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only remains for me to confirm these remarks by the additional observation, that waiting upon God, as well as prostration and subjection before his divine Majesty, is, in the Holy Scriptures, expressly described as connected with a state of silence. The words of the Psalmist, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him ;” may be more literally rendered, as in the margin of the common English version, “Be silent to the Lord,' and wait patiently for him."
In a highly instructive passage of the “ Lamentations,” the benefit of humble waiting upon God, and of the silence with which it is so properly accompanied, are described as follows: “The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for (in the Hebrew, be silent for) the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him. He putteth his mouth in the dust, if so be there may be hope." Again, in the prophecies of Isaiah, there is a sublime allusion to waiting in silence, as a preparation for addressing God. After declaring that “they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,” Jehovah, by his prophet, proclaims the following command : “Keep silence before me, O islands, and let the people renew their strength; let them draw near; then let them speak; let us come near together to judgement.
Lastly, the vision of John affords us a noble illustration of the silence of expectation, united with the purest and most reverential worship of the Lord Almighty. We read, that when the Lamb had opened the seventh seal—the seal under which were hid such deep mysteries “ there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour."6 What can be more sublime than the idea, which is here presented, of the solemn stillness of the innumerable heavenly host, while they were bowed in awful prostration before God, and waited for the fresh manifestations of his glorious power? It may well be conceived that even among saints and angels, such a silence was found to be a blessed introduction to new and living songs of thanksgiving and praise.
Thus are we furnished with abundant evidence from Scripture, as
דום ליהוה .Heb
2 Ps. xxxvii. 7.
4 Lam. iii. 25-28.
well as from experience, that a state of humble waiting upon God, forms a very important part of true and spiritual worship; and that of such a state, silence is a natural and perfectly adapted accompaniment.
III. Among the choicest blessings in the expectation of which the true worshipper is taught to wait upon his Lord, and for which he is most accustomed to present his humble yet earnest petitions at the throne of grace, is the illumination and instruction of the Holy Spirit. It is the happiness of all true Christians that they are taught of the Lord. “All thy children," said the prophet to the church, “shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children." The law of God is written in legible characters on the hearts of his followers. Under that new and spiritual dispensation, into which they have been introduced, they need not that one man should say to another, “Know the Lord;” because from the least to the greatest of them, all may know him for themselves ;a they need not that any man teach them, because the anointing which they have received of Christ abideth in them, and teacheth them of all things, and is truth and no lie. One is their teacher-even Christ.
The obedient family of God, are, in all their ways, instructed and enlightened by their divine Master. Even while they are pursuing the active business of life, if they do but carefully maintain the watchful spirit and single eye, they will not fail to receive, on every needful occasion, the secret yet perceptible monitions of the Spirit of Truth. But, in an especial manner, may they expect to experience this grace, when they meet for the solemn purpose of worshipping the living God. That “Minister of the true Tabernacle,” who has promised to be in the midst of his disciples when they are gathered together in his name, is ever ready to carry forward his work in their souls, and to bestow upon them the teaching of his Holy Spirit; and this teaching, when received with submission, never fails to be efficacious, because it is derived, without mixture, from the source of wisdom; it is not only light, but power. Many are the Christians of various denominations, who can bear witness that the Lord Jesus does indeed condescend to instruct his people himself. It is Christ, that spiritual teacher of the children of God, who makes manifest to them their real condition; detects their iniquities, and convinces them of sin; brings them into humility, and contrition of soul; and thus prepares them for the exercise of fervent prayer for pardon and deliverance. It is Christ, also, who reveals to the soul of man the mercy of God, and secretly proclaims to his followers, the extent and efficacy of redeeming love. Thus is the penitent sinner relieved and comforted, and becomes rightly qualified to offer up, at the throne of grace, the acceptable tribute of thanksgiving and praise. Lastly, it is Christ who plainly sets before his people, as in the light of his sanctuary, the path of self-denial, obedience and true holiness : he shows to them the beauty and excellence of that narrow way, and inspires them with an ardent desire to walk in it; and, at the same time, he invites them to rely with confidence upon the power of his grace, that, by this sacred influence, they may be strengthened in all their weakness, and enabled to take up their daily cross, and follow their Lord and Saviour. Such is a faint and general outline of the teaching of the Son of God; and, where is the experienced Christian who will venture to deny that he thus instructs his people, not only by means of the ministry of his servants, but by the secret and immediate operations of his Holy Spirit ?
