Romans 12:3

The subject of union among the various branches of the Church of Christ is one to which much attention has of late years been turned. The efforts of the Evangelical Alliance have been largely directed to secure a more brotherly relationship and more hearty co-operation between the different denominations of Christians. Some Christians desire an organic union of all sections of the Church, but the passage before us indicates that there may be outward diversity along with inward and real unity.

I. DIVERSITY AND UNITY IN THE BODY. "We have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office" (ver. 4). There we have diversity. What diversity there is between the organs of hearing and seeing, tasting and touching, speaking and smelling! What a complex organism is that of heart and brain, and veins and arteries, and nerves and sinews! Yet there too we have unity. There is one body. One life throbs in all the parts.

II. DIVERSITY AND UNITY IN THE CHURCH. "So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another" (ver. 5). There we have diversity. There is room for diversity in the Church of Christ - for varied forms of worship, for varied views of doctrine, for varied methods of Church government. A dull uniformity is undesirable. "Acts of Uniformity" only made more diversity, and produced discord instead of unity. When the Church of England had no room for John Wesley, she only prepared the way for a larger secession from the ranks of her membership. So, too, in individual congregations, there is room for varied gifts and activities. There, also, we have unity. "One body, and every one members one of another." There is the unity of the Spirit, the unity that arises from the common bond of faith in Christ and love to him, of obedience to the same Divine law, and of the inspiring hope of the same heaven.


1. A lesson of humility. "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly' (ver. 3). The recognition of the fact that there are varied gifts in the Church of Christ will prevent any one from being unduly proud of any gifts he may possess, or any work he may have done. All the members of the body have need of one another. There is a place for the humble and unlearned workers in the Church of Christ, just as much as for the wealthy and the cultured and the learned.

2. A lesson of concentration. Division of labour and concentration of individuals upon particular branches is one of the great principles of modern manufacturing and commerce. St. Paul applies the same principle to Christian work. "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation; he that giveth, let him do it with liberality; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness." There are three special spheres of Christian work.

(1) Teaching. Under this head may be comprised what the apostle speaks of as "prophecy," "teaching," "exhortation." This is the work of ministers of the gospel, of professors in colleges, of teachers in daily schools and in Sunday schools. There could be no more important work than that of instructing others, moulding immortal souls, inspiring old and young with the power of great principles. When Socrates was asked why he did not commit to writing his philosophic opinions and teachings, his answer was, "I write upon human souls. That writing will last eternally." How important that all who engage in any department of teaching should realize the abiding consequences of their work, and should devote their best energies to it!

(2) Ruling. There must of necessity be authority and discipline in the Christian Church. Impenitent offenders against Christian morality need to be excluded. Differences of opinion or quarrels between brethren need to be wisely considered, and breaches healed. How necessary that those who are placed in positions of authority should rule "with diligence," realizing their high responsibility to preserve the peace and maintain the purity of the Church of Christ!

(3) Giving. Under this head may be included not only what is here called "giving," but also those branches spoken of as "ministering" and "showing mercy." Christians who are not teachers or rulers ought at least to be givers. If they have money to give for Christ's cause, let them give it, and give it, too, with liberality, in no selfish and in no miser spirit. Every Christian can give something for the building up of the Church of Christ. We can give our time. We can give our attention to the poor, to the sick, to the stranger. Let Christians remember that in the natural body there are no useless or idle members. Each member has its own distinct function. So is it in the Christian Church. There is some special work for every one to do. - C.H.I.

For I say... to every man.., not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think.

1. Our knowledge (Jeremiah 9:23; 1 Corinthians 8:1). We know little either in —

(1)Naturals, of which we know but few, and then largely by conjectures.

(2)Spirituals. We know but little of God (Hosea 4:1; Jeremiah 9:3); of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:2); of our souls; of our estate as to God (2 Corinthians 13:5); as to the world to come, and all knowledge we owe to God (Matthew 11:25).

2. Our gifts.

(1)None can perform their duty aright (Ecclesiastes 7:20; 2 Corinthians 3:5).

(2)What gifts we have we are bound to God for (1 Corinthians 4:7).

(3)We can do no good with it without God (John 15:5; 1 Corinthians 3:6).

3. Our graces.

(1)Few have all.

(2)Those we have are imperfect (Philippians 3:11-13).

(a)Love to God (Matthew 22:37).

(b)Faith in Christ (Luke 17:5).

