Sunday, May 6, 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
Published by the American Tract Society


Consider what a preparative it is for something further.

It is a very desirable thing to stand complete in all the will of God, (See Colossians 4:12), to be fitted and furnished for every good work, to be made ready, a people prepared for the Lord. A living principle of grace is the best preparation for the whole will of God. Grace is establishing to the heart, it is the root of the matter, and a good foundation for the time to come [Read Luke 6:48]. This grace of meekness is particularly a good preparation for what lies before us in this world.

It makes us fit for any duty. It puts the soul in frame, and keeps it so for all religious exercises. There was no noise of axes and hammers in the building of the temple: those are most fit for temple service that are most quiet and composed. The work of God is best done when it is done without noise.

Meekness qualifies and disposes us to hear and receive the word: when malice and envy are laid aside, and we are like new-born babes for innocence and inoffensiveness, then we are most fit to receive the sincere milk of the word, and are most likely to grow thereby. Meekness prepares the soil of the heart for the seed of the word, as the husbandman opens and breaks the clods of his ground, and makes plain the face thereof, and then casts in "the principal wheat and the appointed barley." Christ's ministers are fishers of men, but we seldom fish successfully in these troubled waters. The voice that Eliphaz heard was ushered in with a profound silence, and in slumberings upon the bed—a quiet place and posture. God "opens the ears of men, and sealeth their instructions."

Prayer is another duty which meekness disposes us rightly and acceptably to perform. We do not lift up pure hands in prayer, if they be not "without wrath." Prayers made in wrath are written in gall, and can never be pleasing to, or prevailing with the God of love and peace. Our rule is, "First go and be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." And if we do not take this method, though we seek God in a due ordinance, we do not seek him in the due order. [Read Matthew 5:24]

The Lord's day is a day of rest, and none are fit for it but those who are in a quiet frame, whose souls have entered into that present sabbatism which the gospel has provided for the people of God. The Lord's supper is the gospel-feast of unleavened bread, which must be kept, not with the old leaven of wrath and malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 

God made a gracious visit to Abraham, and after that the strife between him and Lot was over, in which he had discovered so much mildness and humility. The more carefully we preserve the communion of saints, the fatter we are for communion with God. It is observable, that the sacrifices which God appointed under the law, were not ravenous beasts and birds of prey, but calves and kids and lambs and turtle-doves and young pigeons, all of them emblems of meekness and gentleness and inoffensiveness; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. This quietness of spirit contributes very much to the constant steadiness and regularity of a religious conversation. Hot and eager spirits, that are ready to take fire at every thing, are usually very inconstant in their profession, and of great inconsistency with themselves: like a man in an ague-fit, sometimes burning with heat, and sometimes shivering with cold; or like those that gallop in the beginning of their journey, and tire before the end of it; whereas the meek and quiet Christian is still the same, and by keeping to a constant rate, makes progress. If you would have one foot of the compass go even round the circumference, you must be sure to keep the other fixed and quiet in the centre, for your strength is to sit still. [Read Psalm 4:4; 46:10]

It makes us fit for any relation into which God in his providence may call us. Those who are quiet themselves, cannot but be easy to all that are about them; and the nearer any are to us in relation and converse, the more desirable it is that we should be easy to them. Relations are various, as superiors, inferiors, and equals; he that is of a meek and quiet spirit is fitted for any of them. Moses was forty years a courtier in Egypt, forty years a servant in Midian, and forty years a king in Jeshurun; and his meekness qualified him for each of these posts, and still he held fast his integrity. There are various duties requisite, according as the relation is, and various graces to be exercised; but this of meekness is the golden thread that must run through all. If man be a sociable creature, the more he has of humanity, the more fit he is for society. Meekness would greatly help to preserve the wisdom and due authority of superiors, the obedience and due subjection of inferiors, and the love and mutual kindness of equals. [Read Romans 13:7]. A calm and quiet spirit receives the comfort of the relation most thankfully, studies the duty of the relation most carefully, and bears the inconvenience of the relation—for there is no unmixed comfort under the sun—most cheerfully and easily. [Psalm 119:148]. I have heard of a married couple, who, though they were both naturally of a hasty temper, yet lived very comfortably in that relation by observing an agreement made between themselves, "never both to be angry together:" an excellent law of meekness, which, if faithfully obeyed, would prevent many of those breaches among relations which occasion so much guilt and grief, and are seldom healed without a scar. It was part of the good advice given by a pious and ingenious father to his children newly entered into the conjugal relation:

Doth one speak fire? t'other with water come;
Is one provoked ? be t'oher soft or dumb.

