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18 Marks of Gospel-Produced Humility

On December 24, 2004, I proposed to my wife. That same night, she gave me a small, antiquarian book that she had bought for me from a bookseller in England. I'm pretty sure it's the only book that she ever bought me (since I did such a fine job of spending all of our money on a theological library)! The little book that she gave me that night is Thomas Brooks' Unsearchable Riches of Christ. This book is of particular value to me because she gave it to me on the night I proposed to her and because it speaks to one of the most important subjects that could occupy the believer's mind throughout his or her life. It addresses an area of my life that needs continual spiritual care--namely, Gospel-produced humility. The first half of this book contains the greatest treatment of spiritual humility that I have yet come across. In the opening chapter, Brooks set out 18 marks of a soul that has been truly humbled by the Gospel. They are as follows: 1. A humble soul under the highest spiritual discoveries, and under the greatest outward mercies, forgets not his former sinfulness and his former outward meanness. Paul had been taken up into the third heavens, and had glorious revelations and manifestations of God, 2 Cor. 12:1–4; he cries out, ‘I was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious,’ 1 Tim. 1:13. Under the choicest discoveries, he remembers his former blasphemies... 2. A humble soul overlooks his own righteousness, and lives upon the righteousness of another, that is that of the Lord Jesus. So the apostle, Philip. 3:8–10, overlooks his own righteousness, and lives wholly upon the righteousness of Christ: ‘I desire to be found in him,’ saith he, ‘not having mine own righteousness’...It is a rotten righteousness, an imperfect righteousness, a weak righteousness, ‘which is of the law; but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith,’ that is a spotless righteousness, a pure righteousness, a complete righteousness, an incomparable righteousness; and, therefore, an humble soul overlooks his own righteousness, and lives upon Christ’s righteousness...Oh! but for a man now to trample upon his own righteousness, and to live wholly upon the righteousness of another, this speaks out a man to be humble indeed. There is nothing that the heart of man stands more averse to than this, of coming off from his own righteousness... 3. The lowest and the meanest good work is not below a humble soul. An humble David will dance before the ark: he enjoyed so much of God in it, that it caused him to leap and dance before it; but Michal his wife despised him for a fool, and counted him as a simple vain fellow, looking upon his carriage as vain and light, and not becoming the might, majesty, and glory of so glorious a prince. Well! says this humble soul, if this be to be vile, I will be more vile... 4. A humble heart will submit to every truth of God, that is made known to it; even to those divine truths that are most cross to flesh and blood. 1 Sam. 3:17, Eli would fain know what God had discovered to Samuel concerning him; Samuel tells him that he must break his neck, that the priesthood must be taken away from him, and his sons must be slain in the war; why ‘it is the Lord,’ saith he, ‘let him do what seems him good.’ So in Lev. 10:3, the Lord by fire from heaven destroys Aaron’s two sons. ‘Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified; and Aaron held his peace'... 5. A humble soul lives not upon himself, nor upon his own actings, but upon the Lord Jesus, and his actings. Poor men, you know, they do not live upon themselves, they live upon others; they live upon the care of others, the love of others, the provision of others. Why! thus an humble soul lives upon the care of Christ, the love of Christ, the promise of Christ, the faithfulness of Christ, the discoveries of Christ. He lives upon Christ for his justification, Philip. 3:7–10; he lives upon Christ for his sanctification... 6. A humble soul judges himself to be below the wrath and judgments of God. An humble soul looks upon himself as one not worthy that God should spend a rod upon him, in order to his reformation, edification, or salvation. As I am unworthy, says an humble soul, that God should smile upon me, so I am unworthy that he should spend a frown upon me. Job 13:25, ‘Will you break a leaf driven to and fro? And wilt you pursue the dry stubble?’ Why, I am but a leaf, I am but a little dry stubble, I am below thy wrath; I am so very, very bad, that I wonder that you should so much as spend a rod upon me. What more weak, worthless, slight, and contemptible than a leaf, than dry stubble? Why, Lord, says Job, I am a poor, weak, and worthless creature, I wonder that you should take any pains to do me good, I can’t but count and call everything a mercy that is less than hell... 7. A humble soul highly prizes the least of Christ. The least smile, the least good word, the least good look, the least truth, the least mercy, is highly valued by an humble soul...The Canaanite woman in the fifteenth of Matthew sets a high price upon a crumb of mercy. Ah, Lord, says the humble soul, if I may not have a loaf of mercy, give me a piece of mercy; if not a piece of mercy, give me a crumb of mercy. If I may not have sun-light, let me have moon-light; if not moon-light, let me have star-light; if not star-light, let me have candle-light; and for that I will bless thee... 8. A humble soul can never be good enough, it can never pray enough, nor hear enough, nor mourn enough, nor believe enough, nor love enough, nor fear enough, nor joy enough, nor repent enough, nor loathe sin enough, nor be humble enough, &c...No holiness below that matchless, peerless, spotless, perfect holiness that saints shall have in the glorious day of Christ’s appearing, will satisfy the humble soul. An humble heart is an aspiring heart; he cannot be contented to get up some rounds in Jacob’s ladder, but he must get to the very top of the ladder, to the very top of holiness. An humble heart cannot be satisfied with so much grace as will bring him to glory, with so much of heaven as will keep him from dropping into hell; he is still crying out, Give, Lord, give; give me more of thyself, more of thy