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because mankind are naturally disposed to misunderstand and misrepresent it. Mr. HumE scrupled not to say, “that humility ought to be struck off from the catalogue of Virtues, and placed on the catalogue of Vices.” This must have been owing to his gross ignorance, or extreme malignity. The most charitable supposition is, that he really mistook a mere selfish and painful sense of natural inferiority for true humility.
This leads me to observe, that a man's humbling himself is something very different from his having a mistaken and reluctant sense of his own inferiority in respect to his fellow-mortals. Though men generally think too highly of themselves in regard to their inferiors, yet they as generally think too meanly of themselves in comparison with their superiors. The truth is, mankind are much more upon a level, in point of natural excellences and imperfections, than many are willing to acknowledge. The depressing sense, which some entertain of their natural inferiority, is greatly owing to their ignorance. But knowledge, and not ignorance is the mother of both humility and devotion. Those who know the most of God, of themselves, and of their fellow men, may be the most humble and devout persons in the world. There is a meanness and criminality in that voluntary humility, which the apostle mentions and condemns.
Humility is likewise different from submission, which seems to resemble it. Submission is the respect, which an inferior justly owes to a superior. The child owes submission to the parent, the subject to the prince, and the creature to the great Creator. But inferiors manifest no humility in submitting to their superiors. They only take their proper place, with
out sinking or degrading themselves in the least degree.
Furthermore, humility is something different from condescension which is the part of a superior, and consists in stooping to an inferior. Thus the Creator may condescend to a creature, the prince to a subject, the rich to the poor, and the aged to the young.
But though condescension is stooping, yet it is by no means degrading. Real condescension always displays a noble and amiable spirit. I may now safely say, that humility essentially consists in self-abasement, which is self-degradation, or a voluntary sinking not only below others, but below ourselves. It is therefore, wholly founded in guilt. None but guilty creatures have any cause or reason for abasing themselves. But every guilty creature ought to abase himself, whether he is willing or unwilling to perform the mortifying duty. For sin is of a degrading nature, and always sinks the sinner below himself. Sin degraded Satan from the highest to the lowest creature in the universe. The moment he rebelled against his Maker, he lost his original rank in creation, and sunk below himself and all the holy angels. Sin degraded Adam, and his first offence sunk him below the lowest creature on earth. Sin has had the same effect upon all his posterity, and made them more vile and abominable than the beasts that perish. The higher and nobler any intelligent creatures are by nature, the lower and meaner they become by sin.
Hence the humility, which sinners ought to exercise, consists altogether in self-abasement. They ought voluntarily to sink down to that place, which their sins deserve, or to be willing to lie as much below themselves and others, as their guilt can sink them. This is totally different from mere abasement. They
may be abased, and abased as low as they deserve to be abased involuntarily, and while they are actually aspiring to rise above themselves and others; but there is no humility in such constrained and involuntary abasement. Satan is the subject of this kind of abasement while his heart is full of pride and self-exaltation. But when the guilty are heartily willing to lie as low as their sins deserve, then they really abase themselves and exercise true humility. This is the feeling which all sinners ought to have, and which every one must have, who is finally raised to the kingdom of glory. And this is only feeling according to truth. Sin has degraded every sinner, and he must be willing to degrade himself, and voluntary take the place, which justly belongs to him. Such self-abase. ment is the very essence of that humility which all men ought to exercise. As there is nothing but sin, that can really degrade us, so there is nothing but sin, that calls for real humility. It belongs not to innocent, but only to guilty creatures, to humble themselves. Sinners have forfeited their natural rank among the creatures of God, and ought to abase themselves before him. This always appears perfectly proper to true penitents, who are sensible of their ill desert, and have correspondent feelings towards themselves, and towards God, whom they have injured and offended.
And now, if we look into Scripture, we shall find humility there represented as founded in guilt, and consisting in self-abasement. In the twenty sixth chapter of Leviticus, God said concerning Israel in case they should prove disobedient and forfeit his favour, “If then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they accept the punishment of their iniquity: then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.” It appears from this divine declaration, that humility is occasioned by guilt, and consists in self-abasement, or the voluntary accepting of the punishment due to sin. To such a spirit God always brings sinners, when he renews their hearts and prepares them for mercy. The prophet speaking of a time of general reformation says, "The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.” These representations of humility may be illustrated, by various examples recorded in the Old and New Testament. Jacob felt that humility, which consists in self-abasement, when he said unto God, “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant.”
David exercised that humility, which consists in self-abasement, under a sense of what he had deserved at the hand of God for numbering the people. When he saw the angel of the Lord brandishing his sword over Jerusalem, he humbly said unto God, "Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned; but as for these sheep what have they done? Let thine hand, I pray thee, O Lord my God, be on me, and on my father's house.” This was real and deep humiliation for sin. It was volun. tary sinking down as low as God should please to abase him. Job felt and expressed the same self-abasing spirit under the chastizing hand of God. In the depth of his complicated afflictions he said, “Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither. The Lord gave; and the Lord hath taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord.” And when he was reproached for such self-abasement, he
even necessity of sinners exercising such humility or self-abasement, in order to obtain divine mercy. For,
1. God cannot consistently receive them into his favour before they voluntarily humble themselves for their transgressions in his sight. They have hated, disobeyed, and opposed him, without a cause. They have despised and rejected the Son of his love. They have grieved and quenched his holy Spirit. They have abused his goodness and forbearance, and rendered themselves objects of his holy displeasure. He cannot, therefore, consistently with the purity of his nature and the dignity of his character, receive them into his special favour, until they freely and of their own accord abase themselves before him. Though Christ has made atonement for their sins, so that justice may be displayed in their forgiveness; yet God cannot forgive them, consistently with his honour and dignity, until they freely and voluntarily take their proper places before their righteous and injured Sovereign. This is agreeable to the common sentiment of mankind, in regard to the proper conduct of the offended towards offenders. The prince will not forgive the subject, the superior will not forgive the inferior, nor will any person forgive another, until the offender manifest humiliation and self-abasement. And it much less becomes the supreme Majesty of heaven, to forgive the transgressor, until he humbles himself before him, and sincerely cries like the publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” If God should return to sinners before they return to him, he would humble himself before them, instead of their humbling themselves before him. He cannot deny himself nor give his glory to another. He can no more act below his dignity, than he can act contrary to his wisdom, holiness, or justice. There is, there