Sibbes then provides six directions on how one is to obtain humility. In a nutshell, humility will flow from knowing who God is and who we are. The first direction is a summary of the rest, “First, Get poor spirits.” He then defines what is meant by a “poor spirit”,
to see the wants [that is, what we lack] in ourselves and in the creature;
the emptiness of all earthly things without God’s favour;
the insufficiency of ourselves and of the creature at the day of judgment;
for what the wise man saith of riches may be truly said of all other things under the sun: they avail not in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivereth from death, Prov. 11:4.
We need to consider what we are as a creature, we come from the dirt and we will return to the dirt and we are not able to do anything without the power of God. We need to consider how guilty we are before God, due to our sin. We need to see how liable we are to sin.
The second direction is to see ourselves before God, “[L]et us bring ourselves into the presence of the great God: set ourselves in his presence, and consider of his attributes, his works of justice abroad in the world, and open* ourselves in particular.” Having thought of how lowly we are in ourselves, let us think of how great God is. I do not know the reference off hand, but in one place Spurgeon speaks of having a thought of God before creation — before anything when there was only God. As we try to consider the greatness of God in every way, we cannot persist in great thought of ourselves.
Third, we must be content to receive the words of others that exposure our sin. We “naturally” repel at anyone who points to our sin — Yes, but what about yours! We love flattery, but, “a true, wise man, will be content to hear of anything that may humble him before God.”
Fourth, remember you will die, you will come to dust and you will be brought to judgment, “look to the time to come, what we shall be ere long, earth and dust; and at the day of judgment we must be stripped of all. What should puff us up in this world? All our glory shall end in shame, all magnificency in confusion, all riches in poverty.” How strange that such creatures with such an end should ever be proud — yet we are idolaters, “We are both idols and idol-worshippers, when we think highly of ourselves, for we make ourselves idols. Now God hates idolatry; but pride is a sacrilege, therefore God hates pride.”
Fifth, if we would be humble, let us consider Christ: For this he relies upon Phil. 2:
Philippians 2:5–11 (ESV)
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
No Christian can truly hold this knowledge in contemplation and not become humble. “I say, is it possible that he which considers of this, should ever be willingly or wilfully proud? Do we hope to be saved by Christ, and will we not be like him?”
Sixth, reason with yourself — let us speak to ourselves. Consider our plight: other men can bring us low. What will we do when we stand before God? What will we do when we with our sins, with our body of dust are called to judgment? We cannot even keep our breath in our bodies, how will we stand? What can we do without Christ? How can we be proud when we have nothing in ourselves?
Further, There is an order, method, and agreement in these reflected actions, when we turn the edge of our own souls upon ourselves and examine ourselves; for the way that leads to rest is by the examination of ourselves. We must examine ourselves strictly, and then bring ourselves before God, judge and condemn ourselves; for humiliation is a kind of execution. Examination leads to all the rest. So, then, this is the order of our actions; there is examination of ourselves strictly before God, then indicting ourselves, after that comes judging of ourselves.