Herman Hoeksema was the first editor of theStandard Bearer. “Grace to the Humble” appeared 70 years ago, in the March 1925 issue.
“For God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble.”
I Peter 5:5
In the wild mountain regions mighty giants of granite proudly rise heavenward, peak upon peak, contesting as it were with one another for superiority, striving to attain the most exalted position, whence they may display their proud forms in the thin and clear atmosphere to the far distant world around.
Down in the valley grows the lowly lily, well nigh hidden in oblivion, humbly retreating with its pure beauty from the world’s admiring gazes in the still recesses of the ravine.
Yet, the most arrogant mountain peaks, though rising high into the deep blue canopy of the heavens to meet as it were the golden flood of the sun, receive none of its benevolent warmth. And though with their rocky heads they pierce the soft cloud-blanket, they fail to profit from its gentle showers. In the brightest sunlight they stand frigid and bare, clothed in eternal ice and snow.
Down the icy slopes glides the golden sunbeam, descending and searching till it creeps into the fragrant bosom of the humble lity below, to brighten its beauty in the recess of the valley. And the gentle rain, passing the hard arrogancy of the rock giants, descends till it can lavish all its blessing upon the lowly flower, clothing it with a beauty such as Solomon never possessed.
A silent nature-picture this is, of the deep spiritual reality expressed in the text above.
For men rise and exalt themselves, like those rocky peaks, in arrogant conceit, till they claim to be as God and disclaim any God above them. And other men hide in the deep valley of humble contrition and repentance, in their self-abasement before God not daring to raise their eyes to heaven. But none of the benevolent influence of God’s grace, none of the blissful communion of His friendship is experienced by the former; and all the sweetness of His loving-kindness is lavished upon the latter. For God resisteth the proud and He giveth grace to the humble.
Grace is always particular.
It does not embrace and bless the wicked and the righteous, the proud and the lowly, the evil and the good alike. These it embraces and enriches; those it resisteth and passeth by. For God is not common to both. And He is the sole Fountain of all grace. Apart from His communion there is no grace. And in the blessed embrace of that sweetest communion there are only the humble. Whatever is proud and haughty, lofty and exalted cannot dwell in the presence, cannot taste the communion of the Most High. These he resists, and He giveth grace to the lowly.
Grace is never common.
How utterly detestable is pride!
For who is great beside God? Or where is the creature that can pretend to be anything or to possess anything apart from God?
God alone is great, infinitely, inexpressibly, incomprehensibly great. His Name alone is exalted above all. Combine all the greatness of power and authority, of wisdom and ingenuity, of beauty and glory of all the world, in all ages, of men below and the angels above, and you have not begun to approach the measure of His greatness whose name is Wonderful. Nay, all comparison is utterly impossible and the attempt to compare is blasphemous. For whatever there is of power and authority, of human or angelic glory and beauty in all the wide creation, it is all of Him and none of us. Besides Him there is no God. All things are of Him and through Him and to Him. If He withdraws, men’s glory and beauty utterly vanish, their greatness collapses. God alone is great and there is none great besides Him!
And how infinitesimally small are we! Compared with Him not even a drop of the bucket or a dust of the balance. Deemed as nothing are we. Without Him we have no being, constantly we exist only in Him. Without Him we cannot move, continually we move only through Him. How utterly foolish, then, is self-exaltation before Him. Has the clay a claim of glory because of the beauty of the vessel formed by the potter? Less than clay in comparison with the potter are we before God. Shall the mirror claim for itself the beauty of the image it only reflects? Much less is it becoming for the creature to boast before the Highest of a beauty or glory or power that is not its own.
How deeply contemptible, then, is self-exaltation in the eyes of Him who alone is great and the sole Fount of all greatness.
God resists the proud. God and the self-conceited creature cannot dwell in harmony. All that is high and lofty must be abased and brought low before Him. The arrogant creature cannot live in His presence, cannot dwell in his tent, cannot taste His communion, cannot receive grace from Him. He resists, He repels them to the utmost. He meets them with His holy wrath. He brings the wicked low.
Even to outer darkness and lowest hell!
But are we not all so detestably haughty by nature?
We are. And there is not one exception, no not one. Humility in the true sense is the virtue of no natural man.
Man may have a vain show of humility and lowliness of heart and mind. There is much of this in the modern world. They tell us that Christianity is service! They assure us that Christ, the Servant of all, is our Example, and following Him we must serve one another. And the modern man loves to go about in slave’s garb, equipped with dish and towel to wash the soiled and weary feet of his fellowmen.
