It is a general truth, manifestly taught in the Scriptures, that spiritual pride is fed by false religion. All the false teachers of whom they give us an account were distinguished by this spirit. “They loved to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they might be seen of men.—They loved the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.—There was a certain man called Simon, who beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one.—I will come unto you shortly, and not know the speech of them that are puffed up, but the power: for ye suffer if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.—Let us not be desirous of vain-glory; if a man think himself to be something when he is nothing he deceiveth himself.—As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh constrain you to be circumcised. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.—Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility, and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.—Presumptuous are they, self-willed; they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.—When they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.—Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence, receiveth us not.”
It should seem, from hence, that though all spiritual pride does not arise from false religion, yet all false religion produces spiritual pride. The best of men, and those who adhere to the best of principles, are in danger of this sin: but as there is a wide and manifest difference between sinning and living in sin, so it is one thing to be occasionally lifted up, and that at a time when the great principles we imbibe are in a manner out of sight, and another to be habitually intoxicated with self-complacency, and that as the immediate effect of our religion. See you a man whose meditation, preaching, or writing produces humble charity, a pure heart, a good conscience, and you may expect to find in him faith unfeigned. But if you perceive in him a fondness for unprofitable themes of discourse, which “minister questions rather than godly edifying which is in faith,” with a forwardness to affirm what he does not understand, you may be almost certain that he has “swerved from the truth, and turned aside to vain jangling.”
As true religion principally consists in “the knowledge of the true God, and of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent,” or in just sentiments of the Lawgiver and the Saviour of men; so almost every species of error will be found in the contrary. If we err in our conceptions of the Divine character, it resembles an error at the outset of a journey, the consequence of which is that the farther we travel the farther we are off. Without a proper sense of the holy excellence of the Divine nature, it will be impossible to perceive the fitness of the law which requires us to love him with all our heart. Such a requirement must appear rigorous and cruel. Hence we shall be disposed either to contract it, and imagine that our Creator cannot now expect any thing more at our hands than an outward decency of conduct; or, if we admit that perfect love is required, we shall still perceive no equity in it, and feel no manner of obligation to comply with it. The law will be accounted a task-master, and the gospel praised at its expense. In both cases we shall be blinded to the multitude and magnitude of our sins; for as where no law is there is no transgression, so in proportion as we are insensible of the spirituality or equity of it, we must needs be insensible of the evil of having transgressed it. And thus it is that men are whole in their own esteem, and think they need no physician, or one of but little value. Thus it is that degrading notions are entertained of the Saviour, and diminutive representations given of his salvation. In short, thus it is that justification by free grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, either becomes inadmissible, or, if admitted in words, is considered as a victory over the law, and as exonerating from all obligations to obey its precepts. Here, or hereabouts, will be found the grand springs of spiritual pride.
Excerpt from: Spiritual Pride: or the Occasion, Causes, and Effects of High-Mindedness in Religion; with Considerations Exciting to Self-Absement.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Expositions—Miscellaneous. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 3, pp. 575–576). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.