Thursday, 10 May 2007

Jonathan Edwards on true humility

Edwards in the Religious Affections discusses what he calls the difference between 'Evangelical' and counterfeit humility.

He argues that legal humiliation brings despair, but the self is not truly bowed, nor subdued. There is no real humility or mortification in the heart (i.e. the wicked at the judgement will see their sin but will have no motification in their heart)
On the other hand, evangelical humility sees the odiousness of sin itself, it exalts God alone, it involves emptying oneself and entails denial of the world.

Real humility is the one thing hypocrites fail in. Edwards warns us to beware expressions of humility that do not bring broken heart! “There are many full of expressions of their own vileness, who yet expect to be looked upon as eminent and bright saints by others as their due..” He comments that there are ‘Christians’ who will say that they are sinful, but if you actually rebuke them and tell them so they are very hurt.

Edwards says that we are often most proud when we think we are most humble. So amidst outward displays of humility, one actually thinks highly of one's own attainments in religion as compared to others. The secret language of the heart says “I am an eminent saint.” For such people, it is natural that they are masters in matters of religion. They think they have great experiences and are proud about them.

But true holiness means that I esteem others better than myself. This brings a serene inward disposition. Such a person does not think it natural to take the part of a teacher – they think others should do it. They are more eager to hear than to instruct, They do not speak with a masterly, bold air but they speak with trembling. They do not assume authority, but subject themselves to others. They see their own sin.

True experience of God is always broken-hearted joy.