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and fervently, without the leaven of malice and secular interest, with bitter herbs of self-denial and mortification of our sensual and inordinate desires. The sense and mystery of the whole act, with all its circumstances, is, That we obey all the sanctions of the Divine law, and that every part of our religion be pure and peaceable, chaste and obedient, confident in God and diffident in ourselves, frequent and zealous, humble and resigned, just and charitable; and there will not easily be wanting any just circumstance to hallow and consecrate the action.
2. When the holy Jesus had finished his last Mosaic rite, he descends to give example of the first fruit of evangelical graces: "he rises from supper, lays aside his garment" like a servant, and, with all the circumstances of an humble ministry, "washes the feet of his disciples," beginning at the first, St. Peter, until he came to Judas, the traitor; that we might, in one scheme, see a rare conjunction of charity and humility, of self-denial and indifferency, represented by a person glorious and great, their Lord and Master, sad and troubled. And he chose to wash their feet rather than their head, that he might have the opportunity of a more humble posture, and a more apt signification of his charity. Thus God lays every thing aside, that he may serve his servants; heaven stoops to earth, and one abyss calls upon another, and the miseries of man, which were next to infinite, are excelled by a mercy equal to the immensity of God. And this washing of their feet, which was an accustomed civility and entertainment of honoured strangers at the beginning of their meal, Christ deferred to the end of the Paschal supper, that it might be the preparatory to the second, which he intended should be festival to all the world. St. Peter was troubled that the hands of his Lord should wash his servants' feet, those hands which had opened the eyes of the blind, and cured lepers, and healed all diseases, and, when lift up to heaven, were omnipotent, and could restore life to dead and buried persons; he counted it a
b Λοίσθιον ἐκ πρώτου μετανεύμενος ἄλλον ἀπ ̓ ἄλλου, ̓Αρχόμενος Σίμωνος, ἕως ἰδίοιο φονῆος. -- Nonn.
c Idcirco pedes potiùs quàm manus et caput; quia in lavandis pedibus, et affectuosior est gestus humilitatis, et propinquior significatio charitatis, quâ nos lavat sanguine suo à peccatis nostris. — Rupert.
great indecency for him to suffer it: but it was no more than was necessary, for they had but lately been earnest in dispute for precedency; and it was of itself so apt to swell into tumour and inconvenience, that it was not to be cured but by some prodigy of example and miracle of humility, which the holy Jesus offered to them in this express, calling them to learn some great lesson; a lesson which God descended from heaven to earth, from riches to poverty, from essential innocence to the disreputation of a sinner, from a master to a servant, to learn us, that is, that we should esteem ourselves but just as we are, low, sinful, miserable, needy, and unworthy. It seems it is a great thing that man should come to have just and equal thoughts of himself, that God used such powerful arts to transmit this lesson, and engrave it in the spirits of men; and if the receipt fails, we are eternally lost in the mists of vanity, and enter into the condition of those angels, whom pride transformed and spoiled into the condition of devils: and upon consideration of this great example, Guericus, a good man, cried out, "Thou hast overcome, O Lord, thou hast overcome my pride; this example hath mastered me; I deliver myself up into thy hands, never to receive liberty or exaltation but in the condition of thy humblest servant."
3. And to this purpose St. Bernard hath an affectionate and devout consideration, saying, "That some of the angels, as soon as they were created, had an ambition to become. like God, and to aspire into the throne which God had appointed to the holy Jesus in eternal ages. When God created man, presently the devil rubbed his leprosy upon him, and he would needs be like God too, and Satan promised him that he should. As the evil angels would have been like to God in power and majesty, so man would have been like him in knowledge, and have imitated the wisdom of the eternal Father. But man had the fate of Gehazi; he would needs have the talent and garments of Lucifer, and he had also his plague; he lost paradise for his pride. And now, what might befit the Son of God to do, seeing man so lost, and God so zealous of his honour? I see (saith he) that, by occasion of me, the Father loses his creatures, for they
• Quomodo non humiliabitur homo sub tam humili Deo?-S. Bernard.
have all aspired to be like me, and are fallen into the greatest infelicities. Behold, I will go towards man in such a form, that whosoever from henceforth would become like me, shall be so, and be a gainer by it. And for this cause the Son of God came from heaven, and made himself a poor humble person, and, by all the actions of his life, commented upon the present discourse: Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart."" Blessed be that mercy and bounty which moved Almighty God to condescend to that so great appetite we had of being like him; for now we may be like unto God, but it must be by humility, of which he hath given us an example powerful as miracles, and great as our own pride and misery.
