“When Pride Hath Made the Sermon”
J. I. Packer described Richard Baxter (1615-1691) as “the most outstanding pastor, evangelist and writer on practical and devotional matters that Puritanism produced.” I have also found him to be a helpful teacher and mentor and this morning I was deeply challenged by this paragraph about the sermon and pride. Baxter writes:
And when pride hath made the sermon, it goes with us into the pulpit, it formeth our tone, it animateth us in the delivery, it takes us off from that which may be displeasing, how necessary soever, and setteth us in pursuit of vain applause. In short, the sum of all is this, it maketh men, both in studying and preaching, to seek themselves, and deny God, when they should seek God’s glory, and deny themselves. When they should inquire, what shall I say, and how shall I say it, to please God best, and do most good? it makes them ask, What shall I say, and how shall I deliver it, to be thought a learned able preacher, and to be applauded by all that hear me? When the sermon is done, pride goeth home with them, and maketh them more eager to know whether they were applauded, than whether they did prevail for the saving of souls. Were it not for shame, they could find in their hearts to ask people how they liked them, and to draw out their commendations. If they perceive that they are highly thought of, they rejoice, as having attained their end; but if they see that they are considered but weak or common men, they are displeased, as having missed the prize they had in view.
I do believe that the battle to please God rather than people is probably the most difficult sort than any pastor fights. If we seek first to please God, is it not true that God will use us to help people see and seek Him? But if we seek to please or entertain people, then people will see and seek us and not God. Our pride then is not only bad for us but then becomes deadly for others. If we seek to please ourselves by pleasing people then we will never cease to want. If we seek to please God, then we will have all that we need.