Slike strani

eminently gracious affections (I scruple not to say it) are evermore of a contrary tendency, and have universally a contrary effect. They indeed make their possessors very sensible that they should be deeply humbled, and cause them earnestly to thirst and long after it; but they make their present humility, or that which they have already attained, to appear small, and their remaining pride great, and exceedingly abominable.

The reason why a proud person is apt to think his humility great, and a very humble person his humility small, may be easily seen, if it be considered, that it is natural for persons, in judging of the degree of their own humiliation, to take their measure from that which they esteem their proper height, or the dignity wherein they properly stand. That may be great humiliation in one, which is no humiliation at all in another; because the degree of honourableness or considerableness, wherein each properly stands is very different. For some great man to stoop to loose the latchet of the shoes of another great man, his equal, or to wash his feet, would be taken notice of as an act of great abasement in him; and he being sensible of his own dignity, would look upon it so himself. But if a poor slave is seen stooping to unloose the shoes of a great prince, nobody will take notice of this, as an act of humiliation in him, or token of any great degree of humility; nor would the slave himself, unless he be horribly proud, and ridiculously conceited: and if after he had done it, he should, in his talk and behaviour, shew that he thought his abasement great in it, and had his mind much upon it, as an evidence of his being very humble, would not every body cry out, "Who do you think yourself to be, that you should think this a mark of deep humiliation?" This would make it plain to a demonstration, that the slave was swollen with a high degree of pride and vanity of mind, as much as if he declared in plain terms, I think myself to be some great one. And the matter is no less plain and certain, when worthless, vile, and loathsome worms of the dust, are apt to put such a construction on their acts of abasement before God, and to think it a token of great humility in them, that they acknowledge themselves to be mean and unworthy, and behave themselves as those who are so inferior.The very reason why such outward acts, and such inward exercises, look like great abasement in such a person is, that he has a high conceit of himself. Whereas if he thought of himself more justly, these things would appear nothing to him, and his humility in them worthy of no regard; but he would rather be astonished at his pride, that one so infinitely despicable and vile, is brought no lower before God. When he says in his heart, "This is a great act of humiliation; it is certainly a sign of great

humility in me, that I should feel thus, and do so:" his meaning is, "This is great humility for me, for such a one as I, who am so considerable and worthy." He considers how low he is now brought, and compares this with the height of dignity, on which he thinks he stands, and the distance appears very great; he calls it humility, and as such admires it. Whereas, in him who is truly humble, and really sees his own vileness and loathsomeness before God, the distance appears the other way. When he is brought lowest of all, it does not appear to him that he is brought below his proper station, but that he is not come to it; he appears to himself, yet vastly above it; he longs to get lower, that he may come to it; but appears at a great distance from it. tance he calls pride. And therefore his pride appears great to him, and not his humility. For although he is brought much lower than he used to be, yet it does not appear to him worthy of the name of humiliation, for him that is so infinitely mean and detestable, to come down to a place, which though it be lower than what he used to assume, is yet vastly higher than what is proper for him. Men would hardly count it worthy of the name of humility, in a contemptible slave, that formerly affected to be a prince, to have his spirit so far brought down, as to take the place of a nobleman, when this is still so far above his proper station.

And this dis

All men, in judging of the degree of their own and others' humility, as appearing in any act of theirs, consider two things; viz. the real degree of dignity they stand in; and the degree of abasement, with the relation it bears to that real dignity. Thus, what may be an evidence of great humility in one, evidences but little or no humility in another. But truly humble Christians have so mean an opinion of their own real dignity, that all their selfabasement, when considered with relation to, and compared with that, appears very small to them. It does not seem to them to be any great humility, for such poor, vile, abject creatures as they are, to lie at the foot of God,

The degree of humility is to be judged of by the degree of abasement, and the degree of the cause for abasement; but he that is truly and eminently humble, never thinks his humility great. The cause why he should be abased appears so great, and the abasement of the frame of his heart so greatly short of it, that he takes much more notice of his pride than his humility.

Every one that has been conversant with souls under convictions of sin, knows that they are not apt to think themselves greatly convinced. And the reason is, men judge of the degree of their own convictions by two things jointly considered; viz. the degree of sense which they have of guilt and pollution, and the deof cause they have for such a sense, in the degree of their


[blocks in formation]

real sinfulness. It is really no argument of any great conviction of sin, for some men to think themselves sinful, beyond most others in the world; because they are so indeed, very plainly and notoriously he must be very blind indeed not to be sensible of it. But he that is truly under great convictions of sin, naturally thinks, that the cause he has to be sensible of guilt and pollution, is greater than others have; and therefore he ascribes his sensibleness of this, to the greatness of his sin, and not to the greatness of his sensibility. It is natural for one under great convictions, to think himself one of the greatest of sinners. That man is under great convictions, whose conviction is great in proportion to his sin. But no man that is truly under great convictions, thinks his conviction great in proportion to his sin. For if he does, it is a certain sign that he inwardly thinks his sins small. And if that be the case, that is a certain evidence that his conviction is small. And this, by the way, is the main reason, that persons, when under a work of humiliation, are not sensible of it, in the time of it.

And as it is with conviction of sin, just so it is, by parity of reason, with respect to persons' conviction of their own meanness and vileness, their blindness, their impotence, and all that low sense a Christian has of himself, in the exercise of evangelical humiliation. So that in a high degree of this, the saints are never disposed to think their sense of their own meanness, filthiness, impotence, &c. to be great; because it never appears great to them, considering the cause.

