This is superb–one of the best things I have read in a long time. John Owen, in his spiritual classic Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers, devotes a chapter (12) to reminding us how great God is and how little we know of him. Part of mortification is having before us a constant reminder of our own utter depravity. We will only be serious about mortifying sin when we realize just how vile our sinfulness is.
Use and exercise thyself to such meditations as may serve to fill thee at all times with self-abasement and thoughts of thine own vileness; as, —
1. Be much in thoughtfulness of the excellency of the majesty of God and thine infinite, inconceivable distance from him. Many thoughts of it cannot but fill thee with a sense of thine own vileness, which strikes deep at the root of any indwelling sin. When Job comes to a clear discovery of the greatness and the excellency of God, he is filled with self-abhorrence and is pressed to humiliation, Job xlii. 5, 6. And in what state doth the prophet Habakkuk affirm himself to be cast, upon the apprehension of the majesty of God? chap. iii. 16. “With God,” says Job, “is terrible majesty.”1616Job xxxvii. 22. Hence were the thoughts of them of old, that when they had seen God they should die. The Scripture abounds in this self-abasing consideration, comparing the men of the earth to “grasshoppers,” to “vanity,” the “dust of the balance,” in respect of God.1717Isa. xl. 12–25. Be much in thoughts of this nature, to abase the pride of thy heart, and to keep thy soul humble within thee. There is nothing will render thee a greater indisposition to be imposed on by the deceits of sin than such a frame of heart. Think greatly of the greatness of God.
2. Think much of thine unacquaintedness with him. Though thou knowest enough to keep thee low and humble, yet how little a portion is it that thou knowest of him! The contemplation hereof cast that wise man into that apprehension of himself which he expresses, Prov. xxx. 2–4, “Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man. I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy. Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his Son’s name, if thou canst tell?” Labour with this also to take down the pride of thy heart. What dost thou know of God? How little a portion is it! How immense is he in his nature! Canst thou look without terror into the abyss of eternity? Thou canst not bear the rays of his glorious being.
Because I look on this consideration of great use in our walking with God, so far as it may have a consistency with that filial boldness which is given us in Jesus Christ to draw nigh to the throne of grace, I shall farther insist upon it, to give an abiding impression of it to the souls of them who desire to walk humbly with God.
Consider, then, I say, to keep thy heart in continual awe of the majesty of God, that persons of the most high and eminent attainment, of the nearest and most familiar communion with God, do yet in this life know but a very little of him and his glory. God reveals his name to Moses, — the most glorious attributes that he hath manifested in the covenant of grace, Exod. xxxiv. 5, 6; yet all are but the “back parts” of God. All that he knows by it is but little, low, compared to the perfections of his glory. Hence it is with peculiar reference to Moses that it is said, “No man hath seen God at any time,” John i. 18; of him in comparison with Christ doth he speak, verse 17; and of him it is here said, “No man,” no, not Moses, the most eminent among them, “hath seen God at any time.” We speak much of God, can talk of him, his ways, his works, his counsels, all the day long; the truth is, we know very little of him. Our thoughts, our meditations, our expressions of him are low, many of them unworthy of his glory, none of them reaching his perfections.