I have begun reading the classic Christian treatise by Thomas Brooks, The Mute Christian Under the Smarting Rod. It is a wonderful little volume on how the Christian should react to trials and suffering.
In the coming days, I will attempt to summarize it, with lots of quotes from Brooks. It is my hope that it will be as much a blessing and help to you as it has been to me.
As you will see shortly, Brooks was a typical Puritan writer in that he makes lots of prefaces in this writing. The Puritans did not want to leave any stone unturned, or leave anything out in their explanations.
With that in mind, I have two prefaces of my own: First, I strive to put quotations from the book into modern English for the benefit of the modern reader.
Second, I quote Brooks in many places so that you will get a feel for his writing. However, there are so many good quotations, I will actually have left some out. But that’s okay—if reading this spurs you to get your own copy of A Mute Christian Under the Smarting Rod, all the better!
“[I]t is mercy, it is rich mercy, that every affliction is not an execution, that every correction is not a damnation. The higher the waters rise, the nearer Noah’s ark was lifted up to heaven; the more your afflictions are increased, the more your heart shall be raised heavenward.”
So writes Brooks in his preface. In the first part, he gives eight reasons why he put this work into writing. Secondly, he provides six points of counsel for his readers that “the following tract may turn to your soul’s advantage.”
Brooks’ reasons for writing:
- “The affecting hand of God has been hard upon myself , and upon my dearest relations in this world, and upon many of my precious Christian friends…which put me upon studying the mind of God” on this subject.
2. He wanted to provide the world what the Bible says about suffering long after he would be gone: “What is written is permanent…and spreads itself further by far, for time, place, and persons, than the voice can reach.”
“The pen is a kin of image of eternity; it will make a man live when he is dead, Heb. 11:4.”
“A man’s writings may preach when he cannot when he may not, and when, by reason of bodily distempers, he dares not.”
3. While preaching is useful, “Few many, if any, have iron memories. How soon is a sermon preached forgotten, when a sermon written remains!”
4. It is suitable and useful for Christians have are going through “these great turns and changes that have passed upon us.”
5. Since the Lord had blessed Brooks’ other writings, he decided to write this work as well: “God is a free agent to work by what hand he pleases; and sometimes he takes pleasure to do great things by weak means, that ‘no flesh may glory in his presence.”
6. He wanted to provide a “proper salve” for hurting Christians: “As every good man, so every good book is not fit to be the afflicted man’s companion; but this is.”
7. He wrote this for the aid of some friends. On this point, Brooks goes on to discuss the wonderful value of friendship.
8. Brooks was unaware of other Christians authors who had handled this subject.
II. Brooks’ Counsel to his readers
- As you read this, look to God to bless it: “Paul may plant, and Apollos may water,” but all will be to no purpose, “except the Lord give the increase” (1 Cor. 1:6-7).
2. Brooks encourages his reader to meditate upon what they read: “Meditation is the food of your souls, it is the very stomach and natural heat whereby spiritual truths are digested.”
“They usually thrive best who meditate most. Meditation is a soul-fattening duty; it is a grace-strengthening duty.”
3. Read with a Berean spirit (Acts 17:10-11). That is to say, see that what he writes is consistent with the Scriptures.
4. Put what you read into practice.
5. Apply what is here. “all the reading in the world will never make for the health of your souls except you apply what you read.”
6. Read and pray. “He that makes not conscience of praying over what he reads, will find little sweetness or profit in his reading.”
With these prefaces in mind, let us get into the text!