Andrew Murray on Humility

HumilityJoe & I are giving Andrew Murray's book Humility a quick read, both for our benefit and in order to consider it as a possible resource for our summer midweek Bible study. I thought this was helpful:

"Humility, the place of entire dependence on God, is, from the very nature of things, the first duty and the highest virtue of man. It is the root of every virtue.

"And so pride, or the loss of this humility, is the root of every sin and evil." (chapter 2, page 10 in the standard Whitaker House publication)


Interesting. First, humility is "entire dependence on God." Makes sense, especially in light of James 4:6. Only the humble receive God's grace because only they desire it and understand their need of it. Second, humility is the "root of every virtue" and pride "the root of every sin and evil." I can see that.

Wondering what your thoughts are. Specifically, if you have read the book, what did you think? There is so much that is helpful here. However, some of his comments are overstated, IMO–sometimes dangerously so. I would be interested in other takes on the book, if you have them.


19 Responses

  1. Is humility considered the highest virtue of man? Peter says that virtue is the first building block for a fruitful Christian life (2 Peter 1:5). James says that purity comes before peace (3:17). And Paul says love is greater than faith and hope (1Cor. 13:13). Perhaps this is an overstatement?

  2. gives some help here via Torrey’s New Topical Textbook.

  3. It’s been a few years since I last studied it, but I think there are some problems with assuming the list of virtues in 2 Peter 1 indicates a logical or chronological progression. It’s not as if we must master virtue before we move on to the next item in the list.

    That said, I certainly see that pride is the root of all sin, but I don’t know that humility is the root of all virtue. Interesting discussion.

  4. These links on Andrew Murray’s life are interesting & help put some of his comments in perspective, I think:

    I’m getting the sense, especially from chapter 8, that Murray believed in the possibility of perfectionism. Much of what he says on humility is tremendous, but things like this and some of his statements about Christ in the 2nd half of chapter 2 make me uncomfortable. I also didn’t realize that Murray was involved to some degree in the Keswick Convention.


  5. Ah, sweet disagreement.

    Mark, how then do you explain the phrase “add to”?

  6. Quickly summarizing, it seems that the “faith” is subjective faith (in other words, our Christian experience, not objective faith, the body of truth). We are to be “giving all diligence” to be growing in our Christian experience in all these areas (v.8). Therefore, the “adding” isn’t adding one quality to the other, but “adding” all these things to our lives (i.e., growing in our Christian experience and maturity — 2 Pet 3:18).

  7. Well, I finished reading Humility. My quick thoughts:

    Murray is a good source of potent quotations. He’s Mr. Sound-byte. Here are some of my favorites:

    * “Humility toward men will be the only sufficient proof that our humility before God is real” (ch. 6, p. 43).

    * “The one infallible test of our holiness will be the humility before God and men which marks us….The chief mark of counterfeit holiness is its lack of humility.” (ch. 7, p. 51-52). (Note: is humility really “the one infallible test”? Again, he’s prone to overstatement. Nevertheless, his point is good: where there is no humility, there is no holiness.)

    * “Being occupied with self, even amid the deepest self-abhorrence, can never free us from self. It is the revelation of God, not only by the law condemning sin, but by His grace delivering from it, that will make us humble” (ch. 8, p. 65).

    * “Not to be occupied with your sin, but to be occupied with God, brings delieverence from self” (ch. 8, p. 66).

    * “[I]n their very nature, pride and faith are irreconcilably at variance….we can never have more of true faith than we have of true humility” (ch. 9, p. 68).

    In addition to those good quotations, chapter 5 was very good, and I appreciated his pointing out the connection between humility and faith in ch. 9, especially when he deals with Matthew 8:8 and 10 and Matthew 15:27-28. There is a connection between humility and faith that I had not previously considered.

    Yet, his fuller arguments are not extremely helpful. He is very nebulous. He speaks of this mystical, mysterious concentration on being nothing: “Every morning, sink in deep, deep nothingness into the grave of Jesus” (ch. 10, p. 79). It’s the sort of statement that seemed very pious and deep when I was in college, but now seems very artificial and out of touch.

    In short, his proneness to perfectionism and some sort of 2nd blessing, his perpetual calling to a “deeper life” and “entire submission” and his mystical (in Joe’s words, almost Hindu-like) call for a loss of self does little to further genuine godliness. I have plenty of “Q” marks in my margines, indicating helpful quotations. I also have plenty of “?” marks, indicating confusion or disagreement.

    Murray’s a strange combination of reformed theology, Keswick theology and mysticism. It leads to some strange statements. I’d encourage a perusal of the brief biographical sketches linked to above.

    Good food for thought. Much here that is helpful to me. But not something I’ll be passing out to our congregation. It makes me wonder why Murray’s books are pushed so hard in our camps, college bookstores, etc.

    That’s my two cents, anyway.

  8. Thanks for the summary, Chris.

    Thanks for the reply, Mark. We can finish our conversation elsewhere.

