Archibald G. Brown, 1896, East London Tabernacle
"When He gives quietness, who then can make trouble? And when He hides His face, who then can see Him, whether it is against a nation or a man alone?" Job 34:29
Last Thursday was a day of sore trouble to some of us, and sorrow seemed to reach its climax. When the train steamed out of Liverpool-street, carrying with it my own bright, blessed daughter, it seemed for a few moments as if it had left me on the platform with an empty body. Heart and everything else seemed to have gone out with that train. I came straight home, and, on entering my study, I found that, during my absence, some thoughtful friend had put upon my table, just in front of where I always sit, a beautifully illuminated card. The words that greeted my eyes were these, 'He gives quietness', and underneath was this text, 'When he gives quietness, who then can make trouble?' Whoever it was that deposited that sweet truth upon my table showed much of heart experience, and of the word of God. I read the verse, not once or twice only. It came to me as the very voice of God, and I thought that I could hardly do better than follow my usual practice of passing on to you everything that proves of profit to myself.
I dare say that, in this morning's gathering, there are hearts that are as sore as mine was on Thursday. Doubtless, there are not a few here who are as much perplexed, and who know the meaning of 'turmoil' without going to a dictionary. I gladly would do for this gathering what that friend did for me. I would put before your eyes these words, 'He gives quietness, and, when he gives quietness, who then can make trouble?'
Let us look for a few moments at the passage as it stands related to the whole verse. You will see that it enunciates a great and wide-spreading principle — a principle that is applicable not to a man only — but also to a nation. And the principle is the absolute dependence of individuals, communities, and nations upon God — for quietness, prosperity, and peace.
According to this text, God is the great factor in history, and I want you to concentrate your thoughts for a few minutes upon the words, 'whether it be done against a nation'. The principle has no limit. It is as true of the millioned nation as of the solitary man; and yet how completely is this ignored. The gigantic blunders of all past ages, and the huge blunders of today, may all be traced to the fact that nations are trying to do without God in history. They are leaving out the prime factor. God is left out, and consequently there is a perpetual entanglement, and bewildered minds say, 'Everything is wrong. What can be done?' Stupefaction comes over some of the clearest brains, and despondency says, 'There is no solution for the difficulties and the troubles of the day.' God is left out.
Is not this true of this nation? If you have plenty of time to waste, you will in all probability read through the Parliamentary reports in the daily papers, and wade through all the clever speeches that are made; but, if you are a child of God, you will be forced to the conclusion, 'God is not taken into the reckoning here; the Divine Factor is left out.' Given such an Act, granted such a transaction, and it is supposed that there will be peace and prosperity in the land, and the sun will shine on everyone — but, where is God?
This text comes in like a clarion note, and says, 'National prosperity and peace are from God. When he gives quietness, who then can make trouble unto a nation? But when he hides his face from a nation, who then can behold him?' Would to God that the day may soon come when our politicians will learn that national prosperity is only a synonym for divine blessing. Look at all the social problems that are distracting minds today. How is it that they remain so insoluble, and that, after all the panaceas that are put forward, have been tried — our hearts still feel that failure stamps them all? What is the reason of it? The reason is that God has been left out. God is ignored. History proves it.
As an illustration of this part of our text, look at the history of Israel. Oh, if they had only kept true to God, if only they had been faithful to him, if they had but recognized him in their history, what a different history it would have been! Read the 32nd chapter of the book of Deuteronomy, from the 7th verse. It is a weird story. God tells them how he brought them up out of Egypt, how he nursed them as a child, how he bore them as upon eagle wings, how he fed them from the skies, how he quenched their thirst from the rock, and how he brought oil out of the flinty rock. One man could put a thousand to flight in those days, for God was with his people.
Now go on, and see what happens. Jeshurun (the nation) waxed fat, and kicked, and rebelled against God, and the Lord said, 'I will hide my face from them; I will see what their end will be; for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.' And when God hid his face from Jeshurun, prosperity departed, and the nation was powerless to restore it.
Now, what was true of Israel, will be true of England, unless she takes warning. There are dark clouds gathering over Britain, and she would do well to have a time of national humiliation and confession. Were this nation to act with true political wisdom and true social economy, she would cast herself down before God, and acknowledge, 'We have sinned; we have ignored you; we have departed from your counsel; we have not honored your word or kept your Sabbaths. You are beginning to hide your face from us. Lord, turn us again that we may be saved, and let the trust of the nation be in you; for when God gives quietness — then who then can make trouble? And when he hides his face — then who then can behold him, whether it be done against a nation or against a man only?'
Now, taking the text apart from its setting, there is one unspeakably sweet truth taught, and I want to take you all round about it and into it, and then may the Spirit of God take it into you. The thought is this, that God-given quietness is indestructible. 'When he gives quietness — who then can make trouble?'
