Tag Archives: Humility

“Then he has come close to grace” by Martin Luther

“God has assuredly promised His grace to the humble [1 Peter 5:5], that is, to those who lament and despair of themselves.

But no man can be thoroughly humbled until he knows that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, devices, endeavors, will, and works, and depends entirely on the choice, will, and work of another, namely, of God alone.

For as long as he is persuaded that he himself can do even the least thing toward his salvation, he retains some self-confidence and does not altogether despair of himself, and therefore he is not humbled before God, but presumes that there is—or at least hopes or desires that there may be—some place, time, and work for him, by which he may at length attain to salvation.

But when a man has no doubt that everything depends on the will of God, then he completely despairs of himself and chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work; then he has come close to grace.”

–Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, Luther’s Works, Vol. 33: Career of the Reformer III, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 33 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 33: 61–62. As quoted in Dane Ortlund, Deeper (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021), 38.

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“Sacred things may become profane by becoming matters of the job” by C.S. Lewis

“To Sheldon Vanauken

Magdalen College,
Oxford
January 5, 1951

Dear Mr. Van Auken,

We must ask three questions about the probable effect of changing your research subject to something more theological.

(1.) Would it be better for your immediate enjoyment? Answer, probably but not certainly, Yes.

(2.) Would it be better for your academic career? Answer, probably No. You would have to make up in haste a lot of knowledge which could not be very easily digested in the time.

(3.) Would it be better for your soul? I don’t know.

I think there is a great deal to be said for having one’s deepest spiritual interest distinct from one’s ordinary duty as a student or professional man.

St Paul’s job was tent-making. When the two coincide I should have thought there was a danger lest the natural interest in one’s job and the pleasures of gratified ambition might be mistaken for spiritual progress and spiritual consolation: and I think clergymen sometimes fall into this trap.

Contrariwise, there is the danger that what is boring or repellent in the job may alienate one from the spiritual life. And finally someone has said ‘None are so unholy as those whose hands are cauterized with holy things: sacred things may become profane by becoming matters of the job.

You now want truth for her own sake: how will it be when the same truth is also needed for an effective footnote in your thesis?

In fact, the change might do good or harm. I’ve always been glad myself that Theology is not the thing I earn my living by.

On the whole, I’d advise you to get on with your tent-making. The performance of a duty will probably teach you quite as much about God as academic Theology would do.

Mind, I’m not certain: but that is the view I incline to.

Yours,

C. S. Lewis”

–C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 3: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy, 1950 – 1963, Ed. Walter Hooper (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), 3: 82-83. Vanauken had asked Lewis his opinion as to whether he should continue with his postgraduate work in history or study theology.

  1. Francis Bacon, Essays (1625), ‘Of Atheism’: ‘The great atheists, indeed are hypocrites; which are ever handling holy things, but without feeling; so as they must needs be cauterized in the end.’

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“Theology should humble us” by David Wells

“The effects of theological knowledge should be humility and a deepened desire to serve and honor God in all of our commerce with created reality.

The truly profound thinkers in life are often brought to humility, too, but perhaps for different reasons.

They are humbled out of a sense of their own smallness; theology should humble us through a sense of the greatness and wonder of God.

It is what we know, not what we do not know, that subdues our pride and causes us to render to God the worship that is His due.”

–David F. Wells, “The Theologian’s Craft” in Doing Theology in Today’s World: Essays in Honor of Kenneth S. Kantzer, John Woodbridge and Thomas Edward McComiskey, Eds. (Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan, 1994), 174.

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“God is not a quantity that can be mastered” by David Wells

“There are few lines quite so poignantly applicable to the theologian’s craft as those of the medieval poet Geoffrey Chaucer, who wrote of ‘The life so short, the craft so long to learn. The attempt so hard, the victory so keen.’

It is, in fact, surprising that the thought should ever cross our minds that the theological undertaking could be otherwise, for understanding– understanding of God, of ourselves, of the world– comes so slowly, so painfully slowly, that ‘life’s’ summer passes and the winter arrives long before this fruit is ripe to be picked.

Or so it seems. And that, perhaps, is why we are so fiercely tempted to turn theology into a technique that we can use to produce a more efficiently gained and bountiful knowledge of God!

God, however, is not like the periodic table.

He is not a quantity that can be ‘mastered’ even though He can be known; and though He has revealed Himself with clarity, the depth of our understanding of Him is measured, not by the speed with which theological knowledge is processed, but by the quality of our determination to own His ownership of us through Christ in thought, word, and deed.

