1 Peter 5:5-7
Likewise, you younger, submit yourselves to the elder. Yes, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility…
I. THE NATURE AND THE EFFECTS OF HUMILITY.
1. Humility, as it relates to our own private thoughts and judgment, requires that we should entertain no better an opinion of ourselves than we deserve. To judge too severely of ourselves, and to fancy we are guilty of faults from which we are free, cannot be humility, because there can be no virtue in mistake and ignorance. Only as we have all a propensity to extenuate our defects, and to overrate our good deeds, it is safest to correct this bent by forcing the mind somewhat towards the contrary way, and frequently to review our failings, and the many causes which we have of rejecting all conceited thoughts. The imperfections common to human nature are these: Mortality; a stronger propensity to evil than to good; an understanding liable to be frequently deceived, and a knowledge which at the best is much confined. The infirmities peculiar to ourselves are those defects either in goodness, or in knowledge, or in wisdom, by which we are inferior to other persons. To be sensible of these faults, is humility as it relates to ourselves: to overlook them is pride.
2. True humility, as it influences our behaviour towards our Maker, produces a religious awe, and banishes presumption and carelessness and vainglory.
3. Between an unmanly contempt and disregard of ourselves, with an abject fear and blind reverence of others, which is one extreme, and a conceited, overbearing insolence, which is the other extreme, true humility proceeds, always uniform and decent. The humble person never assumes what belongs not to him; he desires to possess no more power, and to receive no more respect from others than is suitable to his own character and condition, and appointed by the customs of society. He is not a rigid exacter of the things to which he has an undoubted right; he can overlook many faults; he is not greatly provoked at those slights which put vain persons out of all patience.
II. THE MOTIVES TO THE PRACTICE OF IT.
1. Humility is a virtue so excellent that the Scriptures have in some sort ascribed it even to God Himself. Humility consists principally in a due sense of our defects, our transgressions, our wants, and the obligations which we have received. Therefore such humility cannot be in God, who possesses all perfections. But there is a part of humility, as it relates to oar behaviour towards men, called condescension; and this is sometimes represented in Scripture as a disposition not unworthy of the Divine nature.
2. The example of our Saviour is an example of every virtue, particularly of humility.
3. In the behaviour of the angels, as it is revealed to us in the Scriptures, we find that part of humility called condescension, or a cheerful submission to any offices by which the good of others may be promoted. Hence we learn to think it no disgrace to be, as our Lord says He was, the servant of all. In truth, we cannot be more creditably employed.
4. It is affirmed in many places of Scripture, that humility secures to us the favour of God, and will bring down His blessing upon ourselves and our undertakings.
5. Humility usually gains the esteem and love of men, and consequently the conveniences, at least, the necessaries of life. Since all love themselves, they will probably favour those who never provoke, insult, deride, or injure them, who show them civility, and do them good offices. The humble person, therefore, takes the surest way to recommend himself to those with whom he is joined in society, to increase the number of his well-wishers and friends, and to escape or defeat the assaults of detraction, envy, and malice.
6. The most certain present recompense of humility is that which arises from its own nature, and with which it repays the mind that entertains it; and a very valuable recompense it would be, though it were the only one allotted to this virtue. A humble person neither hates nor envies anyone; therefore he is free from those very turbulent vices which are always a punishment in themselves. He is not discomposed by the slights or censures of others. If he has undesignedly given some occasion for them, he amends the fault; if he deserves them not, he regards them as little. He is contented with his condition, if it be tolerable; and, therefore, he finds satisfaction in all that is good, and overlooks, and in some measure escapes, all that is inconvenient in it. He has a due sense of his unworthiness and defects; by which he is taught to bear calamities with patience and submission, and thereby to soften their harsh nature, and to allay their violence.
7. Lastly: from the account which we have given of humility, we may draw this conclusion, that it is not, as the haughty are inclined to imagine, an unmanly and sordid disposition. It is indeed a virtue so remote from meanness of spirit, that it is no bad sign of a great and exalted mind. On the contrary, if we would know what meanness of spirit is, and how it acts, let us look for it amongst the proud and insolent, and we shall not lose our labour.
(J. Jortin, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
WEB: Likewise, you younger ones, be subject to the elder. Yes, all of you clothe yourselves with humility, to subject yourselves to one another; for "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."