Spiritual Pride (Edwards)

One of the best discussions of spiritual pride that I’ve found is in Jonathan Edwards’ treatise called “Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England [etc.]“. I’m not a huge admirer of Edwards, but I do appreciate parts of his writing. Speaking of, Edwards’ notes about pride are found in a section of this treatise called “One cause of errors attending a great revival of religion is undiscerned spiritual pride.” (By the way – don’t miss his remarks on humility!)

The first and the worst cause of errors, that prevail in such a state of things, is spiritual pride. This is the main door by which the devil comes into the hearts of those who are zealous for the advancement of religion. It is the chief inlet of smoke from the bottomless pit, to darken the mind and mislead the judgment. This is 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.

This cause of error is the main spring, or at least the main support, of all the rest. Till this disease is cured, medicines are in vain applied to heal other diseases. It is by this that the mind defends itself in other errors, and guards itself against light, by which it might be corrected and reclaimed. The spiritually proud man is full of light already, he does not need instruction, and is ready to despise the offer of it.

But, if this disease be healed, other things are easily rectified. The humble person is like a little child, he easily receives instruction; he is jealous over himself, sensible how liable he is to go astray, and therefore, if it be suggested to him that he does so, he is ready most narrowly and impartially to inquire. Nothing sets a person so much out of the devil’s reach as humility, and so prepares the mind for true divine light without darkness, and so clears the eye to look on things as they truly are (Ps. 25:9). “The meek will he guide in judgment. And the meek will he teach his way.” …Our first care should be to rectify the heart, and pull the beam out of our eye, and then we shall see clearly.

…Spiritual pride is the most secret of all sins. The heart is deceitful and unsearchable in nothing so much as in this matter; and there is no sin in the world, that men are so confident in. ….It is a sin that has, as it were, many lives; if you kill it, it will live still; if you mortify and suppress it in one shape, it rises in another; if you think it is all gone, yet it is there still. There are a great many kinds of it, that lie in different forms and shapes, one under another, and encompass the heart like the coats of an onion; if you pull off one, there is another underneath. We had need therefore to have the greatest watch imaginable over our hearts with respect to this matter, and to cry most earnestly to the great searcher of hearts for his help. He that trusts his own heart is a fool.

Edwards, Jonathan. The Works of Jonathan Edwards. Vol. 1. Banner of Truth Trust, 1974, 398-399.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015