A Discourse on Meekness and Quietness of Spirit

Matthew Henry

"A meek and quiet spirit, which is in the
 sight of God of great price." 1 Peter 3:4


Meekness and quietness seem to imply much the same thing, but as the latter has something of metaphor in it, it will illustrate the former, so we shall speak of them distinctly.

We must be of a MEEK spirit. Meekness is easiness of spirit: not a sinful easiness to be debauched, as Ephraim's, who willingly walked after the commandment of the idolatrous princes; nor a simple easiness to be imposed upon and deceived, as Rehoboam's, who, when he was forty years old, is said to be young and tender-hearted; but a gracious easiness to be wrought upon by that which is good, as theirs whose heart of stone is taken away and to whom a heart of flesh is given. Meekness accommodates the soul to every occurrence, and so makes a man easy to himself and to all about him. The Latins call a meek man mansuetus, which refers to the taming and reclaiming of creatures wild by nature, and bringing them to be tractable and familiar. James 3:7, 8. Man's corrupt nature has made him like the wild donkey used to the wilderness, or the swift dromedary traversing her ways. Jer. 2:23, 24. But when the grace of meekness gets dominion in the soul, it alters the temper of it, submits it to management; and now the wolf dwells with the lamb, and the leopard lies down with the kid, and a little child may lead them; for enmities are laid aside, and there is nothing to hurt or destroy. Isa. 11:6, 9.

Meekness may be considered with respect both to God and to our brethren; it belongs to both the tables of the law, and attends upon the first great commandment, You shall love the Lord your God; as well as the second, which is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself; though its special reference is to the latter.

I. There is MEEKNESS TOWARDS God, and it is the easy and quiet submission of the soul to His whole will, according as He is pleased to make it known, whether by His word or by His providence.

1. It 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 arguing. The word is then an "engrafted word," when it is received with meekness, that is, with a sincere willingness to be taught, and desire to learn. Meekness is a grace that cuts the stock, and holds it open, that the word, as a shoot, may be grafted in; it breaks up the fallow ground, and makes it fit to receive the seed; captivates the high thoughts, and lays the soul like white paper under God's pen. When the dayspring takes hold of the ends of the earth, it is said to be turned as clay to the seal. Job 38:14. In the same way, meekness disposes the soul to admit the rays of divine light, which before it rebelled against; it opens the heart, as Lydia's was opened, and sets us down with Mary at the feet of Christ, the learner's place and posture.

The promise of teaching is made to the meek, because they are disposed to learn: "the meek He will teach His way." The word of God is gospel indeed, "good tidings to the meek;" they will entertain it and welcome it. The "poor in spirit" are evangelized; and Wisdom's alms are given to those that with meekness wait daily at her gates, and like beggars wait at the doorposts. Prov. 8:34. The language of this meekness is that of the child Samuel: "Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears;" and that of Joshua, who, when he was in that high post of honor, giving command to Israel, and bidding defiance to all their enemies—his breast filled with great and bold thoughts—yet, upon the hint of a message from heaven, thus submits himself to it: "What does my Lord say to His servant?" and that of Paul—and it was the first breath of the new man—"Lord, what will You have me to do?" and that of Cornelius: "And now we are all here present before God, to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord;" and that of the good man I have read of, who, when he was going to hear the word, used to say, "Now let the word of the Lord come; and if I had six hundred necks, I would bow them all to the authority of it." To receive the word with meekness, is to be delivered into it as into a mold: this seems to be Paul's metaphor in Rom. 6:17, that "form of doctrine which was delivered you." Meekness softens the wax, that it may receive the impression of the seal, whether it be for doctrine or reproof, for correction or instruction in righteousness. It opens the ear to discipline, silences objections, and suppresses the risings of the carnal mind against the word; agreeing with the law that it is good and esteeming all the precepts concerning all things to be right, even when they give the greatest check to flesh and blood.

True meekness will prevent us from opposing either the obvious parts of Scripture, severely as they may denounce our vices, or the mysterious parts, in reading which vanity may suggest that we could have dictated what is more profitable. Augustine.

