A Humble Soul is God's Favorite

by Ebenezer Erskine

"Be ye clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time" (1 Pet. 5:5-6).

"Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off" (Ps. 138:6).

I. Lowliness may be considered first with respect first to ourselves. O, says the lowly soul, I see I cannot subdue one corruption, or resist the least temptation, when left to myself—as with Paul, who said, "I am not sufficient of myself to think anything as of myself." This lowliness and humility with respect to ourselves, has in it a singleness of heart in the discharge of duty, without vainglory. It has no Pharisaical ostentation, to be seen of men, that we may procure a name to ourselves. The humble and lowly Christian will make conscience of duty, although none in the world should see him.

With respect to others, this lowliness and humility, is evidenced in a preferring of others above or before ourselves. "Let nothing be done through strife, or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves" (Phil. 2:3). Every true child of God will see that the least of saints have something in which they excel him. This was the disposition of the great apostle, who looked on himself as the chief of sinners, and the least of the saints.

Further, the humble Christian rejoices to see the gifts and graces of God's Spirit abounding towards others. "Would God," says Moses, "that all the Lord's people were prophets." He will shun all vain comparison of himself with others.

The humble soul admires every expression of the divine bounty and goodness toward men in general, and toward himself in particular. "O," says he, "What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?" A silent admiration of the grace and condescension of the great Jehovah, is the highest degree of praise we can come to in this life, while our harps are so mistuned by sin.

This humility gives God the glory of all that we are helped to do in His service. As Paul says, he labored more abundantly than the other apostles, "yet not I, but the grace of God, which was with me.

Again, it has in it an acquiescence in the disposals of God's providence, however different are the inclinations of flesh and blood. "Here am I," will the poor soul say, with David; "let him do to me as seemeth good unto him." He sees that the cup put into his hand is far less bitter than the cup that was put into the hand of Christ.

In a word, the humble and lowly believer is content to be nothing, so that Christ may be all in all to him. He will say with Paul: "I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: and do count them but dung that I may win Christ" (Phil. 3:8).

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

II. That the lowly and humble soul is the particular favorite of heaven will be abundantly evident, if we consider our Lord's response to the centurion who felt himself unworthy (Matthew 8:8): "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel" (v. 10). We see the same in the Syrophenician woman in Matthew 15:27. God lays up the richest treasures of his grace in the heart of the humble and lowly. And thus it is that the humble Christian is ordinarily the most thriving and growing Christian.

God's eyes are upon the humble. "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word" (Isa. 66:2). And Psalm 113:7-8 adds: "He raiseth the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill; that he may set him with princes." Would you be brought to God's seat, and have a hearing there? Then come with lowliness and humility of soul.

All this is as it should be, because Jehovah, the infinite God, dwells in and with the humble: "Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, I dwell in the high and holy place; with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble" (Isa. 57:15). God has a two-fold palace where he dwells; one is in heaven, the other is in the heart of the humble Christian.

And as God dwells with the humble, so the humble shall dwell with Him in glory forever: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:3). They shall be admitted to sit down at the high table of glory, and to eat and drink with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, yea, with the King of glory Himself. Thus, you see that the humble soul is the particular favorite of the high God.

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

III. Why does God have such respect to the lowly?

Not because this attitude of the soul deserves any good at His hand, but because this is a disposition that best serves God's great design of lifting up and glorifying His free grace. This is that which He will have magnifed through eternity above all. This humbleness is a fruit of God's own Spirit inhabiting the soul, and an evidence of the soul's union with the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom alone we are accepted. This is a disposition that makes the soul like Christ; who was content to appear in the form of a servant—and the more a person resembles Christ, the more God loves him. 

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

IV. These are some marks to judge whether you are among the humble and lowly:

1. When the lowly soul looks to Christ he is not ashamed (Ps. 34:5), but when he looks to himself, he is "ashamed and confounded" before the Lord, and ready to cry out with the prophet: "Woe is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips" (Isa. 6:5).

2. He is one that knows "it is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not" (Lam. 3:22).

3. The nearer that the humble soul is admitted to God, the more he falls lower in his own esteem. When Abraham pleaded with God on the behalf of Sodom, he said: "Behold, now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, who am but dust and ashes" (Gen. 18:27).

4. He also acknowledges with Paul that all his own righteousness is but as filthy rags, dung, and loss.

5. The lower he falls in his own esteem, the higher does Christ rise in his esteem. O, says he, He is "the Lord my righteousness; and I will go on in his strength, making mention of his righteousness, even of his only."

