The Spirit of Charity is a Humble Spirit – Part II by Jonathan Edwards

By April 10, 2011 April 12th, 2016 Love & Charity

II. That the spirit of charity is an humble spirit.— And this I would do in two particulars: first, by shewing how the spirit of charity, or divine love, implies and tends to humility and then by shewing how such exercises of this charity as the gospel tends to draw forth do especially imply and tend to it. And,

1. A spirit of charity, or divine love, implies and tends to humility.

First, it implies humility. The spirit of charity, or divine love, as has already been shewn, is the sum of the Christian spirit, and of course implies humility in it, as an essential qualification. True divine love is an humble love; and that love which is not humble, is not truly divine. And this appears plain from two considerations: because a sense of the loveliness of God is peculiarly that discovery of God that works humility; and because, when God is truly loved, he is loved as an infinite superior. In the first place,

Because a sense of the loveliness of God is peculiarly that discovery of God that works humility. A sense or discovery of God’s greatness, without the sight of his loveliness, will not do it; but it is the discovery of his loveliness that effects it, and that makes the soul truly humble. All grace is wrought in the heart through the knowledge of God, or by, the clear discovery of his perfections; and the knowledge of these perfections is the foundation of all grace. And it is the discovery or sense of God as lovely, and not only as lovely, but as infinitely above us in loveliness, that works humility in the heart. Merely having a sense of the fact that God is infinitely above us, and that there is an infinite distance between him and us in greatness, will not work humility. It will effect nothing toward making the heart humble, unless we are also sensible that there is an infinite distance between him and us in his loveliness. And this is evident from the work of the law on the heart of the sinner, and from the experience of devils and damned spirits. Under the work of the law on the heart, persons may have a sense of the awful greatness of God, and yet have no humility, because they have no sense of his loveliness. All the work of the Spirit, and of the law and gospel in the heart, is wrought by conviction; and there is a kind of conviction that natural men have as to God, that awakens them and makes them feel their danger; and this is a conviction of the terrible greatness of God, revealing himself in the requirements and denunciations of his law. But this they may and often do have, and yet have no humility; and the reason is, that they have no sense of how much God is above them in loveliness. This is the only thing wanting; and without this, they will not be humble.

And the same is manifest from the experience of devils and damned spirits. They have a clear sense of God’s being infinitely above them in greatness, but they have no humility, because they do not feel how much he is above them in loveliness. As was observed, God makes the devils and lost spirits know and feel that he is above them in greatness and power, and that they are as nothing in his hands; and yet they are proud, and have no humility. And at and after the day of judgment, they will see still more of his greatness. When Christ shall come in the clouds of heaven, surrounded by his angels, and with the glory of his Father, then shall the wicked, even the kings, and great rulers, and the rich captains, and the mighty men of the world, see that he is infinitely above them in greatness; and as they see his terrible majesty, they shall hide themselves from his face. And the devils, too, will see it, and will tremble at that time, a great deal more than they tremble now at the thoughts of it. And the devils and wicked men shall be made to know that he is the Lord. They shall know it with a witness. They shall know by what they see and by what they feel, when the sentence comes to be executed on them, that God is indeed above them, and they are as nothing before him, as is said by the prophet Ezekiel (7:27)—’According to their deserts will I judge them; and they shall know that I am the Lord.’ But though they shall so clearly and so terribly see that God is infinitely above them in greatness, yet they will have no humility. They will see themselves at an infinite distance from God, but their hearts will not comply with that distance, and feel as is answerable to it. Because they will not see God’s loveliness, they will not know their infinite distance from him in this respect, and therefore will not be led to humility. And this their experience shews, that it is a sense of the infinite distance of the creature from the Creator in loveliness, that causes true humility. This it is that causes humility in the angels in heaven and in the saints on earth. And since it is a sense of God’s loveliness that works humility, we may hence learn that divine love implies humility, for love is but the disposition of the heart toward God as lovely. If the knowledge of God as lovely causes humility, then a respect to God as lovely implies humility. And from this love to God arises a Christian love to man; and therefore it follows, that both love to God and love to man, the union of which is the very thing the apostle calls charity, alike imply humility.

And it further appears that divine love implies humility, because, when God is truly loved, he is loved as an infinite superior. True love to God is not love to him as an equal; for every one that truly loves God, honours him as God, that is, as a being infinitely superior to all others in greatness and excellence. It is love to a being who is infinitely perfect in all his attributes, the supreme Lord and absolute Sovereign of the universe. But if we love God as infinitely superior to ourselves, then love is exercised in us as infinite inferiors, and therefore it is an humble love. In exercising it, we look upon ourselves as infinitely mean and low before God, and love proceeds from us as such. But to love God in this manner, is to love him in humility, and with an humble love. Thus divine love implies humility. But,

