"A meek and quiet spirit, which is in the
THE EXCELLENCY OF MEEKNESS
The very opening of this cause, one would think, were enough to carry it; and the explaining of the nature of meekness and quietness should suffice to recommend it to us. Such an amiable sweetness does there appear in it upon the very first view, that if we look upon its beauty, we cannot but be enamored with it. But because of the opposition of our corrupt hearts to this, as well as the other graces of the Holy Spirit, I shall endeavor more particularly to show the excellency of it, that we may be brought, if possible, to be in love with it, and to submit our souls to its charming power.
It is said, that a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Prov. 17:27. Tremellius translates it, he is of a cool spirit; put them together and they teach us that a cool spirit is an excellent spirit, and that he is a man of understanding who is governed by such a spirit. The Scriptures tell us—what need we more?—That it is in the sight of God of great price, and we may be sure that is precious indeed which is so in God's sight: that is good, very good, which He pronounces so; for His judgment is according to truth, and sooner or later He will bring all the world to be of His mind; for as He has decided it, so shall our doom be, and, He will be "justified when He speaks, and clear when He judges."
The excellency of a meek and quiet spirit will appear, if we consider the credit of it, and the comfort of it—the present profit there is by it, and the preparedness there is in it for future blessings.
I. Consider how CREDITABLE a meek and quiet spirit is. Credit or reputation all desire, though few consider aright what it is, or what is the right way of obtaining it; and particularly it is little believed what a great deal of true honor there is in the grace of meekness, and what a sure and ready way mild and quiet souls take to gain the approval of their Master, and of all their fellow-servants who love Him and are like Him.
1. There is in it the credit of a victory. What a great figure do the names of high and mighty conquerors make in the records of fame! How are their conduct, their valor and success cried up and celebrated! But if we will believe the word of truth, and pass a judgment upon things according to it, "he that is slow to anger, is better than the mighty; and he that rules his spirit, than he that takes a city." Behold, a greater than Alexander or Caesar is here; the former of whom, some think, lost more true honor by yielding to his own ungoverned anger, than he got by all his conquests. No triumphant chariot so easy, so safe, so truly glorious, as that in which the meek and quiet soul rides over all the provocations of an injurious world with a gracious unconcernedness, no train so splendid, so noble, as that train of comforts and graces which attend this chariot. The conquest of an unruly passion is more honorable than that of an unruly people, for it requires more true courage. 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. It was more to the honor of David to yield himself conquered by Abigail's persuasions, than to have made himself a conqueror over Nabal and all his house. A rational victory must be more honorable to a rational creature than a brutal one. This is a cheap, safe, and unbloody conquest, that does nobody any harm; no lives, no treasures are sacrificed to it; the glory of these triumphs are not stained, as others generally are, with funerals. Every battle of the warrior, says the prophet, "is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood;" but this victory shall be obtained by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts. Yes, in meek and quiet suffering we are "more than conquerors," through Christ that loved us: conquerors with little loss, we lose nothing but the gratifying of a base lust; conquerors with great gain, the spoils we divide are very rich—the favor of God, the comforts of the Spirit, the foretastes of everlasting pleasures; these are more glorious and excellent than the mountains of prey. We are more than conquerors; that is, triumphers: we live a life of victory; every day is a day of triumph to the meek and quiet soul.
Meekness is a victory over ourselves and the rebellious lusts in our own bosoms; it is the quieting of internal conflicts, the stilling of an insurrection at home, which is often harder than to resist a foreign invasion. It is an effectual victory over those that injure us, and make themselves enemies to us, and is often a means of winning their hearts. The law of meekness is, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, not only give him a drink—which is an act of charity—but drink to him, in token of friendship and true love and reconciliation; and in so doing you shall "heap coals of fire upon his head," not to consume him, but to melt and soften him, that he may be cast into a new mold; and thus, while the angry and revengeful man, that will bear down all before him with a high hand, is overcome of evil, the patient and forgiving overcome evil with good; and forasmuch as their "ways please the Lord, He makes even their enemies to be at peace with them." Not only that, meekness is a victory over Satan, the greatest enemy of all; and what conquest can be more honorable than this? It is written for caution to us all, and it reflects honor on those who through grace overcome, that "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this world." The magnifying of the adversary, magnifies the victory over him: such as these are the meek man's vanquished enemies; the spoils of these are the trophies of his victory. It is the design of the devil, that great deceiver and destroyer of souls, that is baffled; it is his attempt that is defeated, his assault that is repulsed, by our meekness and quietness. Our Lord Jesus was more admired for controlling and commanding the unclean spirits, than for any other cures which He wrought. Unruly passions are unclean spirits, legions of which some souls are possessed with, and desperate, outrageous work they make; the soul becomes like that miserable creature that cried and cut himself, Mark 5:5; or that, who was so often cast into the fire, and into the waters. Mark 9:22. The meek and quiet soul is, through grace, a conqueror over these enemies; their fiery darts are quenched by the shield of faith; Satan is in some measure trodden under his feet; and the victory will be complete shortly, when "he that overcomes" shall sit down with Christ upon His throne, even as He overcame, and is set down with the Father upon His throne, where He still appears in the emblem of His meekness, "a Lamb as it had been slain." And upon Mount Zion, at the head of his heavenly hosts, He appears also as a Lamb. Rev. 14:1. Such is the honor meekness has in those higher regions.
