Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit from thy own thoughts, and then thou wilt feel the principle of God to turn thy mind to the Lord God, whereby thou wilt receive his strength and power from whence life comes, to allay all tempests, against blusterings and storms. That is it which moulds up into patience, into innocency, into soberness, into stillness, into stayedness, into quietness, up to God, with his power.
Heed not distressing thoughts, when they rise ever so strongly in you; nay, though they have entered you, fear them not, but be still a while, not believing in the power which you feel they have over you, and it will fall on a sudden.
I was weary and sick at heart of opinions, and had not the Lord brought that to my hand which my soul wanted, I had never meddled with religion more. But, as I felt that in my heart which was evil and not of God, so the Lord God of my life pointed me to that of Him in my heart which was of another nature, teaching me to wait for and know His appearance there; in subjection whereto, I experience Him stronger than the strong man that was there before; and by His power he has separated me from that which separated me from Him before; and truly I feel union with Him, and His blessed presence every day, which, what it is unto me, my tongue cannot utter.
Oh, my friend, there is an ingrafting into Christ, a being formed and new created in Christ, a living and abiding in Him, and a growing and bringing forth fruit through Him unto perfection. Oh, may you experience all these things; and that you may do so, wait to know life, the springings of life, the separations of life inwardly from all that evil which hangs about it, and would be springing up and mixing with it, under an appearance of good; that life may come to live fully in you, and nothing else. And so, sink very low, and become very little, and know little; yea, know no power to believe, act or suffer anything for God, but as it is given you, by the springing grace, virtue, and life of the Lord Jesus.
Oh! look not after great things: small breathings, small desires after the Lord, if true and pure, are sweet beginnings of life. You must become a child, you must lose your own will quite by degrees. You must wait for life to be measured out by the Father, and be content with what proportion, and at what time, He shall please to measure. Oh! be little, be little, and then you will be content with little; and if you feel now and then a check or a secret smiting, in that is the Father’s love; be not over wise, nor over eager in your own willing, running, and desiring, and by degrees come to the knowledge of your Guide, who will lead you step by step in the path of life, and teach you to follow, and in His own season powerfully judge that which cannot nor will not follow. Be still, and wait for light and strength.
In order to know God, inward stillness is absolutely necessary. I remember when I first learned this. A time of great emergency had arisen in my life when every part of my being seemed to throb with anxiety and when the necessity for immediate action seemed overpowering. And yet circumstances were such that I could do nothing and the person who could, would not stir.
For a while it seemed as if I would fly to pieces with the inward turmoil when suddenly the still small voice whispered in the depths of my soul, ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ The word was with power, and I hearkened.
I composed my body to perfect stillness, I constrained my troubled spirit into quietness, and I looked up and waited. And then I did know that it was God, God even in the very emergency and in my helplessness to meet it; and I rested in Him. It was an experience that I would not have missed for worlds. And I may add also that out of this stillness seemed to arise a power to deal with the emergency that very soon brought it to a successful issue.
I believe it is often helpful to compel the body to be still as an aid to the quieting of the spirit. Where this cannot be, let me entreat you to begin from this time onward to sit still in your hearts, sure that the Lord will not be in rest until He has finished the matter, whatever it may be, that concerns you.
Only in the silence of the flesh can the still, small voice be heard. A large part of the difficulty experienced by Christians in hearing the voice of the Lord arises from the absence of this inward stillness. Our own internal clamor drowns His quiet speaking. We listen for His voice in the wind and in the earthquake, expecting their thunder to sound above all our own clamoring; and because we are disappointed, we complain that He does not speak at all, when all the while the still small voice of His love is waiting for the quiet in which it can be heard. I am convinced that there are many at this moment hungering for the voice of the Lord, who would hear it at once if they would but be silent before Him for a little while. This is the foundation thought of the silent meetings of the Quaker Friends, even though it may be that their outward stillness does not always secure the perfect inward stillness that is vital. All the saints of old have insisted upon stillness as a necessity of true communion with God and have exhorted their followers to cultivate it, and every saint of the present day knows its value.
There may be something very deceptive in our sufferings over our failures. We may seem to ourselves to be wholly occupied with the glory of God, and yet in our inmost souls it may be self alone that occasions all our trouble. Our self-love is touched in a tender spot by the discovery that we are not so saintly as we thought we were; and this chagrin is often a greater sin than the original fault itself.
The only safe way to treat our failures is neither to justify nor condemn ourselves on account of them, but to lay them quietly and in simplicity before the Lord, in peace and in the spirit of love. All the old writers tell us that our progress is aided far more by a simple, peaceful turning to God, than by all our chagrin and remorse over our lapses from Him. Only be faithful, they say, in turning quietly to Him alone, the moment you perceive what you have done, and His presence will deliver you from the snares which have entrapped you. To look at self plunges you deeper into the swamp, for this very swamp is after all nothing but self; while the gentlest look towards God will calm and deliver your heart.
Finally, let us never forget for one moment, no matter how often we may fail, that the Lord Jesus is able, according to the declaration concerning Him, to deliver us, that we may “serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.”
From an inward purifying, and steadfast abiding under it springs a lively operative desire for the good of others.
“Be still, and know that I am God.” It is the experience, I believe, of all those who have been most deeply conscious of His revelations of Himself, that they are made emphatically to the “waiting” soul — the spirit which is most fully conscious of its own inability to do more than wait in silence before Him.
To you who are seekers, to you, young and old who have toiled all night and caught nothing, but who want to launch out into the deeps and let down your nets, I want to speak, as simply, as tenderly, as clearly as I can. For God can be found. There is a last Rock for your souls, a resting place of absolute peace and joy and power and radiance and security. There is a Divine Center into which your life can slip, a new and absolute orientation to God, a Center where you live with Him, and out from which you see all of life, through new and radiant vision, tinged with new sorrows and pangs, new joys unspeakable and full of glory.