The Special Grace of Humility

The Special Grace of Humility

by Edward Leigh

Humility is that grace whereby a man makes little or no account of himself (Job 42:6; Ezek. 20:43). It is a grace of the Spirit of God, whereby a man, out of true knowledge of himself, his state, and condition, accounts himself vile and walks accordingly before God and man. Every good man is humble (Prov. 30:2; Luke 18:13). Poverty of spirit is the first step to heaven (Matt. 5:3). "High in worth and humble in heart," said Nazianzen of Athanasius. All the stars, the higher they are, the lesser they appear; so must all the saints.

"Humilitas virtus Christianorum, prima, secunda, tertia." - Augustine

Augustine, when asked what virtue was most to be desired, answered, "Humility." When asked what was the second, he answered, "Humility." When asked what was next, he said again, "Humility."

Primislaus, the first King of Bohemia, kept his shoes by him to remind him from whence he rose. We read of Agathocles, that King who was at first but a potter's son and later advanced to the Kingdom of Sicily, who would, together with his plate of gold and silver, have earthen vessels on his cupboard to remind him of his former condition. Jacob said, "I am less than the least of all thy mercies." Abraham called himself "dust and ashes." David termed himself a "dead dog" (1 Sam. 2:4), a flea, that is, a poor, mean, base, worthless person. Paul termed himself "the least of all saints" and "the chiefest of sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15). "Though I be nothing," said he, "and I am the least of all the apostles, not worthy to be called an apostle."

God often calls for this grace (Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12; Phil. 2:3). God teaches the humble and exalts the humble. He has two thrones: one in the highest heavens and the other in the lowest heart.

Humility has the promise of both temporal benefits (Prov. 22:4) and spiritual benefits: grace (Prov. 3:34), wisdom (Prov. 11:4), the fear of God, and finally blessedness (Matt. 5:3).


  1. A godly man knows God's excellency, the foulness of sin, and his own littleness and sinfulness, therefore he must needs be mean in his own eyes (Job 42:6; Isa. 6:6).

  2. There is no way to exalt mercy but by abasing self. Mercy will not be prized unless self is abased (Deut. 26:5). The whole have no need of the Physician, but the sick.

Marks of This Excellent Grace

  1. We may judge of it by the efficient cause. The Spirit of God must be the worker of it. When God converts a man, He shows him his own misery and the excellency of Christ.

  2. The effects of humility. It reveals itself in its carriage to God upon His dispensations toward us. If His ways are ways of mercy and enlargement, humility admires free grace in them all (1 Chron. 29). "That I should enjoy such blessings." If God sends afflictions, the humble acquit His severity and say, "The Lord is righteous," and submit to Him.

  3. The humble reject themselves as vile and abominable in the sight of God. Paul, after his conversion, said, "I know that in me dwells no good."

  4. The humble willingly embrace every service belonging to their relation. Christ washed His disciples' feet. Queen Bathsheba taught Solomon, her son.

  5. The humble are far from censuring and undervaluing others. "Be not many masters" (James 3:1).

The whole design of the Gospel lies in two things:

  1. To make the creature nothing.
  2. To make the grace of God in Christ all things.

Quickening Motives to Provoke Us to Get Humility

Meditate on three things:

  1. The absolute necessity of it.
  2. The difficulty of it.
  3. The excellence of it.

1. The Necessity of It

God takes no pleasure in men until He has brought them into such a frame. Humility is necessary for every condition of life. If God sends crosses, you will never bear them until He has humbled your spirit.

2. The Difficulty of It

It is hard to get the heart into such a temper; everything within you is against it. The Greeks and philosophers thought humility was not a virtue but a despondency of spirit. All your corruptions are against it, your excellencies, wit, authority, and even your graces. Grace will be against grace; you will be proud because you are humble.

3. The Excellence of It

Your heart shall be God's temple; a broken spirit is instead of all sacrifices. It will nourish all graces in you. A humble man seems to creep, but he flies to heaven, says Parisiensis. Not one administration of God will pass without doing you good if you have a humble spirit.

Means to Get It

First, See Your Pride

All sin is resolved into pride (Jer. 13:17).

Secondly, Meditate

  1. On the baseness of your beginning and original: You come immediately from the slime of your parents' loins and mediately from the dust of the earth, and are just nothing.

  2. On your extreme sinfulness: How little do we know in comparison to what we should know? How little do we love, serve, and obey God in comparison to what our duty requires of us? What a deal of atheism, blindness, and vanity is in our minds? How forgetful are we of God and our later end, how foolish and sensual?

  3. On our death and later end: We must shortly rot, putrefy, stink, and crawl with worms. We must return to the dust, lie down in the grave, and be without wealth, honour, beauty, strength, wit, learning, and knowledge. Celebrate your own funerals.

  4. On the torments and woeful condition we have deserved: If we are not humbled in the sense of having deserved it, we cannot escape.

Thirdly, Add to These Meditations Hearty Prayers to God

Pray to God to humble you, to convict you of sin, and to open your eyes to know yourselves and Him. The knowledge of God's holiness, excellency, majesty, and glory will also abase us (Isa. 6:5; Job 42:5-6).

The worst pride is an overweening of ourselves because of our graces. Consider:

  1. That this holiness is received from God (1 Cor. 4:7).
  2. It is imperfect.
  3. It is in its own nature defective, being a creature: Grace is depositum as well as donum, a talent or pledge that the Lord has left with you, as well as a gift.


Source: Of Our Union and Communion with Christ (eBook) by Edward Leigh