(c)Repentance of sin (2 Corinthians 7:10).

(d)Justice to our neighbour (Matthew 7:12).

(e)Charity to the poor (1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 9:6).(3) If we think too highly of them, they are no true graces (Matthew 11:29; 1 Timothy 1:15; Ephesians 3:8).


1. Of strength (Jeremiah 9:23),

(1)Wherein the beasts excel us.

(2)Whereof we may any moment be deprived (Isaiah 2:22).

2. Of riches.

(1)Which cannot make us happy.

(2)But keep us from happiness (Matthew 19:23, 26).

(3)Which we must part with before we can be eternally happy.

3. Honours.

(1)Which depend on the thoughts of others.

(2)May deprive us of true honours (John 12:43).


1. Towards God (Micah 6:8; Isaiah 57:17; Isaiah 66:2). Considering —

(1)How many sins you are guilty of (Psalm 19:12).

(2)How many you are defiled with (Isaiah 1:5, 6).

2. Towards men. Consider —

(1)You know not but they are better and more dear to God than yourselves (Romans 14:3, 4; Philippians 2:3).

(2)If you excel them in some things, they may excel you in others (ver. 4).

(3)The more proud you are, the less cause have you to be proud; pride causing —

(a)Division among men (Proverbs 13:10).

(b)Separation from God (1 Peter 5:5).

(Bp. Beveridge.)

I. IN THE WORK OF MUTUAL MINISTRY WITHIN THE CHURCH THERE IS SOMETHING:FOR EVERY MEMBER TO PERFORM. The appeal is "to every man that is among you." The Church is "one body in Christ," "every one" being a "member" of some kind, and having his proper office. Every member, organ, nerve, vein, bone, ligament has its proper function in the natural body; and as soon as any one fails, there ensues that disturbance of the harmonic activity which we call disease. In the Church, Christ is the Head, the Centre of life, intelligence, and authority, and His Holy Spirit the organic principle. But every individual believer has his own proper sphere of influence and activity for the general good (Ephesians 4:15, 16). If he neglects that ministry, not only will he himself suffer damage or excision, but the body also will suffer loss thereby.

II. IN ORDER THAT EVERY MAN MAY DO HIS OWN PROPER WORK, HE MUST FORM A SOBER, PRACTICAL ESTIMATE OF HIS OWN ABILITY. The work must be thoughtfully done. But the thought, to be productive, must be sober. The worker is admonished "not to be high-minded above that which he ought to he minded, but to be so minded as to be sober-minded." For —

1. If a man thinks more highly of himself than he ought to think, he will probably despise the service to which the Master has called him, and seek to undertake work for which be has not the adequate powers. This will, in all likelihood, be marred, and himself humiliated, while that will fall to more worthy hands. All such aspiring persons world do well to ponder the warning words (Mark 10:43-45). In Christ's Church the surest way towards honourable promotion is that of prompt, earnest, humble service in that which is close at hand.

2. If a man under-estimates his ability, and thinks that he can do nothing, or nothing of profit to the Master, then he will do nothing, and the Church will lose his service and he will lose his reward (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27). Therefore —

3. The apostle supplies a standard for the measurement of thought in the work of self-estimation. Let every man "think soberly, according as God has dealt to every man the measure of faith" — i.e., the confidence which a man has in Christ, and in himself by the grace of Christ, that he has competent ability for service. The man who has faith in himself generally succeeds; while a better man, if full of doubt and hesitation, fails. I must not so under-estimate my gifts as to decline any service; for some power has most certainly been imparted. But I must not attempt service for which I am unfit in the fanatical confidence that I shall obtain supernatural aid. Nor need I stand in doubt as to whether or not I have a Divine call to the work; the ability and opportunity ought to be sufficient.


1. The ministry of the Word: he that "prophesieth," "teacheth," "exhorteth." The New Testament prophet was pre-eminently the preacher: and he must preach or prophesy according to the proportion of faith. But there are those who are not called to this ministry, who can nevertheless speak words of warning, exhortation, or comfort, either in the intercourse of daily life, the prayermeeting, or the village sanctuary; and any Church which does not encourage these gifted ones is sadly defective. There are others again who, though neither apt to exhort, nor able to preach, have, notwithstanding, the gift of teaching. They can instruct in the Sabbath school. Let none of these neglect the gift that is in him. Let none ambitiously aspire to an office for which he is not equal; and, on the other hand, let none refuse to employ his one talent because he has not more and higher gifts.

