S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
Humility leads to the highest distinction, because it leads to self-improvement. Study your own characters; endeavour to learn and to supply your own deficiencies; never assume to yourselves qualities which you do not possess; combine all this with energy and activity, and you cannot predicate of yourselves, nor can others predicate of you, at what point you may arrive at last.
Owe not thy humility unto humiliation from adversity, but look humbly down in that state where others look upwards upon thee. Think not thy own shadow longer than that of others, nor delight to take the altitude of thyself.
I dont like that part of your letter wherein you say, you had the testimony of well-doing in your breast. Whenever such notions rise again, endeavour to suppress them. It is one of the subtlest stratagems the enemy of mankind uses to delude us, that, by lulling us into a false peace, his conquest may be the easier. We should always be in no other than the state of a penitent, because the most righteous of us is no better than a sinner. Pray read the parable of the pharisee and the publican who prayed in the temple.
True humility, the basis of the Christian system, is the low, but deep and firm, foundation of all real virtue. But this, as very painful in the practice, and little imposing in the appearance, they have totally discarded. Their object is to merge all national and all social sentiment in inordinate vanity.
Edmund Burke: Letter to a Member of the Nat. Assembly, 1791.
The Jews were no less devoted to their ceremonial traditions than the heathen were to their vain superstitions. This doctrine of the gospel was of that nature, that the state of religion, all over the earth, must be overturned by it; the wisdom of the Greeks must veil to it, the idolatry of the people must stoop to it, and the profane customs of men must moulder under the weight of it. Was it an easy matter for the pride of nature to deny a customary wisdom, to entertain a new doctrine against the authority of their ancestors, to inscribe folly upon that which hath made them admired by the rest of the world? Nothing can be of greater esteem with men than the credit of their lawgivers and founders, the religion of their fathers, and prosperity of themselves: hence the minds of men were sharpened against it.
If we can forbear thinking proudly of ourselves, and that it is only Gods goodness if we exceed other men in anything; if we heartily desire to do all the good we can to others; if we do cheerfully submit to any affliction, as that which we think best for us, because God has laid it upon us; and receive any blessings He vouchsafes to confer upon us, as His own bounty, and very much above our merit; He will bless this temper of ours into that humility which He expects and accepts.
Religion, and that alone, teaches absolute humility; by which I mean a sense of our absolute nothingness in the view of infinite greatness and excellence. That sense of inferiority which results from the comparison of men with each other is often an unwelcome sentiment forced upon the mind, which may rather embitter the temper than soften it: that which devotion impresses is soothing and delightful. The devout man loves to lie low at the footstool of his Creator, because it is then he attains the most lively perceptions of the divine excellence, and the most tranquil confidence in the divine favour. In so august a presence he sees all distinctions lost, and all beings reduced to the same level. He looks at his superiors without envy, and his inferiors without contempt: and when from this elevation he descends to mix in society, the conviction of superiority which must in many instances be felt is a calm inference of the understanding, and no longer a busy, importunate passion of the heart.
There is a certain sort of crafty humility that springs from presumption: as this, for example, that we confess our ignorance in many things, and are so courteous as to acknowledge that there are in works of nature some qualities and conditions that are imperceptible to us, and of which our understanding cannot discover the means and causes; by this honest declaration we hope to obtain that people shall also believe us of those that we say we do understand.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cottons 3d ed., ch. xciv.
There is humilitas quædam in vitio. If a man does not take notice of that excellency and perfection that is in himself, how can he be thankful to God, who is the author of all excellency and perfection? Nay, if a man hath too mean an opinion of himself, it will render him unserviceable both to God and man.
All the world, all that we ate, and all that we have, our bodies and our souls, our actions and our sufferings, our conditions at home, our accidents abroad, our many sins, and our seldom virtues, are so many arguments to make our souls dwell low in the deep valley of humility.
In the Greek language there is a word for humility; but this humility meant for the Greek (that is, with the rarest exceptions) meanness of spirit. He who brought in the Christian grace of humility did, in so doing, rescue also the word which expressed it for nobler uses, and to a higher dignity, than it hitherto had attained.