The Unsearchable Riches of Christ
Thomas Brooks, 1655
"Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ!" Ephesians 3:8
I shall begin at this time with the first words, "Unto me who am less than the least of all saints." There are these two observations which naturally flow from these words.
Observation 1. That the most holy men are always the most humble men.
None so humble on earth, as those who live highest in heaven.
Or if you will, take the observation thus: That those who are the most highly valued and esteemed of by God, are lowest and least in their own esteem.
"Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints," etc.
Observation 2. The second observation is, That there are weak saints as well as strong; little saints as well as great. Or thus, All saints are not of an equal growth or stature.
Doctrine I. I shall begin with the first observation, That the most holy men are always the most humble men. Souls that are the most highly esteemed and valued by God, do set the least and lowest esteem upon themselves. "Unto me who am less than the least of all saints," etc.
In the handling of this point, I shall do these three things:
I. I shall prove that the most holy souls are always the most humble souls.
II. I shall show you the properties of truly humble souls.
III. I shall show you the reasons why those who are the most highly prized and esteemed of God, do set so low a price upon themselves.
IV. And then the use.
I. I shall PROVE that the most holy men are always the most humble men.That this is so, I shall give you most clear proofs, and open them to you.
See it in JOB. Job was humble in regard of those perfections and degrees of grace, which he had attained to beyond any other saints on earth. No man ever received a fairer or a more valuable certificate under the hand of God, or the broad seal of heaven, for his being a soul famous in grace and holiness, than Job, as you may see, Job 1:8, "And the Lord said unto Satan—Have you considered My servant Job? No one else on earth is like him, a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil." And yet no man could speak more undervaluingly of himself than Job did. Job 42:5-6, "I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear—but now my eye sees you, I abhor myself in dust and ashes." [Job was high in worth and humble in heart.] This expression is the deepest act of abhorrency. Abhorrency strictly taken, is hatred wound up to the height. "I abhor myself." The word that is rendered abhor signifies to reject, to disdain, to despise, and to cast off. Ah! says Job, I abhor myself, I reject myself, I disdain myself, I cast off myself, I have a vile esteem of myself. [Deliver me, O Lord, from that evil man—myself! Augustine.]
So our blessed apostle PAUL, who had been caught up into the third heavens, and had such glorious revelations as could not be uttered—yet he accounted himself less than the least of all saints. [Wordless words, such as words are too weak to utter.] Not that anything can be less than the least; the apostle's holy rhetoric does not cross Aristotle's philosophy; but the original word being a double diminutive, his meaning is that he was as little as could be; therefore he put himself down so little as could not be, less than the least.
Another proof you have in the prophet ISAIAH 6:1, 5-6. As Paul among the apostles was the greatest, so Isaiah among the prophets was the clearest and choicest gospel preacher, and holds out more of Christ and of his kingdom and glory, than all the other prophets do. Isaiah 6:1, He sees the glory of the Lord in a vision, and this makes him cry out, verse 5, "Woe is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty!" "I am undone." The Hebrew is, "I am cut off," I am a forlorn man! Why? "For I have seen the King, the Lord Almighty!" [The clearest sight and vision of God does always give a man the fullest sight of his own emptiness, sinfulness, and nothingness.] Here you have the highest and choicest among the prophets, as you had Paul before among the apostles, abasing and laying low himself.
So PETER. Luke 5:8, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" That is—a man, a sinner—a compound of dirt and sin! When he saw that glorious miracle wrought by the Lord Jesus, he cries out as one very sensible of his own weakness and sinfulness. "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man." Ah! I am not worthy to be near such majesty and glory, who am a mere bundle of vice and vanity, of folly and iniquity!
Take another clear instance: Gen. 18:27, "And ABRAHAM answered and said, Behold, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, who am but dust and ashes." Here you have the father of the faithful, the greatest believer in the world, accounting himself dust and ashes. [Solemnly think that you are dust and ashes, and be proud if you can, Isaiah 6:1-2.] Dust notes the baseness of his original, and ashes notes his deserving to be burnt to ashes, if God should deal with him in justice rather than in mercy. The nearer any soul draws to God, the more humble will that soul lie before God. None so near God as the angels, nor any so humble before God as the angels.
So JACOB, Gen. 32:10, "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and all the truth which you have showed unto your servant," etc. Jacob, a man eminent in his prevailing with God, a prince that had the honor and the happiness to overcome the God of mercy—yet judges himself unworthy of the least mercy. Ah! how low is that soul in his own eyes—who is most honorable in God's eyes!
DAVID, you know, was a man after God's own heart, 1 Kings 15:5; a man highly honored, much beloved, and dearly prized by the Lord. Yet in 1 Sam. 26:20, he counts himself a flea; and what is more contemptible than a flea?
In Psalm 22:6, he says, "I am a worm—and no man." The word that is there rendered worm, is a word that signifies a very little worm—a worm that is so little that a man can hardly see or perceive it. A worm is the most despicable creature in the world, trampled under foot by everyone. Says David—I am a despicable worm in my own eyes. [A humble soul is a little, little nothing in his own eyes.]
And thus you see the point proved, that the most holy men have been always the most humble men.
II.The second thing that I am to do is, to show you the properties of humble souls. I confess, when I look abroad in the world, and observe the demeanor of all sorts of men, my heart is stirred to speak as fully and as home to this point, as Christ shall help me. It is very very sad to consider, how few humble souls there are in these days. Ah! the damnable pride which reigns and rules in the hearts and lives of most men! I think it is far greater than has been known in the generations before us. Ah, England! England! what folly, what damnable wickedness is this, that you should be a-lifting yourself up in pride, when God is a-staining the pride of all glory, and bringing into contempt the honorable of the earth, and a-setting his feet upon the neck of pride. [God loves to hear this as a parcel of his praise—to spare the lowly and strike down the proud.]
[1.] Now the first property that I shall lay down of a humble soul is this:A humble soul under the highest spiritual discoveries, and under the greatest outward mercies, forgets not his former sinfulness and his former outward baseness.
PAUL had been taken up into the third heavens, and had glorious revelations and manifestations of God, 2 Cor. 12:1-4; he cries out, "I was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious," 1 Tim. 1:13. Under the choicest discoveries, he remembers his former blasphemies. So Romans 7:23, "I see a law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members." He had been at this time about fourteen years converted, as some judge. He was a man who lived at as high a rate in God, as any we read of; a man who was filled with glorious spiritual discoveries and revelations, and yet under all discoveries and revelations, he remembers that body of sin and death that made him cry out, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?" Who shall ease me of my burden, who shall knock off these chains that make my life a hell? [Chrysostom observes it of Paul, as his greatest honor, that although he had obtained pardon of God for his sins—yet he is not ashamed to admit his personal wretchedness to the world. The spouse of Christ, under all the kisses and embraces of Christ, acknowledges herself to be black! Song. 1:2, 5, compared.]
I will by a few instances prove the other branch: Gen. 32:10, "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies," says JACOB, "When I left home, I owned nothing except a walking stick, and now my household fills two camps!" I remember, says he, when I went over Jordan, I was as a footman that carried all his wealth with him. Under his outward greatness he forgets not his former baseness. A humble soul is good at looking back upon his former low estate, upon his threadbare coat, which was his best and only robe.
So DAVID, 1 Chron. 17:16-17, "Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and prayed—Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And now, O God, in addition to everything else, you speak of giving me a lasting dynasty! You speak as though I were someone very great, O Lord God!" David remembered the baseness of his birth; he remembered his shepherd's crook, as Jacob did his traveling staff. [Iphicrates, that noble captain, cried out, From how small to how great an estate am I raised! So does the humble soul, when God turns his brass into silver, his iron into gold, his pence into pounds. Agathocles, who, of a potter's son, was made king of Sicily, would always be served in earthen vessels.]
God's mercies make a humble soul glad—but not proud. A humble soul is lowest when his mercies are highest; he is least when he is greatest; he is lowest when he is highest; he is most poor when he is most rich. Nothing melts like mercy, nothing draws like mercy, nothing humbles like mercy. Mercy gives the humble soul such excellent counsel, as Plasilla the empress gave her husband Theodosius, "Remember, O husband," says she, "what lately you were—and what now you are; so shall you govern well the empire, and give God his due praise for so great an advancement." The voice of mercy is, "Remember what you once were, and what now you are—and be humble."
Now proud men who are lifted up from the ash-heap, who abound in worldly wealth, ah how does their blood rise with their outward good! The more mercies they have, the more proud they are; mercies do but puff and swell such souls. In a crowd of mercies, they cry out in the pride of their hearts: "Depart from us, O God, for we desire not the knowledge of your ways. What is the Almighty that we should serve him? and what profit shall we have, if we pray unto him?" Psalm 73:3-13; Job 21:7-16, 14:15.
[2.] A second property of a humble soul is this, He overlooks his own righteousness, and lives upon the righteousness of another, to wit, the Lord Jesus. So the apostle Paul, in Philippians 3:8-10, overlooks his own righteousness, and lives wholly upon the righteousness of Christ: "I desire to be found in him," says he, "not having my own righteousness." Away with it! It is dross, it is dung, it is dog's meat! It is a rotten righteousness, an imperfect righteousness, a weak righteousness, which is of the law. But that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith—that is a spotless righteousness, a pure righteousness, a complete righteousness, an incomparable righteousness! And, therefore, a humble soul overlooks his own righteousness, and lives upon Christ's righteousness.
Remember this—all the sighing, mourning, sobbing, and complaining in the world, does not so undeniably evidence a man to be humble, as his overlooking his own righteousness, and living really and purely upon the righteousness of Christ. Men may do much, hear much, pray much, fast much, and give much, etc., and yet be as proud as Lucifer, as you may see in the Scribes and Pharisees, Mat. 23, and those in Isaiah 58:3, who in the pride of their hearts made an idol of their own righteousness: "Why have we fasted," say they, "and you see it not? Why have we afflicted our souls, and you take no knowledge?" Oh! but for a man now to trample upon his own righteousness, and to live wholly upon the righteousness of another, this speaks out a man to be humble indeed. There is nothing that the heart of man stands more averse to than this—of discarding his own righteousness. Man is a creature apt to warm himself with the sparks of his own fire, though he does lie down for it in eternal sorrow, Isaiah 50:11. Man is naturally prone to go about to establish his own righteousness, that he might not subject to the righteousness of Christ; he will labor as for life, to lift up his own righteousness, and to make a Savior of it, Romans 10:4.
Ay—but a humble soul disclaims his own righteousness: "All our righteousness is as filthy rags." "Enter not into judgment with your servant, for in your sight shall no man living be justified," Psalm 143:2. So Job, "Though I were righteous—yet I would not answer—but I would make supplication to my judge," Job 9:15. Proud Pharisees bless themselves in their own righteousness: "I thank God I am not as this publican; I fast twice in the week," etc., Luke 18:11-12. Ay—but now a soul truly humbled blushes to see his own righteousness, and glories in this, that he has the righteousness of Christ to live upon. [A proud heart eyes more his seeming worth than his real needs.] Rev. 4:10-11, the twenty-four elders throw down their crowns at the feet of Christ. By their crowns you may understand their gifts, their excellencies, their righteousness; they throw down these before Christ's throne, to note to us, that they did not put confidence in them, and that Christ was the crown of crowns and the top of all their royalty and glory. A humble soul looks upon Christ's righteousness as his only crown.
[3 ] Thirdly, The lowest and the most despicable good work, is not below a humble soul. A humble DAVID will dance before the ark: he enjoyed so much of God in it, that it caused him to leap and dance before it; but Michal his wife despised him for a fool, and counted him as a simple vain fellow, looking upon his behavior as vain and light, and not becoming the might, majesty, and glory of so glorious a prince. Well! says this humble soul, if this be to be vile, I will be more vile!
Great PAUL—yet being humble and low in his own eyes, he can stoop to do service to the least and lowest saint. 1 Cor. 9:19-22, "Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." Ah, says Paul, it is my greatest joy, my greatest delight, to gain souls to Christ. The word win signifies craft, or guile Ah! humble Paul will use a holy craft, a holy guile, to win souls. Here you have a humble soul bowing and stooping to the lowest saint, and the lowest services—that he might win souls.
(To convert one soul is greater than to pour out ten thousand talents into the baskets of the poor. Chrysostom)
So the Lord JESUS himself was famous in this, John 13:4. Though he was the Lord of glory, and one who thought it no robbery to be equal with God, one who had all perfection and fullness in himself—yet the lowest work is not below this King of kings. Witness his washing his disciples' feet and wiping them with a towel, 1 Cor. 2:8; Philip. 2:6; Col. 1:19.