2. It is the silent submission of the soul to the providence of God, for that also is the will of God concerning us.

1. When the events of Providence are grievous and afflicting, displeasing to sense and opposing our worldly interests, meekness not only quiets us under them, but reconciles us to them; and enables us not only to bear, but to receive evil as well as good at the hand of the Lord; which is the excellent frame that Job argues himself into: it is to kiss the rod, and even to accept the punishment of our sin, taking all in good part that God does; not daring to contend with our Maker, no, nor desiring to advise Him, but being dumb, and not opening the mouth, because God does it. How meek was Aaron under the severe dispensation which took away his sons with a particular mark of divine wrath. He "held his peace." God was sanctified, and therefore Aaron was satisfied, and had not a word to say against it. How unlike this was the temper, or rather the distemper of David, who was not like a man after God's own heart when he was displeased because the Lord had made a breach upon Uzzah—as if God must have asked David permission to assert the honor of his ark. When God's anger is kindled, our anger must be stifled; such is the law of meekness, that whatever pleases God must not displease us. David was in a better frame when he penned the 56th Psalm, the title of which, some think, speaks of his calm and submissive spirit when the Philistines took him in Gath. It is entitled, The Silent Dove Afar Off. It was his calamity that he was afar off, but he was then as a silent dove—mourning perhaps, Isa.38:14—but not murmuring, not struggling, not resisting, when seized by the birds of prey; and the psalm he penned in this frame was Michtam, a golden psalm. The language of this meekness is that of Eli, "It is the Lord;" and that of David to the same purport, "Here am I; let Him do to me as seems good to Him." Not only, He can do what He will, subscribing to His power, for who can stay His hand? or, He may do what He will, subscribing to His sovereignty, for He gives not account of any of His matters; or, He will do what He will, subscribing to His unchangeableness, for He is of one mind, and who can turn Him? but, Let him do what He will, subscribing to His wisdom and goodness, as Hezekiah, "Good is the word of the Lord, which you have spoken." Let Him do what He will, for He will do what is best; and therefore if God should refer the matter to me, says the meek and quiet soul, being well assured that He knows what is good for me better than I do for myself, I would refer it to Him again: "He shall choose our inheritance for us."

2. When the methods of Providence are dark and intricate, and we are quite at a loss what God is about to do with us—His way is in the sea, and His path in the great waters, and His footsteps are not known, clouds and darkness are round about Him—a meek and quiet spirit acquiesces in an assurance that all things shall work together for good to us, if we love God, though we cannot understand how or which way. It teaches us to follow God with an implicit faith, as Abraham did when he went out, not knowing where he went, but knowing very well whom he followed. It quiets us with this, that though what He does we know not now, yet we shall know hereafter. John 13:7. When poor Job was brought to that dismal plunge, that he could no way trace the footsteps of divine Providence, but was almost lost in the labyrinth, Job 23:8, 9, how quietly does he sit down with this thought: "But He knows the way that I take: when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold."

II. There is MEEKNESS TOWARDS OUR BRETHREN, towards "all men." Tit. 3:2. Meekness is especially conversant about the disposition of anger: not to entirely destroy and erase from the soul the holy indignation of which the Scriptures speak, for that were to quench a coal which sometimes there is occasion for, even at God's altar, and to blunt the edge even of the spiritual weapons with which we are to carry on our spiritual warfare; but its office is to direct and govern this affection, that we may be angry and not sin. Eph. 4:26.

Meekness, in the school of the philosophers, is a virtue consisting in a mean between the extremes of rash excessive anger on the one hand, and a defect of anger on the other; a mean which Aristotle confesses it very hard exactly to gain.

Meekness, in the school of Christ, is one of the fruits of the Spirit. Gal. 5:22, 23. It is a grace wrought by the Holy Spirit both as a sanctifier and as a comforter in the hearts of all true believers, teaching and enabling them at all times to keep their passions under the conduct and government of religion and right reason. I observe that it is worked in the hearts of all true believers, because, though there are some whose natural temper is unhappily sour and harsh, yet wherever there is true grace, there is a disposition to strive against, and strength in some measure to conquer such a disposition. And though in this, as in other graces, an absolute sinless perfection cannot be expected in this present state, yet we are to labor after it, and press towards it.

More particularly, the work and office of meekness is to enable us to prudently govern our own anger when at any time we are provoked, and to patiently bear the anger of others, that it may not provoke us. The former is its office especially in superiors, the latter in inferiors, and both in equals.

