18 Characteristics of Humble Souls

by Thomas Brooks

[1.] Now the first property that I shall lay down of a humble soul is this: A humble soul under the highest spiritual discoveries, and under the greatest outward mercies, forgets not his former sinfulness and his former outward baseness.

PAUL had been taken up into the third heavens, and had glorious revelations and manifestations of God, 2 Cor. 12:1-4; he cries out, "I was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious," 1 Tim. 1:13. Under the choicest discoveries, he remembers his former blasphemies. So Romans 7:23, "I see a law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members." He had been at this time about fourteen years converted, as some judge. He was a man who lived at as high a rate in God, as any we read of; a man who was filled with glorious spiritual discoveries and revelations, and yet under all discoveries and revelations, he remembers that body of sin and death that made him cry out, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?" Who shall ease me of my burden, who shall knock off these chains that make my life a hell? [Chrysostom observes it of Paul, as his greatest honor, that although he had obtained pardon of God for his sins—yet he is not ashamed to admit his personal wretchedness to the world. The spouse of Christ, under all the kisses and embraces of Christ, acknowledges herself to be black! Song. 1:2, 5, compared.]

I will by a few instances prove the other branch: Gen. 32:10, "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies," says JACOB, "When I left home, I owned nothing except a walking stick, and now my household fills two camps!" I remember, says he, when I went over Jordan, I was as a footman that carried all his wealth with him. Under his outward greatness he forgets not his former baseness. A humble soul is good at looking back upon his former low estate, upon his threadbare coat, which was his best and only robe.

So DAVID, 1 Chron. 17:16-17, "Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and prayed—Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And now, O God, in addition to everything else, you speak of giving me a lasting dynasty! You speak as though I were someone very great, O Lord God!" David remembered the baseness of his birth; he remembered his shepherd's crook, as Jacob did his traveling staff. [Iphicrates, that noble captain, cried out, From how small to how great an estate am I raised! So does the humble soul, when God turns his brass into silver, his iron into gold, his pence into pounds. Agathocles, who, of a potter's son, was made king of Sicily, would always be served in earthen vessels.]

God's mercies make a humble soul glad—but not proud. A humble soul is lowest when his mercies are highest; he is least when he is greatest; he is lowest when he is highest; he is most poor when he is most rich. Nothing melts like mercy, nothing draws like mercy, nothing humbles like mercy. Mercy gives the humble soul such excellent counsel, as Plasilla the empress gave her husband Theodosius, "Remember, O husband," says she, "what lately you were—and what now you are; so shall you govern well the empire, and give God his due praise for so great an advancement." The voice of mercy is, "Remember what you once were, and what now you are—and be humble."

Now proud men who are lifted up from the ash-heap, who abound in worldly wealth, ah how does their blood rise with their outward good! The more mercies they have, the more proud they are; mercies do but puff and swell such souls. In a crowd of mercies, they cry out in the pride of their hearts: "Depart from us, O God, for we desire not the knowledge of your ways. What is the Almighty that we should serve him? and what profit shall we have, if we pray unto him?" Psalm 73:3-13; Job 21:7-16, 14:15.

[2.] A second property of a humble soul is this, He overlooks his own righteousness, and lives upon the righteousness of another, to wit, the Lord Jesus. So the apostle Paul, in Philippians 3:8-10, overlooks his own righteousness, and lives wholly upon the righteousness of Christ: "I desire to be found in him," says he, "not having my own righteousness." Away with it! It is dross, it is dung, it is dog's meat! It is a rotten righteousness, an imperfect righteousness, a weak righteousness, which is of the law. But that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith—that is a spotless righteousness, a pure righteousness, a complete righteousness, an incomparable righteousness! And, therefore, a humble soul overlooks his own righteousness, and lives upon Christ's righteousness.

Remember this—all the sighing, mourning, sobbing, and complaining in the world, does not so undeniably evidence a man to be humble, as his overlooking his own righteousness, and living really and purely upon the righteousness of Christ. Men may do much, hear much, pray much, fast much, and give much, etc., and yet be as proud as Lucifer, as you may see in the Scribes and Pharisees, Mat. 23, and those in Isaiah 58:3, who in the pride of their hearts made an idol of their own righteousness: "Why have we fasted," say they, "and you see it not? Why have we afflicted our souls, and you take no knowledge?" Oh! but for a man now to trample upon his own righteousness, and to live wholly upon the righteousness of another, this speaks out a man to be humble indeed. There is nothing that the heart of man stands more averse to than this—of discarding his own righteousness. Man is a creature apt to warm himself with the sparks of his own fire, though he does lie down for it in eternal sorrow, Isaiah 50:11. Man is naturally prone to go about to establish his own righteousness, that he might not subject to the righteousness of Christ; he will labor as for life, to lift up his own righteousness, and to make a Savior of it, Romans 10:4.