Theology is the sustained effort to know the character, will, and acts of the triune God as He has disclosed and interpreted these for His people in Scripture, to formulate these in a systematic way in order that we might know Him, learn to think our thoughts after Him, live our lives in His world on His terms, and by thought and action projection His truth into our own time and culture.

It is therefore a synthetic activity whose center is the understanding of God, whose horizon is as wide as life itself, and whose mission echoes the mission of God Himself, which is to gather together in Christ a progeny as numerous as the stars above (Gen. 15:1-6; Gal. 3:6-16).”

–David F. Wells, “The Theologian’s Craft” in Doing Theology in Today’s World: Essays in Honor of Kenneth S. Kantzer, John Woodbridge and Thomas Edward McComiskey, Eds. (Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan, 1994), 171, 172.

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“A child of God keeps two books always by him” by Thomas Watson

“A child of God keeps two books always by him:

One to write his sins in, so that he may be humble;

The other to write his mercies in, so that he may be thankful.”

–Thomas Watson, The Godly Man’s Picture Drawn with a Scripture-Pencil, or, Some Characteristic Marks of a Man who is Going to Heaven (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1666/2003), 132.

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“The throne of God’s saving grace” by Robert Traill

“I know no true religion but Christianity. I know no true Christianity but the doctrine of Christ: of His divine person, (the image of the invisible God, Col. 1:15); of His divine office, (the Mediator betwixt God and men, 1 Tim. 2:5); of His divine righteousness, (He is the Lord our Righteousness, Jer. 23:6; which name is also called upon His church, Jer. 38:16) and of His divine Spirit, (which all that are His receive, Rom. 8:9).

I know no true ministers of Christ, but such as make it their business, in their calling, to commend Jesus Christ, in His saving fulness of grace and glory, to the faith and love of men; no true Christian, but one united to Christ by faith, and abiding in Him by faith and love, unto the glorifying of the name of Jesus Christ, in the beauties of gospel-holiness.

Ministers and Christians of this spirit, have for many years been my brethren and companions, and, I hope, shall ever be, whithersoever the hand of God shall lead me.

Through the Lord’s mercy to me, (as to many in London), I have often heard what is far more worthy of the press, than anything I can publish.

Whatever you may think of my way of managing this subject, (and indeed there is nothing in that, either as designed or expected by me, or that in itself deserveth any great regard); yet the theme itself, all must judge, who have spiritual senses, is of great importance, and always seasonable.

It is concerning the throne of God’s saving grace, reared up in Jesus Christ, and revealed unto men in the gospel; with the application all should make to that throne, the great blessings to be reaped by that application, and mens great need of those blessings.

May the Lord of the harvest, who ministered this seed to the sower, make it bread to the eater, and accompany it with His blessing on some that are called to inherit a blessing, and I have my end and desire; the reader shall have the benefit; and the Lord shall have the glory; for of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things; to whom be glory forever. Amen.

Robert Traill
London
March 25, 1696″

–Robert Traill, “Preface to The Throne of Grace,” The Works of Robert Traill, vol. 1 (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1810), ix-x.

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“Poverty of spirit” by D.A. Carson

“Poverty of spirit is the personal acknowledgment of spiritual bankruptcy. It is the conscious confession of unworth before God. As such, it is the deepest form of repentance.

It is exemplified by the guilty publican in the corner of the Temple: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” It is not a man’s confession that he is ontologically insignificant, or personally without value, for such would be untrue; it is, rather, a confession that he is sinful and rebellious and utterly without moral virtues adequate to commend him to God.

I suspect that there is no pride more deadly than that which finds its roots in great learning, great external piety, or a showy defense of orthodoxy. My suspicion does not call into question the value of learning, piety, or orthodoxy; rather, it exposes professing believers to the full glare of this beatitude.

Pride based on genuine virtues has the greatest potential for self-deception; but our Lord will allow none of it. Poverty of spirit he insists on—a full, honest, factual, conscious, and conscientious recognition before God of personal moral unworth. It is, as I have said, the deepest form of repentance.

It is not surprising, then, that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit. At the very outset of the Sermon on the Mount, we learn that we do not have the spiritual resources to put any of the Sermon’s precepts into practice.

We cannot fulfill God’s standards ourselves. We must come to him and acknowledge our spiritual bankruptcy, emptying ourselves of our self-righteousness, moral self-esteem, and personal vainglory. Emptied of these things we are ready for him to fill us.

Much of the rest of the Sermon on the Mount is designed to remove these self-delusions from us, and foster within us a genuine poverty of spirit. The genuineness and depth of this repentance is a prime requirement for entering into life.”

–D.A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World: An Exposition of Matthew 5–10 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999/2018), 18–19.

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