1. Meekness teaches us prudently to govern our own anger whenever anything occurs that is provoking. As it is the work of temperance to moderate our natural appetites in things that are pleasing to sense, so it is the work of meekness to moderate our natural passions against those things that are displeasing to sense, and to guide and govern our resentments. Anger in the soul is like mettle in a horse, good if it is well managed. Now meekness is the bridle, as wisdom is the hand that gives law to it, puts it into the right way, and keeps it in an even, steady, and regular pace; reducing it when it turns aside, preserving it in a due decorum, and restraining it and giving it restraint when at any time it grows headstrong and outrageous, and threatens mischief to ourselves or others. It must thus be held in, like the horse and mule, with bit and bridle, lest it break the hedge, run over those that stand in its way, or throw the rider himself headlong. It is true of anger, as we say of fire, that it is a good servant but a "bad master;" it is good on the hearth, but bad in the hangings. Meekness keeps it in its place, sets banks to this sea, and says, This far you shall come, and no further; here shall your proud waves stop.

In reference to our own anger, when at any time we meet with the excitements of it, the work of meekness is to do these four things:

1. To consider the circumstances of that which we perceive to be a provocation, so as at no time to express our displeasure except 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, until 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 judges it necessary. It is said of our Lord Jesus, 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 does not come 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: where they came from, where 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; where does the offense lie; 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 questions which meekness would put to the soul; and in answer to them it would remove 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, Gen. 25:14; 1 Chr. 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, Psa. 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 he says, "What shall I do when God rises 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 angry? 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? 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.

2. The work of meekness is to calm the spirit, so as that the inward peace may not be disturbed by any outward provocation. No doubt a man may express his displeasure against the miscarriages of another, as much as at any time there is occasion for, without suffering his resentments to recoil upon himself, and throw his own soul into a fury. What need is there for a man to tear himself—his soul, as it is in the Hebrew—in his anger? Job 18:4. Cannot we charge home upon our enemy camp without the willful disordering of our own troops? Surely we may, if meekness has the command; for that is a grace which keeps a man master of himself while he contends to be master of another, and fortifies the heart against the assaults of provocation that do us no great harm while they do not rob us of our peace, nor disturb the rest of our souls. As patience in case of sorrow, so meekness in case of anger keeps possession of the soul, as the expression is in Luke 21:19, that we be not dispossessed of that freehold. The drift of Christ's farewell sermon to his disciples we have in the first words of it, "Let not your hearts be troubled." John 14:1. It is the duty and interest of all good people, whatever happens, to keep trouble from their hearts, and to have them even and sedate, though the eye, as Job expresses it, should "continue" unavoidably "in the provocation" of this world. "The wicked"—the turbulent and unquiet, as the world primarily signifies—"are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest;" but that peace of God which passes all understanding, keeps the hearts and minds of all the meek of the earth. 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 the 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 the trained bands, every one in his own order, as wisdom and grace give the word of command.

3. Meekness will curb the tongue, and "keep the mouth as with a bridle" when the heart is hot. Even when there may be occasion for a keenness of expression, and we are called to rebuke sharply—cuttingly, Titus 1:13—yet meekness forbids all fury and indecency of language, and every thing that sounds like clamor and evil-speaking. The meekness of Moses was not at hand when he spoke that unadvised word "rebels," for which he was shut out of Canaan, though rebels they were, and at that time very provoking. Men in a passion are apt to give reviling language, to call names, and those most senseless and ridiculous—to take the blessed name of God in vain, and so profane it. It is a wretched way by which the children of hell vent their passion at their beasts, their servants, any person, or any thing that provokes them, to swear at them. Men in a passion are apt to reveal secrets, to make rash vows and resolutions, which afterwards prove a snare, and sometimes to slander and belie their brethren, and bring railing accusations, and so do the devil's work; and to speak that "in their haste" concerning others, Psalm 116:11, of which they afterwards see cause to repent. How brutishly did Saul in his passion call his own son, the heir-apparent to the crown, the "son of the perverse rebellious woman." "Racca" and "you fool" are specified by our Savior as breaches of the law of the sixth commandment; and the passion in the heart is so far from excusing such opprobrious speeches—for which purpose it is commonly alleged—that really it is that which gives them their malignity: they are the smoke from that fire, the gall and wormwood springing from that root of bitterness; and if for "every idle word that men speak," much more for such wicked words as these, must they give an account at the day of judgment. And as it is a reflection upon God to kill, so it is to curse men that are made after the image of God, though ever so much our inferiors; that is, to speak ill of them, or to wish ill to them.

