ON THE VICE OF PRIDE
Consider first, that pride is an inordinate love, conceit, or desire of self-excellence; or a delight and complacency in one’s own self by occasion of some real or imaginary excellency which we have, or pretend to have, either in virtue, or grace, or knowledge, or in any other goods, or qualities, whether eternal or internal, considered merely as the means to make us excel, and as such puffing us up with self-esteem, and causing us to prefer ourselves before others, and to despise others. This pride is the mother of all vices, but more especially of ambition, presumption, and vain-glory; from which it differs only in this, that ambition aims at excelling in the way of honour and dignity, and in being set above others; presumption seeks to excel in the way of great achievements, attempted upon confidence of one’s own strength; vain-glory pretends to excellence in the way of glory that is, in the way of being known, praised, and esteemed by others; but pride looks chiefly at herself, and sets up her own proper self-excellence for her idol, which she worships, loves, esteems, and desires above all things, and to which she sacrifices all things else. O deliver us, dear Lord, from this enormous evil, the first-born of Satan, and the original parent both of death and hell.
Consider 2ndly, that Gregory (L. 22, Mor. c.4,) distinguishes in pride four different kinds, or four ways of being guilty of this worst of vices. First, by attributing to one’s self, and not to God, the good things we have from him, either of nature or of grace. 2ndly, by ascribing at least to one’s own merits what we have received from God, and not giving him the whole glory. 3rdly, by conceiting ourselves to have graces, talents, or perfections which indeed we have not, and being puffed up in ourselves with this imaginary excellence. 4thly, by highly esteeming and valuing ourselves for the graces or good qualities we really have, and applauding ourselves in such a manner with them as to affect to have them of ourselves alone, and to despise others or envy them the like accomplishments. All these, in their nature, are mortal sins when fully consented to, and are of the worst kind of mortal sins; because of all the seven capital vices pride is acknowledged by divines to be the worst, by reason of its extreme opposition to God, in setting itself up as it were in his place, and, Satan-like, lifting up its head against him, and affecting a self-excellence which belongs to God alone. Hence we learn from the apostle, (Rom. i.,) the proud have often been delivered up, and abandoned by God to a reprobate sense, and suffered to fall even into the most shameful and unnatural lusts, in punishment of their self-conceit. O how enormous, then, must the vice of pride be in the eyes of God when the falling into such abominations as these is the punishment of it?
Consider 3rdly, that pride is a mortal sin, not only when one directly incurs the guilt of any of those four kinds or ways mentioned by St. Gregory, by one’s own deliberate judgment and will, (at least as often as the matter is of moment,) but also when one incurs the guilt of any of them indirectly or equivalently, by taking such complacency in one’s self, or carrying one’s self in such a manner to others as if one judged one’s self to have, or desired that others should judge one to have, any excellency or perfection of one’s self, and not from God. As also when our affection or inclination to our own excellence, or the conceit we have of it, is joined with a great irreverence or injury to God, or a considerable contempt of our neighbour, or detriment to him; or again, when, through love or conceit we have of our own excellence, we withdraw ourselves from the subjection we owe to God and his holy law, or to the authority of superiors established by him. Ah! how common are all these sins? How many ways are poor unhappy mortals daily guilty of this highest of treasons against the divine majesty? And how dreadful are the consequences of this guilt, both in time and eternity.
Conclude to examine well thy conscience upon this head of pride; for it is a subtile evil which often imposes upon poor mortals, insomuch that they who are the most guilty of it oftentimes will not believe themselves to be proud. O take care not to be deceived by this noonday devil! Watch and pray continually against it; spare no pains to cast it out of thy soul. If thou thinkest it has no share in thee thou deceivest thyself; there cannot be a more evident proof of thy being proud than to imagine thyself to be out of the reach of this vice.