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Acts or Offices of Humility.

The grace of humility is exercised by these following rules.

1. Think not thyself better for anything that happens to thee from without. For although thou mayest, by gifts bestowed upon thee, be better than another, as one horse is better than another, that is of more use to others; yet as thou art a man, thou hast nothing to commend thee to thyself but that only by which thou art a man, that is, by what thou choosiest and refusest.

2. Humility consists not in railing against thyself, or wearing mean clothes, or going softly and submissively; but in hearty and real evil or mean opinion of thyself. Believe thyself an unworthy person heartily, as thou believest thyself to be hungry, or poor, or sick, when thou art so.

3. Whatsoever evil thou sayest of thyself, be content that others should think to be true: and if thou callest thyself fool, be not angry if another say so of thee. For if thou thinkest so truly, all men in the world desire other men to be of their opinion; and he is an hypocrite that accuses himself before others, with an intent not to be believed. But he that calls himself intemperate, foolish, lustful, and is angry when his neighbours call him so, is both a false and a proud person.

4. Love to be concealed, and little esteemed:113113Ama nesciri et pro nihilo reputari.—Gerson. be content to want praise, never being troubled when thou art slighted or undervalued; for thou canst not undervalue thyself, and if thou thinkest so meanly as there is reason, no contempt will seem unreasonable, and therefore it will be very tolerable.114114I1villan nobilitado non cognosce partentado.

5. Never be ashamed of thy birth, or thy parents, or thy trade,115115Chi del arte sua se vergogna, semqure vive con vergogna. or thy present employment, for the meanness or poverty of any of them; and when there is an occasion to speak of them, such an occasion as would invite you to speak of anything that pleases you, omit it not, but speak as readily and indifferently of thy meanness as of thy greatness. Primislaus, the first king of Bohemia, kept his country-shoes always by him, to remember from whence he was raised: and Agathocles, by the furniture of his table, confessed that from a potter he was raised to be the king of Sicily.

6. Never speak anything directly tending to thy praise or glory; that is, with the purpose to be commended, and for no other end. If other ends be mingled with thy honour, as if the glory of God, or charity, or necessity, or anything of prudence be thy end, you are not tied to omit your discourse or your design, that you may avoid praise, but pursue your end, though praise come along in the company. Only let not praise be the design.

7. When thou hast said or done anything for which thou receivest praise or estimation, take it indifferently, and return it to God, reflecting upon his as the giver of the gift, or the blesser of the action, or the aid of the design; and give God thanks for making thee an instrument of his glory, for the benefit of others.

8. Secure a good name to thyself by living virtuously and humbly; but let this good name be nursed abroad, and never be brought home to look upon it: let others use it for their own advantage; let them speak of it if they please; but do not thou at all use it, but as an instrument to do God glory, and thy neighbour more advantage. Let thy face, like Moses’s, shine to others, but make no looking-glasses for thyself.

9. Take no content in praise when it is offered thee; but let thy rejoicing in God’s gift be allayed with fear, lest this good bring thee to evil. Use the praise as you use your pleasure in eating and drinking; if it comes, make it do drudgery; let it serve other ends, and minister to necessities, and to caution, lest by pride you lose your just praise, which you have deserved, or else, by being praised unjustly, you receive shame into yourself with God and wise men.

10. Use no stratagems and devices to get praise. Some use to inquire into the faults of their own actions or discourses, on purpose to hear that it was well done or spoken, and without fault; others bring the matter into talk, or thrust themselves into company, and intimate and give occasion to be thought or spoken of. These men make a bait to persuade themselves to swallow the hook, till by drinking the waters of vanity they swell and burst.

11. Make no suppletories to thyself, when thou art disgraced or slighted, by pleasing thyself with supposing thou didest deserve praise, though they understood thee not, or enviously detracted from thee: neither do thou get to thyself a private theatre and flatterers,116116Alter alteri satis amplum theatrum sumus; satis unus, satismullus.—Sen. in whose vain noises and fantastie praises thou mayest keep up thine own good opinion of thyself.

12. Entertain no fancies of vanity and private whispers of this devil of pride, such as was that of Nebuchadnezzar: ‘Is not this great Babylon, which I have built for the honour of my name, and the might of my majesty, and the power of my kingdom?’ Some fantastic spirits will walk alone, and dream waking of greatness, of palaces, of excellent orations, full theatres, loud applauses, sudden advancement, great fortunes, and so will spend an hour with imaginative pleasure; all their employment being nothing but fumes of pride, and secret indefinite desires and significations of what their heart wishes. In this, although there is nothing of its own nature directly vicious, yet is either an ill mother or an ill daughter an ill sign or an ill effect; and therefore at no hand consisting with the safety and interests of humility.