This is the disease which meekness prevents, and is in the tongue a "law of kindness." It is to the tongue as the helm is to the ship, Jas. 3:4, not to silence it, but to guide it, to steer it wisely, especially when the wind is high. If at any time we have conceived passion and thought evil, 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. It will reason a disputed point without noise, give a reproof without a reproach, convince a man of his folly without calling him a fool, will teach superiors either to forbear threatening, Eph. 6:9, or, as the margin reads it, to moderate it; and will look diligently lest any root of bitterness, springing up, trouble us, and thereby we and many others become defiled.

4. Meekness will cool the heat of passion quickly, and not allow 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 get out; and when it is, soon gone. The wisdom that is from above, as it is "gentle," and so not apt to provoke, so it is "easy to be entreated" when any provocation is given, and has the ear always open to the first proposals and overtures of satisfaction, submission, and reconciliation; and thus the anger is turned away. He that is of a meek spirit will be quick to forgive injuries and affronts, and has some excuse or other ready with which to extenuate and qualify the provocation, which an angry man, for the exasperating and justifying of his own resentments, will industriously aggravate. It is but to say, "There is no great harm done; or if there is, there was none intended; and peradventure it was an oversight;" and so the offense, being looked at through that end of the perspective which diminishes, is easily passed by, and the distemper being taken in time, goes off quickly, the fire is quenched before it gets head, and by a speedy intervention the plague is stopped. While the world is so full of the sparks of provocation, and there is so much tinder in the hearts of the best, no marvel if anger come sometimes into the bosom of a wise man; but it rests only in the bosom of fools. Eccl. 7:9. Angry thoughts as other vain thoughts may crowd into the heart upon a sudden surprise, but meekness will not suffer them to lodge there, nor let the sun go down upon the wrath, Eph. 4:26; for if it does, there is danger lest it rise bloody the next morning. Anger concocted becomes malice; it is the wisdom of meekness, by proper applications, to disperse the humor before it comes to a head. One would have thought, when David so deeply resented Nabal's abuse, that nothing less than the blood of Nabal and all his house could have quenched his rage; but it was done at a cheaper rate; and he showed his meekness by yielding to the diversion that Abigail's present and speech gave him, and that with satisfaction and thankfulness. He was not only soon pacified, but blessed her, and blessed God for her that pacified him. God does not contend forever, neither is He always angry; "His anger endures but a moment." How unlike Him are those whose sword devours forever, and whose anger burns like the coals of juniper! But the grace of meekness, if it fail of keeping the peace of the soul from being broken, yet fails not to recover it presently, and make up the breach; and upon the least transport, brings help in time of need, restores the soul, puts it in frame again, and no great harm is done. Such as these are the achievements of meekness in governing our own anger.

2. Meekness teaches and enables us patiently to bear the anger of others, which property of meekness we have especially occasion for in reference to our superiors and equals. Commonly that which provokes anger is anger, as fire kindles fire; now meekness prevents that violent collision which forces out these sparks, and softens at least one side, and so puts a stop to a great deal of mischief; for it is the second blow that makes the quarrel. Our first concern should be to prevent the anger of others by giving no offense to any, but becoming all things to all men, everyone studying to please his neighbor for good to edification, Rom. 15:2, and endeavoring as much as lies in us to accommodate ourselves to the temper of all with whom we have to do, and to make ourselves acceptable and agreeable to them. How easy and comfortable should we make every relation and all our dealings if we were but better acquainted with this are of obliging. Naphtali's tribe, that was famous for giving goodly words, Gen. 49:21, had the happiness of being satisfied with favor, Deut. 33:23; for "every man shall kiss his lips that gives a right answer." In the conjugal relation it is taken for granted that the care of the husband is to please his wife, and the care of the wife is to please her husband, 1 Cor. 7:33, 34; and where there is that mutual care, enjoyment cannot be lacking. Some people love to be unkind, and take a pleasure in displeasing, and especially contrive to provoke those they find passionate and easily provoked, that—as he that gives his neighbor drink, and puts his bottle to him, Hab. 2:15, 16—they may look upon his shame, to which, in his passion, he exposes himself; and so they make a mock at sin, and become like the madman that casts firebrands, arrows, and death, and says, "Am not I in sport?" But the law of Christ forbids us to provoke one another, unless it is "to love and good works;" and enjoins us to "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."

