In What the Malice of Vainglory Consists

by admin on June 28, 2011

THE malice of this vice consists in this, that the vainglorious man endeavors to walk off with the glory and honor that belong to God alone, according to the words of St. Paul: To God alone be honor and glory (I Tim. i. 17), which He has no mind to give to another, but reserves to Himself. I will not give any glory to another (Isaias xlii. 18). So St. Augustine says: “Lord, he who would be praised for Thy gifts and seeks not Thy glory but his own in the good he does, is a robber; he is like the devil himself, who endeavored to rob Thee of Thy glory.”

In all the works of God there are two things; the profit of the work, and the honor and glory thence resulting, which consists in the doer’s of the work being praised, esteemed, and honored for it. Now God has ordained in this life, and wishes it to be so carried out, that all the profit of His works should go to man, but all the glory should be for God Himself. God hath wrought all things for himself (Prov. xvi. 4) for his praise and glory and honor (Deut. xxvi. 19). And all things preach to us His wisdom, goodness, and providence; and therefore it is said that the heavens and earth are full of His glory (Psalm xviii. 1: Isaias vi. 3). Thus, when in your good actions you seek the glory and honor of men for yourself, you pervert the order which God has established in good works and do an injury to God, seeking and endeavoring that men, who should ever be occupied in honoring and praising God, should be taken up with praising and esteeming you—seek­ing that the hearts of men, which God has made as ves­sels to be full of His own honor and glory, should be full of your honor and glory and high renown, which is tanta­mount to stealing away those hearts from God and, as it were, casting God out of His own house and home. What greater evil can there be than to steal away God’s honor and glory and the hearts of men? With your mouth you bid them look to God, but at heart you wish them to turn their eyes away from God and fix them on you. The truly humble man has no wish to live in the heart of any crea­ture, but in that of God alone; he would not have one take thought of him, but of God alone, nor busy himself about him, but about God, and that Him alone all men should entertain and keep in their heart.

The malice of this sin may be further gathered from this example and comparison. A married woman would clearly be doing her husband wrong, if she were to dress and adorn herself to please any other man but him. Good works being the apparel wherewith we adorn and array our soul, we do God great wrong if we put them on to please any­one but God, Who is the spouse of our soul.

Or again, see what a foul shame it would be for a knight to plume himself much on the score of some slight labor undertaken for the love and service of his prince, when that prince had first exposed himself to great affronts and labors on behalf of that same knight. What bad form it would be for that knight to boast and brag of some petty service, a mere nothing, that he had rendered his master! What a sorry figure he would cut before all the company! And what if the prince had done and undergone all that hard work without any help from the knight, while the knight was indebted to the prince’s aid and countenance for the little that he had done, for which, moreover, he had been promised and had received high reward! All this we may apply each one of us to himself, to make us ashamed of having a high conceit of ourselves for anything we have done for God, still more of boasting of it, since in compari­son with what God has done for us and what we ought to do for Him, it is miserably little.

The malice of this sin further appears in this, that theo­logians and saints reckon it among the seven vices com­monly called deadly, or more properly capital, because they are the heads and principles of the rest. Some enumerate eight capital vices, and say that the first is pride and the second vainglory; but the common opinion of the saints, and that received in the Church, puts seven capital vices; and St. Thomas says that the first of these is vainglory, and that pride is the root of them all, according to the Wise Man: The beginning of all sin is pride (Eccles. x. 13).

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