Edwards on false humility and the absence of manliness...

(Tim: a dear Christian brother writes:) I'm currently reading through Charity and Its Fruits by Jonathan Edwards and, in his Lecture VII, "The Spirit of Charity is an Humble Spirit," he mentions two things that I hope will be an encouragement...

[h]umility disposes men to be of a yielding spirit to others, ready, for the sake of peace, and to gratify others, to comply in many things with their inclinations, and to yield to their judgments wherein they are not inconsistent with truth and holiness. A truly humble man is inflexible in nothing but in the cause of his Lord and Master, which is the cause of truth and virtue. In this he is inflexible, because God and conscience require it. But in things of lesser moment, and which do not involve his principles as a follower of Christ, and in things that only concern his own private interests, he is apt to yield to others.

I feel that many evangelicals have no way of connecting the dots between humility and inflexibility in "the cause of truth and virtue." Not to draw too fine a point, but I think it is also worth noting that Edwards maintains this inflexiblity not only for God's sake, but also for conscience's sake. Conscience is constrained by the Word of God. I fear that there are far too few whose conscience is pricked by or who would blush at an easy departure from the inconveniences of Holy Scripture.

There are various imitations of [humility] that fall short of the reality. Some put on an affected humility. Others have a natural low-spiritedness, and are wanting in manliness of character. Others are melancholy or despondent, [while] others, under the convictions of conscience, by which, for the time, they are depressed, seem broken in spirit. Others seem greatly abased while in adversity and affliction, or have a natural melting of the heart under the common illuminations of the truth. In others, there is a counterfeit kind of humility, wrought by the delusions of Satan: and all of these may be mistaken for true humility.

Don't you think it's interesting that Edwards finds false humility in those who are "wanting in manliness of character?"  How easily we confuse the neutering of masculinity with humility!


This chord is struck by Piper in a great chapter from 'Brothers, We Are NOT Professionals' entitled, "Don't confuse uncertainty with humility".

The chapter includes this great Chesterton quote:

"What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed."

Thanks for that quote Rev. Bayly. Edwards has quite a way with words...


Great Chesterton quote. Unfortunately men increasingly confuse humility and cowardice because there is no such thing as absolute truth in the arena of theological truth, but only subjectivity. If doctrinal truth originates in sinful man and not God's infallible revelation, then being unswervingly committed to doctrine is arrogance (cf. Luther's famous "Here I stand..." statement).

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