Quotes about pride from throughout Christian History.
Taking Aim at Rome's Audacious Claim is coming in September, but you could read one of our other books while you wait. Our new books and author page is up at RebuildingtheFoundations.org.
Clement of Rome, A.D. 96
Moreover, you were all distinguished by humility, and you were not in any way puffed up with pride. You yielded obedience rather than extorting it and were more willing to give than to receive. (1 Clement 2)
Let us therefore, brothers, be of a humble mind. Let us lay aside all haughtiness, pride, foolishness, and angry feelings. Let us act according to what is written, for the Holy Spirit says, "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, nor let the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches, but let him that glories glory in the Lord, in diligently seeking him, and in doing judgment and righteousness" [Jer. 9:23-24; 1 Cor. 1:31; 2 Cor. 10:17]. Pay special attention to the words of the Lord Jesus which he spoke, teaching us meekness and patience. For this is what he said:
"Be merciful so that you may obtain mercy. Forgive so that you may be forgiven. As you do, so shall it be done to you. As you judge, so shall you be judged. As you are kind, so shall kindness be shown to you. With what measure you measure, with the same it will be measured to you" [cf. Matt. 6:12-15; Matt. 7:2; Luke 6:36-38].
By this precept and by these rules let us establish ourselves so that we walk with all humility in obedience to his holy words. For the holy word says, "On whom shall I look but on him that is meek and peaceful and that trembles at my words?" [Is. 66:2]. (1 Clement 8)
It is right and holy therefore, men and brothers, to obey God rather than to follow those who, through pride and rebellion, have become the leaders of a detestable jealousy. We shall incur no slight injury, but rather great danger, if we rashly yield ourselves to the inclinations of men who aim at exciting strife and disorder, so as to draw [Christians] away from what is good. (1 Clement 14)
Our Lord Jesus Christ, the scepter of the majesty of God, did not come in the pomp of pride or arrogance, although he might have done so, bit in a lowly condition, as the Holy Spirit has declared regarding him. He says, "Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? We have declared in his presence. He is, as it were, a child, and like a root in thirsty ground. He has no form nor comeliness, but his form was without eminence, yea, deficient in comparison with the form of men" [Is. 53:1-2, very loosely]. (1 Clement 16)
I thought I should comment on this next citation. When Clement speaks of "the post which his will has assigned to us" he is almost certainly talking about men trying to make themselves elders, as the attempted overthrow of the Corinthian church's leadership is the reason for the letter. Also, when Clement mentions "those who have the rule over us," he is quoting Hebrews 13:7 and 17. There is a popular teaching that emphasizes the Greek original of those two verses, saying that "have the rule" is better translated "lead" or "guide." I'm not going to address that teaching here, but merely point out that whatever arguments accurately apply to Hebrews 13:7 & 17 also apply to this quote by Clement, for he would have used the same Greek word.
Let us reflect on how near he is and that none of the thoughts or reasonings in which we engage are hid from him. It is right, therefore, that we should not leave the post which his will has assigned us. Rather than offend God, let us offend those men who are foolish, inconsiderate, and lifted up, and who glory in the pride of their speech. Let us reverence the Lord Jesus Christ, whose blood was given for us. Let us esteem those who have the rule over us. Let us honor the aged among us. Let us train up the young men in the fear of God. Let us direct our wives to that which is good. (1 Clement 21)
Since we are the portion of the Holy One, let us do all those things which pertain to holiness: let us avoid all evil-speaking, all abominable and impure embraces, together with all drunkenness, pursuit of change, all abominable lusts, detestable adultery, and execrable pride. "For God," it says, "resists the proud but gives grace to the humble" [Prov. 3:34; Jam. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5]. Let us hold firmly, then, to those to whom grace has been given by God. Let us clothe ourselves with harmony and humility, always exercising self-control, standing far away from all whispering and slander, being justified by our works and not our words. For it says, "He that speaks much shall also hear much in answer. And does he that is quick to speak deem himself righteous? Blessed is he that is born of woman, who lives but a short time. Do not be given to much speaking [Job. 11:2-3]. Let our praise be in God, not from ourselves, for God hates those that commend themselves. Let testimony to our good deeds be given by others, as it was in the case of our righteous forefathers. Boldness, arrogance, and audacity belong to those that are accursed of God, but moderation, humility and meekness to such as are blessed by him. (1 Clement 30)
Ignatius, c. A.D. 110
Let no one deceive himself: if anyone is not within the altar, he is deprived of the bread of God. For if the prayer of one or two possesses such power [Matt. 18:19], how much more that of the bishop and the whole Church! He, therefore, that does not assemble with the church has, just by this, revealed his pride and condemned himself. For it is written, "God resists the proud" [Prov. 3:34]. Let us be careful, then, not to set ourselves in opposition to the bishop, in order that we may be subject to God. (Letter to the Ephesians 5)
Hermas, c. A.D. 160
Note that the Shepherd of Hermas is full of visions that are explained to Hermas by the angel of repentance. This is a portion of one.
They who returned their branches two-thirds withered and one-third green, are those that were faithful indeed, but after acquiring wealth and becoming distinguished among the heathen, they clothed themselves with great pride, became lofty-minded, and deserted the truth. They did not hold strongly to the righteous, but they lived with the heathen, and this way of life became more agreeable to them. They did not, however, depart from God, but remained in the faith, although not working the works of faith.
Many of them accordingly repented, and their dwelling was in the tower [of Hermas' vision]. Others continued to live with the heathen until the end. They were corrupted by their empty glory. These were reckoned with the heathen.
