAY BOASTFULNESS AND LOVE OF PRAISE
God's aim in all His doings of grace is to 'hide pride from man'; to hinder boasting; to keep the sinner humble. All that the old Christian can say is, 'By the grace of God I am what I am'; and the youngest has no other confidence or boast. All 'confidence in the flesh' (Phil 3:1,3), all trust in self, all reliance on the creature, are set aside by that great work of the Divine Substitute, who did all for us, and left us nothing to do, out of which it would be possible to extract a boast (2 Cor 12:9; Gal 6:14; Isa 41:16; 45:25).
The sinner's first act of believing is his consenting to be treated as a sinner, and simply as such; indebted for nothing to himself, in any shape or in any sense, but wholly to God and to His free love, in Christ Jesus our Lord. This was the laying down of all pride and boastfulness. Then he knew the meaning of the words, 'Glory ye in His holy name' (1 Chron 16:10); for the name in which he then began to glory was the name revealed in Exodus (Exo 34:6); the name that assured him of the love of that God with whom he had to do.
Self was set aside, and Christ came in, to do and to be all that self had hitherto been supposed to be and to do. What things before were gain to us, these we then counted loss for Christ; and we ceased for ever to glory in the flesh, or to be debtors to anything but the blood and righteousness of the Son of God. We learned to say, 'God forbid that we should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ' (Gal 6:14).
We ceased to work for salvation, for we had got it without working; and we had got it, not in order that we might indulge in sin because grace abounded, but in order that, having our legal bonds all loosed and our prison opened, we might henceforth serve God with our whole heart and soul. We thus became debtors, 'not to the flesh, to live after the flesh' (Rom 8:12);--for the flesh had done nothing for us, and we owed it nothing;-- but debtors to God and to His love: not to self or the old man, for these had brought us only sin and evil; but to Jesus Christ and His precious blood: not to law, for it only condemned us, and held us in bondage; but to that 'free Spirit' (Psa 51:12), that 'good Spirit' (Neh 9:20), that 'Spirit of life which makes us free from the law of sin and death' (Rom 8:2). Thus everything that could cause pride was swept away at the outset; and that not by law, but by the very necessity of the case, by the very nature of that salvation which was brought to us; not through anything which we either could or could not do, but through the love, and work, and blood of another. Let us fling away self-esteem and high-mindedness, for it is the very essence of unbelief, as the prophet told Israel, 'Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud, for the Lord hath spoken' (Jer 13:15). Be meek, be poor in spirit, be humble; be teachable, be gentle, and easy to be entreated; putting away all high thoughts and lofty imaginations, either about what we are or what we can do; content to take the obscurest corner and the lowest seat; and this, not to indulge in a false lowliness, or in 'the pride that apes humility,' feeding our vanity with the thought that we are martyrs, and puffing up our fleshly mind with the idea of our wonderful condescension, or by brooding over our supposed wrongs and trials. Let us be truly humble, as was the Son of God: content to live unknown, and to do our work unnoticed, as a work not for the eye of man, but of God.
Put away all envy, and jealousy of others, as well as all malice and evil-speaking (Eph 4:31). Love to hear of a brother's prosperity. Don't grudge him a few words of honest praise; nor try maliciously to turn the edge of it, by an envious 'but,' or a grave silence, or a wise shake of the head; unless you have very special reasons for disallowing the eulogy. Remember that Solomon's 'wicked man' is one that 'winketh with his eyes, and speaketh with his feet, and teacheth with his fingers' (Prov 6:13; 10:10). Have a care of detraction and backbiting; speak of a person's faults only to himself and to God. Be not censorious or uncharitable, in thought or word.. Inconsistent Christians are often more censorious than the world; for they need to apologize to themselves for their inconsistencies by detracting from the excellencies of those who are more consistent than themselves, and by trying to believe that good men are no better than others.
Some love to speak; and show their pride in this way, both in private and in public. If you are young, and newly led out of your former ignorance, beware of this snare. Remember Paul's advice--'Not a novice [that is, one newly converted], lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into condemnation and the snare of the devil' (1 Tim 3:6). If you have gifts, use them quietly and modestly, not ostentatiously. Do not be forward to tell your experience, or give your opinion, or to take rank above your seniors. Do not think that all zeal or wisdom is confined to you and a few about you. Do not condemn others because they don't go quite along with you in all things; nor speak of them as cold, and dead, and unspiritual. Do not think that no one cares for souls but yourselves; that no one can state the gospel or pray like you; or that God is not likely to bless any one so much as you. Be lowly; and show this, not by always speaking evil of yourselves to others, or by using the conceited phrase 'in my humble opinion' (as some do in order to show their humility), but by not speaking of yourselves at all. Keep self in the background, and don't say or do anything that looks like baiting your hook for a little praise.
Some love to rule and manage. So did Diotrephes (3 John 9). They are not happy, unless they are at the head of everything--the originators of all plans, the presidents of societies, the speakers at meetings. Beware of this love of pre-eminence, as ruinous to your own soul and injurious to the Church of God. If God puts work into your hands, do it; and do it faithfully, through good report or bad report. Bear to be contradicted and spoken against. Do not fret when things go wrong with you or your schemes; nor get 'petted' like a spoilt child when you don't get your own way; nor fling up everything in disgust when you happen to be thwarted. Do not take yourself for Solomon, or suppose that wisdom will die with you (Job 12:2). If called to preside or manage, do it; and do it with energy and authority, as one who has a trust to fulfil. 'But mind not high things' (Rom 12:16); 'Seek not great things for thyself' (Jer 45:5); 'He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve' (Luke 22:26); 'All of you be subject one to another' (I Peter 5:5); 'In honour preferring one another' (Rom 12:10).
Yet be discriminating. Do not call error truth for the sake of charity. Do not praise earnest men merely because they are earnest. To be earnest in truth is one thing; to be earnest in error is another. The first is blessed, not so much because of the earnestness, but because of the truth; the second is hateful to God, and ought to be shunned by you. Remember how the Lord Jesus from heaven spoke concerning error: 'which thing I hate' (Rev 2:6-15; 1 Tim 6:4,5). True spiritual discernment is much lost sight of as a real Christian grace; discernment between the evil and the good, the false and the true. 'Beloved, believe not every spirit; but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world' (1 John 4:1). This 'discernment,' which belongs to every one who is taught of God, is the very opposite of that which is called in our day by the boastful name of 'liberality.' Spiritual discernment and 'liberal thought' have little in common with each other. 'Abhor that which is evil, cleave to that which is good' (Rom 12:9). The 'liberality which puts bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter' (Isa 5:20), is a very different thing from the 'charity which thinketh no evil' (1 Cor 13:5). Truth is a mighty thing in the eyes of God, whatever it may be in those of men. All error is, more or less, whether directly or indirectly, a misrepresentation of God's character, and a subversion of His revelation (Rev 22:18,19).