Ay—but a humble soul disclaims his own righteousness: "All our righteousness is as filthy rags." "Enter not into judgment with your servant, for in your sight shall no man living be justified," Psalm 143:2. So Job, "Though I were righteous—yet I would not answer—but I would make supplication to my judge," Job 9:15. Proud Pharisees bless themselves in their own righteousness: "I thank God I am not as this publican; I fast twice in the week," etc., Luke 18:11-12. Ay—but now a soul truly humbled blushes to see his own righteousness, and glories in this, that he has the righteousness of Christ to live upon. [A proud heart eyes more his seeming worth than his real needs.] Rev. 4:10-11, the twenty-four elders throw down their crowns at the feet of Christ. By their crowns you may understand their gifts, their excellencies, their righteousness; they throw down these before Christ's throne, to note to us, that they did not put confidence in them, and that Christ was the crown of crowns and the top of all their royalty and glory. A humble soul looks upon Christ's righteousness as his only crown.

[3 ] Thirdly, The lowest and the most despicable good work, is not below a humble soul. A humble DAVID will dance before the ark: he enjoyed so much of God in it, that it caused him to leap and dance before it; but Michal his wife despised him for a fool, and counted him as a simple vain fellow, looking upon his behavior as vain and light, and not becoming the might, majesty, and glory of so glorious a prince. Well! says this humble soul, if this be to be vile, I will be more vile!

Great PAUL—yet being humble and low in his own eyes, he can stoop to do service to the least and lowest saint. 1 Cor. 9:19-22, "Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." Ah, says Paul, it is my greatest joy, my greatest delight, to gain souls to Christ. The word win signifies craft, or guile Ah! humble Paul will use a holy craft, a holy guile, to win souls. Here you have a humble soul bowing and stooping to the lowest saint, and the lowest services—that he might win souls.

(To convert one soul is greater than to pour out ten thousand talents into the baskets of the poor. Chrysostom)

So the Lord JESUS himself was famous in this, John 13:4. Though he was the Lord of glory, and one who thought it no robbery to be equal with God, one who had all perfection and fullness in himself—yet the lowest work is not below this King of kings. Witness his washing his disciples' feet and wiping them with a towel, 1 Cor. 2:8; Philip. 2:6; Col. 1:19.

Bonaventure, though he was born of great parentage, and a great scholar—yet to keep his mind from swelling, he would often sweep rooms, wash dishes, and make beds.

So that famous Italian marquees, when God was pleased by the ministry of his word to convert him, the lowest work was not below him. Though he might have lived like a king in his own country—yet having tasted of that life and sweetness which are in Jesus, he was so humble that he would go to market, and carry home the cheapest and the poorest things the market yielded. There was nothing below him, when God had changed him, and humbled him. [Proud hearts cannot stoop to low services; they say this work and that is below their abilities, station, parentage, and employments.]

It was recorded to the glory of some ancient generals, that they were able to call every common soldier by his own name, and were careful to provide money, not only for their captains and soldiers—but litter also for the basest animal. [These heathens will rise in judgment against many proud professors in these days, who scorn to stoop to low services, etc. So it is with all that are high in worth and humble in heart. Lev. 10:2- 3, God will be sanctified either actively or passively; either in us or upon us.] There is not the lowest good work, which is below the humble soul. If the work is good, though ever so low, humility will put a hand to it; but pride will not so much as touch it.

[4.] A fourth property of a humble heart is this, A humble heart will submit to every truth of God which is made known to it; even to those divine truths which are most contrary to flesh and blood. 1 Sam. 3:17, Eli would sincerely know what God had revealed to Samuel concerning him; Samuel tells him that he must break his neck, that the priesthood must be taken away from him, and his sons must be slain in the war. "It is the Lord," says he, "let him do what seems him good."

So in Lev. 10:3, the Lord by fire from heaven destroys Aaron's two sons. "But Aaron remained silent." If God misses of his honor one way, he will rain hell out of heaven—but he will have it another way. This Aaron knew, and therefore he remained silent, when God showed himself to be "a consuming fire." The Hebrew word that is here rendered silent, signifies the quietness and silence of his mind. [The word often signifies a modest quietness of mind, the troubled affections being allayed; so here. In Lam. 3:27-29 it signifies to submit unto God, and to be patient in affliction; and so it may be taken here.]

He did not hold his tongue only, for many a man may hold his tongue, and yet his mind and heart may kick and swell against God—but his very mind was quiet and still; there was a heavenly calm in his spirit; he was quiet and silent, because the Lord had done it. So in Acts 10:33, "We are all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded you of God." We are not here to hear what may tickle our ears, or please our fancies, or satisfy our lusts. No; but we are here to hear what God will say. Our hearts stand ready pressed to subject themselves to whatever God shall declare to be his will. We are willing to hear what we may do, that we may obey sincerely and universally the good pleasure of our God, knowing that it is as well our dignity as our duty so to do.

There are three things in a humble soul, which do strongly incline it to duty.

The first is divine love.

The second is divine presence.

The third is divine glory.

The dove made use of her wings to fly to the ark; so does a humble soul of his duties to fly to Christ. Though the dove did use her wings—yet she did not trust in her wings—but in the ark. So though a humble soul does use duties—yet he does not trust in his duties—but in his Jesus. But now proud hearts they hate the truth, they cry out, "Who is the Lord, that we should obey him?" And what are his commandments, that we should submit to them? Ay—but a humble soul falls under the power of truth, and counts it his greatest glory to be obedient to all truth.

