“Serving the Lord with all humility of mind."— Acts 20:19.
It is not often that a man may safely speak about his own humility. Humble men are mostly conscious of great pride, while those who are boastful of humility have nothing but false pretence, and really lack and want it. I question whether any of us are at all judges as to our pride or humility ; for verily, pride so often assumes the shape of lowliness when it hath its own end to serve, and lowliness on the other hand is so perfectly compatible with a heavenly dignity of decision, that it is not easy at all times to discover which is the counterfeit and which is the precious and genuine coin. You will remember that in the case in our text, Paul speaks by inspiration. If it were not for this fact, I would not have believed even Paul himself when he spoke of his own humility. So distrustful do I feel of our judgment upon this point, that if he had not Bpoken under the infallible witness and guidance of the Holy Spirit, I should have said that the text was not true, and that when a man should say he served God with humbleness of mind, speaking merely from his own judgment, there was clear proof before you that he was a proud man. But Paul speaketh not to his own commendation, but with the sole motive of clearing his hands of the blood of all men. Led no doubt by the Holy Ghost thus to speak— that he might be an ensample to all coming ages— he becomes the mirror to all the ministers of Christ, that we too, each of us in our degree serving the Lord, may without degree be filled with humility, taking the lowest seat, not esteeming ourselves beyond what we ought to think, but submitting ourselves to men of low estate ; emptying out ourselves as he did who emptied himself of all his glory, when he came to save our souls.
I shall take the text this morning, and shall speak of it as the Lord shall please to help me in my weakness thus— first, I shall speak of the comprehensiveness of humility. You notice the text says, “Serving the Lord with all humility.” Secondly, I shall speak upon the trials to which our humility will be subjected ; and thirdly, upon the arguments by which we ought to support it, to generate it, and to sustain it in our souls ; and then, fourthly, I shall show forth some practical effects of humility, or rather urge you to show them forth with me in our daily lives.
I. First then, the COMPREHENSIVENESS OF HUMILITY.
It is a somewhat striking expression; it is not merely serving the Lord with humility, but serving the Lord with all humility. There are many sorts of pride. Perhaps while I am running over the list, you will be able, by looking at the contrast, to see that there must be also many kinds of humility.
There is the pride of the heretic, who will utter false doctrines, because he thinks his own judgment to be better than the word of God; never content to sit like a child to believe what he is told, he is a disputant but not a disciple. He will insist upon it that his own reason is to be well-spring of his own beliefs, and he will receive nothing beyond his own reach. Now Paul never had the heretic’s pride. He could say, “God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Nay, so willing was he to sit at the feet of Jesus that he counted all the learning which he had received at the feet of Gamaliel to be of no value in itself, but became a fool that he might be wise. He spake not with the wisdom of words nor with human learning, but with the demonstration of the Spirit and with power.
There is next the pride of the Papist, who attaches merit to his own works, and hopes to win heaven as the reward of his own doings. From this Paul was totally free. He had humility, which is the very contrast of it. Often did he say, when speaking of himself, “yet not I, but Christ.” He learnt to count his righteousness as filthy rags, and all his former doings were to him but dross and dung that he might win Christ and be found in him.
Next there is the pride of the curious. The man who is not content with simplicities, but must pry into mysteries. He would if he could climb to the Eternal Throne, and read between those folded leaves and break the seven seals of the mysterious book of destiny. You know well our apostle has many things in his writings which are hard to be understood, yet he uttered them because of the Spirit ; and you never meet with any attempt in the apostle’s writing as you do in the preaching of some ministers, as you do in the conversation of some professors, to reconcile predestination with free will. He was quite content to preach to men as free agents, and exhort them to repent; quite willing to speak of God as working in us to will and do of his good pleasure, while we also work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Paul was never curious to find out where the lines of truth met; be was perfectly content to take his doctrine from his Master’s spirit, and leave the old wives’ fables and endless genealogies and disputings, and questionings, to those who had no better guests to entertain.
