This is from J.C. Ryle’s Thoughts For Young Men, Chapter 2: Dangers to Young Men: Pride
There are some special dangers against which young men need to be warned. I know well that all souls are in fearful peril. Old or young, it matters not; all have a race to run, a battle to fight, a heart to mortify, a world to overcome, a body to keep under, a devil to resist—and we may well say, Who is sufficient for these things? But still, every age and condition has its own peculiar snares and temptations, and it is well to know them. He that is forewarned is forearmed. If I can only persuade you to be on your guard against the dangers I am going to name, I am sure I shall do your souls an essential service.
One danger to young men is pride. Pride is the oldest sin in the world; indeed, it was before the world. Satan and his angels fell by pride; they were not satisfied with their first estate. Thus, pride stocked hell with its first inhabitants.
PRIDE IS COMMON TO ALL
Pride cast Adam out of paradise. He was not content with the place God assigned him. He tried to raise himself—and fell (Gen 3). Thus sin, sorrow, and death entered in by pride.
Pride sits in all our hearts by nature. We are born proud. Pride makes us rest satisfied with ourselves, think we are good enough as we are, stop our ears against advice, refuse the gospel of Christ, and turn every one to his own way (Jdg 21:25; Isa 53:6). But pride never reigns anywhere so powerfully as in the heart of a young man.
How common is it to see young men heady, high-minded, and impatient of counsel! How often they are rude and discourteous to all about them, thinking they are not valued and honored as they deserve! How often they will not stop to listen to a hint from an older person! They think they know everything. They are full of conceit of their own wisdom. They reckon elderly people, and especially their relations, stupid, dull, and slow. They fancy they want no teaching or instruction themselves: they understand all things. It makes them almost angry to be spoken to. Like young horses, they cannot bear the least control. They must needs be independent and have their own way. They seem to think, like those whom Job mentioned, “We are the people, and wisdom shall die with us” (Job 12:2). And this is all pride.
Such an one was Rehoboam, who despised the counsel of the old experienced men who stood before his father, and hearkened to the advice of the young men of his own generation (1Ki 12:8). He lived to reap the consequences of his folly. There are many like him.
Such an one was the prodigal son in the parable, who must needs have the portion of goods that fell to him and set up for himself (Luk 15). He could not submit to live quietly under his father’s roof, but would go into a far country and be his own master. Like the little child that will leave its mother’s hand and walk alone, he soon smarted for his folly. He became wiser when he had to eat husks with the swine. But there are many like him.
PRIDE MUST BE MORTIFIED
Young men, I beseech you earnestly: Beware of pride. Two things are said to be very rare sights in the world: one is a young man humble, and the other is an old man content. I fear this saying is only too true.
Be not proud of your own abilities, your own strength, your own knowledge, your own appearance, or your own cleverness. Be not proud of yourself or your endowments of any kind. It all comes from not knowing yourself and the world. The older you grow and the more you see, the less reason you will find for being proud. Ignorance and inexperience are the pedestal of pride; once let the pedestal be removed, and pride will soon come down.
Remember how often Scripture sets before us the excellence of a humble spirit. How strongly we are warned “not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think” (Rom 12:3)! How plainly we are told, “If any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know” (1Co 8:2)! How strict is the command, “Put on…humbleness of mind” (Col 3:12)! And again, “Be clothed with humility” (1Pe 5:5). Alas, this is a garment of which many seem not to have so much as a rag!
Think of the great example our Lord Jesus Christ leaves us in this respect. He washed the feet of His disciples, saying, “Ye should do as I have done to you” (Joh 13:15). It is written, “Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor” (2Co 8:9). And again, “He made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself ” (Phi 2:7-8). Surely to be proud is to be more like the devil and fallen Adam than like Christ. Surely, it can never be mean16 and low-spirited to be like Him.
Think of the wisest man that ever lived—I mean Solomon. See how he speaks of himself as a “little child,” as one who “knew not how to go out or come in” or manage for himself (1Ki 3:7-8). That was a very different spirit from his brother Absalom’s, who thought himself equal to anything: “Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice” (2Sa 15:4). That was a very different spirit from his brother Adonijah’s, who “exalted himself, saying, I will be king” (1Ki 1:5). Humility was the beginning of Solomon’s wisdom. He writes it down as his own experience, “Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him” (Pro 26:12).
Young men, lay to heart the Scriptures here quoted. Do not be too confident in your own judgment. Cease to be sure that you are always right and others wrong. Be distrustful of your own opinion when you find it contrary to that of older men than yourselves, and specially to that of your own parents. Age gives experience and therefore deserves respect. It is a mark of Elihu’s wisdom, in the book of Job, that “he waited till Job had spoken, because they were older than himself ” (Job 32:4). And afterwards he said, “I am young, and you are very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst not show you mine opinion. I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom” (Job 32:6-7). Modesty and silence are beautiful graces in young people. Never be ashamed of being a learner. Jesus was one at twelve years: when He was found in the Temple, He was “sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions” (Luk 2:46). The wisest men would tell you they are always learners, and are humbled to find after all how little they know. The great Sir Isaac Newton used to say that he felt himself no better than a little child who had picked up a few precious stones on the shore of the sea of knowledge.
Young men, if you would be wise, if you would be happy, remember the warning I give you: Beware of pride.
Study Questions (from Chapel Libary) :
Very Important Note: We ask you to always get your answer from the text, but use your own words in your answer. Please do not merely quote the text for your answer. Rather, read what the text says, think about the meaning of what it says, and summarize the meaning of the text in your own words for your answer. In this way, you will learn much more than simply a “search/find/quote” method for answering the questions. Read: First, please read the reading text. Please answer the questions below from the information in this chapter. Read the Scriptures: The author will refer to Bible verses, it is to your utmost benefit to read the verses. Read Slowly: Please read slowly enough so you understand what you read. Read Prayerfully: Please also pray before each lesson asking the LORD for wisdom to apply what you learn to your life, and to enable you to love Him with all your mind, heart, soul, and strength, for this is the greatest commandment (Mar 12:30).
- Where does pride reign the most powerfully?
- Making It Personal: In the paragraph beginning “How common is it to see young men heady,” the author gives many good descriptions of proud behavior.
- a. Which phrase stands out to you as most important?
- b. List the phrases used which also describe you.
- More about pride:
- a. What five things does the author command you to “be not proud of”?
- b. What does the author say pride “comes from”?
- c. Explain in your own words what the author means by this.
- For each of the following Scriptures, write the reference and meaning of the part of the verse that relates to its use in this section. As always, use your own words in your answer. Do not just quote the verse.
- a. Romans 12:3
- b. 1 Corinthians 8:2
- c. Colossians 3:12
- d. 1 Peter 5:5
- Briefly, describe how Jesus Christ modeled humility for us.
- The author gives several wise exhortations at the end of this section. Which one stands out to you as most important? Why?
- “Do not be too confident in your own judgment.”
- “Cease to be sure that you are always right, and others wrong.”
- “Be distrustful of your own opinion when you find it contrary to that of older men than yourselves, and especially to that of your own parents.”
- “Age gives experience, and therefore deserves respect.”
- “Modesty and silence are beautiful graces in young people.”
- “Never be ashamed of being a learner.”
- Please realize that to be a learner means saying on occasion, “I do not know.” It is only pride that always has to come up with an answer!
To God be the glory!
Ryle, J. C., & Davis, M. (2018). Thoughts for Young Men: An exhortation directed to those in the prime of life. Ep Books.