Baxter and the Dangers of Pride

I am convinced that one of the major problems in contemporary American Christianity is pride. I think this is the case in the workings of my own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention. We so easily cave to the allure of the praise of men. Early we learn that the way forward is to lavish human-centered praise, and we learn to gauge our progress by the amount of exuberant praise received. I need often to be reminded of the Bible’s rebuke of such ways, and historical examples help me.

It is said that after Richard Baxter received a letter full of praise to him, he responded by writing, “I have the remainders of pride in me; how dare you blow up the sparks of it?” While we need not be unkind to those who wish to express appreciation, we can learn from this example of “self-watch” (Baxter’s term). I would dare say that today you are more likely in the circles of church leadership to be rebuked (or ignored, overlooked) for failing to express enough praise than for fawning.

Let us be quick to give appreciation and thanks, but let us be measured and not exaggerated. Love for our brother will call for us to encourage him with thanks, but it will also call for us to be careful about kindling the sparks of arrogance that lie within his heart just as within ours.

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