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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 showed 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 and done evil indeed. 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 voluntarily sinking down as low as God should please to abase him. Job felt and expressed the same self abasing spirit under the chastising band 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 pertinently replied, “ Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” This shows that his humiliation flowed from a sense of guilt and unworthiness in the sight of God. Our Saviour himself set up the publican's prayer as a proper example of that humility which becomes a sinner, and which will always meet the divine approbation. Wbile the Pharisee boasted of his innocence and goodness, the publican confessed his guilt, and humbly cried, "God be merciful to me a sinner." This man was accepted, and the other rejected. This man was willing to abase himself, but the other exalted himself. This man was humble, but the other was proud and self righteous. The prodigal son, when he came to himself, felt ihe spirit and spoke the language of real humility. He said to himself, “ I will arise and go to my father, and 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.” He freely confessed that he had sinned, that he had sunk his character, that he had degraded himself below the rank of a son, and therefore declared that he was willing to take the low and ignoble place of a servant. Paul was a very humble man, and his humility consisted in self abasement for sin. He once said he was "less than the least of all saints ;” by which he meant that he was the most guilty and ill deserving in the sight of God. So he explains this seeming paradox in another passage. 66 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am; and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all." Here it is very evident that Paul's humility did not arise from ignorance of his own superior talents and services. He does not pretend that he had less knowledge or less grace, than the other apostles; but only that he had more guilt, because he persecuted the followers of Christ. And on this account, he was undoubtedly the most guilty and unworthy of all the apostles, and ought to lie the lowest before God, which he has done, and will do to all eternity. Having shown what it is for sinners to humble themselves before God, I proceed to show,
II. That they must do this, in order to obtain pardoning mercy.
Our Saviour declares that “he that humbleth himself shall be exalted," meaning that none but such as humble themselves shall obtain pardon and acceptance in the sight of God. For he says, in the conclusion of the parable, " This man," meaning the humble publican, “went down to his house justified, pardoned and accepted, " rather than the other; for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." The whole current of scripture teaches sinners that they must humble themselves before God, in order to find favor in his sight. The apostle says to them, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time." David declares, “ The Lord is
” nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” “ The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” And “ Thus saith the high and lofty One that 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.” There is a propriety, and even necessity, that sinners should exercise such humility or self abasement, in order to obtain divine mercy. For,
1. God cannot consistently receive them into his favor, 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 favor, 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 honor 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, therefore, a moral necessity of sinners humbling themselves before him, in order to obtain his special and everlasting favor. Besides,
2. It is impossible for sinners to receive divine mercy before they take their proper places, and are willing to sink as low as divine justice can sink them. If it were possible for God consistently to pardon and receive them into his favor before they humble themselves for their sins, yet they could not receive pardon and acceptance from the hand of God, as an expression of mere mercy. God cannot show mercy in pardoning, where he cannot show justice in punishing. If God cannot justly punish sinners for ever for their sins, then he cannot display mercy in saving them from everlasting punishment. And if sinners do not see and approve of his justice in punishing them, they cannot see and cordially acknowledge his mercy in pardoning their transgressions, and saving them from future and eternal misery. It is true, they might be glad if God would not inflict upon them an unjust and undeserved punishment, but they could not consider his withholding punishment as an act of mercy. It is, therefore, indispensably necessary, that they should humble themselves in his sight before he lifts them up. They must voluntarily sink themselves, before they can submissively desire him to save them from sinking for ever under his just displeasure. They must of their own accord lay their necks on the block, before they can sincerely plead to
be saved from death. Though they can, while totally unhumbled, talk about the mercy of God, and in words plead for mercy, yet they cannot cordially accept of his mercy, until they see and love his justice, and freely resign themselves into his hands, to save or destroy, as shall be most for his glory. The humility which God requires of sinners as the condition of pardoning mercy, is not an arbitrary but an indispensable condition. It is founded in the character of sinners, and cannot be separated from them. Their guilt calls for humility, and they cannot be released from exercising it, if they are eventually saved. Mercy cannot come to them in any other channel than that of humility ; because God cannot grant, and they cannot receive mercy, before their hearts are humbled. And there is no humility, but that which consists in self abasement, which can prepare them to receive mere mercy from the hand of God, who may in strict justice doom them to everlasting destruction.
1. If humility essentially consists in self abasement for sin, then we may safely suppose that neither God the Father, nor the Lord Jesus Christ, ever exercised any affection which may be strictly called humility. These divine persons never had the least occasion to humble themselves for any unwise or unholy or improper conduct, towards any created or uncreated object in the universe. David, indeed, under a lively and solemn sense of the divine majesty, exclaims, “ Who is like unto the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high; who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth! These expressions naturally convey the idea of condescension, which may stoop; but not the idea of humility, which is degrading. It becomes the supreme Being to condescend or stoop to his creatures, but not to abase or degrade himself before them. And as it was the design of the Psalm
. ist to exalt, and not to degrade the Deity, we ought to interpret his expressions agreeably to his plain and obvious meaning. These observations will equally apply to and explain what the apostle says concerning the humiliation of Christ. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus; who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” It was indeed a glorious act of condescension in Christ, who was equal with the Father, to obey his will, and suffer and die, not
for his own sins, but for the sins of the world. Though divine condescension and human condescension are the same species of holy affection, yet neither divine nor human condescension is the same species of affection as self abasement. Strict and proper humility, therefore, may not be ascribed to God or Christ, but only to penitent and self abased sinners.
2. If humility consists in self abasement, we may clearly see how low sinners rnust lie before God, in order to obtain his pardoning mercy. It is generally believed that they must humble themselves in some measure; but it is a serious and interesting question, how low they must fall before their injured and offended Sovereign. Some evangelical and experimental writers have maintained, that they ought to lie as low as their sins deserve, and to be willing that God should treat them according to their demerit. But it seems to be the more common opinion of great and pious divines, that sinners are not obliged to lie so deeply abased before God. These two opinions are not only diverse from, but directly opposite to each other, because there is no medium between sinners being willing or unwilling to suffer the due punishment of their sins. The plain and important question now is, which of these opposite opinions is agreeable to truth. It appears from what has been said in this discourse, that sinners ought to abase themselves before God for their sin, and that they ought to abase themselves as low as their sin deserves. And in the language of the Assembly of divines : “ Sin deserves God's wrath and curse, both in this life and in that which is to come.” This answer agrees with what the inspired writers say upon the subject. The apostle declares, " The wages of sin is death." And our Saviour says, that he will adjudge the finally impenitent to this punishment at the last day: “ Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Such a punishment every sin deserves, and such a punishment every finally impenitent sinner must for ever suffer. All penitent and self abased sinners must therefore be willing to suffer the wrath and curse of God for ever. But still it may be inquired what is implied in this willingness. It does not imply love to pain or misery, but only a love to that benevolent justice which inflicts it. All the impenitent at the day of judgment will see the justice of God in casting them off for ever, while their hearts will rise in enmity against their holy and righteous Judge, for giving them the due reward of their deeds. But those who are abased for sin, love that justice of God which they see and feel would be displayed, if he should actually treat them according to their demerit. They are, therefore, willing that God should glorify himself by them, either VOL. V.