Times of Persecution - Sermon 14
by William Guthrie
"And she said, Truth, Lord; yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master's table."
It is a business of great importance that was prosecuted by this woman, in her depending on God, and in her address to Him through many difficulties. It was a discouragement that He was silent; but when He gives her an answer it was worse than silence. "It is not," says He, "meet to give the children's bread unto the dogs." But yet she had better skill of this answer than of His silence. From this she presseth her point. She gets some footing here. Christ tells her she was a dog. "I grant, Lord; I cannot deny it; yet I am such a dog as may expect a crumb. If I may have a relation to Thee, let it be what it will; it is good enough." She is content. He calls her so, and she says, "The dogs may eat of the crumbs." She grants all He has said, and yet she gains her point well enough.
The point of doctrine is,
DOCT.—True humiliation doth not justle with Christ Jesus, but sweetly complies with Him.
This poor woman did not justle with Christ. But when He calls her a dog, "Well, Lord, I grant I am a dog, and come of an evil kind, and evil of myself, and there are many much worthier to be set at the table than I; yet I will wait for a crumb, and that crumb is as effectual as a great piece of bread."
In speaking to this doctrine, we shall consider,
False humility, and in what cases it justles with Christ.
What is true humility, and in what cases it sweetly complies with God.
Some properties of true humility.
The advantages of them that have it.
I. The first thing we are to speak of is false humility.
This day we shall show what way false humility works. False humility is ever in one of these two extremities. It is either, 1st, ever low, that is lower than God would have it; or, 2ndly, it is higher than God would have it—higher than can be tolerated before Him.
1st, False humility goes lower than God would have it in these following respects:—
1. False humility submits things to God that are not to be submitted, until they have all actual existence. For example, God never allowed a man to submit his salvation until it had all existence. There are many of you that will leave it to God whether to save or damn you. That is false humility; because He has declared His mind peremptorily to the contrary. People are still to press to get into heaven, until they be actually cast into hell. They will get no thanks from God for that kind of humility.
2. False humility leaves a latitude to God (where He leaves none) to save them whether they believe or not. "We know," say they, "that people should believe; but He may save us any way. He may bring folk to heaven as well without faith as with it." Do ye imagine that God will bring people to heaven except they believe? You are in a great mistake. "He that believeth not shall not see life. Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." This is a sufficient proof.
3. False humility puts a man lower than the reach of free grace. When a man takes such a look of his guilt that he thinks himself below the free grace of God; though he will not say that he has sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost, yet he thinks God cannot pardon him. It is a sin to think so, when He has said, "All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven." Thus false humility justles out the whole device of God in the covenant of free grace.
4. False humility is more tender of the glory of God than ever He was Himself. It is a strange sort of humility when one stands up and says, "I think it were an encroachment on the holiness of God to show mercy unto me. He may condescend to show mercy to whom He will; but He cannot condescend to pardon me." That is a strange thing. What is that to you, what encroachment it be on His holiness, since He has declared that He has found a ransom? And will ye be wiser than He? He will never account that humility. It is enough to us that He has made a declaration through the world; "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him." I shall satisfy myself in myself. Trouble not your heads about that. I am satisfied.
5. The fifth case wherein false humility goes lower than God allows is, that it counts it indiscretion to put little things into God's hand. Many think it indiscretion for them at such a time as this, to bid God heal their sore head that incapacitates them to hear the preaching; to help your faint heart that hinders you to profit by the word. This is the devil's humility, for the Lord counts all the hairs of your head. Some think it a piece of indiscretion to seek a peek of meal from God, and a coat to put on their back at such a time as this; though He has commanded you to put all your wants upon Him, from your salvation to your shoe-latchet.
6. False humility thinks it indiscretion to come often to God about one and the same thing. This humility justles with the majesty of God. This is the case with many of us. Ye have told God often what you are. You have frequented many communions, and yet you are not the better. Ye have come often with one and the same thing, and ye blush to come to Him again. But in this ye are humble overmuch. I would have you ashamed that you have not come again and again about one and the same thing. Never account it indiscretion to come to Him, though the men of the world should think it so, while He has bid the brother forgive the brother, even to seventy times seven in a day. Oh, how much more will the great God of heaven forgive us in one day! So this humility is lower than ever God allowed it to be. Ye are ashamed to speak of your evil case over again, you have spoken of it so often. But truly ye must go again to Him with it, or else ye must do worse. For none of your ways are hid from Him. Ye think it would offend a saint to come so often to him about one and the same thing. But God will bear infinitely more with you than any saint will do. Although these things be marvelous in our eyes, yet they are not so in His eyes. You either grant that His mercy is like Himself, or else ye quite mistake Him. Now, these are cases wherein humility goes lower than ever God allowed it. And,
2nd, The next case is, wherein humility rises higher than ever God allowed it.