But because they must rise early who will please everybody, and carry their cup even indeed who will give no offense, our next concern must be to behave ourselves in such a way that when others are angry, that we may not make bad worse. And this is one principal thing in which the younger must submit themselves to the elder; no, in which all of us must be "subject one to another," as our rule is in 1 Pet. 5:5. And here meekness is of use, either to enjoin silence or indite a soft answer.

1. To enjoin silence. It is prescribed to servants to please their masters well in all things, "not answering again," for that is displeasing: better say nothing than say that which is provoking. When our hearts are hot within us, it is good for us to keep silence, and hold our peace: so David did; and when he did speak, it was in prayer to God, and not in reply to the wicked that were before him. If the heart is angry, angry words will inflame it the more, as wheels are heated by a rapid motion. One reflection and repartee begets another, and the beginning of the debate is like the letting forth of water, which is with difficulty stopped when the least breach is made in the bank; and therefore meekness says, "By all means keep silence, and leave it off before it is meddled with." When a fire is begun, it is good, if possible, to smother it, and so prevent its spreading. Let us deal wisely, and stifle it in the birth, lest afterwards it prove too strong to be dealt with. Anger in the heart is like the books stowed in cellars in the conflagration of London, which, though they were extremely heated, never took fire until they took air many days after, which giving vent to the heat, put them into a flame. When the spirits are in a ferment, though it may be some present pain to check and suppress them, and the headstrong passions hardly admit the bridle, yet afterwards it will be no grief of heart to us.

Those who find themselves wronged and aggrieved, think they may have permission to speak; but it is better to be silent than to speak amiss, and make work for repentance. At such a time he that holds his tongue holds his peace; and if we soberly reflect, we shall find we have been often the worse for our speaking, but seldom the worse for our silence. This must be especially remembered and observed by as many as are under the yoke, who will certainly have most comfort in meekness and patience and silent submission, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. It is good in such cases to remember our place, and if the spirit of a ruler rise up against us, not to leave it, that is, not to do any thing unbecoming; for yielding pacifies great offenses. Eccl. 10:4. We have a common proverb that teaches us this: "When you are the hammer, knock your fill; but when you are the anvil, lie still;" for it is the posture you are cut out for, and which best becomes you.

If others are angry with us without cause, and we have ever so much reason on our side, yet often it is best to delay our own vindication, though we think it necessary, until the passion is over; for there is nothing said or done in passion, but it may be better said and better done afterwards. When we are calm, we shall be likely to say it and do it in a better manner; and when our brother is calm, we shall be likely to say it and do it to a better purpose. A needful truth spoken in anger may do more hurt than good, and offend rather than satisfy. The prophet himself forbore even a message from God when he saw Amaziah in a passion. Sometimes it may be advisable to get some one else to say that for us which is to be said, rather than say it ourselves. However, we have a righteous God, to whom, if in a meek silence we allow ourselves to be injured, we may commit our cause, and having his promise that He will "bring forth our righteousness as the light, and our judgment as the noonday," we had better leave it in His hands than undertake to manage it ourselves, lest that which we call clearing ourselves, God should call quarreling with our brethren. David was greatly provoked by those that sought his hurt, and spoke mischievous things against him; and yet says he, "I, as a deaf man, heard not; I was as a dumb man, that opens not his mouth." And why so? It was not because he had nothing to say, or knew not how to say it, but because "in You, O Lord, do I hope: You will hear, O Lord my God." If God hear, what need have I to hear? His concerning Himself in the matter supersedes ours, and He is not only engaged in justice to own every righteous cause that is injured, but He is further engaged in honor to appear for those who, in obedience to the law of meekness, commit their cause to Him. If any vindication or avenging is necessary—which infinite Wisdom is the best judge of—He can do it better than we can; therefore "give place unto wrath," that is, to the judgment of God, which is according to truth and equity; make room for Him to take the seat, and do not step in before Him. It is fit that our wrath should stand by to give way to his, for the wrath of man engages not the righteousness of God for him. Even just appeals made to Him, if they are made in passion, are not admitted into the court of heaven, being not duly presented; that one thing, error, is sufficient to overrule them. Let not therefore those that do well and suffer for it, spoil their own vindication by mistiming and mismanaging it; but tread in the steps of the Lord Jesus, who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but was as a lamb dumb before the shearers, and so committed Himself to Him that judges righteously. It is indeed a principal part 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 to 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. It is better by silence to yield to our brother who is, or has been, or may be our friend, than by angry speaking to yield to the devil, who has been, and is, and ever will be our sworn enemy.