1 Isa, liv. 13.
2 Jer. xxxi, 34.
31 John ii. 27.
If this point be allowed, and if it be further granted, as I think it must be by the spiritually-minded reader, that the periods appointed for the public worship of God are times when the immediate teaching of Christ may reasonably be expected; the propriety of silence, on such occasions, is at once established. When any persons are receiving the instructions of a human teacher, they find that a state of silence, on their own parts, is both beneficial and indispensable. Not only is such a state the proper and natural token of submission to their instructer, and of their willingness to receive his lessons; but it is literally impossible for them to listen to his words, or to derive any benefit from those lessons, unless they keep silence. Every one, who is accustomed to public worship, must know with what peculiar force these observations apply to the experience of Christians, in reference to the ministry of the Gospel. The preacher proclaims the word of truth; he declares the messages of God to the people; and he instructs them in a knowledge of the divine law. But, all his efforts will be mere vanity, unless he receive from his hearers that respectful attention, to which their entire silence is absolutely essential. And so it is, also, during those times, in the hours appointed for worship, (and that there are such times we are well aware from our own experience) when the “Master of assemblies” calls forth no human instrument for the performance of his work; when he is pleased to take the office of teacher into his own hands, and to visit his unworthy children with the immediate illuminations of his Holy Spirit. They cannot avail themselves of this divine teaching; they cannot hear it; they cannot profit by it—unless they are silent—unless they maintain that stillness of soul which is naturally, and, under such circumstances, necessarily, accompanied with an outward silence. “Be still, and know that I am God,” is a command which, in his character of universal sovereign, Jehovah still addresses to his reasonable creatures ; nor can there be any occasions on which an obedience to this command is more seasonable, than those which are appointed for public and congregational worship. While this true silence is preserved by Christian worshippers, they will often be permitted to hear the gentle and alluring accents of Israel's Shepherd, their guide, instructer, and comforter; and in listening to those accents with reverent submission, they will experience that renewal of strength, without which they can make no advances in the “ way everlasting.”
It appears then that Friends consider the maintenance of silence in their religious assemblies to be in perfect accordance with that divine law, that God, who is a spirit, must be worshipped spiritually—that, in this sentiment, we are confirmed by a consideration of some of the principal constituents of true and spiritual worship, viz. humiliation before the divine Majesty, waiting upon God, and submissive attention to the immediate teaching of the Lord Jesus that to these several duties the silent subjection of the soul is peculiarly suited, and even absolutely indispensable—and that this frame of mind is, in our judgement, most easily obtained, and most effectually preserved, through the medium of an outward silence.
Such are the reasons for the value which Friends are accustomed to attach to silence in worship; and which will, I trust, be found more and more to recommend so salutary a practice to Christians of every name and profession. In conclusion, however, it ought to be remarked, that, although silence is a natural attendant of this inward state of prostration, waiting, and attention to the divine teaching, the former may often be maintained when the latter has no existence. It is easy for any man to be outwardly silent, while
he allows his mind to be occupied with a thousand passing reflections which have no proper connexion with his religious duty; and, when this is unhappily the case with persons who are met together for the professed purpose of rendering a public homage to the Almighty, it must be confessed that their worship is as inefficacious, and nearly as much of a mockery, as it would be, did it consist in the use of words at total variance with the feelings of the heart.
How clearly, then, is it the duty of Friends, of every age and station, to maintain a true watchfulness and diligence of soul, that their silent worship may not be marred by the influence of worldly thoughts, and thus degenerate into a barren and lifeless form! It may, indeed, be freely allowed, that a condition of true inward silence is one of no easy attainment. Great is our infirmity in this respect, and difficult do we sometimes find it, to stay the rapid movements of the mind, and to present ourselves, in real quietness, a living sacrifice to our God. But we do not expect to accomplish this object in our own strength. In our endeavours to worship God in spirit and in truth, we are taught to rely on him alone ; and, while such continues to be our reliance, experience will still enable us to testify that he is often pleased to arise for our help—that he has the will as well as the power, to bring our vain thoughts into silence — to raise our souls into holy communion with himself—and to say to the multitudinous imaginations of the natural man, Peace, be still.
ADDENDUM TO CHAPTER IX.
A. D. 1834.
PRACTICAL REMARKS AND ADVICES ON SILENT WORSHIP.
On a deliberate review of the arguments adduced in the foregoing chapter, I am confirmed in the sentiment, that the principles on which Friends have adopted the practice of silence in worship, are consistent both with reason and Scripture. Nothing indeed can be more obvious than the agreement between a state of silence, and that reverential awe, that humble waiting upon God, and that dependance on the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, which are main