Bonaventure, though he was born of great parentage, and a great scholar—yet to keep his mind from swelling, he would often sweep rooms, wash dishes, and make beds.
So that famous Italian marquees, when God was pleased by the ministry of his word to convert him, the lowest work was not below him. Though he might have lived like a king in his own country—yet having tasted of that life and sweetness which are in Jesus, he was so humble that he would go to market, and carry home the cheapest and the poorest things the market yielded. There was nothing below him, when God had changed him, and humbled him. [Proud hearts cannot stoop to low services; they say this work and that is below their abilities, station, parentage, and employments.]
It was recorded to the glory of some ancient generals, that they were able to call every common soldier by his own name, and were careful to provide money, not only for their captains and soldiers—but litter also for the basest animal. [These heathens will rise in judgment against many proud professors in these days, who scorn to stoop to low services, etc. So it is with all that are high in worth and humble in heart. Lev. 10:2- 3, God will be sanctified either actively or passively; either in us or upon us.] There is not the lowest good work, which is below the humble soul. If the work is good, though ever so low, humility will put a hand to it; but pride will not so much as touch it.
[4.] A fourth property of a humble heart is this, A humble heart will submit to every TRUTH of God which is made known to it; even to those divine truths which are most contrary to flesh and blood. 1 Sam. 3:17, Eli would sincerely know what God had revealed to Samuel concerning him; Samuel tells him that he must break his neck, that the priesthood must be taken away from him, and his sons must be slain in the war. "It is the Lord," says he, "let him do what seems him good."
So in Lev. 10:3, the Lord by fire from heaven destroys Aaron's two sons. "But Aaron remained silent." If God misses of his honor one way, he will rain hell out of heaven—but he will have it another way. This Aaron knew, and therefore he remained silent, when God showed himself to be "a consuming fire." The Hebrew word that is here rendered silent, signifies the quietness and silence of his mind. [The word often signifies a modest quietness of mind, the troubled affections being allayed; so here. In Lam. 3:27-29 it signifies to submit unto God, and to be patient in affliction; and so it may be taken here.]
He did not hold his tongue only, for many a man may hold his tongue, and yet his mind and heart may kick and swell against God—but his very mind was quiet and still; there was a heavenly calm in his spirit; he was quiet and silent, because the Lord had done it. So in Acts 10:33, "We are all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded you of God." We are not here to hear what may tickle our ears, or please our fancies, or satisfy our lusts. No; but we are here to hear what God will say. Our hearts stand ready pressed to subject themselves to whatever God shall declare to be his will. We are willing to hear what we may do, that we may obey sincerely and universally the good pleasure of our God, knowing that it is as well our dignity as our duty so to do.
There are three things in a humble soul, which do strongly incline it to duty.
The first is divine love.
The second is divine presence.
The third is divine glory.
The dove made use of her wings to fly to the ark; so does a humble soul of his duties to fly to Christ. Though the dove did use her wings—yet she did not trust in her wings—but in the ark. So though a humble soul does use duties—yet he does not trust in his duties—but in his Jesus. But now proud hearts they hate the truth, they cry out, "Who is the Lord, that we should obey him?" And what are his commandments, that we should submit to them? Ay—but a humble soul falls under the power of truth, and counts it his greatest glory to be obedient to all truth.
[5.] A fifth property of a humble soul is this: A humble soul lives not upon himself, nor upon his own doings—but upon the Lord Jesus, and his doings. Poor men, you know, they do not live upon themselves, they live upon others; they live upon the care of others, the love of others, the provision of others. Why thus a humble soul lives upon the care of Christ, the love of Christ, the promise of Christ, the faithfulness of Christ, the discoveries of Christ. He lives upon Christ for his justification, Philip. 3:7-10; he lives upon Christ for his sanctification. Cant. 4:16, "Awake, O north wind, and come O south wind—blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out." And he also lives upon Christ for his consolation: Cant. 2:3, "Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my lover among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste." And he lives upon Christ for the performance of all holy actions: Philip. 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me;" Gal. 2:20, "I live—yet not I—but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." A humble soul sees in Christ a fullness of abundance, and a fullness of redundancy, and here his soul lives and feeds. A humble soul sees that all his stock of blessings are in the hands of Christ. His stock of graces, his stock of comforts, his stock of experiences are in the hands of Jesus Christ, who is the great Lord and keeper of all a believer's graces, and of all his comforts. And therefore, as children live upon the hand of their parents; so a humble soul sees its stock of blessings are in the hand of the Lord Jesus, and therefore he lives upon Christ—upon his love, and his provision, and his undertakings, etc.
But now proud hearts live not upon the Lord Jesus Christ; they live upon themselves, and upon their own duties, their own righteousness, their own actings, as the Scripture evidences. Christ dwells in that heart most eminently, that has emptied itself of itself. Christ is the humble man's manna, upon which he lives, and by which he thrives, Isaiah 58:2, 7; Luke 7:47.
[6.] A sixth property of a humble soul is this, He judges himself to be deserving of the judgments of God. [A proud heart resists, and is resisted: flint to flint, fire to fire. A humble soul blesses God as well for crosses as mercies, as well for adversity as for prosperity, as well for frowns as for smiles, etc., because he judges himself unworthy of the least rebukes from God.] A humble soul looks upon himself as one not worthy that God should spend a rod upon him, in order to his reformation, edification, or salvation. As I am unworthy, says a humble soul, that God should smile upon me, so I am unworthy that he should spend a frown upon me. Job 13:25, "Will you break a leaf driven to and fro? And will you pursue the dry stubble?" Why, I am but a leaf, I am but a little dry stubble, I am below your wrath; I am so very, very bad, that I wonder that you should so much as spend a rod upon me. What more weak, worthless, slight, and contemptible than a leaf, than dry stubble? Why, Lord, says Job, I am a poor, weak, and worthless creature, I wonder that you should take any pains to do me good, I can't but count and call everything a mercy—which is less than I deserve—which is less than hell.
So David, in 1 Sam. 24:14, "After whom has the King of Israel come out? After whom do you pursue? After a dead dog, after a flea." The language of a humble soul, when God begins to be a angry, is this: Lord, I can bless you who you will take any pains with me; but I humbly acknowledge that I am below the least rod, I am not worthy that you should frown upon me, threaten me, strike me, or whip me, for my internal and eternal good. But proud hearts think themselves wronged when they are afflicted, they cry out with Cain, "Our punishment is greater than we can bear," Gen. 4:13.
[7.] A seventh property of a humble soul is this, A humble soul does highly prize the least of Christ. The least smile, the least good word, the least good look, the least truth, the least mercy—is highly valued by a humble soul.
The Canaanite woman in the fifteenth chapter of Matthew sets a high price upon a crumb of mercy. [Faith will pick an argument out of a repulse, and turn discouragements into encouragements. Luther would not take all the world for one leaf of the Bible; such a price he set upon it, from the sweet that he found in it.] Ah, Lord, says the humble soul, if I may not have a loaf of mercy, give me a piece of mercy; if not a piece of mercy, give me a crumb of mercy. If I may not have sun-light, let me have moon-light; if not moon-light, let me have star-light; if not star-light, let me have candle-light; and for that I will bless you.
In the time of the law, the lowest things that were consecrated for use in the tabernacle were very highly prized—such as leather or wood. A humble soul looks upon all the things of God as consecrated things. Every truth of God is a consecrated truth; it is consecrated to holy use, and this causes the soul highly to prize it; and so every smile of God, and every discovery of God, and every drop of mercy from God—is very highly prized by a soul that walks humbly with God. The name of Christ, the voice of Christ, the footsteps of Christ, the least touch of the garment of Christ, the least-regarded truth of Christ, the lowest and least-regarded among the flock of Christ, is highly prized by humble souls that are savingly interested in Christ, Song 1:3; John 10:4-5; Psalm 27:4; Mat. 9:20-21; Acts 24:14; 1 Cor. 9:22. A humble soul cannot, a humble soul dares not, call anything little—which has Christ in it; neither can a humble soul call or count anything great wherein he sees not Christ, wherein he enjoys not Christ. A humble soul highly prizes the least nod, the least love-token, the least courtesy from Christ; but proud hearts count great mercies small mercies, and small mercies no mercies; yes, pride does so unman them, that they often call mercy misery, etc.
[8.] The eighth property of a humble soul is this, It can never be good enough, it can never pray enough, nor hear enough, nor mourn enough, nor believe enough, nor love enough, nor fear enough, nor joy enough, nor repent enough, nor loathe sin enough, nor be humble enough, etc.
Humble Paul looks upon his greatness—all as nothing at all; he forgets those things which are behind, and reaches forth to those things which are before, "that if by any means he might attain unto the resurrection of the dead," Philip. 3:11-14; that is, that perfection of holiness which the dead shall attain unto in the morning of the resurrection. [It signifies the straining of the whole body, a stretching out head and hands, as runners in a race do to lay hold on the prize, Psalm 10:17. It signifies so to desire and long after a thing as to have one's teeth water at it; so in Micah 7:1. But proud hearts sit down and pride themselves, and bless themselves, as if they had attained to much, when they have attained to nothing which can raise them above the lowest step of misery.]
No holiness below that matchless, peerless, spotless, perfect holiness that saints shall have in the glorious day of Christ's appearing, will satisfy the humble soul. A humble heart is an aspiring heart; he cannot be contented to get up some rounds in Jacob's ladder—but he must get to the very top of the ladder, to the very top of holiness. A humble heart cannot be satisfied with so much grace as will bring him to glory, with so much of heaven as will keep him from dropping into hell; he is still crying out, Give, Lord, give; give me more of yourself, more of your Son, more of your Spirit; give me more light, more life, more love, etc. Caesar in warlike matters minded more what was to conquer than what was already conquered; what was to gain than what was already gained. So does a humble soul mind more what he should be—than what he is; what is to be done—than what has been done. Truly heaven is for that man, and that man is for heaven, that sets up for his mark the perfection of holiness.
Poor men are full of desires; they are often a-sighing it out, Oh that we had bread to strengthen us, drink to refresh us, clothes to cover us, friends to visit us, and houses to shelter us, etc. So souls that are spiritually poor they are often a-sighing it out, Oh that we had more of Christ to strengthen us, more of Christ to refresh us, more of Christ to be a covering and shelter to us, etc.
I had rather, says the humble soul, be a poor man and a rich Christian, than a rich man and a poor Christian. Lord, says the humble soul, I had rather do anything, I had rather bear anything, I had rather be anything, than to be a dwarf in grace, Rev. 3:17, Isaiah 65:5, Luke 18:11-12.
The light and glory of humble Christians rises by degrees: Cant. 6:1, (1.) Looking forth as the morning, with a little light; (2.) Fair as the moon, more light; (3.) Clear as the sun—that is come up to a higher degree of spiritual light, life, and glory. Lord, says the humble soul, give me much grace, and then a little gold will serve my turn; give me much of heaven, and little of earth will content me; give me much of the springs above, and a little of the springs below will satisfy me, etc.
[9.] The ninth property of a humble soul is this, It will smite and strike at small sins as well as for great; for those things which the world counts no sin, as well as for those who they count gross sins.
When David had but cut off the hem of Saul's garment, his heart smote him as if he had cut off his head. The Hebrew word signifies to smite, wound, or chastise. [1 Sam. 24:5, A good man's heart, when kindly awakened, may smite him for those actions which at first he judged very prudent and correct. How great a pain, not to be borne, comes from the prick of this small thorn! Little sins have put several to their wits' ends, when they have been set home upon their consciences.] Ah! his heart struck him, his heart chastised him, his heart wounded him for cutting off Saul's skirt, though he did it upon noble grounds, namely, to convince Saul of his false jealousies, and to evidence his own innocency and integrity. And so, at another time, his heart smote him for numbering the people—as if he had murdered the people: 2 Sam. 24:10, "And David's heart smote him, after that he had numbered the people; and David said unto the Lord, I have sinned greatly in what I have done: and now I beseech you, O Lord, take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly."
A humble soul knows that little sins, if I may so call any, cost Christ his blood; and that they make way for greater sins; and that little sins multiplied become great, as a little sum multiplied is great. He knows that little sins—cloud the face of God, wound conscience, grieve the Spirit, rejoice Satan, and make work for repentance, etc. A humble soul knows that little sins are very dangerous. A little leaven leavens the whole lump; a little blow may kill one; a little poison may poison another; a little leak in a ship sinks it; a little fly in the box of ointment spoils it; a little flaw in a good project mars it—so a little sin may at once bar the door of heaven and open the gates of hell; and therefore a humble soul smites and upbraids itself for the least as well as the greatest sins. Though a head of garlic be little—yet it will poison the leopard, though he be great. Though a mouse is but little—yet it will kill an elephant, if he gets up into his trunk. Though the scorpion be little—yet it will sting a lion to death; and so will the least sin, if not pardoned by the death of Christ.
