Vital Godliness: A Treatise on
Experimental and Practical Piety

By William S. Plumer


"Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (1 Peter 5:5)

We rise in glory as we sink in pride;
Where boasting ends, there dignity begins.

The word translated humility in the New Testament occurs seven times. It is once rendered lowliness, once lowliness of mind, once humbleness of mind, and twice by the simple word humility. In Col. 2:18, 23, it is used either for a sham humility or for a degrading subjection of mind, such as all will-worship begets and fosters. The heathen, not having any virtue corresponding to Christian humility, had no word to express such a quality of the mind; and when the New Testament writers gave us their thoughts, they adopted the language of the age, and so use in a good sense, words which among the heathen often had a very different sense. "The philosophers thought humility to be the opposite of magnanimity." It is one of the peculiar glories of Christianity, that it teaches true humility—so as to elevate and dignify all who practice it.

Humility is lowliness of mind, the opposite of pride and arrogance. It belongs to the essence of experimental religion. Bates calls it "the peculiar grace of Christians, the parent and nurse of other graces, that preserves in us the light of faith and the heat of love; that procures modesty in prosperity and patience in adversity; that is the root of gratitude and obedience, and is so lovely in God's eyes, that he gives grace to the humble."

A lowly spirit is the opposite of a lofty one. True humility is an inward grace based on a view of our own guilt, weakness, vileness, ignorance and poverty, as compared with the infinite excellence and glory of God. It is one of the most lovely of all the traits of a child of God. It is opposed to all ostentation. It not only hides the other graces of the Christian from the gaze of self-admiration, but it hides itself also. Its aim is not to be thought humble, but to be humble. The godly man loves to lie low, and cares not to have it known. In the eyes of others this virtue is willing to take a low place, but claims no merit on that account. The Bible says, "Be clothed with humility." Have no secret or single way of display. Be not humble merely respecting some things, and proud or self-conceited about others. Let the robe of humility of mind, like the ample folds of a cloak, cover up everything else; and be not afraid of thus suffering loss.

Humility will not disfigure, but adorn you. As Rebecca was not the less lovely, but the more so, when she took a veil and covered her beauty and all her jewels; so the child of God is especially beautified when arrayed in humbleness of mind. Of the wicked it is said, "Pride compasses them about as a chain," Psalm 73:6; but the righteous are "clothed with humility." Rowland Hill says, "I could say a thousand things concerning this 'celestial valley of humiliation'. The air is so healthful, the ground is so fertile, the fruit so wholesome; while from the branches of every tree the voice of prayer and praise are heard in delightful concert with each other. While living in this valley, no weapon that is formed against us shall prosper, as all the fiery darts of the devil are sure to pass over our heads, since the enemy of souls cannot shoot low enough to reach us to our hurt."

To prevent mistake, it is right to say that humility has a sacred regard to truth. Its judgments are formed on that sure foundation and by that unerring standard. God requires of us not baseness, but humility; not degradation, but a judgment and sense of ourselves according to truth. We are not at liberty to think of ourselves more lowly or more highly than the truth requires. We are required to think soberly of ourselves. It is certain that all sober thoughts of ourselves will give us a very low place. A high estimate of ourselves is never according to truth.

Neither does humility consist in decrying pride in general, nor in speaking against the haughtiness of some of our neighbors, nor in seeking fellowship with humble people for selfish ends, nor in covering one's self with rags or rough garments, nor in affecting unusual manners, nor in those self-restraints which are intended to win the good opinion of others respecting our humility, nor in confessing sins which we do not forsake, nor in a servile disposition or manner towards men, nor in proudly maintaining the humbling doctrines of the gospel. Even the 'semblance of humility' is often thought advantageous by designing men. Lord Bacon says, "Envy, which is the canker of honor, is best extinguished by declaring a man's self in his ends rather to seek merit than fame; and by an attributing a man's successes rather to divine providence and felicity, than to his own virtue or policy." The cunning know that the best way to secure esteem—is to seem to shun esteem.