And there is the pride of the impenitent man who will not yield to God; who saith, “I am free; I was never under dominion to any; my neck hath never felt the rein, my jaw hath never felt the bit.” Not so our apostle. He was ever humble, teachable, and filled even to sorrowfulness with a sense of his own unworthiness. “Oh, wretched man that I am,” said he, “who shall deliver me from the body of this death.” Far enough was he from rebellion against the Most High God; for he would sit at the feet of Christ and learn, ay, and he would lie at the foot of the throne in dust and ashes, and confess himself to be the very chief of sinners, and less than the least of all the saints. 1 think you will very soon learn from the contrast I have presented to you, what the apostle meant when he said, “in all humility.” There are many sorts of pride; there are many sorts of humility too. The apostle had them all, or rather they were blended together in a sweet mixture in his daily preaching and conversation. I think this morning to give you a clearer view of the comprehensiveness of humility, I will put it to you in another shape.
Some of the old writers, who like to use terms to sound very much alike, say, There is a proposed humility, or humility before the service of God; there is an opposed humility, or humility during the service of God, which continues under trial; and there is, thirdly, an imposed humility, when the soul, conscious of sin during the act, imposeth upon itself the task of bending before God, and offering repentance for its sin. Not caring much for these terms, because I think that old writers went out of their way to make them, I will be content with the substance. There is humility before serving God. When a man lacks this he proposes to himself his own honour and his own esteem in serving God. How easy is it for us to preach a sermon, having our eye upon our hearers, hoping that they will be satisfied with us, and will say, “He spoke right well — the man is an orator: he is eloquent.” Ay, and how easy it is to propose to please yourself so that you may be able to say as you come down from the rostrum, “I have not failed to-day in my own judgment and I am satisfied with myself.” This is pride before service, and it will mar everything. If we do not come to God’s altar humbly, we cannot come acceptably. Whether we preach or pray, or give alms, or whatsoever we do, it is needful that we bend exceedingly low before we enter upon the work; for if not, self-seeking, self-glorifying will lie at the bottom of all, and God neither can nor will accept us.
Look at too many Christians! how little of that humility before service have they. They will pick that position in the Church which will give them most honour; and if there be work to do which will confer no position upon them, they leave that to others. If you require a man to occupy an honourable position in the Church, you can find scores; hut if you need one who shall be a menial in the house of God, who shall be the least in God's heritage, how difficult to find an individual. We are so pleased with the glitter of publicity, and the glory of man’s esteem, that I doubt not, in us all there is some tinge of choosing our position for the honours’ sake, rather than for God’s sake. But it never was so with the apostle. I think I see him now, working long past midnight making his tents, taking stitch after stitch with his needle through the hard canvas, working away to provide for his own individual needs, because an ungracious people held back the labourer’s reward. Then I see that tent maker going into the pulpit with his hands all blistered with his hard work, rough and horny as a labourer’s hands. You would say of him at once, in getting up to speak, that man never proposes to himself the praises of his hearers. He is not like the Grecian orator who will go anywhere to get a clap, turn aside to tell any tale, or to preach anything if he can but excite his audience to say, “ He is an orator; let us write him down among the great names; let us put the crown upon his head, and celebrate him through the midst of Greece as being the golden-mouthed man who can speak right mightily; as if the bees of Hybla had hived their honey upon his lips.” Never could you see that in Paul. You could discover at once that his solitary aim was to win souls, and so to glorify Christ. Let us labour after this as a part of all humility.