A proud heart counts great sins small, and small sins no sins—and so disarms conscience for a time of its whipping and wounding power; but at death, or in hell, conscience will take up an iron rod, with which it will lash the sinner forever; and then, though too late, the sinner shall acknowledge his little sins to be very great, and his great sins to be exceeding grievous and odious, etc.
[10.] The tenth property of a humble soul is this, It will quietly bear burdens, and patiently take blows and knocks, and make no noise. A humble soul sees God through man; he sees God through all the actions and behaviors of men: "I was silent," says the prophet, I opened not my mouth, because You are the one who has done this." A humble soul looks through secondary causes, and sees the hand of God—and then lays his own hand upon his mouth. A humble soul is a mute soul, a tongue-tied soul—when he looks through secondary causes to the supreme cause. So Aaron, when he saw his sons suddenly surprised by a dreadful and doleful death, he remained silent, he bridled his passions; he sits silent under a terrible stroke of divine justice, because the fire that devoured them went out from the Lord. So when Samuel had told Eli that God would judge his house forever, and that he had sworn that the iniquity of his house should not be purged with sacrifice nor offering forever, "It is the Lord," says Eli, "let him do what seems good unto him." Eli humbly and patiently lays his neck upon the block—it is the Lord; let him strike, let him kill, etc., says Eli, l Sam. 3:11, 13.
So David, when Shimei manifested his desperate fury and folly, malice and madness, in raving and raging at him, in cursing and reproaching of him, says he, "Let him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has bidden him," 2 Sam. 16:5, 10. God, says he, will, by his wise providence, turn his cursing into blessing. I see the justice of God in his cursing, therefore let him alone, let him curse, says David.
Cassianus reports, that when a certain Christian was held captive by the infidels, and tormented by many pains and ignominious taunts, being demanded, by way of scorn and reproach, Tell us what Christ has done for you, answered—He has done what you see, that I am not moved at all the cruelties and contumelies you cast upon me.
So that blessed martyr, Gyles of Brussels, whenever the friars abused him—he ever remained silent, insomuch that those wretches would say abroad that he had a dumb devil in him. Full vessels will bear many a knock, many a stroke, and yet make no noise. So Christians who are full of Christ, who are full of the Spirit—will bear many a knock, many a stroke—and yet make no noise.
A humble soul may groan under afflictions—but he will not grumble in calms. Proud hearts discourse about patience—but in storms humble hearts exercise patience. Philosophers have much commended patience—but in the hour of darkness it is the humble soul who acts patient. I am afflicted, says the humble soul—but it is mercy I am not destroyed. I am fallen into the pit—but it is free grace that I have not fallen into hell. God is too just to wrong me, and too gracious to harm me; and therefore I will be still and quiet, let him do what he will with me, says the humble soul.
But proud souls resist when they are resisted, they strike when they are stricken, Isaiah 58:1-3: "Who is the Lord," says lofty Pharaoh, "that I should obey him?" and Cain cries out, "My punishment is greater than I am able to bear." Well! remember this: though it be not easy in afflictions and tribulations to remain quiet and silent—yet it is very advantageous; which the heathens seemed to imitate in placing the image of Angerona [goddess of silence], with the mouth bound upon the altar of Volupia [goddess of pleasure], to show that those who do prudently and humbly conceal their sorrows and anxieties by patience, shall attain comfort and refreshment.
[11.] The eleventh property of a humble soul is this: in all religious duties and services, he trades with God upon the credit of Christ. [John 14:13, and 15:16, and 16:23, 26. The name of Jesus has a thousand treasures of joy and comfort in it, says Chrysostom; and is therefore used by Paul five hundred times, as some have reckoned.] Lord, says the humble soul, I need power against such and such sins: give it to me upon the credit of Christ's blood. I need strength to such and such services: give it to me upon the credit of Christ's word. I need such and such mercies for my cheering, refreshing, quickening, and strengthening: give them into my bosom upon the credit of Christ's intercession. As a poor man lives and deals upon the credits of others, so does a humble soul live and deal with God for the strengthening of every grace, and for the supply of every mercy—upon the credit of the Lord Jesus. A humble soul knows that since he broke with God in innocency, God will trust him no more, he will take his word no more; and therefore when he goes to God for mercy, he brings his Benjamin, his Jesus, in his arms, and pleads for mercy upon the account of Jesus.
Plutarch reports that it was accustomed to be the way of the Molossians, when they would seek the favor of their prince, they took up the king's son in their arms, and so went and kneeled before the king, and by this means overcame him. So do humble souls make a conquest upon God with Christ in their arms. The Father will not give that soul the repulse, who brings Christ in his arms. The humble soul knows that outside of Christ—God is incommunicable; that outside of Christ—God is incomprehensible; that outside of Christ—God is very dreadful; and that outside of Christ—God is inaccessible; and therefore he still brings Christ with him, and presents all his requests in his name, and so prevails, etc. Oh! but proud souls deal with God upon the credit of their own worthiness, righteousness, services, prayers, tears, fastings, etc., as the proud Pharisees and those wrangling hypocrites in Isaiah 58:1-3.
It was a very proud saying of one, I will not have heaven but at a price; and therefore vain-glory is well called a pleasant thief, and the sweet spoiler of spiritual excellencies.
[12.] The twelfth property of a humble soul is this: it endeavors more how to honor and glorify God in afflictions—than how to get out of afflictions. So Daniel, the three children, the apostles, and those worthies of whom this world was not worthy. They were not anxious about getting out of affliction—but studious how to glorify God in their afflictions. They were willing to be anything, and to bear anything—so that in everything God might be glorified. They made it their business to glorify God in the fire, in the prison, in the den, on the rack, and under the sword, etc. Lord, says the humble soul, do but keep down my sins, and keep up my heart in a way of honoring of you under all my troubles—and then my troubles will be no troubles, my afflictions will be no afflictions. Though my burdens be doubled, and my troubles be multiplied—yet do but help me to honor you by believing in you, by waiting on you, and by submitting to you—and I shall sing care away, and shall say—It is enough.
When Valens the emperor sent messengers to win Eusebius to heresy by fair words and large promises, he answered, Alas, sir! these speeches are fit to catch little children who are concerned about such things—but we who are taught and nourished by the holy Scriptures are readier to suffer a thousand deaths than to allow one syllable or tittle of the Scripture to be altered. And when the emperor threatened to confiscate his goods, to torment him, to banish him, or to kill him, he answered, He need not fear confiscation—who has nothing to lose; nor banishment, to whom heaven is his only country; nor torments, when his body will be dashed with one blow; nor death, which is the only way to set him at liberty from sin and sorrow. [Happy is that soul, and to be equaled with angels, who is willing to suffer, if it were possible, as great things for Christ—as Christ has suffered for it, said Jerome.]
Oh! but when a proud man is under troubles and afflictions, his head and heart are full of plots and projects how to get off his chains, and to get out of the furnace, etc. A proud heart will say anything, and do anything, and be anything—to free himself from the burdens which press him, as you see in Pharaoh, etc.; but a humble soul is willing to bear the cross as long as he can get strength from heaven to kiss the cross, to bless God for the cross, and to glorify God under the cross, etc., John 1:20-21.
[13.] The thirteenth property of a humble soul is this: it seeks not, it looks not, after great things. A little will satisfy nature, less will satisfy grace; but nothing will satisfy a proud man's lusts. Lord, says the humble soul, if you will but give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, you shall be my God, Gen. 28:20-22. Let the men of the world, says the humble soul, take the world in all its greatness and glory, and divide it among themselves. Let me have much of Christ and heaven in my heart, and food convenient to support my life—and it shall be enough. Job 22:29, "When men are cast down, then you shall say, There is lifting up; and he shall save the humble person;" or as the Hebrew has it, him who has low eyes, noting to us that a humble soul looks not after high things. So in Psalm 131:1-2, "Lord, my heart is not haughty nor my eyes lofty." But how do you know that, David? Why, says he, "I do not exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high, or too wonderful for me. Surely I behaved and quieted myself." "My soul is as a child that is weaned of his mother. My soul is even as a weaned child." As a great shoe fits not a little foot, nor a great sail a little ship, nor a great ring a little finger—so a great estate fits not a humble soul.
It was a prudent speech of that Indian king Taxiles to the invading Alexander: What should we need, said he, to fight and make war one with another, if you come not to take away our water and our necessities by which we must live? As for other goods, if I am richer than you, I am ready to give you what is mine; and if I have less, I will thank you if you will give me some of yours. Oh! but proud Absalom can't be content to be the king's son, unless he may have the crown presently from his father's head. Caesar can abide no superior, nor Pompey an equal. A proud soul is content with nothing.
A crown could not content Ahab—but he must have Naboth's vineyard, though he swim to it in blood. Diogenes had more contentment with his hut to shelter him from the weather, and with his wooden dish to eat and drink in—than Alexander had with the conquest of half the world, and the enjoyment of all the treasures, pleasures, and glories of Asia. So a humble soul is more contented and satisfied with Daniel's vegetables and John's clothes made of camel's hair—than proud princes are with their glistening crowns and golden scepters.
[14.] The fourteenth property of a humble soul is this: it can rejoice in the graces and gracious actings of others, as well as in its own. A humble Moses could say when Eldad and Medad prophesied in the camp, "I wish that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them all!" Num. 11:26-30. So humble Paul in Acts 26:29, "And Paul said, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains." I heartily wish and pray for your own sake, that not only in a low but in an eminent, degree, both you and all that are here present, were as far Christians as I am; only I would not wish them imprisoned as I am.
A humble soul is no churl. There is no envy in spiritual things; one may have as much of spirituals as another, and all alike. So in 1 Thes. 1:2-3, "We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father." So in the 2 Epistle 1:2-4, "Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring."
Ezekiel can commend Daniel, his contemporary, matching him with Noah and Job, for his power in prayer; and Peter highly praises Paul's epistles, though he had been sharply reproved in one of them, Ezek. 14:14, 2 Peter 3, etc. Oh! but proud souls will be still a-casting disgrace and contempt upon those excellencies in others, which they lack in themselves.
A proud cardinal, in Luther's time, said, Indeed, a reformation is needful, and to be desired—but that Luther, a rascally friar, should be the man should do it, is intolerable. [Attributed to Cardinal Cajetan.] Pride is like certain flies, called cantharides, who especially consume the fairest wheat and the most beautiful roses.
Though Licinius was so ignorant that he could not write his own name—yet he called education a public poison.
This age is full of such monsters who envy every light which outshines their own, and who throw dirt upon the graces and excellencies of others—that only themselves may shine. Pride is renowned both at subtraction and at multiplication. A proud heart always prizes himself above the market; he reckons his own pence for pounds, and others' pounds for pence; he looks upon his own counters as gold, and upon others' gold as counters. All pearls are counterfeit but those which he wears.
[15.] The fifteenth property of a humble soul is, he will rather bear wrongs—than revenge wrongs offered. The humble soul knows that vengeance is the Lord's, and that he will repay, etc., Psalm 94:1. The humble soul loves not to take the sword in his own hand, Romans 12:19; he knows the day is a-coming, wherein the Lord will give his enemies two blows for one, and here he rests. A humble soul, when wrongs are offered, is like a man with a sword in one hand and a salve in the other—he could wound, but will heal: Psalm 35:11-16, "Malicious witnesses testify against me. They accuse me of things I don't even know about. They repay me with evil for the good I do. I am sick with despair. Yet when they were ill, I grieved for them. I even fasted and prayed for them, but my prayers returned unanswered. I was sad, as though they were my friends or family, as if I were grieving for my own mother. But they are glad now that I am in trouble; they gleefully join together against me. I am attacked by people I don't even know; they hurl slander at me continually." The Scripture abounds in instances of this nature. [I may truly say of the humble soul what Tully said of Caesar, that he forgot nothing but injuries. Julius Caesar, in whose time Christ was born, bid Catullus, the railing poet, to supper, to show that he had forgiven him.
Dionysius having treated Plato poorly at the court, when he was gone, fearing lest he should write against him, he sent after him to bid him not to write against him. Replied Plato, "Tell Dionysius that I have not so much time as to think of him." So humble wronged souls have no time to think of the wrongs and injuries that others do them.