Where the mind is assured that the humility of another is sincere, it easily confides, and loves to show affection. We love to express admiration where we suppose we are not flattering. Virtuous minds do not give unreasonable commendation and flattery, though they delight in uttering salutary encouragement. This, is so true that, even where the grace of God has not renewed the heart, but there is merely a natural diffidence, we esteem it amiable. It is with pleasure we read that Saul, when he heard of his being chosen king, went and hid himself among the stuff. Our feelings towards him entirely change when he becomes ambitious and cruel and self-confident by the use of power, and by dazzling prospects for himself and his family. No small part of the enthusiasm of the people in regard to some public men is chiefly owing to the belief that they will not be spoiled by public attention. The charm of their character is in their modesty. Honors are often lavished on such, and as often withheld from men of an opposite character.

In any virtue, the reality is better than the semblance. It is so in humility. Nature is commonly stronger than pretense, and will finally show itself. In one sense, it is easier to be godly than to seem to be godly. It is less trouble to act out an ingenuous nature than it is to conceal an evil nature under any disguise. The commendations bestowed on this virtue are high and numerous. Our Savior said, "Whoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted." Matt. 23:12. In a note on this passage, Doddridge says, "Christ seems, by the frequent repetition of this maxim, to intimate that he intended it not only for those who were to be teachers of others, but for all his disciples without exception. And it is well worthy of our observation that no one saying of our Lord's is so frequently repeated as this, which occurs at least ten times in the evangelists." He then refers to Matt. 18:4; 20:26,27; 23:10, 11; Mark 9:35; 10:43,44; Luke 14:11; 18:14; 22:26; John 13:14.

When we examine other parts of God's word, we find they speak the same language. This will appear more fully shortly. Soon after the death of the last apostle, we find Christian writers dwelling with great urgency upon this virtue. Jerome says, "With God nothing stands higher than humility." Augustine, speaking of pride, says, "That which first overcame man is the last thing which man overcomes." When Demosthenes was asked what was the first thing in a good orator, he said, Delivery; and the second, he replied, Delivery; and the third, he still answered, Delivery. So says Chrysostom, "If I be asked what is the first thing that makes a Christian, I answer, Humility; and the second, Humility; and the third, Humility." Later writers of eminence speak the same language. Venn says, "As soon as pride is humbled enough not to enter into controversy with God about the justice of his own declarations, every man confesses himself a guilty sinner, in danger of eternal ruin." Manton says, "The nettle mounts on

high, while the violet shrouds itself under its own leaves, and is chiefly found out by its fragrance. Let Christians be satisfied with the honor which comes from God only." Bates says, "Humility is the most precious ornament in God's sight; and to be approved by the divine mind and accepted by the divine will is the highest honor, the most worthy of our ambition. Humility is like the precious balm that, mixed with other liquors, sinks to the bottom; but then it is visible and most amiable in the sight of God." Evans says, "Those who are destitute of humility, whatever profession they have made of Christianity, have still the rudiments of it yet to learn. If they have been soaring upward to heaven itself in the sublimest speculations, if they have built up their hopes to the greatest height on other grounds, without laying this at the foundation, they must be content to come down again to learn this lesson, which enters into the essentials of Christ's religion. A proud Christian is a contradictory character; as much so as it would be to say, a wicked saint. The whole gospel, in its precepts, its great example, its glorious prospects, tends to humble the pride of man; and therefore, whoever will come after Christ must in this respect deny himself." Gill says, "Generally speaking, those that have the most grace and the greatest gifts, and are of the greatest usefulness, are the most humble, and think the most meanly of themselves. So those boughs and branches of trees which are most richly laden with fruit bend downwards and hang lowest." Watts says, "Saints increase in humility as they draw nearer to heaven."

