This year I am focusing on the character trait (or virtue or spiritual fruit) of meekness. I was encouraged this direction by my husband’s having preached through a series on the fruits of the Spirit in late 2013, as well as some humbling critiques we received from nationals about white culture in general not being meek, as well as wanting to read a book by Matthew Henry, the famous Puritan who wrote a commentary on the whole Bible.
He wrote The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit, which explains exactly what it’s title says. (The Puritans always have such explanatory titles!) The only potential negative about this book is that Henry wrote this book around the turn of the 18th century, so the language is not always conducive to easy reading. This would make a great devotional. In connection with that, Puritans were extremely thoughtful, and sometimes it seems that he is repeating himself under guise of presenting new material. When I looked deeper, though, usually saw that, although similar, there was a new thought there, and I had been too shallow to see it!
Other than the way Puritans use old language at times and can tend to beat a subject to death (which was exactly what I wanted for a character trait that I’m focusing on for the year), there are only positive reasons to read this book. You will find your heart lifted to Christ, your thoughts closer to eternity, and your spirits humbled as you learn how to follow the meekest man who ever lived–Jesus.
One other thought–it is amazing how the Puritans can cross-reference the Bible easily, prolifically, and from memory. It is said of John Bunyan that if you were to prick him, he would bleed Bibline. The Quest for Meekness is similarly full of Scripture, many of them verses I would have never connected. What an encouragement to learn to know Scripture myself! Henry did all of that without help of a concordance or computer program. Amazing!
For those who will probably not find this book or find it easy to read, I thought I’d share my outline with you. Don’t think well of me for outlining the book–it was already clearly in outline form; I simply typed it up. I am trying to really be changed by this book, so I unknowingly followed Susan Bauer’s suggestions in The Well-Educated Mind which I’m reading right now–to read for facts first, then read again for understanding, and then try to express my opinions on the book and be changed by it. I read the book first, with underlines and a few notes. Then I outlined it. Now I will embark on several translated lessons for the ladies here, and then teach it! So there are the three stages of classical education–knowledge, understanding, and wisdom (or expressing the concept in my own words).
It was incredibly difficult to get a multi-level outline on here, so I’ll also share the Word doc, if you’d rather read it without scrambling your eyes up.
Outline of The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit
Introduction: The Apostle’s method:
- He endeavors to wean them from the vanity of outward adornments. (v. 3)
- He endeavors to bring them in love with the better ornaments.
- The grace itself here recommended to us: a meek and quiet spirit.
- The excellency of this grace: in the sight of God of great price.
The Nature of Meekness and Quietness of Spirit
- We must be of a meek spirit.
- There is meekness toward God.
i. It is the silent submission of the soul to the word of God.
ii. It is the silent submission of the soul to the “providence” of God concerning us.
- When the events of providence are grievous and afflictive…
- When the events of providence are dark and intricate…
- There is meekness toward our brethren, toward all men. (here) DEFINITION
i. Meekness teaches us prudently to govern our own anger…
- To consider the circumstances of that which we apprehend to be a provocation…(mature deliberation).
- To calm the spirit so that inward peace may not be disturbed by any outward provocation.
- To curb the tongue and keep the mouth as with a bridle when the heart is hot.
- Meekness will cool the heat of passion quickly and not suffer it to continue.
ii. Meekness teaches and enables us patiently to bear the anger of others (in reference to our superiors and equals.)
- To enjoin silence.
- To indite a soft answer.
- We must be of a quiet spirit.
- We must be quiet as the air is quiet from winds.
- We must be quiet as the sea is quiet from waves.
- We must be quiet as the land is quiet from war.
- We must be quiet as the child is quiet after weaning.
The Excellency of Meekness and Quietness of Spirit
- Consider how creditable a meek and quiet spirit is.
- There is in it the credit of a victory.
- There is in it the credit of beauty.
- There is in it the credit of an ornament.
- There is in it the credit of true courage.
- The credit of a conformity to the best patterns.
- Consider how comfortable a meek and quiet spirit is.
- He enjoys himself.
- He enjoys his friends.
- He enjoys his God.
- It is not in the power of his enemies to disturb and interrupt him in these enjoyments.
- Consider how profitable a meek and quiet spirit is.
- It is the condition of a promise: “they shall inherit the earth.”
- It has in in its own nature a direct tendency to our present benefit and advantage.
- Meekness has a good influence upon our health.
- Meekness has a good influence upon our wealth.
- Meekness has a good influence upon our safety.
- Consider what a preparative it is for something further.
- It makes us fit for any duty.
- It makes us fit for any relation which God in His providence may call us into.
- It makes us fit for any condition.
- It makes us fit for a day of persecution.
- It makes us fit for death and eternity.
- Have we not reason to lament the want of “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit” among [Christians]?
- Superiors are commonly very apt to chide, and that is for want of meekness.
- Inferiors are commonly very apt to complain.
- Equals are commonly very apt to clash and contend.
- Have we not reason to labor and endeavor to attain these things?
- Some Scripture-precepts concerning meekness.
- We must seek meekness.
- We must put on meekness.
- We must follow after meekness.
- We must show all meekness unto all men.
- We must study to be quiet.
B. Some Scripture patterns of it.
- A strife between his herdsmen and Lot’s.
- His behavior toward Sarah when she quarreled with him so unreasonably about her maid.
- His transactions between him and Abimelech his neighbor.
- Luke 16:23
- His own brother.
- His enemies.
- His troops.
- False brethren!
- Above all, Jesus.
- He was very meek toward God His Father.
- He was very meek towards his friends that loved and followed him.
- In his bearing with the weaknesses and infirmities of his friends.
- In his forgiving and passing by their unkindnesses and disrespects to himself.
- He was very meek toward his enemies who hated and persecuted him.
- In what he said to them.
- In what he said to God for them.
C. Some particular instances in which we have special need of it.
- We must give reproofs with meekness.
- We must receive reproofs with meekness.
- We must instruct the gainsayers with meekness.
- We must make profession of the hope that is in us with meekness.
- We must bear reproaches with meekness.
- Some good principles or considerations which tend to makes us meek and quiet that we should abide by.
i. That he has the sweetest and surest peace who is the most master of his own passions.
ii. That in many things we all offend.
- Above all, Jesus.
- It is incident to human nature to offend.
- It is incident to ourselves among the rest to offend.
iii. That men are God’s hand, as it is said: (Ps. 17:14), or rather, tools (v. 13), which are thy sword.
iv. That there is no provocation given us at any time but, if it be skillfully and graciously improved, there is good to be gotten by it.
v. That what is said and done in haste is likely to be matter for deliberate repentance.
vi. That that is truly best for us which is most pleasing and acceptable to God, and that a meek and quiet spirit is so.
C. Some good practices that we should abound in, in order to grow in this grace of meekness. (some rules of direction)
- Sit loose to the world and to everything in it.
- Be often repenting of your sinful passion, and renewing your covenants against it.
- Keep out of the way of provocation and stand upon your guard against it.
- Learn to pause.
- Pray to God by His Spirit to work in you this excellent grace.
- Be often examining your growth and proficiency in this grace.
- Delight in the company of meek and quiet persons.
- Study the cross of our Lord Jesus.
- Converse much in your thoughts with the dark and silent grave.