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4. He was a pattern of the greatest humility to mankind. He was ready to condescend to the meanest, in order to their good. Most of the miracles he performed, were wrought upon those who were of a low condition. When a man of figure besought him to heal his servant, he was as ready to do that kind office for him, as if it had been the master himself, Matt. viii. 6, &c. He stood still in the way to regard the cry of a poor beggar, as much as if he had been a man of the greatest consideration, when the multitude would fain have silenced him, Mark x. 46, &c.; and esteemed it as his meat and drink to maintain a conversation with the poor woman of Samaria, in order to her soul's advantage, though his "disciples marvelled that he talked with her," John iv. 27. He overlooked not even little children; but called his followers to learn good instructions from them, and to be very tender of them, Matt. xviii. 1-10. In the next chapter, we find him taking them up in his arms, and blessing them; and when his disciples rebuked those who brought them to Christ, he would have them suffered to come to him, chap. xix, 13, 14.
He was willing to stoop to the meanest offices for the meanest persons. He freely touched a poor man who was overspread with a leprosy, in order to his cure; though it was naturally ungrateful, and legally unclean, Mark i. 41.; and particularly recommends the great condescension to his disciples, by using an emblematic action for that purpose, of washing their feet, John xiii. 5, &c. Thus he made it evident in his whole conduct, that "he came not to be ministered unto, but to minister," Matt. xx. 28. And yet, which was another instance of humility,
He was not above receiving and acknowledging the respect shewn him by the meanest. He accepted the charitable con tributions of some good women who "ministered unto him of their substance," Luke viii. 3. He takes notice of the honest and well-meant hosannahs paid him by children, Matt. xxi. 15. And the more hearty mark of respect shewn him by the woman who poured ointment on his head, as he sat at meat, he has put an everlasting mark of honor upon, Matt. xxvi.
Now, how forcible an engagement should this be to all who profess a relation to him, to imitate him in a virtue, which
made so great a part of the character of their Master? to "learn of him, who was lowly in heart," Matt. ix. 29.
(4.) Humility is a grace which will go along with us to heaven. The only inhabitants of that world, who were ever lifted up with pride, have been long ago cast down from thence to hell. The" seraphims cover their feet" in presence of the divine Majesty, magnify him with incessant adorations, and abase themselves continually before him, Isa. vi. 2, 3. The representations given us of the gloroius company above in the New Testament, bespeak the same lowliness of mind before God. "The four-and-twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne," Rev. iv. 10. And to the same purpose, chap. v. 14. And, as a farther description of the humility of their adoration, they are said to "fall before the throne on their faces," chap. vii. 11. and chap. xi. 16. God in that world is all in all; and every blessed spirit there, up to the most exalted celestial mind, maintains the sense of infinite distance, in the midst of the most familiar and satisfying approaches; and receive the bounties of the great Creator, crying, Grace, grace. We have a specimen of the humble temper attending saints to the judgment-day, in the representation of it given by our Saviour, Matt. xxv.; when the Judge will take notice of their acts of charity, and put the most kind and gracious construction upon them that can be, as done to himself in his members; they are represented as having so low an opinion of their goodness, that they can hardly think themselves to deserve the commendation. "Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee ?" &c. While the sinner is described as carrying his foud conceit to the bar, and hardly convinced of the neglects charged upon him by his Judge: "When saw we thee an hungred," &c. "and did not minister unto thee ?" We may say, indeed, in commendation of humility, beyond many other graces, that it is greater and more excellent than they; for the same reason that love is preferred by the apostle to "faith and hope;" because "it never faileth," 1 Cor. xiii. 8, 13.
Inference 1. Those who are destitute of this grace, whatever profession they have made of Christianity, have in truth the rudiments of it yet to learn. If they have been
soaring upward to heaven itself in the sublimest speculations; if they have built up their hopes to the greatest height upon other grounds, without laying this at the foundation; they must be content to come down again to learn this lesson, which enters into the elements of Christ's religion. A proud Christian is a contradictory character; as much as it would be to say, a wicked saint. The whole gospel, in its precepts, its great example, its glorious prospects, tends to humble the pride of man: and, therefore, whoever will come after Christ, must, in this respect, deny himself.
2. We should look principally to the temper of our spirits, to judge of our humility. We may have the character of humble people with men from a modest outside, a negligence of garb, a condescending carriage, lowly speeches; while the God that searches the heart, may see pride reigning there under these fair disguises; and that all such plausible appearances are only intended to gratify and support a haughty and overbearing disposition. Humbleness of mind makes the Christian temper; and the poor in spirit are the heirs of the promise.
3. No single branch of goodness deserves more of our attention, in order to judge of the improving or declining state of our souls, than this of humility. If we grow in knowledge, and are puffed up along with it, we lose more in goodness than we gain in profitable furniture. If we improve in other excellencies, but outstrip that improvement in the conceit we have of ourselves, we only make those things nothing in the sight of God, which would otherwise be valuable. This is a "dead fly, that will spoil the whole box of ointment." Whether we advance in right knowledge of God or ourselves, it cannot fail to make us sensible of our defects, and humble in the sense of them. A man that improves in learning, sees more defects in his attainments when he hath made a good progress, than he did at setting out: he discerns a larger field of knowledge before him, after all his advances, than he had any notion of, when he first turned his thoughts that way. So it is with a lively Christian; he sees so much before him, that
he "forgets the things that are behind, and reaches forth unto those that are before, still pressing towards the mark," Phil. ii. 13, 14. This was Paul's character, when he was most fixedly set in heaven's way; and it will be the character of any Christian, when he is ripening fastest for the heavenly harvest
PSAL. LI. 10. [the former part.]
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
NE principal concern we have about ourselves, after the determination of the preference due to our souls above our bodies, is to regulate the appetites and passions we have by occasion of the body, conformable to the interests of the soul, and the precepts of God concerning them. A clean heart, which is here prayed for, is one of the first things of that kind, which should come into our consideration.
This is sometimes taken in so extensive a sense, as to signify holiness in general, in opposition to all sin; which is often, in the scripture style, represented as the defilement of the soul. In other places it is to be understood in a more confined sense, for the temper directly opposed to criminal sensualities, or the ascendant of irregular appetites; to that which eminently bears the name of "filthiness of the flesh,' 2 Cor. vii. 1. and especially of the seventh commandment. Thus we are to understand the clean heart in the text.
The psalmist had fallen into the horrible sin of adultery, and being awakened to repentance upon the message brought him by Nathan the prophet, he composed this psalm; wherein, besides very suitable abasing confessions of his sins, he earnestly solicits for pardoning mercy, to remove his guilt; for sanctifying grace, to take away the stain itself, with which such heinous offences had polluted his soul; and for a recovery