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gave it. The man of the world esteems it a mean and poor-spirited quality; at best, only the virtue of feeble minds.
Let us consider, my brethren, the reasons why so much importance is given to humility in the christian system, and see, whether instead of being, as the world regards it, unworthy of a noble and generous mind, it may not be shown to be in its origin among the most exalted, and in its nature among the most indispensable of all the virtues.
The reason why the true dignity of the christian grace of humility is not universally acknowledged, is, that men do not attend to its origin. Humility supposes an act of comparison, and does, I admit, imply a sense of inferiority and unworthiness. But how broad and evident is the distinction between this quality, and every thing like meanness and abjectness of mind. A man is not humble because he submits patiently to disgrace, which he has not dignity enough to avoid, nor spirit enough to resent. He is not humble because all his desires, when compared with those of his fellow-men, are grovelling and low, and all his powers narrow and debased. The very reverse of this is true. A christian is made humble, not so much by comparing himself with others, as by comparing himself with his duty; not by thinking of what he is, but of what he ought to be; not by considering whether he is little or great, when compared with others, but remembering that he is nothing, when compared with
perfect excellence. A christian, then, is humbler than another man, not because his views are meanspirited and low, but because he measures himself by a high standard; because his ideas of excellence are lofty and distinct ; because his conceptions of duty are noble and exalted; because, in fine, he measures himself, not so much with the frail beings around him, as with that image of perfection, which his spotless Master has left for his imitation.
True it is, that a man of genuine humility often makes a lowly contrast of himself with his fellowmen, and esteems others better than himself. But this is rather the effect of his humility, than the original cause, and arises also from the superiority of his views. It is because he knows himself better than he can know any other man; because he is so deeply impressed with his own unworthiness ; because he values so little all that he has already attained, compared with that after which he aspires ; because he is willing to believe the hearts of others purer, and their views of religion more sublime, than his own.
His humility however does not blind him to his real character, and still less does it lead him to an affected ignorance of what every one else perceives. He is not insensible of the real elevation which his talents or virtues may give him ; but this conviction of superiority is only the calm inference of his understanding, and not, like vanity or pride, a busy importunate passion of the heart.
Compare then the proud man with the man of humility, and tell me, which is the more dignified being. Pride, like humility, supposes an act of comparison. But the comparison of the proud man is not between himself and the standard of his duty; between what he is and what he ought to be; but between himself and his fellow-men. He looks around him, forgets his own defects and weakness, infirmities and sins, and because he finds, or imagines he finds, in some respects, a little superiority to his fellow men-at the greatest it can be but a little—because he, one worm of the dust, believes himself to be somewhat more rich, more learned, more successful than another, he thinks this to be a sufficient ground for swelling with selfcomplacency, and regarding those around him with disdain and contempt.
The humble man, on the contrary, is so full of the thought of the exceeding breadth of the commandments of God, and of that supreme excellence to which his religion teaches him to aspire ; and he so constantly recollects the imperfection of his approaches to it, that every idea of a vain-glorious comparison of himself with his neighbour dies away within him. He can only remember that God is every thiny, and that in his august presence, all distinctions are lost, and all human beings reduced to the same level. Say then, my
friends, is it not pride that is so mean, so poorspirited and low; is it not pride that is a mark of a little and narrow and feeble mind; and is not hu
mility alone the truly noble, the truly generous and sublime quality ?
There is this farther proof of the superior elevation of the humble man. The man of pride, with all his affected contempt of the world, must evidently estimate it very highly; else whence so much complacency at the idea of surpassing others ? Whence that restless desire of distinction, that
passion for theatrical display, which inflames his heart and occupies his whole attention? Why is it that his strongest motive to good actions is their notoriety, and that he considers every worthy deed as lost, when it is not publickly displayed ? It is only because the world, and the world's applause are every thing to him ; and that he cannot live but on the breath of popular favour. But the humble man, with all his real lowliness, has yet risen above the world. He looks for that honour, which cometh down from on high, and the whispers of worldly praise die away upon his ear.
When his thoughts return from the contemplation of the infinite excellence of God and the future glories of virtue, the objects of this life appear reduced in their importance; in the same way, as the landscape around appears little and low to him, whose eye has been long directed to the solemn grandeur and wide magnificence of the starry heavens.
I appeal to you, my friends, to decide on the comparative dignity of the characters of the proud and the humble man, I call on you to say, whether our blessed
Master has given to humility too high a rank in the scale of excellence.
But this quality, despised by the world, and so little regarded by the moralists of antiquity as that it is doubtful whether the Romans had a word to express it, is yet as indispensable as it is dignified. It must be at the basis of all goodness. Piety and benevolence can exist in their purity only in the breast of a humble man. Among the essential constituents of piety are reverence and gratitude. But if you consider what it is to revere and be grateful to God, you will see that no one but a humble man can do either. Reverence in its nature implies an acknowledgment of superiority in any being to whom we give it; and when it is given to God in its purity, this superiority is perceived to be so infinite, that all comparison ceases, and all human claims fade and disappear. We feel that in comparison with God, the noblest being to whom he has given existence, yea, all that the universe embraces, all that we can conceive of great and good, all, when compared with Him, sink into unimportance. How much more insignificant, then, is man, at his fairest estate; man, the child of frailty, error and sin; man, that fades before the moth, that drinketh iniquity like water; that is born of dust and kindred to the grave! Now is it conceivable, that a man should habitually cherish these thoughts of the grandeur of God and his own feebleness, without having every emotion of arro