2. There is in it the credit of beauty. The beauty of a thing consists in the symmetry, harmony, and agreement of all the parts: now what is meekness but the soul's agreement with itself? It is the joint concurrence of all the affections to the universal peace and quiet of the soul, every one regularly acting in its own place and order, and so contributing to the common good. Next to the beauty of holiness, which is the soul's agreement with God, is the beauty of meekness, which is the soul's agreement with itself. "Behold how good and how pleasant a thing it is" for the powers of the soul thus to "dwell together in unity;" the reason knowing how to rule, and the affections at the same time knowing how to obey. Exorbitant passion is a discord in the soul; it is like a tumor in the face which spoils the beauty of it: meekness scatters the humor, binds down the swelling, and so prevents the deformity and preserves the beauty. This is one instance of the loveliness of grace, "through My loveliness," says God to Israel, "which I had put upon you." It puts a charming loveliness and amiableness upon the soul, which renders it acceptable to all who know what true worth and beauty is. He that in righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, that is, in Christian meekness and quietness of spirit, "serves Christ, is acceptable to God and approved of men." And to whom else can we wish to recommend ourselves?
Solomon, a very competent judge of beauty, has determined that it is "a man's wisdom" that "makes his face to shine;" and doubtless the meekness of wisdom contributes as much as any one branch of it to this luster. We read in Scripture of three whose faces shone remarkably, and they were all eminent for meekness. The face of Moses shone, and he was the meekest of all the men on earth. The face of Stephen shone, and he it was who, in the midst of a shower of stones, so meekly submitted, and prayed for his persecutors. The face of our Lord Jesus shone in his transfiguration, and he was the great pattern of meekness. It is a sweet and pleasing air which this grace puts upon the countenance, while it keeps the soul in tune, and frees it from those jarring discords which are the certain effect of an ungoverned passion.
3. There is in it the credit of an ornament. The apostle speaks of it as "an adorning" much more excellent and valuable than gold, pearls, or the most costly array. It is an adorning to the soul, the principal, the immortal part of the man. That outward adorning does but dress and beautify the body, which at the best is but a sister to the worms, and will soon be a feast for them; but this is the ornament of the soul, by which we are allied to the invisible world: it is an adorning that recommends us to God, which is in his sight "of great price." Ornaments go by estimation: now we may be sure the judgment of God is right and unerring. Every thing is indeed as it is with God: those are righteous indeed, that are righteous before God; and that is an ornament indeed, which He calls and counts so. It is an ornament of God's own making. Is the soul thus adorned? It is he that has adorned it. By his Spirit He has garnished the heavens, and by the same Spirit has He garnished the meek and quiet soul. It is an ornament of His accepting; it must be so, if it is of His own working; for to him who has this ornament, more adorning shall be given. He has promised that He will "beautify the meek with salvation;" and if the garments of salvation will not beautify, what will? The robes of glory will be the everlasting ornaments of meek and quiet spirits. This meekness is an ornament that, like the Israelites' clothes in the wilderness, never grows old, nor will ever go out of fashion while right reason and religion have place in the world: all the wise and good will consider those best dressed that put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and walk with Him in the white of meekness and innocency. Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these lilies of the valleys, though lilies among thorns.
The same ornament which is recommended to wives, is by the same apostle recommended to us all. "Yes, all of you be subject one to another:" that explains what meekness is; it is that mutual yielding which we owe one to another, for edification and in the fear of God. This seems to be a hard saying; how shall we digest it? an impracticable duty; how shall we conquer it? Why, it follows, "Be clothed with humility." Which implies, 1. the fixedness of this grace: we must gird it fast to us, and not leave it to hang loose, so as to be snatched away by every temptation: watchfulness and resolution in the strength of Christ must tie the knot upon our graces, and make them as the belt that cleaves to a man's loins. 2. The loveliness and ornament of it; put it on as a knot of ribbons, as an ornament to the soul: such is the meekness of wisdom; it gives to the head an ornament of grace, and, which is more, a crown of glory. Prov. 1:9; 6:9.
4. There is in it the credit of true courage. Meekness is commonly despised by the noblemen of the age as cowardice and lowliness, and the evidence of a little soul, and is posted accordingly; while the most furious and angry revenge is celebrated and applauded under the pompous names of valor, honor, and greatness of spirit. This arises from a mistaken notion of courage, the true nature whereof is thus stated by a very ingenious pen: "It is a resolution never to decline any evil of pain, when the choosing of it, and the exposing of ourselves to it, is the only remedy against a greater evil." And therefore he that accepts a challenge, and so runs himself upon the evil of sin, which is the greater evil, only for fear of shame and reproach, which is the less evil, is the coward; while he that refuses the challenge, and so exposes himself to reproach for fear of sin,* he is the valiant man. True courage is such a presence of mind as enables a man rather to suffer than to sin; to choose affliction rather than iniquity; to pass by an affront though he lose by it, and be hissed as a fool and a coward, rather than engage in a sinful quarrel. He that can deny the brutal lust of anger and revenge, rather than violate the royal law of love and charity, however contrary the sentiments of the world may be, is truly resolute and courageous; the Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor. Fretting and vexing is the fruit of the weakness of women and children, but much below the strength of a man, especially of the new man that is born from above. When our Lord Jesus is described in his majesty, riding prosperously, the glory in which He appears is "truth and meekness and righteousness." The courage of those who overcome this great red dragon of wrath and revenge by meek and patient suffering, and by not loving "their lives unto the death," will turn to the best and most honorable account on the other side the grave, and will be crowned with glory and honor and immortality, when those that caused their terror in the land of the living fall ingloriously, and bear their shame with those who go down to the pit. Ezek. 32:24.