To those, therefore, who were in doubt on account of their deeds, repentance is still open, but their repentance needs to be speedy so that their dwelling may be in the tower. To those who do not repent, but remain in their pleasures, death is near. (Shepherd of Hermas, Similitude 8:9)
Irenaeus, c. A.D. 185
This next citation is directed against gnostics, who dared to say that the God of Israel, the Creator of all things, was a false and ignorant God that should not have created anything physical. Such gnosticism has long since disappeared, as it well should have, but Irenaeus' words on pride seemed suitable to include on this quote page anyway.
It is therefore better and more profitable to belong to the simple and unlettered class, and by means of love to attain to nearness to God, than to imagine ourselves to be learned and skillful and be found blasphemous against their own God ... For this reason, Paul exclaimed, "Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies" [1 Cor. 8:1]. He did not mean to inveigh against a true knowledge of God, for in that case he would have accused himself, but because he knew that some, puffed up by the pretense of knowledge, fall away from the love God and imagine themselves to be perfect. (Against Heresies II:26:1)
The following citation is also directed against the gnostics, for behavior that is described in the quote.
This impious opinion of theirs with respect to actions—namely, that it is incumbent on them to have experience of all kinds of deeds, even the most abominable—is refuted by the teaching of the Lord, with whom not only the adulterer is rejected, but also the man who desires to commit adultery. ... who commanded [his disciples] ... and enjoined them ... when ... wickedly dealt with, to be patient and to show kindness towards those [that injured them], and to pray for them, that by means of repentance they might be saved. This was so that we would not in any way imitate the arrogance, lust, and pride of others. (Against Heresies II:32:1)
There are those ... who are believed by many to be elders, but serve their own lusts. They do not place the fear of God supreme in their hearts, but conduct themselves with contempt towards others. They are puffed up with the pride of holding the chief seat, and work evil deeds in secret, saying, "No one sees us." They shall be convicted by the Word, who does not judge after outward appearance [Lit. secondary glory], nor looks upon the countenance, but the heart (Against Heresies IV:26:3)
In the case of the tax collector, who excelled the Pharisee in prayer, it was not because he worshiped another Father [as the gnostics claim] that he received approval from the Lord. Rather, he was justified because with great humility, apart from all boasting and pride, he made confession to the same God [as the Pharisee; Luke 18:10]. (Against Heresies IV:36:8)
[In reference to the temptation of Christ in the wilderness, Luke 4:1-13.] The pride of reason, therefore, which was in the serpent, was made nothing by the humility found in the Man [i.e., Christ]. The devil was now twice conquered from Scripture, when he was detected as advising things contrary to God’s commandment, and was shown to be the enemy of God by his thoughts. (Against Heresies V:21:2)
[All the following is commentary on the temptation of Christ in the wilderness as found in Luke 4:1-13] He taught by his commandment that we ... when placed in the exalted position of every grace, we should not—either by trusting to works of righteousness or when adorned with super-eminent ministries—by any means be lifted up with pride. Nor should we tempt God, but should feel humility in all things. We should have ready at hand, "You shall not tempt the Lord your God." This is also what the apostle taught, saying, "Do not mind high things, but consent to things of low estate," so that we should neither be ensnared with riches, nor mundane glory, nor present fads, but should know that we must, worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone." We should give no heed to him who falsely promised things not his own, when he said, "I will give you all these things, if you will fall down and worship me." (Against Heresies V:22:2)
Clement of Alexandria, c. A.D. 190
Not only unable to pity yourselves, you are incapable even of yielding to the persuasions of those who commiserate you. Enslaved as you are to evil custom, you cling to it voluntarily till your last breath. You are hurried to destruction "because light is come into the world, and men have loved the darkness rather than the light" [Jn. 3:19]. While they could sweep away those hindrances to salvation—pride, wealth, and fear—by repeating this poetic utterance:
"Where do I bear these abundant riches? And where do I myself wander."
If you wish, then, to cast aside these empty fantasies and bid adieu to evil custom, say to vain opinion, "Lying dreams, farewell; you were then nothing." (Exhortation to the Heathen 10)
["Excrescence" is a medical term meaning "an outgrowth or enlargement, especially an abnormal one, such as a wart."]
Reproach is like the application of medicines, dissolving the callouses of the passions and purging the impurities of the lewdness of the life. In addition, reducing the excrescences of pride, restoring the patient to the healthy and true state of humanity. (The Instructor I:8)
Now pride and luxury make men waverers (or raise them aloft) from the truth; and the voluptuousness, which indulges in superfluities [or luxuries], leads away from the truth. (The Instructor II:11)
For truth is never mere opinion. But the "supposition of knowledge inflates," and fills with pride, "but love edifies,” which deals not in supposition, but in truth. From this it is said, "If any man loves, he is known" [1 Cor. 8:1-3]. (Miscellanies I:11)
Those who bestow laudatory addresses on the rich appear to me to be rightly judged not only as flatterers and base ... and godless, because neglecting to praise and glorify God, who is alone perfect and good ... they invest with divine honours men wallowing in an execrable and abominable life and—here is the principal thing—liable on this account to the judgment of God. They are treacherous, because, although wealth is of itself sufficient to puff up and corrupt the souls of its possessors, and to turn them from the path by which salvation is to be attained, [fletterers] stupefy them still more, by inflating the minds of the rich with the pleasures of extravagant praises, and by making them utterly despise all things except wealth, on account of which they are admired. This brings, as the saying is, fire to fire, pouring pride on pride, and adding conceit to wealth, a heavier burden to that which by nature is a weight. It ought rather to be removed and taken away as a dangerous and deadly disease. For to him who exalts and magnifies himself, the change and downfall to a low condition succeeds in turn, as the divine Word teaches. For it appears to me to be far kinder—than basely to flatter the rich and praise them for what is bad—to aid them in working out their salvation in every possible way. (Who is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved? 1)
Tertullian, c. A.D. 210
The Christian does not play the proud man even to the pauper. (Apology 46)
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