Mr. Foxe, who wrote the Book of Martyrs, would be sure to do him a kindness—who had done him an injury: so that it used to be a proverb, "If a man would have Mr. Foxe do him a kindness, let him do him an injury." A humble soul is often in looking over the wrongs and injuries that he has done to God, and the sweet and tender treatment of God towards him notwithstanding those wrongs and injuries; and this wins him, and works him to be more willing and ready to bear wrongs, and forgive wrongs, than to revenge any offered wrongs.
[16.] The sixteenth property of a humble soul is this, A humble soul, though he be of ever so rare abilities—yet he will not disdain to be taught what he knows not, by the lowest people, Isaiah 11:6. A child shall lead the humble soul in the way that is good; he cares not how low and contemptible the person is, if a guide or an instructor to him.
Apollos, "an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scripture," a master in Israel, and yet sits by an Aquila, a tent-maker, and Priscilla his wife, to be instructed by them, Acts 18:24-26. Sometimes the poorest and the lowest Christian may, for counsel and comfort, be a good to another, as Moses was to Aaron. As a humble soul knows that the stars have their situation in heaven, though sometimes he sees them by their reflection in a puddle, in the bottom of a well, or in a stinking ditch; so he knows that godly souls, though ever so poor, low, and contemptible, as to the things of this world, are fixed in heaven, in the region above; and therefore their poverty and baseness is no bar to hinder him from learning of them, Eph. 2:6.
Though John was poor in the world—yet many humble souls did not disdain—but rejoice in his ministry. Christ lived poor and died poor, Mat. 8:20. As he was born in another man's house, so he was buried in another man's tomb. Austin observes, when Christ died he made no will; he had no crown-lands, only his coat was left, and that the soldiers parted among them; and yet those who were meek and lowly in heart counted it their heaven, their happiness, to be taught and instructed by him.
[17.] The seventeenth property of a humble soul is this: a humble soul will bless God, and be thankful to God, as well under misery as under mercy; as well when God frowns as when he smiles; as well when God takes as when he gives; as well under crosses and losses, as under blessings and mercies. [Tully calls gratitude the greatest, yes, the mother of all virtues.] Job 1:21, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes—blessed be the name of the Lord." He does not cry out upon the Sabeans and the Chaldeans—but he looks through all secondary causes, and sees the hand of God; and then he lays his hand upon his own heart, and sweetly sings it out, "The Lord gives, and the Lord takes—blessed be the name of the Lord."
A humble soul, in every condition, blesses God, as the apostle commands, in the 1 Thes. 5:18, "In everything give thanks to God." So 1 Cor. 4:12, "Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer." The language of a humble soul is, If it be your will that I should be in darkness—I will bless you; and if it be your will that I should be again in light—I will bless you; if you will comfort me—I will bless you; and if you will afflict me—I will bless you; if you will make me poor—I will bless you; if you will make me rich—I will bless you; if you will give me the least mercy—I will bless you; if you will give me no mercy—I will bless you. A humble soul is quick-sighted; he sees the rod in a Father's hand; he sees honey upon the top of every correcting rod—and so can bless God; he sees sugar at the bottom of the bitterest cup which God puts into his hand; he knows that God's house of correction is a school of instruction; and so he can sit down and bless when the rod is upon his back.
A humble soul knows that the design of God in all is his instruction, his reformation, and his salvation. [The Jews have a proverb, that we must leap up to mount Gerizim, which was a mount of blessings; but creep into mount Ebal, which was a mount of curses: to show that we must be ready to bless—but backward to curse. A humble soul can extract one contrary out of another, honey out of the rock, gold out of iron, etc. Afflictions to humble souls are the Lord's plough, the Lord's harrow, the Lord's flail, the Lord's drawing-plaster, the Lord's pruning knife, the Lord's potion, the Lord's soap; and therefore they can sit down and bless the Lord, and kiss the rod.]
It was a sweet saying of holy Bradford, If the queen will give me my life, I will thank her; if she will banish me, I will thank her; if she will burn me, I will thank her; if she will condemn me to perpetual imprisonment, I will thank her. Ay, this is the temper of a humble heart. A humble soul knows, that to bless God in prosperity is the way to increase it; and to bless God in adversity is the way to remove it. A humble soul knows, that if he blesses God under mercies—he has paid his debt; but if he blesses God under crosses—he has made God a debtor. But oh, the pride of men's hearts, when the rod is upon their backs! You have many professors who are seemingly humble while the sun shines, while God gives, and smiles, and strokes; but when his smiles are turned into frowns, when he strikes and disciplines—oh the murmurings! the disputings! the frettings! and wranglings of proud souls! they always kick when God strikes.
[18.] The last property of a humble soul is this: a humble soul will wisely and patiently bear reproof. Proverbs 25:12, "As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold—so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear." A seasonable reproof falling upon a humble soul has a redoubled grace with it. It is an earring of gold, and as an ornament of fine gold, or as a diamond in a diadem.
A humble David can say, "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. David compares the faithful reproof of the righteous, to the excellent oil which they used on their heads. Some translate it, "Let it never cease from my head." That is, let me never lack it, and so the original will bear too, I would never lack reproofs, whatever I lack: "But yet my prayer shall be in their calamities." I will requite their reproofs with my best prayers in the day of their calamity, says David. Whereas a proud heart will neither pray for such as reprove them—but in their calamities will most insult over them. [Oil is here metaphorically taken for words of reproof, which may be said figuratively to break the head.]
Some translate it more emphatically: "The more they do, the more I shall think myself bound unto them." And this was Gerson's disposition, of whom it is recorded, that he rejoiced in nothing more than if he were freely and friendly reproved by any: Proverbs 9:8-9, "Rebuke a wise man—and he will love you; give instruction to a wise man—and he will be yet wiser." Proverbs 19:25, "Reprove one who has understanding—and he will understand knowledge." You know how sweetly David carries it towards Abigail, 1 Sam. 25:32-33; she wisely meets him, and puts him in mind of what he was going about, and he falls a-blessing of her presently: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent you this day to meet me, and blessed be your advice, and blessed be you which have kept me this day from coming to shed blood." I was resolved in my passion, and in the heat of my spirit, that I would not leave a man alive—but blessed be God, and blessed be your counsel!
A humble soul can sit down and bless God under reproofs. A humble soul is like the Scythian king, who went naked in the snow, and when Alexander wondered how he could endure it, he answered, "I am all forehead." A humble soul is all forehead—able to bear reproofs with much wisdom and patience. Oh! but a proud heart cannot bear reproofs, he scorns the reprover and his reproofs too. [Manasseh, king of Judah, at the age of eighteen, being reproved by the aged princely prophet Isaiah, caused him to be sawn in half with a wooden saw; for which cruel act, among his other sins, he was sorely punished by God, 2 Chron. 33:11. So Cambyses, king of Persia, hated Praxaspes, one of his nobles, for reproving his drunkenness.]
Proverbs 15:12, "A mocker resents correction; he will not
consult the wise." Amos 5:10, "How you hate honest judges! How you despise
people who tell the truth!" as Ahab hated good Micaiah, and Herod did John
Baptist, and the Pharisees hated our Savior, Luke 16:13. Christ, in his
dealings with the covetous Scribes and Pharisees, lays the law home, and
tells them plainly that they could not serve God and mammon. Here Christ
strikes at their right eye; but how do they hear this? Mark in the 14th
verse, "The Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things, and
they derided him." The Pharisees did not simply laugh at Christ—but gave
also external signs of scorn in their countenance and gestures. They blew
their nose at him, for that is the meaning of the original word. By their
gestures they demonstrated their horrid deriding of him; they fleared and
jeered, when they should have feared and trembled at the wrath to come:
Isaiah 28:10, "For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line
upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little." One observes,
that that was a scoff put upon the prophet, and is as if they should say,
Here is nothing but precept upon precept, line upon line. And, indeed, the
very sound of the words in the original carries a taunt, zau le zau, kau
lakau, as scornful people, by the tone of their voice and rhyming words,
scorn at such as they despise. Pride and passion, and other vices, in these
days go armed; touch them ever so gently—yet, like the nettle, they will
sting you; and if you deal with them openly, roughly, cuttingly, as the
apostle speaks, they will swagger with you, as the Hebrew did with Moses:
"Who made you a judge over us?" Exod. 2:13-14. And thus much for the
properties of a humble soul.
III.I come now to the next thing, and that is, to show you the reasons why the best men are the most humble men.
[1.] First, Because they see themselves the greatest debtors to God for what they do enjoy.
There is no man on earth who sees himself such a debtor to God—as the humble man. Every smile makes him a debtor to God, and every good word from heaven makes him a debtor to God. He looks upon all his temporal mercies, as health, wealth, wife, child, friend, etc., and sees himself deeply indebted for all. He looks upon his spiritual mercies, and sees himself a great debtor to God for them; he looks upon his graces, and sees himself a debtor for them; he looks upon his experiences, and sees himself a debtor for them; he looks upon all his privileges, and sees himself a debtor for them; he looks upon all his blessings, and sees himself a debtor for them.
A humble soul sees himself so much in debt for mercies in hand, and mercies in hope—that he cannot sleep without blessing and admiring of God. The more mercy he has received, the more he looks upon himself indebted and obliged to pay duty and tribute to God. Says he, "What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits towards me?" I see myself, says he, wonderfully indebted; well, what then? why, "I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord, in the presence of all his people." The same you have in the 16th, 17th, and 18th verses of the same psalm.
So David, "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." Psalms 103:1-5. A humble soul knows, that it is proud of being more in debt than another. It is true, says he, I have this and that mercy in possession, and such and such mercies in reversion; but by all, I am the more a debtor to God. Humble souls cast the pearl of praise into the bosom of God for all his favors towards them.
Caesar wondered at that mindless and careless soldier, who was very much in debt and yet slept so quietly. So does a humble soul wonder to see men that are so much indebted to God for mercies, as many are, and yet sleep so quietly, and be so mindless and careless in blessing and praising of God. There is nothing, says one, which endures so small a time—as the memory of mercies received; and the more great they are, the more commonly they are recompensed with ingratitude.
[2.] Secondly, It is because in this life they have but a taste of God.
In the 1 Pet. 2:2-3, "As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby; if so be you have tasted that the Lord is gracious." The best men on this side heaven have but a taste; he is but in a tasting, desiring, hungering, thirsting, and growing condition: Job 26:14, "These are part of his ways—but how little a portion is heard of him!" So in 1 Cor. 13:9-10, 12, "We know but in part, and we prophesy but in part; now we see through a glass darkly—but then face to face." The Lord gives out but little of himself here, we have but a taste of divine sweetness here, we see but the back-parts of God; but the day is not far off when we shall see his face. The best of Christ is reserved until last—as the sweetest honey lies in the bottom. Our greatest knowledge here is to know that we know nothing.
The Rabbis in their comments upon Scripture, when they meet with hard knots that they cannot explain, they solve all with this, "When Elijah comes, he will resolve all things." The best men are in the dark, and will be in the dark—until the Lord comes to shine forth upon them in more grace and glory. The best men on this side heaven are narrow vessels: they are able to receive and take in but little of God. The best men are so full of the world, and the vanities thereof, that they are able to take in but little of God. Here God gives his people some tastes, that they may not faint; and he gives them but a taste, that they may long to be at their eternal home, that they may keep humble, that they may sit loose from things below, that they may not break and despise bruised reeds, and that heaven may be the more sweet to them at last, etc.
[3.] A third reason why the best men are the most humble, and that is, because the best men dwell more upon their worser part, their ignoble part—than they do upon their noble part, their better part.
In Isaiah 6:5, "I am a man of unclean lips," says that humble soul. So humble Job cries out of the iniquity of his youth, Job 13:26, 40:5. Humble David, Psalm 51:3, sighs it out, "My sin is ever before me." So humble Paul, Romans 7:22-23, complains, that he "has a law in his members warring against the law of his mind, and leading him captive to the law of sin;" and that, "when he would do good, evil was present with him." A humble soul sees that he can stay no more from sin than the lungs can from breathing, and the pulse from beating; he sees his heart and life to be fuller of sin, than the sky is of stars; and this keeps him humble. He sees that sin is so bred in the bone, that until his bones, as Joseph's, be carried out of the Egypt of this world, it will remain. He every day finds that these Jebusites and Canaanites are as thorns in his eyes, and as goads in his sides. He finds sin an ill inhabitant, which he cannot get rid of, until the house is destroyed; as the fretting leprosy, in the walls of the house, would remain until the house itself was demolished. [As Hagar would dwell with Sarah until she beat her out of doors, so will sin dwell with grace until death beats it out of doors.] Though sin and grace were never born together, and though they shall not die together; yet while the believer lives, these two must live together; and this keeps them humble.