But again, there is in the next place humility during the act. When a man finds that God is with him, he may he base enough to glorify himself. He may have been very humble indeed when he began the battle, but there is one enemy there at his feet, and another has just been dashed down by a blow from his right hand, the Evil One whispers in his ear, “Thou hast done well; thou art doing well;" and then pride comes in and spoils all. That is a splendid psalm which begins, “Not unto us.” David thought it needful to say it twice. “Not unto us, O Lord! not unto us.” Then he deals the death-blow with the other sentence, “but unto thy name be all the glory.” To sing that song when you are trampling on your foes; to sing that song when you are reaping the great harvest; to sing that song when God’s people are fed under your ministry; to sing that when you are going on from strength to strength, conquering and to conquer, will prove a healthy state of heart. Nothing but the most extraordinary grace can keep us in our right position while we are serving God, and God is honouring us. We are so inclined to filch his jewels from the crown to put them on our own breasts; if we would not steal the diadem itself, yet we look with longing eyes upon it as if we would like to wear it if but a single moment. I have thought sometimes, how many Christians are like the son of Henry the Fourth, who when his father lies asleep puts the crown on his head. You and I have done the same; we have forgotten God; he was to us as one that sleepeth; and we began to put the crown on our own head. Oh! fools that we were! Our time for crown-wearing has not come. We do but anger our Father and bring grief into our spirits when we think of crowning ourselves instead of crowning him; worshipping our own image instead of bending before the Lord God Jehovah.
Christian men and women, and especially thou O my own soul, let us take heed that while serving God we serve him as the angels do who with twain cover their faces, with twain cover their feet, while with twain they fly upon his errands. Then there is another kind of humility to make up all humility— humility after the service is done. In looking back upon success achieved, upon heights attained, upon efforts which have been blest, it is so easy to sav, “My right hand and my mighty arm hath gotten me the victory.” Men generally allow their fellow-creatures some little congratulation. Can a man congratulate you without admitting that you may gratulate yourself ? Now there is respect and honour to be given to the man of God who has served his race, and his Master. By all manner of means let the names of Luther, and Calvin, and Zwingle, be held in honour. Hath not God himself said it? “The righteous shall be had in everlasting reraemembrance.” It were wrong in us if we did not honour God s servants, for it would seem as if we dishonoured the Master. But it will never do for the servant of God to honour himself. After his work is done he must lay his head upon his death-pillow, saying, “I am not worthy of the least of all thy mercies! What am I, and what is my father’s house, that thou hast brought me hitherto? I am, having done all, but an unprofitable servant. I have not even done so much as it was my duty to have done.” Sabbath-school teachers, tract distributors, visitors of the sick, ye that feed the hungry and clothe the naked — specially ye deacons and elders, ministers of the church, see to it that never when your work is done you speak of yourselves or of your work. No; your brethren, even if you speak in humble terms apparently, will soon find when you talk much of what you do, that you are proud of it. You may think that you have misled them, but you certainly have not; much less have you deceived your God. Take care that you put your finger on your own beauty. When you are painting another man, imitate Apelles who drew Alexander with his finger upon the scar; but when you are painting yourself, put your finger over your choice beauty, for depend upon it that the hiding finger of your modesty will be more beautiful than the beauty you conceal. Labour, then, for God’s sake, for the Church’s sake, for your own sake, to serve the Lord with all humility — humility before the act, humility during the service, and humility when all is done — “Serving the Lord with all humility of mind.”