[5.] A fifth property of a humble soul is this: A humble soul lives not upon himself, nor upon his own doings—but upon the Lord Jesus, and his doings. Poor men, you know, they do not live upon themselves, they live upon others; they live upon the care of others, the love of others, the provision of others. Why thus a humble soul lives upon the care of Christ, the love of Christ, the promise of Christ, the faithfulness of Christ, the discoveries of Christ. He lives upon Christ for his justification, Philip. 3:7-10; he lives upon Christ for his sanctification. Cant. 4:16, "Awake, O north wind, and come O south wind—blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out." And he also lives upon Christ for his consolation: Cant. 2:3, "Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my lover among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste." And he lives upon Christ for the performance of all holy actions: Philip. 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me;" Gal. 2:20, "I live—yet not I—but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." A humble soul sees in Christ a fullness of abundance, and a fullness of redundancy, and here his soul lives and feeds. A humble soul sees that all his stock of blessings are in the hands of Christ. His stock of graces, his stock of comforts, his stock of experiences are in the hands of Jesus Christ, who is the great Lord and keeper of all a believer's graces, and of all his comforts. And therefore, as children live upon the hand of their parents; so a humble soul sees its stock of blessings are in the hand of the Lord Jesus, and therefore he lives upon Christ—upon his love, and his provision, and his undertakings, etc.

But now proud hearts live not upon the Lord Jesus Christ; they live upon themselves, and upon their own duties, their own righteousness, their own actings, as the Scripture evidences. Christ dwells in that heart most eminently, that has emptied itself of itself. Christ is the humble man's manna, upon which he lives, and by which he thrives, Isaiah 58:2, 7; Luke 7:47.

[6.] A sixth property of a humble soul is this, He judges himself to be deserving of the judgments of God. [A proud heart resists, and is resisted: flint to flint, fire to fire. A humble soul blesses God as well for crosses as mercies, as well for adversity as for prosperity, as well for frowns as for smiles, etc., because he judges himself unworthy of the least rebukes from God.] A humble soul looks upon himself as one not worthy that God should spend a rod upon him, in order to his reformation, edification, or salvation. As I am unworthy, says a humble soul, that God should smile upon me, so I am unworthy that he should spend a frown upon me. Job 13:25, "Will you break a leaf driven to and fro? And will you pursue the dry stubble?" Why, I am but a leaf, I am but a little dry stubble, I am below your wrath; I am so very, very bad, that I wonder that you should so much as spend a rod upon me. What more weak, worthless, slight, and contemptible than a leaf, than dry stubble? Why, Lord, says Job, I am a poor, weak, and worthless creature, I wonder that you should take any pains to do me good, I can't but count and call everything a mercy—which is less than I deserve—which is less than hell.

So David, in 1 Sam. 24:14, "After whom has the King of Israel come out? After whom do you pursue? After a dead dog, after a flea." The language of a humble soul, when God begins to be a angry, is this: Lord, I can bless you who you will take any pains with me; but I humbly acknowledge that I am below the least rod, I am not worthy that you should frown upon me, threaten me, strike me, or whip me, for my internal and eternal good. But proud hearts think themselves wronged when they are afflicted, they cry out with Cain, "Our punishment is greater than we can bear," Gen. 4:13.

[7.] A seventh property of a humble soul is this, A humble soul does highly prize the least of Christ. The least smile, the least good word, the least good look, the least truth, the least mercy—is highly valued by a humble soul.

The Canaanite woman in the fifteenth chapter of Matthew sets a high price upon a crumb of mercy. [Faith will pick an argument out of a repulse, and turn discouragements into encouragements. Luther would not take all the world for one leaf of the Bible; such a price he set upon it, from the sweet that he found in it.] Ah, Lord, says the humble soul, if I may not have a loaf of mercy, give me a piece of mercy; if not a piece of mercy, give me a crumb of mercy. If I may not have sun-light, let me have moon-light; if not moon-light, let me have star-light; if not star-light, let me have candle-light; and for that I will bless you.

In the time of the law, the lowest things that were consecrated for use in the tabernacle were very highly prized—such as leather or wood. A humble soul looks upon all the things of God as consecrated things. Every truth of God is a consecrated truth; it is consecrated to holy use, and this causes the soul highly to prize it; and so every smile of God, and every discovery of God, and every drop of mercy from God—is very highly prized by a soul that walks humbly with God. The name of Christ, the voice of Christ, the footsteps of Christ, the least touch of the garment of Christ, the least-regarded truth of Christ, the lowest and least-regarded among the flock of Christ, is highly prized by humble souls that are savingly interested in Christ, Song 1:3; John 10:4-5; Psalm 27:4; Mat. 9:20-21; Acts 24:14; 1 Cor. 9:22. A humble soul cannot, a humble soul dares not, call anything little—which has Christ in it; neither can a humble soul call or count anything great wherein he sees not Christ, wherein he enjoys not Christ. A humble soul highly prizes the least nod, the least love-token, the least courtesy from Christ; but proud hearts count great mercies small mercies, and small mercies no mercies; yes, pride does so unman them, that they often call mercy misery, etc.

