It is easy for me to advise you to be humble, and for you to acknowledge the propriety of the advice; but, while human nature remains in its present state, there will be almost the same connection between popularity and pride—as between fire and gunpowder: they cannot meet without an explosion, at least not unless the gunpowder is kept very damp. So, unless the Lord is constantly moistening our hearts (if I may so speak) by the influences of his Spirit, popularity will soon set us in a blaze! You will hardly find a person, who has been exposed to this fiery trial, without suffering loss. -John Newton
If you are a minister of the gospel then it is almost a necessity that you read this letter in full.
I love reading biography. There is one thing that I notice in the lives of many men and women that were “great” men and women of God: they fought pride. These men and women understood, with Newton, that pride and popularity will cause a ruinous explosion if not dealt with.
In our day and age I fear that pride is often disguised as a “healthy self-esteem”. It is quite possible to think that Christ is being honored through the use of our gifts, when it is the gift and not the Giver that is receiving the worship. Newton continues with his exhortation:
Beware, my friend, of mistaking the exercise of gifts for the exercise of grace. The minister may be assisted in public for the sake of his hearers; and there is something in the nature of our public work, when surrounded by a concourse of people, which is suited to draw forth the exertion of our abilities, and to engage our attention in the outward services—when the frame of the heart may be far from being right in the sight of the Lord.
May the Lord be so kind as to constantly moisten my heart. I pray that I never confuse the exercise of gifts for the exercise of grace. May my heart be willing to sacrifice for eternity the exercise of gifts if it means for eternity I am allowed to enjoy the exercise of grace.