Christian Love 39: Prideful Dust

By Hugh Binning

 

Lowliness and meekness in reputation and outward form, are like servants, yet they account it no robbery to be equal with the highest and most princely graces. The vein of gold and silver lies very low in the depths of the earth, but it is not therefore base, but more precious.  Other virtues may come with more observation, but these, like the Master that teaches them, come with more reality.  If they have less pomp, they have more power and virtue.  Humility, how suitable is it to humanity! They are as near of kin one to another, as homo and humus, and therefore, except a man cast off humanity, and forget his original, the ground, the dust from whence he was taken, I do not see how he can shake off humility.

Self knowledge is the mother of it, the [The word homo (man) has been supposed to be derived from humus (the ground) because man sprang from the earth.  Quintillian’s objection to this derivation of the word is that all other animals have the same origin. (quasi vero non omnibus animal bus eadem origo. Instit. Orator lib. i, cap. 6) Such an objection however has but little pull.  For though, according to the account which Moses gives of the creation, the earth at the command of God, not only brought forth man, but other creatures, (Genesis 1:24) man alone was called Adam because he was formed of the dust of the ground, knowledge of that humus would make us humiles.

Look to the hole of the pit from which we have been made. A man could not look high that looked so low as the pit from which we were taken by nature, even the dust, and the pit from which we are created by grace, even man’s lost and ruined state.  Such a low look would make a lowly mind. Therefore pride must be nothing else but an empty and vain swelling, a puffing up. “Knowledge puffs up,” not self knowledge.  That casts down, and brings down all superstructures, flattens out all vain confidence to the very foundation, and then begins to build on a solid ground. But knowledge of other things seen outside ourselves, joined with ignorance of ourselves within, is but a swelling, not a growing, it is a bladder or skin full of wind, a blast or breath of an airy applause or commendation, will extend it and fill it full. And what is this else but a monster in humanity, the skin of a man stuffed or blown up with wind and vanity, to the shadow and resemblance of a man; but no bones or sinews, nor real substance within?  Pride is a disfigurement.  It is nature swelled beyond the intrinsic terms or limits of magnitude, the spirit of a mouse in a mountain.  And now, if any thing be gone without the just bounds of the magnitude set to it, it is imperfect, disabled in its operations, worthless and unprofitable, yes, unnatural like. If there is not much real excellence to fill up the circle of our self-conceit, then surely it must be full of emptiness and vanity, fancy and imagination must supply the vacant room, where solid worth cannot extend so far.

 


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