"Unworthy to be called an apostle,' said Paul concerning himself some years after his conversion. As he advanced still further in years, he cried out, 'Less than the least of all saints.' A little before his martyrdom, his cry is, 'the chief of sinners.' Mason says, "God had rather see his children humble for sin, than proud of grace. Neither all the devils in hell nor all the temptations of the world can hurt that man who keeps himself humble and depending on Christ. As the first step heavenward is humility, so the first step hell-ward is pride." The Persian proverb is, "A man passes for a sage when he seeks for wisdom; but if he thinks he has found it, he is a fool."

John Angell James says, "Humility is the certain fruit of a heart wherein true piety is duly cultivated. Humility is most conspicuous in those whose lives are adorned with the most exemplary piety." As nothing so well explains and enforces one's meaning as examples, a few are here given to hold forth both the nature and beauty of humility. The first is that of Jonathan Edwards. On receiving information of his election to the presidency of Princeton college, he thus wrote to the trustees: "I am not a little surprised on receiving the unexpected notice of your having made choice of me to succeed the late President Burr. I am much in doubt whether I am called to undertake the business which you have done me the unmerited honor to choose me for. The chief difficulties in my mind in the way of accepting this important and arduous office are, first, my own defects unfitting me for such an undertaking, many of which are generally known, besides others of which my own heart is conscious. I have a constitution in many respects unhappy, occasioning a kind of childish weakness and contemptibleness of speech, presence, and demeanor, with a disagreeable dullness and stiffness, much unfitting me for conversation, but more especially for the government of the college. This makes me shrink at the thought of taking upon me in the decline of life such a new and great business, attended with such a multiplicity of cares, and requiring such a degree of activity, alertness, and spirit of government, especially as succeeding one so remarkably well qualified in these respects, giving occasion to everyone to remark the difference. I am also deficient in some parts of learning, particularly in algebra and the higher parts of mathematics, and in the Greek classics, my Greek learning having been chiefly in the New Testament." Thus spoke the greatest theologian of New England and the greatest philosopher of his century. How many with a hundredth part of his attainments in any respect would never have had—nor have suggested the slightest difficulty.

Hear too Samuel Davies, who, as he was recovering from a dangerous illness, wrote, "I am rising up with a desire to recommend Christ better to my fellow-sinners than I have done; but alas, I hardly hope to accomplish it. God has done a great deal more by me already than I ever expected, and infinitely more than I deserved. But he never intended me for great things. He has beings both of my own and of superior orders, that can perform him more worthy service. Oh, if I might but untie the latchet of his shoes, or draw water for the service of his sanctuary, it is enough for me." Take another case.

John Livingston was one of the wonderful men of Scotland, and the ancestor of the family of the same name so widely and so favorably known in America. When a licentiate, he preached June 21, 1630, on a Monday after a communion, in the yard of the church, with an effect so remarkable as to have been celebrated ever since. John Brown of Haddington says, that under this one sermon "five hundred were converted to Christ." Many others have pointed to that day as closely resembling the day of Pentecost. Livingston's own account of it is simple and modest. He says, "The night before, I had been with some Christians who spent the night in prayer and conference. When I was alone in the fields about eight or nine o'clock in the morning, before we were to go to sermon, there came such a misgiving spirit upon me, considering my unworthiness and weakness, and the expectation of the people, that I was consulting with myself to have stolen away somewhere, and declined that day's preaching; but then I thought I dared not so far distrust God, and so went to sermon, and got good assistance about an hour and a half upon the points which I had meditated on, Ezek. 36:25,26. And in the end, offering to close with some words of exhortation, I was led on about an hour's time in a strain of exhortation and warning with such liberty and melting of heart as I never had the like in public in all my lifetime."

