ON THE PRACTICE OF HUMILITY
Consider first, that in order to acquire this most necessary virtue of humility we must have a great esteem for it; we must greatly desire it, and seek after it; we must earnestly pray for it every day of our lives, and must neglect no opportunity of learning it or improving ourselves in it by the practice of it - that is, by daily exercising ourselves in the acts of it. Now, as the humiliations which come to us either from the hand of God or man give us the best opportunity of practising or exercising humility, we must learn to welcome these humiliations, and to embrace them in such manner as to take occasion from them to humble ourselves daily both to God and man. For as we never shall learn patience without sufferings and crosses so we shall never learn humility without humiliations. But as in the sufferings and crosses which come to us through the hands of wicked men we must ever distinguish that which is the work and will of God from that which is the malice of men, so that we embrace the one whilst we detest the other; so likewise in our humiliations, if they be attended with the evil of sin, either of our own or of others, we must in such manner humble ourselves under them as to embrace the abjection or humiliation, whilst we abhor the sin.
Consider 2ndly, that in learning humility by practice it will be proper to proceed gradually by setting ourselves certain lessons, beginning with those that are more easy, and when these are learnt proceeding to such as are more difficult. Thus, for instance, let us begin by learning - 1. Not to seek in anything that we do the praise, esteem, or applause of man; nor to say one word tending directly or indirectly to our own praise or honour; but rather to mortify that inclination we have to be ever speaking of ourselves and of our own performances. 2. Never to excuse or palliate our own faults or defects, nor to fling the blame upon others. 3. Not to take pleasure in hearing ourselves praised nor in our being honoured or applauded by men; nor to be displeased at others being extolled or preferred before us. 4. Carefully to shun all occasions of honour and praise as far as we can, without being wanting to the duties of our calling. See, my soul, how much work is here cut out for thee, and yet these are but the beginnings of the virtue of humility.
Consider 3rdly, that to proceed in the practice of humility we must not content ourselves with the not seeking, nor affecting, nor taking any complacency in the praise, honour, and esteem of others, but rather shunning and flying from it; but, moreover, we must put off all self-esteem, and learn to despise ourselves from our hearts; and not to leave off till, according to the gospel lesson, we can, with all simplicity and sincerity, sit down in the lowest place, by giving the preference in our own esteem to all others before ourselves, and thinking ourselves the worst of all. Then as to the sentiments of others in our regard and their treatment of us, we are to proceed in the study and practice of humility by these three steps: 1. We are to learn to suffer with meekness and patience our being despised, reproached, or affronted by others. 2. We are to learn to receive this kind of treatment with a willingness and readiness of mind, and to be pleased with our being slighted and contemned. 3. We must even learn to embrace all these kinds of humiliations with joy, and not to stop till, with the apostle, we not only are dead to the world and to all it can say, either for us or against us; but we are even glad that we should be crucified to the world and the world to us.
Conclude to continue by a diligent application of both the study and practice of these great lessons till thou become perfect in them all, and go through the whole course of this heavenly science, the science of the saints.