Low Estate

And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle. And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?
~ 1 Samuel 17:28-29

Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews:
~ Acts 20:19

Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:
~ 1 Thessalonians 2:6-7

Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:
~ 1 Thessalonians 2:10

And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the LORD: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest.
~ Jeremiah 45:5

Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit: And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.
~ Amos 7:14-15

Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
~ Romans 12:16

A Sermon on Psalm 131:1, by Thomas Manton.

Sermon II.

Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty; neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.
— Ps. cxxxi. 1.

Two doctrines I proposed —

First, That whosoever would have any commerce with God should put pride far from them.

Secondly, That whosoever would put pride far from them must begin with the heart.

This latter point I must now insist upon-(1.) What pride is; (2.) How it bewrayeth itself; (3.) Why it begins with the heart.

First, What pride is. It is an evil so comprehensive and capacious, that it will hardly endure the limits of a definition. It is a sin, or corrupt disposition, by which the soul is lifted up by an inordinate esteem and admiration of our own real or supposed excellency, together with an affectation of honour and praise from others. There are two branches of it—(1.) Self-conceit; (2.) Vainglory.

1. Self-conceit, which is also twofold-(1.) When we ascribe to ourselves what we have not. (2.). When we transfer upon ourselves the praise of what we have. To boast of what we have not is folly. To boast of what we have is sacrilege, a robbing God of his glory.

(1.) The first sort of pride is very usual. Men that have nothing to be proud of are most conceited many times. Bloaty spirits are soonest puffed up, like bladders filled with wind; whereas solid worth, solid knowledge, solid grace, is least ostentatious. Empty vessels and shallow rivers make the greatest noise. The apostle Jude compareth seducers to clouds without water, Jude 12; and Solomon giveth us the true meaning of that expression: Prov. xxi. 14, ‘Whoso boasteth of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain.’ They seem to look black, and promise to refresh the earth to make it fruitful, but give not one drop, being carried away with the winds; so these boast of the Spirit, and greater measure of gospel light, but give no relief to any poor thirsty soul that would understand holy and wholesome doctrine.

(2.) The other kind is when we transfer upon ourselves the glory of what we have; whereas we had it not from ourselves, nor for ourselves: 1 Cor. iv. 7, ‘What hast thou that thou didst not receive? ‘ It is all given, and given of grace; not for our use and honour, but God’s: 1 Cor. xv. 10, By the grace of God I am what I am,’ &c.; Luke xix. 16, ‘Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds.’

Affectation of honour and esteem from others. When men set an high price upon themselves, if others will not come up to their price, they are discontented. When a man hath made himself his own idol, he would have others come and worship him. There is an inordinate affectation of glory from men. All they do is to be seen and admired of men; to set off themselves as the idols of the world, for veneration and reverence; as the pharisees, to be seen of men, Mat. vi. 1, 5, 16, in alms, prayers, fastings. Therefore the apostle saith, ‘Let us not be desirous of vainglory, provoking one another, envying one another, Gal. v. 26. An itching desire after estimation and applause is the evil which we speak of; we would have others prostrate themselves before the idol of those pretended or real excellences which we ourselves so much dote upon and admire.

Secondly, How it doth bewray itself. In thought, word, and deed, which are the usual operations of the human spirit.

1. In thoughts. As a man’s temper is so are his musings; so will he talk and speak to himself by his own thoughts. An unclean person sets up a state of unclean representations in his own heart, and commits adultery there. A covetous person, his heart is exercised with worldly thoughts and covetous practices. So a proud person entertaineth his soul with self-admiring thoughts, and feeds his fancy with the echoes and suggestions of applause and honour from men, what they think own cause, and speak of him. Therefore it is said, Luke i. 51, ‘He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.’ Proud men are full of imaginations. And all sins of thought are expressed by pride in that noted place, Prov. viii. 13; and we read of their musings in scripture: Dan. iv. 30, ‘ Is not this great Babel, which I have built for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and the honour of my majesty?’ Thus men, in their private thoughts, are dreaming of the greatness and advancement of their families, the applause of the world, the vastness of their treasures, largeness of their inheritance, and glory of their successes and achievements. A man is become, by pride, his own flatterer and tickler, filleth his mind with self-admiring thoughts, the conceit of his own worth. This is to dream waking:

2. By words. When men dote upon themselves, they forget all bounds of modesty, and are trumpeters of their own praise: Prov. xxvii. 2, “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth? Yet, in the rage and reign of pride, men will boast of the good things which they have or have done; as if all were lost that is not known and applauded by men. Proud boasters, Rom. i. 30. It is against reason that a man so partial and self-loving should be witness…

Let us do that which is praiseworthy, and let our deeds commend us rather than our own words.