2. There is also the ministry of finance and benevolence. That the apostle here speaks of the official diaconate is morally certain, because that it is mentioned in the midst of other offices which are expressly specified as such (1 Corinthians 12:28-30). To them, therefore, would fall the work of superintending and directing the active charities of the Church. He who gave would be, not the disburser of, but the contributor to, the relief fund; and he who showed mercy might be either a person appointed to the special work of relieving the sick and poor, or one who engaged in the good work out of his own impulse. These ministries; though not confined to official persons, were sanctioned by the properly appointed officers. Conclusion: Warning may be here given against two evils.

1. That of those who render very small, if any, service to the cause of Christ, but who criticise those who do. This is a crying evil, and a Christian ought to be ashamed of it.

2. That of over-estimating some particular department of service.

(W. Tyson.)

When persons are under the influence of wine, they often entertain the most extravagant notions of themselves, of which they are heartily ashamed when they come to their sober reason. And it is this figure latent that the apostle employs. Think not extravagantly well of yourselves. Form an estimate that is reasonable and in accordance with fact.

I. These words assume THAT MEN SHOULD HAVE SOME OPINION OF THEIR OWN CHARACTER AND WORTH, BUT THAT THEY ARE LIABLE TO FAULTY ESTIMATES. It is impossible not to have some opinion of one's self. And the only question is, whether it shall be an idea shaped according to good rules and through right influences, or whether it shall be casually left to chance feeling.

1. There be those who say that the best way to think of yourself is not to think at all; and there is a sense in which this is true. Men may think too much of themselves, on the one hand, and too little on the other. But these dangers do not take away the wisdom of attempting a correct judgment of ourselves. There is a duty of self-knowledge, for otherwise how shall one know whether he be following the commands of his Master, or simply the impulses of his own selfish nature? How shall there be aspiration? Is it needful for the husbandman to know the extent of his territory, and which part is rich and which part is poor, and is spiritual husbandry to be founded in pretentious ignorance? You are commanded to think in conformity with facts and things as they exist. Not that we should carry self-consciousness with us every hour, and attempt to keep our hand upon the pulse of the heart or of the life. Yet one may come to a general estimate that shall be the foundation of all the processes of moral culture which he is to follow out.

2. The measurements of feeling are to be avoided; and yet those are, in many instances, the only estimates which men make. If one be constitutionally proud, he thinks a hundred times better of himself than anybody else thinks of him. It is said that greatness of mind is inconsistent with vanity; but many men of eminent genius have been men of pre-eminent vanity.

3. The estimate of those qualities which suit our circle, and which reflect from it upon ourselves, is a false way of measuring. This is not having any knowledge of yourselves, but is simply knowing when you are pleased, without any regard to moral condition.

4. The measurement of ourselves simply in executive functions furnishes a very imperfect knowledge of what we really are. Men may have the most exaggerated ideas of their excellence or weakness who simply think of themselves as factors in society, as business men, etc. Skill is certainly a matter which a man ought not to be ashamed of, and which a man may sometimes well be proud of; but judging simply from this view is not enough. It is not wrong for a man to know whether he is a good lawyer or not. It is not necessary to humility that a man who stands second to none at the bar should say of himself, "I always feel myself to be a very poor lawyer!" A man has a right, and it is his duty, to think of himself as he is. This estimate is not incompatible with true humility. Indeed, it is indispensable to true humility. If God has given a man great power, must he make believe that he does not carry power? Must Milton, in order to be modest, believe that he did not speak in immortal numbers?