2. To give a soft answer. This Solomon commends as a proper expedient to turn away wrath, while grievous words do but stir up anger. 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. This brings water, while peevishness and provocation would but bring oil to the flame. Thus is death and life in the power of the tongue; it is either healing or killing, an antidote or a poison, according as it is used. When the waves of the sea beat on a rock, they batter and make a noise, but a soft sand receives them silently, and returns them without damage. A soft tongue is a wonderful specific, and has a very strange virtue in it. Solomon says, "It breaks the bone," that is, it qualifies those that were provoked, and makes them pliable; it "heaps coals of fire upon the head" of an enemy, not to burn him, but to melt him. "Hard words," we say, "break no bones;" but it seems soft ones do, and yet do no harm, as they calm an angry spirit and prevent its progress. A stone that falls on a wool-pack rests there, and rebounds not to do any further mischief; such is a meek answer to an angry question.

The good effects of a soft answer, and the bad consequences of a peevish one, are observable in the stories of Gideon and Jephthah: both of them, in the day of their triumphs over the enemies of Israel, were quarreled with by the Ephraimites, when the danger was past and the victory won, because they had not been called upon to engage in the battle. Gideon pacified them with a soft answer: "What have I done now in comparison to you?" magnifying their achievements and lessening his own, speaking honorably of them and meanly of himself: "Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?" In which reply it is hard to say whether there was more of wit or wisdom; and the effect was very good: the Ephraimites were pleased, their anger turned away, a civil war prevented, and nobody could think the worse of Gideon for his mildness and self-denial. On the contrary, he won more true honor by his victory over his own passion, than he did by his victory over all the host of Midian; for he that has rule over his own spirit is better than the mighty. The angel of the Lord has pronounced him a "mighty man of valor;" and this his tame submission did not at all derogate from that part of his character. But Jephthah, who by many instances appears to be a man of a rough and hasty spirit, though enrolled among the eminent believers, Heb. 11:32—for all good people are not alike happy in their temper—when the Ephraimites in like manner quarrel with him, rallies them, rebukes them for their cowardice, boasts of his own courage, and challenges them to make good their cause. Judg. 12:2. They retort a scurrilous reflection upon Jephthah's country, as it is usual with passion to taunt and jeer: "You Gileadites are fugitives." From words they go to blows, and so great a matter does this little fire kindle, that there goes no less to quench the flame than the blood of forty-two thousand Ephraimites. All which had been happily prevented, if Jephthah had had but half as much meekness in his heart as he had reason on his side.

A soft answer is the dictate and dialect of that wisdom which is from above, which is peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated; and to recommend it to us, we have the pattern of good men, as that of Jacob's conduct to Esau. Though none is so hard to be won as a brother offended, yet, as he had prevailed with God by faith and prayer, so he prevailed with his brother by meekness and humility. We have also the pattern of angels, who, even when a rebuke was needful, dared not turn it into a railing accusation, dared not give any reviling language, not to the devil himself, but referred the matter to God: "The Lord rebuke you;" as that passage in Jude 9 is commonly understood. More so, we have the pattern of a good God, who, though He could plead against us with His great power, yet gives soft answers: witness His dealing with Cain when he was wroth and his countenance fallen, reasoning the case with him: "Why are you angry? If you do well, will you not be accepted?" With Jonah likewise when he was so discontented: "Is it right for you to be angry?" This is represented, in the parable of the prodigal son, by the conduct of the father towards the elder brother, who was so angry that he would not come in. The father did not say, "Let him stay out then;" but he came himself and entreated him, when he might have interposed his authority and commanded him, saying, "Son, you are ever with me." When a passionate contest is begun, there is a plague broke out: the meek man, like Aaron, takes his censer with the incense of a soft answer, steps in seasonably, and stays it.

This soft answer, in case we have committed a fault, though perhaps not culpable to the degree that we are charged with, must be penitent, humble, and submissive; and we must be ready to acknowledge our error, and not stand in it, or insist upon our own vindication; but rather aggravate than excuse it, rather condemn than justify ourselves. It will be a good evidence of our repentance towards God, to humble ourselves to our brethren whom we have offended, as it will be also a good evidence of our being forgiven of God, if we are ready to forgive those that have offended us; and such yielding pacifies great offenses. Meekness teaches us, as often as we trespass against our brother, to "turn again and say, I repent." An acknowledgment, in case of a willful affront, is perhaps as necessary to pardon, as, we commonly say, restitution is in case of wrong.