3. By deeds; and this comprehendeth our gestures, vestures, and actions.

(1.) Our gestures. This scripture takes notice of haughty eyes, and so do many other. Under ‘ lofty eyes,’ he comprehendeth every outward discovery of our pride, in gestures, vestures, speech, and behaviour. As long as we hang out apparently the ensigns of our vanity, we cannot account ourselves humble. But I begin with gestures, a lofty look or gait. Where pride is truly rooted out of the heart, there it will not show itself in the external gestures, in an haughty look and gait. The argument is firm and conclusive: My heart is not haughty, therefore mine eyes are not lofty. It will not hold backward, and have such a necessary truth: Mine eyes are not lofty, therefore my heart is not haughty, non sequitur, for some have the art to conceal their pride. But certain it is humility in the heart will take away pride out of the eyes, because the heart governeth the whole man. But the humble eye and gait doth not always argue an humble heart, as is evident in hypocrites. In vain do men boast of humility in their hearts who show forth pride in their gait and eyes. At least the show of pride giveth scandal and offence, and we must avoid all appearance of evil, 1 Thes. v. 22. More especially lofty eyes are abominable, David else would not with so much earnestness express his humility by this sign, that his eyes were not lofty. This is also plain by other scriptures: These six things are an abomination to the Lord; lofty eyes,’ &c., Prov. vi. 16, 17. This bringeth up a troop of other faults.So Prov. xxi. 4, • An high look, and a proud heart, and the ploughing of the wicked, is sin.’ So Prov. xxx. 13, .There is a generation, oh, how lofty are their eyes, and their eyelids are lifted up!’ So it is said, Ps. xviii. 27, ‘God will bring down high looks.’ Now all these places show how careful we should be that we do not suffer pride to peep out. To nourish it in our hearts is a sin; to bewray it is a scandal as well as a sin. Ezra saith, ‘I durst not lift mine eyes to thee,’ Ezra ix. 6. He considered his own sin and the sin of his people. So Luke xviii. 13, • The publican stood afar off, and would not lift up his eyes to heaven, but smote his breast.’ It is one law concerning Israel’s king, Deut. xvii. 20,’Not to lift up his heart above his brethren. They will soon be stripped of all their glory. Much more should meaner people. David would not bear in his own house, Ps. ci. 5, One that hath an high look and a proud heart.’ If a good man will not bear this, will God bear it?

(2.) In vestures. This also is a sign of pride; and it is the more odious because it is a mere external thing, like trappings to a horse. . Clothing was the consequent of sin, and having the mark of our shame about it, it is mightily abused when it is made the ensign of our pride. And strange apparel is reproved in king’s children: Zeph. i. 8, ‘ I will punish the princes and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.’ ‘How will those painted butterflies answer it to God, that abuse that which was appointed for health, warmth, and comeliness, into an occasion of pride and ostentation, whilst they affect superfluity and pomp in it, and that far above their rank? Vanity of apparel is a certain effect of vanity in your mind. Wisdom, meekness, and holiness should be your ornaments, 1 Peter ïïi. 4; and you think of no other adorning than vain and light apparel. By this you plainly tell the world what you are, vain and worthless, only lifted up in your own conceit. Usually a neglected inattentive soul dwelleth in the body that must be thus decked and adorned. In other cases men are careful to hide their sin; here they plainly bewray it; for you carry the badge of your pride abroad with you wherever you come, and proclaim that you are not ashamed of it, how hateful soever it be to God. It is as if you disclaimed Christ, the doctor of humility, and preferred the image of the devil before that of God. When God first made garments for man, he made them of the skins of the beasts, plain and simple. But I forbear.

(3.) In our actions.