[8.] The eighth property of a humble soul is this, It can never be good enough, it can never pray enough, nor hear enough, nor mourn enough, nor believe enough, nor love enough, nor fear enough, nor joy enough, nor repent enough, nor loathe sin enough, nor be humble enough, etc.

Humble Paul looks upon his greatness—all as nothing at all; he forgets those things which are behind, and reaches forth to those things which are before, "that if by any means he might attain unto the resurrection of the dead," Philip. 3:11-14; that is, that perfection of holiness which the dead shall attain unto in the morning of the resurrection. [It signifies the straining of the whole body, a stretching out head and hands, as runners in a race do to lay hold on the prize, Psalm 10:17. It signifies so to desire and long after a thing as to have one's teeth water at it; so in Micah 7:1. But proud hearts sit down and pride themselves, and bless themselves, as if they had attained to much, when they have attained to nothing which can raise them above the lowest step of misery.]

No holiness below that matchless, peerless, spotless, perfect holiness that saints shall have in the glorious day of Christ's appearing, will satisfy the humble soul. A humble heart is an aspiring heart; he cannot be contented to get up some rounds in Jacob's ladder—but he must get to the very top of the ladder, to the very top of holiness. A humble heart cannot be satisfied with so much grace as will bring him to glory, with so much of heaven as will keep him from dropping into hell; he is still crying out, Give, Lord, give; give me more of yourself, more of your Son, more of your Spirit; give me more light, more life, more love, etc. Caesar in warlike matters minded more what was to conquer than what was already conquered; what was to gain than what was already gained. So does a humble soul mind more what he should be—than what he is; what is to be done—than what has been done. Truly heaven is for that man, and that man is for heaven, that sets up for his mark the perfection of holiness.

Poor men are full of desires; they are often a-sighing it out, Oh that we had bread to strengthen us, drink to refresh us, clothes to cover us, friends to visit us, and houses to shelter us, etc. So souls that are spiritually poor they are often a-sighing it out, Oh that we had more of Christ to strengthen us, more of Christ to refresh us, more of Christ to be a covering and shelter to us, etc.

I had rather, says the humble soul, be a poor man and a rich Christian, than a rich man and a poor Christian. Lord, says the humble soul, I had rather do anything, I had rather bear anything, I had rather be anything, than to be a dwarf in grace, Rev. 3:17, Isaiah 65:5, Luke 18:11-12.

The light and glory of humble Christians rises by degrees: Cant. 6:1, (1.) Looking forth as the morning, with a little light; (2.) Fair as the moon, more light; (3.) Clear as the sun—that is come up to a higher degree of spiritual light, life, and glory. Lord, says the humble soul, give me much grace, and then a little gold will serve my turn; give me much of heaven, and little of earth will content me; give me much of the springs above, and a little of the springs below will satisfy me, etc.

[9.] The ninth property of a humble soul is this, It will smite and strike at small sins as well as for great; for those things which the world counts no sin, as well as for those who they count gross sins.

When David had but cut off the hem of Saul's garment, his heart smote him as if he had cut off his head. The Hebrew word signifies to smite, wound, or chastise. [1 Sam. 24:5, A good man's heart, when kindly awakened, may smite him for those actions which at first he judged very prudent and correct. How great a pain, not to be borne, comes from the prick of this small thorn! Little sins have put several to their wits' ends, when they have been set home upon their consciences.] Ah! his heart struck him, his heart chastised him, his heart wounded him for cutting off Saul's skirt, though he did it upon noble grounds, namely, to convince Saul of his false jealousies, and to evidence his own innocency and integrity. And so, at another time, his heart smote him for numbering the people—as if he had murdered the people: 2 Sam. 24:10, "And David's heart smote him, after that he had numbered the people; and David said unto the Lord, I have sinned greatly in what I have done: and now I beseech you, O Lord, take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly."

A humble soul knows that little sins, if I may so call any, cost Christ his blood; and that they make way for greater sins; and that little sins multiplied become great, as a little sum multiplied is great. He knows that little sins—cloud the face of God, wound conscience, grieve the Spirit, rejoice Satan, and make work for repentance, etc. A humble soul knows that little sins are very dangerous. A little leaven leavens the whole lump; a little blow may kill one; a little poison may poison another; a little leak in a ship sinks it; a little fly in the box of ointment spoils it; a little flaw in a good project mars it—so a little sin may at once bar the door of heaven and open the gates of hell; and therefore a humble soul smites and upbraids itself for the least as well as the greatest sins. Though a head of garlic be little—yet it will poison the leopard, though he be great. Though a mouse is but little—yet it will kill an elephant, if he gets up into his trunk. Though the scorpion be little—yet it will sting a lion to death; and so will the least sin, if not pardoned by the death of Christ.

A proud heart counts great sins small, and small sins no sins—and so disarms conscience for a time of its whipping and wounding power; but at death, or in hell, conscience will take up an iron rod, with which it will lash the sinner forever; and then, though too late, the sinner shall acknowledge his little sins to be very great, and his great sins to be exceeding grievous and odious, etc.