Secondly, it also tends to humility. Humility is not only a quality in divine love, but it is also an effect of it. Divine love does not only imply humility in its nature, but also tends to cherish and produce it, and to call forth its exercises as consequences and fruits of love. And humility is not only implied in, and is as it were a part of love, but it is a fruit and uniform production of love; and that especially in two ways. In the first place, love inclines the heart to that spirit and behaviour that are becoming the distance from the beloved. It is enmity against God that makes men’s hearts so opposed to love to him, and to such a behaviour as carries in it a full and proper acknowledgment of the distance between themselves and him. Those that men have a great love to, they are willing to honour, and willing to acknowledge their superiority to themselves, and that they themselves are far below them; and they are willing to give them the honour of such an acknowledgment, especially if they are very much their superiors. The devils know their distance from God, but they are not reconciled to it; and the chief of devils affected to be equal with God, and even above him, because he had no love to him. And so in a measure it is with men, while they are without divine love. But when love enters the heart, then the inclination of the soul is to all that humble respect that becomes the distance between God and us. And so love to man, arising from love to God, disposes to an humble behaviour toward them, inclining us to give them all the honour and respect that are their due. And so, in the next place, love to God tends to an abhorrence of sin against God, and so to our being humbled before him for it. So much as anything is loved, so much will its contrary be hated. And therefore, just in proportion as we love God, in the same proportion shall we have an abhorrence of sin against him. And having an abhorrence of sin against God, this will lead us to abhor ourselves for it, and so to humble ourselves for it before God. Having thus shewn how divine love, which is the sum of the Christian temper, implies and tends to humility, I come now to shew,

2. How the gospel tends to draw forth such exercises of love as do especially imply and tend to it.—A Christian spirit and a gospel spirit are the same. That is a Christian spirit which the Christian revelation tends to lead to; but the Christian revelation is the same as the gospel. Now such a kind of exercises of love as the gospel tends to draw forth, do, in a special manner, tend to and imply humility; and that on several accounts. And,

First, because the gospel leads us to love God as an infinitely condescending God. The gospel, above all things in the world, holds forth the exceeding condescension of God. No other manifestation that ever God made of himself exhibits such wonderful condescension as the Christian revelation does. The gospel teaches how God, who humbles himself to behold things that are in heaven and earth, stooped so low as to take an infinitely gracious notice of poor vile worms of the dust, and to concern himself for their salvation, and so as to send his only-begotten Son to die for them, that they might be forgiven, and elevated, and honoured, and brought into eternal fellowship with him, and to the perfect enjoyment of himself in heaven for ever. So that the love the Christian revelation leads us to, is love to God as such a condescending God, and to such exercises of love as it becomes us to have toward a God of such infinite condescension; and such acts of love are, of necessity, humble acts of love, for there is no disposition in the creature that is more adapted to condescension in the Creator than humility is. The condescension of God is not properly humility, because, for the reasons already given, humility is a virtue only of those beings that have comparative meanness. And yet God, by his infinite condescension, shews his nature to be infinitely far from and hostile to pride, and therefore his condescension is sometimes spoken of as humility; and humility on our part is the most proper conformity to God’s condescension that there can be in a creature. His condescension tends to draw forth humility on our part.

Second, the gospel leads us to love Christ as an humble person. Christ is the God-man, including both the divine and the human natures; and so has not only condescension, which is a divine perfection, but also humility, which is a creature excellency. Now the gospel holds forth Christ to us as one that is meek and lowly, of heart; as the most perfect and excellent instance of humility that ever existed; as one in whom the greatest performances and expressions of humility were manifest in his abasement of himself. Though he was in the form of God,’ he ‘made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant,’ and ‘humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross’ (Phil. 2:6-8). Now the gospel leads us to love Christ as such an humble person; and, therefore, to love him with such a love as is proper to be exercised toward such a one, is to exercise an humble love. And this is the more true, because the gospel leads us to love Christ not only as an humble person, but as an humble Saviour and Lord, and Head. If our Lord and Master is humble, and we love him as such, certainly it becomes us who are his disciples and servants to be so too; for surely it does not become the servant to be prouder or less abased than his master. As Christ himself tells us (Matt. 10:24, 25), ‘The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord.’ And again, he tells us (John 13:13-16) that his own example of humility was intended for our imitation; and still again declares to his disciples (Matt. 20:25-28), ‘Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.’

Thirdy, the gospel leads us to love Christ as a crucified Saviour. As our Saviour and Lord, he suffered the greatest ignominy, and was put to the most ignominious death, though he was the Lord of glory. This may well kindle the humility of his followers, and lead them to an humble love to him. For by God sending his Son into the world to suffer such an ignominious death, he did, as it were, pour contempt on all the earthly glory that men are wont to be proud of, in that he gave him, as the Saviour and Head of all his elect people, to appear in circumstances so far from earthly glory, and in circumstances of the greatest earthly ignominy and shame. And Christ, by being willing thus to be abased, and thus to suffer, not only cut contempt on all worldly glory and greatness, but shewed his humility in the clearest manner. If we, then, consider ourselves as the followers of the meek and lowly and crucified Jesus, we shall walk humbly before God and man all the days of our life on earth.

