The abasement of the soul

"Nothing abases the soul of man more than the sight of God." Why did Jeremiah Burroughs, the author of the sentence, write such a sweeping statement?

To borrow Calvin's opening sentence of his Institutes: "Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves."

It so happens that, lacking a sound grounding in Scriptural truth, man exalts himself and debases God: he thinks that God is somewhat like him. But in actuality there is an infinite gulf fixed between the Creator and the creature. And though man was created in God's image, now being fallen and alienated from God, man is foul and corrupt in spirit and in every faculty of his being.

His self-esteem, his inordinately high opinion of himself with be crushed to nothingness when, and only when, he realizes that he is nothing but dust and ashes. Such an evaluation of ourselves can happen only when God is pleased to reveal himself to our soul, as he did to Job. Job is described as a righteous and God-fearing man, and yet after his schooling in suffering, he came to admit that he must put his hand to his mouth. He repented. His change of mind came about when he "saw" God.

Something similar happened to Isaiah when he saw a vision of God in the temple, with all his ineffable majesty and glory. He cried out, "Woe is me, for I am undone." He realized he had unclean lips, even though he was God's prophet!

Peter, seeing Christ's power in miracles, could not remain comfortable in his presence. He cried out, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man."

The publican, in the parable, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat on his breast and said, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner."

In his pride man thinks he is fine; but when God shines in our heart, then the darkness, the lie and the error are all exposed. That is why it is foolish for man to compare himself with man; rather the standard is Jesus Christ, God incarnate.