[10.] The tenth property of a humble soul is this, It will quietly bear burdens, and patiently take blows and knocks, and make no noise. A humble soul sees God through man; he sees God through all the actions and behaviors of men: "I was silent," says the prophet, I opened not my mouth, because You are the one who has done this." A humble soul looks through secondary causes, and sees the hand of God—and then lays his own hand upon his mouth. A humble soul is a mute soul, a tongue-tied soul—when he looks through secondary causes to the supreme cause. So Aaron, when he saw his sons suddenly surprised by a dreadful and doleful death, he remained silent, he bridled his passions; he sits silent under a terrible stroke of divine justice, because the fire that devoured them went out from the Lord. So when Samuel had told Eli that God would judge his house forever, and that he had sworn that the iniquity of his house should not be purged with sacrifice nor offering forever, "It is the Lord," says Eli, "let him do what seems good unto him." Eli humbly and patiently lays his neck upon the block—it is the Lord; let him strike, let him kill, etc., says Eli, l Sam. 3:11, 13.

So David, when Shimei manifested his desperate fury and folly, malice and madness, in raving and raging at him, in cursing and reproaching of him, says he, "Let him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has bidden him," 2 Sam. 16:5, 10. God, says he, will, by his wise providence, turn his cursing into blessing. I see the justice of God in his cursing, therefore let him alone, let him curse, says David.

Cassianus reports, that when a certain Christian was held captive by the infidels, and tormented by many pains and ignominious taunts, being demanded, by way of scorn and reproach, Tell us what Christ has done for you, answered—He has done what you see, that I am not moved at all the cruelties and contumelies you cast upon me.

So that blessed martyr, Gyles of Brussels, whenever the friars abused him—he ever remained silent, insomuch that those wretches would say abroad that he had a dumb devil in him. Full vessels will bear many a knock, many a stroke, and yet make no noise. So Christians who are full of Christ, who are full of the Spirit—will bear many a knock, many a stroke—and yet make no noise.

A humble soul may groan under afflictions—but he will not grumble in calms. Proud hearts discourse about patience—but in storms humble hearts exercise patience. Philosophers have much commended patience—but in the hour of darkness it is the humble soul who acts patient. I am afflicted, says the humble soul—but it is mercy I am not destroyed. I am fallen into the pit—but it is free grace that I have not fallen into hell. God is too just to wrong me, and too gracious to harm me; and therefore I will be still and quiet, let him do what he will with me, says the humble soul.

But proud souls resist when they are resisted, they strike when they are stricken, Isaiah 58:1-3: "Who is the Lord," says lofty Pharaoh, "that I should obey him?" and Cain cries out, "My punishment is greater than I am able to bear." Well! remember this: though it be not easy in afflictions and tribulations to remain quiet and silent—yet it is very advantageous; which the heathens seemed to imitate in placing the image of Angerona [goddess of silence], with the mouth bound upon the altar of Volupia [goddess of pleasure], to show that those who do prudently and humbly conceal their sorrows and anxieties by patience, shall attain comfort and refreshment.

[11.] The eleventh property of a humble soul is this: in all religious duties and services, he trades with God upon the credit of Christ. [John 14:13, and 15:16, and 16:23, 26. The name of Jesus has a thousand treasures of joy and comfort in it, says Chrysostom; and is therefore used by Paul five hundred times, as some have reckoned.] Lord, says the humble soul, I need power against such and such sins: give it to me upon the credit of Christ's blood. I need strength to such and such services: give it to me upon the credit of Christ's word. I need such and such mercies for my cheering, refreshing, quickening, and strengthening: give them into my bosom upon the credit of Christ's intercession. As a poor man lives and deals upon the credits of others, so does a humble soul live and deal with God for the strengthening of every grace, and for the supply of every mercy—upon the credit of the Lord Jesus. A humble soul knows that since he broke with God in innocency, God will trust him no more, he will take his word no more; and therefore when he goes to God for mercy, he brings his Benjamin, his Jesus, in his arms, and pleads for mercy upon the account of Jesus.

Plutarch reports that it was accustomed to be the way of the Molossians, when they would seek the favor of their prince, they took up the king's son in their arms, and so went and kneeled before the king, and by this means overcame him. So do humble souls make a conquest upon God with Christ in their arms. The Father will not give that soul the repulse, who brings Christ in his arms. The humble soul knows that outside of Christ—God is incommunicable; that outside of Christ—God is incomprehensible; that outside of Christ—God is very dreadful; and that outside of Christ—God is inaccessible; and therefore he still brings Christ with him, and presents all his requests in his name, and so prevails, etc. Oh! but proud souls deal with God upon the credit of their own worthiness, righteousness, services, prayers, tears, fastings, etc., as the proud Pharisees and those wrangling hypocrites in Isaiah 58:1-3.

It was a very proud saying of one, I will not have heaven but at a price; and therefore vain-glory is well called a pleasant thief, and the sweet spoiler of spiritual excellencies.

[12.] The twelfth property of a humble soul is this: it endeavors more how to honor and glorify God in afflictions—than how to get out of afflictions. So Daniel, the three children, the apostles, and those worthies of whom this world was not worthy. They were not anxious about getting out of affliction—but studious how to glorify God in their afflictions. They were willing to be anything, and to bear anything—so that in everything God might be glorified. They made it their business to glorify God in the fire, in the prison, in the den, on the rack, and under the sword, etc. Lord, says the humble soul, do but keep down my sins, and keep up my heart in a way of honoring of you under all my troubles—and then my troubles will be no troubles, my afflictions will be no afflictions. Though my burdens be doubled, and my troubles be multiplied—yet do but help me to honor you by believing in you, by waiting on you, and by submitting to you—and I shall sing care away, and shall say—It is enough.

