Discretion shall preserve you, understanding shall keep you:
This is the first sought and last won of the Christian graces. Such are the difficulties in the acquisition of humility that it is but seldom really found. It is a common want of the present day. See the ordinary courtesy of modern society. See the special snare in intellectual careers. In both of these provinces of life especial discouragement has been given during the recent period to the growth in us of true humility.
I. ABJECTNESS IS NOT HUMILITY. Depression, abasement, humiliation, by no means exhaust all the commutation of this well-known Christian term. Abjectness and humility may have some features in common. But humility presupposes a soaring spirit. The calm dignity of Christian holiness must rest behind. This lovely grace assists and furthers genuine aspirations. Our Lord made three contributions to the science of ethics, and each of them bore the impress of the Cross — humility, faith, love. These, at least, He lifted into places of high importance. Our Lord places humility in the very front of His teaching. See sermons on the mount and on the plain. There is nothing vain or false in humility. "Humility is the hall-mark of wisdom."
II. THE BEGINNINGS OF HUMILITY MUST BE MADE IN CAREFUL SELF-REPRESSION. We are so much bound up with ourselves that we cannot come to a just and fair estimate of our own affairs without rejecting a vast amount of the suggestions and insinuations that we make to ourselves. Self-abnegation may, in becoming habitual, cast off all consciousness. Repentance must begin with humiliation. There can be no contrition without humility. The difficulty is to get this feeling the permanent posture of the soul. Here we must depend upon the action of conscience. The following are some of the provinces in which we have to exercise self-repression.
1. Good-fortune, successes, advancement, commendation, praise, bring a too satisfied sense of our own exaltation.
2. Success is said to try humility, misfortune to produce it. "We can hardly learn humility and tenderness enough except by suffering."
3. Think of the wrath, quarrels, and resentments which arise from nervous anxiety about ourselves and our position. Bishop Wilson says, "He that is truly humble never thinks himself wronged."
4. Humility often seems persistently to fly away from the intellectual life.
III. HUMILITY REQUIRES US TO FIX OUR ATTENTIONS UPON PEOPLE AND THINGS OUTSIDE OF OURSELVES. This includes a steady posture of reverence. The reverent life confers grace and refinement upon our characters. It constitutes the inextinguishable charm of religion. In the practice of the reverent life we have the conscious cultivation of humility. We move out of self-contemplation and self-pleasing into the higher region of sacrifice, and into the dignity of giving, in offering homage to the Almighty God, and in according attention to other people.
IV. HUMILITY IS REGULATED BY OUR DEPORTMENT TOWARDS TRUTH. True humility is marked by a simplicity of mind from which self is banished. Disorderly introspection is morbid and unwholesome. But humility is difficult to attain. It is scarcely possible until the character is thoroughly settled to avoid an amount of self-consciousness which is inconsistent with real humility. There is indeed much intellectual as well as moral weakness that stands in the way of acquiring humility. Besides the want of the power of concentration, there is generally a lack of imagination. See illustration in our Lord's life of humility with aspiration in it.
1. The lofty aspirations and the soaring aims of our Lord were never laid aside by Him, but they were kept in the background.
2. With what consistency did He repress Himself, and how thoroughly His teaching coincided with His example!
3. He showed reverence towards all. His respect for men is most touching.
4. What self-sacrifice and neglect of self are visible throughout His career! No labour is ever too much for Him. He was always ready at the call of duty. Does the way of humility still seem hard? There, on that hill outside Jerusalem, at the foot of that Cross which is set up towards heaven, drawing all men unto it, we may come to learn what we can learn nowhere else — how to lower our pride, and to foster humility in our souls.
(Edward Miller, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee: