I was dumb, I opened not my mouth ; because thou didst it. — Psalm xxxix. 9. [1793.] It is reported of one of the wisest men among the ancients,* that the first step which he took with his scholars was to teach them silence ; and this he enjoined on them for a considerable time, as a restraint necessary to check their natural impetuosity. Certain it is, that God teaches this to all his scholars : for man is a creature of self-will ; he is proud, and fond either * Pythagoras. — Ed.

SUBMISSIO TO GOD. 21 of boasting or complaining : and, therefore, he naust be taught, by various dispensations, though it be like breaking in a wild ass's colt. There is, through this Psalm, reflection subsequent to silence. " I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue. ... I was dumb with silence, I held my peace even from good ; and my sorrow was stirred." Let us endeavor to enter into the Psalmist's frame of mind, while we consider some of those circumstances under which such a silence would become us. It may be suitable to a gracious soul under a sense of guilt. Such a one can find no comfort till he feels the pardon and favor of God. He may be under the smarting rod for some actual transgression, like David. If such a man (I speak of a gracious soul, i. e. one that has felt the love of God, and the spirit of adoption) feels that he is not well with God, then, every thing goes ill with him. But if he is in a state of mind fit for reflection, humiliation, and submission to rebuke, deeply conscious of his past weakness and unworthiness, he will feel it vain to palliate the fact : he will speak like Reuben — " We are verily guilty concerning

our brother !" For, however we may think to commit sin secretly, God's word will never be broken : " Be sure your sin will find you out." If a man has been sowing the wind, and reaping the whirlwind — if God has come down to him as he did to Adam, saying, " Where art thou ?" — then, if he is in a right mind, he will say, *' I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him :" my business is to be silent before God : " I was dumb, I opened not my mouth ; because thou didst it." There is a fine picture of this kind of silence in Eli : he did not attempt to excuse himself: he said, "It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good!" Sin will send a man into " the

22 ORIGI AL THOUGHTS. depths." See Psalm cxxx. 4. What trouble and sorrow does it always bring ! If a man has a hard heart, and cannot pray to God as he has been used to do, what a depth is that to a Christian ! But it is never too late to go to God for help : to humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord, that he may exalt us in due time. Thus God says by the prophet Ezekiel, " When I am pacified towards thee, thou shalt no more open thy mouth :" q. d. you have been used to be clamorous, and to complain ; you have been used to boast, and to censure : but " when I am pacified towards thee, thou shalt no more open thy mouth." Ezek. xvi. 63. 2. Suppose a man to be visited with a providential reverse of circumstances : so that, like Job, to-day he is prosperous, and to-morrow he has lost every thing ; and one messenger comes after another to inform him of his calamity. How does he receive this affliction ? Does he have recourse to self-murder ? Does he talk of being broken-hearted ? — ot if he is taught of God. It will be a sign of spiritual health, if he is patient and resigned under his trials : it will be a symptom that he is in a state of pardon and reconciliation with God, if he says, in the spirit of the text, " I was dumb, I opened not my mouth ; because thou didst it." Job was tempted to speak unadvisedly with his lips ; but when he recovered himself, what does he say ? - " Behold, 1 am vile ; what shall I answer thee ? I will lay my hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken ; but I will not

answer : yea, twice ; but I will proceed no farther." Srdly. Suppose a man to be under oppression : this was frequently the case with David ; therefore he says, " I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me." How remarkable a demonstration of this did he give in the case of Shimei, as though he had said, I dare not resent ; for I know what God is doing

SUBMISSIO TO GOD. 23 by that reviler ! But I know how to stop the mouth of this man, by letting him alone : " I was as one that heareth not, and in whose mouth there are no repoofs." Oh that, through life, we could do this ! that we could say, " This, and the other matter, is in the hand of God ; and I will leave it to him." 4thly. This silence before God will become a man who is arrested by disease, so that, day after day, he has no rest in his bones. What is all this ? The physician may say, " Your case is incurable ; but you must keep up your spirits, and show fortitude !" But the Scripture says, " Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God." In pain, sickness, or want, methinks I hear God saying, " Take this medicine : it is exactly suited to your case ; weighed out by my own hand : take this medicine from me." Thus while an ungodly man is quarrelling with all around him, the instructed Christian says, This medicine is my remedy : this bitter is sweet : God could have relieved me, but he does not: therefore I will continue to bear this affliction. " I was dumb, I opened not my mouth ; because thou didst it." 5thly. This language becomes a Christian's lips, ivhen God takes away the delight of his eyes. God said to Ezekiel, " Son of man, behold, I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke : yet neither shalt thou mourn nor weep, neither shall thine eyes run down. Forbear to cry :" i. e. be silent : "because I have set thee for a sign to the house of Israel." And herein Christianity appears so worthy of its author, in that it lifts a man above himself, and enables him to exercise dependence, trust, and submission to God when he cannot see a step before him. Philosophy may in-

fuse stubborness, but it is religion only that can give faith ; that can make Aaron hold his peace when his two sons are devoured by fire from the Lord ; (see

24 ORIGI AL THOUGHTS. Lev. X. 3.) and, in so doing, to justify God. This silence is most expressive, for it seems to say, " I cannot now comprehend what God is about ; but I can look forward to a time when I shall ; by and by, I shall know how much better it was for me that my wife, or my child, should be taken away !" A man justifies God, when he says under bereavements, The Lord has only resumed what he lent me for a time : He saw it would become my snare. o man is a destitute man who has faith in exercise. It is in this way that a Christian glorifies God : where others sink into the creature, he says, " It is the Lord ; let him do what seemeth him good." It is not enough that we are persuaded of certain truths, as a system : we must be taught them by various methods. If you put a seal upon the wax while it is cold, there will be no impression : or, if it be hot, and you lay the seal on lightly, there will be no strong impression : but if the wax be warm, and the seal be pressed, the impression will be perfect. So, we shall find, that when a man has learnt truth, it is necessary for God to bring it home by some strong impression upon his heart : he will bring it into use and exercise. If, therefore, the delight of your eyes be taken away with a stroke, could you have prayed for any thing better ? Is not this the plucking of a brand out of the burning ? If a worldly man is bereaved, he is bereaved : if he has no fruit in his vine, where has he any ? If he loses « the delight of his eyes with a stroke, where must he turn for comfort ? If in this world he can gain no help from man, where can he gain any ? If he is seeking after the honor and fashion of this world, let him see where it ends : for in order that no thoughtless creature

should be deceived, nor have to say that tio one ever

SUBMISSIO TO GOD. 25 told him the end thereof, our Lord himself has undrawn the curtain : " There was a certain rich man clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day ;" but presently the scene changes : " and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments." See Luke xvi. 19. From this subject, I would leave on your minds three general hints : — 1st. The text teaches us the right state of mind under bereaving providences. It points out to us a grand lesson in the school of Christianity : " I was dumb, I opened not my mouth ; because thou didst it." The Christian world has not been sufficiently instructed in this duty of submission to God. There is a sort of fashion in religion : this, or the other grand truth, is made the prevailing one of the day : but this spirit of humiliation, this silent submission to God, which includes the very spirit of religion, has been too much overlooked. But, '' Thus saith the high and lofty One, that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy : I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." This temper of mind is set before us in a variety of ways in Scripture, to show its importance and weight. And here I cannot help exposing the false taste, which holds up to admiration such a man as Cato, who committed suicide because he would not bear the ills of life. It involves important consequences. What is it that has brought Europe to such a state, as of late ? It is the spirit of those who said, " Our tongues are our own ; who is lord over us ?" I ask, what language and spirit can be more opposite to that of the text? 2ndly. Let us learn, that there is a school for God's children ; even his well-beloved Son "learned obedience 2

