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will swagger with you, as the Hebrew did with Moses, Who made thee a judge over us?
And thus much for the properties of a humble soul.
III. I come now to the next thing, and that is, to shew you the reasons why the best men are the most humble men.
1. First, because they see themselves the greatest debtors to God for what they enjoy.
There is no man on earth that sees himself such a debtor to God, as the humble man. Every smile makes him a debtor to God; and every good word from heaven makes him a debtor to God. He looks upon all his temporals, as health, wealth, wife, child, friend; and sees himself deeply indebted for all. He looks upon his spiritual mercies, and sees himself a great debtor to God for them ; he looks upon his graces, and sees himself a debtor for them; be looks upon his experiences, and sees himself a debtor for them; he looks upon all his privileges, and sees himself a debtor for them; he looks upon his incomes, and sees himself a debtor for them. The more mercy he hath received, the more he looks upon himself indebted and obliged to pay duty and tribute to God, as you may see in Psalm cxvi. 6—14. In verses 6, 7, 8, he tells you of the mercies he had received from God ; and in the twelfth verse he says, What shall I render to the Lord, for all his benefits towards me1 'I see myself,' says he, 'wonderfully indebted ;' well what then? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord; I will pay my vows unto the Lord, in the presence of all his people. The same you have in verses 16, 18, of the same psalm. So David, Psalm ciii. 1—4, casts his eyes upon his temporal and his spiritual mercies, and then calls upon his soul, O my soul, bless the Lord, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases. A humble soul knows, that it is a strange folly to be proud of being more in debt, than another. 'It is true,' says he, ' I have this and that mercy in possession, and such and such mercies m reversion; but by all I am the more a debtor to God.'
Caesar admired that mad soldier, who was very much
in debt, and yet slept so quietly: MI does a humble soul wonder and admire, to see men that are so much indebted to God for mercies, as many are, yet sleep so quietly, and be so mindless and careless in blessing and praising of God. 'There is nothing,' says one, 'that endures so small a time, as the memory of mercies received; and the more great they are, the more commonly they are recompensed with ingratitude.'
2 It is because in this life they have but a taste of God.
As new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby. If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious, 1 Pet. ii. 2, 3. The best men on this side heaven, have but a taste; they are but in a tasting, desiring, hungering, thirsting, and growingcondition. These are parts of his ways, but how little a portion is heard of him? Job xxvi. 14. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face, 1 Cor. xiii. 9, 12. The Lord gives out but little of himself here; we have but a taste of divine sweetness here; we see but the back parts of God; the day is not far off, when we shall see his face. The best of Christ is behind, as the sweetest honey lies in the bottom. Our greatest knowledge here is to know that we know nothing.
The rabbins, in their comments upon scripture, when they meet with hard knots that they cannot explicate, salve all with this,' When Elias comes, he will resolve all things.' The best men are in the dark, and will be in the dark, till the Lord comes to shine forth upon them in more grace and glory. The best men on this side heaven are narrow vessels; they are able to receive and take in but little of God. The best men are so full of the world and the vanities thereof, that they are able to take in but little of God. Here God gives his people some taste, that they may not faint; and he gives them but a taste, that they may long to be at home, that they may keep humble, that they may sit loose from things below, that they may not break and despise bruised reeds, and that heaven may be more sweet to them at last.
3. A third reason why the best men are the most humhie is, because the best men dwell more upon their worse part, their ignoble part, than they do upon their noble part, their better part.
In Isa. vi. 5. / am a man of unclean lips, saith that humble soul. So humble Job cries out of the iniquity of his youth; and says, Once have I spoken foolishly, yea, twice; but I will do so no more. Humble David in Psalm li. 3, sighs out, My sin is ever before me. So humble Paul, Rom. vii. 21, 23, complains, that he hath a law in his members warring against the law of his mind, and leading him captive to the law of sin; and that when he would do good, evil was present with him. A humble soul sees that he can stay no more from sin, than the heart can from panting, and the pulse from beating. He sees his heart and life to be fuller of sin, than the firmament is. of stars; and this keeps him low. He sees that sin is so bred in the bone, that till his bones, as Joseph's, be carried out of the Egypt of this world, it will not out. He every day finds these Jebusites and Canaanites to be as thorns in his eyes, and as goads in his sides. He finds sin an ill inmate, that will not out, till the house fall on the head of it; as the fretting leprosy in the walls of the house, would not out till the house itself was demolished. Though sin and grace were never born together, and though they shall not die together, yet while the believer lives, these two must live together; and this keeps them humble.
