ON THE FRUITS OF HUMILITY
Consider first, that humility is the ground on which other virtues must be built: they have all of them a necessary dependence on this foundation, and are all of them more or less perfect in proportion to the degree in which we possess humility. Faith itself, which is commonly looked upon as the foundation of all our good, absolutely depends upon humility – even that humility which obliges the soul to adore what she cannot understand, to submit to the most humbling truths, and to ‘cast down every height that exalted itself against the knowledge of God, and to bring into captivity every understanding to the obedience of Christ,’ 2 Cor. x. 4, 5, Because, as all heresies proceed from pride, self-conceit, and refusing to give up or submit one’s own judgment divine authority, so nothing else but humility can secure the soul from this danger and keep her firm to her faith. In like manner divine hope depends also upon humility, which alone can keep the soul in the golden mean, between the two extremes of diffidence and presumption; whilst it teaches her to have no opinion or confidence in herself, nor any way to build on her own sandy bottom, but wholly upon the rock which can never fail us, of the power, goodness, and mercy of God. For the less we trust in ourselves the more we trust in God. and thus we shall always find that they who are the most humble have also the strongest faith and hope, and are usually instruments in the hand of God of his greatest works.
Consider 2ndly, that divine charity, the queen of all virtues, as to both her branches, viz., both the love of God and the love of our neighbours, has also a close connexion with humility, and can never maintain her ground in our souls without being supported by humility. Because humility furnishes the soul with the most pressing motives to assist her to love her God; humility sets his goodness in its proper light; makes the soul admire that he, being what he is, should have any regard to her, or even bear with such a sinful wretch as she is: humility teaches her that she is nothing, and that God is the great all, infinitely good in himself, and infinitely good to her: and indeed, this infinite goodness of God, which is the proper object of divine love, is never rightly comprehended, but by the humble. and as to that other branch of charity that relates to our neighbours, ’tis very evident it can never be obtained but by humility: for all the vices that oppose and destroy fraternal charity, such as hatred, envy, contention, rash judgment, detraction, anger, &c., all spring from pride, and are not to be vanquished but by true humility; which teaches us to prefer all others before ourselves, and to be angry with no one but ourselves.
Consider 3rdly, that prayer, which is the general means of all our good, must also be presented before the throne of God, and recommended by humility; or else it will never be effectual with God: but when it is accompanied with humility, it can do all things. ‘The prayer of him that humbleth himself,’ saith the wise man, Eccles. xxxv. 21, ‘shall pierce the clouds;’ and he will not depart till the most high beholds him with a favourable eye, to grant his petition. For as the psalmist assures us, Ps. ci. 18, ‘God hath regard to the prayer of the humble, and despiseth not their petitions.’ ‘And from the beginning the proud have never been acceptable to him; but the prayer of the humble and of the meek have always pleased him,’ Judith ix 16. Even the prayer of the greatest sinners, when it is presented with a contrite and humble heart, is not despised by him, Ps. 1., as evidently appears in the case of the publican, Luke xviii., who by this one short prayer, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner,’ accompanied with a profound humility and a perfect contrition, was immediately justified. O blessed humility, what canst thou not effect! O dear Lord, teach us to be humble.
Conclude if thou desirest to raise in thy soul the fabric of virtue, to lay in the first place the foundation of humility; and the higher thou hopest to erect this fabric, the lower must thou sink the foundation, by a more profound humility. Virtue without this foundation will prove no better than a house built upon sand, which at the first storm or inundation will fall to ruin.