II. But, secondly, the TRIALS OP HUMILITY, or the dangers through which it has to pass.
And first and foremost, one of the trials to, which humility will be exposed is the possession of great ability. When a man hath seven talents he must recollect that he hath seven burdens, and he that hath ten, if he hath more than others, should feel that he hath ten times any other man’s burden of responsibility; and therefore he should be bowed down. Let a man feel that he possesses more power than another, more eloquence, more mental acumen, more learning, more imagination, and he is so apt to sit down and say, “I am something; I am somebody in the church.” Ay, one may speak indeed with solemnity here. It is so ridiculous for us ever to boast of any talents which God has given us. It is as though the debtor in the jail should say “I am a better man than you for I am in debt ten thousand pounds and you only a hundred.” The more we have the more we owe, and how can there be any ground for boasting there? A man might as well be proud because he is six feet high, while another is only five feet six inches, as be proud that he hath ten talents while another has only five. We are what God has made us, so far as gifts are concerned. If the Lord said to Moses “Who hath made man’s mouth?” because Moses said he was of stammering speech, ye may say that to yourselves if ye can speak well. Or if ye act well,“Who hath made man’s arm ?” Or if ye think well, “Who hath made man’s brain?” The honour never can be to the thing itself, but to that Mighty One who made it what it is. Great talents make it hard for a man to maintain humility. Shall I surprise you when I say that little talents have precisely the same effect. I have seen in my short time some of the biggest men I ever set my eyes upon who were the smallest insects that were ever subjected to the microscope; some great men in the pulpit too, stately, dignified, magnificent, majestic, — men of whom a fortune could have been made outright if you could but have bought them at their proper value and sold them out at what in their opinion they were worth ; men who were only fit to be bishops — they never could have been the inferior clergy ; a curate’s place would have been utterly insignificant ; for to have been a tent-maker, or an ordinary preacher like Paul, would have been far beneath their level. They always have the idea that they were born on a very fortunate day, and that the world owes them the utmost consideration and respect merely for their doing human beings the honour of living in the midst of them, though there is nothing very much they have ever done. Now little talents often make a man proud. “There,” says he, “I have but a trifle in the world, I must make a flare with it. I have but one ring, and I will always put the finger that wears that outwards so that it may be seen.” It is a very common habit of all people who wear rings to keep the fingers on which they wear them always exposed to view, especially if they have only one ring ; if a man has no gold in his pocket he is sure to put on gold shirt-studs; and if a man has scarce any wealth at all, he is sure to put it on his back, because he must keep up a position, and that position never having been his rightful position, he is obliged to maintain it at great cost. Now if you have little talents and feel you have, do not swell and burst with envy. The frog was never contemptible as a frog, but when he tried to blow himself out to the size of the bullock in the meadow, then he was contemptible indeed. I have frequently had this observation made to me in the most pompous manner by some little minister. “Oh! sir, I feel the danger of your position, and I always make it a matter of prayer to God that you may be kept humble.” I am exceedingly obliged to the gentleman, but I am sure I could make it a matter of prayer for him that he might be made humble once in his life by way of a change, for he had never yet known what humility was so far as he was personally concerned. Now you know very well that it is just as easy for a man to be proud in his rags as my lord mayor in his gold chain. There is many a coster-monger riding in his little cart, quite as vain as my lord who rides in a gilded coach, indeed, I dare say he, the last one, feels very little pride, but very great shame at having to make himself so ridiculous. You may be a king and yet be humble; you may be a beggar and yet be proud; you may be great and yet little in your own esteem. You may be little, and yet you may be greater in your estimation than those who are the greatest. See to it then that your low estate do not make you proud any more than your high estate.
Again, success often has a very sorry influence upon humility. The man was humble before his God, till God had given him the great victory over the Moabites, but then his heart was lifted up within him, and the Lord forsook him. When he was little in Israel, he bowed before the Most High; when he became great, he exalted himself. Great success is like a full cup, it is hard to hold it with a steady hand. It is swimming in deep waters, and there is always a fear of being drowned there. It is standing on the top of the pinnacle of the temple, and Satan often says, “Cast thyself down.” But on the other hand, want of success has just the same tendency. Have you not seen the man who could not get a congregation, and who insisted upon it, that it was because he was a better preacher than the man who did? I read sometimes a magazine, the doctrine of which is this — if you want to be a good preacher, you must preach according to the skeletons which are given you in this magazine. There are some who do this, but still find their chapels empty ; then says the magazine with all complacency, — “The men that get the congregations are always the weakest men ; they are always the men that have the least mental power, while we who have but a few, a mere handful, — we are the intellectual people.” “The mob always will,” they say, “run after the foolish men.” So that the brother who gets no success, comforts himself with this thought — that Providence is quite wrong, and that the Christian public are quite mistaken that he ought to be, if things had been right, the most popular man living, and that it is quite a mistake he is not. Now, want of success has a very great influence on some men to make them feel, “Well, if I cannot succeed in getting other people to think me somebody, I will think everybody else nobody, and I will elevate myself above them all in my own opinion.” Now, I am speaking some home-truths. I have received a deal of advice myself, and I think I may sometimes take the liberty of giving it to others. I hope that those who are always thinking of success as certainly involving pride, may also take to themselves the comfortable reflection that their non-success, suggesting as it may very bitter thoughts about their brethren, may also be pride only in another direction.
