« AnteriorContinuar »
It is equally necessary to obedience. A proud unbroken heart sets up for itself, and at least practically says, "Who is Lord over me?" It must, therefore, be first humbled, before the language of it will be, " Lord, what wilt thou have me to do ?" Acts ix. 6.
Witbout this frame we shall not value a Saviour, so far as to receive him, and make use of him, as he is offered in the gospel. We shall not be fond of being' beholden to another for our pardon and acceptance with God, till we have an abasing sense of our own guilty and miserable condition: "The whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick," Luke v. 31. As long as " men think that they are rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing, and know not that they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked," they will pay but little regard to Christ's "counsel, to buy of him gold tried in the fire, that they may be rich; and white raiment, that they may be clothed," Rev. iii. 17, 18. This was the foundation of the difference of behaviour between the Pharisee and the publican. The "Pharisee trusted in himself that he was righteous, and despised others," and so came to God with an arrogant self-sufficiency: but the publican had a lively sense of his own sinfulness and unworthiness, and therefore came in the most humble manner, and with the most humble request, "God be merciful to me, a sinner," Luke xviii. 9—13.
Without a humble spirit, we 9hall not prize the grace of the Holy Spirit, nor live in a constant dependence on his aids; unless we are sensible of the deceitfuluess and badness of our own hearts, and of our own insufficiency for that which is good.
Without humility we cannot persevere in our adherence to Christ, but shall be ready to take offence when we are called out to trials and exercises. The proud mind, that is full of itself, is not easily content to bear reproaches, to be meanly thought of by others, to be exposed to the- trial of cruel mockings, to sacrifice reputation, and honour, and ease, and every valuable outward comfort, to the pleasing of God, and the securing of a good conscience. But humility will go a great way to make all these things sit light; that will form our souls to a placid resignation to the will of God, as wiser and fitter to determine our lot than ourselves. We shall not brook so ill the reflection of other pp< ,.e, when we have a just sense of much amiss in us. We shall not think much of anv ill usage we meet with hy the way, or think we have any reason to complain, when we are conscious that we deserve much worse, that we are less than the least of the mercies we enjoy; and especially that the heavenly reward, as it is unspeakably great, so is altogether undeserved. And humble apprehensions of ourselves, compared with other people, will go a great way toward silencing complaints, when we consider what others have undergone, who were much more wise, and holy, and useful, than we.
Without this grace, we shall be indisposed to receive that assistance from other men in the way to heaven, which we might obtain. Those who are wise in their own conceit, despise the admonitions of their pious parents and friends, are impatient of reproof, are above ministerial instructions; and, for want of a modest apprehension of their own defects, suppose themselves too good proficients in knowledge to learn, or in goodness to improve.
And, lastly, without this lowly disposition, we cannot possibly perform that compass of duty to our fellow-creatures, which makes so great a part of true Christianity. A hajighty mind will ill comport with "becoming all things to all men, that we may gain some;" with "pleasing our neighbour for his good to edification;" with bearing all things, with the forgiveness of injuries, with condescension to the weaknesses and humours of other men, and to the meanest offices, when we can have hope of doing them good thereby.
So evident is it that humility is a grace of the first rank in Christianity.
2. It is a grace which adorns every other virtue, and recommends religion to every beholder. If all the characters mentioned in that rule of conduct, which the apostle lays down in Phil. iv. 8. can be said to meet in any one grace, it is in hu- v mility. "Whatsoever things are true," have a just foundation in the reason of things; "whatsoever things are honest," or honourable, "whatsoever things are pure, w hatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be toy virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Our light cannot more effectually shine before men, than by w* affecting to have it shine; that is, by humility. Hence
St. Peter calls us to "be clothed with humility," 1 Pet. v. 5. And St. Paul, in the text, to put it on, as an ornament . It casts a lustre even upon attainments comparatively low, while pride eclipses the beauty of great and distinguishing excellencies. It conciliates esteem from all, even from the proad themselves, who value that in others which they care not to practise in their own case. And, therefore, as we are concerned to "adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour," and to take care that "our good be not evil spoken of," it concerns us to live in the exercise of humility; without which all the train of Christian graces beside would suffer in their amiableness, and their use for the glory of God.
