Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Christian Spirit Is a Humble Spirit

In the sixth sermon of his famous sermon series on 1 Corinthians 13—Charity and Its Fruits—Jonathan Edwards preached on verses 4–5 and humility. The doctrine of the sermon is this: "a Christian spirit is a humble spirit." And then Edwards defines what humility is.

He says, "Humility may be defined to be a sense of our own comparative meanness, with a disposition to a behavior answerable thereto."

And then he unpacks this by speaking to its primary relationship and to the phenomenon of false humility:
Humility does primarily consist in a sense of [one's] own meanness as compared with God or a sense of the infinite distance between God and us. . . . There is no true humility without this. However sensible persons may be of their meanness as compared with some of their fellow creatures, yet there is no true humility without a sense of their meanness before God. 
Some men seem to have a low opinion of themselves as compared with other men from melancholy, or from the meanness of their circumstances, or from their natural constitution, or from some other cause, who know nothing of that infinite distance which is between God and them; and therefore, though men may be ready to look upon them as humble-spirited men, yet they have no true humility; for that which above all other things concerns us to know of ourselves is what we are before God. . . . And if we are ignorant of our meanness as compared with him, the most essential thing and that which is original in true humility is wanting. 
—Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings (vol. 8 in the Works of Jonathan Edwards; ed. Paul Ramsey; New Haven: Yale University, 1989), 233–235.

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