Humility in fallen man implies a sense of a twofold meanness before God, natural and moral.

His natural meanness consisting in his being infinitely below God in natural perfection, or God’s being infinitely above him in greatness, in power, wisdom, majesty, and the like. So a humble man is sensible of the small extent of his own knowledge, he is sensible of his ignorance of what small extent his understanding is in comparison with the wisdom of God. …

But his natural meanness is become much greater since the Fall. That moral ruin under which his nature has fallen has greatly impaired his natural faculties, though it has not extinguished them. But this brings me to the kind of meanness of fallen man of which the humble man is sensible; and that is his moral meanness and vileness. This consists in his sinfulness. His natural meanness is his littleness; his moral meanness is his filthiness. Fallen man is infinitely different from God in both these respects; both as little and as filthy. …

And both together in a sense of our own littleness, and also a sense of our own moral vileness before God, are implied in that poverty of spirit which the Scripture speaks of in Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” And this sense of our comparative meanness even more arises from a sense of God’s greatness and excellence. They who do not know God never can have any right knowledge of themselves and their own meanness and unworthiness. And in order to that sense of our own meanness and unworthiness, which is in humility, it is necessary that we should not only see God’s greatness, but also his excellence and holiness. The devils and damned spirits see a great deal of God’s greatness, his omnipotence and the like. God makes them sensible of it by what they feel of their sufferings. God shows them how much he is above them and makes them know it, however unwilling they are to know; and they shall see a great deal more of it at and after the Day of Judgment. But they have no humility nor ever will have, because though they see God’s awful greatness, yet they see nothing of his loveliness. There can be no true humility in any without the creature’s seeing his distance from God, not only with respect to greatness but also loveliness.

—Jonathan Edwards
Ethical Writings, in WJE (Yale University Press, 1989), 235-237.



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