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MEDITATION XXXIV

THE CULTIVATION OF TRUE HUMILITY

What is Man? What is a Bubble? They are alike Nothing.

Johann Gerhard

(Translated by Rev. C. W. Heisler, A.M.)

CONSIDER, O faithful soul, the lowly condition of man, and thou wilt the more easily avoid all temptation to pride. He enters the world as a helpless infant; his passage through it is attended with constant miseries, and he leaves it in tears. All his life long, he is assaulted by evil spirits, assailed by temptations, allured by worldly pleasures, cast down by tribulations, robbed of his virtues, and entangled in the meshes of evil habits. Why then should he be proud, since he is but dust and ashes? What was thy body before thy birth? Merely a corrupt seed. What is it in life? A living mass of corruption. And what will it be after death? It will simply serve as a repast for worms. If there is anything good in thee, it is not thine own, but of God. Nothing is thine own but thy sins; of all that is in thee, then, these are all thou canst claim. Foolish and faithless is that servant who would personally pride himself upon what belongs to his master.

Consider, O man, the example of Christ. All the glory of heaven was at His command, nay more, He Himself alone is true Glory, and yet He casts away from Himself all worldly glory as worthless. And then He says: “Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. xi. 29). He who truly loves Christ will imitate Him; and if Christ be precious to Him, so will His humility also. Let the proud and haughty servant blush in confusion when he considers that the Lord of glory is so humble. Our Saviour calls Himself “The Lily of the Valley” (Cant. ii. 1); and He seems to use this figure because He, the noblest of flowers, grows and flourishes, not on the lofty mountain-tops, that is, in hearts lifted up with pride, but in the humbler vales, that is, in the lowly and contrite minds of the godly. Fur truly the humble soul is the seat and couch of Christ, where He delights to make His abode, as St. Augustine puts it. True grace does not make one proud, but humble. Thou art not yet a partaker of the true grace of God, if thou walkest not in humility of heart. The streams of divine grace flow downwards, not upwards. As nature’s streams seek the lowlands, so those of divine grace flow down into lowly hearts. The Psalmist says: The Lord our God dwelleth on high, and beholdeth the humble things in heaven and on earth (Ps. cxiii. 5, 6). It is indeed wonderful that we can approach God, the highest and greatest of all beings, only in an humble spirit. He who is lowly in his own eyes, is great in God’s sight; he who is displeasing to himself, is pleasing to God. Out of nothing God created the heavens and the earth. As it was in man’s creating, so it is in his regeneration; He creates him out of nothing (Heb. xi. 3); He re-creates him out of nothing. That thou mayest therefore become a partaker of God’s grace in regeneration and renewal, be nothing in thine own eyes, give no honor to thyself, claim nothing for thyself. We are all weak and frail, but judge no one more so than thyself. It will do thee no harm, in extreme humility, to judge thyself weaker and more insignificant than all others; but it will harm thee, to regard thyself in self-sufficient pride as superior to any one else. The four and twenty elders, that is, the whole triumphant Church of God, cast their crowns before the throne (Rev. iv. 4, 10), and ascribe righteousness and glory to God. What then shall a poor unworthy sinner do? The seraphim and holy angels veil their faces in the presence of the divine majesty (Is. vi. 2); what then shall we do, creatures so sinful, so unworthy, and so displeasing in a multitude of ways to our Creator? Christ the true and only begotten Son of God, in a marvelous display of humility, descended from heaven and took upon Himself our frail human nature, “and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. ii. 8). Oh, what then shall we do to exhibit our humility, who have gone so far astray from God through our sins and iniquities?

Behold, O faithful soul, how thy Saviour hath rebuked thy pride, by that stupendous exhibition of humility! And in the face of this wouldst thou still lift up thy soul with pride? Christ entered into His glory by the lowly path of His bitter passion (Luke xxiv. 26), and dost thou think that thou canst enter into that heavenly glory by the highway of pride? The devil was cast out of the kingdom of heaven for his pride, and dost thou, when thou art not yet in that world of glory, strive after it in pride and haughtiness of spirit? Adam for his pride was driven out of paradise (Gen. iii. 24); and dost thou think to enter the heavenly paradise by way of the same pride? Let us rather desire to take the servant’s place with Christ, and even wash the feet of others, as He did, than to live a life of worldly honor in company with Satan. Let us humble ourselves in this life that we may be exalted in the life that is to come. Ever consider, O faithful soul, not what thou hast, but what thou lackest. Far rather grieve for the virtues which thou hast not, than glory over those which thou hast. Rather conceal thy virtues, and make known thy sins, for indeed it is to be feared that if thou dost openly boast of thy treasure of good works, the devil may rob thee of it through thy pride. Thou canst preserve burning coals by covering them over with ashes. And so the fire of our love to God is never more securely guarded than when it is buried under the ashes of true humility. Pride is the seed of all sin. Take good heed then that thou exalt not thyself, lest thou fall headlong into a dark abyss of sin. A proud heart is a most delightful retreat for the devil; beware then of pride lest through it thou shouldst put thy poor soul under bondage to him. Pride is a scorching wind drying up the fountains of divine grace in the heart; beware then of lifting up thyself with pride, lest thou deprive thyself of the influences of God’s grace.

O blessed Christ, do Thou graciously heal the swelling pride of our hearts. May we rest our hopes of eternal life on the merit of Thy holy humility! May that humility be the pattern of our lives! May our faith more firmly lay hold of Thy humility, and our lives be ever fashioned after Thy lowly life!



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