3. Humility is eminently recommended to us by the example of the Author and Finisher of our faith. There is hardly any one part of the amiable character of Christ, of which the gospel-history gives us more instances, than of his humbleness of mind; nor any in which he is more frequently and expressly proposed to us for a pattern. For instance:
(1.) His assuming the human nature was the highest instance of humiliation that ever was, or could be given; that "the word, who was in the beginning with God, and was God," should consent to be made flesh. Though he was no lower a person than "God blessed for evermore," yet he vouchsafed to descend from the habitation of his holiness and glory, to lay aside, in appearance, his divine character, and all that visible glory, which had been used to attend him in his manifestations under the Old Testament; and was content to take upon him the nature, the state, and the sinless infirmities, of mankind, to be "made of a woman, made under the law." This was an instance of humility, of which none but himself was capable; which, indeed, is so far above our direct imitation in the letter of it, that the manner of it exceeds our comprehension. And yet it is a very proper argument to inculcate upon us humility in our measure, and with that view is proposed to us by the apostle, in Phil. ii. He. had, among other things, exhorted to "lowliness of mind," ver. 3.; and adds, ver. 5. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." How was such a temper shewn by Christ? It follows, "Who being in the form of God (being truly God, or having been used to appear under the Old Testament with a godlike glory, which he. would not have been suffered to do, had he not been true God,) thought it not robberv to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation (emptied lumself* or, as the same word is rendered, 1 Cor. ix. 15. made void his glorying, as to the outward manifestation of his glory,) and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. Though he was rich (with the riches of the Godhead,) yet for our sakes (out of his abundant grace to us,) he became poor," 2 Cor. viii. 9. But how should the same mind be' in us, which was thus expressed by the eternal Son of God? We should never, then, think much of any instance of self-abasement suitable to our measure, to which we can be called for serving a valuable end; and be always sensible that it can never come up to this amazing condescension of the Son of God.
(2.) When he appeared in the world in the human nature, he affected not worldly glory and honour. He contented not himself merely to lay aside the glory of heaven, and his glorious appearance by the Shechinah, and to enter upon the condition of mortal man, which at best is but unspeakably low and mean, in comparison of the divine glory ; but he appeared in the world with many additional circumstances of meanness. He descended from a family which was then very obscure, which had lost the ancient dignity and grandeur of his father David. Mary, his mother, was a woman in a low condition, capable of giving the Lord of glory but very poor entertainment at his coming into the world; and, therefore, at his birth, "she wrapped him in swaddling-clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was then no room for them in the inn," Luke ii. 7- There were no servile attendants, no sumptuous preparations made for his nativity ; but, as in his after life, so now, he had scarce "a place where to lay his head." The shepherds could never have divined, without the instruction of an angel, that here, and in this manner, was "born a Saviour, which was Christ the Lord," ver. 8—11. And the wise men of the east must be under a divine conduct, to find the King of the Jews in such a despicable place. While he was growing up, he lived with his reputed father, a carpenter, and thence was styled "the carpenter's son," Matt. xiii. 55. When he entered upon his public ministry, the generality of those whom he chose for his disciples and followers, were poor fishermen* or men of a like condition. He made no outward
figure, and mainly sojourned in places of small note. He had no wealth or secular honor, not so much as a settled habitation or certain provision. He contemned wordly honors, when they were offered him; as when the people would have taken him by force, and made him a king. He cheerfully underwent poverty, and contempt, and ill usage of various kinds before he submitted to the last act of his humiliation, to be ** obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."
Now, surely, all this was to recommend humility to us, to teach his disciples not to seek high things for themselves, nor to value themselves much upon a large share of wordly enjoyments. If he had thought tltat outward shew and grandeur would have served those ends better, for which he came into the world, he could easily have secured to himself all the riches ©f the earth; and have appeared with a pomp far superior to the mistaken apprehensions of the Jews concerning their Messiah. But he rather chose to teach his disciples humility, and self-denial, and mortification, by his own voluntary entrance upon the stage of life, and passing over it to the end in a low condition.
(3.) As man, he was a pattern of great humility towards God. He "sought not his own glory but the glory of him that sent him," John viii. 50. chap. vii. 18. This was his professed aim through his course on earth, and conspicuous in the course of his words and actions. Hence, as man, he disclaimed any pretences to such knowledge as was above the capacity of his human nature, or his attainments at that time, Mark xiii. 32. And when one, who took him for no more than a man, seemed to ascribe goodness to him in too exalted a sense for a creature, he expostulates with him about it, and asserts the perfections of Godhead to be so peculiar, that even those, wherein creatures may bear the divine image, do yet belong to God in such a manner, as they can belong to none else: "Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is God," Matt, xix. 17. He ascribed the glory of his works to his Father. He was entirely obedient to his commands, for what he should say and do, in the minutest circumstances and for the hardest services. He cheerfully submitted to his will in the severest sufferings, and paid him all religious homage in acts of worship. The remarkable instances of this have been produced in another discourse, when he was represented as an example of godliness.