5. Men make a false estimate in judging of themselves also by selecting the best things in the best moods, and slurring over the rest. We select those excellencies which are apparent, and we usually exaggerate them. And we are inclined to omit co-ordinate qualities. If a man be strong, there are a thousand inflections of feeling which are not taken account of. He may be strong, but not gentle. A man has a blunt lip, and calls it honesty, fidelity to the truth. But where are the co-ordinate qualities of meekness, gentleness and love? The virtues which we have not we do not usually require of ourselves. We leave out of view, too, the great evil tendencies which exist in us. Our characters are dressed for inspection, as apples are when they are sent to market. There are all sorts in the middle of the barrel, and the best ones are put on the top to face off with. We deceive ourselves, not only by arranging our good qualities in the most favourable manner, but by heightening their colour a little. You have seen apple-women take a cloth and rub their apples until every one of them shines, and put them in the most tempting aspects. And do not men do the same thing with their good qualities? If there is a speck, that is turned round inside; but you will find it out after you have bought the apple and cut it. I do not say that a man should make everything put on its worst face. I say simply this: Let every man think of himself as he ought to think. A man may think himself to be far better than he is by judicious selection. I have seen my garden when the season was empty of flowers, and yet, by a skilful garnering from this nook and that, I could gather a handful of flowers that would lead to the supposition that the garden was in its summer glory. A man may select good qualities in himself and make up a bouquet of his fancy, which shall make it seem as though it were a paradise there, by a judicious picking and arranging. But the great mistake which men make is that of selecting only the secondary elements of their character, and leaving out the primary ones. A symmetrical whole is very seldom thought of in self-estimation.

II. NO MAN KNOWS HOW TO MEASURE HIMSELF WHO HAS FAILED TO UNDERSTAND WHERE TRUE MANHOOD IS — where the diameter is — where the equator is. And this is what the apostle gives us: "I say to every man... to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith."

1. It is where the spiritual elements dwell in man, at that point where he understands and touches the divine, that you must measure him. You must measure, not your animal-hood, but your manhood. Now, if we over-reach our fellow-men, if we use them for our own purposes, we think ourselves strong and great men. But the feeling is malign and satanic. That only is Divine which seeks others' happiness, if need be at one's own expense. He who knows what conscience, faith, love, patience, and gentleness are, knows something about himself. And everybody is ignorant of himself who has not an estimate which is founded upon the gauge of these qualities.

2. Nor should we leave out the relation of man to the world to come. For a man may be very strong as regards this life, and very weak as regards the other life. And as we are here to prepare for the life to come, he misses his manhood and the significance of it who only lives for a time and is unfit to live for the spiritual and eternal. It is painful to think how much the grave strains out of that which men do and earn in this life. It is the work of men's hands that they are proud of mostly. But you shall take through the shadowy door nothing but what is spiritual; and how much of that have you to take through? If you were to efface from many men that which makes them great in influence in the day in which they live, then millionaires might come out paupers. And only he can measure himself aright who knows how much of himself he can carry through and beyond. "The last shall be first, and the first last."

3. Let every man, then, measure himself, not according to his vanity, but as under the eye of God. Let one think of himself as an heir of immortality; let him believe himself to be a son of God; and then let him apply to himself the measures which belong to this transcendent conception of life and of character. Measuring yourselves thus, you will not think of yourselves, more highly than you ought to. This is true humility. It is humility to think, not that you are less than somebody else, but that you are less than you ought to be.

(H. W. Beecher.)

1. It is a common observation that however forward men may be to repine at the unequal portion which God has allotted them of worldly blessings, yet they are generally well satisfied with their share of inward endowments: it being as hard to meet with a person who humbly thinks he has too little sense and merit, as it is to find one who fancies he has too great riches and honours. What makes men uneasy in their circumstances is that they are continually setting to view the bright side of themselves and the dark side of their condition in life; the first to find out their own grievances, and the last to discern their own faults and follies. Whereas if they took a contrary method they would perceive that God had been kinder to the worst of men than the very best of men could deserve.

2. Among the many imputations which we are willing to fasten upon these whom we have an aversion to, that of pride is, I think, one of the most common. Now, if we would examine the innermost recesses of the mind, I doubt we should often find that our own pride is the cause why we tax others with it. Men elate with the thoughts of their own sufficiency are ever imagining that others are wanting in their regard to them, and therefore very apt to conclude that pride must be the cause why they withhold from them that respect which they have an unquestioned right to in their own opinion.

