Page images
PDF
EPUB

own impotence, and all that low sense that a Christian has of himself, in the exercise of evangelical humiliation. So that in a high degree of this, the saints are never disposed to think their sensibleness of their own meanness, filthiness, impotence, &c. to be great ; because it never appears great to them considering the cause.

An eminent saint is not apt to think himself eminent in any thing; all his graces and experiences are ready to appear to him to be comparatively small; but especially his humility. There is nothing that appertains to Christian experience, and true piety, that is so much out of his sight as his humility. He is a thousand times more quicksighted to discern his pride than his humility : That he easily discerns, and is apt to take much notice of, but hardly discerns his humility. On the contrary, the deluded hypocrite, that is under the power of spiritual pride, is so blind to nothing as his pride ; and so quicksighted to nothing, as the shews of humility that are in him.

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

From the disposition there is in hypocrites to think highly of their humility, it comes to pass that counterfeit humility is forward to put itself forth to view. Those that have it, are apt to be much in speaking of their humiliations, and to set them forth in high terms, and to make a great outward shew of humility, in affected looks, gestures, or manner of speech, or meanness of apparel, or some affected singularity. So it was of old with the false prophets, Zech. xiii. 4 ; so it was with the hypocritical Jews, Isa. lvii. 5, and so Christ tells us it was with the Pharisees, Matth. vi. 16. But it is contrari .

He is very

[ocr errors]

vise with true humility ; they that have it, are not apt to dis. play their eloquence in setting of it forth, or to speak of the degree of their abasement in strong terms.* It does not affect, to shew itself in any singular outward meanness of apparel, or way of living ; agreeable to what is implied in Matth. vi. 17. “ But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face. Col. ii 23. Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship and humility, and neglecting of the body.” Nor is true humility a noisy thing; it is not loud and boisterous. The scripture represents it as of a contrary na. ture. Ahab, when he had a visible humility, a resemblance of true humility, went softly, 1 Kings xxi. 27. A penitent, in the exercise of true humiliation, is represented as still and silent, Lam. iii. 28. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him.” And silence is mentioned as what attends humility, Prov. xxx. 32. “If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself, or if thou hast thought evil, lay thine hand upon thy mouth."

Thus I have particularly and largely shewn the nature of that true humility that attends holy affections, as it appears in its tendency to cause persons to think meanly of their attainments in religion, as compared with the attainments of oth; ers, and particularly of their attainments in humility : And have shewn the contrary tendency of spiritual pride, to dispose persons to think their attainments in these respects to be great. I have insisted the longer on this, because I look upon it as a matter of great importance, as it affords a certain distinction between true and counterfeit humility ; and also as this disposition of hypocrites to look on themselves better than others, is what God has declared to be very hateful to

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

2 A

him, “a smoke in his nose, and a fire that burneth all the day, Isa. Ixv. 5." It is mentioned as an instance of the pride of the inhabitants of that holy city (as it was called) Jerusalem, that they esteemed themselves far better than the people of Sodom, and so looked upon them worthy to be overlooked and disregarded by them, Ezek. xvi. 56. “For thy sister Sodom was not mentioned by thy mouth in the day of thy pride."

Let not the reader lightly pass over these things in applie. cation to himseli. If you once have taken it in, that it is a bad sign for a person to be apt to think himself a better saist than others, there will arise a blinding prejudice in your own favor ; and there will probably be need of a great strictness of selfexamination, in order to determine whether it be so with you. If on the proposal of the question, you answer, “ No, it seems to me, none are so bad as 1,” do not let the matter pass off so ; but examine again, whether or no you do not think yourself better than others on this very account, because you imagine you think so meanly of yourself. Have not you an high opinion of this humility ? And if you answer again, s No; I have not an high opinion of my humility ; it seems to me I am as proud as the devil ;" yet examine again, whether selfconceit do not rise up under this cover; whether on this very account, that

you think yourself as proud as the devil, you do not think yourself to be very

humble. From this opposition that there is between the nature of a true, and of a counterfeit humility, as to the esteem that the subjects of them have of themselves, arises a manifold contraTiety of temper and behavior.