When Valens the emperor sent messengers to win Eusebius to heresy by fair words and large promises, he answered, Alas, sir! these speeches are fit to catch little children who are concerned about such things—but we who are taught and nourished by the holy Scriptures are readier to suffer a thousand deaths than to allow one syllable or tittle of the Scripture to be altered. And when the emperor threatened to confiscate his goods, to torment him, to banish him, or to kill him, he answered, He need not fear confiscation—who has nothing to lose; nor banishment, to whom heaven is his only country; nor torments, when his body will be dashed with one blow; nor death, which is the only way to set him at liberty from sin and sorrow. [Happy is that soul, and to be equaled with angels, who is willing to suffer, if it were possible, as great things for Christ—as Christ has suffered for it, said Jerome.]

Oh! but when a proud man is under troubles and afflictions, his head and heart are full of plots and projects how to get off his chains, and to get out of the furnace, etc. A proud heart will say anything, and do anything, and be anything—to free himself from the burdens which press him, as you see in Pharaoh, etc.; but a humble soul is willing to bear the cross as long as he can get strength from heaven to kiss the cross, to bless God for the cross, and to glorify God under the cross, etc., John 1:20-21.

[13.] The thirteenth property of a humble soul is this: it seeks not, it looks not, after great things. A little will satisfy nature, less will satisfy grace; but nothing will satisfy a proud man's lusts. Lord, says the humble soul, if you will but give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, you shall be my God, Gen. 28:20-22. Let the men of the world, says the humble soul, take the world in all its greatness and glory, and divide it among themselves. Let me have much of Christ and heaven in my heart, and food convenient to support my life—and it shall be enough. Job 22:29, "When men are cast down, then you shall say, There is lifting up; and he shall save the humble person;" or as the Hebrew has it, him who has low eyes, noting to us that a humble soul looks not after high things. So in Psalm 131:1-2, "Lord, my heart is not haughty nor my eyes lofty." But how do you know that, David? Why, says he, "I do not exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high, or too wonderful for me. Surely I behaved and quieted myself." "My soul is as a child that is weaned of his mother. My soul is even as a weaned child." As a great shoe fits not a little foot, nor a great sail a little ship, nor a great ring a little finger—so a great estate fits not a humble soul.

It was a prudent speech of that Indian king Taxiles to the invading Alexander: What should we need, said he, to fight and make war one with another, if you come not to take away our water and our necessities by which we must live? As for other goods, if I am richer than you, I am ready to give you what is mine; and if I have less, I will thank you if you will give me some of yours. Oh! but proud Absalom can't be content to be the king's son, unless he may have the crown presently from his father's head. Caesar can abide no superior, nor Pompey an equal. A proud soul is content with nothing.

A crown could not content Ahab—but he must have Naboth's vineyard, though he swim to it in blood. Diogenes had more contentment with his hut to shelter him from the weather, and with his wooden dish to eat and drink in—than Alexander had with the conquest of half the world, and the enjoyment of all the treasures, pleasures, and glories of Asia. So a humble soul is more contented and satisfied with Daniel's vegetables and John's clothes made of camel's hair—than proud princes are with their glistening crowns and golden scepters.

[14.] The fourteenth property of a humble soul is this: it can rejoice in the graces and gracious actings of others, as well as in its own. A humble Moses could say when Eldad and Medad prophesied in the camp, "I wish that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them all!" Num. 11:26-30. So humble Paul in Acts 26:29, "And Paul said, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains." I heartily wish and pray for your own sake, that not only in a low but in an eminent, degree, both you and all that are here present, were as far Christians as I am; only I would not wish them imprisoned as I am.

A humble soul is no churl. There is no envy in spiritual things; one may have as much of spirituals as another, and all alike. So in 1 Thes. 1:2-3, "We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father." So in the 2 Epistle 1:2-4, "Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring."

Ezekiel can commend Daniel, his contemporary, matching him with Noah and Job, for his power in prayer; and Peter highly praises Paul's epistles, though he had been sharply reproved in one of them, Ezek. 14:14, 2 Peter 3, etc. Oh! but proud souls will be still a-casting disgrace and contempt upon those excellencies in others, which they lack in themselves.

A proud cardinal, in Luther's time, said, Indeed, a reformation is needful, and to be desired—but that Luther, a rascally friar, should be the man should do it, is intolerable. [Attributed to Cardinal Cajetan.] Pride is like certain flies, called cantharides, who especially consume the fairest wheat and the most beautiful roses.

Though Licinius was so ignorant that he could not write his own name—yet he called education a public poison.

This age is full of such monsters who envy every light which outshines their own, and who throw dirt upon the graces and excellencies of others—that only themselves may shine. Pride is renowned both at subtraction and at multiplication. A proud heart always prizes himself above the market; he reckons his own pence for pounds, and others' pounds for pence; he looks upon his own counters as gold, and upon others' gold as counters. All pearls are counterfeit but those which he wears.

