Now let us briefly enquire, in the first place, what is humility?
The best definition I have ever met with is, “to think rightly of ourselves.” Humility is to make a right estimate of one’s self.
It is no humility for a man to think less of himself than he ought, though it might rather puzzle him to do that. Some persons, when they know they can do a thing, tell you they cannot; but you do not call that humility? A man is asked to take part in some meeting. “No,” he says, “I have no ability;” yet, if you were to say so yourself, he would be offended at you.
It is not humility for a man to stand up and depreciate himself and say he cannot do this, that, or the other, when he knows that he is lying. If God gives a man a talent, do you think the man does not know it? If a man has ten talents he has no right to be dishonest to his Maker, and to say, “Lord, you have only give me five.” It is not humility to underrate yourself.
Humility is to think of yourself, if you can, as God thinks of you. It is to feel that if we have talents, God has given them to us, and let it be seen that, like freight in a vessel, they tend to sink us low. The more we have, the lower we ought to lie.
Humility is not to say, “I have not this gift,” but it is to say, “I have the gift, and I must use it for my Master’s glory. I must never seek any honor for myself, for what have I that I have not received?” But, beloved, humility is to feel ourselves lost, ruined, and undone. To be killed by the same hand which, afterwards, makes us alive, to be ground to pieces as to our own doings and willings, to know and trust in none but Jesus, to be brought to feel and sing—
“Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling.”
Humility is to feel that we have no power of ourselves, but that it all comes from God. Humility is to lean on our beloved, to believe that he has trodden the winepress alone, to lie on his bosom and slumber sweetly there, to exalt him, and think less than nothing of ourselves. It is in fact, to annihilate self, and to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ as all in all.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, from the sermon Pride and Humility,
delivered on August 17, 1856, at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark