HUMILITY A PRIVILEGE
HUMILITY is a principal grace, and is so necessary in forming the Christian character, that without it religion cannot exist. Those who are destitute of the grace of humility, whatever profession they have made of Christianity, have in truth the rudiments of it yet to learn. If they have been soaring upward to heaven itself in the sublimest speculations; if they have built up their hopes to the greatest height upon other grounds, without laying this at the foundation, they must be content to come down again to learn this lesson, which enters into the elements of Christ’s religion. A proud Christian is a contradictory character, as much as it would be to say a wicked saint. The whole gospel, in its precepts, its great example, its glorious prospects, tends to humble the pride of man; and, therefore, whoever will come after Christ, must in this respect deny himself.
The discoveries which the gospel makes of the glorious attributes of the Creator, and the discoveries which grace makes of the imperfections and depravity of the creature, cause the Christian to lie low in his own esteem, and to think highly of his God. Thus Isaiah, after a view he had of the Divine glory, exclaims, “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 mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts”. Thus the apostle, notwithstanding all his superior attainments, calls himself “the least of all saints”: so John, when he beheld the glory of his Redeemer, was so overpowered that he fell at his feet as dead. We may consider humility as one of the first, and one of the surest evidences of the health of the mind. And it is this which, though the most lowly, is the most lovely of the Christian graces, and throws an amiable lustre on all the rest. It is in the Christian life the same as the well-disposed shades in a picture, which set it off to advantage; for though the shades are not striking in themselves, yet they give an inexpressible beauty to the whole piece. How pleasant to see a Christian in this spirit! While the proud are racked with envy and jealously, pushed on by ambition and vanity, so as to become restless and wretched, the humble Christian walks on quietly and contentedly. The provocations of men do not ruffle him; the reproaches of the world do not depress him. The happy spirit he possesses teaches him to think lowly of himself; to bear with injuries, to forgive unkindness. If he hears that anyone has reviled him, he is ready to say with the philosopher, ‘Had he known me better, he would have said worse things of me than that.’ The opinion of the world, popular applause, and honours which fade away, are not sought for by him. And as he aims not at these objects, so he meets not with those vexations which generally disturb the minds of those who are anxiously pursuing them. He considers himself more secure in the valley than on the mountain; as the weakest plant is preserved in the one, while the loftiest tree is often torn to pieces by the tempest on the other. It
must not, however, be understood that the Christian is of a weak and pusillanimous mind; that his views of himself and of things destroy his peace, and prevent his rejoicing. We grant that there may sometimes be an extreme even in this, and that the enemy may take an advantage to so confine our attention to our unworthiness, as almost to prevent our application to Christ as the Saviour. But true genuine humility is of a calm, peaceful, happy nature. Yea, if happiness is to be found anywhere, it is in that breast where humility reigns. It is the grand key to contentment; and a man can only be at rest as he is humble. With such a character afflictions are met without repining, and borne without impatience. Duties are not thought hard, nor crosses unnecessary. Candour, meekness, forbearance, patience, kindness, are the lovely train that attend the abodes of humility, while they adorn and bless its happy subject
The value of the grace of humility is strikingly represented in the Word of God. “Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly.” “He giveth grace to the lowly”. “Thus said the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place; with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones”. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. “Be clothed with humility”.
Of this grace, an old divine quaintly remarks;Â—Humility is the first step in Jacob’s ladderÂ—the foundation of virtueÂ—the basis of goodnessÂ—the centre of restÂ—the ballast of the soulÂ—a man’s truest grandeurÂ—a way by which we exalt ourselves by descending. Humility is a tree, whose roots the deeper they spread in the ground, the higher its branches extend toward heaven.
During the residence of Sir Ralph Abercrombie at the ancient seat of his family, in Clackmannanshire, his humility and Christian deportment pointed him out as a proper person to fill the office of an elder in his parish church. Being ordained according to the rites of the Church of Scotland, when the solemnity was ended, he thus addressed his minister: “Sir, I have often been entrusted by my sovereign with honourable and important commands, in my profession as a soldier, and his Majesty has been pleased to reward my services with distinguished marks of his royal approbation; but to be the humble instrument, in the office of an elder, of putting the tokens of my Saviour’s dying love, into the hands of one of the meanest of his followers, I conceive to be the highest honour that I can receive on this side of heaven.”
Lord, if thou thy grace impart,
Poor in spirit, meek in heart,
I shall as my Master be
Rooted in humility;Â—
Simple, teachable, and mild,
Changed into a little child,
Pleased with all the Lord provides,
Weaned from all the world besides.
Father, fix my soul on Thee;
Every evil let me flee:
Nothing want, beneath, above,
Happy in thy precious love!
O that all may seek, and find,
Every good in Jesus joined!
Him let Israel still adore,
Trust him, praise him evermore!