Fourthly, the gospel still further tends to lead us to humble exercises of love, because it leads us to love Christ as one that was crucified for our sakes. The mere fact that Christ was crucified is a great argument for the humility of us who are his followers. But his being crucified for our sake is a much greater argument for it. For Christ’s being crucified for our sakes is the greatest testimony of God against our’sins that ever was given. It shews more of God’s abhorrence of our sins than any other act or event that God has ever directed or permitted. The measure of God’s abhorrence of our sins is shewn by his having them so terribly punished, and his wrath so executed against them, even when imputed to his own Son. So that this is the greatest inducement to our humility that can be presented, and this on two accounts: because it is the greatest manifestation of the vileness of that for which we should be humble, and also the greatest argument for our loving the humble spirit which the gospel holds forth. The excellency of Christ, and the love of Christ, more appear in his yielding himself to be crucified for us, than in any other of his acts, so that these things, considered together, above all things tend to draw forth on our part the exercises of humble love. In the application of this subject we may see,

1. The excellency of a Christian spirit.—’The righteous,’ it is said (Prov. 12:26), ‘is more excellent than his neighbour.’ And much of this excellence in the true Christian consists in his meek and lowly spirit, which makes him so like his Saviour. This spirit the apostle speaks of (1 Peter 3:4) as the richest of all ornaments, ‘even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.’ The subject should lead us,

2. To examine ourselves, and see if we are indeed of an humble spirit.—’His soul,’ says the prophet (Hab. 2:4), ‘which is lifted up, is not upright in him;’ and the fact that ‘God resisteth the proud ‘ (James 4:6), or, as in the original, ‘sets himself in battle array against him,’ shews how he abhors a proud spirit. And it is not every show and appearance of humility that will stand the test of the gospel. There are various imitations of it that fall short of the reality. Some put on an affected humility; others have a natural low-spiritedness, and are wanting in manliness of character; others are melancholy or despondent; others, under the convictions of conscience, by which, for the time, they are depressed, seem broken in spirit; others seem greatly abased while in adversity and affliction, or have a natural melting of the heaxt under the common illuminations of the truth; in others, there is a counterfeit kind of humility, wrought by the delusions of Satan: and all of these may be mistaken for true humility. Examine yourself, then, and see what is the nature of your humility, whether it be of these superficial kinds, or whether it be indeed wrought by the Holy Spirit in your hearts; and do not rest satisfled, till you find that the spirit and behaviour of those whom the gospel accounts humble, are yours.

3. The subject exhorts those who are strangers to the grace of God, to seek that grace, that they may thus attain to this spirit of humility.—If such be your character, you are now destitute of a Christian spirit, which is a spirit of grace, and so wholly destitute of humility. Your spirit is a proud spirit; and though you may not seem to carry yourself very proudly amongst men, yet you are lifting yourself up against God, in refusing to submit your heart and life to him. And in doing this, you are disregarding or defying God’s sovereignty, and daring to contend with your Maker, though he dreadfully threatens those who do this. You are proudly casting contempt on God’s authority, in refusing to obey it, and continuing to live in disobedience; in refusing to be conformed to his will, and to comply with the humbling conditions and way of salvation by Christ; and in trusting to your own strength and righteousness, instead of that which Christ so freely offers. Now, as to such a spirit, consider that this is, in an especial sense, the sin of devils. ‘Not a novice,’ says the apostle (1 Tim. 3:6), ‘lest, being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil.’ And consider, too, how odious and abominable such a spirit is to God, and how terribly he has threatened it; declaring (Prov. 16:5) that ‘every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished;’ and again (Prov. 6:16) ‘These things doth the Lord hate: a proud look,’ &c.; and again (Prov. 29:23), that ‘a man’s pride shall bring him low;’ and (2 Sam. 22:28) that the eyes of the Lord are upon the haughty, that he may bring them down; and still again (Isa. 23:9), that ‘the Lord of hosts hath purposed it, to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth.’ Consider, too, how Pharaoh, and Korah, and Haman, and Belshazzar, and Herod, were awfully punished for their pride of heart and conduct; and be admonished, by their example, to cherish an humble spirit, and to walk humbly with God, and toward men. Finally,

4. Let all be exhorted earnestly to seek much of an humble spirit, and to endeavour to be humble in all their behaviour toward God and men.—Seek for a deep and abiding sense of your comparative meanness before God and man. Know God. Confess your nothingness and ill-desert before him. Distrust yourself. Rely only on God. Renounce all glory except from him. Yield yourself heartily to his will and service. Avoid an aspiring, ambitious, ostentatious, assuming, arrogant, scornful, stubborn, wilful, levelling, self-justifying behaviour; and strive for more and more of the humble spirit that Christ manifested while he was on earth. Consider the many motives to such a spirit. Humility is a most essential and distinguishing trait in all true piety. It is the attendant of every grace, and in a peculiar manner tends to the purity of Christian feeling. It is the ornament of the spirit; the source of some of the sweetest exercises of Christian experience; the most acceptable sacrifice we can offer to God; the subject of the richest of his promises; the spirit with which he will dwell on earth, and which he will crown with glory in heaven hereafter. Earnestly seek, then, and diligently and prayerfully cherish, an humble spirit, and God shall walk with you here below; and when a few more days shall have passed, he will receive you to the honours bestowed on his, people at Christ’s right hand.

Taken from Charity and It’s Fruits