Humility Explained, and its Necessity Enforced
James 4:8
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded.

Humility stands opposed to pride. And as pride consists in our entertaining higher ideas of ourselves than truth will warrant, and in our presuming upon these, both in feeling and in practice, as if they were just and correct, so humility consists in our entertaining accurate notions of what we really are in relation to some one above us, and in preserving that station which a regard to our real merits requires us to occupy, as to the sentiments we cherish and the conduct we maintain, with respect to those under whom we are placed. The humility inculcated in my text is humility in reference, not to another creature more exalted than ourselves, but to God, who is immeasurably exalted above all creatures. And in this simple relation, even though we had done nothing to offend Him, humility is at once graceful and necessary; for, as we owe everything to Him, and as we depend upon Him for everything, it would be presumptuous, undutiful, to have one thought towards Him or to make one movement before Him, which proceeded on the supposition that we were not so indebted and so dependent. But the humility enjoined upon us not only respects our relation to God as His creatures, whose every faculty must be traced to Him — it also respects our relation to Him as His sinful creatures — who are thus removed at a still greater distance from Him than they naturally were, and liable to His high and holy indignation. When we exhort you to be humble, we do not exhort you to think yourselves worse or meaner than you really are. We only exhort you to form a just and precise valuation of what you really are, as compared with what you ought to be, according to the rule which has been Divinely enacted, and to maintain the conduct which such an appreciation is calculated to produce. And this exhortation is highly important in the first place, because, unless we have just notions of what we are as sinners, we can neither perceive the value, nor be prepared for the reception of any scheme that may be devised for our deliverance; and in the second place, because, among the principles of our fallen nature, pride is that which has perhaps the greatest ascendancy over our minds, and prevents us from giving heed to those considerations which go to determine what we really are, and by doing so, to fix us at our proper level. The great and vital fact with respect to you is, that you are stained with sin. There may be an endless variety in the mode and in the measure of sinning with which different individuals are chargeable. Do not suppose that you have any refuge in the paucity of your misdeeds. It is the nature of sin itself, and not its multiplicity merely, which subjects you to degradation. It is its power in the soul, and not its actual and manifold exhibition in the outward conduct, by which you are debased. But which of you can venture to say that your transgressions are few in number? Consider the extent — the strictness — the spirituality of that law to which you are subject. That is the measure of your sinfulness; and if your humility should be in proportion to your sinfulness, what limit can be set to it? Humility, however, is so mortifying to the human mind, that before it can obtain a settlement there, every attempt is made to discover reasons for believing that it is neither necessary nor appropriate. And one of the most common refuges in which the natural pride of man fortifies itself, is the self-righteous plea of what is called innocence and amiableness of character. Granting that you are as harmless as amiable, as deserving of esteem as you are thought to be, still it is all unavailing. The essential excellence of what is done by a moral agent, consists in its recognition of the existence, and in its submission to the will of Him who ruleth over all. And yet God has not been in all your thoughts, and God has not been in all your ways. And the pervading guilt which such a consideration throws into it is incalculably aggravated by your not only resting upon its merits with satisfaction, but actually supposing it sufficient to secure the favour of that very Being whom it has so dishonoured, neglected, and disowned. But we must not neglect to remind you of that affecting display of the evil of sin, and of the degradation of the sinner, as these appear in the sight of the Lord which has been made in the Cross of Christ. Could such a sacrifice as this, think you, have been demanded by "the Father of mercies," the possessor of infinite wisdom, the God of righteousness and justice, if it had not been necessary for the purpose for which it was required — the expiation of human guilt, and the deliverance of those to whom it attached, from the degradation and the ruin into which it had brought them? Had we nothing more to tell you than that you are sinners, it would only fill you with mortification, hopelessness, and anguish. But after having told you all that we can add intelligence as pleasing as that which went before it was painful. We can speak of blessings that are to follow in its train, and that are sufficient to compensate you a thousand-fold for all the distress which may have been inflicted upon your feelings by our delineations of the abject state to which you are reduced as transgressors. We would persuade you to humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, that He may, in consequence, "lift you up." This is the arrangement established by the Author of salvation. The humility that is enjoined is connected with the privilege that is to follow it, in another way than that of either natural or acquired right. The connection is just as necessary, but it is of a different kind. When the sinner is made humble, he is merely undergoing a part of that moral process which must take place, in order that he may be raised from the death of sin to the life of holiness and peace. If you feel and cherish that humbleness of mind which just conceptions of your guilty and depraved and wretched condition are calculated to generate; and if in the midst of this self-reproach you are ready to throw your fortunes unreservedly upon the merits of that dispensation which Divine grace offers to you as your all-sufficient refuge, then there is no insuperable barrier between you and the salvation which you need. The devices of God's wisdom become acceptable to you, the offers of His mercy become welcome to you, the hopes of His favour become precious to you, the whole manifestation of His redeeming love becomes available to you.

(A. Thomson, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

WEB: Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Drawing Near to God
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