(1.) By ambition. When we are continually affecting honour and greatness, and how to exceed others, contemning them in comparison of ourselves, or taking it ill that others should be more esteemed and preferred before us. The fault is first in the mind. Men will say, I am as good a man as such and such; I deserve as well as they; no reason why I should not be respected as well as others; and then seeking to advance and put forth ourselves before them, 3 John 9, Diotrephes loved the pre-eminence; he would fain be first. When men affect precedency, and show it, it is an evident sign of pride. Many men mistake ambition; they think a desire of great places is only unlawful when it is sought by unlawful means, but the bare desire and affectation of greatness is sinful, and contrary to the rules of the gospel. We should refer our advancement to the fair invitation of God’s providence, and tarry till the master of the feast biddeth us to sit higher. In our private choice, we should be contented with a tolerable supply of necessaries. Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased, Luke xiv. 11; not, Whosoever is exalted. In the Olympic games, the wrestler did never put on his crown and garland, but it was put on by the judge of the sports. The apostle telleth us, our Lord Glorified not himself as high priest, but he was anointed of God, as Aaron,’ Heb. v. 5. If you do not stay for the call of providence, but advance yourselves, it is an untimely desire of promotion. Usually men are set to soar higher and higher, without setting any period to their towering thoughts.

(2.) Vainglory. When a man earnestly desireth praise and glory from men, and bewrayeth it in all his actions; when a man mindeth his own praise more than the glory of God, and is tickled and pleased with it, and all that he doth is to get himself a name, Gen. xi. 4. Now this is seen when you are marvellously pleased with it, as having obtained your end: Prov. xxxvii. 21, “As a fining-pot for silver, and a furnace for gold, so is a man to his praise;’ that is, tried by it; for a man may know his temper according as he is affected when he is praised or dispraised by others. He that admits of all praises, whether deserved or undeserved, that greedily hunteth after popular applause, that easily swelleth when he is commended, can bear no reproach or reproof patiently, is a weak vainglorious man; more especially he that seeketh to bring himself into request rather than Christ, and is willing and content to take to himself the glory due to God. Certainly that instrument seeketh to undermine God who usurpeth to himself the praise due to the supreme agent. Contrarily, Joseph: Gen. xli. 12, ‘God shall give the king an answer of peace;’ and the apostle: Acts iii. 16, ` His name, through faith in his name, hath made this man strong. In short, they that debase others to exalt themselves, is a wrong done to God, to set myself in his room; a wrong done to my neighbour, to rob one another, and blast him by rash censures, that I may set off myself alone…

…the ruins of his esteem.

Thirdly, Why must pride begin with the heart?

1. Because the heart is the proper seat and rise of pride. There would be none in the gesture, none in the vesture, none in the life, if it were not first in the heart; there is the root of it, and there it lieth hidden. Now why should we shake off the leaves and let alone the branches? or lop off the branches, and let alone the root? When the prophet would cure the brackishness of the waters, he did cast salt into the spring: 2 Kings ii. 24, ‘He went to the spring of the waters, and cast in salt there. The heart is the spring of actions: Prov. iv. 23, ‘Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.’ In the purging out of all sins we must begin with the heart; so in the purging out of pride. Our Lord was angry with the pharisees for washing the outside of the platter: Luke xi. 39-41, ‘ First cleanse that within. If the heart be humble, the eyes will be lowly, the speech humble, the garments humble, gait humble. If pride had a deadly wound in the heart, it would die away in the practice.