But then, again; long enjoyment of the Master's presence has a tendency to make us proud. To walk all day in the sunlight brings us in danger of a sun-stroke. Better not sit too near the fire, or one may get scorched. If we have nothing but full assurance, we may come to be presumptuous. There is nothing like the heat of summer to breed putrefaction. When you have long-continued joys, fear and tremble for all the goodness of God. But on the other hand, long-continued doubts will breed pride. When a man has long been doubting his God, and mistrusting his promise, what is that but pride? He wants to be somebody and something. He is not willing to believe his God in the dark; thinks in fact, that God deals hardly with him, in allowing him to be in despondency at all; he thinks he always ought to have joy and satisfaction, and so it comes to pass that his doubts and fears are as ready parents of pride as assurance could have been. In fact, to cut short a very long story, for I might go on with these two sides of the question all the morning, there is not a position in the world where a man cannot be humble if he have grace; there is not a station under heaven where a man will not be proud if left to himself. I pray you, never think that leaving one station and getting into another, will be any help to your humility. ’Tis true the peasant boy in the valley of humiliation sang—
“He that is down need fear no fall
He that is low no pride,
He that is humble ever shall
Have God to be his guide.”
But I dare say that very same boy was sometimes singing in that very valley songs of despondency, psalms of pride and wicked rebellion against his God. It is not the place, it is the heart; it is not the position, but the grace. That man is as safe on a pinnacle as on level ground, if God hold him up; and he is as much in danger in the valley as he is upon the high place, if God be not with him. If the Lord forsake him, he will fall in either place; if the Lord be with him, he will stand in every position. I have thus hinted at some of the dangers to which humility is exposed.
III. And now, thirdly, SOME OF THE ARGUMENTS BY WHICH WE OUGHT TO BE PROVOKED TO HUMILITY OF SPIRIT.
First, let us draw some arguments from ourselves. What am I that I should be proud? I am a man, that is to say, a worm; a thing that is and is not. An angel — how much he surpasseth me, and yet the Lord charged his angels with folly, and the heavens were not pure in his sight. How much less, then, should the son of man, a creature full of sin, lift himself up and exalt himself as though he were something? Verily, man at his best estate is altogether vanity; his life a dream, an empty show. Oh! vain man, why shouldst thou be proud? Think of our mortality. In a few more years we shall be worms’-meat. Ceasar’s dust shall be eaten; eaten by the basest of creatures. Take up the skull of some departed one in your hand, and say, “What had this man to be proud of?” Go to some charnel-house and mark the corruption; look on some body which has been buried but a little while, what a heap of loathsomeness! And yet you and I carry about with us the elements of all that putridity, the food of all that rottenness. How then dare we be proud? I have at home a picture which is so admirably managed that when you look closely at it you see two little children in the bloom of youth, at play, enjoying each other’s company. If you go some distance from the picture, the outlines get more and more indistinct, and standing some few yards away from it, it turns into death’s head, with vacant, empty eyes, and the bones of the skull and the jaws— a perfect death’s head. Now, this is just ourselves. When we are looking with our poor short-sight of time we look like fair beings that are full of life; but stand at a scriptural distance and view these things, and you soon perceive that we are nothing after all but death’s-heads. What right, then, have we to be proud? Begin not to be proud, man, till thy life is secure, and thou knowest that will never be. Thou bubble, boast not of the many colours thou hast; thou shalt burst directly. Thou glorious rainbow, exalt not thyself because of thy varied hues; when the sun withdraweth his light or the cloud removeth, thou art gone. Oh, thou fleecy cloud that art so soon to burst on the earth and be dissipated for ever, think not of thyself and thy fleecy glories, for thou shalt soon depart and be gone. Every time your humility gives way and your pride lifts up its head, think that you are mortal, and the skeleton may teach you humility.
