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On Humbleness of Spirit.
1 PETER v. 6.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that may exalt you in due time.
THE disposition of mind which is here recommended is highly becoming, nay, absolutely necessary, in every condition of human life. Among the members of civil society, it promotes harmony and love; and among those who profess themselves to be Christians, it sets the beauty of our religion in the most engaging light. Reason proclaims the necessity of it; and the precepts of the Gospel entirely coincide with the voice of reason. In all circumstances, to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, is equally conducive to our present and future felicity. It renders us easy and contented in ourselves, ready to do good to our neighbour, and prepares us for the enjoyment of happiness in heaven.
Since, therefore, we are always under the mighty hand of God, created by his power, redeemed by his mercy, preserved and governed by his wise providence ;
it will not be amiss, from various considerations, to
In our progress through this variegated life, numberless are the perplexities and disappointments which fall in our way of these we are ever ready to complain with much indignation and bitterness of spirit. It were well, if we would seriously consider, whether the fruitful source of most of our disquietude be not lodged in our own bosoms. Instead of walking humbly with our God, as creatures who have no right to claim as a debt even the smallest blessings; instead of confining our desires within the limits of moderation, and thus adapting them to the present state and condition of man; we are too much inclined to give them, on all occasions, an unrestrained indulgence. We may have acquired much, but every new acquisition prompts a new desire. We vainly imagine, that what we already possess, by adding to our importance, renders us worthy of still greater favours from the hand of a merciful Providence. As we advance, the prospect opens before us; we seize the present joy; and still, some distant good beckons us along. Stimulated by insatiable appetites, our expectation of complete felicity is continually disappointed; our toils and anxieties never cease; we murmur to-day that our satisfaction is not perfect, and to-morrow will furnish the same cause for complaint. Now, although this, to a certain degree, is the fate of man, in his best estate; it is certainly our wisdom, as well as our duty, to mitigate an evil which we cannot entirely remove. Humility will, in a great measure, relieve, though it may not
altogether banish from our hearts, this wasting anxiety. The man who has proper notions of the exalted perfections of the Deity, and of his own insignificance and unworthiness, and who consequently humbles himself in the sight of God, will be satisfied with few and simple things--he will not keep his mind in a state of perpetual agitation, from disadvantageous comparisons of his own condition with that of other men-though his fields may not be so abundantly productive as those of his neighbour, he finds that they yield sufficient to satisfy the demands of temperance-though his habitation may not shine with the splendid decorations of the proud man's palace, he finds it well calculated to shelter him from the inclemencies of the seasons-he knows that more real, heartfelt happiness is frequently to be found in the poor man's cottage, than in the costly domes of the rich and great. Destitute of this temper of mind, no station of honour will be sufficiently elevated; no stores of wealth will be altogether satisfactory. As we proceed, the toils of our journey will increase-hills will peep over hills, and alps on alps arise. If, therefore, we wish to avoid many and griev. ous disappointments, into which the inconsiderate rashly plunge themselves, let us be careful not to give up the reins to every extravagant desire. Let us proceed with calmness and moderation, in all the pursuits of this transient life. Let us not fret and repine, and refuse to enjoy the bliss which lies before us, because we cannot obtain all that the eye sees and the heart desires. For joy without any alloy of pain is not to be expected; the felicity of mortal man, in his present state of trial, ever has been, and ever will be incomplete.
Amidst all the vicissitudes of this fleeting life, "to "humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God;" to live in a state of constant dependence upon a wise and merciful Providence, is the best support under the shock of every disaster. However melancholy the change in our situation may at any time be; under the influence of this meek and humble disposition, we shall suppress every irreligious complaint; we shall check every impious doubt of the Divine goodness and justice; no angry and turbulent passions will rise in our bosoms; but in the lowest depth of woe, we shall find strength and consolation. We shall be ready to confess, that, in all his dispensations, God best knows how to promote our real good; that he, at no time, afflicts us with unbounded severity; but in the midst of all his judgments remembers mercy. It was thus that Job humbled himself before God, and found consolation in a condition the most destitute and afflictive. Deprived of all his earthly possessions, and bereft of his dearest connexions, he sinks under the mighty hand of the great Disposer of all things; but in his lowest state, is enabled to exclaim, "The Lord gave, " and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name "of the Lord." And in the same manner, even our Saviour himself, when he so far humbled himself as to assume the nature of man, sustained the last scene of his bitter agony with patience and pious confidence; May thy will, O my Father, and not mine be done."
There are persons in the world so captious and malevolent, that the fairest reputation is not a sufficient security against their invenomed arrows. They will attempt, by open obloquy or subtil insinuations, to sully the purity of the most spotless character, and to
disturb the peace of the most determined virtue. Now, against these assaults, to which all men are subject, humbleness of mind is the best shield of defence. While pride serves to point the dart, and inflame the wound; while it renders us sensible to the slightest touch; humility either entirely avoids the stroke, or by gently yielding, breaks its violence. When David was driven from Jerusalem by the insurrection of his ungrateful son Absalom; Shimei, whose dastardly spirit was still changing with his changing fortune, came and poured forth bitter execrations against the king and all his servants. Abishai, the steadfast friend of David, could not brook the insult-"Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head." The royal sufferer was not to be incited to rash and extravagant resentment; though, in several respects, he had acted ill: if his faults had been great, his penitence had also been sincere. He was conscious of his innocence, with regard to the crimes alleged against him, by the malevolent Shimei. Revenge was a stranger to his heart-the dart of calumny fell harmless to the ground. He restrained the impetuosity of his friend; "What "have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah; if the "Lord has permitted him to speak evil of me, who "shall say, Wherefore hast thou done so?" If we endeavour to acquire the same humility and meekness of spirit, it will sustain us through a contentious world, amidst the strife of tongues; our peace will not be much disturbed by the ill grounded opinions and the rash aspersions of others; we shall pass through evil report, as well as good report, with a complacency seldom interrupted, and never totally destroyed. We