In the New Testament we have several pleasing examples of humility. Thus in the gospel which bears his name, Matthew does not tell us that he was rich and made a great feast for Christ. We learn that fact from another evangelist. Matthew simply tells us what occurred when Jesus sat at table, without hinting who gave the entertainment. When the apostolic authority of Paul was questioned, and for the truth's sake he was compelled to defend it, he seems really pained by being led to speak of himself so much, and calls it folly, but says it was necessary. True humility is opposed both to egotism and ostentation. It is also opposed to all self-conceit before God or man.

Look too at the woman of Canaan. How illustriously did she prove that true humility is not easily offended. Humility, when genuine, pervades throughout the whole temperament. It is an ingredient of the character. It influences both public and private behavior. But there are special occasions when it displays itself in a very unmistakable manner. One of these is, when reproof is administered. Its language ever is, "Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness; and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head." Psalm 141:5. When reproved, the truly humble do not fall into a rage; nor hate the man who has shown fidelity in warning them of their fault or danger.

Again, some of the duties of life are honorable. Offices are to be filled, courtesies are to be shown, deference is to be manifested. The truly humble man is not at a loss at such times. Paul directs that in such cases we should "in honor prefer one another." Rom. 12:10. Elsewhere he says, "Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." Phil. 2:3. The humble man is not offended with such rules. The apostle Peter in like manner says, "Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you."

Nor is the humble man pleased with flattery. It may be adroitly administered; but he knows that any pride or self-delight is not for his good. He is not one of those silly ones who relies upon the praises of men. He cares not to have them. Nor is he much affected by their slanderous accusations. With him it is a rule, "by well-doing to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men," and so to live that he who "is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say" of him. A humble walk is the best defense against the charge of pride.

The conduct of the humble man in times of sore judgments is also noticeable. Instead of resorting to doubtful expedients, he casts his care upon the Lord. Humility loves to depend on God, even when his fatherly displeasure is expressed against us. Famine and war make men brutal to those around them. When the locust and the caterpillar and the cankerworm, strong and without number, devour all our crops; when the heavens glow like heated brass, and the earth is like iron, and drought kills our crops before our eyes, and the seed is rotten under the clods, and the barns remain empty, and the animals groan, and the herds of cattle are starving because they find no pasture, and the rivers are dried up, and fire devours the pasture—then oftentimes fathers have no pity and mothers become monsters. War too is full of brutal outrages, committed especially by the cowardly. It is full of spectacles of misery and slaughter, and carries with it awful terror. "Every battle is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood." Isaiah 9:5. Then at least "There is no kindness in man's obdurate heart."

But the humble man prefers the hand of God—to that of his enemies. He falls into Jehovah's arms. He humbles himself under God's mighty hand. His strength is to sit still. Instead of saying—What have I ever done to deserve such strokes? He rather says—This is no more than what I deserve.

The humble also abase themselves much when God grants them great prosperity in their plans. His mercy humbles them. Thus David was greatly affected at his success in collecting treasure for building the temple, and said, "Who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of you, and of your own, have we given you." 1 Chron. 29:14. So Paul, being led to say in a necessary defense, "I labored more abundantly than they all," instead of being lifted up by it, immediately adds, "Yet not I, but the grace of God that was in me."

In like manner the humble carry themselves softly and lowly, when God comes down in anger to afflict their enemies or the foes of his church. They know the meaning of that injunction, "Don't rejoice when your enemy falls. Don't let your heart be glad when he is overthrown; lest Yahweh see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him. Don't fret yourself because of evildoers; neither be envious of the wicked." (Proverbs 24:17-19). The ordinances of God's house, the emblems of his love, the light of his countenance, the presence of his Spirit—all have a blessed effect on the humble in making him bow in deeper lowliness before God. On three very different classes of matters we are called to humility.