6. He looks on sin as his greatest burden, saying with David, "Mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as a heavy burden they are too heavy for me." And particularly indwelling corruption, the fountain of sin; O how does he mourn and groan under that, saying, with Paul, "Wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death!" (Rom. 7:24).

7. He values himself least, when others value him most. O, says he, others see only my outside; but if they saw the swarms of abominations, that I see and feel in my own heart, I would be a terror to them.

8. The humble soul is content and desirous to know what is God's will, that he may do it. Paul was no sooner humbled, than he cried, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

V. Some motives to press and recommend this lowliness and humility of spirit:

1. Men are inclined to imitate the example of the great ones of the earth; but here is the most noble pattern that ever was, even an incarnate Deity, saying, "Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly." Furthermore, this attitude is the distinguishing character of a Christian. The people of God are ordinarily called the humble and meek of the earth. A proud Christian is a contradiction; for pride is just an antipode to true religion.

2. It is highly reasonable, whether we look to ourselves in particular, or the evils of the land and the day in which we live.

As for ourselves, we have defaced the image of God, cast dirt on all the divine attributes, and trampled His law and authority under our feet. What ground have we to be proud? If God had not helped us, we had been all of us this day sinking under the fiery mountains of eternal vengeance and wrath.

As for our world, all ranks have corrupted their way; a flood of atheism and wickedness has overwhelmed us. Have we not reason to be humbled for the universal barrenness that is to be found amongst us, under the drops of the glorious gospel? We are "fallen from our first love," our former zeal for God and his precious truths, and the royalties of our Redeemer's crown.

3. View the noble patterns of humility that are set before us to imitate. Besides Abraham, his grandson Jacob confessed that "I am less than the least of thy mercies." Job, David, Isaiah, Paul, and all the "cloud of witnesses," have set us examples of humility. Our Lord, too, left us His blessed pattern of this grace—for he "took upon him the form of a servant," and "humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."

4. Consider the evil and danger of the sin of pride, which lies directly opposite to it. It is loathsome in the sight of God. In Proverbs 6:16, it is set in the very front of these things that the Lord hates. Further, it is a sign of a rotten heart: pride and hypocrisy go hand in hand. Pride is also the fertile womb of many other evils. If our proud hearts were but so far humbled as to confess our faults one to another, our divisions would soon come to an end. O what ruin has the sin of pride brought along with it! "A man's pride shall bring him low" (Prov. 29:23).And if it miss his person, it shall fall heavily on his family: "The Lord will destroy the house of the proud" (Prov. 15:25).

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

VI. Some advice to help you attain this lowly frame and temper of soul:

1. Go to the Law as a schoolmaster; read the Ten Commandments, and Christ's spiritual commentary upon them in Matthew 5. This would make the proudest heart lie in the dust.

2. Get Christ to dwell in your heart by faith; for the reigning power of this evil is never broken, till Christ come by the power of His Spirit, bringing down the towering imaginations of the heart. The more of Christ, the more humility; and the less of Christ, the more pride.

3. Be much [employed] in viewing the glorious perfections of the Majesty of heaven, as they are displayed in the works of creation and providence; but especially as they shine in the face of Jesus Christ, and the glorious work of redemption through Him (cf. Isa. 66:1-5 and Job 42:5-6).

4. Be much in viewing your original corruption and degeneration; and how much of this cleaves even to believers themselves, while they are on this side of eternity!

5. Be much in viewing the vanity of the creature, and all things below. View an awful tribunal, and endless eternity, where you and I shortly shall stand and receive a sentence from the righteous Judge, which shall determine our state forever.

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

About the Author:

Ebenezer Erskine (1680-1754) was a Scottish Puritan preacher, as was his father, Henry, and his brother, Ralph. (For a sample of Ralph Erskine's preaching, see Pulpit Helps for January, 2004, page 26.) Ebenezer was a founder of the Secession Church in Scotland. He graduated at Edinburgh University in 1697, and in 1703 was ordained to Portmoak, where for twenty-eight years he ministered faithfully—

frequently preaching out of doors when the church could not contain the congregation. In 1740, after he moved to a Stirling church in 1731, Erskine and seven other ministers were deposed for preaching against assembly legislation on patronage, convinced that it took away the right of Christian people to elect and call their minister. Within five years the Seceders were ministering to more than forty congregations in Scotland.

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

2011 Disciple 155x50 2011 AMG 155x50
Disciple Banner Ad