Nothing Stronger than Humility, Weaker than Pride

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

—John 15:1–5

imageIt is dangerous to look for that from ourselves which we must have from Christ. Since the fall, all our strength lies in him, as Samson’s in his hair, Judges xvi. 17; we are but subordinate agents, moving as we are moved, and working as we are first wrought upon, free so far forth as we are freed, no wiser nor stronger than he makes us to be for the present in anything we undertake. It is his Spirit that actuates and enliveneth, and applieth that knowledge and strength we have, or else it faileth and lieth as useless in us; we work when we work upon a present strength; therefore dependent spirits are the wisest and the ablest. Nothing is stronger than humility, that goeth out of itself; or weaker than pride, that resteth upon its own bottom, Frustra nititur qui non innititur; and this should the rather be observed, because naturally we affect a kind of divinity, affectatio divinitatis, in setting upon actions in the strength of our own parts; whereas Christ saith, ‘Without me you,’ apostles that are in a state of grace, ‘can do nothing,’ John xv. 5, he doth not say you can do a little, but nothing. Of ourselves, how easily are we overcome! how weak to resist! we are as reeds shaken with every wind; we shake at the very noise and thought of poverty, disgrace, losses, &c., we give in presently, we have no power over our eyes, tongues, thoughts, affections, but let sin pass in and out. How soon are we overcome of evil! whereas we should overcome evil with good. How many good purposes stick in the birth, and have no strength to come forth! all which shews how nothing we are without the Spirit of Christ. We see how weak the apostles themselves were, till they were endued with strength from above, Matt. xxvi. 69. Peter was blasted with the speech of a damsel, but after the Spirit of Christ fell upon them, the more they suffered, the more they were encouraged to suffer; their comforts grew with their troubles; therefore in all, especially difficult encounters, let us lift up our hearts to Christ, who hath Spirit enough for us all, in all our exigencies, and say with good Jehoshaphat, ‘Lord, we know not what to do, but our eyes are towards thee,’ 2 Chron. xx. 12; the battle we fight is thine, and the strength whereby we fight must be thine. If thou goest not out with us, we are sure to be foiled. Satan knows nothing can prevail against Christ, or those that rely upon his power; therefore his study is, how to keep us in ourselves, and in the creature: but we must carry this always in our minds, that that which is begun in self-confidence will end in shame.

—Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed and Smoking FlaxWorks (Banner of Truth, 2001), 1:94.

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