Was there ever a lovelier word than 'quietness'? Linger for a moment on it, and repeat it over. It is more musical than a silver bell. 'Quietness' — the very word is eloquent of its own meaning. There is a ripple as of a peaceful brook about it. 'Quietness' — it is the world's great need; it is what everyone is dying for lack of; it is what all hearts sigh for; it is what weary brains crave; it is what the world hunts after; but it is what few find.
And yet, if you look outside the circle of poor, fallen man, and take the wider circle of nature, you will see that there is not only the demand for quietness — but there is the provision for it; and there is not only the provision — but there is the acceptance of the provision.
Walk with me for a few minutes along a delightful path of thought. God, knowing the need that all nature has for quietness, has very graciously provided it, for his tender mercies are over all his works. God has ordered that, during part of every twenty-four hours, a weary, tired world shall, for a season, be steeped in the quietness of sleep.
It is love that drops the veil over the sun, and darkens for a while the earth; while unnumbered flowers, as if tired through blooming during the day, shut up their lovely cups for the night, and go to sleep. God's songsters, that have been chirruping and singing all the day in the branches, need some rest for their little throttles, and God provides it. The birdies, wiser than man, understand God's signal in the sky, and they put their heads beneath their wings, and they sleep when God steeps nature in the quietness of night.
And God has also arranged that, every seventh day, a weary world should have a break in the dreadful monotony of labor. Infinite love says, 'Once a week will I bathe a tired world in the bath of Sabbath rest, so shall she come forth fresh for her work on the morrow.'
But God seems to argue that these rests that I have mentioned are only little siestas, and that nature needs a longer sleep; and so, when autumn comes, God begins to put the tired, and therefore fractious, child to rest. All the summertime nature has been in high glee. She has been laughing and playing until she has grown tired; so God says to her, 'It is time to go to rest now.' And how long she is, often, in dropping to sleep. Autumn comes and throws its coverlet over the child — but sometimes she flings it off, and there are two or three days of spasmodic summer. But God will have his way, and he hushes weary nature, until, at last, there is the deep sound sleep of the winter, in which nature rests in quietness until she awakes with the snowdrops and crocuses. Nature must have quietness, and God has provided it for her.
But how is it with us? Man alone has broken God's law and so I find that sin, that arch-thief, has robbed us of quietness. This thief never took a more precious jewel, than when he stole quietness from the world. Look abroad if you question whether I am correct or not. Where is quietness? Sin has so vitiated the taste of man, that he does not even enjoy quietness, though he is wasting through lack of it. Night is turned into day, and society begins its life when all sane people go to bed. So completely has sin revolutionized everything, that God's season of quiet is turned into man's season of revelry.
I find man growing sick of the quietness of the Sabbath, and denouncing it as 'horridly dull'. Oh, sir, have you no taste for quietness? Can you find no enjoyment in stillness? Have you become one of those that must hunt here and there, and run after this, and race after that, and have your whole life on a tension? Believe me, you are only giving a melancholy example of how sin vitiates the taste. The world is unable to rest because it is the world. The Hebrew word which is here translated 'quietness' is the word that is used by Isaiah where he says that the wicked cannot rest. The world is like the sea, never constant but in its restlessness. Look abroad on every hand, and where is there quietness? Do you find it in commercial life? You business men can answer that best. The only quiet is a quietness of trade that disquiets you. Is there quietness in the intellectual world? Where is the restfulness of the religious world? If I go into the social world, I find the very earth quaking beneath the feet. Revolution is in its throes. There is enough dynamite in society to rend it to pieces. Quietness? How few find it! Few find God — and it is he who gives quietness.
Let me take you along another line of thought. If this text be true of a nation and of a man, it must also be true of that which lies between these two points, and therefore it will be true of a community. I desire gratefully to bear witness to God's praise that, as a church, we have experienced wonderfully the meaning of this text. 'He gives quietness' might be engraved over the doorways of this tabernacle. When I look back for twenty-seven years, and think of all the characters, the temperaments, the dispositions, that have been brought together — I can see that there has been enough in our midst to rend us to pieces a hundred times over; but it is marvelous how God has kept this great host in peace and love.
Never did a church give a more marvelous exhibition of this than was given in this place last Monday week. The perfect unanimity, the marvelous love, and the manifestation of abounding peace — were all too eloquent for words. How is it that, as a great company, we have thus been kept? Oh, look not to platform or to pew. The explanation of it is this, 'He gives quietness.' 'When he gives quietness, who then can make trouble? And when he hides his face who then can behold him, whether it be done against a nation or against a man only?'