  9. Feel free to carry on here, fellas. It’s nice to see a fight here that doesn’t involve me. :D

  10. The original post quoted Murray saying that humility is “the root of every virtue.”

    In my studies for our summer series on humility (which starts tonight) I found this similar quote by Jerry Bridges:

    “Humility opens the way to all other godly character traits. It is the soil in which the other traits of the fruit of the Spirit grow.” (The Practice of Godliness, 91)

  11. I love George Muller!
    His stuff has impacted me in such a deep way, I don’t think I even understand it. I have read most of his books and have been so encouraged by his personal walk with Jesus. He was something special.

  12. I have read and reread this book multiple times. As a Christian who very much looks forward to deeper intimacy with The Lord, I have narrowed down the interference between me and that goal as my pride. Humility being the obvious antidote. I love so very much about this book but am cautious and even disturbed by a recurring them; becoming “nothing”. It smacks of eastern religion. I am wary of it. I know that I need to yeild my all to God for His glory and that He must be Lord of every aspect of my being, even my very thoughts. All things considered, however, that does not add up, in my mind, to becoming “nothing”. Unfortunatly that “becoming nothing” is not very well described in his book but I am, none the less, apprehensive about it. I am NOT looking to make room for some sort of manipulated reshaped form of pride to be made allowable within my being. BUT this “becoming nothing” buisness does not ring true to my heart. I as suspicious that it is a substitute for being being redeemed, a substitute for embracing the truth that “all things become new”. Sounds Buddhist to me and therefore not correct.

  13. A quick confirmation to what “Mike” said on Feb 13 2008. The book (Humility) offers so very much. It is a gem BUT (and I would like to emphasize that “BUT” greatly) this concept of “becoming nothing” is NOT found in the bible. Surrender is NOT “becoming nothing”. Yeilding is NOT “becoming nothing”. Becoming “nothing” is a concept that some try to employ to overcome the flesh. It is NOT Christian. Christians overcome death via the cross of Christ. At that is is a vicarious overcoming THROUGH Christ, via Christ and with Christ. We overcome the flesh by dying with Christ. “Becoming nothing” is not biblical. It is an errant teaching. Even a humility which we would walk in is via Christ, enabled by Him, looks to Him and gives all credit to Him ” for apart from Me ye can do nothing” (including being humble). The “putting on” of Humility is another matter altogether, one which the book does not address significantly. I am NOT shooting this book down BUT I have significant, serious questions about it’s doctrinal accuracy, though it has certainly blessed me otherwise.

  14. small correction of my note of May 24th 2008. It should read “Christians overcome PRIDE (not “death” as i accidentally wrote it) via the cross of Christ …….. etc.

  15. Interesting to read. This book was the first I read after I had spoken out my faith in Jesus, in 2003. I did not know any Christian for the three years that followed, and only read books from Murray. It was an enourmously difficult period for me – I did nothing else then reading and thinking. I tried to understand how I should live as a Christian. I tried to write it down in rules. I could not understand it.
    Then I put away these books and got to know Christians and now I am rather okay. Sometimes I read a little in books from Andrew Murray, but I find it difficult to know what to think about it. I find it hard.

  16. According to Murray’s definition of humility, it is defined as a person properly seeing the reality in God’s “Godhood” and human’s “nonGodhood.” In other words, it is for a person to know that God owns everything, and we are but men, created beings.

    Although humility is seldomly defined this way, I do believe it is the most proper definition.

    If by this definition, then yes, humility becomes the highest virtue. Without humility, we literally fall from grace due to self-independence from God, if we have fallen from grace, nothing else we do matters. Even love, without humility, will turn into humanism.

    However, the Biblical humility (not the conventional type) is so fundamental that it shouldn’t be considered a virtue. It’s more like a prerequisite. If a person doesn’t possess a most basic level of this Christian humility, he will not even worship God in the 1st place.

  17. I loved the book.
    I read it over and over.

    If the book didn’t open a persons eyes to seek for humility wholeheartedly, and it was merely an academic exersize, it meant but little.

    I feel that this is something to become and to live, not something to “know about”.

  18. I have had the oppurtunity to read extensively from John Wesley, Charles Finney, EM Bounds, Hudson Taylor, Charles Spurgeon, George Mueller, etc. and I have found that Andrew Murray has such a well balanced and firm grasp of the truth that it has been more affirming to the overall Christian walk than any other. His teaching and experience of walking in the Spirit is true and should be a warning for us today, especially in the modern day western church. His in depth expositions actually get at the root of the dispensational error and that is why there is an initial comprehensional fog to his presentations. Usually those of the dispensational mindset have a hard time understanding his written thoughts. There is a reason for this and if one took the time to examine this, their eyes would begin to open to the feedom of walking in the power of the 1st century church!

  19. I’m only on Chapter 2, but I believe his reference to “becoming nothing” is coming to the realization that without God we are nothing and without depending on God we work in vain. I don’t see Murray endorsing meditation or becoming nothing in an eastern religious way. Sometimes we think we are great but forget that what makes us great is that we were made in the Image of God. If we do not bear that image because of pride then we are nothing. But coming to this realization is a process that I believe Murray refers to as becoming nothing.

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