I. THE NOTION OF PRIDE. Our happiness, as well as knowledge, arises from sensation and reflection, and may be reduced to these two articles, viz., that of pleasing sensations, and that of agreeable thoughts. Now as to a desire of indulging the former without check or control, are owing lust, drunkenness, and intemperance; so from a desire of indulging the latter beyond measure, pride takes its original. It does not consist, in the bare consciousness that we have some accomplishments, as, for instance, good sense, beauty, great abilities; but in that exultation of mind which is frequent upon that consciousness, unallayed by self-dissatisfaction arising from a survey of our sins and frailties. The difference between humility and pride consists in this, that the humble man, whatever talents he is possessed of, considers them as so many trusts reposed in him by God, which are so far from raising his pride that they excite his caution; as knowing that to "whom much is given, of him much will be required"; whereas the proud values himself as if he were not only the subject but the author of the good qualities, and so makes an idol of himself, instead of adoring and thanking God for them. Pride, then, is the thinking too highly of ourselves. To obviate mistakes it will be necessary to observe that pride is not merely to think favourably of ourselves; for then indeed pride, as some late authors have maintained, would be an universal vice, everybody being more or less biassed in his own favour. But pride is to think so favourably of ourselves as to exclude a modest diffidence of ourselves, and a salutary sense of the number of human frailties, the imperfection of our virtues, the malignity of our crimes, and our dependence on God for everything good in us and for us.

II. THE UNREASONABLENESS OF THIS VICE. Are we proud of riches? Riches cannot alter the nature of things, they cannot make a man worthy that is worthless in himself; they may command an insipid complaisance, a formal homage, and ceremonious professions of respect, and teach a servile world to speak a language foreign to their hearts; but where a largeness of soul is wanting they can never procure grateful sentiments and an undissembled love, the willing tribute of a generous heart to merit only. Do we value ourselves upon our power? No; what is remarked by somebody or other is a great truth, viz., that there is no good in power, but merely the power of doing good. Upon our worldly prudence? Those who are acquainted with history know how often the best-laid designs have proved abortive. Are you proud of your distinguished virtue? He who is proud of distinguished abilities, learning, and wealth, is not the less able, learned, and wealthy, because he is proud of them. But he who is proud of distinguished virtue ceaseth to be virtuous by his being so. For the man that is pleased with any degree of virtue, merely because it is uncommon, would be sorry if what he values himself upon as a singular mark of distinction should become common, and all mankind should rise to the same eminence as himself in morality. Now this temper argues a want of benevolence, and consequently of virtue. But if human virtue affords no just grounds for pride, much less does human knowledge, which bears no proportion to our ignorance. The greatest and the least objects equally baffle bur inquiries. True knowledge is one of the strongest fences against pride. When good sense and reason speak, they come like their great Author, God, in "the still small voice," without any empty voice or loquacity, or overbearing pretensions. And those who keep the best sense within seldom hang out the sign of knowledge. Men of this stamp will own their entire ignorance in many things and their imperfect knowledge in all the rest. Whereas the ignorant are sometimes positive in matters quite above their sphere, and, like some creatures, are the bolder for being blind. In a word, the ingenuous will confess the weakness of their reason, and the presumptuous betray it by their being so. After all, what signifies all the learning in the world without a just discernment and penetration? And what is the result of our penetration but that we see through the littleness of almost everything, and our own especially? That we discern, and are disgusted with, several follies and absurdities which are hid from persons of a slower apprehension? So that our superior sagacity resembles the pretended second-sightedness of some people, by which they are said to see several uncomfortable and dismal objects which escape the rest of the world. Some may perhaps value themselves upon the strength of their genius, the largeness of their heart, even as the sand upon the seashore, and the brightness of their parts. Alas! the strength of the passions, and the quickness of the appetites, generally keep pace with the brightness of the imagination. And hence it comes to pass that those who have, with an uncommon compass of thought, inculcated excellent rules of morality in their writings have sometimes broke through them all in their practice: the brightness of their parts enabling them to lay down fine precepts, and the strength of their passions tempting them to transgress them. To a man of strong sensations every delight that is gentle seems dull, and everything but what is high seasoned flat and tasteless. The consequence of which is, that, disdaining common blessings, and not able to enjoy himself without something out of the usual road, he overleaps these bounds which confine meaner mortals, and precipitates himself into an endless train of inconveniences. But let us suppose, what is not a very common case, that a brightness of imagination and a well-poised judgment are happily united in the same person; yet the brightest genius, the greatest man that ever lived may say, "O my God! that I live, and that I please, if ever I please, is owing to Thee. May it be, then, my uppermost view to do Thy pleasure, from whom I have the ability to please." Dost thou value thyself upon popular applause and a great name? Think how many that have made a distinguished figure in the world are dead and unregarded as if they never had been, their deaths unlamented, their vacancy filled up, their persons missed no more than a drop of water when taken from the whole ocean. And is it worth our while to strive to please a vain fantastic world which will soon disregard us and think itself full as well without us, instead of laying out our endeavours to please that Almighty Being whose inexhaustible power and goodness will make His servants happy to all eternity?