As the peacock, looking upon his black feet, lets fall his plumes—so the poor soul, when he looks upon his black feet, the vanity of his mind, the body of sin that is in him—his proud spirit falls low.
Epaminondas, an Athenian captain, being asked why he was so sad the day after a great victory, answered, "Yesterday I was tickled with much vain-glory, therefore I correct myself for it today." That is the temper of a humble soul. It is very observable, that the saints are pressed to take notice of their better part: Cant. 1:15, "Behold you are fair my love, behold you are fair." And so, chapter 4:1, "Behold you are fair, behold you are fair." God has much ado to get a gracious heart to mind his spiritual beauty; to take notice of the inward excellency that he has wrought in it. Though "the king's daughter is all glorious within," yet God has much ado to bring her to see and take notice of her inward beauty and glory. The humble soul is more set to eye and dwell upon its deformity—than it is upon that beauty and glory that God has stamped upon it. And this makes the man little and low in his own eyes.
[4.] Fourthly, Because they have the clearest sight and vision of God, and have the nearest and highest communion with God. None on earth are so near to God, and so high in their communion with God—as humble souls. And as they have the clearest visions of God—so God gives them the fullest sight and knowledge of their own sinfulness and nothingness. So in Job 42:5-6, "I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear—but now my eye has seen you, I abhor myself in dust and ashes." Isaiah 6:1, 5, In a vision the Lord discovers his glory to the prophet, then verse 5, "Woe is me!" says he, "for I am undone;" or "I am cut off," why? "Because I am a man of unclean lips; and have seen the King, the Lord Almighty." Oh, the vision that I have had of the glory of God has given me such a clear and full sight of my own vileness and baseness, that I cannot but loathe and abhor myself. When Abraham draws near to God, then he accounts himself but dust and ashes, Gen. 18:26-27. The angels that are near God, that stand before him, in humility they cover their faces with two wings, as with a double scarf, in the 6th of Isaiah ver. 2.
[5.] The fifth, and last reason why those are most humble that are most holy is, because they maintain in themselves a holy fear of sinning. [As the sunshine puts out fire, so does the fear of God put out the fire of lusts.]
And the more this holy fear of falling is maintained, the more the soul is humbled. Proverbs 14:16, "A wise man fears—and departs from evil;" and chapter 28:14, "Blessed is the man who always fears the Lord, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble." And this keeps the holy soul humble.
I have known a good old man, says Bernard, who when he had heard of any who had committed some notorious offence, was accustomed to say with himself, He fell today—so may I tomorrow. Now, the reason why humble souls do keep up in themselves a holy fear of falling, is because this is the best to keep them from falling. Job fears—and conquers on the ash-heap; Adam presumes—and falls in paradise; Nehemiah fears—and stands, Neh. 5:15; Peter presumes—and falls, Mat. 26:69, seq.; Mr. Sanders the martyr, in Queen Mary's days, fears and stands; Dr. Pendleton presumes, and falls from a professor to be a papist.
When Agamemnon said, What should the conqueror fear? Casander presently answered, He should fear this most of all, that he fears not at all.
And so I have done with the reasons of the point. I shall
now come to:
IV. The USES of it.
[I.] Is it so, that the most holy souls are the most humble souls? Then this shows you, that the number of holy souls is very few. Oh, how few be there that are low in their own eyes! The number of souls that are high in the esteem of God, and low in their own esteem—are very few. Oh, the pride of England! Oh, the pride of London! Pride in these days has a whore's forehead; yet pride cannot climb so high, but justice will sit above her.
Bernard says, that pride is the rich man's cousin. I may add, and the poor man's cousin, and the profane man's cousin, and the civil man's cousin, and the formal man's cousin, and the hypocrite's cousin; yes, all men's cousin; and it will sooner or later cast down and cast out all the Lucifers and Adams in the world.
[2.] Secondly, As you would approve yourselves to be high in the account of God, as you would approve yourselves to be not only good—but eminently good, keep humble. Since England was England, since the gospel shined among us, there was never such reason to press this duty of humility, as in these days of pride wherein we live; and therefore I shall endeavor these two things:
First, To lay down some motives which may work
you to be humble. Secondly, To propound some directions which
may further you in this work of humility.
First, For the MOTIVES which may work you to be humble, Consider,
(1.) First, How God singles out humble souls from all others, to pour out most of the oil of grace into their hearts.
No vessels that God delights to fill—like broken vessels, like contrite spirits: James 4:6, "He resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble." The Greek word for resists signifies, to set himself in battle array. God is in battle array against a proud soul—but he gives grace to the humble. The silver dews flow down from the mountains to the lowest valleys. Abraham was but dust and ashes in his own eyes; ay—but says God, "Shall I hide from Abraham the thing that I will do?" Gen. 18:17. No; I will not. A humble soul shall be both of God's court and his counsel too. Humble Jacob, who was in his own eyes less than the least of all mercies, Gen. 32:10—what a glorious vision he had of God, when the ground was his bed, and the stone his pillow, and the hedges his curtains, and the heavens his canopy; then he saw angels ascend and descend, Gen. 28.
A humble soul who lies low, oh what sights of God has he! What glory does he behold, when the proud soul sees nothing! God pours in grace to the humble, as men pour in liquor into an empty vessel. He does not drop in grace into a humble heart—but he pours it in. [He who is in the low pits and caves of the earth sees the stars in the sky, when they who are upon the tops of the mountains discern them not.]
The altar under the law was hollow, to receive the fire, the wood, and the sacrifice; so the hearts of men, under the gospel, must be humble, empty of all spiritual pride and self-conceitedness, that so they may receive the fire of the Spirit, and Jesus Christ, who offered himself for a sacrifice for our sins.
Humility is both a grace, and a vessel to receive grace. There are none who see so much need of grace—as humble souls. There are none who prize grace—like humble souls. There are none who improve grace—like humble souls. Therefore God singles out the humble soul to fill him to the brim with grace—when the proud is sent empty away.
(2.) A second motive is, of all garments, humility does best befit Christians, and most adorn their profession.
Faith is the champion of grace, and love the nurse grace—but humility the beauty of grace: 1 Peter 5:5, "Be clothed with humility." The Greek word imports that humility is the ribbon or string which ties together all those precious pearls—the rest of the graces. If this string breaks—they are all scattered.
The Greek word that is rendered clothed, comes from another Greek word that signifies to knit, and tie knots, as nimble women used to do, of ribbons, to adorn their heads and bodies—as if humility were the knot of every virtue, the grace of every grace. Chrysostom calls humility the root, mother, nurse, foundation, and "bond of all virtue." Basil calls it "the storehouse and treasury of all good." For what is the scandal and reproach of religion at this day? Nothing more than the pride of professors. Is not this the language of most? They are great professors, Oh but very proud! They are great hearers, they will run from sermon to sermon, and cry up this man, and cry up that man, Oh but proud! They are great talkers, Oh but as proud as the devil! etc. Oh that you would take the counsel of the apostle, "Be clothed with humility"; and that Col. 3:12, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." No robes compared to these. [It is reported of the crystal, that it has such a virtue in it, that the very touching of it quickens other stones, and puts a luster and beauty upon them. So does humility put a luster upon every grace.]
(3.) The third motive is this, humility is a magnet which draws both the heart of God and man to it.
In Isaiah 57:15, "Thus says the high and lofty One, who inhabits eternity, whose name is holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit." The Lord singles out the humble soul of all others, to make him an habitation for himself. Here is a wonder! God is on high; and yet the higher a man lifts up himself, the farther he is from God; and the lower a man humbles himself, the nearer he is to God. Of all souls, God delights most to dwell with the humble, for they do most prize and best improve his precious presence.
In Proverbs 29:23, "A man's pride shall bring him low—but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit." Proverbs 22:4, "By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor," etc. The Hebrew is, "The heel of humility." Riches and honor follow humility at the very heels. One of the ancients used to say that humility is the first, second, and third grace of a Christian. Humility is a very drawing grace; it draws men to think well and speak well of Christ, the gospel, and the people of God; it makes the very world to say, Ay, these are Christians indeed; they are full of light, and yet full of lowliness; they are high in worth, and yet humble in heart. Oh, these are the crown and the glory of religion.
A humble soul is like the violet, which by its fragrant smell, draws the eye and the hearts of others to him. Mat. 18:4, "They are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." He who is least in his own account is always greatest in God's, and in godly men's account.
(4.) The fourth motive is this, consider all the world cannot keep him up—who does not humble and keep down his own spirit.
One asked a philosopher, what God was a-doing? He answered, "That his whole work was to lift up the humble, and to cast down the proud." That man cannot possibly be kept up, whose spirit is not kept down, as you may clearly see in Pharaoh, Haman, Herod, and Nebuchadnezzar; all the world could not keep them up, because their spirit was not kept down.
Proverbs 29:27, "A man's pride shall bring him low;" for it sets God against him, and angels against him, and men against him; yes, even those who are as proud as himself. It is very observable, that whereas one drunkard loves another, one swearer loves another, and one thief loves another, and one unclean person loves another, etc.—yet one proud person cannot endure another—but seeks to undermine him, that he alone may carry the commendations, the praise, the promotion. It is storied of the Romans, that were the proudest people on the earth, that they reckoned it as a parcel of their praise—that they brought down the proud. All the world, sirs, will not keep up those people who do not keep down their spirits. [Dionysius, a proud king of Sicily, fell from a king—to a schoolmaster. Proud Valerian, the Roman emperor, fell from being an emperor to be a footstool to Sapor, king of Persia, as oft as he mounted his horse. Henry the Fourth, emperor, in sixty-two battles, had generally the better—and yet was deposed, and driven to that misery, that he desired only a clerkship in a house at Spira, that he himself had built. History is full of such instances.]
And oh! that professors would think of this in these days in which we live. All the world shall not keep up those who do not keep down their own spirits. The very design of God is to stain the pride of all human glory, and to bring into contempt the proud of the earth. Therefore now if men in our days shall grow proud and high, under divine mercies, justice will be above them, and turn their glory into shame, and lay their honor in the dust. If your pride rises with your outward good—you will certainly fall, and great will be your fall.
(5.) The fifth consideration to provoke us to be humble is this: let us have always our eye fixed upon the example of Jesus Christ, and his humble and lowly demeanor.
Christ by his example labors to provoke his disciples to keep humble, and to walk lowly: in John 13:4-5, 12-15 verses compared. He rises and washes his disciples' feet, etc., and mark what he aims at in that behavior of his, verse 12-14: "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." I have given you an example, says Christ, and I would have you to imitate my example. Example is the most powerful rhetoric; the highest and noblest example should be very quickening and provoking. Oh! here you have the greatest, the noblest example of humility, that was ever read or heard of. Upon consideration of this great and eminent example of Christ's humility, Guericus, a godly man, cried out, You have overcome me, O Lord! you have overcome my pride. This example of yours has mastered me! Oh that we could say with this good man, You have overcome, O Lord! you have overcome our proud hearts, by this example you have overmastered our lofty spirits!
This example of Christ's humility you have further set forth, Philip. 2:6-8, "Who being in the form of God," that is, in the nature and essence of God, being truly God, clothed with divine glory and majesty as God, "thought it no robbery," it being his right by nature, "to be equal with God." The Greek words that are rendered, "he thought it no robbery," import that he made it not a matter of triumph or ostentation to be equal with God, it being his right by nature, and therefore the challenging of it could be no usurpation of another's right, of taking to himself that which was not his own. "He thought it no robbery to be equal with God." The Greek is equals, that is, every way, equal, not a secondary and inferior God, as the Arians would have him. "But made himself of no reputation," verse 7. The Greek is "emptied himself," that is, he suspended and laid aside his glory and majesty, or dis-robed himself of his glory and dignity, and became a sinner, both by imputation and by reputation, for our sakes.
And verse 8, "he humbled himself." This Sun of righteousness went ten degrees back in the dial of his Father, that he might come to us with healing under his wings. "And became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." In these words there is a kind of gradation; for it is more to become obedient than to humble himself; and more to yield unto death than to become obedient; and yet more to be crucified than simply to die; for it was to submit himself to a most painful, ignominious, and cursed death. "He became obedient." That is, says Beza, "to his dying day," his whole life being nothing but a continual death.
I have read of an earl called Eleazarus, that being given to immoderate anger, was cured of that disordered passion by studying of Christ and his patience; he still dwelt upon Christ and his patience, until he found his heart transformed into the similitude of Jesus Christ. And oh! that you would never leave pondering upon that glorious example of Christ's humility—until your hearts be made humble, like the heart of Christ. Oh! that that sweet word of Christ, Mat. 11:29, might stick upon all your hearts, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me—for I am meek and lowly, and you shall find rest to your souls."
