With a desire to expose my dear daughter to the writings of the Puritans, I decided to pull out Matthew Henry’s book, The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit. I remembered I loved this book, but I had forgotten how much I loved it. I am so glad my daughter and I are reading it together this time, because I can tell she is loving it too. (And who doesn’t want their children to love the Puritans?)
In the next weeks, God willing, I will be sharing with you some quotes from this book, along with some comments. I am sure that you will find them encouraging , but honestly, I do hope that I can get you to buy yourself a copy and start reading it. There is so much goodness in it! And maybe, who knows, at the end of these series of posts we will be reading it together.
In the first chapter of his book Mathew Henry writes about the nature of meekness towards God and towards men, and the nature of quietness of spirit.
In relation to our meekness toward God, he says that keeping a meek and quiet spirit helps us to submit (come under) to the will of God and to His Providence. Henry helps us see how many times, when the “events of Providence are grievous and afflictive, displeasing to sense,” or “dark and intricate and we are quite at loss what God is about to do with us..” we can learn to quiet our soul under these hard Providences remembering “the law of meekness that whatsoever pleases God must not displease us.” And so we embrace His perfect will for us and do not fret about what is now disclosed to us.
Mathew Henry writes,
“Meekness is the silent submission of the soul to the Word of God: the understanding bowed to every divine truth, and the will to every divine precept; and both without murmuring or disputing.”
This is important to consider because the only way to be able to submit ourselves to the Word of God is to be in the Word of God. If we never open our Bibles, if we never read them, and never meditate on the whole counsel of God, how are we to know what are precepts, His promises? How will we ever know God’s thoughts for us? Only when we know God’s character -as revealed in Holy Word- can we learn to come under His Providence without murmuring or disputing.
When Mathew Henry writes about meekness toward our brothers and sisters, he says that having this frame of mind is of great help to fight anger within us. The author helps us see, through the use of biblical arguments, that the Holy Spirit uses meekness to help us learn to “prudently govern our own anger.”
How is this? Well, he argues that the work of meekness does four things in reference to our anger:
1. It helps us “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 and mature deliberation.” He continues, “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 judgement untainted and unbiased in the midst of great provocations..”
Henry encourages us to cultivate a meek heart so that we may be able to keep silence before God when the tumult of our passions may want to drown His voice. He writes, “Hear reason, keep passion silent, and then you will find it difficult to bear provocation.”
How wonderful is this? To remain calm and unshaken when provoked, because meekness is our backbone.
2. “The work of meekness is to calm the spirit so that the inward peace may not be disturbed by any outward provocation.”
The author reminds us that as much as we need “patience in case of sorrow, so we need meekness in case of anger..” because “meekness keeps possession of the soul…” To not be at loss because of our ill tempter!
Another great quote:
“Meekness preserves the mind from being ruffled and discomposed, and the spirit from being unhinged by the vanities and vexations of this lower world. It stills the noise of sea, the noise of her waves, and the tumult of the soul; it permits not the passions to crowd out in a disorderly manner, like a confused, ungoverned rabble, but draws them out like a the train bands, rank and file, every one in his own order, ready to march, to charge, to fire, to retreat, as wisdom and grace give word of command.”
3. Meekness will also help us, Henry writes, to keep our mouth bridled, especially “when the heart is hot.” Matthew Henry continues, “meekness will ‘lay the hand upon the mouth’ (as the wise man’s advice is Prov. 30:32), to keep that evil thought from venting itself in any evil word, reflecting upon God or our brother.”
4. “Meekness will cool the heat of passion quickly, and not suffer it to continue. As it keeps us from being soon angry, so it teaches us, when we are angry, to be soon pacified, The anger of a meek man is like fire struck out of steel, hard to be got out, but when it is out, soon gone.”
And what are we to do when provoked? We all would agree with Mathew Henry when he says that “angry thoughts, as other vain thoughts, may crowd into the heart upon a sudden surprise,” but he doesn’t excuse an angry response from us just because of the sudden appearance of these in our hearts and mind. He continues saying, “but meekness will not suffer them to lodge there, nor let the sun go down upon the wrath, for if it do, there is danger lest it rise bloody the next morning.” How we need to consider this. We should never lodge in our heart anger -it never comes alone (we know!) but always brings along bitterness and malice, and evil thoughts.
But that is not all, there are more good news. Meekness does not only helps us learn how to deal with our own passions and anger, but it also teaches us and enables us to “patiently bear the anger of others.”
Look at these quotes under this same point:
“A needful truth, spoken in a heat, amy do more hurt than good, and offend rather than satisfy.”
“It is indeed a great piece of self-denial to be silent when we have enough to say, and provocation to say it; but if we do thus control our tongues, out of a pure regard for peace and love, it will turn to a good account and will be an evidence for us that we are Christ’s disciples, having learned to deny ourselves.”
Another advice that is gold:
“When any speak angrily to us, we must pause a while, and study an answer, which both, for the matter and manner of it, may be mild and gentle.”
And meekness will help us to not only to refrain our anger, to be patient when others are angry at us, but also to move toward repentance when necessary. Henry writes, “Meekness teaches us, as often as we trespass against our brother, to turn again and say, “I repent” (Luke 17:4)”
In my next post I will be sharing what Mathew Henry has to say about the nature of a quiet spirit, which is his second main point in chapter 1.
Under His sun and by His grace,