*Paul showed more true valor when he said, I can do nothing against the truth, than Goliath did when he defied all the host of Israel. Ward.
It has the credit of a conformity to the best patterns. The resemblance of those that are confessedly excellent and glorious, has in it an excellence and glory. To be meek is to be like the greatest saints, the elders that obtained a good report, and were of renown in their generation. It is to be like the angels, whose meekness in their converse with, and ministration to the saints, is very observable in the Scriptures; more so, it is to be like the great God Himself, whose goodness is His glory, who is "slow to anger," and in whom "fury is not." We are then followers of God, as dear children, when we "walk in love," and are kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another. The more quiet and sedate we are, the more like we are to that God who, though He is nearly concerned in all the affairs of this lower world, is far from being moved by its convulsions and revolutions; but, as He was from eternity, so He is, and will be to eternity, infinitely happy in the enjoyment of Himself. It is spoken to His praise and glory, The Lord sits upon the floods, even when the floods have lifted up their voices, have lifted up their waves. Such is the rest of the eternal Mind, that He sits as firm and undisturbed upon the movable flood as upon the immovable rock, the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the meek and quiet soul that preserves its peace and evenness against all the ruffling insults of passion and provocation, does thereby somewhat participate of a divine nature. 2 Pet. 1:4.
Let the true honor that attends this grace of meekness recommend it to us: it is one of those things that are honest and pure and lovely and of good report; a virtue that has a praise attending it—a praise not perhaps of men, but of God. It is the certain way to get and keep, if not a great name, yet a good name; such as is better than precious ointment. Though there are those that trample upon the meek of the earth, and look upon them as Michal upon David, despising them in their hearts; yet if this is to be vile, let us be yet more vile and base in our own might, and we shall find, as David argues, that there are those of whom we shall be "had in honor;" for the word of Christ shall not fall to the ground, that they "who humble themselves shall be exalted."
II. Consider how COMFORTABLE a meek and quiet spirit is. What is true comfort and pleasure but a quietness in our own bosom? Those are most easy to themselves who are so to all about them; while those who are a burden and a terror to others, will not be much otherwise to themselves. He that would lead a quiet, must lead "a peaceable life." The surest way to find rest to our souls is to "learn of Him who is meek and lowly in heart." Let but our moderation be known unto all men, and "the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep our hearts and minds." Quietness is the thing which even the busy, noisy part of the world pretend to desire and pursue: they will be quiet—this is their claim—yes, that they will, or they will know why; they will not endure the least disturbance of their quietness. But truly they go a mad way to work in pursuit of quietness; greatly to disquiet themselves inwardly, and put their souls into a continual tumult, only to prevent or remedy some small outward disquietude from others. But he that is meek finds a sweeter, safer quietness, and much greater comfort than that which they in vain pursue. "Great peace have they" that love this law of love, for "nothing shall offend them." Whatever offense is intended, it is not so interpreted, and by that means peace is preserved. If there is a heaven anywhere upon earth, it is in the meek and quiet soul that acts and breathes above that lower region which is infested with storms and tempests, the harmony of whose faculties is like the famed "music of the spheres"—a perpetual melody. "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other."
A meek and quiet Christian lives very comfortably, for he enjoys himself, he enjoys his friends, he enjoys his God, and he puts it out of the reach of his enemies to disturb him in these enjoyments.
1. He enjoys himself. Meekness is very closely related to that "patience" which our Lord Jesus prescribes to us as necessary to the keeping possession of our own souls. How calm are the thoughts, how serene are the affections, how rational the prospects, and how even and composed are all the resolves of the meek and quiet soul! How free from the pains and tortures of an angry man, who is deprived and dispossessed even of himself, and while he toils and vexes to make other things his own, makes his own soul not so: his reason is in a mist; confounded and bewildered, it cannot argue, infer, or foresee with any certainty. His affections are on the full speed, hurried on with an impetus which is as uneasy as it is hazardous. Who is that "good man who is satisfied from himself?" Who but the quiet man that has no need to go abroad for satisfaction, but having Christ dwelling in his heart by faith, has in Him that peace which the world can neither give nor take away. While those that are fretful and passionate rise up early and sit up late, and eat the bread of sorrow in pursuit of revengeful projects, the God of peace gives to "his beloved sleep." The sleep of the meek is quiet and sweet and undisturbed; those that by innocence and mildness are the sheep of Christ, shall be made to "lie down in green pastures." That which would break an angry man's heart will not break a meek man's sleep. It is promised that "the meek shall eat and be satisfied." He has what sweetness is to be had in his common comforts; while the angry man either cannot eat, his stomach is too full and too high, as Ahab, 1 Kings 21:4, or eats and is not satisfied, unless he can be revenged, as Haman: "All this avails me nothing," though it was a banquet of wine with the king and queen, "as long as Mordecai is unhanged."