Bonaventure engraved this sweet saying of our Lord, "Learn of me—for I am meek and lowly in heart," in his study; and oh that this saying was engraved upon all your foreheads, upon all your hearts! Oh that it was engraved upon the dishes you eat in, the cups you drink in, the seats you sit on, the beds you lie on, etc. [It was a good law that the Ephesians made, that men should propound to themselves the best patterns, and ever bear in mind some eminent man.]
Jerome having read the pious life and death of Hilarion, folding up the book, said, Well! Hilarion shall be the champion whom I will imitate. Oh! when you look upon this glorious example of Christ, say, The Lord Jesus' example shall be that that my soul shall imitate.
(6.) Sixthly, consider Humility will free a man from perturbations and distempers.
When there are ever such great storms without—humility will cause a calm within. There are a great many storms abroad, and there is nothing which will put the soul into a quiet condition but humility. A humble soul says, Who am I, that I may not be despised? Who am I, that I may not be reproached, abused, slighted, neglected? That which will break a proud man's heart, will not so much as break a humble man's sleep. In the midst of a storm, a humble soul is still in a calm. When proud hearts are at their wit's ends, stamping, swearing, and complaining at God, and man, and providence—a humble soul is quiet and still, like a ship in a harbor. Shimei, 2 Sam. 16:6, 13, comes railing and cursing of David, and calls him a bloody man, and a man of Belial, that is, a renegade, one who being desperately wicked had shaken off the yoke of government, and would be under no law. So the Hebrew word Jagnat, signifies men without yoke, or lawless. It signifies most flagitious men, and notorious and desperately wicked, stigmatized villains, even incarnate devils; and yet David remains silent, though urged by his mighty men to revenge himself. Oh! how would this cursing and railing have maddened and broken many a proud man's heart; and yet it stirs not David.
Fulgentius, after he was extremely persecuted, he had an opportunity to seek revenge—but he would not; for, says he, We must suffer more for Christ than this. 'What though I am thus and thus wronged? What though I have an opportunity for revenge? yet I must suffer more than this for Christ,' says the humble soul. A humble soul, when wrongs are done to him, is like a man with a sword in one hand and salve in another; he could kill but will cure.
One wondering at the patience and humble demeanor of Socrates, towards one who reviled him, Socrates said, If we should meet one whose body were more unsound than ours, should we be angry with him, and not rather pity him? Why then should we not do the like to him whose soul is more diseased than ours? A humble soul, when he meets with this and that wrong from men, he knows that their souls are diseased, and that rather moves him to pity than to revenge wrongs offered. A proud heart swells and grows big, when in the least wronged, and is ready to call for fire from heaven, and to take any opportunity for revenge of wrongs offered. No man so abused as I, no man thus styled as I, says the proud soul. Oh—but a humble soul in patience possesses himself in all trials and storms.
Gallasius observes upon Exod. 22:28, the patience and humble demeanor of those three emperors, Theodosius, Honorius, and Arcadius, towards those who spoke evil of them; they would have them subject to no punishment; for they said, If it comes from lightness of spirit, it is to be despised; if from madness, it is worthy of pity; if from injury, it is to be forgiven; for injuries and wrongs are to be pardoned. And this is the true temper of a humble soul, and by this he enjoys peace and quiet in the midst of all earthquakes and heartquakes.
(7.) The seventh consideration is this, consider humility exalts.
He who is most humble, is and shall be most exalted and most honored. No way to be high, like this of being low. Moses was the meekest man on earth, and God made him the most honorable, calling of him up unto himself into the mount, making known his glory to him, and making of him the leader of his people Israel. Gideon was very little in his own eyes; he was the least of his father's house in his own apprehension, and God exalts him, making him the deliverer of his Israel.
It was a good saying of one, Will you be great? begin from below. As the roots of the tree descend—so the branches ascend. The lower any man is in this sense, the higher shall that man be raised. Mat. 23:12, "And whoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he who shall humble himself shall be exalted." God, who is wisdom itself, has said it, and he will make it good, though you see no ways how it should be made good. The lowest valleys have the blessing of fruitfulness, while the high mountains are barren; Proverbs 18:12, "Before destruction, the heart of man is lofty, and before honor is humility."
David came not to the kingdom until he could truly say, "Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lifted up," Psalm 131:1-2. Abigail was not made David's wife until she thought it honor enough to wash the feet of the lowest of David's servants, 1 Sam. 25. Moses must be forty years a stranger in Midian, before he became king in Jeshurun; he must be struck sick to death in the wilderness, before he goes to Pharaoh on that noble embassage.
It was a sweet observation of Luther, "That for the most part when God set him upon any special service for the good of the church, he was brought low by some fit of sickness or other." Surely, as the lower the ebb—the higher the tide; so the lower any descend in humility—the higher they shall ascend in honor and glory. The lower this foundation of humility is laid, the higher shall the roof of honor be overlaid. If you would turn spiritual purchasers of honor, or of whatever else is good—there is no way like this of humility.
We live in times wherein men labor to purchase honor; some by their money, others by their friends; others by making themselves slaves to the lusts of men; others by the shedding of their blood in battle, and many by giving themselves up to all manner of baseness and wickedness, whereby their carnal ends may be attained, and themselves exalted; but these men and their honor will quickly be laid in the dust. Oh! but the readiest, the surest, the safest, the sweetest way to attain to true honor—is to be humble, to lie low. Humility makes a man precious in the eye of God. He who is little in his own account, is great in God's esteem.
(8.) The eighth and last consideration that I shall propound is this, consider that humility keeps the soul free from many darts of Satan's casting, and snares of his spreading.
As you may see in the three children in Daniel, and in those worthies in the 11th of the Hebrews, "of whom this world was not worthy." As the lowest shrubs are freed from many violent gusts and blasts of wind, which shake and rend the tallest cedars; so the humble soul is free from a world of temptations, which proud and lofty souls are shaken and torn in pieces with. The devil has least power to fasten a temptation upon a humble soul. He who has a gracious measure of humility, is neither affected with Satan's temptations—nor terrified with Satan's threatenings. The golden chain does not allure him—nor does the iron chain daunt him.
I have read of one who, seeing in a vision many snares of Satan spread upon the earth, he sat down and mourned, and said with himself, "Who shall pass through these?" whereunto he heard a voice answering, "Humility shall pass through them." A proud heart is as easily conquered as tempted; as easily vanquished as assaulted. But the humble soul, when tempted, says with that worthy convert, "I am not the man that I once was." There was a time when my heart was proud and lifted up, and then you could no sooner knock but I opened; no sooner call but I answered; no sooner tempt but I did assent. Oh! but now the Lord taught me to be humble; I can resist, though I cannot dispute; I can fight—but not yield.
Katherine Bretterge, a humble precious soul, being once in a great conflict with Satan, said thus to him, "Satan, reason not with me, I am but a weak woman; if you have anything to say, say it to my Christ; he is my advocate, my strength, and my redeemer, and he shall plead for me." A humble soul is good at turning Satan over to the Lord Jesus, and this increases Satan's hell. It is reported of Satan, that he should say thus of a learned man, You do always overcome me; when I would throw you down, you lift up yourself in assurance of faith; and when I would exalt and promote you, you keep yourself in humility; and so you are too hard for me. The only way to avoid cannon-shot, as they say, is to fall down flat; no such way to be freed from temptations as to keep low.
And so I am done with the first head; namely, the motives that should move and provoke us to keep humble, to be meek, to be nothing in our own eyes.
I shall now come to some HELPS and DIRECTIONS that may be useful to keep us humble and low in our own eyes. And the first is this:
[1.] Dwell much upon the greatness of God's mercy and goodness to you.
Nothing humbles and breaks the heart of a sinner like God's mercy and love. Souls who converse much with sin and wrath may be much terrified; but souls who converse much with grace and mercy will be much humbled. Luke 7, the Lord Jesus shows mercy to that notorious sinner, and then she falls down at his feet, and loves much and weeps much, etc. In the 1 Chron. 17, it was in the heart of David to build God a house. God would not have him to do it—yet the messenger must tell David that God would build him a house, and establish his Son upon the throne forever. Look into the 15th, 16th, and 17th verses, and there you shall find that David lets fall such a humble speech, which he never did before God had sent him that message of advancement. "And David the king came, and sat before the Lord, and said, Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that you have brought me hitherto? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O God; for you have also spoken of your servant's house for a great while to come," etc., 2 Sam. 7:18-19. And this sweetly and kindly melts him, and humbles him, before the Lord.
Oh, if ever you would have your souls kept low, dwell upon the free grace and love of God to you in Christ! [As honey flows naturally from the bee, so does mercy flow naturally from God.] Dwell upon the firstness of his love, dwell upon the freeness of his love, the greatness of his love, the fullness of his love, the unchangeableness of his love, the everlastingness of his love, and the ardency of his love. If this does not humble you, there is nothing on earth which will do it. Dwell upon what God has undertaken for you. Dwell upon the choice and worthy gifts which he has bestowed on you; and dwell upon that glory and happiness which he has prepared for you—and then be proud if you can.
[2.] Keep faith in continual exercise, upon Christ as crucified, and upon Christ as glorified.
There are two special sights of Christ, that tend much to humble and abase a soul. The one is a sight of Christ in his misery, in the 12th of Zech. ver. 10. And the other is a sight of Christ in his glory (Rev. 1:7, Isaiah 6:1, 3, 5, compared).
It is dangerous to be more notion than motion; to have faith in the head and none in the heart; to have an idle and not an active faith. It is not enough for you to have faith—but you must look to the acting of your faith, upon Christ as crucified, and upon Christ as glorified. Souls much in this will be very little and low in their own eyes. The great reason why the soul is no more humble is because faith is no more active. [As one scale goes up, the other goes down; so as faith goes up, the heart goes down.]
[3.] Study your own natures more, and whatever evil you behold in other men's practices, labor to see the same in your own nature.
There is the seed of all sins, of the vilest and worst of sins—in the best of men. When you see a drunkard—you may see the seed of that sin in your own nature. When you see an immoral man—the seeds of immorality you may see in your own nature. If you are not as wicked as others—it is not because of the goodness of your nature—but from the riches of God's grace. Remember this, there is not a worse nature in hell than that which is in you, and it would manifest itself accordingly—if the Lord did not restrain it. It would carry you to those horrid acts that are against the very light of nature. "By the grace of God I am what I am!" 1 Corinthians 15:10. "What makes you better than anyone else? What do you have that God hasn't given you? And if all you have is from God, why boast as though you have accomplished something on your own?" 1 Corinthians 4:7
[I have read of an Italian monster, who, capturing his enemy—set his dagger to his heart, and made him to abjure and blaspheme the Lord, that so he might save his life; which being done, he thrust him through, and with a bloody triumph, insulting over him, said, Oh, this is right noble and heroic revenge, which does not only deprive the body of temporal life—but brings also the immortal soul to endless flames everlastingly. See what natures you carry with you. It was a good saying of one of the fathers: Other vices are in sins, says he; but pride and high confidence is most apt to creep in upon duties well done.]
There was one who was a long time tempted to three horrid sins: to be drunk, to lie with his mother, and to murder his father. Being a long time followed with these horrid temptations, at last he thought to get rid of them, by yielding to what he judged the least, and that was to be drunk; but when he was drunk, he did both lie with his mother and murder his father. Why, such a hellish nature is in every soul that breathes! and did God leave men to act according to their natures, men would be all incarnate devils, and this world a total hell.
Such is the corruption of our nature, that propound any divine good to it, it is entertained as fire by water; but propound any evil, and it is like fire to straw. It is like the foolish satyr who made haste to kiss the fire; it is like that unctuous matter, which the naturalists say that it sucks and snatches the fire to it with which it is consumed.
There was a holy man who rarely heard of other men's crimson sins—but he usually bedewed the place with his tears, considering that the seeds of those very sins was in his own nature. In your nature you have that that would lead you with the pharisees to oppose Christ; and with Judas, to betray Christ; and with Pilate, to condemn Christ; and with the soldiers, to crucify Christ, etc. Oh, what a monster, what a devil would you prove, should God but leave you to act suitable to that sinful and woeful nature of yours!
[4.] Dwell much upon the imperfection which follows and cleaves to your best actions.