(J. Seed, M.A.)

1. Whatever is important is difficult. And it is exceedingly important and difficult to every man to take a right estimate of himself.

2. The cause of this difficulty is —

(1)That a man's mind is too near a man's mind for a man's mind to see it clearly:

(2)That in this court the judge, the witness, and the person examined are all one and the same. Note —


1. Of over-estimating ourselves.

(1)A man lives so much with himself and in himself.

(2)Or is so fond of comparing himself with certain persons whom he likes to select for that purpose.

(3)Or is so apt to compare himself with what he used to be.

(4)Or is always seeing himself so entirely as a certain little loving circle sees him.

(5)Or takes himself at the measure of what he is always hoping and intending to be.

(6)Or has unworthy standards of what a man ought to be.

(7)Or is always so fixing his eyes on his good parts, and intentionally turning away from his bad ones.

2. Of depreciating ourselves. Many, no doubt, do this simply in affectation. They "think" proudly, while they speak humbly. But besides these, there are others who "think of themselves" in a way that —

(1)Is not true.

(2)Brings with it much depression and distress.

(3)Often incapacitates them for the very work which God sets them to do.

(4)This darkens the grace of God in them, and His purposes are frustrated.


1. Before God we are, all of us, utterly bad. There is nothing in us that comes up to His standard. The memory of the past is one great humiliation; the sense of the present is all conscious weakness; the anticipation of the future is overwhelming every man who sees only himself.

2. But we should come to a false conclusion if we rested here. In every one who is born of God there are now two natures. The old one is there to abase and confound all, to drive all to Jesus Christ. In this new nature there are numberless degrees. Either God has been pleased by His sovereignty to give to one man more than He has seen fit to give to another; or some have cultivated them more than others have; and so it comes to pass that there are real distinctions between man and man.(1) Now, with these distinctions God tells us that it is so far from being a proud or wrong thing that one man should be conscious that he has more than another, that no man can take a true view of himself, or be prepared for his duties in life, unless he takes it; because every man is to "think soberly" — i.e., accurately — of himself, "according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." We have all different degrees of everything in life. We have different degrees of stature, beauty, wealth, and intellectual gifts; and it would be utterly silly if a clever or rich man pretended to be ignorant of his superiority in these respects. Why then should it be less so with a man's spiritual possessions? Is not one man greater in his spiritual possessions than another? And are they not all equally the gifts of God?(2) And here I must put in a caution. We are never told to gauge other men's states, or to gauge ourselves in comparison to other men's states; but to gauge ourselves. Of course, it is impossible to do this altogether without reference to our fellow-creatures, for every man in this world is what he is comparatively to another; but we must not do it for the sake of comparison with a fellow-creature.(3) Every man's view of himself, then, is to be according to the facts of the case, neither degrading himself too low nor vaunting himself too high; but "thinking of himself" what he really is, and just as God has been pleased to make him.E.g. —(1) Your mind, perhaps, has been raising the question whether you are a child of God. Now you must not think there is any virtue in saying, "Oh! I am so bad! I cannot be a child of God!" You should examine the matter with a calm judgment. When you find some proofs in favour of one view, and some in favour of the other, then prayerfully, and with the Bible in your hand, set the one over against the other, and make your decision just as you would deal with any matter of business.(2) Or you want to know whether you are entitled to a particular promise, as, e.g., "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Does that mean a person absolutely without any evil thoughts or passions? Or does it mean one who is under the purifying influence of grace, who strives after purity, who is pure in Christ. Then how is it with me in this? Can I appropriate it?(3) Or supposing you have a distinct opportunity now opening to you. You must not at once put it away and say, "Oh, no! I am not called to that work." You must consider with yourself, "Is this a providential opening? What degree of knowledge and what degree of spiritual strength will it take? Have I so much? If not, can I obtain it? Has God been preparing me for this work, and this work for me?"(4) To guide you in such-like investigations, the apostle gives one rule — "to think according to the measure of faith." It is not, "Judge of yourselves according to your attainments," but "the measure of faith"; because everything that is good in a man's heart is "faith," and every other good thing, being proportioned to the "faith" we have, is the measure of everything that a man has or can attain, and so becomes the measure of the man — i.e., is the man.

(J. Vaughan, M.A.)

