Pride and Humility
Jesus spoke of the man who brought out of his treasure “things new and old.” Every generation needs to speak to its own generation with words that are fresh and current. But at the same time, “old” treasures exist that, although they may lack the luster of novelty, have a value that a new treasure can only gain with time.
This booklet is an “old” treasure. The truths presented in it are eternal. Nothing stops us from articulating those same truths in our day in our particular idiom. But neither should anything hinder us from picking up this “old” treasure and savoring its richness.
Sure, some of the applications are dated. Sure, it was written for a particular set of churches (Mennonite). Sure, it is written in an English that is a bit quaint. We could have opted to change it to our modern way of speaking, but we have left it as it was originally written. Imagine an old oil painting being splattered over with a modern-art look!
To be sure, this booklet is no piece of art in its literary form. John Brenneman had little formal education and John Funk (who first published this booklet as a series of articles in his magazine, Herald of Truth) complained that everything Brenneman wrote had to be seriously edited before becoming publishable. Brenneman, it is said, attended grade school with his children sometimes, to catch up on his formal education. In writing he was behind, but in his preaching, his reputation is that of grandness.
The truths he sets forth in this booklet are timeless. And the applications are so practical. John Brenneman represented a Christianity that was interested in following Jesus 24/7/365. His was no mere intellectual religion. Pride represented an evil, an evil to be avoided. Humility was a virtue, a virtue that had practical outworkings at 7:34 a.m. on June 14, 1862 ... here and now, in the nitty-gritty decisions of life while at the breakfast table, while at the feed mill, and while at the dry goods store buying cloth for a dress. What moves us, pride or humility?
As mentioned, John wrote this book primarily for “his” people, the Mennonites of the mid to late 19th century among whom he labored as a preacher and bishop. The particulars which that generation struggled with may not fit the current reader. All we can say is look past the particular and grasp the underlying eternal principle iv … and make particular applications to your own life from those principles, just as if John Brenneman would if he were writing the book today. Great principles without nitty-gritty, practical applications are certainly the proverbial “slippery slope” into apostasy.
John Brenneman was a very dedicated shepherd to his flock. As the western frontier opened to the Europeans, John was there to minister to the little congregations and individuals who found themselves isolated from fellowship. He travelled tirelessly on the frontier to strengthen the flock, to the detriment of his own farm back home. While he was “conservative” in his practical applications, he was “progressive” in his willingness to do what it took to spread the kingdom of God. Space does not permit a full biography here, but let it be said that his life was one of constant travel and labors for the frontier church. Only God knows the thousands of miles John Brenneman traveled to extol the humility of Jesus and expose the pride of self. And through this little book, John still preaches today.
—Mike Atnip, July 5, 2012