But there is a yet stronger argument than this. What are you but depraved creatures? When the child of God is at his best he is no better than a sinner at his worst, except so far as God has made him to differ. “There goes John Bradford — but for the grace of God.” Nay, there goes Paul to curse — if not for the grace of God. There goes Peter to be a Judas — unless Christ shall pray for him that his faith fail not. A sinner saved by grace and yet proud! Out on such impudence! God pardon us, and deliver us from that evil.
But, then, let us think we are not only depraved so that we are inclined to sin, but we have sinned, and how can we then be proud? Sinners whose highest deservings are the wrath of God, and the hot flames of hell, how can we venture for a single moment to stand as those who had done anything meritorious or could claim anything of our God? Verily, you and I may stand up to-day, and say, “What is man that thou shouldest be mindful of him, or the son of man that thou visitest him?” The more we think of ourselves, if guided by God’s Spirit, the more reasons we shall find for “Serving God with all humility.”
2. But there are not only reasons in ourselves, there are reasons in Christ. Our Master was never exalted above measure. You never detect in him one proud or scornful glance upon the meanest of the mean, or the vilest of the vile. He condescended to men of low estate, but it did not look like condescension in him. He did it in such a way that there was not the appearance of stooping. He was always on their level in his heart. He ate, and drank, and sat with publicans and sinners, and all in such an easy, happy spirit, that no man said of him, “See how he stoops.” Everyone felt that stooping was his natural attitude; that he could not stand up and be proud; it would be unbecoming in him. “And shall the servant be above his Master, or the disciple above his Lord?” Ye that are purse-proud, or talent-proud, or beauty-proud, I beseech you, think how unlike you are to the Master. There was nothing in him that would keep man back from him, but every thing that would draw them to him. “He made himself of no reputation, and took upon himself the form of a servant, and being in fashion as a man, he became obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.” Look at that strange sight, and never be proud again. There is the God of heaven and earth, with the basin in his hand and the towel on his arm, he is washing his disciple’s feet; and here are you and I, instead of washing other men’s feet, we are for having them anoint our heads, and pour on the balmy cordial of a flattering unction, that we may say unto ourselves, “I am rich and increased in goods,” whereas by that very desire we prove ourselves to be naked, and poor, and miserable. By the love of Christ, then, let us seek to be humble.
3. There is yet one other source for arguments, though of course there be so many that I could not mention them all, and that is God’s goodness towards us, which should make us exceedingly humble. You remember that text, which says, “Put on therefore as the elect of God, bowels of compassion and humbleness of mind.” Now I have known some, who believing that they were the elect of God, have put on haughtiness of looks. You know the school I allude to; certain gentlemen who are the elect, and nobody can ever come near to them. All other Christian people, if saved, which is a great question with them, will at least be saved so as by fire. Verily they appear to read the text thus — “Put on as the elect of God, pride and self-conceit.” Like another text which says, “See that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently,” which I think some people read the wrong way upwards, and they make it out, “See that ye hate one another with a pure heart fervently." And oh! how fervently they have done it; how fervently they have hated one another! Now the mercy of God in having elected us, the mercy of God in having bought us with the precious blood of Jesus, should tend to keep us very low in the dust of self-abasement.
“What was there in you that could merit esteem,
Or give the Creator delight?”
What was there in you that Christ should buy you with his precious blood? What in you that you should be made the temple of the Holy Ghost? What is there in you that you should be brought to heaven; that you should be made to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, at the right hand of God? What if you have been grafted into the good olive tree? Remember you were once branches of the wild olive, and you are now nothing but grafts. What if your branch hang down with the weight of its produce, yet there was a time when it brought forth nothing but the apples of Sodom and the grapes of Gomorrah! bless God, and thank him, that the root beareth thee, but thou bearest not the root. What hast thou that thou hast not received? Who made thee to differ? Thy very gifts are given thee by electing love. God gave them, not because you deserved them, but because he chose to do so. He has made you a vessel unto honour, chased you and made you in a fair and goodly mould; made you a fair vase, showing forth the skill of the Master. But who made thee; who made thee? Look back to that clay pit; look back to the potters house, to the fashioning fingers and the revolving wheel, and surely you will say, “My God, unto thee be the praise for what I am, but of myself I am less than nothing; I am worthless and useless; unto thee be all the glory.”
