"Let him that would be greatest among you be servant
of all....One is your master, even Christ, and all
ye are brethren."—Matt. 23:10,11.
Pride is selfishness gone to seed. The selfish spirit greedily gathers to itself as much as possible of all that it esteems good and valuable—wealth, learning, honor, fame and distinction among men. A measure of success in the acquisition of these treasures further leads the selfish soul to a feeling of self-complacency, independence and indifference to the well-being of others, which, gradually but rapidly developing into arrogant and self-assertive pride, will continue to ripen with every gleam of the sunlight of temporal prosperity. As selfishness continues to ripen it swells itself to ridiculous proportions and delights to vaunt itself, and gloats over its imagined importance and worthiness of honor and praise.
Who can love such a disposition? It is utterly unworthy in all eyes save its own. No wonder, then, that it is written, "God resisteth the proud and giveth his favors to the humble." And again, "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." How could it be otherwise? for these inflated values must at some time come down to a solid [R1487 : page 5] basis: wind will not always pass current for worth, and the punctured bubbles of earthly vanity will reveal the true status of every individual. And well will it be in the cases of those in whom the humbling realization does not awaken a spirit of rebellion and strife against God, which must inevitably end either in contrition or in destruction.
How much easier and how much wiser is the course of humility. The humble spirit seeketh not its own, is not puffed up, and does not attempt to speculate on inflated values, does not think of self more highly than it ought to think, but thinks soberly—neither overrating nor underrating its own acquirements or achievements. Humility strives always to do business on a solid basis, though it strives lawfully to acquire a real worthiness and to achieve the true glory of the divine commendation and favor.
The man who underrates his worth comes much nearer the truth than the man who overrates; for the fact is that no member of the [R1487 : page 6] fallen race, however favorably he may compare with some of his fellows more bruised by the fall, has anything whereof to boast. Consider, for instance, how meager is the aggregate of human knowledge in every direction. As a race we are unable to trace our own history for centuries from the beginning, or to account for our origin, or to prognosticate our destiny. We are unable to fully comprehend the deep philosophy of our physical and mental organisms. There are mysteries within us and all around us which the wisest men cannot fathom; and only those narrow souls whose world of thought is bounded by the horizon of their own temporal interests ever vaunt their learning or wisdom, or feel that they have aught of which to boast. Their fellow-men may call them great and wise and reverend, but they know too well how small and ignorant they are and how unworthy of reverence, realizing that beyond the ken of their short vision are vast unexplored fields of knowledge. The truly noble soul feels humbled upon the borders of the vast unknown, thankfully accepts the divine revelation as to his nature, origin, destiny, etc., and patiently awaits the Lord's good time for a fuller understanding of all the mysteries of his wondrous grace. Pride of wealth or of fame is of still more ignoble character. Wealth selfishly hoarded and enjoyed certainly adds no degree of merit to the possessor, whether he inherited or acquired it; and fame among fallen men only proves that he who gained it has not to any considerable extent outstripped the popular limit of advancement. At best he is only abreast of his times. The man who has outstripped the current of popular thought is never a popular or famous man. Every such one has had to attest his true moral courage by facing popular opposition and enduring the popular reproach; or, in other words, by humbling himself.
In view of these considerations we see how just and wise is the divine rule for abasing the proud and exalting the humble, and how sound our Lord's counsel to his disciples, to cultivate the spirit of humility and to avoid even the appearance of pride. Observing the growth and manifestation of this spirit among the Pharisees, who did all their works to be seen of men, who loved the uppermost rooms at feasts and the chief seats in the synagogues, and to be called of men Rabbi, Rabbi, he said, "But be not ye called Rabbi; for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren"—or, in the language of to-day, Be not ye called Reverend Doctors of Divinity, and let there be no distinctions of clergy and laity; for one is your truly reverend Lord and instructor, even Christ, and all ye are brethren. "Let him that would be greatest among you be servant of all;" for the divine rule is that "whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted."
God's plan, viewed as a whole, shows that the exaltation of any individual or class of his creatures is always for the purpose of blessing others who are not so exalted. Thus, for instance, the exaltation of our Lord Jesus and his Church is for the blessing of all others; so also was the election and special favor to Israel to result in blessings to the nations not so favored.
Such a rule, it will readily be seen, is the prompting of the highest benevolence and of the fatherly love of God for all his creatures of every name and order, and manifests the depth of his wisdom as well as his love, both in rewarding the truly worthy and in bringing righteous and benevolent power forward for the accomplishment of righteous and benevolent ends. Thus in benevolent service and mutual love he will in due time bind together in one the whole family in heaven and in earth, through the mediation and service of the greatest of all servants, Jesus Christ.
Let us heed this counsel of the Master, and let us humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt us in due time. (1 Pet. 5:6.) We have already done so to some extent in refusing to own as our masters the various heads of the great nominal church. We own neither Luther, nor Calvin, nor Knox, nor Wesley, nor Campbell, nor any other man or body of men, as our master; nor do we own the pope of Rome as our pope, our Father: God is our father, and his anointed Son is our Lord and head. To them, and not to our brethren, let us look for the reward of faithfulness: "For," says the Apostle (Heb. 6:10), "God [R1487 : page 7] is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love which ye have shown toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister."
It is indeed no easy matter to tread the pathway of humility, to continually check the human aspirations and to keep the sacrifice on the altar until it is fully consumed. But thus it is that we are to work out our own salvation to the high calling with fear and trembling, lest we come short of worthiness for the prize of the high calling promised to the faithful overcomers who tread closely in the footsteps of our blessed Forerunner,—who was meek and lowly of heart.—Phil. 2:8,12.
It is when we are thus humble and faithful that the Lord makes us his chosen vessels to bear his name to others. Thus emptied of self, he can fill us with his spirit and with his truth, and we can go forth strong in the Lord of hosts and in his mighty power to do valiant service as soldiers of the cross.
If you sit down at set of sun,
And count the acts that you have done,
And, counting, find
One self-denying act, one word
That eased the heart of him who heard,
One glance most kind,
That fell like sunshine where it went—
Then you may count that day well spent.
But if, through all the livelong day,
You've cheered no heart by yea or nay;
If through it all
You've nothing done that you can trace,
That brought the sunshine to one face;
No act most small,
That helped some soul at trifling cost—
Then count that day as worse than lost.