Yet, the heart of the natural man is not clothed with humility before God. It assumed a certain attitude in Paradise when it inclined to listen to the lie of the Tempter: Ye shall be as God! It is the attitude of self-exaltation and enmity. In that same attitude the natural heart still stands. It is not possessed of humility but filled with horrible pride before the eyes of Him who judges righteously.
Ah, it is comparatively easy to put on a cloak of humility for a time. Men even take pride in doffing voluntarily the master’s attire and donning the slave’s garb. But these same natural men, walking about in the world with a vain show of humility, with a cloak of lowliness which becomes the object of their very pride, ready to offer their service to mankind and to wash the feet of all, would never acknowledge that they are in need of a footwash by the Master, would never confess to the filth and corruption of their own heart, and humbly bowing before the throne of grace in penitence and contrition earnestly desire to be washed in the blood of the Lamb of God!
There is not one lowly, no not one.
Yet, though proud in ourselves, we are lowly in Christ.
For humility itself is the gift of God to His people. It is His gift to them in Christ Jesus. He is the lowly Servant of Jehovah in a preeminent unique sense of the word. The form of a servant He assumed though He esteemed it no robbery to be God’s equal. And in the form of a servant He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to the Father in all things even unto the accursed death of the cross. And God’s people are in Him. They are given to Him from before the foundation of the world. They are reckoned in Him according to the counsel of the Eternal. Unfathomable, everlasting grace made them one with Him. His humility is theirs, a free gift to them from God. And though in themselves they are not lowly but filled with arrogant pride and sinful conceit, yet, reckoned in Him they are the humble and the lowly, who may dwell in the tent of the Holy One and taste His grace.
Neither is this all.
God’s people are not only reckoned in the humble Servant of Jehovah as their Head and Redeemer, but they are also made partakers of the Spirit of their Lord. His lowliness is imputed unto them, and they are made recipients of it. The Spirit of Christ enters into their hearts and minds to dwell there. And what a radical change that Spirit brings about in that proud domains of the human heart. He breaks to shivers all that is hard; He brings low all that is lofty; He abases all that is high: He humbles all that is arrogant. Never a heart so hard but He softens it to repentance; never a mind so darkened but He enlightens it unto the acknowledgment of sin; never a will so stubborn but He subjects it into contrition. He labors irresistibly in that dark and haughty domain of our natural heart unto every throne of self, of sin, of the devil is cast down into the dust.
And He is not satisfied until from that erstwhile proud and impenitent heart the cry is wrung: “God, be merciful unto me, a sinner!”
In Christ Jesus the child of God receives the grace of humility.
Saved we are by grace.
And this grace is given to the humble.
This humility is not of us.
It is the gift of God!
How wondrous are the ways of God!
Always His work is thus that there remains nothing for us about which to boast.
For it is only because of His everlasting grace that ever we are humble. And we receive His unfathomable grace because only to the humble He is gracious.
How sweet is that grace to the humble!
How precious is that grace when with cords of love unbreakable the humble are drawn toward the accursed tree of their blessed Redeemer and they receive what is to their contrite hearts the sweetest of all comforts, that they have received double for all their sin and that their iniquity is pardoned! What inexpressible thrills of delight and incomparable sensations of joy pass through their weary souls, when kneeling at the bleeding feet of the blessed lamb of God, they are clothed with the garments of righteousness, garbed in which they may dwell in God’s house all their days to see the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple!
How blessed when the Comforter, the Spirit of the lowly Jesus, takes up His abode in their hearts forever, dwelling in them, assuring them of their deliverance from the law of sin and death, liberating them, cleansing them, drawing tight the bond of God’s covenant-love and evermore spreading abroad in their hearts that love of God which is always first and to the which they are taught to respond with a blessed “Abba, Father!”
How sweet is the new hope that is quickened in their hearts by this very grace! For they know that they may dwell in the house of God forever. And though on this side of the grace there is much that separates, much that interferes with this blessed communion of God’s dwelling-place, they know that when the earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved they shall have a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. They shall move to their heavenly abode in the company of all the redeemed that have gone before and of all the holy angels. They know by grace that when the last trumpet shall sound and time shall be no more, when the dead in Christ shall rise and the roll is called up yonder, they shall be satisfied with His likeness. Everlastingly clothed with most beauteous grace, with spotless purity, with imperishable glory in body and soul, and having received the image of the heavenly instead of the image of the earthy, they shall see Him face to face, know Him as they are known, and walking in the light enjoy His divine covenant-friendship in perfection forevermore!
How precious! Yea, truly, His loving-kindness is better than life, His grace is more than meat!
And it is all of Him. Unto all eternity it will be our grateful confession: None of self and all of Thee!
How wondrous are His ways!
Grace to the humble.
Humility is not of us, it is the gift of God.
His alone is the glory forever!