13. Suffer others to be praised in thy presence, and entertain their good and glory with delight; but at no hand disparage them, or lessen the report, or make an objection; and think not the advancement of thy brother is a lessening of thy worth. But this act is also to extend further.

14. Be content that he should be employed, and thou laid by as unprofitable; his sentence approved, thine rejected; he be preferred, and thou fixed in a low employment.

15. Never compare thyself with others, unless it be to advance them and to depress thyself. To which purpose, we must be sure, in some sense or other, to think ourselves the worst in every company where we come: one is more learned than I am, another is more prudent, a third more charitable, or less proud. For the humble man observes their good, and reflects only upon his own vileness; or considers the many evils of himself certainly known to himself, and the ill of others but by uncertain report; or he considers that the evils done by another are out of much infirmity or ignorance, but his own sins are against a clearer light, and if the other had so great helps, he would have done more good and less evil; or he remembers, that his old sins before his conversion were greater in the nature of the thing, or in certain circumstances, than the sins of other men. So St. Paul reckoned himself the chiefest of sinners, because formerly he had acted the chiefest sin of persecuting the church of God. But this rule is to be used with this caution, that though it be good always to think meanest of ourselves, yet it is not ever safe to speak it, because those circumstances and considerations which determine thy thoughts are not known to others as to thyself; and it may concern others that they hear thee give God thanks for the graces he hath given thee. But if thou preservest thy thoughts and opinions of thyself truly humble, you may with more safety give God thanks in public for that good which cannot, or ought not to be concealed.

16. Be not always ready to excuse every oversight, or indiscretion, or ill action, but if thou beest guilty of it confess it plainly; for virtue scorns a lie for its cover, but to hide a sin with it is like a crust of leprosy drawn upon an ulcer. If thou beest not guilty (unless it be scandalous,) be not over-earnest to remove it, but rather use it as an argument to chastise all greatness of fancy and opinion in thyself; and accustom thyself to bear reproof patiently and contentedly, and the harsh words of thy enemies, as knowing that the anger of an enemy is a better monitor, and represents our faults, or admonishes us of our duty, with more heartiness than the kindness does or precious balms of a friend.

17. Give God thanks for every weakness, deformity, and imperfection, and accept is as a favour and grace of God, and an instrument to resist pride, and nurse humility, ever remembering, that when God, by giving thee a crooked back, hath also made thy spirit stoop or less vain, thou art more ready to enter the narrow gate of heaven, than by being straight, and standing upright, and thinking highly. Thus the apostles rejoiced in their infirmities, not moral, but natural and accidental, in their being beaten and whipped like slaves, in their nakedness, and poverty.

18. Upbraid no man’s weakness to him to discomfort him, neither report it to disparage him, neither delight to remember it to lessen him, or to set thyself above him. Be sure never to praise thyself, or to dispraise any man else, unless God’s glory or some holy end do hallow it. And it was noted to the praise of Cyrus, that, amongst his equals in age,117117Ama l’amico tuo con il difetto suo. In colloquiis pueri invisi aliis non fient, si non omnino in disputationibus victoriam sempetr obtinere laborent. Non tantum egregium est scire vincere, sed etiam posse vinci pulchrum est, ubi victoria est damnosa.—Plut. de Educ. Liber. he would never play at any sport, or use any exercise, in which he knew himself more excellent than they; but in such in which he was unskillful he would make his challenges, lest he should shame them by his victory, and that himself might learn something of their skill, and do them civilities.

19. Besides the foregoing parts and actions, humility teaches us to submit ourselves and all our faculties to God, ‘to believe all things, to do all things, to suffer all things,’ which his will enjoins us; to be content in every state or change, knowing we have deserved worse than the worst we feel, and, as Anytus said to Alcibiades, he hath taken but half when he might have taken all, to adore his goodness, to fear his greatness, to worship his eternal and infinite excellencies, and to submit ourselves to all our superiors, in all things, according to godliness, and to be meek and gentle in our conversation towards others.118118Nihil ita dignum est odio, ut eorum mores, qui compellantibus se difficiles, praebent.—Plut.

Now, although, according to the nature of every grace, this begins as a gift, and is increased like a habit, that is, best by its own acts; yet, besides the former acts and offices of humility, there are certain other exercises and considerations, which are good helps and instruments for the procuring and increasing this grace, and the curing of pride.


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