Monday, January 1, 2018

A Discourse On Meekness and Quietness of Spirit
  Abridged from the Rev. Matthew Henry
Edited by R.P. Woitowitz Sr.
A meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. 1 Peter 3:4

In Reference to our Own Anger (Part 1)

To consider the circumstances of that which we apprehend to be a provocation, so as at no time to express our displeasure but upon due mature deliberation. The office of meekness is to keep reason upon the throne in the soul as it ought to be; to preserve the understanding clear and unclouded, the judgment untainted and unbiased in the midst of the greatest provocations, so as to be able to set every thing in its true light, and to see it in its own color, and to determine accordingly; as also to keep silence in the court, that the "still small voice" in which the Lord is, as he was with Elijah at mount Horeb, may not be drowned by the noise of the tumult of the passions. A meek man will never be angry at a child, at a servant, at a friend, till he has first seriously weighed the cause in just and even balances, while a steady and impartial hand holds the scales, and a free and unprejudiced thought adjudges it necessary. It is said of our Lord Jesus, (Read John 11:33), he troubled himself; which denotes it to be a considerate act, and what he saw reason for. Things go right in the soul, when no resentments are admitted into the affections but what have first undergone the scrutiny of the understanding, and thence received their pass. That passion which comes not in by this door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber, against which we should guard. In a time of war—and such a time it is in every sanctified soul, in a constant war between grace and corruption—due care must be taken to examine all travelers, especially those that come armed: whence they came, whither they go, whom they are for, and what they would have. Thus should it be in the well-governed, well-disciplined soul. Let meekness stand sentinel; and upon the advance of a provocation, let us examine who it is that we are about to be angry with, and for what. What are the merits of the cause; wherein lay the offense; what was the nature and tendency of it? What are likely to be the consequences of our resentments; and what harm will it be if we stifle them, and let them go no further? Such as these are the interrogatories which meekness would put to the soul; and in answer to them it would abstract all which passion is apt to suggest, and hear reason only as it becomes rational creatures to do.

Three great dictates of meekness we find put together in one scripture: "Be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;" which some observe to be couched in three proper names of Ishmael's sons, (Read Genesis 25:14; 1 Chronicles 1:30), which Bishop Prideaux, in the beginning of the wars, recommended to a gentleman that had been his pupil, as the summary of his advice—Mishma, Dumah, Massa; the signification of which is, hear, keep silence, bear. Hear reason, keep passion silent, and then you will not find it difficult to bear the provocation.

It is said of the Holy One of Israel, when the Egyptians provoked him, he weighed a path to his anger; so the margin reads it from the Hebrew, (Read Psalm 78:50). Justice first poised the cause, and then anger poured out the vials. Thus the Lord came down to see the pride of the Babel-builders before he scattered them, and to see the wickedness of Sodom before he overthrew it—though both were obvious and barefaced—to teach us to consider before we are angry, and to judge before we pass sentence, that herein we may be followers of God as dear children, and be merciful, as our Father which is in heaven is merciful.

We read of the "meekness of wisdom;" for where there is not wisdom, that wisdom which is profitable to direct, that wisdom of the prudent which is to understand his way, meekness will not long be preserved. It is our rashness and inconsideration that betray us to all the mischiefs of an ungoverned passion, on the neck of which the reins are laid which should be kept in the hand of reason, and so we are hurried upon a thousand precipices. Nehemiah is a remarkable instance of prudence presiding in just resentments: he owns, "I was very angry when I heard their cry;" but that anger did not at all transgress the laws of meekness, for it follows, "then I consulted with myself," or as the Hebrew has it, my heart consulted in me. Before he expressed his displeasure he retired into his own bosom, took time for sober thought upon the case, and then he rebuked the nobles in a very solid, rational discourse, and the success was good. In every cause when passion demands immediate judgment, meekness moves for further time, and will have the matter fairly argued, and counsel heard on both sides.

When Job had any quarrel with his servants, he was willing to admit a rational debate of the matter, and to hear what they had to say for themselves; for says he, "What shall I do when God riseth up?" And withal, "Did not He that made me in the womb, make him?" When our hearts are at any time hot within us, we should do well to put that question to ourselves which God put to Cain, Gen. 4:6. Why am I wroth? Why am I angry at all? Why so soon angry? Why so very angry? Why so far transported and dispossessed of myself by my anger? What reason is there for all this? Do I well to be angry for a gourd, that came up in a night and perished in a night? (Read Jonah 4:9). Should I be touched to the quick by such a sudden and transient provocation? Will not my cooler thoughts correct these hasty resentments, and therefore were it not better to check them now? Such are the reasonings of the meekness of wisdom.

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