We have seen that gracious affections stand on the excellence of God, that holiness comprises the beauty of the excellence of God and divine things, and that gracious affections arise from the spiritual sense to see, comprehend, and love the beauty of God’s holiness. Moreover, as spiritual sight and understanding of the holy beauty of God and divine things produces “a reasonable and spiritual conviction of the reality and certainty of divine things,” it also produces humility.
Edwards distinguishes between “evangelical” and “legal” humiliation. Legal humiliation is natural to all people and often comes by the Holy Spirit assisting the conscience, and may include a sense of God’s natural attributes and judgment against sin. Evangelical humiliation is peculiar to believers and comes from the Holy Spirit dwelling and exerting Himself within the saint, giving a sense of the moral beauty of God and His works and the vile and hateful nature of sin. In legal humiliation, unbelievers may have an active conscience and sense their smallness before God, but lack the new heart and spiritual understanding that seeks to glorify God and obey His will from love for Him. Legally humbled unbelievers may be brought to see their helplessness and forced into humility, while the believer willingly denies self and yields to God from a humble delight in Him.  “Evangelical humiliation is a sense that a Christian has of his own utter insufficiency, despicableness, and odiousness, with an answerable frame of heart.” 
And, as “common knowledge” of biblical truth precedes spiritual understanding of the beauty of God’s holiness, God may use legal humiliation to produce and nurture true humility. Nonetheless, legal humiliation has no “true virtue” before God. People can be humbled without being truly humble. 
God designed redemption to make us humble.  “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” Psalm 34:18. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” Psalm 51:17. “Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly” Psalm 138:6. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). 
Edwards identifies two elements of true self-denial: 1) the denial of worldly desires, things, and pleasures; and, 2) the denial of self-exaltation and our “dignity and glory.” Unbelievers more easily imitate the former, while the latter and more difficult of the two, the believer does in evangelical humiliation. “It is inexpressible…how strong a self-righteous, self-exalting disposition is naturally in man; and what he will not do and suffer to feed and gratify it: and what lengths have been gone in a seeming self-denial in other respects.”  History abounds with people abandoning worldly pleasures and riches, yet, “who were far from renouncing their own dignity and righteousness.” Rather than denying themselves for Christ, they merely “sold one lust to feed another.” 
Moreover, “many that are full of expressions of their own vileness…expect to be looked upon as eminent and bright saints by others.” And woe to anyone who affirms the pretense.  Indeed, “some who think themselves quite emptied of themselves, and are confident that they are abased in the dust, are full as they can hold with the glory of their own humility, and lifted up to heaven with a high opinion of their own abasement.” 
The prideful thinks highly of his religious attainments and experiences as compared to others and considers himself a great saint. His unseen attitude says, “God, I thank thee that I am not as other men” (Luke 18:11), and, “I am holier than you” (Isaiah 65:5). Of course, every experience of God’s grace is a marvelous thing, “indeed a thing great, yea, infinitely great, for God to bestow the least crumb of children’s bread on such dogs as we are in ourselves.” But, if by “great experience” one means “great compared with others’ experiences, or beyond what is ordinary,” the hidden meaning is, “I am an eminent saint” and have more grace than other saints. And, no less when the credit is given to God, as in Luke 18:11: “God, I thank thee that I am not as other men” [emphasis mine]. 
For Edwards, truly eminent saints are “more likely to profess themselves to be least of all saints, and to think that every saint’s attainments and experiences are higher than his.” “Such is the nature of grace and of true spiritual light that they naturally dispose the saints in the present state to look upon their grace and goodness little, and their deformity great.” 
While knowledge without love makes arrogant, true knowledge and love of the beauty of God’s holy excellence humbles the soul. For instance, the greater our view of God’s grace and glory, the smaller will appear our attainments and experiences. The more we know of “the infinite dignity of the person of Christ, and the boundless length and breadth and depth and height of the love of Christ to sinners,” the more we will see how much we should love Him and how far we fall short. 
Given what God has displayed to us “of his infinite glory, in His Word, and in His works; and particularly in the gospel of His Son,” then “how small indeed is the love of the most eminent saint on earth, in comparison of what these things jointly considered do require!”  To those saved by God’s infinite grace, “it appears exceedingly abominable to them that Christ should be loved so little, and thanked so little for His dying love. It is in their eyes hateful ingratitude.” 
Moreover, the greater our view of God’s holiness, the greater will appear our sinfulness compared to our goodness, and the more ugly will appear our sin. The slightest offense appears “to outweigh all the beauty” of our highest holiness. And as “we are surely under greater obligation to love a more lovely being, than a less lovely,” and as God is infinitely beautiful and excellent, “our obligations to love Him are infinitely great,” so that “whatever is contrary to this love, has in it infinite iniquity, deformity, and unworthiness.”  Spiritual knowledge, then, does not hide personal sinfulness, but exposes and highlights it by “that penetrating, all-searching light of God’s holiness and glory.” 
And true spiritual understanding reveals our ignorance.  “Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope for a fool than of him” (Proverbs 26:12). “Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:21).
We judge our humility by how we regard our status relative to others. The higher we view our self and the lower we view those we serve, the higher we view the humility of our service. For example, a slave thinks nothing of untying the shoe of a prince, but untying the shoe of a friend we consider a humble act.  When we think we have performed a great act of humility, we claim, in effect, “This is great humility for me, for such an one as I that am so considerable and worthy.” Anything we do below our presumed status we call humility. 
In contrast, “He that is truly and eminently humble never thinks his humility great. The cause why he should be abased appears so great, and the abasement of the frame of his heart so greatly short of it, that he takes much more notice of his pride than his humility.” Moreover, false humility is showy and draws attention to itself, while true humility avoids the spotlight. 
In the end, God hates pride. “Him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer [tolerate]” (Psalm 101:5 KJV). “Six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look…” (Proverbs 6:16-17). God sees those who view themselves as holier than others as “a smoke in [His] nose, a fire that burneth all the day” (Isaiah 65:5). But, “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isaiah 66:2). Such is the heart that accompanies truly gracious religious affections.
Up next: True religious affections accompany a “change of nature.”
 BT, 237-9; Yale, 311-312.
 BT, 237; Yale, 311.
 BT, 238; Yale, 312.
 BT, 239; Yale, 312.
 See also Isaiah 66:1-2, Ezekiel 36: 26, 27, 31; Habakkuk 2:4, Micah 6:8, Matthew 18:3-4, Mark 10:15, Luke 7:37ff., Luke 18:9-14, Colossians 3:12.
 BT, 241; Yale, 315.
 BT, 241; Yale, 315.
 BT, 243; Yale, 317.
 BT, 245; Yale, 319.
 BT, 246; Yale, 320.
 BT, 247; Yale, 321.
 BT, 248; Yale, 322.
 BT, 249; Yale, 323.
 BT, 249-50; Yale, 324.
 BT, 251; Yale, 325.
 BT, 251-2; Yale, 325-6.
 BT, 252; Yale, 326.
 BT, 253; Yale, 327.
 BT, 256; Yale, 330.
 BT, 258; Yale, 332.
 BT, 259; Yale, 332-3.
 BT, 260; Yale, 333.
 BT, 261-2; Yale, 335.
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© 2017 Craig Biehl, author of God the Reason, The Box, The Infinite Merit of Christ, and Reading Religious Affections
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