1. The first comprehends our beauty, strength, rank, success, power, wealth. For these things we are indebted to God. He is their author. His mercy, not our wisdom, secured them to us. His kindness granted us loveliness, health, activity, reputable parentage, and all these things. Yet how many are swollen with pride by the possession of even one of these things. Nay, fine clothing and costly jewels puff up many. How seasonable is the warning of God: "The wise must not boast in his wisdom; the mighty must not boast in his might; the rich must not boast in his riches. But the one who boasts should boast in this, that he understands and knows Me—that I am the Lord, showing faithful love, justice, and righteousness on the earth, for I delight in these things." Jer. 9:23, 24. Others may have toiled as hard, studied as carefully, risen as early, sat up as late, eaten only the bread of carefulness, and yet have not gained our measure of success. Oh that men would remember that "Exaltation does not come from the east, the west, or the desert, for God is the judge: He brings down one and exalts another." (Psalm 75:6-7)

Between men's best and greatest efforts and success, there is always a chasm which none but God can bridge over. So that the honor of all is due to him. No man is the more base for being poor, nor is any one more noble for being rich. No man deserves well, because he has been successful. "The race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong, or bread to the wise, or riches to the discerning, or favor to the skillful." (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

2. A second class of matters respecting which we should be humble, comprehends mental qualities, such as memory, imagination, judgment, wit, logical power, learning, and skill as writers or speakers. In our country, the tenor of public sentiment opposes the coarser displays of pride on account of birth, rank, or fortune; but then intellectual superiority has exceptional power. Intellect is indeed never to be despised. It is right that mental strength should have more influence than mental imbecility. Nor does God's word encourage feebleness of intellect. On the contrary, wherever it goes, it says, "do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature." But it does forbid us to be proud of any intellectual abilities that we have. Scripture also warns us not to boast of a false gift, lest we be like clouds and wind without rain. How amazingly contented are the masses of men with their quantum of intellect. Some indeed complain of bad memory—but very few of bad judgment. In a world full of ignorance we have swarms of teachers and few scholars; hosts of instructors—and but few learners, few readers, few inquirers. This is positive proof that there is great lack of sobriety in the estimates men form of themselves. It is a universal law that genuine modesty and humility are essential to any great mental attainments. Lord Bacon says, "The access to the kingdom of man, which is founded on the sciences, resembles that to the kingdom of heaven, where no admission is conceded except to children." Sir Isaac Newton said of himself nothing more flattering than this: "He who comes after me may by diligence know something." Near the close of his life he said, "I stand on the shore of the ocean of knowledge, and all I have been able to do was to pick up a few pebbles." This was in human science.

In the history of the church, Paul was preeminent for gigantic powers and depth of knowledge; yet how lowly was he. Listen to him: "Now we see through a glass darkly." "Now we know in part." "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; forgetting those things which are behind, I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

In studying God's word, how little humility is there, and consequently how little success. John Newton says, "Those who seek not assistance from God, can find it nowhere else: for every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, who has said, 'If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God.' A critical knowledge of the original languages, a skill in the customs and manners of the ancients, an acquaintance with the Greek and Roman classics, a perusal of councils, fathers, scholastics, and commentators, a readiness in the subtleties of logical disputation—these, in their proper place and subserviency, may be of considerable use to clear, illustrate, or enforce the doctrines of Scripture. But unless they are governed by a temper of humility and prayer; unless the man who possesses them accounts them altogether as nothing, without the assistance of the Spirit of God, who is promised to guide believers into all truth; unless he seeks and prays for this guidance no less earnestly than those who understand nothing but their mother tongue; I make no scruple to affirm, that all his apparatus of knowledge only tends to lead him so much the further astray! And that a plain, honest ploughman, who reads no book but his Bible, and has no teacher but the God to whom he prays in secret, stands abundantly fairer for the attainment of true skill in divinity."