2. It is a sin of deep radication, and very powerful in the hearts of men. You will find it a very hard matter to subdue it in the heart, partly because it suiteth with self-love, which is natural to all. Men love themselves, and therefore esteem themselves and seek themselves. Selfishness is the life of pride, which consists in an excessive self-esteem, and a desire of excessive esteem from others, and to be magnified by them. Now self is the great idol of the world. A man is not easily dispossessed of an credit upon an inordinate love to himself. This is a corruption so deep in the heart of man, that it may be called his natural inclination; and it must be changed into a new nature, which principally consisteth in the love of God, which leadeth and directeth all our actions to his glory. Self-love is the heart of original sin, as the love of God is the heart of the new creature. So that, this considered, you may easily know what man is by nature, an inordinate self-lover and self-esteemer; and as he is, so will he act. Partly because there is not such a turpitude in this as in other sins. There seemeth to be a kind of bravery in it; therefore no sin is of such an easy insinuation and such a difficult removal. Surely a proud person is hardly cured; there is more hope of a fool than of him. Drunkenness, adultery, unmanneth us; this seemeth to make us gods. Indeed it is easy to prove that pride is a base sin, and there is no such weak heart as a proud imperious heart: Ezek. xvi. 30, ‘How weak is thine heart, saith the Lord, seeing thou doest all these things?’ It doth embase the spirit while it seemeth to greaten it. No temper so vile and servile as that of the proud aspiring person. Curvatur obsequio, ut aliis dominetur; he basely flatters others that he may rule over them. Absalom kisseth the people, 2 Sam. xv. 5, that he may win them to him. Oscula et omnia serviliter pro imperio. They will do base things to make way for their advancement. Those spirits that are proud and insulting, none more fawning and base for their own advantage. Besides, he is so weak, he is little able to bear a scorn or a frown. Partly because it is natural. We all suck it in with our milk. That it is a very natural sin appeareth by the experiences. One is, that it taketh with us upon a small occasion, a fair garment, a lock of hair, a good horse, or a dog, &c. It is a weed that growth in any ground; nothing so high, nothing so low, but pride can make use of it, though never so contrary; proud of humility; nay, rather than not be proud, some will be proud of their sin, glory in their shame, Phil. iii. 19. Athing so catching is certainly natural. Again, it is a sin that puts us upon most self-denial. How will men travail and rack their spirits to serve their ambition or vainglory! As charity endureth all things and suffereth all things, so doth pride. How will men pinch to feed their pomp! Prov, xii. 9, ‘He that is despised, and hath a servant, is better than he that honoureth himself, and lacketh bread;’ that is, flaunteth and maketh a fair show in the world, when at the same rate he might live comfortably in a meaner garb and equipage; as we see many live above their rank and condition, and can part with all their solaces and conveniences of life to supply their pomp and state, and are content with an hungry belly to clothe a proud back. Once more: It is a very natural sin, because it is at the bottom of other sins. Covetousness is pride’s purveyor; though in some sense it be the root of all evil, yet it hath a deeper root, a desire to make ourselves and ours great. It is said, Hab. ii. 5, ‘He is a proud man, and therefore enlargeth his desire as hell. We scrape, and spare, and busy ourselves to advance ourselves and families, and that we may shine alone in the earth.

3. The third reason why he that would root out pride must begin with his heart is, because it is a close sin, that seeketh to disguise itself in the practice. It is a sin that is ashamed of itself, and therefore it goeth under the mask of humility, or some other pretence. If pride blow a trumpet, it is to call the poor within hearing, Mat. vi. 2. Now this cheat will not be discovered unless we look to the heart. If people be vain and flaunting in their apparel, it is to keep up their necessary repute in their place. Men dare not hunt after praise but by stealth, and sail by a side-wind to it, not in a straight line. They know it is a prohibited commodity, not lawful to be purchased in the open market; but it must be gotten underhand and by stealth. Direct pride is odious to the proud person himself, therefore he useth stratagems and devices, and seemeth to beat back their praise when it cometh to them at the first hop, that they may the better take it at the rebound; apparently will discommend themselves, but their hearts tell them they would not be believed, and take it angrily if you do believe them. If pride hath a mind to censure others, the censure is always prefaced with a commendation; as an archer draweth back his hand that he may let fly the arrow with the more force. They commend with a ‘but,’ which is a stab at the heart of another man’s credit. If pride hath a mind to affect some higher place, men will pretend a desire of doing more good, and of glorifying God in an higher station; but this is but pretence, because the serving of God is least in their minds. We desire an higher condition before we have conquered all the temptations to which a lower is exposed. We should be faithful in a little first, trusty, watchful, vigilant in our former station, ere we can look after greater matters and greater honour in the world. Plants that thrive well in a valley soon wither and are blasted on the top of a mountain. But such men are eagerly set to soar higher and higher, setting no period to their towering thoughts. Besides, the rankest pride will sometimes appear in an humble garb; but humility in the gesture and outward behaviour is but counterfeit while the heart is lofty. Some, whose hearts were pot broken, yet would hang the head like a bulrush for a day, Isa. Iviii. 5, erewhile seemed to be deeply affected with sin and misery; but this is like ice in giving weather, thawed at top, but hard at bottom. Ahab went softly, and was in outward show very humble, 1 Kings xxi. 27, affected for the present, but his heart not subdued to God. Absalom was in show very humble, courting the meanest of the people, 2 Sam. xv. 2–5, bụt it was for his ambitious ends. So many take on a veil of humility to deceive men and mock God; but a bladder is not more blown with wind than they are swollen with pride. There are two extremes. Some think pride only consists in outward things, as vestures, gestures, modesty of eyes and speech. Thus many of the popish monks and friars place much of their religion in their exterior mortification, when their hearts are full of the conceits of self-righteousness. Among us, the quakers cry out upon the pride of others, and by their plain garb pretend to avoid it; yet how conceited of themselves and obstinate! Very ignorant, yet scornful of a gospel ministry that should teach them better! The other extreme is, men will pretend their hearts are humble though their eyes are lofty, their apparel vain, and by all external signs they show their folly, pride, and luxury, in their garb, their entertainments, their household furniture. These miserably deceive themselves; for if the heart were humble, the eyes would not be lofty, nor would they display the ensigns of their vanity. Well, then, from all this you may see what need there is that the heart should be purged of pride.

