by James Smith, 1860
Two believers were walking and talking together one evening, and they were talking as believers should, about their own personal experience of divine things. The one was full of doubts, fears, and misgivings — and the other was trying to comfort him. This is lifting up the hands that hang down, and confirming the feeble knees. O that there was more of this!
When they came to the end of their walk, the doubter concluded by saying, "I don't want to be anything great — I just want to be a humble Christian." I have no doubt but his feelings were right — but I am not so sure as to his knowledge of what a humble Christian is. I shall take no notice of the negative part of his wish — but only of the positive, for there is a sense in which we should not seek great things for ourselves, though there is another in which we should aspire to be great. But let us look at our friend's wish a little carefully.
"I want to be a humble Christian." To be a Christian is a great thing, for a Christian is the noblest work of God. Every Christian is humble — but all are not alike humble; though all are exhorted to be "clothed with humility," and are reminded that "God resists the proud — but gives grace unto the humble."
"I want to be a humble Christian." Very good, then you want to be converted, and to become as a little child. You want to be stripped of all self-importance, to be emptied of all self-seeking, and to be nothing in your own estimation. This is very hard to nature, and it takes much grace, and much discipline to bring us to this. The humble Christian has many severe conflicts with the pride and other evils of his heart, and has often to carry them to the cross, to confess them before God, and to mourn over them as he lies prostrate before the mercy-seat.
The humble Christian believes as a child, who takes his father's word as the ground of his faith. He believes — because his father says it. So the humble Christian, being persuaded that the Bible is God's book, believes all that he finds there, whether he understands it or not. He admits that God is wiser and knows better than he does; and expects that he shall be wise and know better by and bye. He therefore receives doctrinal statements, with implicit faith; admits historical narratives, without gainsaying; places confidence in the promises; and receives all the precepts as just and right.
The humble Christian obeys like a child. God commands it, that is enough. He does not ask, "What will man say?" Nor does he look around to see what is the usual custom. True he may at times distrust his own judgment, and will therefore consult others; but he will wait upon God most, and seek divine teaching on the point.
When he is fully persuaded that he knows what God intends and requires, he does not ask, "What will it cost?" But says, "My father requires it — and I will obey him!" Or, with David, "I made haste, and delayed not, to keep your precepts!"
The humble Christian expects like a child. He does not dwell on his own unworthiness, so much as on the grace, love, and kindness of his Heavenly Father's heart. He naturally expects, that God will give good and great things unto his children; not on account of what they do, though he will not he unmindful of their conduct — but out of his large and loving heart. He may think Heaven and eternal glory are too good for such a sinner as he is, to receive — but then he will not think it either too good or too great, for the God of all grace to bestow; and as eternal life is the gift of God, he expects it to be freely conferred on him.
Just so, in reference to all that God has promised, he expects it, not because he deserves it, for he knows that he does not — but because God has promised, and takes pleasure in bestowing it.
The humble Christian feels like a child,
there is even a childishness about his feelings at times, which are in
general childlike. He feels . . .
confidence in God as his Father,
reliance on Jesus, as his elder brother, who has become his Savior,
and reverence and affection toward the Holy Spirit as his Comforter.
Toward lost sinners, he feels pity, as his brethren after the flesh; and grief, when he views them as their own enemies, and the enemies of God.
Toward believers he feels love, notwithstanding all their imperfections, and is always ready to forgive an injury when repentance is shown.
But I must stay my pen, the humble Christian has sweet joys, hallowed pleasures, and precious foretastes of glory. And along with these, he experiences much self-loathing, self-abhorrence. He wishes to be wholly like Christ, desires to be entirely devoted to Christ. For the humblest Christian aspires to say with Paul, "I live — and yet not I; but Christ lives in me!"
"I desire to be a humble Christian." Do you? Then seek the Spirit, as the Spirit of Christ. Set your heart upon this. Pray incessantly for it, believing that as God has promised it — he will assuredly bestow it. You cannot believe this too firmly. Nor can you seek this blessing with too much fervor or importunity. All true humility flows from the Spirit's work in the heart — who while he humbles us on account of what we are in ourselves, fills us with joy and peace on account of what we are in Christ.
While you thus seek for the gift of the promised Spirit, expressly with the view that he may make you a humble Christian, let your mind dwell much on the greatness, freeness, and sovereignty of God's love. Few things have a greater tendency to humble us and lay us low in the dust, than a sense of God's free, undeserved, and everlasting love to us.
Think also of the sufferings of Jesus — in the garden, before his unjust judges, and on the cross, and think of these habitually. Nor think of him as suffering these things for people in general — but as suffering them particularly for you — for you a sinner — an ungodly sinner — a hard, unfeeling, ungrateful sinner. View him as wounded for your transgressions, and bruised for your iniquities, and as bearing your sins, and all the guilt of them, in his own body on the tree.
Dwell also on the freeness of divine grace, as free for the vilest, therefore as free for you. Dwell also on the sovereign and distinguishing nature of divine grace, as shown particularly to you, and not to every one in the same way, or in the same degree.
And then, think of the greatness of the glory which awaiting you. Glory provided for us by the Father, given to us by the Son, and now made known to us by the Spirit. Glory, so great, so grand, so magnificent, that the sufferings of the present time, however great, or long continued, are not worthy to be compared with it!
Dwell daily dwell on these things, and pray the Holy
Spirit to apply them to your mind, and to seal to you your saving interest
in them; and if you do not become a humble Christian, I shall be surprised.
You will no longer be tortured with doubts, or tormented with fears, or be
glued to the world; but . . .
with holy confidence — you will depend on Jesus,
with steady courage — you will overcome your inward foes,
and walking with God — you will live above the world, its smiles and its frowns.
Well, reader, what do you say to my representation of a humble Christian, is it correct? Do you admire it? Do you desire to be one? Such are peculiarly favored, "For this is what the high and lofty One says — He who lives forever, whose name is holy: I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and humble in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite!" Isaiah 57:15
The humble Christian therefore, will have God for his guest, and as such — he will revive, comfort, and make him holy and happy. God will be the portion of his inheritance and of his cup, and will maintain his lot. His trials may be many — but his supports will be great; his sorrows may be various — but his comforts will be strong. With God for his Father, providence for his friend, the promises as his security, and all things as his property — he will learn in whatever state he is, therewith to be content.
Gratitude will become natural to him, his peace will flow like a river, his joy will be unspeakable and full of glory, his life will be honorable, and his death will be happy.
If all this was understood, I do not wonder at friend above saying, "I only want to be a humble Christian!" I hope he did not mean a little Christian, or only just a Christian, for that is neither wise nor befitting.
Friend, are you a Christian — one with Christ, possessing the Spirit of Christ, and living to the honor of Christ? Are you a humble Christian — having low views of yourself, high views of your fellow-believers, and the most exalted views of Jesus? Do you, while you realize that your desert is Hell, believe that your portion is Heaven — and while you at times wonder, that God should ever cast a merciful look at you — yet rejoice that he loves you with an everlasting love? If so, I doubt not but you are humble, and the more you know and enjoy of these things, the deeper and the more influential will your humility become. May every reader, after reading these lines, be able to lay his hand on his heart and say, "I only want to be a humble Christian!"