Charnock says, "If grace be given to the humble, the grace of the knowledge of spiritual things, is not excluded from God's liberality. We gain it sooner by a humble contemplation than by proud wranglings. As to obey God we must deny our wills, so to know him we must deny our reasonings; will must submit our reason to Scriptural precept. Agur acknowledged himself brutish, who came behind none of his age, unless Solomon, in understanding. Prov. 30:2. The humble person will soon be a scholar in this learning, when a Pharisee shall remain as ignorant as he is proud. God reveals himself to babes. Matt. 11:25. The meek will he teach his way. Psalm 25:9. As God knows the proud afar off, Psalm 138:6, so does the proud man know God afar off. A proud scholar and a dove-like teacher can never accord."

In full agreement with these sentiments, the Scriptures declare, "If any man thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know." How timely are such warnings as these: "Be not wise in your own eyes." "Be not wise in your own conceits." "Do you see a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope for a fool, than for him." "Woe unto those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own conceit." Yet to how many might the irony of Job be applied: "No doubt but you are the people—and wisdom will die with you." How many profess to see into things, which they have never studied. "The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men who can render a reason."

Very few men are willing to know their own ignorance. But for their self-conceit, armed with malignity, the learned scribes and doctors of our Savior's day might have become apostles in knowledge. One has said that "hell may be full of learned scribes and subtile disputers, of eloquent orators and profound philosophers—who, when they knew God, glorified him not as God, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." "The world by wisdom knew not God." The human heart perverts unsanctified knowledge to the blinding of the mind in the things of God. Hence astronomers and anatomists have frequently been materialists and atheists. Some wonder that two sciences of so elevated and instructive a character should lead to such results. They do not thus affect the humble. But the proud pervert everything. Accordingly it is as true of some moderns as of some ancients, that "seeking to become wise, they became fools." This self-conceit makes men averse to receiving counsel from men, or reproof from God. It makes them violent and dogged in their temper. It makes them rash, reckless, officious, insolent, and censorious.

The Bible doctrine is, "If any man among you seems to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise." Here God clearly teaches that humility is an ingredient of teachableness. To sit at the feet of Jesus is essential to our solid learning. Will you thus humble yourself? Is any duty more reasonable?

3. In all ages, true piety has borne the same marks. In like manner sin exhibits the same tempers and tendencies from age to age. Self-esteem and self-justification belong to the unregenerate heart. This is its habitual and prevailing state. Some go so far as to claim absolute exemption from all sin. They have sometimes been so left to themselves and given up to believe a lie as to declare that for many months, and even years, they have not been chargeable with one sinful thought, word, or deed. The language of Scripture to such people is very direct and pungent: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." A conscience not seared as with a hot iron must feel the force of such a declaration. The Old Testament speaks the same language: "There is not a just man upon earth, that does good, and sins not." Eccl. 7:20.

Though you may be far from asserting that you are perfect, yet if you have never been taught of God, nor humbled at the foot of the cross, you have an extravagantly good opinion of yourself. The Bible says, "There is a generation who are pure in their own eyes, yet are not washed from their filthiness." Judaic pharisaism, with its broad phylacteries and street-corner devotions and idle ceremonies, you may not practice; but are you not in spirit a Pharisee? Is not the earth full of those who "trust in themselves that they are righteous, and despise others." Of those who say, "Stand by yourself, come not near me, I am holier than you?" How little is thought of the precious blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ!

Alas for men! Few of them feel themselves so dreadfully diseased and ruined by sin as to betake themselves to that fountain of which the pool of Bethesda was but a type. Honesty, truth, and love require every messenger of God to declare to his hearers that they are transgressors of the best, the wisest, the most benevolent code of laws ever enacted. By this code, all are sinners, shut up to guilt and wrath, prisoners to eternal justice. No man can answer for even one of the thousands of his transgressions. It is solely of God's mercies that we are not all consumed. We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. If we had any sense, we should each cry, "Enter not into judgment with your servant, for in your sight shall no man living be justified." Surely no room is left us for boasting.