And thus one wise, both happy. But where wrath and anger are indulged, all relations are imbittered; those that should be helps, become as thorns in our eyes and goads in our sides. Two indeed are better than one, and yet it is better to dwell alone in the wilderness, than with a contentious and angry relation, who is like "a continual dropping in a very rainy day." [Read Proverbs 21:19; 24:24]

It makes us fit for any condition, according as the wise God shall please to dispose of us. Those who, through grace, are enabled to compose and quiet themselves, are fit to live in this world, where we meet with so much every day to discompose and disquiet us. In general, whether the outward condition be prosperous or adverse, whether the world smile or frown upon us, a meek and quiet spirit is neither lifted up with the one nor cast down with the other, but is still in the same poise: in prosperity humble and condescending, the estate rising, but the mind not rising with it; in adversity encouraged and cheered—cast down, but not in despair. St. Paul, who had learned in every estate "to be content, knew how to be abased, and knew how to abound; everywhere, and in all things, he was instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need." [Read Philippians 4:7]. Changes without made none within. It is a temper which, as far as it has the ascendant in the soul, makes every burden light, by bringing the mind to the condition, when the condition is not in every thing brought to the mind. Prosperity and adversity have each of them their particular temptation to peevishness and frowardness; the former by making men imperious, the latter by making them impatient. Against the assaults of each of these temptations the grace of meekness will stand upon the guard. Being to pass through this world "by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report," that is, through a great variety of conditions and of treatment, we have need of that long-suffering and kindness and love unfeigned which will be "the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left." Meekness and quietness will fortify the soul on each hand, and suit it to the several entertainments which the world gives us; like a skillful pilot that, from which point of the compass soever the wind blows, will shift his sails accordingly, and knows either how to get forward and weather his point with it, or to lie by without damage. It is the continual happiness of a quiet temper to make the best of that which is.

It makes us fit for a day of persecutionIf tribulation and affliction arise because of the word—which is no foreign supposition—the meek and quiet spirit is armed for it, so as to preserve its peace and purity at such a time, which are our two great concerns, that we may neither torment ourselves with a base fear, nor pollute ourselves with a base compliance. We are accustomed to say, we "will give any thing for a quiet life;" I say, any thing for a quiet consciencewhich will be best secured under the shield of a meek and quiet spirit, which doth not "render railing for railing," nor aggravate the threatened trouble, nor represent it to itself in its most formidable colors, but has learned to put a but upon the power of the most enraged enemies; they can but kill the body; and to witness the most righteous testimony with meekness and fear, like our Master, who, "when he suffered, threatened not, but committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously." Suffering saints—as the suffering Jesus—are compared to sheep dumb before the shearer, nay, dumb before the butcher. The meek and quiet Christian, if duly called to it, can tamely part, not only with the wool, but with the blood; not only with the estate, but with the life, and even then rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Angry, froward people, in a day of rebuke, are apt to pull crosses upon themselves by needless provocations; or to murmur and complain, and fly in the face of instruments, and give unbecoming language, contrary to the laws of our holy religion and the example of our Master, and so get more hurt than good by their suffering. [Read Proverbs 17:10; Ecclesiastes 7:5]. Whenever we have the honor to be persecuted for righteousness' sake, our great care must be to glorify God and to adorn our profession, which is done most effectually by meekness and mildness, under the hardest censures and the most cruel usage; so manifesting that we are indeed under the power and influence of that holy religion for which we think it worth our while to suffer.

It makes us fit for death and eternity. The grave is a quiet place; "there the wicked cease from troubling." Those that were most troublesome are there bound to the peace; and "their hatred and envy" are there "perished." Whether we will or no, in the grave we shall lie still and be quiet. (See Job 3:13). What a great change then must it needs be to the unquiet, the angry and litigious; and what a mighty shock will that sudden, forced rest give them, after such a violent, rapid motion. It is therefore our wisdom to compose ourselves for the grave; to prepare ourselves for it, by adapting and accommodating ourselves to that which is likely to be our long home. This is dying daily, quieting ourselves, for death will shortly quiet us.

The meek and quiet soul is, at death, let into that rest which it has been so much laboring after; and how welcome must that needs be. Thoughts of death and the grave are very agreeable to those who love to be quiet; for then and there "they shall enter into peace," and "rest in their beds."

After death we expect the judgment, than which nothing is more dreadful to them that are "contentious." The coming of the Master brings terror along with it to those who "smite their fellow-servants;" but those that are meek and quiet are likely to have their plea ready, their accounts stated, and whenever it comes it will be no surprise to them: to those whose "moderation is known to all men," it will be no ungrateful news to hear that "the Lord is at hand." It is therefore prescribed as that which ought to be our constant care, that whenever our Master comes, we may "be found of him in peace," that is, in a peaceable temper. Blessed is that servant whom his Lord when he comes shall find in such a frame. "A good man," says the late excellent Archbishop Tillotson, in his preface to his book of Family Religion, "would be loath to be taken out of the world reeking hot from a sharp contention with a perverse adversary; and not a little out of countenance to find himself in this temper translated into the calm and peaceable regions of the blessed, where nothing but perfect charity and good-will reigns for ever." Heaven is a quiet place, and none are fit for it but quiet people. The heavenly Canaan, that land of peace, would be no heaven to those that delight in war. The turbulent and unquiet would be out of their element, like a fish upon the dry ground, in those calm regions.

They are the sheep of Christ—such as are patient and inoffensive—that are called to inherit the kingdom; without are dogs, that bite and devour. (See Revelations 22:15).

They are the wings of a dove, not those of a hawk or eagle, that David would fly upon to his desired rest. (See Psalm 55:6).

Now lay all this together, and then consider whether there be not a real excellency in this meekness and quietness of spirit, which highly recommends it to all that love either God or themselves, or have any sensible regard to their own comfort, either in this world or in that which is to come.

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