The Excellency of Meekness and Quietness of Spirit

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In the first chapter of Matthew Henry’s book, The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit, he writes about the nature of this trait. (I shared some quotes and thoughts here). Now in this second chapter he moves on to explain the excellency of a meek and quiet spirit.

Here are some wonderful quotes (and some added thoughts):

“It is easier to kill an enemy without, which may be done at a blow, than to chain up and govern an enemy within, which requires a constant, even, steady hand, and a long and regular management.”

Like Owen, Henry understood that the real enemy is within us and the only thing we were supposed to do with it was kill it. Mortification of the flesh and of sins in us were a doctrine that was taught, believed and pursued with much earnest then; and how we need to recover that! Especially now that the world has indoctrinated us  to look outside us to find the fault within us (For example, “It was my dad’s fault that now I am this way.”). We must stop blaming the circumstances around us, and start pursuing a meek and quiet spirit who is prone to fight sin with us. Henry continues encouraging us to remember that, “Meekness is a victory over ourselves and the rebellious lusts in our own bosoms.”  The meek man will indeed fight and win.

Mathew Henry writes that a person who has learned to be meek and quiet in his spirit will be quiet and in control of himself even when the world around them will be busy and noisy. He writes,

“A meek and quiet Christian must needs live very comfortably, for he enjoys himself, he enjoys his friends, he enjoys his God, and he puts it out of reach of his enemies to disturb him in these enjoyments.”

I love that!  I want to learn this lesson well. To not let anything nor anyone to rob me of the gifts that God has given me. What a blessing that would be!

Henry continues (and this might be my favorite quote of this chapter!),

“The greatest provocations that men can give would not hurt us if we did not, by our own inordinate and foolish concern, come too near them, and within the reach of their cannon; we may therefore thank ourselves if we be damaged. He that has learned, with meekness and quietness to forgive injuries, and pass them by, has found the best and surest way of baffling and defeating them…”

Henry writes about the ways in which a meek and a quiet spirit will profit us. He mentions these specific areas:

1. It is profitable because it is the condition to receive the promise: “The meek shall inherit the earth”

2. Meekness directly affects our own interests like our health, our wealth (being much or little), our safety.

Lastly Matthew Henry incites us to consider what a “preparative this meekness and quietness of spirit is for something further.”  As Christians we want to be able to stand strong, unshakable, “well fitted and furnished for every good work, to be made ready, and be a people prepared for the Lord…”

He mentions five ways in which this grace of meekness is “particularly a good preparation for what lies before us in this world:”

1. It makes us fit for any duty. Including our spiritual duties like reading the Word, praying, and keeping the Lord’s Day.

2. It makes us fit for any relation which God and His Providence may call us into.

3. It makes us fit for any condition according as the wise God shall please to dispose of us. And on this he writes,

“Those that 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 would smile or frown upon us, a meek and quiet spirit is neither lifted up with the one, nor cast down with the other, but still in the same poise…”

 

“Meekness and quietness will fortify the soul on each hand, and suit it to several entertainments which the world gives us; like a skillful pilot who, whatever point of the compass the wind blows from, will shift his sails accordingly, and who 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.”

4. It makes us fit for a day of persecution.

5. It makes us fit for death and eternity.

So now we only have one more chapter left in this book, and if God permits, I will share some more quotes and thoughts about it next week.

What a blessing it is to have many of the books that Puritans wrote available for us today. I hope you may be encouraged to always have one among the books you are currently reading.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky Pliego

PC: Jeremy Bishop via Unsplash

The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit -Ch. 1-

N0Y8fkAXQGWq5hpoX4tgNwWith 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,

Becky Pliego

On Books and Reading, an Advice from J.R. Miller

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J.R. Miller wrote an excellent advice regarding the books we read, and it deserves to be read today and a week from today and then a month, and then a year from today. There is so much to read nowadays not only books, articles, newspapers, magazines, but also blogs, Facebook quotes, tweets; but we rarely stop to consider how many of those words are really helping us grow in the Lord and be better wives, moms and sisters in Christ. Today I am sharing an excerpt of this article* by J. R. Miller (1880 a.D).

“It is said, that it would require hundreds of years to read the titles alone, of all the books in the world’s libraries. Even of those that issue each year from the press newly written, one person can read but a very meager percentage. It is therefore a physical impossibility to read all the books which the art of printing has put within our reach. Even if our whole time were to be devoted to reading, we could in our brief years peruse but a very small portion of them. Then it must be considered that in these busy days, when active duties press so imperiously, the most of us can devote but a few hours each day at the best to reading, and very many find, not hours—but minutes only, for this purpose. There are hosts of busy people who cannot read more than a handful of books in a year.

It is settled, therefore, for us all, that we must be content to leave the great mass of printed books unread. Even those who are favored with most leisure cannot read one in a thousand, or ten thousand—of the books that offer themselves. And those whose hands are full of activities can scarcely touch the great mountain of printed matter that looms up invitingly before them.

The important question, then, is: On what principle should we select out of this great wilderness of literature the books we shall read? If I can read but a dozen volumes this year, how am I to determine what volumes of the thousands they shall be?

For all books are not alike good. There are books that are not worth reading at all. Then, of those that are good, the value is relative. The simplest wisdom teaches that we should choose those which will repay us most richly. Let us look at some principles relating to this subject which are worthy of consideration.