Oh the wanderings! Oh the deadness, the dullness, the fruitlessness of your spirit in religious duties! Man is a creature apt to hug himself in religious services, and to pride himself in holy duties; and to stroke himself after duties, and to warm himself by the sparks of his own fire, his own performances, Isaiah 50:11. Whenever you come off from holy services, sit down, and look over the spots, blots, and blemishes which cleave to your choicest services. The fairest day has its clouds, the richest jewels their flaws, the finest faces their spots, the fairest copies their blots—and so have our finest and fairest duties. When we have done our best, we have cause to fall down at Jesus' feet, and with tears in our eyes sue out our pardon.
[5.] In the day of your prosperity, forget not your former poverty.
In the day of your present greatness, forget not your former baseness. Humble Jacob, in the day of his prosperity, remembers his former poverty: "I am not worthy of all the faithfulness and unfailing love you have shown to me, your servant. When I left home, I owned nothing except a walking stick, and now my household fills two camps!" Gen. 32:10. And so David, in his prosperity, remembered that his sheep-hook was changed into a scepter, and his seat of turf into a royal throne, Psalm 78:71, 1 Chron. 17. And when Joseph was a royal favorite, he remembered that he had been an imprisoned slave. And when Gideon was raised to be a savior to Israel, he remembered how God took him from the threshing-floor, Judges 6:11, and how God changed his threshing instrument of wood into one of iron, to thresh the mountains, as God himself phrases it, Isaiah 41:15.
Primislaus, the first king of Bohemia, kept his country shoes always by him, to remember from whence he was raised.
Agathocles, by the furniture of his table, confessed that from a potter he was raised, to be a king of Sicily.
We live in times wherein many a man has been raised from the ash-heap to sit with princes; and oh that such were wise to remember their former low and contemptible beings, and to walk humbly before the Lord! otherwise who can tell but that greater contempt shall be poured forth upon them, than that which they have poured upon princes.
[6.] Look upon all that you have received, and all that you shall hereafter receive—as the fruit of free grace.
Look upon your adoption into God's family, and write this motto, 'This is the fruit of free grace!' Look upon your justification, and write this motto, 'This is the fruit of free grace!' Look upon all your graces, and write, 'These are the fruit of free grace!' Look upon your experiences, and write, 'These are the fruits of free grace!' Look upon your strength to withstand temptations, and write, 'This is the fruit of free grace!' Look upon divine power to conquer corruptions, and write, 'This is the fruit of free grace!' Look upon the bread you eat, the wine you drink, the clothes you wear, etc., and write, 'These are the fruits of free grace!' 1 Cor. 4:7, "Who makes you to differ from another? and what have you who you have not received? and if you have received it, why do you boast as though you had not received it?" Who makes you to differ? Episcopius, a great insolent Arminian, answered, I make myself to differ—by the improvement of nature.
This age is full of such proud monsters; but a humble soul sees free grace to be the spring and fountain of all his mercies and comforts; he writes free grace upon all his temporals, and upon all his spirituals, etc. "By the grace of God I am what I am!" 1 Corinthians 15:10
[7.] Meditate much upon these two things:
First, The great mischief that sin has done in the world.
It cast angels out of heaven, and Adam out of paradise. It has laid the first corner-stone in hell, and ushered in all the evils and miseries that are in the world. It has threw down Abraham, the best believer in the world; and Noah, the most righteous man in the world; and Job, the most upright man in the world; and Moses, the meekest man in the world; and Paul, the greatest apostle in the world. Oh, the diseases, the crosses, the losses, the miseries, the deaths, the hells—which sin has brought upon the world!
Basil wept when he saw the rose, because it brought to his mind the first sin, from whence it had the prickles, which it had not while man continued in innocency, as he thought! Oh, when he saw the prickles his soul wept; so when we see, hear, or read of the blood, misery, wars, and ruins which sin has brought upon us, let us weep and lie humble before the Lord.
Secondly, Meditate much on this, that many wicked men take more pains to damn their souls and go to hell—than you do to save your soul and to get to heaven, Mat. 22:15.
Oh, what pains do wicked men take to damn their souls and go to hell! Lactantius says of Lucian, that he spared neither God nor man. He took pains to make himself twice told a child of wrath.
It is said of Marcellus, the Roman general, that he could not be quiet, neither conquered nor conqueror. Such restless wretches are wicked men. The drunkard rises up in the morning, and continues until midnight, until wine inflames him, Isaiah 5:11. The unclean person wastes his time, and strength, and estate—and all to ruin his own soul.
Theotimus, being told by his physician, that if he did not leave his lewd courses, he would lose his sight, answered, then farewell, sweet light. What a great deal of pains does the worldling take! He rises up early, and goes to bed late, and leaves no stone unturned—and all to make himself but the more miserable in the close.
Pambus wept when he saw a harlot dressed with much care and cost, partly to see one take so much pains to go to hell, and partly because he had not been so careful to please God—as she had been to please a wanton lover. Oh, sirs! what reason have you to spend your days in weeping? When you look abroad, see what pains most men take to damn their souls and go to hell—and then consider what little pains you take to escape hell, to save your souls, and go to heaven.
[8.] Get more internal and experimental knowledge and acquaintance with God.
If ever you would keep humble, no knowledge humbles and abases like that which is inward and experimental. We live in days wherein there is abundance of notional light. Many professors know much of God notionally—but know nothing of God experimentally; they know God in the history—but know nothing of God in the mystery. They know much of God in the letter—but little or nothing of God in the Spirit; and therefore it is that they are so proud and high in their own conceits, where as he who experimentally knows the Lord—is a worm and no man in his own eyes. As the sun is necessary to the world, the eye to the body, the pilot to the ship, the general to the army—so is experimental knowledge to the humbling of a soul. Who more experimental in their knowledge than David, Job, Isaiah, and Paul? And who are more humble than these worthies? [It is a sad thing to be often eating of the tree of knowledge—but never to taste of the tree of life.]
Seneca observed of the philosophers, that when they grew more learned, they were less moral—so a growth in mere notions will bring a great decay in humility and zeal, as it is too evident in these days. Well, remember this, a drop of experimental knowledge will more humble a man than a sea of notional knowledge.
[9.] Look up to a crucified Christ for special power and strength against the pride of your hearts.It is sad in these knowing times to think how few there are, who know the right way of bringing under control, the power of any sin. Most men scarcely look so high as a crucified Christ for power against their powerful sins. One soul sits down and complains, Such a lust haunts me, I will pray it down. Another says, Such a sin follows me, and I watch it down, or resolve it down. And so a crucified Christ is not in all their thoughts. Not but that you are to hear, pray, watch, and resolve against your sins; but above all, you should look to the acting of faith upon a crucified Christ. [Psalm 10:4. It was the blood of the sacrifice and the oil that cleansed the leper in the law, and that by them was meant the blood of Christ and the grace of his Spirit, is agreed by all.]
As he said of the sword of Goliath, "There is none like
that," so I say, There is none like this, for the bringing under the
pride of men's hearts. The weaker the house of Saul grew, the stronger
the house of David grew. The weakening of your pride will be the increase
and strengthening of your humility, and therefore what the king of Syria
said unto his fifty captains, "Fight neither with small nor great—but with
the king of Israel," so say I, If you would keep humble, if you will lie
low, draw forth your artillery, place your greatest strength against the
pride of your souls. The death of pride will be the resurrection of
humility. And that this may stick upon you, I shall lay down several
propositions concerning pride; and I am so much the more willing to fall
upon this work, and to make it the subject of our discourse at this time,
because this horrid sin does appear so boldly and impudently, and that not
only among profane people—but professors also.
There areten propositions that I shall lay down concerning pride.
[1.] And the first is this,Of all sins, pride is most dangerous to the souls of men. Pride is a sin that will put the soul upon the worst of sins. Pride is a gilded misery, a secret poison, a hidden plague. It is the engineer of deceit, the mother of hypocrisy, the parent of envy, the moth of holiness, the blinder of hearts, the turner of medicines into maladies, and remedies into diseases. It is the original and root of most of those notorious vices that are to be found among men. It was pride which put Herod upon seeking the blood of Christ. It was pride which put the Pharisees upon the persecuting of Christ. It was pride which made Athaliah destroy all the seed-royal of the house of Judah, that she might reign, 2 Chron. 22:10. It was pride that put Joab upon murdering treacherously, under guise of friendship, Abner, 2 Sam. 3:27, and Amasa, 2 Sam. 20:9-10. Zimri, out of ambition to reign, murdered Elah his Lord, 1 Kings 16:8-10. Omri, out of pride and ambition to reign, when he "saw that the city had been taken, he went into the citadel of the king's house and burned it down over himself and died in the flames." 1 Kings 16:18.
It is pride which has ushered in all the contentions that are in towns, cities, countries, families, and pulpits throughout the world. It was pride and ambition to reign, which put Absalom upon pursuing his father's life, from whom he had received life. [A world of instances out of histories might be given, if it were needful, further to evidence this truth.]
It is very remarkable, that the pride and ambition of Nebuchadnezzar did usher in the destruction of the Assyrian monarchy; and the ambition and pride of Cyrus that did usher in the overthrow of the Babylonian monarchy; and the ambition and pride of Alexander was the cause of the annihilation of the Persian monarchy; and it was the pride and ambition of the Roman commanders that was the cause of the utter subversion of the Grecian monarchy. There is no tongue which can express, nor heart which can conceive, the horrid sins and miseries which pride has ushered in among the children of men. All sin will fill a proud heart that is resolved to rise. Great sins are no sins with such a soul; he makes nothing of those very sins that would make the very heathen to blush.
[2.] The second proposition that I shall lay down concerning pride is this,Where pride has possessed itself thoroughly of the soul, it turns the heart into steel, yes, into a rock.
As you may see in Pharaoh. Pride turned his heart into steel, yes, into a very rock. God strikes again and again; he sends plague upon plague; and yet the more he is plagued, the more he is hardened. His pride turned his soul into a rock: he is no more sensible of the frowns of God, the threatenings of God, the plagues, the strokes of God, than a rock. Pride had hardened his heart; he stirs not, he yields not. [Proud souls are of his mind that said, Though you do convince me—yet will I not be convinced.]
It was the pride of Saul that turned his heart into steel: "I have sinned," says he, "yet honor me before the people," 1 Sam. 15:30. God gave him many a blow, many a knock, and many a check, and yet, after all, "Honor me before the people." Oh how desperately was his heart hardened in pride!
In Dan. 5:18, Nebuchadnezzar's mind, says the text, "was hardened in pride." He saw the vengeance of the Almighty upon his predecessors, and God took him up, and lashed him until the blood came, and yet he made nothing of it, because his heart was hardened in pride. Pride sets a man in opposition against God. Other sins are aversions from God—but this sin is a coming against God. In other sins a man flies from God—but in this sin a man flies upon God: James 4:6, "God resists the proud." A man does not resist another until he is set upon; the traveler does not resist until such time as the thief attacks him. Says the text, "God resists the proud." It intimates thus much to us, that the proud heart attacks God himself, and therefore God resists him. He places himself in battle array against the proud. God brings forth his battalia against the proud, and they bring forth their battalia against God. A proud heart resists, and is resisted; this is flint to flint, fire to fire; yet in the day of God's wrath the proud shall be burnt up as stubble, both branch and root, Mal. 4:1.
[3.] The third proposition concerning pride is this, Pride is a sin that shows itself not one way—but many ways. For instance,
First, Sometimes it shows itself in the LOOKS, Proverbs 6:17: he tells you of seven things that the Lord hates, and one is a proud look. The Hebrew word there is, "The haughty eye." The haughty eye God hates. Men's hearts usually show themselves in their eyes: Psalm 131:1, "My heart is not haughty, nor my eye lofty." There are such who show pride in their very looks—but the Lord looks aloof at them, Psalm 138:6.
Secondly, Sometimes pride shows itself in WORDS: Dan. 4:30, "Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?" and in chapter 15, "Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" It was a very proud saying of one, "We have not so lived and deserved of God that the enemy should vanquish us." These were the proud ones, that spoke loftily, and that set their mouths against the heavens, as the psalmist speaks, Psalm 73:6, 8, 9, compared. And such a one was Henry the Second. Hearing that his city Mentz was taken, he used this proud blasphemous speech, "I shall never love God any more, who allowed a city so dear to me to be taken away from me." Such a proud wretch, both in words and actions, was Sennacherib, as you may see in Isaiah 37, from ver. 8 to 18.
Thirdly, Sometimes pride shows itself in the CLOTHING of the body; so Herod's pride appeared: Acts 12:21, "Herod was arrayed in royal apparel." In cloth of silver, says Josephus, which, being beaten upon by the sunbeams, dazzled the people's eyes, and drew from them that blasphemous acclamation, "It is the voice of God, and not of man." The people being most commonly like the Bohemian curs, that used to fawn upon a good suit. So the rich man, Luke 16:19, was clothed in purple, and in silk. He was commonly so clothed; it was his every-day's wear, as the Greek word implies.