And this is not only true in the history of nations and in the history of communities — but it is true in the history of the heart. This is a history very little read. I do not think that many schoolmasters or schoolmistresses teach their children this — yet there is no history more thrilling or more wondrous. When God gives quietness to a heart — then nothing can give that heart trouble. Students of the word are aware that this verse is capable of a very remarkable rendering; and it is given in the Revised Version. 'When he gives quietness, who then can condemn?' It is really the 8th of the Romans anticipated: 'It is God that justifies. Who is he who condemns?'
The wonderful teaching of this verse is, when God gives quietness to a heart, who is going to condemn that man? When God gives peace to the contrite sinner, who is going to break that holy rest? 'Who, then, shall make trouble?' Shall the law? The law may thunder out its denunciations; but, if God has given my heart his quietness, it is a quietness that is based on law, and therefore is not afraid of law. Do you say, 'Conscience can make trouble'? Stay, if the peace which I have in my heart is the peace which God gives, then my conscience has been pacified by the blood of Jesus Christ. O conscience, you can make a Hell within a human breast — but, if the blood of Jesus be sprinkled on you, your tones cannot affright. God has met the requirements of the law, and has pacified conscience, and the peace remains perfect.
On the plain of Waterloo is a huge bronze lion, erected to commemorate the great victory. That bronze lion has an open mouth, and huge and awful are its fangs, and it seems to be snarling and growling over the battlefield and challenging anyone to come near. A friend of mine said that, when last he was there, he was very interested to observe that a bird had built its nest in the open mouth of the lion, and that it had twined the little twigs and the soft downy stuff of which the nest was composed in and out of the great bronze teeth of the lion. They made a splendid foundation for the nest. There, in the open mouth, was a nest with the little fledglings in it, and he heard the chirp of the bird coming from the jaws of the lion.
I thought, 'Ah, even so is it. I am not saved at the expense of the law. I am saved in accordance with the law, and I build my nest in the lion's mouth.'
Afraid of God's law? Blessed be God, the law that terrified me as a lost sinner, now gives me assurance as a saint. I build my nest in the lion's mouth, and I have the confidence of righteous justification.
Now, if you have that, who is going to take it from you? If you have the peace of righteous justification, who is going to make trouble? I do not wonder if those of you who live on milk-and-water theology — no, there is no such thing: milk-and-water neology — I do not wonder if you find trouble; but the soul that knows what it is to be justified by the grace of God, through the finished work of Christ which perfectly honors the law — has its nest built in the lion's mouth, and sings for very joy, 'When he gives quietness, who then can make trouble?'
But, if I am a believer, I have not only that quietness — but I have the quietness of the Spirit's calmness. The Holy Spirit smooths out the wrinkles of the soul. The Holy Spirit fills the spirit of man and gives a strange unearthly calm. You may dissipate the quiet of insensibility — but, oh, you cannot dissipate the quiet which is born of the Spirit. When he says, 'Peace be still', who is going to make the billows roll?
And there is also the quietness and rest of satisfaction. Every person would know quietness, if he had all that he wanted. If only a man is perfectly satisfied, what room is there for disquiet? Now, the saint has perfect satisfaction. Jesus Christ so perfectly satisfies him that, no matter what may happen, he is quiet.
He has the rest of fullness. I have here in my hand a bottle of water. If I move it the water shakes and washes from right to left. Why? Because it is not full. If I fill the bottle right up, so that it will not hold another drop, and cork it, I may turn the bottle which way I will — but the water will not wash about. It is quiet because the bottle is full. God fills up his people. 'That my joy may be fulfilled in you.' 'When he gives quietness, who then can make trouble?'
Is it not true of the believer that all the way through life God gives quietness of heart? I do not say quietness of circumstances. The Lord Jesus did not say, 'Let not your homes be troubled.' He said, 'Let not your heart be troubled.' It is not, 'Let not your circumstances be moved' — but 'Let not your hearts be agitated.' And I do with my soul believe that God is able to keep a man in perfect quietness of mind, although there is nothing but tribulation round about. He makes himself to become the great breakwater.
At a distance you would say, 'Dear me! that man must be swamped with trouble.' You see the billows rolling; you see the clouds of spray shooting up, and you say, 'He must be drowned.' Oh, no; what you see is the wave breaking on the breakwater. The man himself is in a quiet harbor, where there is perfect stillness. The breakwater meets all the force of the storm.
So says Christ, 'In the world you shall have tribulation. Crested wave after crested wave like ocean's race-horses, shall rush upon you. But in me you shall have peace.'