1. False humility goes higher than can be tolerated, in refusing to be in God's common. This is when people are still seeking for some qualification before they dare meddle with Christ in believing. They say they would not think much to go to Him, if they could get their hearts so and so broken—that is, if they could endure a penance for their sins. But this is to justle with God, for He is upon this string, to "come without money and without price." Oh, but there are many playing upon this string: "Had I such a measure of sorrow for my transgressions"—i.e., I have no will to venture on Him absolutely. But nothing shall ye have but God's curse or displeasure, if ye take not another way. Ye think it strange when people run still to Christ when they cannot do their own turn; but you may assure yourselves that it is the only way, for if ye stick at any qualification, ye spoil the market of free grace wholly.
2. A false humility has no will to be in Christ's common absolutely. It resolves to be but very little in it at all; though persons that have this kind of humility acknowledge they must be somewhat in His common, "For," say they, "He may show mercy to any other sinner, but not to such a one as I am. I know He can pardon sinners, but I cannot tell if He will pardon such as I am." False humility says, "There is nothing pinches me but to go to Him in such a case as I am in." When ye say so, truly it is a token ye know little what is betwixt you and Him. But remember what distance is betwixt you, the creature, and God; and betwixt sin and free grace. The difficulty here is, to make God stoop to man, there being such an infinite distance betwixt them. But there is no such disproportion betwixt your sin, and the sin of any others, as there is betwixt God and the creature. But has free grace stooped to pardon the sin of any? Then the hazard is past, so that your humility is proud humility, because ye will not be absolutely in His common. Ye dare venture the pardon of one sin upon Him, if it were but an ill thought or so; but ye dare not venture the pardon of such a sin that is great. That is strange ignorance. Ye think, if ye were like unto me, ye would venture upon Him; but if ye know what I am, and if I knew what ye are, we would see there is no such disproportion betwixt our sins and those of others as there is between God and the least sin that ever man committed. But know that if God stoop to pardon any man's sin, then the hazard is past, for your sin is not so far beyond the sin of any other as God is distant from the creature. But since free grace has stooped to pardon any sin, then if ye have the heart to venture the pardon of one idle word upon Him, then ye may venture upon Him the pardon of drunkenness, breach of covenant, yea, of every sin. No sin can stand in the way, because the disproportion is betwixt sin and grace, and not betwixt grace and such a particular sin. Since God has stooped in this matter, the anger is past; His becoming Immanuel, God with us, is a greater difficulty.
3. This false humility justles with God about sin after conversion. At first it was content to be in His common absolutely; yet as to sin after conversion it hath no will to be in His common, for taking of new extracts of pardon or making special addresses to Him for the same. This is proud humility. There are many that think that, when they come first to close with Christ, they must resolve to take Him on His own terms, and to be absolutely in His common; but afterwards they think they cannot come, except they have such and such a stock of grace. "Would you have me going to God," say they, "in such a frame, before I get my heart humbled." But then, poor fools, ye may go any other way ye will. Are not all your repeated aetings of faith, repentance, &c., from God, absolutely from God? And therefore ye must be in His common for repentance and a broken heart, as well as for the pardon of sin. It is not a time now-a-days to be prigging with Him as ye were wont to do. Ye must be absolutely in His common, as at your first closing with Him. It is true ye ought to have better framed spirits, yet ye must be ever in His common Since ye want that, and cannot get it, ye must be ever in His common for new debt, as well as for the old. I grant it is duty to seek for a good frame of spirit at such a time as this; but if ye cannot get it, ye are to cast all upon Himself together, who careth for you.
4. This false humility will not acknowledge crumbs to be essential bread. Because persons meet not with special communication as others do, because there is something they have never gotten, because they never knew what sensible hearing of prayer and sensible presence was, therefore they cast at all they have experienced. Truly ye are very proud; ye think nothing of heart conviction while you have a broken state; but consider that a man may have a worse thing than that. Ye think it nothing that ye apprehend Christ to be a precious jewel; ye think nothing that your desire runs that way. But indeed I think very much of it. Ye think nothing of it that ye account all His commands to be right, and that ye have a respect to small and great of them. That is a miserable humility of yours, since the Scripture has said that they "shall never be ashamed who have respect to all his commandments." These crumbs are essential bread as well as big loaves. This was a prudent woman; she could be doing with little crumbs until she got more.
