Question: How may a Christian know that he is humble and consequently godly?
Answer 1: A humble soul is emptied of all swelling thoughts of himself. Bernard calls humility a self-annihilation. `Thou wilt save the humble' (Job 22:29). In the Hebrew it is `him that is of low eyes'. A humble man has lower thoughts of himself than others can have of him. David, though a king, still looked upon himself as a worm: `I am a worm, and no man' (Psa. 22:6). Bradford, a martyr, still subscribes himself a sinner. `If I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head' (Job 10:15) – like the violet which is a sweet flower, but hangs down the head.
Answer 2: A humble soul thinks better of others than of himself: `let each esteem other better than themselves' (Phil. 2:3). A humble man values others at a higher rate than himself, and the reason is because he can see his own heart better than he can another's. He sees his own corruption and thinks surely it is not so with others; their graces are not so weak as his; their corruptions are not so strong. `Surely', he thinks, `they have better hearts than I.' A humble Christian studies his own infirmities and another's excellences and that makes him put a higher value upon others than himself. `Surely I am more brutish than any man' (Prov. 30:2). And Paul, though he was the chief of the apostles, still calls himself `less than the least of all saints' (Eph. 3:8).
Answer 3: A humble soul has a low esteem of his duties. Pride is apt to breed in our holy things as the worm breeds in the sweetest fruit and froth comes from the most generous wine. A humble person bemoans not only his sins but also his duties. When he has prayed and wept, `Alas,' he says, `how little I have done! God might damn me for all this.' He says, like good Nehemiah, `Remember me, 0 my God, concerning this also, and spare me' (Neh. 13:22). `Remember, Lord, how I have poured out my soul, but spare me and pardon me.' He sees that his best duties weigh many grains too light; therefore he desires that Christ's merits may be put into the scales. The humble saint blushes when he looks at his copy. He sees he cannot write evenly, nor without blotting. This humbles him to think that his best duties run to seed. He drops poison upon his sacrifice. `Oh,' he says, `I dare not say I have prayed or wept; those which I write down as duties, God might write down as sins.'
Answer 4: A humble man is always preferring bills of indictment against himself. He complains, not of his condition, but of his heart. `Oh, this evil heart of unbelief!'
'Lord,' says Hooper, `I am hell, but thou art heaven.' A hypocrite is for ever telling how good he is. A humble soul is for ever saying how bad he is. Paul, that highflown saint, was caught up into the third heaven, but how this bird of paradise bemoans his corruptions! `0 wretched man that I am! . . . ' (Rom. 7:24). Holy Bradford sub-scribes himself, `the hardhearted sinner'. The more know-ledge a humble Christian has, the more he complains of ignorance; the more faith, the more he bewails his unbelief.
Answer 5: A humble man will justify God in an afflicted condition: `Howbeit thou art just in all that is brought upon us' (Neh. 9:33). If men oppress and calumniate, the humble soul acknowledges God's righteousness in the midst of severity: Lo, I have sinned' (2 Sam. 24:17). `Lord, my pride, my barrenness, my sermon surfeiting have been the procuring cause of all these judgments.' When clouds are round about God, yet `righteousness is the habitation of his throne' (Psa. 97:2).
Answer 6: A humble soul is a Christ-magnifier (Phil. 1:20). He gives the glory of all his actions to Christ and free grace. King Canute took the crown off his own head and set it upon a crucifix. So a humble saint takes the crown of honour from his own head and sets it upon Christ's. And the reason is the love that he bears to Christ. Love can part with anything to the object loved. Isaac loved Rebekah and he gave away his jewels to her (Gen. 24:53). The humble saint loves Christ entirely, therefore can part with anything to him. He gives away to Christ the honour and praise of all he does. Let Christ wear those jewels.
Answer 7: A humble soul is willing to take a reproof for sin. A wicked man is too high to stoop to a reproof. The prophet Micaiah used to tell King Ahab of his sin, and the King said, `I hate him' (I Kings 22:8). Reproof to a proud man is like pouring water on lime, which grows the hotter. A gracious soul loves the one who reproves: `rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee' (Prov. 9:8). The humble-spirited Christian can bear the reproach of an enemy and the reproof of a friend.
Answer 8: A humble man is willing to have his name and gifts eclipsed, so that God's glory may be increased. He is content to be outshone by others in gifts and esteem, so that the crown of Christ may shine the brighter. This is the humble man's motto: `Let me decrease; let Christ increase.' It is his desire that Christ should be exalted, and if this is effected, whoever is the instrument, he rejoices. `Some preach Christ of envy' (Phil. 1:15). They preached to take away some of Paul's hearers. `Well,' says he, `Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice' (v.18). A humble Christian is content to be laid aside if God has any other tools to work with which may bring him more glory.
Answer 9: A humble saint likes that condition which God sees best for him. A proud man complains that he has no more; a humble man wonders that he has so much: `I am not worthy of the least of all thy mercies' (Gen. 32:10). When the heart lies low, it can stoop to a low condition. A Christian looking at his sins wonders that it is no worse with him; he does not say his mercies are small, but his sins are great. He knows that the worst piece God carves him is better than he deserves; therefore he takes it thankfully upon his knees.
Answer 10: A humble Christian will stoop to the meanest person and the lowest office; he will visit the poorest member of Christ. Lazarus' sores are more precious to him than Dives' purple. He does not say, `Stand by, come not near to me, for I am holier than thou' (Isa. 65:5), but `condescends to men of low estate' (Rom. 12:16).
[From The Godly Man's Picture by Thomas Watson, Section II,
a Puritan Paperback edition published by the Banner of Truth.]