It will even make the cross of Christ into a pedestal on which to erect its deformed visage!
(Octavius Winslow, "Eminent Holiness Essential to an Efficient Ministry" 1843)
An attribute in the formation of an elevated standard of ministerial holiness — too essential and important to be overlooked — is a growing humbleness of mind.
Where is the spiritual minister of Christ who has not detected the latent existence, and who has not had to struggle against — the secret workings of the sin of pride? It is so insidious and powerful a sin — and is so exhilarating in the sensations it produces — that few are more liable to be enamored by its fair exterior, and ensnared by its specious and seductive form — than the minister of the gospel! And yet, pride is an evil more calculated to feed as a cankerworm at the root of his ministry! A sin more loathed of God, against which His denunciations are more severely recorded, on which His wrath has more signally and fearfully fallen — is not found to exist! Pride originated the first form of evil that ever existed — and it constitutes, at this moment, the great center of rebellion against God on earth!
Thus, the identical sin which we find to form so impregnable a stronghold of Satan in the hearts of the unregenerate, and which has so sadly wounded the peace, retarded the prosperity, and deformed the beauty of Christ's Church — is the sin most rife in our own bosoms!
Its classifications are many. Among them may be specified the pride of office, the pride of denomination, the pride of knowledge, the pride of talent, the pride of scholarship, the pride of influence, the pride of orthodoxy, the pride of eloquence, the pride of pulpit, the pride of platform, the pride of success, and the pride of applause.
Pride is a protean evil — assuming a thousand varied and opposite forms! It will insinuate itself into the most spiritual and solemn of our services. There is no soil so holy — in which its root will not strike. There is no employment so sacred — on which it will not engraft itself. It will even make the cross of Christ into a pedestal on which to erect its deformed visage! Yes, while exalting Jesus — we may be found but exalting ourselves! And while exclaiming, "Behold the Lamb of God!" — we may be but veiling His true glory behind our insignificant persons; virtually exclaiming, "Behold my talents, my eloquence, and my zeal!" We are often guilty of the awful sin of self-exaltation — while setting forth the person, work, glory, and humiliation of the Son of God!
Is there not in us, my brethren, a manifest deficiency of the humble, self-annihilating spirit of the divine Master whom we serve — and whom it should be our aim and glory to resemble? In maintaining our position in the Church — may there not be a lofty deportment, an air of self-sufficiency and importance — utterly at variance with the "mind that was in Christ Jesus"? Is there not an unholy ostentation, and a desire for self-promotion — in much that we do for Christ?
Is there not . . .
an eagerness for preferment to influential and wealthy churches,
a fondness for conspicuousness of place,
a shrinking from fields of labor where no laurels are to be won,
a thirsting for human applause,
a studied aim after popularity,
a trimming policy designed to please the world,
a trumpeting of our own fame, and
a vaunting parade of our own success?
We have plucked the crown from Christ's head — and placed it on our own! In setting forth Christ's infinite glory, and His deep abasement and sufferings — we have turned it into an occasion of pride and self-exaltation!
Instead of inquiring, "Who shall be most lowly — the most like Christ — the least in the kingdom?" is it not, "Who shall be the greatest? Who shall stand upon the highest pinnacle of renown?"
Are we not, in many or in all these points — truly guilty before our God?
And yet how much is there in us, if soberly and frequently pondered — calculated . . .
to abase our pride,
to repress our aspirings of vanity,
to rebuke our self-adulation,
and to lay us low in a low place?
Has not the cherishing of this sin of pride in our bosom — deeply grieved the Spirit? Is not the real secret . . .
of our barren souls,
of our ineffectual ministry,
of our languishing churches,
of our paralyzed efforts —
simply the sad but certain consequences of our accursed pride?
A holy ministry — is a humble ministry!