( Originally Published 1879 )
HE that is proud eats himself up. Pride is his own glass, his own trumpet, his own chronicle; and what-ever praises itself but in the deed, devours the deed in the praise. Pride is like an empty bag, and who can stand such a thing upright? It is hollow and heart-less; and, like a drum, makes the more noise from its very emptiness. What is there in us to induce such a sentiment? Who can say, with truth, "I am better than my neighbor?" Some shrewd philosopher has said, that if the best man's faults were written on his forehead they would make him pull his hat over his eyes ! Ah, there is so much of good in those who are evil, and so much that is bad in the best, that it ill becomes us to judge our neighbors harshly, or set our selves up for saints at their expense. Let those who feel above their fellows, view the heights above them-selves, and realize their littleness; for as there is none so vile but that a viler hath been known, so there is no saint but a holier can be named.
When one asked the philosopher what the great God was. doing? he replied, "His whole employment is to lift up the humble, and to cast down the proud." And, indeed, there is no one sin which the Almighty seems more determined to punish than this. The examples of God's displeasure against it are most strikingly exhibited in the history of Pharaoh, Hezekiah, Haman, Nebuchadnezzar, and Herod.
Pride is generally the effect of ignorance; for pride and folly attend each other. Ignorance and pride keep constant company. Pride, joined with many virtues, chokes them all. Pride is the bane of happiness. Some people, says L'Estrange, are all quality. You would think they were made of nothing but title and genealogy The stamp of dignity defaces in them the very character of humanity, and transports them to such a degree of haughtiness that they reckon it below themselves to exercise either good nature or good manners. It is related of the French family of the Duke de Levis, that they have a picture in their pedigree in which Noah is represented going into the ark, and carrying a small trunk, on which is written, "Papers belonging to the Levis family." Pride is the mist that vapors round insignificance. We can conceive of nothing so little or ridiculous as pride. It is a mixture of insensibility and ill-nature, in which it is hard to say which has the largest share. Pride is as loud a beggar as want, and a great deal more saucy. Knavery and pride are often united; the Spartan 'boy was dishonest enough to steal a fox, but proud enough to let the beast eat out his vitals sooner than hazard detection. Pride breakfasted with Plenty, dined with Poverty, and suppered with Infamy. Pride had rather at any time go out of the way than come behind.
Pride must have a fall. Solomon said, pride goeth before destruction. Of all human actions, pride the most seldom obtains its end; for while it aims at honor ' and reputation, it reaps contempt and derision. Pride and ill-nature will be hated in spite of all the wealth and greatness in the world. Civility is always safe, but pride creates enemies. As liberality makes friends of enemies, so pride makes enemies of friends. Says Dean Swift, "If a proud man makes me keep my distance, the comfort is, he at the same time keeps his." Proud men have friends neither in prosperity, because they know nobody; nor in adversity, because nobody knows them. There is an honest pride, such as makes one ashamed to do an evil act; such a degree of self-esteem as makes one above doing an injury to any one; but it is the pride which sets one above his fellows that we deprecate; that spirit which would demand homage to itself as better and greater than others. In the name of good sense, how can any one feel thus, when it is realized that the entire life of a man is but a moment in the scale of eternity; and that in a few short days, at most, we must all go from here. When the soul is about to depart, what avails it whether a man dies upon a throne or in the dust?
Pride is a virtue—let not the moralist be scandalized—pride is also a vice. Pride, like ambition, is sometimes virtuous and sometimes vicious, according to the character in which it is found, and the object to which it is directed. As a principle, it is the parent of almost every virtue, and every vice—every thing that pleases and displeases in mankind; and as the effects are so very different, nothing is more easy than to discover, even to ourselves, whether the pride that produces them is virtuous or vicious: the first object of virtuous pride is rectitude, and the next independence. Pride may be allowed to this or that degree, else a man cannot keep up his dignity. In gluttony there must be eating, in drunkenness there must be drinking; 'tis not. the eating, nor 'tis not the drinking that must be blamed, but the excess. So in pride.