[W]hen we consider the subject from a Christian view-point, it becomes even more important. Our work here is spiritual culture. We are to keep most sedulous watch over our hearts, that nothing shall tarnish their purity. We are to admit into our minds, nothing that may dim our spiritual vision or break in any degree the continuity of our communion with God; and it is well known that any corrupt thing, admitted even for a moment into our thoughts, not only stains our mind—but leaves a memory that may draw a trail of stain after it forever.

There are many books that are free from immoral taint, that we must exclude also—unless we want to throw away our time, and waste our opportunities for improvement. They are unobjectionable on moral grounds—but are vapid, frivolous, empty. There are many popular novels that have even a sort of religious odor, which yet teach nothing, give no heavenly impulse, furnish no food for thought, add no additional fact to our store of godly knowledge, leave no touch of beauty. There is nothing of value in them!

There is a great demand in these days, for this easy kind of reading. It agrees well with the indolent disposition of many, who want nothing that requires close application or vigorous thinking, or patient, earnest mental toil. It is not directly harmful. It could not be indicted for bad moral quality or influence. It leaves no debris of vile rubbish behind. It may be orthodox, full of sentimental talk about religion and of pious moralizing on sundry duties. It starts no impure suggestion. It teaches no false doctrine or wrong principle. It debauches no conscience. It flows over our souls like soft sentimental music.

And yet it is decidedly evil in its effects upon mind and heart—for it imparts no vigor; it vitiates the appetite; it enervates the mind and destroys all taste for anything solid and substantial in literature. It so enfeebles the powers of attention, thought, memory and all the intellectual machinery, that there is no ability left to grapple with really important subjects. Next to the great evil produced by impure and tainted literature, comes the debilitating influence of the enormous flood of inane, worthless publications filling the country.

If we can read in our brief, busy years—but a very limited number of books of any kind—should not those few be the very best, richest, most substantial and useful that we can find in the whole range of literature?

If one hundred books lie before me, and I have time to read but one of them; if I am wise, I will select that one which will bring to me the largest amount of useful information, which will start in my mind the grandest thoughts, the noblest impulses, the holiest conceptions, the purest emotions, or which sets before me the truest ideals of Christian virtue and godly character!

But how do most people read? On what principle do they decide what to read—or what not to read? Is there one in a hundred who ever gives a serious thought to the question, or makes any intelligent choice whatever? With many it is “the last novel,” utterly regardless of what it is. With others, it is anything that is talked about or extensively advertised. We live in a time when the trivial is glorified and magnified, and held up in the blaze of sensation, so as to attract the gaze of the multitude, and sell. That is all many books are made for—to sell. They are written for money, they are printed, illustrated, bound, ornamented, titled—simply for money! There is no value in them. There was no high motive, no thought of doing good to anyone, of starting a new impulse, of adding to the fund of the world’s joy or comfort or knowledge. They were wrought out of mercenary brains. They were made to sell, and to sell they must appeal to the desire for sensation, excitement, romance, diversion or entertainment.

So it comes to pass, that the country is flooded with utterly worthless publications, while really good and profitable books are left unsold and unread! The multitude goes into ecstasies over foolish tales, sentimental novels, flashy magazines, and a thousand trivial works that please or excite for a day—while the really profitable books, are passed by unnoticed!

Hence, while everybody reads, few read the really profitable books. Modern culture knows all about the spectacular literature that flashes up and dies out again—but knows nothing of history or true poetry or really great fiction. Many people who have not the courage to confess ignorance of the last novel, regard it as no shame to be utterly ignorant of the majestic old classics. In the floods of ephemeral literature, the great books are buried away. The ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ is only known from being referred to so often, while the thousand summer volumes on sentimental religion are eagerly devoured by pious people!

It is time for a revolution on this subject. We must gain courage to remain ignorant of the great mass of books in the annual Nile-overflow of the printing-press. We must read the great masters in religion, and we must have a system by which our reading shall be rigidly controlled and directed—or we shall spend all our life and not be profited. Aimless rambling from book to book accomplishes little. We should select conscientiously, wisely, systematically.

Having stricken from the catalogue everything that bears any immoral taint and whatever is merely ephemeral and trivial, there remains a grand residuum of truly great works, some old, some new, from which we must again select according to our individual taste, occupation, leisure, attainments and opportunities. We should read as a staple, works that require close attention, thought, and study.

All books that set before us grand ideals of godly character, are in some sense great. The ancients were accustomed to place the statues of their distinguished ancestors about their homes, that their children might, by contemplating them, be stimulated to emulate their noble qualities. Great lives embalmed in printed volumes, have a wondrous power to kindle the hearts of the young, for “a good book holds, as in a vial, the purest efficacy and extraction of the living intellect that bred it.”

There are great books enough to occupy us during all our short and busy years; and if we are wise, we will resolutely avoid all but the richest and the best. As one has written, “We need to be reminded every day how many are the books of inimitable glory which, with all our eagerness after reading, we have never taken in our hands. It will astonish most of us to find how much of our industry is given to the books which leave no mark—how often we rake in the litter of the printing-press, while a crown of gold and rubies is offered us in vain!”

It makes me think,  when Miller describes the time he is living in (1800’s), as a time when “the trivial is glorified and magnified”, and a time when the culture “knows all about the spectacular literature that flashes up and dies out again”;  that we never recovered from that period.

What about you, how do you choose the books, websites, blogs you read? And how do you choose which tweet accounts to follow?

Do you spend more time reading profitable books or browsing through the Internet?

What book are you reading now?

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky



*via Grace Gems
Image by Annie Spratt via unsplash