Use. To persuade us to purge out this leaven of pride. It cannot be purged out at once, but it must be mortified and subdued more and more. Daily labour and diligence is necessary for this end.

The means are these…

First, Frequent examination of ourselves; for self-acquaintance breedeth bumility. No man extolleth himself but he that knoweth not himself. Therefore the best way to take down pride is to consider often what we have been, what we are, and what we deserve. 1. What we have been. Let us often consider the horrible filthiness of our corrupt nature, stinking worse than any carcass before God. Take the softest notion of original sin, we wanted a righteousness to place before God: Ps. li. 5, ‘I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.’ We wanted strength to serve him: Rom. viii. 7, ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. We had nothing to incline us’ to God or commend us to him. Yea, not only an impotency, but an averseness. Partly out of carnal liberty: Rom. viii. 7, · Because the carnal mind is enmity to God.’ Partly through sensuality, or addictedness to present things grateful to the flesh: John iii. 6, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.’ Partly through legal bondage: Gen. iii. 7, The eyes of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked;’ ver. 10, ‘I heard thy voice in the garden, and I hid myself, because I was naked.’ Through carnal liberty our hearts were averse from him as a lawgiver; through bondage, as a judge: Col. i. 21, *You that were sometimes alienated, and enemies in your mind by wicked works.’

2. After grace received, mixed principles, and therefore mixed operations, flesh and spirit, law and gospel, Gal. v. 17. If we consider in what state our soul is, what our actions are, how polluted with a tang of the flesh, how little comfortable sense of the love of God, we should soon see that we still carry about with us the cause of a deep humiliation in our bosoms, and to cry out with the publican, Luke xviii. 13, ‘Lord, be merciful,’ &c.; or with Paul, Rom. vii. 24, ‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’ Besides your wants and defects, consider the loathsome corruption of your souls, which follow you wherever you go. The sins of our best duties are enough to humble us, to have such low conceptions of God, such heartless prayers, &c.

3. Consider what we have deserved. The eternal wrath of God, due to us for sin. It is a wonder that he doth not turn us into hell every moment, and that fire doth not come forth from his jealousy to consume us, who are ever and anon tripping in his service.

You will say, Blessed be God, we are escaped by Christ; we are passed from death to life.

Ans. I do not tell you what God will do, but what you have deserved; and this not to weaken your confidence, but to humble your hearts. Now it is enough for that, that you had once the sentence passed upon you, and have had the rope, as it were, about your necks; that you have been at the gates of hell, and might have entered in, but for the grace of your Redeemer. Besides, you deserve it still; your daily sins and best actions deserve the wrath of God. And such a sense of it is still necessary as quickens to thankfulness, and prays for pardon, and promoteth to humility; and you turn grace into wantonness, and abuse it, if it lessen any of these acts. Well, then, though God forgive us, we must not forget we were once as bad as the worst, and children of wrath, even as others, Eph. ii. 3. We must still condemn ourselves when God justifieth us, and set our sins ever before us though God do cast them behind his back. Now shall such creatures as we be proud, so sinful, so liable to the curse, whose righteousnesses are as filthy rags? Isa. lxiv. 6.

