Excerpts taken, adapted and condensed from, “Mute Christian under the Smarting Rod” or, “The Silent Soul with Sovereign Antidotes”
Written by, Thomas Brooks, 1659, London.
“I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for You are the one who has done this!”
Question: What is the silence meant, here in this verse?
I Answer: There is a sevenfold silence.
First, There is a STOICAL silence. The stoics of old thought it altogether below a man that has reason or understanding either to rejoice in any good, or to mourn for any evil; but this stoical silence is such a sinful insensibleness as is very provoking to a holy God, Isaiah 26:10,11. God will make the most insensible sinner sensible either of his hand here on earth—or of his wrath in hell. It is a heathenish and a horrid sin to be without natural affections, Rom. 1:31. And of this sin Quintus Maximus seems to be foully guilty who, when he heard that his mother and wife, whom he dearly loved, were slain by the fall of a house, and that his younger son, a brave, hopeful young man, died at the same time in Umbria, he never changed his countenance—but went on with the affairs of the commonwealth as if no such calamity had befallen him. This carriage of his spoke out more stupidity than patience, Job 25:13. Certainly if the loss of a child in the house be no more to you than the loss of a chick in the yard—your heart is base and sordid, and you may well expect some sore awakening judgment. This age is full of such monsters, who think it below the greatness and magnanimity of their spirits to be moved, affected, or afflicted with any afflictions which befall them. I know none so ripe and ready for hell as these. Such stupidity is a curse that many a man lies under. But this stoical silence, which is but a sinful sullenness, is not the silence here meant.
Secondly, There is a POLITIC silence. Many are silent out of policy. Should they not be silent, they should lay themselves more open either to the rage and fury of men, or else to the plots and designs of men—to prevent which they are silent, and will lay their hands upon their mouths, that others might not lay their hands upon their estates, lives, or liberties—’And Saul also went home to Gibeah, and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched. But the children of Belial said, How shall this man save us? and they despised him, and brought him no presents; but he held his peace,’ or was as though he had been deaf, 1 Sam. 10:26, 27. This new king being but newly entered upon his kingly government, and observing his condition to be but base and low, his friends but few, and his enemies many and potent, sons of Belial, that is, men without yoke, as the word signifies, men that were desperately wicked, that were marked out for hell, that were even incarnate devils, who would neither submit to reason nor religion, nor be governed by the laws of nature nor of nations, nor yet by the laws of God—now this young prince, to prevent sedition and rebellion, blood and destruction, prudently and politically chooses rather to lay his hand upon his mouth than to take a wolf by the ear or a lion by the beard—he turns a deaf ear to all they say, his unsettled condition requiring silence. But this is not the silence the proposition speaks of.
Thirdly, There it’s a FOOLISH silence. Some fools there be that can neither do well nor speak well; and because they cannot word it neither as they would nor as they should, they are so wise as to be mute—Prov. 17:28, ‘Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.’ As he cannot be wise that speaks much, so he cannot be known for a fool that says nothing. There are many wise fools in the world, who, by holding their tongues, gain the credit and honor of being discreet men. He who does not uncover his lack of wisdom by foolish babbling, is accounted wise, though be may be otherwise. Silence is so rare a virtue, where wisdom does regulate it, that it is accounted a virtue where folly does impose it. Silence was so highly honored among the old Romans, that they erected altars to it. That man shall pass for a man of understanding, who so far understands himself as to hold his tongue. For though it be a great misery to be a fool, yet it is a greater that a man cannot be a fool but he must needs show it. But this foolish silence is not the silence here meant.
Fourthly, There is a SULLEN silence. Many, to gratify a humor, a lust, are sullenly silent; these are troubled with a dumb devil, which was the worst devil of all the devils you read of in the Scripture, Mark 9:17-28. Certainly there is a generation among us, who, when they are under the afflicting hand of God, have no mouths to plead with God, no lips to praise God, nor no tongues to justify God. These are possessed with a dumb devil; and this dumb devil had possessed Ahab for a time—1 Kings 21:4, ‘And Ahab came into his house, heavy and displeased, and laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread.’ Ahab’s ambitious humor, his covetous humor, being crossed, he is resolved to starve himself, and to die of the sullens. A sullen silence is both a sin and a punishment. No devil frets and vexes, wears and wastes the spirits of a man, like this dumb devil—like this sullen silence. I cannot speak so favorably of a sullen silence, for that wrongs many at once, God and Christ, bodies and soul. But this is not the silence here meant.
Fifthly, There is a FORCED silence. Many are silent per force. He who is under the power of his enemy, though he suffers many hard things, yet he is silent under his sufferings, because he knows he is liable to worse; he who has taken away his liberty, may take away his life; he who has taken away his money, may take off his head; he who has cut him in the foot, may cut him in the throat if he will not be still and quiet—and this works silence per force. So, when many are under the afflicting hand of God, conscience tells them that now they are under the hand of an enemy, and the power of that God whom they have dishonored, whose Son they have crucified, whose Spirit they have grieved, whose righteous laws they have transgressed, whose ordinances they have despised, and whose people they have abused and opposed; and that he who has taken away one child, may take away every child; and he who has taken away the wife, might have taken away the husband; and he who has taken away some part of the estate, might have taken away all the estate; and that he who has inflicted some distempers upon the body, might have cast both body and soul into hell-fire forever; and he who has shut him up in his chamber, may shut him out of heaven at pleasure. The thoughts and sense of these things makes many a sinner silent under the hand of God; but this is but a forced silence!
And such was the silence of Philip the Second, king of Spain, who, when his invincible Armada, that had been three years a-fitting, was lost, he gave command that all over Spain they should give thanks to God, that it was no more grievous. As the cudgel forces the dog to be quiet and still, and the rod forces the child to be silent and mute, so the apprehensions of what God has done, and of what God may do, forces many a soul to be silent, Jer. 3:10, 1 Kings 14:5-18. But this is not the silence here meant—a forced silence is no silence in the eye of God.
Sixthly, There is a DESPAIRING silence. A despairing soul is a terror to himself; he has a hell in his heart, and horror in his conscience. He looks upwards, and there he beholds God frowning; he looks inwards, and there he finds conscience accusing and condemning of him; he looks on the one side of him, and there he hears all his sins crying out—We are yours, and we will follow you; we will go to the grave with you, we will go to judgment with you, and from judgment we will go to hell with you; he looks on the other side of him, and there he sees infernal fiends in fearful shapes, amazing and terrifying of him, and waiting to receive his despairing soul as soon as she shall take her leave of his wretched body; he looks above him, and there he sees the gates of heaven shut against him; he looks beneath him, and there he sees hell gaping for him; and under these sad sights, he is full of secret conclusions against his own soul. There is mercy for others, says the despairing soul—but none for me; grace and favor for others—but none for me; pardon and peace for others—but none for me; blessedness and happiness for others—but none for me—there is no help, there is no help, none! Jer. 2:25, 18:12.
This seems to be his case who died with this desperate saying in his mouth—farewell, life and hope together. Now, under these dismal apprehensions and sad conclusions about its present and future condition, the despairing soul sits silent, being filled with amazement and astonishment—Psalm 77:1, ‘I am so troubled that I cannot speak.’ But this is not the silence here meant. But,
Seventhly and lastly, There is a PRUDENT silence, a HOLY, a GRACIOUS silence; a silence that springs from prudent principles, from holy principles, and from gracious causes and considerations; and this is the silence here meant. And this I shall fully discover in my answers to the second question, which is this:
What does a prudent, a gracious, a holy silence include?
We will look at this in the next post of this series.