[15.] The fifteenth property of a humble soul is, he will rather bear wrongs—than revenge wrongs offered. The humble soul knows that vengeance is the Lord's, and that he will repay, etc., Psalm 94:1. The humble soul loves not to take the sword in his own hand, Romans 12:19; he knows the day is a-coming, wherein the Lord will give his enemies two blows for one, and here he rests. A humble soul, when wrongs are offered, is like a man with a sword in one hand and a salve in the other—he could wound, but will heal: Psalm 35:11-16, "Malicious witnesses testify against me. They accuse me of things I don't even know about. They repay me with evil for the good I do. I am sick with despair. Yet when they were ill, I grieved for them. I even fasted and prayed for them, but my prayers returned unanswered. I was sad, as though they were my friends or family, as if I were grieving for my own mother. But they are glad now that I am in trouble; they gleefully join together against me. I am attacked by people I don't even know; they hurl slander at me continually." The Scripture abounds in instances of this nature. [I may truly say of the humble soul what Tully said of Caesar, that he forgot nothing but injuries. Julius Caesar, in whose time Christ was born, bid Catullus, the railing poet, to supper, to show that he had forgiven him.

Dionysius having treated Plato poorly at the court, when he was gone, fearing lest he should write against him, he sent after him to bid him not to write against him. Replied Plato, "Tell Dionysius that I have not so much time as to think of him." So humble wronged souls have no time to think of the wrongs and injuries that others do them.

Mr. Foxe, who wrote the Book of Martyrs, would be sure to do him a kindness—who had done him an injury: so that it used to be a proverb, "If a man would have Mr. Foxe do him a kindness, let him do him an injury." A humble soul is often in looking over the wrongs and injuries that he has done to God, and the sweet and tender treatment of God towards him notwithstanding those wrongs and injuries; and this wins him, and works him to be more willing and ready to bear wrongs, and forgive wrongs, than to revenge any offered wrongs.

[16.] The sixteenth property of a humble soul is this, A humble soul, though he be of ever so rare abilities—yet he will not disdain to be taught what he knows not, by the lowest people, Isaiah 11:6. A child shall lead the humble soul in the way that is good; he cares not how low and contemptible the person is, if a guide or an instructor to him.

Apollos, "an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scripture," a master in Israel, and yet sits by an Aquila, a tent-maker, and Priscilla his wife, to be instructed by them, Acts 18:24-26. Sometimes the poorest and the lowest Christian may, for counsel and comfort, be a good to another, as Moses was to Aaron. As a humble soul knows that the stars have their situation in heaven, though sometimes he sees them by their reflection in a puddle, in the bottom of a well, or in a stinking ditch; so he knows that godly souls, though ever so poor, low, and contemptible, as to the things of this world, are fixed in heaven, in the region above; and therefore their poverty and baseness is no bar to hinder him from learning of them, Eph. 2:6.

Though John was poor in the world—yet many humble souls did not disdain—but rejoice in his ministry. Christ lived poor and died poor, Mat. 8:20. As he was born in another man's house, so he was buried in another man's tomb. Austin observes, when Christ died he made no will; he had no crown-lands, only his coat was left, and that the soldiers parted among them; and yet those who were meek and lowly in heart counted it their heaven, their happiness, to be taught and instructed by him.

[17.] The seventeenth property of a humble soul is this: a humble soul will bless God, and be thankful to God, as well under misery as under mercy; as well when God frowns as when he smiles; as well when God takes as when he gives; as well under crosses and losses, as under blessings and mercies. [Tully calls gratitude the greatest, yes, the mother of all virtues.] Job 1:21, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes—blessed be the name of the Lord." He does not cry out upon the Sabeans and the Chaldeans—but he looks through all secondary causes, and sees the hand of God; and then he lays his hand upon his own heart, and sweetly sings it out, "The Lord gives, and the Lord takes—blessed be the name of the Lord."

A humble soul, in every condition, blesses God, as the apostle commands, in the 1 Thes. 5:18, "In everything give thanks to God." So 1 Cor. 4:12, "Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer." The language of a humble soul is, If it be your will that I should be in darkness—I will bless you; and if it be your will that I should be again in light—I will bless you; if you will comfort me—I will bless you; and if you will afflict me—I will bless you; if you will make me poor—I will bless you; if you will make me rich—I will bless you; if you will give me the least mercy—I will bless you; if you will give me no mercy—I will bless you. A humble soul is quick-sighted; he sees the rod in a Father's hand; he sees honey upon the top of every correcting rod—and so can bless God; he sees sugar at the bottom of the bitterest cup which God puts into his hand; he knows that God's house of correction is a school of instruction; and so he can sit down and bless when the rod is upon his back.

A humble soul knows that the design of God in all is his instruction, his reformation, and his salvation. [The Jews have a proverb, that we must leap up to mount Gerizim, which was a mount of blessings; but creep into mount Ebal, which was a mount of curses: to show that we must be ready to bless—but backward to curse. A humble soul can extract one contrary out of another, honey out of the rock, gold out of iron, etc. Afflictions to humble souls are the Lord's plough, the Lord's harrow, the Lord's flail, the Lord's drawing-plaster, the Lord's pruning knife, the Lord's potion, the Lord's soap; and therefore they can sit down and bless the Lord, and kiss the rod.]

