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gance and pride extinguished in his breast? Will the man who habitually humbles himself in the presence of his God, be likely to bear himself proudly in the presence of his fellow men? Will he, who from a sense of unworthiness, shrinks into nothing before the throne of his Maker, be apt to swell into imaginary importance as soon as he finds himself among the dependent offspring of the same Parent? Can we conceive of two ideas more evidently and entirely separated than that of reverence prostrating itself in adoration before God, lost in wonder at the contemplation of his perfections, overwhelmed by a sense of its own imperfection, frailty and sin ;—and that of pride, erecting itself with fancied elevation, full of haughty disdain of all around, and exclusively engrossed by conscious self-complacency ? Is it too much, then, to say that no other than a humble man can sincerely reverence God ?
It is equally impossible that any other than a humble man should be deeply and sincerely grateful to God. Gratitude is in its nature at war with the principle of self-sufficiency, because it implies that we have received favours from another. It wounds that secret and unayowed, but real belief, that always accompanies pride, that we are the authors of our own good qualities, and that our enjoyments are independent and unborrowed. There is a peculiar opposition between pride and that gratitude, which we exercise towards the Deity.
How is it possible, that any man should recollect that all the talents and good affections which he possesses are the unmerited gift of God; that he owes all which exalts him in the esteem of others, all that constitutes his happiness here and his hopes of felicity hereafter, to God's mercy alone; how can he récollect this, without perceiving, that however strong may be his obligation to gratitude, he has not the smallest foundation for pride ? He who habitually refers all that he enjoys to the bounty of heaven, cannot surely be vain of the little distinctions which elevate him above his fellow
If he differs from another, it is God who makes him to differ, and of what can he be proud ? When too he recollects—and the pious man never forgets it—that all this goodness has been showered on one not only without claim to it, but on one sinful, insensible, and unworthy, must not every emotion of self-complacency melt within his breast? We
may surely venture to repeat the assertion that no man can be sincerely grateful to God, who has not learned humility in the school of Christ.
Since then it appears, that humility is necessary for all just reverence and all genuine gratitude to God, the assertion was not too strong, that he cannot be a pious man who is not at the same time a humble man.
But I believe that more than this is true. No one will be really and uniformly benevolent to his fellow men, who does not possess humility. Vanity is a most unsocial passion. The
portion of time and attention, which mankind are willing to spare from their avocations and pleasures to devote to the admiration of each other, is so small, that every successful adventurer is felt to have impaired the common stock. The success of one is the disappointment of multitudes. Hence a a man, in whom vanity is a strong passion, is necessarily led to regard his rival as his enemy, ed to rejoice in his miscarriage, and repine at his
At least, his heart will be gradually formed to a profound indifference to the welfare of others. Attentive only to himself, instead of feeling tenderness for his fellow creatures, as members of the same family, beings with whom he is
appointed to act, to suffer, and to sympathize, he considers life as a stage, on which he is performing a part, and mankind only as spectators, who stand by to admire and applaud.
But if you still doubt the incompatibility of pride with real christian benevolence, consider but for a moment, the general condition of human existence. Recollect how much we are compelled to endure in the common intercourse of life, from the opposing claims of our neighbours ; how often our plans cross each other, our designs interfere, and our interests are unavoidably at variance. Here then, the field opens for the exertion of benevolence. And do you expect that he who is constantly fostering an idea of his superiority to others, will be ready to yield, or accommodate his claims to theirs ? When his plans are opposed, his superiority denied, and his claims slighted, is this the man from whom you are to expect moderation and benevolence ? What are you to hope from a man, whose thoughts are continually occupied with his own perfections, who never stirs from the narrow circle which pride and the selfishness of pride have drawn around him? No; the sentiment of a uniform and general benevolence is too exalted to be felt by any other than the man of lowliness. He only, who thinks himself sent into the world, not for himself alone, but to fulfil the purposes of God; who feels that he is only a humble instrument in His hand, and that he is honoured by the privilege of serving Him, and his fellow men; he alone it is, whose feelings are sublime enough, whose heart is wide enough, to take to its embrace the whole family of mankind.
I have thus offered some reasons in vindication of the rank which is given to the virtue of humility in the christian system. I have endeavoured to show that it arises from the most exalted of all principles, and that it is essential to the existence of all genuine piety to God, and benevolence to man. If this be so, a reply is given to an objection which has been made to the gospel, for the preference which it bestows on this and other passive virtues, over those of a more active and imposing character. It is true, that, in the precepts of our Lord, the first place is always given to the meek, retiring ånd
unobtrusive graces. The man, who suffers patiently, is there ranked above him, who contrives wisely or executes boldly; he who forgives, above him who revenges an injury ; he, who abases, above him who exalts himself. If then, as I hope, this preference has been vindicated in the case of humility, you will feel that christianity is not only relieved from a cavil, but supplied with a proof. Humility can never be a popular quality; and how can we suppose that a system which lays so much stress upon it, is the contrivance of human ingenuity? Would a human lawgiver, ambitious that his system should descend to posterity, ambitious of its universal reception even in his own age, have counteracted his project by attempting to extinguish in the breast of others the feelings which acted so powerfully in his own ? Would a man like ourselves, eager to become the founder of a popular religion, have opposed those very passions of the human heart, which, as they are esteemed honourable among men, are ever most uncontrolled in their influence, and most easily pardoned in their excess? What then is the inference from these facts? Is it not, that he, who spake as never man spake, has left in the very humility of his precepts, the stamp of divine authority? Does not the derision of his adversaries plainly enough show that if they had been the framers of the christian system, they would have decked it in a thousand ornaments to captivate the false taste of mankind ?