“A man who deludes other people, by degrees comes to delude himself. The deluder first makes dupes of others and then becomes a dupe to himself. I should not wonder but what the Pope really believes that he is infallible, and that he ought to be saluted as ‘his holiness.’ It must have taken him a good time to arrive at that eminence of self-deception, but he has got to that, I dare say, by now, and everyone who kisses his toe confirms him in his insane idea. When everybody else believes a flattering falsehood concerning you, you come at last to believe it yourself, or at least to think that it may be so. These Pharisees, being continually called ‘the learned rabbi,’ ‘the holy scribe,’ ‘the devout and pious doctor,’ ‘the sanctified teacher,’ almost believed the flattering compliments. They used very grand phrases in those days, and doctors of divinity were very common, almost as common as they are now; and the crowd of doctors and rabbis helped to keep each other in countenance by repeating one another’s fine names till they believed they meant something. Dear friends, it is very difficult to receive honour and to expect it, and yet to keep your eyesight; for men’s eyes gradually grow dull through the smoke of the incense which is burned before them; and when their eyes become dim with self-conceit, it will not be at all marvellous if they say, ‘We cannot believe in Jesus Christ.’ Their own great selves conceal the cross, and. make them unable to believe the truth.
“Once more, the praise of men generally turns the receivers of it into great cowards. How could they believe in Jesus? Why, the people would leave off terming them ‘the learned rabbi,’ and ‘the celestial doctor,’ and their brethren would put them out of the synagogue. How could they believe, and lose their status? Why, the people would say, ‘Has rabbi So-and-so become a disciple of the carpenter’s son? Has he put aside his wisdom and become a child, that he may be instructed by the Nazarene?’ Why, the whole sanhedrim would hiss out indignation against the learned man, the pious man, the devout man, with his phylactery, and the broad border of his garment, if he were to follow with publicans and harlots at the heels of the rejected Messiah. They were afraid! They were afraid! That same spirit which makes us love the praise of men makes us dread the threats of men. You cannot be pleased with the adulation of mankind without becoming fearful of their censure. It is a perilous thing to taste of human honour: if it makes you sick, it is the best thing it can do for you. If you despise it utterly, it is the only way of bearing it without being injured by it; for I say again, delight in the praises of others saps the foundations of a man’s manhood: delight in the praise of men takes a man off from following after the glory of God, and makes him afraid of following the truth if it cost him ridicule.
“Now, I am afraid that there are many here who cannot believe in Jesus Christ because they are afraid. Yes, there is a commercial traveller over there! If he were to become a Christian, why the next time he went into the commercial room it would be known, and there would be many queer remarks and no end of chaffing. You, Mr. Commercial, cannot follow Christ, can you? It is plain that you cannot believe, and the reason is plain too, — you are a great coward! There is a working man over there, and he knows that it is right to be a believer in Jesus Christ, but he cannot believe; and the reason is that he could not stand those coarse remarks which he would be sure to get in the shop to-morrow morning. He has not spirit enough to bear with ridicule; he is the slave of others, and trembles at their laughter! I would sooner lie in my grave than be so mean a thing. Some are afraid of their brothers, others are afraid of the companions that they spend their evenings with. They have been hitherto the first to lead the laugh at the evening convivial; if they were to be converted they would lose their little empire, and be no longer a favourite. They could not stand contempt! Oh, the fear of man, the fear of man, what cowards it makes of intelligent beings! It is not conscience that makes cowards of us one-half so much as the want of conscience: if we had more conscience we should have less fear of men, and should brave their scowls, and scorn their scorn, and bid defiance to their threats. But, oh, how many live on the breath of their fellow men; to be approved— to be applauded— that is their heaven; but to be despised, to be sneered at, to be called fool, to have some nickname applied to them; oh no, they would sooner go to hell than bear that. I say that they are fools with an emphasis if that be the case, and if they will use their wits for a moment I think they will see it so, for surely to be lost to please fools is to be a fool yourself. Please your friends as far as it is right, but never go to such an expense as the ruin of your souls to keep up friendship with sinners. That man is no friend of mine who would have me ruin my soul. I have known friends come to a man and suck all his estate out of him, lead him into speculations and schemes that serve their turn, and desert him when they have ruined him. Do you call such men friends? We do not, when we speak honestly, call them such; and shall I call him a friend who leads me into sinful amusements, who seeks my favour by teaching me how to indulge my passions, and courts my praise while ruining my soul? He is my decided enemy: he cannot be my friend at all. Flee from all of his class, young man, if you cannot convert him. Do not be such a coward as to be afraid of anybody. Stand straight up as God made you, and say, ‘No, He never made me to be afraid of man or woman either. He has made me a man, and the very least thing I can do is to pray Him to make me manly enough to buy the truth and sell it not, and take up my cross and follow Christ, come what may of it.”
From the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol 21, pp. 413-415
“The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whosoever putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.”