It is spoken of as the happiness of the meek, that they "delight themselves in the abundance of peace;" others may delight themselves in the abundance of wealth, a poor delight, that is interwoven with so much trouble and disquietude; but the meek, though they have but a little wealth, have peace, abundance of peace, peace like a river, and this such as they have a heart to enjoy. They have light within: as Oecolampadius said, Their souls are a Goshen in the midst of the Egypt of this world; they have a light in their dwelling when clouds and darkness are round about them: this is the joy with which a stranger does not intermeddle. We may certainly have—and we should do well to consider it—less inward disturbance, and more true ease and satisfaction, in forgiving twenty injuries than in avenging one. No doubt Abigail intended more than she expressed, when, to persuade David to pass by the affront which Nabal had given him, she prudently suggested that hereafter "this shall be no grief to you, nor offense of heart"—not only so, but it would be very sweet and easy and comfortable in the reflection. Such a rejoicing is it, especially in a suffering day, to have the testimony of conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, particularly the grace of meekness, we have had our conversation in the world, and so have pleased God and done our duty. He did not speak the sense, no, not of the sober heathen, that said, "Revenge is sweeter than life;" for it often proves more bitter than death.
2. He enjoys his friends; and that is a thing in which lies much of the comfort of human life. Man was intended to be a sociable creature, and a Christian much more so. But the angry man is unfit to be so, that takes fire at every provocation; fitter to be abandoned to the lions' dens and mountains of the leopards, than to go forth by the footsteps of the flock. He that has his hand against every man, cannot but have, with Ishmael's character, Ishmael's fate, "every man's hand against him," and so he lives in a state of war; but meekness is the cement of society, the bond of Christian communion: it planes and polishes the materials of that beautiful fabric, and makes them lie close and tight, and the living stones which are built up a spiritual house, to be like the stones of the temple that Herod built, all as one stone, whereas, "Hard upon hard," as the Spaniard's proverb is, "will never make a wall." Meekness preserves among brethren that unity which is like the ointment upon the holy head, and the dew upon the holy hill. Psa. 133:1, 2. In our present state of imperfection, there can be no friendship, correspondence, or conversation maintained without mutual allowances; we do not yet dwell with angels or spirits of just men made perfect, but with men subject to like passions. Now meekness teaches us to consider this, and to allow accordingly; and so distance and strangeness, feuds and quarrels are happily prevented, and the beginnings of them crushed by a timely care. How necessary to true friendship it is to surrender our passions, and to subject them all to the laws of it, was perhaps intimated by Jonathan's delivering to David his sword and his bow and his belt, all his military habiliments, when he entered in a covenant with him.
3. He enjoys his God; and that is most comfortable of all. It is the quintessence of all happiness, and that without which all our other enjoyments are insipid; for this none are better qualified than those who are arrayed with the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. It was when the psalmist had newly conquered an unruly passion and composed himself, that he lifted up his soul to God in that pious and emotional breathing, "Whom have I in heaven but You? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides You." We enjoy God when we have the evidences and the assurances of his favor, the tastes and tokens of his love—when we experience in ourselves the communication of his grace, and the continued instances of his image stamped upon us; and this those that are most meek and quiet have usually in the greatest degree. In our wrath and passion we give place to the devil, and so provoke God to withdraw from us. Nothing grieves the Holy Spirit of God, by whom we have fellowship with the Father, more than "bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and evil-speaking." But to this man does the God of heaven look with a particular regard, even to him that is poor, poor in spirit, Isa. 66:2: to him that is quiet, so the Syriac—to him that is meek, so the Chaldee. The great God overlooks heaven and earth to give a favorable look to the meek and quiet soul. Yes, He not only looks at such, but He "dwells" with them; noting a constant communion and communion between God and humble souls. His secret is with them; He gives them more grace; and those who thus dwell in love, dwell in God, and God in them. The waters were dark indeed, but they were quiet when the Spirit of God moved upon them, and out of them produced a beautiful world.
This calm and composed frame very much qualifies and disposes us for the reception and entertainment of divine visits; sets bounds to the mountain on which God is to descend, Exod. 19:12, that no interruption may break in; and charges the daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes and the hinds of the field—those sweet and gentle and peaceable creatures—not to stir up or awake our love until he please. Song 2:7. Some think it was for the quieting and composing of his spirit, which seems to have been a little ruffled, that Elisha called for the "musician," and then "the hand of the Lord came upon him." Never was God more intimate with any mere man than He was with Moses, the meekest of all the men on the earth; and it was required as a necessary qualification of the high priest, who was to draw near to minister, that he should have compassion on the ignorant, and on those who are out of the way. "The meek will He guide in judgment" with a still small voice, which cannot be heard when the passions are loud and tumultuous. The angry man when he awakes is still with the devil, devising some malicious project; the meek and quiet man when he awakes is still with God, solacing himself in his favor. "Return unto your rest, O my soul," says David, when he had reckoned himself among the simple, that is, the mild, innocent, and inoffensive people. Return to your Noah, so the word is—for Noah had his name from rest—perhaps alluding to the rest which the dove found with Noah in the ark, when she could find none anywhere else. Those that are harmless and simple as doves, can with comfort return to God as to their rest. It is excellently paraphrased by Mr. Patrick, "God and yourself," my soul, "enjoy; in quiet rest, freed from your fears." It is said that "the Lord lifts up the meek;" as far as their meekness reigns they are lifted up above the stormy region, and fixed in a sphere perpetually calm and serene. They are advanced indeed that are at home in God, and live a life of communion with Him, not only in solemn ordinances, but even in the common accidents and occurrences of the world. Every day is a Sabbath-day, a day of holy rest with the meek and quiet soul, as one of the days of heaven. As this grace becomes established, the comforts of the Holy Spirit grow stronger and stronger, according to that precious promise, "The meek also shall increase their joy in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel."