26 ORIGI AX. THOUGHTS. by the things that he suffered :" he learned the nature of obedience experimentally — learned the advantages of obedience, and the difficulty of suffering : but being "made perfect," having completed the work he undertook, having run his race, and finished his course, and obtained the victory, he declared it was "finished :" lie became " perfect" as our Mediator, and " the author of eternal salvation to all those who obey him." With what dignity did the Son of God go through the unutterable encounter ! And if God's own Son " learned obedience by the things which he suffered," no wonder we should be sent to the same school, in which are different forms, and some hard lessons, to be learnt by heart. There are none among us but are apt to revolt at this discipline, and cry out, — comfort, comfort ! honor ! &c. But we must remember, that this learning obedience is highly enriching, when we have learnt to renounce our own understanding and will ; and have had our affections brought off from the idols of this world, and set upon things above. It is a disposition to give up all to Christ, and to take aWfrom him. I trust we meet here to day to learn of Jesus Christ ; to inquire. What does our Master say ? Let us listen to him, while he says, " Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart." I was led as a lamb, to the slaughter ; and as a sheep before her shearers was dumb, so I opened not my mouth : I took the bitter cup, and drank it even to the dregs, saying, " ot my will, but thine be done !" " He, in the days of his flesh, poured out strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared." Every suffering was a school, as well as a formal act of obedience. These sufferings, which our Lord endured in the discharge of his priesthood, were not only sacerdotal sufferings, an expiatory act, but he learned

SUBMISSIO TO GOD. 27 to sympathize with our infirmities : " We have not an

high priest who cannot be touched with the feehng of our infirmities, but who was in all points tempted like as we are ; yet without sin." Christ bore the cross, and suffered shame, among other reasons, to teach us hoic to go through suffering. He taught us that silence and submission are not inconsistent with deep sorrow. It is not a sinful action of the mind to feel our afflictions acutely : but one of the greatest lessons we have to learn is, obedience and submission. Real obedience to Christ, is salvation begun in the soul : therefore St. Paul says, " That I may know him, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made comformable to his death." What does the whole Gospel teach us, but to put our mouth in the dust — to be silent before God — in order that we may enter into that peace and joy which are the proper fruits of sanctified affliction ? Whatever we may know of Christianity, we are instructed very imperfectly indeed if we have not learnt something of that silence and submission expressed in the text : so that, " when the Lord ariseth to shake terribly the earth," or to shake us by various personal and family afflictions, we may consider that the spirit of Christianity will lead us to say with the Psalmist, ** I was dumb, I opened not my mouth ; because thou didst it." There is a clear distinction between silence and sul~ lenness. A holv silence is the result of submission to God, confidence in Christ, and that consolation which is derived from Him. A Christian does not lose his feelings, or right estimate of things, when they come before him ; but he asks. Whence came this ? " Affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the

28 ORIGI AL THOUGHTS. ground." " A sinner," says one,* " has no right to complain ; and a beheving sinner — who has God's favor, support, and consolation — has no reason to complain." As to being sullen and desponding, a Christian will say, God can help me now, as well as before;

and therefore I will now praise him. Srdly. God has appointed a present silence to he the harbinger of future praise. We are often brought into circumstances in which, if we could command the help of the whole earth, the whole earth could not help us. But it is the principle of the true Christian to say. Though human help is vain, yet this one thing w^ill I do — I will stand in silence : " I wiJl hear what God the Lord will speak : for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints." Psalm Ixxxv. 8. *' I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower ; and I will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer whea I am reproved." I will submit ; I will answer, I am a sinner ; but, as a believing sinner, I will accept an act of grace : I will watch for special direction : I will expect, and wait for, a gracious answer from him who reproves. Though God will teach us silence and patience, yet they who wait for the Lord shall not wait in vain. A believer must never take his eyes off from God as his reconciled Father in Christ Jesus : the evil in his heart is the grand evil ; and it is a blessed distress that brings any in earnest to get upon his watch-tower, and there wait in silence till God shall open his mouth in praise. See the next Psalm to that from which the text is taken : " I waited patiently for the Lord ; and he inclined unto me and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet u'pon a rock, and established my go* The Rev. John ewton.— Ed. ings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God : many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord." ow, I am no longer silent ; now I can say, " Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust." " He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicmg, bringing his sheaves with him." Psalm cxxvi. 6. 1. 68 FREE BOOKS


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