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CHA P. II. Of the immediate foundation of Humia
lity, the knowledge of our selves.
1. T he great and ultimate foundation of
Humility, as of every other good thing that is in us, is no doubt the Grace of God, who is that Father of Lights from whom every good and perfect Gift descends, that living Spring and Fountain, who like the Sun, Tends forth the Rays of his Goodness and Perfection upon us, but without Setting and without Changing. He is our Light and our Life, and every thing that is in us (except Sin) we derive from him ; there being nothing in Nature, Grace or Glory, but what is a Participation of God, from whose fullness we all receive. But yet as in matters of Theory and Science, one Truth is connected with another, and one Conclusion depends upon another as its immediate ground, tho? they all ultimately depend upon their first Principles ; so also in things of a Moral and Practical Nature, one Vertue in us depends immediately upon another, with which in the Order and Nature of things it has a Connexion, though the Grace of God be the Jast Ground and Foundation of all.
2. I make a difference here between the Foundation of Humility and the Reasons which we have to be Humble. By the Reasons, I mean such Considerations or Arguments drawn from the Nature of Man and the Circumstances of our own Condition, as may serve to shew how reasonable Humility is, and how well it becomes us. For though whatever may be said to the advantage of Humility, or to recommend the practice of it (as suppose that it gives rest to the Soul) may in a large sense be said to be a Reason of it ; yet Humility consisting in a low Opinion of our selves, nothing I suppose can be strictly said to be a Reason why we should be Humble but that which shews it to be reasonable that we should have that low Opinion,which must be some ConGderation or other taken from our selves. By the Foundation of Humility, I mean some Principle or Habit in our selves, upon which our Humility is immediately Founded, and upon which it actually rests, as upon its Basis. The difference between which two, may be illustrated by the difference that is between the Line given, upon which an Equilateral Triangle is erected, and the Reason which he that erects it has to erect it. The Reason is some Confideration or other which moves him to do it; it may be the use he may make of it in measuring an inaccessible Line. But the Line given, is the very Basis of the Triangle it self, upon which the Figure is raised and stands. Now this Foundation of Humility that carries the like proportion to it, that the Line given does to the Figure, I take to be the Knowledge of our selves. For the Reasons that we have to be Humble, are not the very foundation upon which our Humility immediately rests, but the intimate Sense and Perception which we have of those Reasons, wherein the knowledge of our felves is necessarily involved, thole Realons being taken from our selves.
3. Not that I would exclude the Knowledge of God. For as the sum of all that which deserves the name of true Wisdom in us, consists in these two things, the Knowledge of God and our selves, according to
.. that of St. Bernard, Deus noveSermo. de Obedi
hedi- rim me, noverim te, and as there entiâ.
is also a mutual Connexion between these two, the Knowledge of our felves, leading us to the Knowledge of God in whom we Live, Move, and have our Being, and the Knowledge of God giving us a right point of View wherein we may behold our selves in a true Light, so as to make a right Judgment of our selves; so also, and as a consequence of this, it is readily allowed, that the Knowledge of God tends exceedingly to the Humiliation of the Creature, who cannot
but but look upon himself with Contempt, nay, even the greatest Displacency and Abhorrence Cas fob did) when he Contemplates a Being of such tremendous Glory and Majesty. But then when we speak of the Knowledge of God, we must mean, either the Knowledge of God as he is in himself,or the Knowledge of God as he stands in relation to us. If as he is in himself, 'tis true indeed as was said before, that this serves very much to make us Humble, but then it is First, Comparatively, as all other excellent things do (though in a greater degree) by Eclipsing and Outshining. And Secondly, Mediately, as it serves to bring us to a right understanding of our felves. So that the Knowledge of our felves is still the immediate Ground, even of that Humility which the Contemplation and Knowledge of God works in us. But if by the Knowledge of God, we mean the Knowledge of him as he stands in relation to us, then this will be included in the other ; it being impossible we should have a right Knowledge of our selves, unless we also understand, and have a full sense of our dependence upon God, which is the same as to know him as he is in relation to ws. So that upon the whole, I think it most proper to consider the knowledge of our selves as the Foundation of our Humility
4. This is that Knowledge, which was so recommended of Old in the Schools of Wifdom, as of the greatest Excellence and Importance for all the Votaries of it. For which Reason, that well known Sentence which exhorted to it (Know thy felf) was Ingraven in Letters of Gold over the Porch of the Temple of Apollo, intimating, that he who would have Access to that Divinity, whose Character was Wisdom, or entrance into his Temple, must first enter into himself, and endeavour rightly to know and understand himself. And indeed, what has he to do with Wisdom, that has not Learnt the first Elements of it, or what need will he think hể has of any, that does not know his own Ignorance ? Antiquity therefore might be Excused, for the fondness it had for this saying, as a sentence of a Celestial Extraction ; as also for placing it upon Apollo's Temple, since 'twas a much Diviner Oracle than was ever delivered thence.
5. There is an Excellency in all Knowledge, and accordingly, that Being which is ablolutely perfect, has all. But there are two ways, whereby any one Knowledge becomes more Excellent than another. One is the Dignity and Excellency of the Object, and the other is the Relation it has to us, or the Concern we have in it. Now upon both these Accounts, the Knowledge of our selves is