4. It is not in the power of his enemies to disturb
and interrupt him in these enjoyments. His peace is not only sweet but
safe and secure; as far as he acts under the law of meekness, it is above
the reach of the assaults of those that wish ill to it. He that abides
quietly under "the shadow of the Almighty" shall surely be delivered "from
the snare of the fowler." The greatest provocations that men can give would
not hurt us if we did not, by our inordinate and foolish concern, come too
near them. We may therefore thank ourselves if we are 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;
more than that, it is a kind of innocent revenge. It was an evidence that
Saul was actuated by another spirit, in that, when children of Belial
despised him and brought him no presents—hoping by that contempt to give a
shock to his infant government—he "held his peace," and so neither his soul
nor his crown received any disturbance. Shimei, when he cursed David,
intended thereby to pour vinegar into his wounds, and to add affliction to
the afflicted; but David, by his meekness, preserved his peace, and Shimei's
design was frustrated. "So let him curse;" alas, poor creature, he hurts
himself more than David, who, while he keeps his heart from being tinder to
those sparks, is no more prejudiced by them than the moon is by the foolish
cur that barks at it. The meek man's prayer is that of David, "Lead me to
the rock that is higher than I," Psa. 61:2; and there I can, as Mr. Norris
The meek man is like a ship that rides at anchor—is moved, but not removed: the storm moves it—the meek man is not a stock or stone under provocation—but does not remove it from its port. It is a grace that, in reference to the temptations of affront and injury—as faith in reference to temptation in general—quenches the fiery darts of the wicked: it is an armor of proof against the spiteful and poisonous arrows of provocation, and is an impenetrable wall to secure the peace of the soul, where no thief can break through to steal; while the angry man lays all his comforts at the mercy of every wasp that will strike at him.
So that, upon the whole, it appears that the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit is as easy as it is attractive.
III. Consider how PROFITABLE a meek and quiet spirit is. All are intent on gain. It is for this that they lose sleep and spend their spirits. Now it will be hard to convince such, that really there is more to be obtained by meekness and quietness of spirit, than by all this tumult and confusion. They readily believe that "in all labor there is profit:" but let God Himself tell them, "In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength;" they will not take His word for it, but they say, "No; for we will flee upon horses, and we will ride upon the swift." He that came from heaven to bless us has entailed a special blessing upon the grace of meekness: "Blessed are the meek;" and His saying they are blessed makes them so; for those whom He blesses are blessed indeed—blessed, and they shall be blessed. Meekness is gainful and profitable, as it is,
1. The condition of the promise: the meek "shall inherit the earth:" it is quoted from Psa. 37:11, and is almost the only express promise of temporal good things in all the New Testament. Not that the meek shall be put off with the earth only, then they would not be truly blessed; but they shall have that as an earnest of something more. Some read it, They shall inherit the land, that is, the land of Canaan, which was not only a type and figure, but to those who believed, a token and pledge of the heavenly inheritance. So that "a double Canaan," as Dr. Hammond observes, "is thought little enough for the meek man; the same felicity in a manner attending him which we believe of Adam, if he had not fallen—a life in paradise, and then a transplantation to heaven." Meekness is a branch of godliness which has, more than other branches of it, "the promise of the life that now is." They shall inherit the earth; the sweetest and surest tenure is that by inheritance, which is founded in sonship: that which comes by descent to the heir, the law attributes to the act of God, who has a special hand in providing for the meek. They are His children; and if children, then heirs. It is not always the largest proportion of this world's goods that falls to the meek man's share; but whether he has more or less, he has it by the best title—not by a common, but a covenant right: he holds in Capite, in Christ our head, an honorable tenure.*
*They inhabit the earth which they know to be theirs by the divine allotment, and they are safe beneath the divine protection; this suffices them until, in the last day, they arrive at the full possession of their inheritance. The furious, on the contrary, by grasping at all, lose everything. Calv. in Matthew 5:5
If he has but a little, he has it from God's love, and with His blessing, and behold all things are clean and comfortable to him. The wise man has determined it: "Better is a dry morsel with quietness, than a house full of feasting with strife. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatter calf with hatred." Be the fare ever so meager, he that has rule over his own spirit, knows how to make the best of it, and how to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock. Blessed are the meek; for they shall wield the earth: so old Wickliff's translation reads it—as I remember it is quoted in the Book of Martyrs—and very significantly. Good management contributes more to our comfort than great possessions. Whatever a meek man has of this earth, he knows how to wield it, to make a right and good use of it; that is all in all. Quiet souls so far inherit the earth that they are sure to have as much of it as is good for them, as much as will serve to bear their charges through this world to a better; and who would covet more? The promise of God without present possession, is better than possession of the world without an interest in the promise.