I. THE SPIRIT OF PRESUMPTION CONSISTS in thinking ourselves adorned with accomplishments which we have not, in magnifying those which we have, and in preferring ourselves to others on account of these qualities, real or imaginary.

1. The first character of presumption is to imagine ourselves endued with virtues and good qualities, of which we have not the substance, but only the shadow and the false appearance. Of all the blessings which are bestowed upon the good, there is none perhaps more expedient, or more to be requested of God, than a spirit of impartiality with respect to ourselves, together with that accurate discernment, that care to distinguish between real probity and the false appearance of it, and that caution not to be imposed upon by hypocrisy and dissimulation, which we usually exert when we scan the actions and the pretensions of other people.

2. The second character of presumption is the magnifying those good qualities which we have. And here presumption is the more dangerous, because it is not the mere effect of extravagant fancy, but hath some foundation, something real, to trust to and to build upon. It is a common observation in the learned world, that a man's genius and skill can only be estimated when his thoughts and his inventions are laid before the public; and that many a person who hath been cried up beyond measure by his friends and dependents, or by party zeal, hath fallen short of expectation. The same remark holds true in the moral qualities of the heart and mind. Hath a man resolutely exposed himself to dangers in a just cause? He is, then, a man of courage. Hath he rejected the tempting opportunities of growing great and rich by dishonest methods? He is a man of integrity. Is he uniformly just, equitable, charitable, modest, and temperate? and doth he behave himself to others as his relation to them, his station and situation require? Then may it be truly said that his virtues are real.

3. A third character of presumption is to ascribe to the qualities which we possess an eminence and an excellence that belong not to them. In general, all the qualities of mind and body, and all the external advantages which are commonly called gifts of fortune, all these are so far valuable as they are useful to ourselves and others, and no farther; so that, by being misapplied, they become pernicious.

II. AMBITION is the natural effect of presumption, and may be called "a desire to obtain the rewards, which we think to be due to us."

1. The first object of ambition is glory, esteem, reputation; and, in the desire of these things, there seems to be nothing irregular and vicious. To despise them may be a kind of stupid brutality. But there are excellent rules to be observed on this occasion.(1) We must never prefer the esteem of men to the approbation of God.(2) Nothing is truly glorious unless it be truly good and conformable to the will of God. Then, though men condemn us, our conscience supports us. But if God condemns us, human applause can make us no amends.(3) When virtue is attended with disgrace, we must despise such contempt, and not be deterred by it from our duty.(4) We must not love virtue for the bare sake of reputation and human esteem: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and. glorify your Father who is in heaven."

2. The second object of ambition is an honourable rank and station, and places of power, trust, and profit.(1) No man should set his heart overmuch upon rising and bettering his condition, because it is ten times more probable that he shall be disappointed than that he shall succeed.(2) No man should highly value any temporal advantages, because they are temporal, and because there are higher objects which demand our more serious attention.(3) No man should desire eminent stations without comparing his strength with the burden, and having reason to hope that he shall be able to acquit himself as the laws of God and man require.(4) No man should be puffed up with power and prosperity, because it is a dangerous state and an envied state.

(J. Jortin, D.D.)

A man who looks up all the time is never a great man to himself. Are you a poet? Then do not get poetasters to read and say, "I write better poems than they do, and therefore I am a better poet." Read Milton, read Shakespeare, read Homer. Go to the old Englishmen of immortal thought, whose drums and trumpets have sounded clear down through the ages to this day. Go to the grandest and noblest of our thinkers and writers, sit in council with them, and then see if you are not a dwarf, a pigmy. It will make you humble to have high ideals. But a man who for ever measures himself by pigmies and dwarfs, and thinks he is better than they — what is he but a mountebank among pigmies and dwarfs? A true ideal tends to cure the conceit of men, and to rank them. Says the apostle, "Let every man think of himself as he ought to think, soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." The measure of faith? What is faith? It is the sight of invisible excellence. It is the sight of noble qualities unseen. It is the sight of ideal grandeur. Let every man measure himself by that conception, and then think of himself as he ought to think; let him think of himself as lowly, and poor, and needy; and he may well call out for help and for grace.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Gentle Life.
Conceit is a very odious quality. It loses a man more friends and gains him more enemies than any other foible, perhaps vice, in the world. It makes him harsh to his inferiors and disrespectful to his betters. It causes him to live at right angles with the world. It makes him believe that he alone is in the right; it warps his opinions in all things, makes him viciously sceptical, and robs him of the most glorious inheritance of faith, while it distorts his hope and totally destroys his charity.