Son, more of thy Spirit; give me more light, more life, more love, &c... 9. A humble soul will smite and strike for small sins as well as for great, for those the world count no sin, as well as for those that they count gross sins. An humble soul knows that little sins, if I may so call any, cost Christ his blood, and that they make way for greater; and that little sins multiplied become great, as a little sum multiplied is great; that they cloud the face of God, wound conscience, grieve the Spirit, rejoice Satan, and make work for repentance, &c. An humble soul knows that little sins, suppose them so, are very dangerous; a little leaven leavens the whole lump; a little staff may kill one; a little poison may poison one; a little leak in a ship sinks it; a little fly in the box of ointment spoils it; a little flaw in a good cause mars it; so a little sin may at once bar the door of heaven and open the gates of hell; and therefore an humble soul smites and strikes itself for the least as well as the greatest... 10. A humble soul will quietly bear burdens, and patiently take blows and knocks, and make no noise. An humble soul sees God through man; he sees God through all the actions and carriages of men: ‘I was dumb,’ saith the prophet, ‘I opened not my mouth, because you didst it.’ An humble soul looks through secondary causes, and sees the hand of God, and then lays his own hand upon his mouth. An humble soul is a mute soul, a tongue-tied soul, when he looks through secondary causes to the supreme cause. 11. In all religious duties and services, a humble soul trades with God upon the credit of Christ. Lord, says the humble soul, I need power against such and such sins: give it me upon the credit of Christ’s blood. I need strength to such and such services: give it me upon the credit of Christ’s word. I need such and such mercies for the cheering, refreshing, quickening, and strengthening of me: give them into my bosom upon the credit of Christ’s intercession. As a poor man lives and deals upon the credits of others, so does an humble soul live and deal with God for the strengthening of every grace, and for the supply of every mercy, upon the credit of the Lord Jesus... 12. humble soul endeavors more how to honor and glorify God in afflictions, than how to get out of afflictions. So Daniel, the three children, the apostles, and those worthies of whom this world was not worthy. They were not curious about getting out of affliction, but studious how to glorify God in their afflictions. They were willing to be anything, and to bear anything, that in everything God might be glorified. They made it their business to glorify God in the fire, in the prison, in the den, on the rack, and under the sword, &c... 13. A humble soul seeks not (it looks not) after great things. A little will satisfy nature, less will satisfy grace; but nothing will satisfy a proud man’s lusts. Lord, says the humble soul, 'If you wilt but give me bread to eat and raiment to put on, you shalt be my God,' Gen. 28:20–22. Let the men of the world, says the humble soul, take the world in all its greatness and glory, and divide it among themselves. Let me have much of Christ and heaven in my heart, and food convenient to support my natural life, and it shall be enough... 14. A humble soul can rejoice in the graces and gracious actings of others, as well as in its own. A humble Moses could say when Eldad and Medad prophesied in the camp, ‘Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them,’ Num. 11:26–30... 15. A humble soul is, he will rather bear wrongs than revenge wrongs offered. The humble soul knows that vengeance is the Lord’s, and that he will repay, &c., Ps. 94:1. The humble soul loves not to take the sword in his own hand, Rom. 12:19; he knows the day is a-coming, wherein the Lord will give his enemies two blows for one, and here he rests. An humble soul, when wrongs are offered, is like a man with a sword in one hand and a salve in the other; could wound but will heal... 16. A humble soul, though he be of never so rare abilities, yet he will not disdain to be taught what he knows not, by the least of persons, Isa. 11:6. A child shall lead the humble soul in the way that is good; he cares not how mean and contemptible the person is, if a guide or an instructor to him. 17. A humble soul will bless God, and be thankful to God, as well under misery as under mercy; as well when God frowns as when he smiles; as well when God takes as when he gives; as well under crosses and losses, as under blessings and mercies. A humble soul, in every condition, blesses God, as the apostle commands, in the 1 Thes. 5:18, ‘In every thing give thanks to God.’ So 1 Cor. 4:12, ‘Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer.’ The language of an humble soul is, If it be thy will, saith an humble soul, I should be in darkness, I will bless thee; and if it be thy will I should be again in light, I will bless thee; if you wilt comfort me, I will bless thee; and if you wilt afflict me, I will bless thee; if you will make me poor, I will bless thee; if you wilt make me rich, I will bless thee; if you wilt give me the least mercy, I will bless thee; if you wilt give me no mercy, I will bless thee... 18. A humble soul will wisely and patiently bear reproof: Prov. 25:12, "As an ear ring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.’ A seasonable reproof falling upon an humble soul hath a redoubled grace with it. It is an earring of gold, and as an ornament of fine gold, or as a diamond in a diadem. A humble David can say, ‘Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness, and let him reprove me, it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head,’ Ps. 141:5...  
  1. Brooks, T. (1866). The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks. (A. B. Grosart, Ed.) (Vol. 3, pp. 10–11). Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert.
  2. Ibid., pp. 11–12.
  3. Ibid., pp. 12–13.
  4. Ibid., p. 14.
  5. Ibid., pp. 14–15.
  6. Ibid., p. 15.
  7. Ibid., pp. 16.
  8. Ibid., pp. 16–17.
  9. Ibid., pp. 17–18.
  10. Ibid., p. 18.
  11. Ibid., pp. 19–20.
  12. Ibid., p. 20.
  13. Ibid., p. 21.
  14. Ibid., p. 22
  15. Ibid., p. 23.
  16. Ibid., p. 23.
  17. Ibid., p. 24.
  18. Ibid., p. 25.

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