So much for the opening of the nature of meekness, which yet will receive further light from considering more particularly what is implied in—


Quietness is the evenness, the composure and the rest of the soul, which speaks both the nature and the excellency of the grace of meekness. The greatest comfort and happiness of man is sometimes set forth by quietness. That peace of conscience which Christ has left for a legacy to his disciples, that present sabbatism of the soul which is an earnest of the rest that remains for the people of God, is called "quietness and assurance forever," and is promised as the effect of righteousness. So graciously has God been pleased to entwine interests with us, as to enjoin the same thing as a duty which He proposes and promises as a privilege. Justly may we say that we serve a good Master, whose "Yoke is easy:" it is not only easy, but sweet and gracious, so the word signifies; not only tolerable, but amiable and acceptable. Wisdom's ways are not only pleasant, but pleasantness itself, and all her paths are peace. It is the character of the Lord's people, both in respect to holiness and happiness, that, however they are branded as the troublers of Israel, they are "the quiet in the land." If every saint is made a spiritual prince, Rev. 1:6, having a dignity above others and a dominion over himself, surely he is like Seraiah, "a quiet prince." It is a reign with Christ, the transcendent Solomon, under the influence of whose golden scepter there is "abundance of peace as long as the moon endures," yes, and longer, for "of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end." Quietness is recommended as a grace which we should be endued with, and a duty which we should practice. In the midst of all the affronts and injuries that are or can be offered us, we must keep our spirits sedate and undisturbed, and evidence by a calm and even and regular behavior that they are so. This is quietness. Our Savior has pronounced the blessing of adoption upon the peacemakers, Matt. 5:9; those that are for peace, as David professes himself to be, in opposition to those that delight in war. Psalm 120:7. Now, if charity is for peace-making, surely this "charity begins at home," and is for making peace there in the first place. Peace in our own souls is some conformity to the example of the God of peace, who, though He does not always give peace on this earth, yet evermore "makes peace in his own high places." This some think is the primary intention of that peace-making on which Christ commands the blessing: it is to have strong and hearty affections to peace, to be peaceably-minded. In a word, quietness of spirit is the soul's stillness and silence from intending provocation to any, or resenting provocation from any with whom we have to do.

The word has something in it of metaphor, which admirably illustrates the grace of meekness.

1. We must be quiet as the air is quiet from winds. Disorderly passions are like stormy winds in the soul, they toss and hurry it, and often strand or overset it; they move it "as the trees of the forest are moved with the wind;" it is the prophet's comparison, and is an apt emblem of a man in passion. Now meekness restrains these winds, says to them, Peace, be still, and so preserves a calm in the soul, and makes it conformable to Him who has the winds in his hands, and is herein to be praised that even the stormy winds fulfill his word. A brisk gale is often useful, especially to the ship of desire, as the Hebrew phrase is in Job 9:26; so there should be in the soul such a warmth and vigor as will help to speed us to the desired harbor. It is not well to lie wind-bound in dullness and indifference; but tempests are perilous, yes, though the wind is in the right point. So are strong passions, even in good men; they both hinder the voyage and hazard the ship. Such a quickness as consists with quietness is what we should all labor after, and meekness will contribute very much towards it; it will silence the noise, control the force, moderate the impetus, and correct undue and disorderly transports. What manner of grace is this, that even the winds and the sea obey it! If we will but use the authority God has given us over our own hearts, we may keep the winds of passion under the command of religion and reason; and then the soul is quiet, the sun shines, all is pleasant, serene, and smiling, and the man sleeps sweetly and safely on the lee-side. We make our voyage among rocks and quicksands, but if the weather is calm, we can the better steer so as to avoid them, and by a due care and temper strike the mean between extremes; whereas he that allows these winds of passion to get head, and spreads a large sail before them, while he shuns one rock, splits upon another, and is in danger of being drowned in destruction and perdition by many foolish and hurtful lusts, especially those whence wars and fightings come.