It was a sweet saying of holy Bradford, If the queen will give me my life, I will thank her; if she will banish me, I will thank her; if she will burn me, I will thank her; if she will condemn me to perpetual imprisonment, I will thank her. Ay, this is the temper of a humble heart. A humble soul knows, that to bless God in prosperity is the way to increase it; and to bless God in adversity is the way to remove it. A humble soul knows, that if he blesses God under mercies—he has paid his debt; but if he blesses God under crosses—he has made God a debtor. But oh, the pride of men's hearts, when the rod is upon their backs! You have many professors who are seemingly humble while the sun shines, while God gives, and smiles, and strokes; but when his smiles are turned into frowns, when he strikes and disciplines—oh the murmurings! the disputings! the frettings! and wranglings of proud souls! they always kick when God strikes.

[18.] The last property of a humble soul is this: a humble soul will wisely and patiently bear reproof. Proverbs 25:12, "As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold—so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear." A seasonable reproof falling upon a humble soul has a redoubled grace with it. It is an earring of gold, and as an ornament of fine gold, or as a diamond in a diadem.

A humble David can say, "Let the righteous smite me—it shall be a kindness; and let him reprove me—it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head," Psalm 141:5. David compares the faithful reproof of the righteous, to the excellent oil which they used on their heads. Some translate it, "Let it never cease from my head." That is, let me never lack it, and so the original will bear too, I would never lack reproofs, whatever I lack: "But yet my prayer shall be in their calamities." I will requite their reproofs with my best prayers in the day of their calamity, says David. Whereas a proud heart will neither pray for such as reprove them—but in their calamities will most insult over them. [Oil is here metaphorically taken for words of reproof, which may be said figuratively to break the head.]

Some translate it more emphatically: "The more they do, the more I shall think myself bound unto them." And this was Gerson's disposition, of whom it is recorded, that he rejoiced in nothing more than if he were freely and friendly reproved by any: Proverbs 9:8-9, "Rebuke a wise man—and he will love you; give instruction to a wise man—and he will be yet wiser." Proverbs 19:25, "Reprove one who has understanding—and he will understand knowledge." You know how sweetly David carries it towards Abigail, 1 Sam. 25:32-33; she wisely meets him, and puts him in mind of what he was going about, and he falls a-blessing of her presently: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent you this day to meet me, and blessed be your advice, and blessed be you which have kept me this day from coming to shed blood." I was resolved in my passion, and in the heat of my spirit, that I would not leave a man alive—but blessed be God, and blessed be your counsel!

A humble soul can sit down and bless God under reproofs. A humble soul is like the Scythian king, who went naked in the snow, and when Alexander wondered how he could endure it, he answered, "I am all forehead." A humble soul is all forehead—able to bear reproofs with much wisdom and patience. Oh! but a proud heart cannot bear reproofs, he scorns the reprover and his reproofs too. [Manasseh, king of Judah, at the age of eighteen, being reproved by the aged princely prophet Isaiah, caused him to be sawn in half with a wooden saw; for which cruel act, among his other sins, he was sorely punished by God, 2 Chron. 33:11. So Cambyses, king of Persia, hated Praxaspes, one of his nobles, for reproving his drunkenness.]

Proverbs 15:12, "A mocker resents correction; he will not consult the wise." Amos 5:10, "How you hate honest judges! How you despise people who tell the truth!" as Ahab hated good Micaiah, and Herod did John Baptist, and the Pharisees hated our Savior, Luke 16:13. Christ, in his dealings with the covetous Scribes and Pharisees, lays the law home, and tells them plainly that they could not serve God and mammon. Here Christ strikes at their right eye; but how do they hear this? Mark in the 14th verse, "The Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things, and they derided him." The Pharisees did not simply laugh at Christ—but gave also external signs of scorn in their countenance and gestures. They blew their nose at him, for that is the meaning of the original word. By their gestures they demonstrated their horrid deriding of him; they fleared and jeered, when they should have feared and trembled at the wrath to come: Isaiah 28:10, "For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little." One observes, that that was a scoff put upon the prophet, and is as if they should say, Here is nothing but precept upon precept, line upon line. And, indeed, the very sound of the words in the original carries a taunt, zau le zau, kau lakau, as scornful people, by the tone of their voice and rhyming words, scorn at such as they despise. Pride and passion, and other vices, in these days go armed; touch them ever so gently—yet, like the nettle, they will sting you; and if you deal with them openly, roughly, cuttingly, as the apostle speaks, they will swagger with you, as the Hebrew did with Moses: "Who made you a judge over us?" Exod. 2:13-14. And thus much for the properties of a humble soul.


Source:  The Unsearchable Riches of Christ (eBook) by Thomas Brooks

By Topic


By Scripture

Old Testament









1 Samuel

2 Samuel

1 Kings

2 Kings

1 Chronicles

2 Chronicles








Song of Solomon


















New Testament







1 Corinthians

2 Corinthians





1 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians

1 Timothy

2 Timothy





1 Peter

2 Peter

1 John

2 John

3 John



By Author

Latest Links