"We are unprofitable servants." "Who can say, I have made my heart clean; I am pure from my sin?" The best men that this world has ever seen have cried out like Paul, "I am carnal, sold under sin;" or like Josiah, "Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips;" or like the publican, "God be merciful to me a sinner." How then dare any of us lift up our heads in arrogance, and like those in whose skirts blood was found say, "I am innocent?" Jer. 2:35; or like the immoral woman, "who wipes her mouth and says, I have done no wickedness." Prov. 30:20; or like fraudulent Ephraim, with the balances of deceit in his hands, "In all my labors they shall find no iniquity in me, that were sin." Hos. 12:8. He who lacks humility on the score of his personal sinfulness, precludes the possibility of improvement in his spiritual state. "Before honor is humility." "God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble." Men must either part with their pride and good opinion of themselves—or they must part with hope and a blessed eternity. Will you cast yourself at the feet of sovereign mercy? You must either take your place in the dust before God—or be cast down to hell.

Nor does any grace carry with it richer advantages than humility. It is above most things a means and a guaranty of a peaceful and peaceable life. "Pride only breeds quarrels." Prov. 13:10. "He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife." Prov. 28:25.

Humility casts its care upon the Lord, knowing that he cares for us, 1 Pet. 5:7; and so leaves in his hands those things which disquiet the lives of so many. It is also the great means and guaranty of avoiding self-deception. If ever men are puffed up with delusive notions respecting their virtues or powers, the Scripture gives the reason: "The pride of your heart has deceived you." Obad. 3. Humility is also the great means and pledge of a tender-heart. The way that Nebuchadnezzar became such a monster of wickedness was, that his "heart was lifted up and hardened in pride." Dan. 5:20. By humility men avoid much and terrible mortification, and final ruin; for "when pride comes, then comes shame." Prov. 11:2 "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." Prov. 16:18. "Before destruction, the heart of man is haughty." Prov. 18:12.

John Newton says, "A spirit of humiliation is both the strength and beauty of our profession. A broken and contrite spirit is pleasing to the Lord; he has promised to dwell with those who have it; and experience shows that the exercise of all our graces is in proportion to the humbling sense we have of the depravity of our nature. If we could receive and habitually maintain a right judgment of ourselves by what is plainly maintained in Scripture, it would probably save us many a mournful hour; but experience is the Lord's school, and they who are taught by him usually learn that they have no wisdom by the mistakes they make; and that they have no strength by the slips and falls they meet with."

John Owen says, "In humility alone there is safety." "His soul, which is lifted up, is not upright in him," Hab. 2:4; for he draws back from God, and God has no pleasure in him, as the apostle expounds these words. Heb. 10:38 Everywhere the Scriptures represent humility as the road to honor. This is the doctrine of both Testaments. "Before honor is humility." Prov. 15:33, and 18:12. "By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honor, and life." Prov. 22:4. "He that humbles himself shall be exalted." Luke 14:11. Not only does honor come after humility, but, ultimately it is in proportion to it. Thus it was with Joseph. Thus it was with JESUS, of whom Joseph was but a type.

Humility is also the best evidence of piety. Without it all other evidences are useless. A good writer says, "The Christian's temper Godward is evidenced by humility. He has received from Gethsemane and Golgotha such a sense of the evil of sin and of the holiness of God, combined with his matchless love to sinners, as has deeply penetrated his heart."

Humility also, is the great secret of improvement. Would you gain strength? know your weakness. Would you gain wisdom? know your folly. Seneca said, "I suppose many would attain to wisdom, if they did not suppose they had already attained to it." If you would be more like God, know how little you are yet like him. Humility is also the way to communion with God. "Thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." Isaiah 57:15.