Question. But here a question may be asked, May not people clothe themselves according to their dignities, ranks, and places that God has put them in in the world?
Answer. I answer, They may, and ought so to do. If God has lifted them up in the world above others, they may wear better apparel than others, Gen. 41:42, Esther 6:8, Psalm 45:13-14, 2 Sam. 13:18, Lam. 4:5, Mat. 11:8, Gen. 27:15, Isaiah 52:1, Hosea 2:13, Exod. 28:40. I cite these scriptures so much the rather, because some, through weakness and peevishness, stumble and are not satisfied herein. There is nothing in the law of God or nature against it.
Question. But you may say, May not people sin in their apparel?
Answer. I answer, Yes, and that in four cases.
[1.] When it is not modest—but carries with it provocation to lust and immorality: Proverbs 7:10, "A woman came to meet him, dressed like a harlot." The Hebrew word signifies a clothing finely set and fitted to the body; and says the text, "She was subtle of heart," or trussed up about the breasts, with her upper parts naked; so Levi-Ben-Gersom reads the words, "She met him with her naked breasts," at this day too commonly used by such as would not be held harlots. Oh what a horrid shame and reproach is it to religion, the ways of God, and the people of God, that professors should go so! One says "that superfluous apparel is worse than whoredom, because whoredom only corrupts chastity—but this corrupts nature." Another says, "If women adorn themselves so as to provoke men to lust after them, though no ill follow upon it—yet those women shall suffer eternal damnation, because they offered poison to others, though none would drink of it."
[2.] People sin in their apparel when they exceed their degree and rank in costly apparel, which is that which is condemned by the apostle, 1 Tim. 2:9, 1 Pet. 3:3. The apostle does not simply condemn the wearing of gold—but he condemns it in those who go above their degree and rank. The words are rather an admonition than a prohibition.
[3.] It is sinful when it is so expensive as that it hinders works of mercy and charity. Oh how many proud souls are there in these days that lay so expense much upon their backs, that they can spare nothing to fill the poor's bellies. Silk clothing hinders works of charity and mercy. Surely those who put on such costly ornaments upon their backs as close up the hand of charity, will at last share with Dives in his misery.
[4.] When persons habit themselves in strange and foreign fashions, which is the sin, shame, and reproach of many among us in these days. Now that is strange apparel which is not peculiar to the nations where men live. The Lord threatens to punish such, Zeph. 1:8, that are clothed with strange apparel. There are too many women and men in our days that are like the Egyptian temples, very gypsies, painted without and spotted within; varnish without and vermin within.
Mercury being to make a garment for the moon, as one says, could never fit her—but either the garment would be too big or too little, by reason she was always increasing or decreasing. May not this be applied to the vain curiosity of too too many professors in these days, whose curiosity about their clothes can never be satisfied?
I shall conclude this head with this counsel: Clothe yourselves with the silk of piety, with the satin of sanctity, and with the purple of modesty—and God himself will be a suitor to you. Let not the ornaments upon your backs speak out the vanity of your hearts. "I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God." 1 Timothy 2:9-10
Fourthly, Sometimes pride shows itself by the gesture and DEMEANOR of the body. Isaiah 3:16, "The daughters of Zion were haughty, and walked with stretched out necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, making a tinkling with their feet." Oh earth! earth! do you not groan to bear such monsters as these?
Fifthly, And sometimes pride shows itself in contemptuous challenges of God; as Pharoah, "Who is the God of the Hebrews, that I should obey him?"
Sixthly, Sometimes pride shows itself by bragging promises, "I will arise, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, and my lusts shall be satisfied," Exod. 15:9.
[4.] The fourth proposition that I shall lay down is this: Pride is a sin which of all sins, makes a person most like Satan.
Pride is Satan's disease. Pride is so base a disease, that God had rather see his dearest children to be buffeted by Satan, than that in pride they should be like Satan. When Paul, 2 Cor. 12:7, under the abundance of revelations, was in danger of being puffed up, the Lord, rather than he would have him proud like to Satan, suffers him to be buffeted by Satan. Humility makes a man like to angels, and pride makes an angel a devil. Pride is worse than the devil, for the devil cannot hurt you until pride has possessed you. If you would see the devil portrayed to the life—look upon a proud soul; for as face answers to face, so does a proud soul answer to Satan. Proud souls are Satan's apes, and none imitate him to the life like these. And oh that they were sensible of it, before it be too late, before the door of darkness be shut upon them!
[5.] A fifth proposition is this: Pride cannot climb so high—but justice will sit above her.
One asked a philosopher what God was a-doing? He answered, That his whole work was to exalt the humble and pull down the proud. It was pride which turned angels into devils; they would be above others in heaven, and therefore God cast them down to hell. The first man would know as God, and the Babel-builders would dwell as God—but justice set above them all. This truth you see verified in the justice of God upon Pharaoh, Haman, Herod, Belshazzar, and Nebuchadnezzar; all these would be very high—but justice takes the right hand of them all, and brings them down to the dust.
Yes, pride cannot climb so high in the hearts of saints—but divine justice will be above it. Uzziah his heart was lifted up, 2 Chron. 26:16—but justice smites him with a leprosy, and so he died, out of grief and sorrow, says Josephus. David glories in his own greatness, 2 Sam. 24:1, seq., and for this, seventy thousand fall by the hand of justice. Hezekiah's heart was lifted up—but wrath was upon him, and upon all Judah and Jerusalem for it, 2 Chron. 32:25, seq. Pride sets itself against the honor, being, and sovereignty of God, and therefore justice will in spite of all sit above her. Other sins strike at the word of God, the people of God, and the creatures of God—but pride strikes directly at the very being of God, and therefore justice will be above her.
Nebuchadnezzar was proud, and God smites his reason, and turns him into a beast. Oh! how many young professors are there in our days, who have been proud of their notions, and proud of their parts and gifts—and justice has so smitten them, that they have lost that life, that sweetness, that spiritualness, which quickness what once they had, and are dried and shriveled up by a hand of justice. They are like the apples of Sodom, splendid on the outside—but rotten and worthless within. Some there are who have been very shining—yet by reason of pride have fallen from a seeming excellency to be naught, and from naught to be very naught, and from very naught to be stark naught. Isaiah 23:9, "The Lord Almighty has purposed it to destroy your pride and show his contempt for all human greatness." The Hebrew word that is here rendered purposed, signifies to consult, or take counsel. It is consulted and agreed upon in counsel, that he will destroy your pride and show his contempt for all human greatness; and the counsel of the Lord shall stand, Psalm 33:11; Isaiah 2:11-12, "The day is coming when your pride will be brought low and the Lord alone will be exalted. In that day the Lord Almighty will punish the proud, bringing them down to the dust!" Isaiah 2:11-12
Divine justice will take the right hand of all proud ones on the earth. God bears, as I may say, a special hatred against pride. His heart hates it, Proverbs 6:16-17; his mouth curses it, Psalm 119:21; and his hand plagues it, as you have seen in the former instances, and as you may see further in these following instances:
The king of Egypt, which Jeremiah prophesied against, in his forty-fourth chapter, was so puffed up with pride, that he boasted his kingdom was so surely settled, that it could not be taken from him either by God or man. Not long after he was taken in battle by Amasis, one of his own subjects, and hanged.
Dionysius the tyrant said in the pride of his heart, that his kingdom was bound to him with chains of adamant; but time soon confuted him, for he was driven out, and forced to teach a school at Corinth for a poor living.
Cares, a soldier, being proud of his valor, because he had given Cyrus a great wound, shortly after he ran mad. In all ages there are notable instances to prove that pride has not got so high—but justice has set above her.
[6.] The sixth proposition is this, Of all sins, spiritual pride is most dangerous, and must be most resisted.
Spiritual pride is the lifting up of the mind against God; it is a tumor and swelling in the mind, and lies in despising and slighting of God, his word, promises, and ordinances, and in the lifting up of a man's self, by reason of birth, breeding, wealth, honor, place, relation, gifts or graces, and in despising of others. Of this spiritual pride Habakkuk speaks, chapter 2:4, "His heart that is lifted up in him, is not upright." Proverbs 16:5, "The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished." or, who "lifts up his heart against God," or his decrees; as Lewis the Eleventh did, in that proud speech of his, "If I shall be saved, I shall be saved; and if I shall be damned, I shall be damned; and there is all the care that I shall take." Like to this, was that proud and wretched speech of one Rufus, who painted God on the one side of his shield, and the devil on the other, with this mad motto: "If you will not have me, here is one will." Spiritual pride is a white devil, as one calls it, a gilded poison, by which God is robbed of his honor, a man's own soul of his comfort and peace, and others of that benefit and fruit which otherwise they might receive from us.
Satan is subtle; he will make a man proud of his very graces; he will make him proud that he is not proud. Pride grows with the decrease of other sins, and thrives by their decay. Other sins are nourished by poisonous roots, as adultery is nourished by idleness, and gluttony and murder by malice and envy; but this white devil, spiritual pride, springs from good duties and good actions towards God and man. Spiritual pride is a very great enemy to the good and salvation of man. Pride is like a very great swelling, which unfits men for any service.
Again, spiritual pride is a very great enemy to the good and salvation of men. The Greek word signifies swelling, for pride is like a great swelling in the body, which unfits it for any good service. John 5:40, "You will not come to me, that you may have life;" and ver. 44, "How can you believe in me, who seek honor one of another?" Christ blesses his Father, Mat. 11:25, that he had "hidden those things from the wise and prudent, and had revealed them unto babes and sucklings." It is the pride of men's hearts that makes them throw off ordinances, as poor and low things, when, alas! in their practices they live below the power, beauty, glory, and holiness of the least and lowest ordinance. There is more holiness, purity, and glory manifested in the lowest administrations of Christ—than is held forth by them, in their highest practices.
[7.] The seventh proposition is this, Pride un-mans a man; it makes him do acts which are below a man.
As you may see in Pharaoh, Haman, Herod, Nebuchadnezzar, etc. It makes men bedlams. It was pride which made Hildebrand to cause Henry the Fourth to stand three days at his gate, with his wife and his child, barefooted. It was pride that made Adonibezek cause seventy kings, with their thumbs and great toes cut off, Judges 1:5-7, to gather their food under his table. Oh! what wretched unmanly acts has the pride of many persons put them upon.
[8.] The eighth proposition is this, The poorest are oftentimes the proudest.
Interesting is the parable of Jotham: the best trees refused to be king—but the bramble wanted it; and did hope and aspire to it, Judges 9:15. So in 2 Kings 14:9, "The thistle that was in Lebanon sent to the cedar that was in Lebanon, saying, Give your daughter to my son to wife." Hagar the kitchen-maid will be proud, and insult over her mistress Sarah, Gen. 21. The poor sons of Zebedee desired to sit at Christ's right hand and left, Mat. 20:20-21. And those who Job disdains to set with the dogs of his flock—despise him in the day of his sorrow, Job 30:1. The foot strives to be equal with the head, the servant as the master, the cobbler as the councillor, and the peasant as the prince, etc.
[9.] The ninth proposition is this, Pride is a sure forerunner of a fall.
"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty mind before a fall," Proverbs 16:18, 18:12. Herod fell from a throne of gold—to a bed of dust. Nebuchadnezzar fell from the state of a mighty king—to be a beast. Adam fell from innocency to mortality. The angels fell from heaven to hell—from felicity to misery.
[10.] The tenth and last proposition is this: God will by an invincible power, conquer proud souls.
You haughty ones, who think to escape—and battle it out, remember this—God will by an almighty and invincible power conquer you; when you think not of it, he will eat you like a moth. Isaiah 47:10-11, "You have trusted in your wickedness and have said, 'No one sees me.' Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you when you say to yourself, 'I am, and there is none besides me.' Disaster will come upon you, and you will not know how to conjure it away. A calamity will fall upon you that you cannot ward off with a ransom; a catastrophe you cannot foresee will suddenly come upon you."
Impunity oftentimes causes impudency—but God's forbearance is no acquittance. The longer the hand is lifted up, the heavier will be the blow at last. Of all metals, lead is the coldest—but being melted, it becomes the hottest. Humble souls know how to apply this, and proud souls shall sooner or later experience this. [Pope Innocent the Fourth, as he was walking securely in his palace, heard that sorrowful and dreadful summons, Come, you wretch, receive your judgment! and soon after he was found dead. Eccles. 8:11.]