Secondly, Frequent communion with God in prayers and praises; for so we more and more come into the knowledge of God, and a sight and sense of his majesty and glory; and a serious sight of God will humble us: Isa. vi. 5, ‘I am unclean, for I have seen the Lord of hosts;’ Gen. xviii. 27, “I am but dust and ashes;’ Job xlii. 5, 6, ‘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.’ Can they be proud that have so often to do with an holy and glorious God? Surely one glimpse of his majesty will take down thy self-exalting thoughts. The stars differ from one another in brightness and glory, but when the sun appeareth they are all obscured, and those differences unobserved. So when we compare ourselves with men, we seem great, wise, powerful; but God, rightly apprehended, lesseneth us in our opinion, estimation, and affection. He is all, we are nothing but what he maketh us to be. All the creatures to him are nothing, less than nothing, Isa. xl. 17; nothing in opposition to him; nothing in comparison of him; nothing in exclusion of him. Now the mind should be often seasoned with these thoughts, as surely they will where men have much to do with God, and are often with him, if they be serious in their addresses to him.

Thirdly, Constant watchfulness, especially when we are most in danger of this sin; then we should keep a double watch. Pride is incident to all, but especially to those who are ennobled with any excellency of birth, honour, or estate, or parts, or office. Few are able to master their comforts; they are too strong wine for weak heads. To learn to abound is the harder lesson, Phil iv. 12. When God lifteth them up, they lift up themselves; the wind of strong applause soon oversets a little vessel. Even gracious persons may be tainted. Pride once crept into heaven, and then into paradise; and it is hardly kept out of the best heart. Christians are not so much in danger of sensual lusts as of this sin; it groweth upon us many times by the decrease of other sins; as mortified, so proud: are ministers by their office: 1 Tim. iii. 6, ‘Not a novice, lest, lifted up by pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil.’ But withal, those are most prone that rise out of the dunghill and from a low estate to great wealth and honour; partly because they are not able to digest such a sudden and unusual happiness; partly because they look less to God, and more to their own prudence and industry: Hab. i. 16, ‘ Sacrifice to their own net. Now all these should watch: Deut. viii. 14, Take heed lest thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God;’ 1 Tim. vi. 17, ‘Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches.’ The honourable should watch, the minister watch, the gifted watch, but especially those whom God hath more than ordinarily blessed with worldly increase, Ps. cxix. 70, 71.

Fourthly, Use those things with fear which may feed your pride, and so avoid all occasions of being lifted up. As, for instance, do not look upon your graces and privileges without looking upon your infirmities, which may be a counterbalance to you: Mark ix. 24, ‘Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.’ There is much corruption still remaineth in us, and often gets the advantage of us in thought, word, and deed. Never reflect upon your praises, but remember your imperfections, which the world seeth not, the many sins which you are conscious unto, and how much more you deserve reproofs than praises; And if you will thoroughly slight the honour and vainglory of the world, never count yourselves humble, till you are more willing to be admonished than praised, reproved than flattered. It is the proud man that despiseth reproof, but the humble prizeth it. Instances of the one: Amaziah to the prophet: 2 Chron. xxv. 16, ‘Art thou made of the king’s counsel? forbear; why shouldst thou be smitten?’ The false prophet Zedekiah to Micaiah: 2 Chron. xviii. 23, * Which way went the Spirit of the Lord from me to thee?’ The pharisees to Christ: ‘Are we blind also?’ John ix. 39, 40. Holy and humble men are of another temper. Job did not despise the cause of his servants when they contended with him, Job xxx. 13, 14; David: Ps. cxli. 5, ‘Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness. This is a notable remedy against pride, to bear a faithful reproof, and take it in better part than praises and acclamations. Again, when you reflect upon your enjoyments, consider your account, Luke xii. 48. What will ye do when ye shall appear before the tribunal to answer for all this honour and estate? Surely such a day and such a reckoning should damp men, and quench all self-exalting thoughts. Never look upon your afflictions, but consider the mercies yet continued, notwithstanding your ill-deservings, Ezra iii. 19, that we may not murmur, which is an effect of pride, but submit to God’s chastisements; that is the way to increase humility; for afflictions are humbling occasions, and so must be improved.