IV. I shall now come to my last point, upon which, with excessive brevity, I would speak to myself; indeed, I have been all the morning speaking to myself as much as to you.
I have now a story suggested to me. There was an excellent lady, who accosted me one day, and told me that she had always prayed that I might be kept humble. Of course I was excessively grateful to her, although it was a very usual thing, so I said to her, “But do you not need to pray the same prayer for yourself?” “Oh! no,” said she, “there is no necessity; I do not think there is any tendency in me to be proud.” Well, I assured the good lady that I thought it was necessary for her to pray always, for as sure as ever she thought she had no tendency to be proud, that proved at once that she was proud already. We are never, never so much in danger of being proud, as when we think we are humble.
Well, now, let us turn to practical account what I have said. You and I have a great work before us. I speak now specially to my church and congregation. We are about to enter into a large edifice, having large designs in our hearts, and hoping that God will give us large success. Let us have humble motives in all this. I hope we have not built that house that we may say with Nebuchadnezzar, “Behold this great Babylon which I have builded.” We must not go to our pulpit and to our pews with this soft note ringing in our ears. “Here will I make unto myself my nest and gain a great name;’ or, “Here will be members of the largest Baptist church to receive a part of the honour which is bestowed upon the success of the ministry.” No; let us go into that house wondering at what God has done for us; marvelling that God should give such grace to such a church, and that it should have such innumerable conversions in its midst. Then, when we have settled upon our work, when we see that God is blessing us, let us still keep very low before him. If we want to lose God’s presence it can soon be done. Pride can shut the door in the face of Christ. Only let us take out our tablets and write down “God is for me, therefore let me be proud;” only let us say with Jehu, “Come, and I will show thee my zeal for the Lord of Hosts,” and God’s presence will soon depart from us, and Ichabod be written on the fore front of the habitation. And let me say to those of you who have already done much for Christ as evangelists, ministers, teachers, or what not, do not sit down and congratulate yourselves upon the past. Let us go home and think of all the mistakes we have made; all the errors we have committed, and all the follies into which we have been betrayed, and I think instead of self-congratulation we shall say, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eyes seeth thee, therefore do I abhor myself in dust and ashes.” Let us humble ourselves before God. You know there is a deal of difference between being humble and being humbled. He that will not be humble shall be humbled. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God and he shall lift you up, lest he leave you because you hold your head so high. And should I be addressing any here this morning who are very much exalted by the nobility of rank, who have what the poet calls
“The pride of heraldry, the pomp of power,”
be humble I pray you. If any man would have friends, let him be humble. Humility never did any man any hurt. If you stoop down when you pass through a doorway, if it should be a high one, you will not be hurt by stooping; you might have knocked your head if you had held it up. He who is willing to be nothing will soon find some one who will make him something, but if he will be something he shall be nothing, and all men will try to make him less than nothing. Go then, I pray you, as Christian men, and speak with the poor and needy. Be kind and affectionate towards all men. Let your Christian life suggest Christian courtesy, and courtesy charity.
As for you who have never believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, it is useless to recommend you to humility, for how can you get the flower till you have the root. Begin, I pray you, with the root. This is the root of every Christian grace — faith in Christ. Come to Jesus to-day as you are. Trust him with your poor, guilty soul. Believe him to be both willing and able to save you. Repose your confidence in him alone. You will then be saved; and being saved with such a salvation, you will bring forth humility as one of the sweet fruits of the Spirit of God, and the end shall be everlasting life.