Meekness has in its own nature a direct tendency to our present benefit and advantage. He that is thus wise, is wise for himself even in this world, and effectually consults his own interest.
Meekness has a good influence upon our health. If envy is "the rottenness of the bones," meekness is the preservation of them. The excesses and exorbitances of anger stir up those bad humors in the body which kindle and increase wasting and killing diseases; but meekness governs those humors, and so contributes very much to the good temper and constitution of the body. When Ahab was sick for Naboth's vineyard, meekness would soon have cured him. Moses, the meekest of men, not only lived to be old, but was then free from the infirmities of age; "his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated," which may be very much imputed to his meekness, as a means. The days of old age would not be such evil days if old people did not, by their own frowardness and unquietness, make them worse than otherwise they would be. Ungoverned anger inflames the natural heat, and so begets acute diseases—dries up the radical moisture, and so hastens chronic decays. The body is called the sheath or scabbard of the soul. Dan. 7:15, margin. How often does an envious, fretful soul, like a sharp knife, cut its own sheath, and as they say of the viper's brood, eat its own way out; all which meekness happily prevents.
The quietness of the spirit will help to suppress depression; and this, as other of wisdom's precepts, will be health to the body and marrow to the bones: length of days and long life and peace they shall add unto you; but wrath kills the foolish man. Job 5:2.
It has a good influence upon our wealth—the preservation and increase of it. As in kingdoms, so in families and neighborhoods, war begets poverty. Many a one has brought a fair estate to ruin by giving way to the efforts of an ungoverned anger, that savage idol, to which even the children's portions and the family's maintenance are oftentimes sacrificed. Contention will as soon clothe a man with rags as slothfulness; that therefore which keeps peace does not a little befriend plenty. It was Abraham's meek management of his quarrel with Lot that secured both his own and his kinsman's possessions, which otherwise would have been an easy prey to the Canaanite and the Perizzite that dwelt then in the land. And Isaac, whom I have sometimes thought to be the most quiet and calm of all the patriarchs, and that passed the days of his pilgrimage most silently, raised the greatest estate of any of them; he "grew until he became very great;" and his son Jacob lost nothing in the end by his meek and quiet carriage towards his uncle Laban. Revenge is costly. Haman bid largely for it, no less than ten thousand talents of silver. It is better to forgive, and save the charges. Mr. Dod used to say, "Love is better than law; for love is cheap, but law is chargeable." Those tradesmen are commonly observed to thrive most that make the least noise, that "with quietness work," and mind their own business.
It has a good influence upon our safety. In the day of the Lord's anger the meek of the earth are most likely to be secured. It may be you shall be hid—so runs the promise, Zeph. 2:3—if any be, you shall; you stand fairest for special protection. Meekness approaches to that innocence which is commonly an effectual security against wrongs and injuries. However some base and servile spirits may exult over the tame and humble, yet with all people of honor it is confessedly a piece of cowardice to attack an unarmed, unresisting man that resents not provocation. "And who is he that will harm you, if you are followers of that which is good?" Who draws his sword or aims his pistol at the harmless silent lamb? while every one is ready to do it at the furious barking dog. Thus does the meek man escape many of those perplexing troubles, those woes and sorrows and wounds without cause, which he that is passionate, provoking, and revengeful pulls upon his own head. Wise men turn away wrath, but a fool's lips enter into contention, and his mouth calls for strokes. It is an honor to a man to cease from strife, but every fool will be meddling to his own hurt. An instance of this I remember Mr. Baxter gives in his book of "Obedient Patience:" "Once going along London streets, a hectoring, crude fellow jostled him; he went on his way, and took no notice of it; but the same man affronting the next he met in like manner, he drew his sword and demanded satisfaction, and mischief was done." He that would sleep, both in a whole skin and in a whole conscience, must learn rather to forgive injuries than to revenge them. The two goats that met upon the narrow bridge, as it is in Luther's fable, were both in danger should they quarrel; but were both preserved by the condescension of one that lay down and let the other go over him. It is the evil of passion, that it turns our friends into enemies; but it is the excellency of meekness, that it turns our enemies into friends, which is an effectual way of conquering them. Saul, as inveterate an enemy as could be, was more than once melted by David's mildness and meekness. "Is this your voice, my son David?" said he. "I have sinned: return, my son David." And after that Saul persecuted him no more. 1 Sam. 27:4. The change that Jacob's meekness made in Esau is no less observable. In the ordinary dispensations of Providence, some tell us that they have found it remarkably true in times of public trouble and calamity, that it has commonly fared best with the meek and quiet; their lot has been safe and easy, especially if compared with the contrary fate of the turbulent and rebellious. Whoever is wise and observes these things will understand the loving-kindness of the Lord to the quiet in the land, against whom we read indeed of plots laid and deceitful matters devised, Psa. 35:20; 37:12, 14; but those by a kind and overruling Providence are ordinarily baffled and made unsuccessful. Thus does this grace of meekness carry its own recompense along with it, and in keeping this commandment, as well as after keeping it, "there is a great reward."