Fifthly, The example of Christ. There was not a more excellent person, nor more worthy, in all the world. Now what was his life but a lecture of humility? Mat. xi. 29, ‘Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart;’ ‘He sought not his own glory, but the glory of him that sent him,’ John v. 41. That is our business as well as Christ’s; not to seek ourselves, but to please God and glorify God. He chose a mean life, withdrew himself when they would make him a king, John vi. 15; came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, Mat. xx. 28. Vain men would be admired of all, are desirous of worldly power and glory; but this is contrary to the Spirit of Christ. Surely we should dress ourselves by this glass. The meek, humble, lowly mind is an express resemblance of Christ, as pride is of the devil. When Christ came to save us, he would not choose a life of pomp, but poverty. He submitted to be conceived in the womb of a maiden, took the form of a servant, was laid in a manger, sacrificed two pigeons. He lived in the world as a man of sorrows, born of mean parents, working at their trade. Justin Martyr saith he made ploughs or yokes: ‘Is not this the carpenter?’ Mark vi. After he entered into the ministry, he was scorned, opposed by men, preached out of a ship to people on the shore. Finally, he humbled himself to the death, the death of the cross. Now the same mind should be in you that was in Jesus, Phil. ï. 5. Unless you think it a disgrace to imitate him, either you must be humble, or seek another lord and master.

Sixthly, Thoughts of death, and the great change that we must once undergo, should still keep us humble. This flesh, which thou deckest with so much art and ornament, must shortly become a dead carcass, removed out of sight, that it may not become offensive to those that most love and prize thee, and rot in the grave, and become food for worms. Dust we were in our composition, and dust we must be in our dissolution, Gen. iii. 19. What is viler than dust? Eccles. xii. 7, Our dust shall return to the earth as it was.’ We do but for a while act a part upon the stage of the world, and then we must be unclothed; as he that acteth the king in the comedy, and then goeth off and is a poltroon, as before; he vaunteth on the stage for a while, then ad staturam suam redit – Seneca. Though his excellency mounteth unto the heavens, yet within a while he perisheth, as his own dung, Job xx. 5–8. Our ornaments must be left behind us.

Seventhly, A gift sanctified, though never so mean, is more than the greatest gifts that puff us up. It holdeth good in all things. In estate, the truest contentment is to be kept humble in the enjoyment of it, James i. 10. The rich, in that he be made low. So for honour; it is not the outward splendour which is our happiness, but the humble mind. To be minimus in summo, least at the highest, like a spire or pyramid, is an argument of a great spirit. So for parts, the humble christian is the better qualified, 1 Cor. viii. 1. Knowledge puffeth up, charity edifieth. So grace; the less conceited, the more grace. Pride starveth every grace, but humility feedeth it. It is the humble soul which hath the solid comforts, and hath made most progress in religion.

Eighthly, Consider the evils of pride, both as to sin and punishment.

1. As to sin. It puts us upon other sins, murmuring against God, contempt of others: Prov. xxi. 24, ‘Haughty scorner is his name, who dealeth with proud wrath. Contention with them: ‘He that is proud in heart stirreth up strife,’ Prov. xxviii. 25. Envy; Saul eyed David ever afterward, 1 Sam. xviii. 9. An evil eye: Mat. xx. 24, “When the disciples heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.’ Censuring: James iii. 1, Be not many masters.’

2. Evils of punishment. Others cannot be expected, since the proud are so odious to God: Prov. xvi. 5, Whosoever is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord.’

(1.) The judgments of God against the proud are sure: Prov. xxix. 23, A man’s pride will surely bring him low.’ So Prov. xvi. 5, “Though hand join in hand. All the world shall not keep him, as that doth not keep down his own spirit. God will cross him in his person or posterity: Prov. xv. 25, ‘The house of the proud shall be destroyed.’

(2.) It is swift. Judgment cometh upon other sins with a slow pace, but always treadeth on the heels of pride, in that instant wherein they exalt themselves. Nebuchadnezzar, when his heart was lifted up and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from the kingdom, Dan. v. 20. The angels fell in that instant. Herod adored as a god, and immediately eaten up of worms, Acts xii. We lose our children, estate, parts, by some sudden stroke of providence, when we grow proud of them.

(3.) It is shameful; that God may pour the more contempt on them: Prov. xi. 2, ‘When pride cometh, then cometh shame.’ Not only ruin, but shame; Herod punished by lice, Pharaoh by gnats and flies, Miriam by leprosy; Goliath falleth by a stone out of a shepherd’s sling…

(1.) It is impartial. Not only upon Pharaoh, Herod, Haman, but his own people. Uzziah, 2 Chron. xxv. 26, 27, died without being lamented. Hezekiah: 2 Chron. xxxii. 45, His heart was lifted up, therefore there was wrath upon him.’