5. This humility that is over high will abate unto God some promise upon condition that He will perform other promises. But that is a cursed humility that would abate one promise, in order to obtain other promises that are of a greater concernment. I dare say there are many this day that would not seek health to their bodies all their days, nor the life of their wives or children, provided He would but save their souls and keep them from the troubles of this ill time. And is this fair, think ye, to set up such limits to the free bounty and holy majesty of God as not to deal liberally with Him according to His own Word? Doth He abate anything to thee? He is of a liberal heart, and allows His people to devise liberal things at His hand. Will He be in your common, so to speak, for giving Him down the performance of one promise for the out-making of another. Nay, He allows you to seek your salvation, your health, and the health of your children, with food and raiment to you and them, and every other thing that may be for your good. The people of God think it a singular virtue that they get all submitted to Him, except their salvation. I grant it is good if the Lord call for these things at your hand. In that case ye are to submit all to Him: but when He is not expressly putting you to it, ye are not to do it, but to put Him to His promise. Has He not promised, thou shalt have bread, and thy water shall be sure? Ye may seek it from Him, for He can well spare it. He will never thank you for not asking a temporal benefit, though it were but the cure of a sore head, or sickly body. So never offer bid Him to pass from one promise to make out another. Ye will never come the better speed for doing so. I say, Seek health, food, and raiment, and as much means as may carry you through the world, without being burdensome to others. I warrant ye think that ye should never seek these things, but He hates the manner of a churl. It is still good to bode good, and get good at God's hand. "The liberal man deviseth liberal things, and by liberal things he shall stand."
II. Now we come, in the second place, to speak of true humility. And,
1st, True humility complies with God in all the charges of sin. Let God charge the man with what He will, true humility takes with all. When He calls one a dog—"It is trite, Lord; we are justly called so, being come of an ill kind; and we ourselves being far worse, and like to grow no better. We are guilty of such and such things." Thus true humility grants all, and yet is never a bit the farther from its end; and this is the thing in which ye are to comply with Him this day. If there be anything in your way when approaching to Him at His table, and ye cannot tell whether it be a sin or not, take with it as a sin, and never stand upon it.
2ndly, True humility complies with God in all the charges He brings of corruption. God says, "Ye have an evil heart." "I wot well," say ye, "that is true." "You are not likely to amend, for all the pains I have taken upon you." "I think so, Lord; I come but little speed." "Your heart is as ready for an ill turn as ever it was." "Certainly that is a truth." "I think there was never an ill turn that fell out in the hand of any of thy people, but it is like to fall out in yours." "True, Lord." "Your heart sways some bad way at this time." "Indeed that is as true as any of them all." Thus true humility takes with all the charges of corruption that are brought against the soul.
3rdly, True humility complies with God as to the remedy both for the pardon of sin and for help against the power of sin. True humility accounts it no pride to submit to the righteousness of God. True humility complies with God as to the remedy He has provided for the guilt of sin, and as to the remedy He has provided for the dominion of it. It grants that it is a slave to many a lust; yea, a very fool; but it will grant more—it will grant that Christ is "made wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and complete redemption." My heart faints and fails it is true, indeed, "But God is the strength of my heart, and portion for ever." That is true. If God say, "There is life in my Son," true humility is as ready to say, "That is true; I shall get life." If He say, "There is no way to destroy corruption but by abiding in Christ." "Well," says humility, "I will cleave to Him as the branches abide in the vine." "There is a fountain opened to the house of David for sin, and for uncleanness." "Well," says true humility, and it complies with this contrivance, as the only remedy for the purging away of corruption.