Elizabeth Cotton said that she noticed a guard on the Great Western Railway who had seven people speaking to him at once — a very uncomfortable experience. They were all pestering him with questions, and they all expected to be answered at once, and she was surprised at the calm way in which the guard answered each questioner. He did not lose his temper, and did not get flurried, and Elizabeth, after it was over, said to him, 'Guard, however did you keep so calm and so quiet with all those people pestering you as they were?' The guard, not knowing to whom he was speaking said, 'Ah madam, the peace of God which passes all understanding keeps the heart and mind.' That guard on the Great Western Railway had discovered a secret that a good many of us have yet to learn. He had learned the meaning of that passage in the 4th of Philippians, where we are told that if by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving we make known our requests unto the Lord, the result shall be that the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep our hearts and minds. There shall be a quietness which none can break.
'Ah, dear Mr. Brown', says somebody, 'it is all very well for you to talk like this; but you do not know how much I have lost this year. I am almost afraid to go through my books. As for my banking account, I am not sure that the bank will allow it to stand there much longer. I have been losing, losing, losing.'
Well, sir, and suppose that you do have a broken fortune all round about you, this text shall still be true, 'When he gives quietness, who then shall make trouble?'
But says another, 'Ah, pastor, it is all very well but, do you know, I used to live without an ache or a pain, in the very buoyancy of health — and now it seems to me that my heart is not only undermined but likely soon to be shattered.'
'He gives quietness. Who then shall make trouble?' I tell you that there are sick ones in the hospital today who know more about the quietness of God in their pain, than some of us know in our health.
Another says, 'But my home is desolated, its brightness has gone.' True, man, and yet does this text abide, 'When he gives quietness, who then can make trouble?' God can put a lamp into a dark room, and God can furnish an empty house, and God can put music into an otherwise silent abode. When he gives peace, none can break it. No slander, however cruel, no persecution, however fierce, no temptation, however searching can break it.
Do you say, 'Why is this quietness unbreakable?' I will tell you. It is because this quietness comes through faith. Faith rests upon the word of God, and Jesus said, 'The scripture cannot be broken.' Let us work upwards. If the scripture cannot be broken, and my faith rests upon the scripture, and my quietness is the result of my so doing — then my quietness cannot be broken. Did I entertain one doubt about this Book being the word of God from beginning to end, I would not have an atom of quietness in my heart this morning; but when he who knows, and who was an expert in the matter of scripture, says that not a jot nor a tittle can fail, and that this word cannot be broken — I rest on that, and peace comes with the resting.
God's love cannot be broken;
his purposes cannot be broken;
his covenant cannot be broken; and,
while his covenant with Christ stands, quietness may be my portion.
Now, dear brother, do you possess this quietness that I have been talking about? Will you give the answer as before God? Is it in your heart? Remember that, if you have it not — you can neither grow, nor be fresh, nor make advance as a disciple, nor be of use as a servant. If you plant a geranium today, and move it tomorrow, and then shift it the day after, and then put it somewhere else the following week, I do not think that that geranium will be likely to grow. And I am certain that, unless I know the quietness which God gives, there will not be any growth. A restless, ever-moving spirit cannot develop in the things of God.
How can I be made fresh? I am not going to apologize for the illustration that I am about to give, though perhaps it may seem rather simple. I have sometimes met God's saints that have reminded me of people who have been up all night. They have an 'up-all-night' look. People who have been up all night have a particular look of their own. They look more than sleepy. Their eyes are red, and they have a haggard appearance. All the moisture seems to have been squeezed out of them, and there is no freshness whatever. They are like a dusty rag.
I will tell you what they need. Not the doctor's medicine — but God's gift. What they need is to go into a room, pull the blind down, lie on the bed, and receive God's gift of sleep for some eight hours. Then look at them! All the bloodshot is out of their eyes, and the feverish look has gone. They are 'as fresh as a daisy'.
Now, there is such a thing in spiritual life as getting an up-all-night, worn, and fagged feeling. If you try to talk for God, there is no unction about your speech; there is no power. But the quietness of my text is the balmy sleep that keeps the soul as fresh as the morning, and makes it a perpetual refreshment to others.
How are we to get it? Look at my text: 'When he gives quietness.' Take it; it is God's gift; it is not your effort. You must tell all to God, though it nearly breaks your heart to make the confession. You will never have quietness so long as you keep a secret from God. Go and tell him all; tell him what a poor, wretched, selfish man you have been; tell him what a poor, hasty, bad-tempered woman you have been. Go and tell him what a failure you have been; and, when you have told him all, believe all that he says, and then take all that he offers — and you will find that he keeps his word, and that the peace which passes all understanding does keep your heart and mind.
We cannot understand why this is best;
We tightly clasp His hand, and leave the rest.
When He who knows all sends grief and woe,
We can but trust, and say, 'He wills it so.'
His love is mightier far than we can guess:
His thoughts toward us are all tenderness.
Then, though our hearts are sad, we still can pray,
And He will make us glad in His own day.
'When he gives quietness, who then can make trouble?' God give every beloved brother and sister here this morning his own quietness, for Jesus' sake. Amen.