As the peacock looking upon his black feet, lets fall his plumes, so the poor soul, when he looks upon his black feet, the vanity of his mind, the body of sin that is in him, his proud spirit falls low.
Epaminondas, an Athenian captain, being asked why he was so sad the day after a great victory, answered, 'Yesterday I was tickled with much vain glory, therefore I correct myself for it to-day.' That is the temper of a humble soul. It is very observable, that the saints are pressed to take notice of their better part; Behold thou art fair my love, behold thou art fair, Cant. i. 15; and iv. 1. God hath much ado to get a gracious heart to mind its spiritual beauty; to take notice of the inward excellency that he hath wrought in it. Though the king's daughter be all glorious within, yet God hath much ado to bring her to see and take notice of her inward beauty and glory.. The humble soul is more set to eye and dwell upon its deformity, than it is upon that beauty and glory that God hath stamped upon it. And this makes the man little and low in his own eyes.
4. Because they have the clearest sight and vision of God, and have the nearest and highest communion with God. None on earth are so near to God, and so high in their communion with God, as humble souls. And as they have the clearest visions of God, so those actions of God give them the fullest sight and knowledge of their own sinfulness and nothingness. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee: Wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes, Job xlii. 5, 6. In a vision the Lord discovers his glory to the prophet, Isa. vi. 1, 5. then ver. 5, Wo is me, says he, for I am undone, or I am cut off; why? because I am a man of unclean lips, and have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. 'O the vision that I have had of the glory of God hath given me such a clear and full sight of my own vileness and baseness, that I cannot but loath and abhor myself.' When Abraham draws near to God, then he accounts himself but dust and ashes. The angels that are near God, that stand before him, they cover their faces with two wings, as with a double scarf, Isa. vi. 2.
5. The fifth and last reason why those are most humble that are most holy, is, because they maintain in themselves a holy fear of sinning. And the more this holy fear of falling is maintained, the more the soul is humbled. A wise man feareth, and departethfrom evil, Prov. xiv. 16. And chap, xxviii. 14; Happy is the man that feareth always; but he that hardeneth his heart, shall fall into mischief. And this keeps the holy soul humble.
'I have known a good old man,' says Bernard,' who when he had heard of any that had committed some notorious offence, was wont to say with himself, He fell today, so may I to-morrow.' Now the reason why humble souls do keep up in themselves a holy fear of falling, is, because this is the best means to keep them from falling. Job fears, and conquers on the dunghill; Adam presumes, and falls in paradise. Nehemiah fears and stands, Neb. v. 15; Peter presumes, and falls, Mat. xxvi. Mr. Sanders, the martyr in queen Mary's days, fears, and stands; Dr. Pendleton presumes, and falls from a professor to be a papist.
When Agamemnon said, 'What should the Conqueror fear?' Cassander presently answered, ' He should fear this most of all, that he fears not at all.'
And so I have done with the Reasons of the Point, I shall now come to the uses of it.
Use 1. And the first is this—is it so that the most holy souls are the most humble souls? Then this shews you, that the number of holy souls is very few. O how few there are that are low in their own eyes! The number of souls that are high in the esteem of God and low in their own esteem, are very few. O the pride of England! Pride in these days has a whore's forehead; yet pride cannot climb so high but justice will sit above her.
Bernard says that pride is the rich man's cousin; I may add, and the poor man's cousin, and the profane man's cousin, and the civil man's cousin, and the formal man's cousin, and the hypocrite's cousin; yea, all men's cousin; and it will first or last cast down and cast out all the Lucifers and Adams in the world.
Use 2. As you would approve yourselves to be high in the account of God, as you would approve yourselves to be not only good, but eminently good, keep humble. Since England was England, since the gospel shined amongst us, there was never such reason to press this duty of humility, as in these days of pride wherein we live; and therefore I shall endeavour these two things— to lay down some motives that may work you to be humble, and to propound some directions that may further you in this work.
Motive. 1. Consider how God singles out humble souls from all others, to pour out most of the oil of grace into their hearts.
No vessels that God delights so much to fill as broken vessels, contrite spirits. He resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble, James iv. 6. The Greek word signifies, to set.himself in battle array. God takes the wind and hill of a proud soul, but he gives grace to the