“The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]!” (Habakkuk 3:19 Amp.).
The prophet Habakkuk had just had a vision that his country was about to be invaded and decimated. Though the Chaldean nation would be the army used to accomplish this, the essence of his vision was a great and terrible revelation of Almighty God coming in splendor and wrath. Before and after the arrival of God (in the form of this Chaldean army invasion) were “pestilence” and “plague,” and famine and “decay” entering Habakkuk’s bones! In spite of this terrifying revelation and the devastation he saw, Habakkuk took courage. He chose magnanimity above pettiness and character above faithlessness.
The word “magnanimous” or “magnanimity” is not a common word today, and perhaps in no small part, because rare today is the person found identified with it. It means “showing or suggesting a lofty and courageous spirit” or “showing or suggesting nobility of feeling and generosity of mind” (Merriam-Webster). It is from the Latin words “magnus” which means great, and “animus” which means spirit. In other words, it personifies someone who has a great or large spirit.
Unregenerated man is systemically unable to be magnanimous (in the purest sense) however much above pettiness his behavior demonstrates. This is because it is about large spirit, not large soul. A large spirit is only accomplished by enlargement of the new creation man displacing the old Adamic nature. It assumes regeneration. Some think to define “magnanimity” as “large souled,” but strictly speaking, that is incorrect, for it is the spirit, and not the soul, which is enlarged. Enlarging soul without regeneration, or by the immature and misguided Christian (regenerated but still carnal) is a major problem today. Beyond the regeneration experience is enlargement of spirit within the cavity of a vaporous soul (a dying to self-life—soul death—in order to make room for Christ in our spirits to grow and make us magnanimous).
Today, living large and in charge, but from a self-absorbed and selfish place—from a cult of personality—is all the rage. But being large spirited, being magnanimous, is nothing like that. Habakkuk had both decay in his bones and fire in his belly—and this is the key to what magnanimity looks like. The scroll is sweet in the mouth, bitter in the belly, and altogether powerful and obvious in the conversation of life of those who have fully digested His flesh and blood. This is the magnanimous man and the one whose soul is right within him (as opposed to the soul that is not right within him—as defined by the prophet): “Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4 NASB). Magnanimity is therefore the soul humbled, and the spirit walking on “the high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]!” It is expressed as living above pettiness, of walking in love at all times (“A friend loves at all times”—Proverbs 17:17).
And to love at all times is the key to walking as magnanimous man; it is beyond the scope of feelings, and it is therefore beyond the scope of the soul and her powers. Magnanimous man is further personified as one who “covers a multitude of sins”; indeed, “A man's discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression” (Proverbs 19:11 NASB). But this is in relationship to others; he is also rightly related to himself.
Though I believe C. S. Lewis confuses spirit and soul (as most do) his expression of the proper organization of the government of our being is noteworthy. He said, “Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism...As the king governs by his executive, so Reason in man must rule the mere appetites by means of the spirited element. The head rules through the belly through the chest—the seat, as Alanus tells us, of Magnanimity, of emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments. The Chest-Magnanimity-Sentiment—these are the indispensable liaison officers between cerebral man and visceral man. It may even be said that it is by this middle element that man is man: for by his intellect he is mere spirit and by his appetite mere animal.”
In the “Life of God in the Soul of Man,” the title to a letter written by Henry Scougal (1650-1678)—and a work which deeply impacted the leaders of the Great Awakening—Scougal said, “The image of the Almighty shining in the soul of man...is a real participation of his nature, it is a beam of the eternal light, a drop of that infinite ocean of goodness; and they who are endowed with it may be said to have ‘God dwelling in their souls, and Christ formed within them.’” A magnanimous man is one who operates from the Christ nature within, not his base native nature that is also still within him (until God redeems his body); he regularly exercises a personal and an internal magnanimity. His baser instincts and soul powers are still there inside him, but he chooses to bridle their expression; he is a disciple of Jesus Christ and therefore disciplines himself to obey the higher expression of God within his spirit rather than expressing his human nature (as a first cause). Magnanimous man is therefore the matured-in-Christ man. We need more of them!