« AnteriorContinuar »
Gracious affections are attended with evangelical humiliation.
Evangelical humiliation is a sense that a Christian has of his own utter insufficiency, despicableness, and odiousness, with an answerable frame of heart. There is a distinction to be made between a legal and evangelical humiliation. The former is what men may have while in a state of nature, and have no gracious affection; the latter is peculiar to true saints. The former is from the common influence of the Spirit of God, assisting natural principles, and especially natural conscience; the latter is from the special influences of the Spirit of God, implanting and exercising supernatural and divine principles. The former is from the mind being assisted to a greater sense of religious things, as to their natural properties and qualities, and particularly of the natural perfections of God, such as his greatness, terrible majesty, &c.-which were manifested to the congregation of Israel, in giving the law at Mount Sinai-the latter is from a sense of the transcendent beauty of divine things in their moral qualities. In the former, a sense of the awful greatness, and natural perfections of God, and of the strictness of his law, convinces men that they are exceeding sinful and guilty, and exposed to the wrath of God, as it will convince wicked men and devils at the day of judgment; but they do not see their own odiousness on account of sin; they do not see the hateful nature of sin; a sense of this is given in evangelical humiliation, by a discovery of the beauty of God's holiness and moral perfection. In a legal humiliation men are made sensible that they are nothing before the great and terrible God, and that they are undone, and wholly insufficient to help themselves; as wicked men will be at the day of judgment: but they have not an answerable frame of heart, consisting in a disposition to abase themselves, and exalt God alone. This disposition is given only in evangelical humiliation, by overcoming the heart, and changing its inclination, by a discovery of God's holy beauty. In a legal humiliation, the conscience is convinced; as the consciences of all will be most perfectly at the day of judgment; but because there is no spiritual understanding, the will is not bowed, nor the inclination altered. In legal humiliation, men are brought to despair of helping themselves; in evangelical, they are brought voluntarily to deny and renounce themselves in the former, they are subdued and forced to the ground; in the latter, they are brought sweetly to yield, and freely and with delight to prostrate themselves at the feet of God.
Legal humiliation has in it no spiritual good, nothing of the nature of true virtue; whereas evangelical humiliation is that wherein the excellent beauty of Christian grace does very much consist. Legal humiliation is useful, as a means in order to evangelical; as a common knowledge of the things of religion is a means requisite in order to spiritual knowledge. Men may be legally humbled and have no humility; as the wicked at the day of judgment will be thoroughly convinced that they have no righteousness, but are altogether sinful, exceeding guilty, and justly exposed to eternal damnation-and be fully sensible of their own helplessness-without the least mortification of the pride of their hearts. But the essence of evangelical humiliation consists in such humility as becomes a creature in itself exceeding sinful, under a dispensation of grace; consisting in a mean esteem of himself, as in himself nothing, and altogether contemptible and odious; attended with a mortification of a disposition to exalt himself, and a free renunciation of his own glory.
This is a great and most essential thing in true religion. The whole frame of the gospel, every thing appertaining to the new covenant, and all God's dispensations towards fallen man, are calculated to bring to pass this effect. They that are destitute of this, have no true religion, whatever profession they may make, and high soever their religious affections may be; Hab. ii. 4. Behold, his soul which is lifted up, is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith; i. e. he shall live by his faith on God's righteousness, and grace, and not his own goodness and excellency. God has abundantly manifested in his word, that this is what he has a peculiar respect to in his saints, and and that nothing is acceptable to him without it; Psal. xxxiv. 18. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Psal. li. 17. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Psal. cxxxviii. 6. Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly. Prov. iii. 34. He giveth grace unto the lowly. Is. lvii. 15. Thus saith the high and lofty One who 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. Is. lxvi. 1, 2. Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool:-but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. Micah vi. 8. He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Matth. v. 3. Blessed are the
poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of God. Matth. xviii, 3, 4. Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Mark x. 15. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. The centurion, (Luke vii.) acknowledged that he was not worthy that Christ should enter under his roof, and that he was not worthy to come to him. See the manner of a sinner coming to Christ, Luke vii. 37, &c. And behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head. She did not think the hair of her head, which is the natural crown and glory of a woman, (1 Cor. xi. 15.) too good to wipe the feet of Christ. Jesus most graciously accepted her, and says, Thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace. The woman of Canaan submitted to Christ, in his saying, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs, and did as it were own that she was worthy to be called a dog; whereupon Christ says unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee, even as thou wilt, Matth. xv. 26-28. The prodigal son said, I will arise, and go to my father, and I will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants, Luke xv. 18, &c. See also Luke xviii. 9, &c. And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others, &c.—The publican standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased: and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted. Matth. xxviii. 9. And they came, and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Col. iii. 12. Put ye on, as the clect of God,-humbleness of mind. Ezek. xx. 41, 43. I will accept you with your sweet savour, when I bring you out from the people, &c.-And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled, and ye shall lothe yourselves in your own sight, for all your evils that ye have_committed. Chap. xxxvi. 26, 27, 31. A new heart also will I give unto you, and I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, &c.—Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities, and for your abominations. Chap. xvi. 63. That thou mayst remember and be con
