Christian Love 44: Humble Judging of Self

By Hugh Binning

 

Humility makes a man compare himself with the best, that he may find how bad he himself is.  But pride measures itself with the worst, that it may hide from a man his own imperfections.  The one takes a perfect rule, and finds itself nothing.  The other takes a crooked rule, and imagines itself something.

But this is the way that unity may be kept in the body, if all the members keep this method and order, the lowest to measure himself by him that is higher, and the higher to judge himself by him who is above himself, and he who is above the rest, to compare with the rule of perfection, and find himself further short of the rule than the lowest is below himself.  If our comparisons ascended like this, we would descend in humility, and all the different degrees of perfection would meet in one place of lowliness of mind.

But while our rule descends, our pride ascends.  The scripture holds out pride and self-conceit as the root of many evils, and humility as the root of many good fruits among men.  “Only through pride comes contention,” (Proverbs 13:10).  There is pride at least in one of the parties, and often in both.  It makes one man careless of another, and out of contempt not to study equity and righteousness towards him, and it makes another man impatient of receiving and bearing an injury or disrespect.  While every man seeks to please himself, the contention arises.  Pride in both parties make both stiff and inflexible to peace and equity, and in this there is a great deal of madness.  For, by this means, both bring on themselves more real displeasure and dissatisfaction to their spirits.

“But with the well advised is wisdom.”  Those who have discretion will not be so locked into their own conceits, but in humility they can forbear and forgive for the sake of peace.  And though this seems harsh and bitter at first, to a passionate and out of sorts mind, yet Oh how sweet it is after!  There is a greater sweetness and refreshment in the peaceable lowering of a man’s spirit, and in the quiet passing by any injury, than the highest satisfaction that revenge or contention ever gave a man.

“When pride comes, then comes shame, but with the lowly is wisdom,” (Proverbs 11:2) Pride grows to maturity and ripeness.  Shame is near at hand, almost as near as the harvest.  If pride comes up, shame is right behind it.  But there is a great wisdom in lowliness.  That is, the honorable society that walks in.  There may be a secret connection between this and the previous verse, “changing and false balances are abomination to the Lord, but a just measure is his delight.”  Now, if it is so in such low things as merchandise, how much more abominable is a false spiritual balance in the weighing of ourselves!  Pride has a false balance in its hand, the weight of self-love carries down the one scale by far.

 


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Christian Love 42: Humble Beginnings

By Hugh Binning

 

Now these are the steps of it, mentioned in Matthew 5, and the lowest step that a soul first ascends to him by, is poverty of spirit, or humility.  And truly the spirit cannot meet with Jesus Christ til he first bring it down low, because he has come so low himself, as that no soul can ascend up to heaven by him, except they bow down to his lowliness, and rise upon that step.  Now a man being humbled in spirit before God, and under his mighty hand, he is only fit to obey the apostolic precept “Be subject one to another,”. (1st Peter 5:5)

Humility towards men depends upon that poverty and self emptying under God’s mighty hand, verse 6.  It is only a lowly heart that can make the back to bow, and submit to others of whatsoever quality, and condescend to them of low degree.  (Romans 12:16, Ephesians 5:21)  But the fear of the Lord humbling the spirit will easily set it as low as any other can put it.  This is the only basis and foundation of Christian submission and moderation.  It is not a complementary condescending.  It consists not in an external show of gesture and voice.  That is but an apish imitation.  And indeed pride often will satisfy itself under voluntary shows of humility, and can demean itself to indecent and unseemly submissions to people far inferior, but it is the more deformed and hateful, that it lurks under some shadows of humility.  As an ape is the more ugly and ill favored that it is liker a man, because it is not a man, so vices have more deformity in them when they put on the garb and clothing of virtue.  Only it may appear how beautiful a garment true humility is, when pride desires often to be covered with the appearance of it, to hide its nakedness.

O how rich a clothing is the plain and simple garment of humility and poverty of spirit! “Be clothed with humility,”. (1st Peter 5:5)  It is the ornament of all graces.  It covers a man’s nakedness by the uncovering of it.  If a man had all other endowments, this one dead fly, would make all the ointment unsavory, pride. But humility is condimentum virtutum, as well as vestimentum.  It seasons all graces, and covers all infirmities.  Clothes are for ornament and necessity both.  Truly this clothing is alike fit for both, to adorn and beautify whatsoever is excellent, and to hide or supply whatsoever is deficient.

 


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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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