4thly, True humility complies with God by standing to the bit, and that over the belly of such boasting, and many difficulties, and does not take the Lord short at the first word, so to speak, i.e., If God will not give this thing, at this time, let Him do as He pleaseth. It is but pride to take God at His first word. This woman was an example of true humility: she was a pattern to copy after. "Thou art a dog." "I grant," says she, "I am a filthy one." "Thou art none of mine." "I grant," says she, "I was never worthy to be called one of Thine. That is true, Lord, but we must not part so. I will abide until I reach God's design;" which was to save sinners. All His hard sayings were never to put away a poor sinner; but to quicken their desires and bring them nearer to Himself. Thus true humility always complies with God in what He says. It will be grieving that it gets no more; but yet it still takes what it can have. Take good heed: this carriage of true humility lies much in these two things:—
1. It will be taking the essentials of life and peace, viz., Christ Himself: and yet will be still complaining of the want of these communications, these precious things He useth to distribute to His people. Yet it will solace itself in effectual grace when it finds itself under the condemnation for sin, through the conviction of heart. It sees Christ the essential treasure, worth all in the world. It will take up Him thankfully, as the essentials of life, and peace, and all the other graces. The awe of God being upon the heart, they that have this humility will make conscience of their way; but still there will be much sorrow at heart that they cannot get the love of God more abundantly shed abroad therein, with sensible presence and prayer taken off their hand. Ay, but these things are not meat; they are beautiful rings and jewels, but they cannot eat them. They are good and delightsome; but a man's life cannot be holden in by them. It is Himself that fills, and is all in all to them.
2. It will be taking what is essential, and yet it will know itself to want many things. It will be ever grieving or complaining for want of other essentials. True humility will be blessing God, and yet it will be loathing itself for what the person has done. It will be very low because it cannot get heart-breaking contrition, self-loathing, and self-judging for sin. It loatheth itself because it cannot love and take thankfully of God's hand, anything of love He bestows. It would gladly have more love. Though the person's heart be not so as he would and ought, yet he will take it thankfully off God's hand that He has brought him to this, to offer up the heart to Him, and also unto His whole law. But still it breaks his heart that he cannot attain to practical obedience to all His commands. Yet since God has stated it as an evidence of His love to have some respect to all His commands—"Then shall I not be ashamed when I have respect to all thy commandments"—he will bless the Lord for all He has given him till he get more. Some will get leave to stand at the King's table, and some to dip their morsel in the platter with Him; while others are set at a bye-table with a piece of dry bread, and all are fed with the same substantial food—even he that gets the crumbs as well as he that sits at the table.
5thly, True humility takes things in the naked promise, and leaves the performance of them to God's own time. Give true humility a promise, and it will rest satisfied. It gives much glory to God, and is well pleasing in His sight, that we should hang all upon the promise. It is what God has designed, that we should all hang upon His word. True humility complies with God. If He will give me a word that will save me. Let Him do with me as seemeth Him good. Give me the promise that thou wilt break the dominion of such and such a lust, or idol; then I will leave it to thee to do it when thou wilt. Though I be impatient of its rule in me, yet I will not be so peremptory as to say that I will have it done at this communion or else never look for it more. Ye must not limit Him to such and such a time. Ye must not limit the Holy One of Israel. He hath said, "That it shall be well with the righteous." And "The foot of the wicked shall slide in due time." Then wait for it; it shall be accomplished, since He hath said that He will also do it.
6thly, True humility dares not help to bring about the performance of the promise in any way, but in the way He has allowed. If the Lord commands a peremptory duty, it dares not dispute with God about the event, whatever cross or difficulty may follow thereon. It deals more with Christ for the removal of the wrath than of the stroke in the cross. It closes with Him as the only remedy; whereas false humility would shake off the cross and take some nearer way. But true humility will wait on a while, for it still expects good at God's hand. If He command me to go to such a communion, though I want a frame for it I must go there. And then I am to apprehend Himself, and exercise the faith of adherence, till I get more. Though I be not in a good frame, I am not to stay away from the communion; for where is a good frame to be had if not in His way? True humility dares not take any sinful way to bring about God's promise, neither dares it venture upon anything not commanded of God.
7thly, True humility complies with God in this, that it still makes more bold with its own things than with the matters of God. Hence, when its own interest and God's come in competition, it stands to God's and lets its own fall. For example, there is a thing the doing of which is a sin, or I shall be made to suffer. Well, but I will rather suffer before I sin. For there is but suffering on the one side, but there is sinning on the other. Ay, but there may be sin in it consequently. Yet that is but a may-be. The one may or may not be, but the other is clearly and manifestly sin. Suppose my suffering to be sin consequently; yet I am not called to venture upon what is manifest guilt, because my suffering may be sin consequently. True humility will venture more upon the body than upon the soul; and in this it complies with God, for God regards the soul most. Take this example for a proof: God cut down Job's children and all his worldly substance; yea, all he had, that he might get a little more grace. Oh, but God will squeeze a man strongly in his body, interests, and goods, to increase his grace.