IV. Consider what a PREPARATIVE it is for something further. It is a very desirable thing to stand complete in all the will of God, Col. 4:12, to be fitted and furnished for every good work, to be made ready, a people prepared for the Lord. A living principle of grace is the best preparation for the whole will of God. Grace is establishing to the heart, it is the root of the matter, and a good foundation for the time to come. 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. It puts the soul in frame, and keeps it so for all religious exercises. There was no noise of axes and hammers in the building of the temple: those are most fit for temple service that are most quiet and composed. The work of God is best done when it is done without noise.
Meekness qualifies and disposes us to hear and receive the word: when malice and envy are laid aside, and we are like newborn babies for innocence and inoffensiveness, then we are most fit to receive the sincere milk of the word, and are most likely to grow thereby. Meekness prepares the soil of the heart for the seed of the word, as the husbandman opens and breaks the clods of his ground, and makes plain the face thereof, and then casts in "the principal wheat and the appointed barley." Christ's ministers are fishers of men, but we seldom fish successfully in these troubled waters. The voice that Eliphaz heard was ushered in with a profound silence, and in slumberings upon the bed—a quiet place and posture. God "opens the ears of men, and seals their instructions."
Prayer is another duty which meekness disposes us rightly and acceptably to perform. We do not lift up pure hands in prayer, if they are not "without wrath." Prayers made in wrath are written in gall, and can never be pleasing to, or prevailing with the God of love and peace. Our rule is, "First go and be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." And if we do not take this method, though we seek God in a due ordinance, we do not seek Him in the due order.
The Lord's day is a day of rest, and none are fit for it but those who are in a quiet frame, whose souls have entered into that present sabbatism which the gospel has provided for the people of God. The Lord's supper is the gospel-feast of unleavened bread, which must be kept, not with the old leaven of wrath and malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.*
* How can we attain the peace of God without peace? How can we attain the remission of our sins without remitting the sins of others? How can he that is angry with his brother pacify his Father, who, from the first, forbids us to be angry? Turtel. de Orat. c. 10
God made a gracious visit to Abraham, and after that the strife between him and Lot was over, in which he had discovered so much mildness and humility. The more carefully we preserve the communion of saints, the fatter we are for communion with God. It is observable, that the sacrifices which God appointed under the law, were not ravenous beasts and birds of prey, but calves and kids and lambs and turtle-doves and young pigeons, all of them emblems of meekness and gentleness and inoffensiveness; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. This quietness of spirit contributes very much to the constant steadiness and regularity of a religious conversation. Hot and eager spirits, that are ready to take fire at every thing, are usually very inconsistent in their profession, and of great inconsistency with themselves: like a man with a fever, sometimes burning with heat, and sometimes shivering with cold; or like those that gallop in the beginning of their journey, and tire before the end of it; whereas the meek and quiet Christian is still the same, and by keeping to a constant rate, makes progress. If you would have one foot of the compass go even round the circumference, you must be sure to keep the other fixed and quiet in the center, for your strength is to sit still.
2. It makes us fit for any relation into which God in His providence may call us. Those who are quiet themselves, cannot but be easy to all that are about them; and the nearer any are to us in relation and conversation, the more desirable it is that we should be easy to them. Relations are various, as superiors, inferiors, and equals; he that is of a meek and quiet spirit is fitted for any of them. Moses was forty years a courtier in Egypt, forty years a servant in Midian, and forty years a king in Jeshurun; and his meekness qualified him for each of these posts, and still he held fast his integrity. Various duties are required according to the relationship, and various graces to be exercised; but this grace of meekness is the golden thread that must run through all. If man is a sociable creature, the more he has of humanity, the more fit he is for society. Meekness would greatly help to preserve the wisdom and due authority of superiors, the obedience and due subjection of inferiors, and the love and mutual kindness of equals. A calm and quiet spirit receives the comfort of the relationship most thankfully, studies the duty of the relationship most carefully, and bears the inconvenience of the relationship—for there is no unmixed comfort under the sun—most cheerfully and easily. I have heard of a married couple, who, though they were both naturally of a quick temper, yet lived very comfortably in that relationship by observing an agreement made between themselves, "never both to be angry together:" an excellent law of meekness, which, if faithfully obeyed, would prevent many of those breaches among relationships which occasion so much guilt and grief, and are seldom healed without a scar. It was part of the good advice given by a pious and ingenious father to his children newly entered into the conjugal relation:
Does one speak fire? t'other with water come;
And thus one wise, both happy. But where wrath and anger are indulged, all relationships are embittered; those that should be helps, become as thorns in our eyes and goads in our sides. Two indeed are better than one, and yet it is better to dwell alone in the wilderness, than with a contentious and angry relative, who is like "a continual dropping in a very rainy day."