4. And, indeed, our blessed Lord, knowing that examples are like maps and perfect schemes, in which the whole continent may at once be represented to the eye to all the purposes of art and benefit, did, in the latter end of his life, draw up the dispersions and larger harvest of his precepts, binding them in the bundle of great examples, and casting them into actions as into sums total: for so this act of washing the feet of his own ministers, and then dying for them, and for all his enemies, did preach the three great sums of evangelical perfection with an admirable energy and abbreviature; humility, and charity, and sufferings, being to Christianity as the body, and the soul, and the spirit, are to the whole man. For no man brings a sad funeral into the theatre to make his spectators merry, nor can well preach chastity in the impurity of the Bordelli, or persuade temperance when himself is full of wine and luxury, and enters into the baths to boil his undigested meat, that he may return to his second supper, and breathes forth impure belchings together with his homily; a poor Eremite, or a severely-living philosopher, into whose life his own precepts have descended, and his doctrine is mingled with his soul, mingles also effect and virtue with homilies, and incorporates his doctrine in the hearts of his disciples. And this the holy Jesus did in his own person, bearing the burden first upon his own shoulders, that we may, with better alacrity, undergo what our blessed Lord bears with us, and
e Matt. xi. 29.
Turgidus hic epulis, atque albo ventre lavatur,
Gutture sulphureas lentè exhalante Mephites.-Pers. Sat. 3.
for us. But that we may the better understand what our blessed Lord designed to us in this lecture, let us consider the proper acts of humility which integrate the virtue.
5. The first is, "Christ's humble man thinks meanly of himself:" and there is great reason every man should. For his body is but rottenness and infirmity covered with a fair mantle, a dunghill overcast with snow and if we consider sadly, that from trees and plants come oil, balsam, wine, spices, and aromatic odours, and that from the sinks of our body no such sweet or salutary emanations are observed, we may at least think it unreasonable to boast our beauty, which is nothing but a clear and well-coloured skin, which every thing in the world can spoil; nor our strength, which an ague tames into the infirmities of a child, and in which we are excelled by a bull; nor any thing of our body, which is nothing but an unruly servant of the soul, marked with characters of want and dependence, and begging help from all the elements, and, upon a little disturbance, growing troublesome to itself by its own impurities. And yet there is no reason in respect of the soul for any man to exalt himself above his brother; because all reasonable souls are equal; and that one is wise, and another is foolish or less learned, is by accident and extrinsic causes: God at first makes all alike; but an indisposed body, or an inopportune education, or evil customs, superinduce variety and difference. And if God discerns a man from his brother by distinction of gifts, it alters not the case; still the man hath nothing of himself that can call him excellent: it is as if a wall, upon which the sun reflects, should boast itself against another that stands in the shadow. Greater glory is to be paid to God for the discerning gifts; but to take any of it to ourselves, and rise higher than our brother, or advance our own opinion, is as if a man should be proud of being in debt, and think it the greater excellency that he is charged with heavier and more severe accounts.
6. This act consists not in declamations and forms of satire against ourselves, saying, I am a miserable, sinful creature; I am proud, or covetous, or ignorant: for many
* Auferantur omnia figmenta verborum, cessent simulati gestus, verum humilem patientia ostendit.-S. Hier.
men say so, that are not willing to be thought so. Neither is humility a virtue made up of wearing old clothes, or doing servile and mean employments by voluntary undertaking, or of sullen gestures, or demiss behaviour, and artifice of lowly expressions for these may become snares to invite and catch at honour; and then they are collateral designs of pride, and direct actions of hypocrisy. But it consists in a true understanding of our own condition, and a separating our own nothing from the good we have received, and giving to God all the glory, and taking to ourselves all the shame and dishonour due to our sinful condition. He that thinks himself truly miserable, and vilified by sin, hates it perfectly; and he that knows himself to be nothing, cannot be exalted in himself: and whatsoever is besides these two extremes of a natural nothing and a superadded sin, must be those good things we have received, which, because they derive from God, must make all their returns thither. But this act is of greater difficulty in persons pious, full of gifts, and eminent in graces, who, being fellow-workers together with God, sometimes grow tacitly, and without notice, given to confide in themselves, and with some freer fancy ascribe too much of the good action to their own choice and diligence, and take up their crowns, which lie at the foot of the throne, and set them upon their own heads. For a sinner to desire to be esteemed a sinner, is no more humility, than it is for the son of a ploughman to confess his father; but, indeed, it is hard for a man to be cried up for a saint, to walk upon the spire of glory, and to have no adherence or impure mixtures of vanity grow upon the outside of his heart. All men have not such heads as to walk in great heights, without giddiness, and unsettled eyes Lucifer, and many angels, walking upon the battlements of heaven, grew top-heavy, and fell into the state of devils; and the father of the Christian Eremites, St. Antony, was frequently attempted by the devil, and solicited to vanity, the devil usually making fantastic noises to be heard before him, “Make room for the saint and servant of God;" but the good man knew Christ's voice to be a low base of humility, and that it was the noise of hell that invited to complacencies and vanity; and therefore took the
h S. Hicr. in Vita S. Anton.