An eminent saint is not apt to think himself eminent in any thing; all his graces and experiences appear to him to be comparatively small; but especially his humility. Nothing that appertains to Christian experience, and true piety, is so much out of his sight. He is a thousand times more quick-sighted to discern his pride, than his humility. On the contrary, the deluded hypocrite, who is under the power of spiritual pride, is so blind to nothing as his pride; and so quick-sighted to nothing, as the shews of humility.

The humble Christian is more apt to find fault with his own pride than with that of other men. He is apt to put the best construction on others' words and behaviour, and to think that none are so proud as himself. But the proud hypocrite is quick to discern the mote in his brother's eye, in this respect; while he sees nothing of the beam in his own. He is very often crying out of others' pride, finding fault with others' apparel, and way of living; and is affected ten times as much with his neighbour's ring or ribband, as with all the filthiness of his own heart.

From the disposition there is in hypocrites to think highly of their humility, it comes to pass that counterfeit humility is forward

to put forth itself to view. Those who have it, are apt to be much in speaking of their humiliations, setting them forth in high terms, and making a great outward shew of humility, in affected looks, gestures, manner of speech, meanness of apparel, or some affected singularity. So it was of old with the false prophets, Zech. xiii. 4, so it was with the hypocritical Jews, Is. lvii. 5. and so Christ tells us it was with the Pharisees, Matth. vi. 16. But it is contrariwise with true humility; they who have it, are not apt to display their eloquence in setting it forth, or to speak of the degree of their abasement in strong terms. It does not affect to shew itself in any singular meanness either of apparel, or way of living; agreeable to what is implied in Matth. vi. 17. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face. Col. ii. 23. Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in willworship and humility, and neglecting of the body. Nor is true humility a noisy thing; it is not loud and boisterous. The scripture represents it as of a contrary nature. Ahab, when he had a visible humility, a resemblance of true humility, went softly, 1 Kings, xxi. 27. A penitent, in the exercise of true humiliation, is represented as still and silent, Lam. iii. 28. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him. And silence is mentioned as what attends humility; Prov. xxx. 32. If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself, or if thou hast thought evil, lay thine hand upon thy mouth.

Thus I have particularly and largely shewn the nature of that true humility which attends holy affections, as it appears in its tendency to cause persons to think meanly of their attainments in religion, compared with the attainments of others, and particularly, of their attainments in humility: and have shewn the contrary tendency of spiritual pride, to dispose persons to think their attainments in these respects to be great. I have insisted the longer on this, because I think it a matter of great importance, as it affords a certain distinction between true and counterfeit humility; and also as this disposition of hypocrites-whereby they look on themselves as better than others-is what God has declared to be very hateful to him, a smoke in his nose, and a fire that burneth all the day, Is. lxv. 5. It is mentioned as an instance of pride in the inhabitants of that holy city (as it was called) Jerusalem, that they esteemed themselves far better than the people

* It is an cbservation of Mr. Jones, in his excellent treatise of the canon of the New Testament, that the evangelist Mark-who was the companion of St. Peter, and is supposed to have written his gospel under the direction of that apostlewhen he mentions Peter's repentance after his denying his Master, does not use such strong terms to set it forth as the other evangelists; he only uses these words, When he thought thereon, he wept, Mark xiv. 72; whereas the other evangelists say thus, He went out, and wept billerly, Matth. xxvi. 75. Luke xxii. 62.

of Sodom; Ezek. xvi. 36. For thy sister Sodom was not mentioned by thy mouth in the day of thy pride.

Let not the reader slightly pass over these things in application to himself. When you imagine, reader, that it is a bad sign. for a person to be apt to think himself a better saint than others, take heed lest there arise a blinding prejudice in your own favour. There will probably be need of great strictness of selfexamination, in order to determine whether it be so with you. If you conclude thus, It seems to me, none are so bad as I. Do not let the matter pass off so; but examine again, whether or no you do not think yourself better than others on this very account, because you imagine you think so meanly of yourself. Have not you a high opinion of this humility? If you answer, No; I have not a high opinion of my humility; it seems to me I am as proud as the devil: examine again, whether self-conceit do not rise up under this cover; whether on this very account—that you think yourself as proud as the devil-you do not think yourself to be very humble.

From this opposition between the nature of a true, and of a counterfeit humility, as to the esteem that the subjects of them have of themselves, arises a manifold contrariety of temper and behaviour. A truly humble person, having such a mean opinion of his righteousness and holiness, is poor in spirit. For a person to be poor in spirit, is to be in his own sense and apprehension poor, as to what is in him, and to be of an answerable disposition. Therefore a truly humble person, especially one eminently humble, naturally behaves himself in many respects as a poor man. The poor useth entreaties, but the rich answereth roughly. A poor man is not disposed to quick and high resentment when he is among the rich. He is apt to yield to others, for he knows others are above him; nor is he stiff and self-willed. He is patient with hard fare, expects no other than to be despised, and takes it patiently. He does not take it heinously that he is overlooked, and but little regarded; but is prepared to be in a low place; readily honours his superiors, and takes reproofs quietly. He easily yields to be taught, and does not claim much to his understanding and judgment; he is not over nice or humoursome, and has his spirit subdued to hard things; he is not assuming, nor apt to take much upon him, but it is natural for him to be subject to others. Thus it is with the humble Christian. Humility is (as the great MASTRICHT expresses it) a kind of holy pusillanimity. A man that is very poor is a beggar; so is he that is poor in spirit. This constitutes a great difference between those affections that are gracious, and those that are false under the former, the person continues still a poor beggar

« PrejšnjaNaprej »