2. We must be quiet as the sea is quiet from waves. The wicked, whose sin and punishment both lie in the unruliness of their own souls, and the violence and disorder of their own passions, which perhaps will not be the least of their eternal torments, are compared to "the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt;" that is, they are uneasy to themselves and to all about them, "raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame;" their hard speeches which they speak against God and dignities and things which they know not, their great swelling words and mockings, Jude 13, 18, these are the shame they foam out. Now meekness is a grace of the Spirit, that moves upon the face of the waters and quiets them, smooths the ruffled sea and stills the noise of it; it casts forth none of the mire and dirt of passion. The waves mount not up to heaven in proud and vainglorious boasting; they go not down to the depths to scrape up vile and scurrilous language: there is no reeling to and fro, as men overcome with drink or with their own passion; there is none of that transport which brings them to their wits' end; but "they are glad because they are quiet; so He brings them to their desired haven." This calmness and evenness of spirit makes our passage over the sea of this world safe and pleasant, quick and speedy towards the desired harbor, and is amiable and exemplary in the eyes of others.

3. We must be quiet as the land is quiet from war. It was the observable happiness of Asa's reign, that "in his days the land was quiet." In the preceding reigns there was no peace to him that went out, or to him that came in; but now the rumors and alarms of war were stilled, and the people delivered from the noise of archers at the place of drawing waters, as when the land had rest in Deborah's time. Such a quietness there should be in the soul, and such a quietness there will be where meekness sways the scepter. A soul inflamed with wrath and passion upon all occasions, is like a kingdom embroiled in war, in a civil war, subject to continual frights and losses and perils; deaths and terrors in their most horrid shapes walk triumphantly, sleep is disturbed, families broken, friends suspected, enemies feared, laws silenced, commerce ruined, business neglected, cities wasted: such heaps upon heaps does ungoverned anger lay, when it is let loose in the soul. But meekness makes these wars to cease, breaks the bow, cuts the spear, sheathes the sword, and in the midst of a contentious world preserves the soul from being the seat of war, and makes peace in her borders. The rest of the soul is not disturbed, its comforts not plundered, its government not disordered; the laws of religion and reason rule, and not the sword; neither its communion with God nor with the saints interrupted; no breaking in of temptation, no going out of corruption, no complaining in the streets; no occasion given, no occasion taken, to complain. Happy is the soul that is in such a case. The words of such wise men are heard in quiet, more than the cry of him that rules among fools, and this "wisdom is better than weapons of war." This is the quietness we should every one of us labor after; and it is what we might attain to, if we would but more support and exercise the authority of our graces, and guide and control the power of our passions.

4. We must be quiet as the child is quiet after weaning. It is the Psalmist's comparison: "I have behaved," or rather, I have composed, "and quieted myself as a child that is weaned of his mother; my soul is even as a weaned child." A child, while it is in the weaning, perhaps is a little cross and froward and troublesome for a time; but when it is perfectly weaned, how quickly does it accommodate itself to its new way of feeding. Thus a quiet soul, if provoked by the denial or loss of some earthly comfort or delight, quiets itself, and does not fret at it, nor perplex itself with anxious cares how to live without it, but composes itself to make the best of that which is. And this holy indifference to the delights of sense is, like the weaning of a child, a good step taken towards the perfect man, "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." A child newly weaned is free from all the uneasiness and disquietude of care and fear and anger and revenge: how undisturbed are its sleeps, and even in its dreams it looks pleasant and smiling. How easy its days; how quiet its nights. If put into a little sulk now and then, how soon it is over, the provocation forgiven, the sense of it forgotten, and both buried in an innocent kiss. Thus, if ever we would enter into the kingdom of heaven, we must be converted from pride, envy, ambition, and strife for precedency, and must become like little children. So our Savior has told us, who, even after His resurrection, is called "the holy child Jesus." And even when we have put away other childish things, yet still "in malice" we must be children. And as for the quarrels of others, a meek and quiet Christian endeavors to be as unselfish and as little engaged as a weaned child in the mother's arms, that is not capable of such angry resentments.

This is that meekness and quietness of spirit which is recommended to us: such a command and composure of the soul that it does not become unhinged by any provocation whatever, but all its powers and faculties preserved in due temper for the just discharge of their respective offices. In a word, put off all wrath and anger and malice, those corrupted limbs of the old man; pluck up and cast away those roots of bitterness, and stand upon a constant guard against all the exorbitances of your own passion: then you will soon know, to your comfort, better than I can tell you, what it is to be of a meek and quiet spirit.