founded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord. Job xlii. 6. I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
As we would therefore make the holy scriptures our rule, in judging of the nature of true religion, and judging of our own religious qualifications and state; it concerns us greatly to look at this humiliation, as one of the most essential things pertaining to true Christianity*. This is the principal part of the great Christian duty of self-denial. That duty consists in two things, viz. first, In a man's denying his worldly inclinations, and in forsaking and renouncing all worldly objects and enjoyments; and, secondly, In denying his natural self-exaltation, and renouncing his own dignity and glory, and in being emptied of himself; so that he does freely, and from his very heart, as it were renounce, and annihilate himself. Thus the Christian doth in evangelical humiliation. The latter is the greatest and most difficult part of self-denial: although they always go together, and one never truly is, where the other is not; yet natural men can come much nearer to the former than the latter. Many Anchorites and Recluses have abandoned (though without any true mortification), the wealth, and pleasures, and common enjoyments of the world, who were far from renouncing their own dignity and righteousness. They never denied themselves for Christ, but only sold one lust to feed another, sold a beastly lust to pamper a devilish one; and so were never the better, but their latter end was worse than their beginning. They turned out one black devil to let in seven whites worse than the first, though of a fairer countenance. It is inexpressible, and almost inconceivable, how strong a self-righteous, self-exalting disposition is naturally in man. What will he not do and suffer, to feed and gratify it? What lengths have been gone in a seeming self-denial in other respects, by Essenes and Pharisees, among the Jews; by Papists, many sects of heretics, and enthusiasts, among professing Christians; by many Mahometans; by Pythagorean philosophers, and others, among the Heathen; and all to do sacrifice to this Moloch of spiritual pride or self-righteousness; and that they may have something wherein to exalt themselves before God, and above their fellow-creatures?
Calvin, in his Institutions, Book II. chap. 2. § 11. says, "I was always exceedingly pleased with that saying of Chrysostom, The foundation of our philosophy is humility;' and yet more pleased with that of Augustine, As,' says he, the rhetorician being asked, what was the first thing in the rules of eloquence, he answered, Pronunciation; what was the second, pronunciation; what was the third, still he answered, pronunciation. So if you should ask me concerning the precepts of the Christian religion, I would answer, firstly, secondly, and thirdly, and for ever, Humility.
Real humiliation is what all the most glorious hypocrites, who make the most splendid shew of mortification to the world, and high religious affection, grossly fail in. Were it not that this is so much insisted on in scripture, as a most essential thing in true grace; one would be tempted to think that many of the heathen philosophers were truly gracious, in whom so bright an appearance of many virtues, and also great illuminations, and inward fervours and elevations of mind, as though they were truly the subjects of divine illapses and heavenly communications*. It is true, that many hypocrites make great pretences to humility, as well as other graces; and very often there is nothing whatsoever of which they make a higher profession. They endeavour to make a great shew of humility in speech and behaviour; but they commonly make bungling work of it, though glorious work in their own eyes. They cannot find out what a humble speech and behaviour is, or how to speak and act so that there may indeed be a savour of Christian humility in what they say and do: that sweet humble air and mien is beyond their art, being not led by the Spirit, or naturally guided to a behaviour becoming holy humility, by the vigour of a lowly spirit within them. And therefore they have no other way, many of them, but to be much in declaring that they are humble, and telling how they were humbled to the dust at such and such times, and abounding in very bad expressions about themselves; such as, I am the least of all saints, I am a poor vile creature, I am not worthy of the least mercy, or that God should look upon me! Oh, I have a dreadful wicked heart! my heart is worse than the devil! Oh,
"Albeit the Pythagoreans were thus famous for Judaic mysterious wisdom, and many moral, as well as natural accomplishments; yet were they not exempt from boasting and pride; which was indeed a vice most epidemic, and as it were congenial, among all the philosophers; but in a more particular manner, among the Pythagoreans. So Hornius Hist. Philosoph. L. 3. chap. II. The manners of the Pythagoreans were not free from boasting. They were all ПEPIAUTOAOгOI, such as abounded in the sense and commendation of their own excellen. cies, and boasting even almost to the degree of immodesty and impudence, as great Heinsius ad Horat. has rightly observed.' Thus indeed does proud na. ture delight to walk in the sparks of its own fire. And although many of these old philosophers could, by the strength of their own lights and heats, together with some common elevations and raisures of spirit, (peradventure from a more than ordinary, though not special and saving assistance of the Spirit), aban'on many grosser vices; yet they were all deeply immersed in that miserable cursed abyss of spiritual pride: so that all their natural, and moral, and philosophic attainments, did feed, nourish, strengthen, and render most inveterate, this hellbred pest of their hearts. Yea, those of them that seemed most modest, as the Academics, who professed they knew nothing, and the Cynics, who greatly decried, both in words and habits, the pride of others, yet even they abounded in the most notorious and visible pride. So connatural and morally essential to corrupt nature is this envenomed root, fountain, and plague of spiritual pride; especially where there is any natural, moral, or philosophic excellence to feed the Whence Austin rightly judged all these philosophic virtues to be but splendid sius." Gales's Court of the Gentiles, Part II. B. ii. chap. 10. § 17.