III. The third thing to be spoken to, is: The properties of true humility. And,
1st, Although it is most condescending and complying, yet it is most sagacious and wise to take up all that God says or does to His people. It discerns that God thereby designs to save and not destroy His people. It takes up all that God does, as what is in order to bring them to Himself, and not to chase them away from Him.
2ndly, True humility is wise to distinguish between spiritual truths and those called canonical. Every word of Scripture taken by itself is not canonical, as, "I will deliver you no more," whereas He delivered them many a time after that. And, "I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Can these literally be called canonical? Then they must agree with other Scriptures, and with the analogy of faith. Every place of Scripture, taken by itself, could not be called canonical, except it were compared with other Scriptures and the analogy of faith.
3rdly, True humility is most wise and sagacious to take up sin as the worst thing in the world; and then it is most charitable towards God in all His procedure, but most uncharitable to itself in all the cases we have spoken to. True humility puts a good construction on all God does or says. If it cannot extricate or falsify itself by one particular truth, it will run to another that relates to the sovereignty of God. It still deviseth liberally of God. What if I cannot see a consistency between such a promise, and what He seems to say in such or such a particular; or how such or such a particular work shall be brought about—well, in this case, humility runs to some particular truth that is absolute, as, "Marvelous in our eyes;" yet it is not so with Him. Let Him do what pleases Him; for it is in His power. Then true humility has still true faith going along with it. It dares not question whether He will condescend to all these things, even to whatever He has said in His word. He says, "That in all the afflictions of his people, he is afflicted." And yet all the world cannot tell how it is so. He has said, that He "will save his people in due time;" and that He "will be a helper to them, and that right early." True humility dares not question these things, since He has said it shall be so; though in the meantime He be breaking them in the place of dragons, and they see the wicked "flourish as a green bay-tree."
4thly, True humility is most legal, and dares not dispute any of His commands whose will is a law, a prerogative that belongs to no sovereign power on earth. True humility dares not dispute His commands; but if He charge and command in His own name that any who sees his need should believe in His Son, and that he should turn the grace of God into wantonness, he must do it. He commands the man who brings his idols this day to be slain by the death of Christ, to take his communion as a seal of the pardon of them, and a seal of all the promises that ever He hath spoken. They know it belongs to them to perform duties, and not to debate commanded duty. Then true humility will weather out many blasts, and ward off many assaults. It sees a reason why it gets not such a thing it would have at such and such a time; and why He deals this and that way, and not another way, with His people. It sees a reason for all these things. Then true humility will not be wiser than God; for it knows He sees a way to glorify Himself more in pardoning and saving the person, by believing, than by letting him die or rot in the prison of sin through unbelief. He will never have so much glory in that way; for He is more glorified by believing in Christ, than He would be if ye should burn in hell to eternity.
IV. Therefore ye see the advantages of true humility, that whoever has it, their condition is most promising for growth in grace; for He "giveth grace unto the humble." He giveth more grace to the man that will not strive with Him, but is still taking and waiting for more. If the Lord is dealing anything to His people, such a one is the most likely to get something. He is the man that gets the quickest dispatches from heaven of any. For He hears the desire of the humble; yea, if it be but come to a desire, it will be answered, and that is a great advantage; and if he happen to fall or make a slip, such a man or woman has a promise to be raised, or made up again. "To this man will I look, that is of a humble or contrite heart." Then this humble frame has a great advantage in this respect, that God will let such as have it know what way to go in a dark and cloudy day sooner than any other; yea, and to keep the way when many others run wrong. Here it is, "The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way." Nay, though he be otherwise a fool, he is assured (which is much worth in an evil day) that nothing will offend him.
USE.—Let me then exhort you to beware of false humility at this time, and justle not with God. Be not lower than what He would have you. Say not that ye will not come to turn again with reiterated guilt, and faults that ye have done over and over again, and confessed very often before Him; for there is no other way for you to go or to get your case helped. Never cast at crumbs, but remember that in true humility lies your best frame of spirit and most sure outgate. Take with all your sins, and with all that God charges you with as to sin and corruption, and yet cleave closely to Him; and any bit that falls to your share take it, and be still weeping and seeking for more.
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