A truly humble person, having such a mean opinion of his righteousness and holiness, is poor in spirit. For a person to be poor in spirit, is to be in his own sense and apprehension poor, as to what is in him, and to be of an answerable disposition. Therefore a truly humble person, especially one eminently humble, naturally behaves himself in many respects as a poor man. 6. The poor useth intreaties, but the rich answereth roughly." A poor man is not disposed to quick and high resentment when he is among the rich : Ho

[ocr errors]

is apt to yield to others, for he knows others are above him ; he is not stiff and selfwilled ; he is patient with hard fare ; he expects no other than to be despised, and takes it patiently ; he does not take it heinously that he is overlooked and but Jittle regarded ; he is prepared to be in a low place; he readily honors his superiors; he takes reproofs quietly ; he readi. ly honors others as above him ; he easily yields to be taught, and does not claim much to his understanding and judgment; he is not over nice or humorsome, and has his spirit subdued to hard things ; he is not assuming, nor apt to take much upon him, but it is natural for him to be subject to others. Thus it is with the humble Christian. Humility is (as the great Mastricht expresses it) a kind of holy pusillanimity. A man that is very poor is a beggar ;

is he that is poor in spirit. This is a great difference between those affections that are gracious, and those that are false : Under the for, mer, the person continues still a poor beggar at God's gates, exceeding empty and needy ; but the latter make men appear to themselves rich, and increased with goods, and not very necessitous ; they have a great stock in their own imagina. tion for their subsistence.*

*" This spirit eyer keeps a man poor and vile in his own eyes, and emp. ty.-When the man hath got some knowledge, and can discourse pretty well, and hath some taste of the heavenly gift, some sweet illapses of grace, and so his conscience is pretty well quieted : And if he hath got some answer to his prayers, and hath sweet affections, he grows full : And having ease to his conscience, casts off sense, and daily groaning under sin. And hence the spir, it of prayer dies: He loses his esteem of God's ordinances, feels not such need of them ; or gets no good, feels no life or power by them. This is the woeful condition of some ; but yet they know it not. But now he that is filled with the Spirit the Lord empties him ; and the more, the longer he lives. So that though others think he needs not much grace, yet he accounts him. self the poorest." Shepard's Parable of the Ten Virgins, Part II. p. 132.

“ After all fillings, be ever empty, hungry, and feeling need, and praying for more.” Ibid. p. 151.

Truly, brethren when I see the curse of God upon many Christians, that are now grown full of their parts, gifts, peace, comforts, abilities, duties, I stand adoring the riches of the Lord's mercy, to a little handful of poor believers, not only in making them empty, but in keeping them so all their days." Shepard's Sound Believer, the late edition in Boston, p. 158, 159.

A poor man is modest in his speech and behavior ; so, and much more, and more certainly and universally, is one that is poor in spirit ; he is humble and modest in his behavior amongst men. It is in vain for any to pretend that they are humble, and as little children before God, when they are haughty, assuming, and impudent in their behavior amongst men. The apostle informs us, that the design of the gospel is to cut off all glorying, not only before God, but also before men, Rom. iv. 1, 2. Some pretend to great humiliation, that are very haughty, audacious, and assuming in their external appearance and behavior : But they ought to consider those scriptures, Psal. cxxxi. 1. “ Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty ; neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Prov. vi. 16, 17. “ These six things doth the Lord hate ; yea seven are an abomination unto him : A proud look, &c.”....Chap. xxi. 4. « An high look, and a proud heart are sin.” Psal. xviii. 27. « Thou wilt bring down high looks." And Psal. ci. 5. “ Him that hath an high look, and a proud heart, I will not suffer." I Cor. xiii. 4. 6 Charity vaunteth not itself, doth not behave itself unseemly." There is a certain amiable modesty and fear that belongs to a Christian behavior among men, arising from humility, that the scripture often speaks of, 1 Pet. iii. 15. “ Be ready to give an answer to every man that asketh you.....with meekness and fear.” Romans xiii. 7. " Fear to whom fear." 2 Cor. vii. 15. ( Whilst he remembereth the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling you received him.” Eph. vi. 5. “ Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling." . 1 Pet. ii. 18. “Servants be subject to your master's with all fear." I Pet. jii. 2. " While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear." I Tim. ii. 9.

That women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety.” In this respect a Christian is like a little child; a little child is modest before men, and his heart is apt to be possessed with fear and awe amongst them.

« PreviousContinue »