And so it appears that humility is essential to salvation. The Scriptures not only teach this incidentally, but explicitly. "God brings down the proud and saves the humble." Job 22:29. "Though the Lord be high, yet has he respect unto the lowly; but the proud he knows afar off." Psalm 138:6. If you would cultivate humility, you must acquire self-knowledge; you must practice self-inspection; you must be willing to know the worst of your own case; you must settle it in your heart that humility is a great good; you must compare yourself with those who have been brighter examples of virtue than yourself, and especially with our great exemplar Jesus Christ; you must think much of your indebtedness to God's grace—for what have you that you have not received? You must reflect on the odiousness of a religious character which is destitute of this essential qualification; you must get clear views of the law, its extent, spirituality, and strictness; you must get clear views of God. This was what brought Job into the dust: "I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees you; therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Job 42:5, 6.

Would you obtain humility? Ask for it. Never adopt the belief that you can work this or any other grace in your heart without the help of God's Spirit. It was a good prayer of a saint of former days: "O you who only knows what I would do if I had health, ease, and abundance—do in your wisdom and mercy so proportion your gifts and restraints as you know best for my soul. If I be not humbled enough, let me wait; and so order all my condition that I may lack anything but yourself." Pray for humility, and when the answer comes—be not angry that God has abased you, but trust him with all your heart.

Take root downwards, and then you shall bear fruit upwards. If there be no deepness of earth, things will not grow. If the foundation be laid on the surface, the house will not stand. With the humble is wisdom. Their peace is settled. Their salvation is certain.

This discussion leads to these OBSERVATIONS:

1. No man is ultimately the loser by any virtue whatever. Nothing is so self-renouncing as humility, yet nothing in the end leads to such riches and honors and glories. A grace may provoke the contempt, the envy, or the rage of men; yet what of that? The contempt of man is not to be compared with the derision of God. And the worst that malice can inflict is to torture and kill the body. It is not position, but worth—which deserves esteem. "A diamond fallen into a ash-heap is not the less precious; and the dust, raised by high winds to heaven, is not the less vile." It is always wise, it is always profitable to practice every Christian virtue. If present loss comes to us in the path of duty, the end will be eternal gain.

2. The truly godly need not fear that their pious labors and sufferings will be overlooked. They shall all be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. Their humility may very properly lead them to put a low estimate upon all they do. But God will not forget their labors of love. "The good works of some are manifest beforehand; and those which are otherwise cannot be hidden."

3. The praise that comes from man is nothing, compared with the praise that comes from God only. The barbarous people who without evidence pronounced Paul a murderer, as suddenly and blindly declared him to be a god. If you could get all men to praise you today, they would probably execrate you tomorrow. But when God pronounces a man blessed, there is permanency, there is durability in it. "The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable."

4. This subject furnishes a good test of doctrinal statements. Does a doctrine flatter—or does it stain the pride and glory of man? The answer to this question, fairly made, will be a safe guide to a decision on any views in religion which we may have. If in the science of astronomy, the earth is considered as the center, and the sun is made to revolve around it, we have a system full of error. At every succeeding step and with every growing conception, we get further and further from the truth. So in religion. If one feels himself to be the center of worth and importance, and looks on others as ministering to him, then we have one form of religion, one code of practice which fully coincide with the sentiments and demeanor of Pharisees and fallen angels.

But if a man in his mind and heart puts Jehovah on the throne, and himself in the dust—then we have another and a very different system of religious belief and practice. In all this is order, concord, the right of divine law, and a solid basis for peace and obedience.

Humility is one ingredient of heavenly bliss. There the will of the King, eternal, immortal, and invisible—is received with shouts of joy. It was an attempt to introduce a different state of things that constituted the rebellion which broke out in heaven, and led the Eternal to build his prison-house Tophet, that was ordained of old. Reject all teachings that flatter the pride of man. A doctrine which makes you greater than the least of God's mercies, is not from heaven.

5. This subject affords a guide in the performance of religious duties. As far as their nature will allow, they should be modest and retiring. "Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give to the poor, don't sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They've got their reward! But when you give to the poor, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you—They've got their reward in full! But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:1-6). Here are the very words of the Son of God, delivered in his first set discourse to his disciples. Let them never be forgotten.