18 Properties of a Humble Soul

Background of brows clay pots in gardening shop
Thomas Brooks was born in 1608, educated for a time at Emmanuel’s College, Cambridge, and ordained to preach in 1640. He spent some time as a chaplain to the Parliamentary fleet, serving onboard several different vessels. He eventually became the minister of several different congregations in London. Like Thomas Goodwin and John Owen, Brooks held a congregational view of church government. In 1662, as a result of the Act of Uniformity and its mandated use of the Book of Common Prayer, Brooks was forced to give up his ministerial position. He went on preaching in London, and eventually became a minister at Moorfields. Under the Declaration of Indulgence Brooks was briefly licensed again to preach, however that was short lived and the license was revoked four years later. Brooks died in 1680 and was buried in London’s famous non-conformist cemetery, Bunhill Fields.[1]

One of Brooks’ many contributions is a treatise titled, The Unsearchable Riches of Christ. In this work Brooks is expounding on Ephesians 3:8: “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ!” One particularly soul-nourishing section lists ‘18 properties of a humble soul.’ I found these to be very instructive to me, so I have listed them below along with some notable quotes.

1. A humble soul under the highest spiritual discoveries, and under the greatest outward mercies, forgets not his former sinfulness and his former outward baseness.

“Now proud men who are lifted up from the ash-heap, who abound in worldly wealth, ah how does their blood rise with their outward good! The more mercies they have, the more proud they are; mercies do but puff and swell such souls.”

2. He overlooks his own righteousness, and lives upon the righteousness of another, to wit, the Lord Jesus.

“Remember this—all the sighing, mourning, sobbing, and complaining in the world, does not so undeniably evidence a man to be humble, as his overlooking his own righteousness, and living really and purely upon the righteousness of Christ. Men may do much, hear much, pray much, fast much, and give much, etc., and yet be as proud as Lucifer…”

3. The lowest and the most despicable good work, is not below a humble soul.

4. A humble heart will submit to every TRUTH of God which is made known to it; even to those divine truths which are most contrary to flesh and blood.

“There are three things in a humble soul, which do strongly incline it to duty. The first is divine love. The second is divine presence. The third is divine glory.”

5. A humble soul lives not upon himself, nor upon his own doings—but upon the Lord Jesus, and his doings.

“… As children live upon the hand of their parents; so a humble soul sees its stock of blessings are in the hand of the Lord Jesus…”

6. He judges himself to be deserving of the judgments of God.

“A humble soul blesses God as well for crosses as mercies, as well for adversity as for prosperity, as well for frowns as for smiles, etc., because he judges himself unworthy of the least rebukes from God.”

7. A humble soul does highly prize the least of Christ.

“The least smile, the least good word, the least good look, the least truth, the least mercy—is highly valued by a humble soul.”

8. It can never be good enough, it can never pray enough, nor hear enough, nor mourn enough, nor believe enough, nor love enough, nor fear enough, nor joy enough, nor repent enough, nor loathe sin enough, nor be humble enough, etc.

“… But proud hearts sit down and pride themselves, and bless themselves, as if they had attained to much, when they have attained to nothing which can raise them above the lowest step of misery.”

9. It will smite and strike at small sins as well as for great; for those things which the world counts no sin, as well as for those who they count gross sins.

“A proud heart counts great sins small, and small sins no sins—and so disarms conscience for a time of its whipping and wounding power; but at death, or in hell, conscience will take up an iron rod, with which it will lash the sinner forever; and then, though too late, the sinner shall acknowledge his little sins to be very great, and his great sins to be exceeding grievous and odious, etc.”

10. It will quietly bear burdens, and patiently take blows and knocks, and make no noise.

“A humble soul looks through secondary causes, and sees the hand of God—and then lays his own hand upon his mouth.”

11. In all religious duties and services, he trades with God upon the credit of Christ.

12. It endeavors more how to honor and glorify God in afflictions—than how to get out of afflictions.

“… A humble soul is willing to bear the cross as long as he can get strength from heaven to kiss the cross, to bless God for the cross, and to glorify God under the cross…”

13. It seeks not, it looks not, after great things.

“A little will satisfy nature, less will satisfy grace; but nothing will satisfy a proud man’s lusts… A proud soul is content with nothing.”

14. It can rejoice in the graces and gracious actings of others, as well as in its own.

“Pride is renowned both at subtraction and at multiplication. A proud heart always prizes himself above the market; he reckons his own pence for pounds, and others’ pounds for pence; he looks upon his own counters as gold, and upon others’ gold as counters. All pearls are counterfeit but those which he wears.”

15. He will rather bear wrongs—than revenge wrongs offered.

16. A humble soul, though he be of ever so rare abilities—yet he will not disdain to be taught what he knows not, by the lowest people.

17. A humble soul will bless God, and be thankful to God, as well under misery as under mercy; as well when God frowns as when he smiles; as well when God takes as when he gives; as well under crosses and losses, as under blessings and mercies.

“A humble soul can extract one contrary out of another, honey out of the rock, gold out of iron, etc. Afflictions to humble souls are the Lord’s plough, the Lord’s harrow, the Lord’s flail, the Lord’s drawing-plaster, the Lord’s pruning knife, the Lord’s potion, the Lord’s soap; and therefore they can sit down and bless the Lord, and kiss the rod.”

18. A humble soul will wisely and patiently bear reproof.


[1] For more of Brooks’ biography see: Beeke and Pederson’s Meet the Puritans


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