ON THE SCHOOL OF HUMILITY
Consider first, that the school in which we are to learn true humility is the serious consideration and true knowledge of God and of ourselves. To know God and to know ourselves is the true science of the saints. These two branches of Christian knowledge usually go hand-in-hand, and mutually promote and assist one another. The more we know our God, and the infinity of all his perfections, the more sensible we are of our own demerit, and of our total dependence on him; and the more we know ourselves and all our miseries and sins, the more clearly we perceive that God alone is good, and that he is infinitely good in bearing with us. Here we learn true humility, because here we learn to annihilate ourselves in the sight of that infinite majesty in whose presence the whole universe dwindles away to a mere nothing, and both heaven and earth quite disappear. here we learn to ascribe all good to this sovereign good, and nothing of good to ourselves. Here we learn to descend even beneath ourselves, by the consideration of our sins, and of the hell we have deserved by them. Here, in fine, we learn to have so great a sense of our manifold miseries and sins, as to keep our eyes only open to our own defects, and shut to those of others: and by that means we learn to despise no one but ourselves, and to prefer all others before ourselves.
Consider 2ndly, O my soul, and in order to acquire a more perfect knowledge of thyself, that so thou mayest always be little and humble, take a more particular review of thy whole self, and seriously reflect on what thou art, both as a mortal and as a sinner: that thy extraction is from nothing; that thou wast conceived and born in sin; that thou art perpetually liable to innumerable miseries, both of soul and body; that all thy powers and faculties are strangely impaired and disordered by sin; that thou art ever prone to evil, and hard to be brought to good; that thy passions are headstrong and rebellious; thy affections ever bent upon vain toys and lying fooleries; and thy thoughts, words, and actions full of corruption. In the meanwhile thy time is hastening on without intermission to its last period; death is following close at thy heels, and shall quickly overtake thee, and send away this body of thine, which thou art so fond of, to the food of maggots and worms, and thy poor soul to another world, to be tried there at an unerring tribunal, under a dreadful uncertainty, whether she shall not be delivered up an eternal prey to merciless devils. And is it possible that we should be sensible of all these humbling truths, and should seriously reflect on them, and yet be proud?
Consider 3rdly, that amongst all these humbling considerations that which ought most effectually to abate, or rather quite to beat down our pride, is the remembrance of our sins, and what we have deserved for them. Ah! wretched creature that I am, I have been guilty of mortal sin, of high treason against my God, and that perhaps a thousand times; and consequently I have deserved a thousand hells; and what can I have to be proud of? Ah! what a wretched figure did my soul then make in the sight of God and his angels! How odious, how filthy, how abominable was she all that time! And is she not so still? She stood then condemned to hell; and has that sentence ever been reversed? What pretensions then can I have to any honour, esteem, or regard from any one? What title to any favour from God or man? What just reason to complain, if even all God's creatures should combine against me, to revenge upon me the wrong done to their creator; and should tread me under their feet, to punish the pride by which I have lifted up my head against the Almighty? What would all this be in comparison with my deserts? How then shall I dare to entertain any proud thought, either of conceit of myself, or of seeking to be esteemed by others, or of resenting affront, contradiction, or contempt from any man; since I have no title to any thing else but hell! And what room can there be for glorifying thee?
Conclude daily to frequent this school of humility, by studying well to know thy God and to know thyself: this kind o science is infinitely more to thy purpose than all other arts and sciences put together; all which, indeed, would only serve to puff thee up and to betray thee to thy mortal enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil, if not accompanied with the knowledge of God and of thyself.