3. It makes us fit for any condition, according as the wise God shall please to dispose of us. Those who, through grace, are enabled to compose and quiet themselves, are fit to live in this world, where we meet with so much every day to disturb and disquiet us. In general, whether the outward condition is prosperous or adverse, whether the world smiles or frowns upon us, a meek and quiet spirit is neither lifted up with the one nor cast down with the other, but is still in the same poise: in prosperity humble and condescending, the estate rising, but the mind not rising with it; in adversity encouraged and cheered—cast down, but not in despair. St. Paul, who had learned in every estate "to be content, knew how to be abased, and knew how to abound;
everywhere, and in all things, he was instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need." Changes without made none within. It is a temper which, as far as it has dominion in the soul, makes every burden light, by bringing the mind to the condition, when the condition is not in everything brought to the mind. Prosperity and adversity each have their particular temptation to peevishness and frowardness; the former by making men imperious, the latter by making them impatient. Against the assaults of each of these temptations the grace of meekness will stand upon the guard. Being to pass through this world "by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report," that is, through a great variety of conditions and of treatment, we have need of that patience and kindness and love sincere which will be "the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left." Meekness and quietness will fortify the soul on each hand, and suit it to the several entertainments which the world gives us; like a skillful pilot that, from whatever point of the compass the wind blows, will shift his sails accordingly, and knows either how to get forward and weather his point with it, or to lie by without damage. It is the continual happiness of a quiet temper to make the best of that which is.*
*Seek not to adjust events to your will, so much as to adjust your will to events; thus you will act a becoming part. Epict. c. 13.
4. It makes us fit for a day of persecution. If tribulation and affliction arise because of the word—which is no foreign supposition—the meek and quiet spirit is armed for it, so as to preserve its peace and purity at such a time, which are our two great concerns, that we may neither torment ourselves with a base fear, nor pollute ourselves with a base compliance. We are used to saying, we "will give anything for a quiet life;" I say, anything for a quiet conscience, which will be best secured under the shield of a meek and quiet spirit, which does not "render railing for railing," nor aggravate the threatened trouble, nor represent it to itself in its most formidable colors, but has learned to put a but upon the power of the most enraged enemies; they can but kill the body; and to witness the most righteous testimony with meekness and fear, like our Master, who, "when He suffered, threatened not, but committed Himself to Him that judges righteously." Suffering saints—as the suffering Jesus—are compared to sheep dumb before the shearer, no, more than that, dumb before the butcher. The meek and quiet Christian, if duly called to it, can calmly part, not only with the wool, but with the blood; not only with the estate, but with the life, and even then rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Angry, contentious people, in a day of rebuke, are apt to pull crosses upon themselves by needless provocations; or to murmur and complain, and fly in the face of instruments, and give unbecoming language, contrary to the laws of our holy religion and the example of our Master, and therefore get more hurt than good by their suffering. Whenever we have the honor to be persecuted for righteousness' sake, our great care must be to glorify God and to adorn our profession, which is done most effectually by meekness and mildness, under the hardest censures and the most cruel usage; so demonstrating that we are indeed under the power and influence of that holy religion for which we think it worth our while to suffer.
5. It makes us fit for death and eternity. The grave is a quiet place; "there the wicked cease from troubling." Those that were most troublesome are there bound to the peace; and "their hatred and envy" are there "perished." Whether we will or no, in the grave we shall lie still and be quiet. Job 3:13. What a great change then must it be to the unquiet, the angry and litigious; and what a mighty shock will that sudden, forced rest give them, after such a violent, rapid motion. It is therefore our wisdom to compose ourselves for the grave; to prepare ourselves for it, by adapting and accommodating ourselves to that which is likely to be our long home. This is dying daily, quieting ourselves, for death will shortly quiet us.
The meek and quiet soul is, at death, let into that rest which it has been so much laboring after; and how welcome must that be. Thoughts of death and the grave are very agreeable to those who love to be quiet; for then and there "they shall enter into peace," and "rest in their beds."
After death we expect the judgment, than which nothing is more dreadful to those who are "contentious." The coming of the Master brings terror along with it to those who "smite their fellow-servants;" but those that are meek and quiet are likely to have their plea ready, their accounts stated, and whenever it comes it will be no surprise to them: to those whose "moderation is known to all men," it will be no ungrateful news to hear that "the Lord is at hand." It is therefore prescribed as that which ought to be our constant concern, that whenever our Master comes, we may "be found of Him in peace," that is, in a peaceable temper. Blessed is that servant whom His Lord when He comes shall find in such a frame. "A good man," says the late excellent Archbishop Tillotson, in his preface to his book of Family Religion, "would be loath to be taken out of the world reeking hot from a sharp contention with a perverse adversary; and not a little out of countenance to find himself in this temper translated into the calm and peaceable regions of the blessed, where nothing but perfect charity and goodwill reigns forever." Heaven is a quiet place, and none are fit for it but quiet people. The heavenly Canaan, that land of peace, would be no heaven to those that delight in war. The turbulent and unquiet would be out of their element, like a fish upon the dry ground, in those calm regions.
They are the sheep of Christ—such as are patient and inoffensive—that are called to inherit the kingdom; outside are dogs, that bite and devour. Rev. 22:15.
They are the wings of a dove, not those of a hawk or eagle, that David would fly upon to his desired rest. Psalm 55:6.
Now lay all this together, and then consider whether or not there is a real excellence in this meekness and quietness of spirit, which highly recommends it to all that love either God or themselves, or have any sensible regard to their own comfort, either in this world or in that which is to come.