(Gentle Life.)

A certain worthy of our acquaintance, being out of a situation, made application to a friend to recommend him to a place, and remarked that he would prefer a somewhat superior position, "for you know, Tomkins," said he, "I am not a fool, and I ain't ignorant." We would not insinuate that the brother was mistaken in his own estimate, but the remark might possibly excite suspicion, for the case is similar to that of a timid pedestrian at night alone, hurrying along a lonesome lane, when a gentleman comes out of the hedge just at the turning by Deadman's Corner, and accosts him in the following reassuring language, "I ain't a garrotter, and I never crack a fellow's head with this here life-preserver." The outspoken self-assertion of the brother quoted above is but the expression of the thought of the most, if not all of us. "I am not a fool, and I ain't ignorant," is the almost universal self-compliment, which is never out of season; and this is the great barrier to our benefiting by good advice, which we suppose to be directed to the foolish and ignorant world in general, but not to our elevated selves. The poet did not say, but we will say it for him, "All men think all men faulty but themselves." It would be a great gain to us all if we had those elegant quizzing glasses of ours silvered at the back so that the next time we stick them in our eyes, in all the foppery of our conceit, we may be edified and, let us hope, humbled, by seeing ourselves.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

1. Destroys pride.

2. Encourages humility.

3. Promotes the glory of God.

4. Is only acquired through grace.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

He (Socrates) did occupy himself with physics early in his career. In after life he regarded such speculations as trivial. "I have not leisure for such things," he is made to say by Plato; "and I will tell you the reason: I am not yet able, according to the Delphic inscription, to know myself, and it appears to me very ridiculous, while ignorant of myself, to inquire into what I am not concerned in.

To know one's self to be foolish is to stand upon the doorstep of the temple of wisdom: to understand the wrongness of any position is half-way towards amending it; to be quite sure that our self-confidence is a heinous sin and folly, and an offence against God, and to have that thought burned into us by God's Holy Spirit, is going a great length towards the absolute casting our self-confidence away, and the bringing of our souls in practice, as well as in theory, to rely wholly upon the power of God's Holy Spirit.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

The prouder a man is, the more he thinks he deserves; and the more he thinks he deserves, the less he really does deserve. A proud man — the whole world is not big enough to serve him. The little he gets he looks upon with contempt because it is little. The much that he does not get he regards as evidence of the marvellous inequality of things in human life. He walks a perpetual self-adulator, expecting until experience has taught him not to expect, and then he goes for ever murmuring at what he looks upon as partiality in God's dealings with men. Such men are like old hulks that make no voyages, and leak at every seam. They are diseased with pride. They have the craving appetite of dyspepsia in their disposition.

(H. W. Beecher.)

But to think soberly
I. ITS NATURE includes —

1. A just estimate of ourselves.

2. A due esteem for others.

3. A constant recognition of Divine grace.

II. ITS SOURCE. Consciousness —

1. Of dependence upon others.

2. That our gifts are but a small part of the fulness of the body of Christ.


1. Ready.

2. Patient.

3. Faithful consecration of our ability to the service of the Church.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

I believe the first test of a truly great man is his humility. I do not mean by humility doubt of his own power or hesitation of speaking his opinions, but a right understanding of the relation between what he can do and say and the rest of the world's sayings and doings. All great men not only know their business, but usually know that they know it, and are not only right in their main opinions, but they usually know that they are right in them, only they do not think much of themselves on that account. Arnolfo knows he can build a good dome at Florence; Albert Durer writes calmly to one who has found fault with his work, "It cannot be better done"; Sir Isaac Newton knows that he has worked out a problem or two that would have puzzled anybody else; only they do not expect their fellow-men, therefore, to fall down and worship them. They have a curious under-sense of powerlessness, feeling that the greatness is not in them, but through them; that they could not do or be anything else than God made them; and they see something Divine and God-made in every other man they meet, and are endlessly, foolishly, incredibly merciful.

(J. Ruskin.)

According as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith
The water we draw from a well depends upon the size of the bucket; God provides us with the bucket as well as the water in the well of salvation. Or, again, gifts may be compared to the air we breathe, and faith to the lungs, by which we inhale and exhale; then the strength of the lungs would be represented by the measure of faith.

(C. Neil, M.A.)

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