Pride and poverty, when combined, make a man's life up-hill work. Pomposity in a hovel. A gaudy parlor, meagre kitchen, and empty cupboard! Ragged aristocracy! What shifts there are among this class to hide their rags, and to give everything a golden tinge. Among them you see a rich frosted cake and red wine in the parlor, and a dry crust, dryer codfish, and bad coffee in the kitchen. Broadcloth hides a ragged shirt. Polished boots hide tattered stockings.
Fortune's toys, she kicks them about as she likes. The higher they look the lower they sink. The gaudy side out, rags and starvation within. Oh! the pangs of pride ! What misery is here covered up. Smiles abroad, tears at home. An eternal war with want on one hand, and proud ambition on the other. This trying to be "somebody," and this forgetting that it is not necessary to be gold-washed, and to have a silver spoon in one's mouth, in order to reach that envied good in life's journey There are plenty of "somebodies" among the honest poor, and plenty of "nobodies" among the dainty rich. Pride and poverty are the most ill-assorted companions that can meet. They live in a state of continual warfare, and the sacrifices they exact from each other, like those claimed by enemies to establish a hollow peace, only serve to increase their discord.
Proud. persons in general think of nothing but themselves, and imagine that all the world thinks about them too. They suppose that they are the subject .of almost every conversation, and fancy every wheel which moves in society hath some relation to them. People of this sort are very desirous of knowing what is said of them, and as they have no conception that any but great things are said of them, they are extremely solicitous to know them, and often put this question: "Who do men say that I am?"
Pride is the ape of charity. In show not much unlike, but somewhat fuller of action; in seeking the one, take heed thou light not upon the other. They .are two parallels never put asunder. Charity feeds the poor, so does pride; charity builds a hospital, so does pride. In this they differ: charity gives her glory to God, pride takes her glory from man. When flowers are full of heaven-descended dews, they always hang their heads; but men hold theirs the higher the more they receive, getting proud as they get full.
Likeness begets love, yet proud men hate each other. Pride makes us esteem ourselves ; vanity makes us desire the esteem of others. It is just to say, that a man is too proud to be vain. The pride of wealth is contemptible; the pride of learning is pitiable ; the pride of dignity is ridiculous; but the pride of bigotry is insupportable. To be proud of knowledge, is to be blind in the light; to be proud of virtue, is to poison yourself with the antidote; to be proud of authority is to make your rise your downfalls The sun appears largest when about to set, so does a proud man swell most magnificently just before an explosion.
No two feelings of the human mind are more opposite than pride and humility. Pride is founded on a high opinion of ourselves; humility on the consciousness of the want of merit. Pride is the offspring of ignorance; humility is the child of wisdom. Pride hardens the heart; humility softens the temper and the disposition. Pride is deaf to the clamors of conscience; humility listens with reverence to the monitor within; and finally, pride rejects the counsels of reason, the voice of experience, the dictates of religion; while humility, with a docile spirit, thankfully receives instruction from all who address her in the garb of truth. " Of all trees," says Feltham, "I observe, God hath chosen the vine-a low plant that creeps upon the helpful wall; of all beasts, the soft and pliant lamb; of all fowls, the mild and guileless dove. When God appeared to Moses, it was not in the lofty cedar, nor in the spreading palm, but a bush, an humble, abject bush. As if he would, by these selections, check the conceited arrogance of man." Nothing produces love like humility; nothing hate like pride. It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.
There are as good horses drawing in carts as in coaches; and as good men are engaged in humble employments as in the highest. The best way to humble a proud man is to take no notice of him. Men are sometimes accused of pride, merely because their accusers would be proud themselves if they were in their places. There are those who despise pride with a greater pride. To quell the pride, even of the greatest, we should reflect how much we owe to others, and how little to ourselves. Other vices choose to be in the dark, but pride loves to be seen in the light. The common charge against those who rise above their condition, is pride. Proud looks make foul work in fair faces.
When a man's pride is thoroughly subdued, it is like the sides of Mount AEtna. It was terrible while the eruption lasted and the lava flowed; but when that is past, and the lava is turned into soil, it grows vineyards and olive trees up to the very top.