Of Inward Silence
|The Lord is in His Holy Temple, let all the earth keep silence before him| (Hab. ii.20). Inward silence is absolutely indispensable, because the Word is essential and eternal, and necessarily requires dispositions in the soul in some degree correspondent to His nature, as a capacity for the reception of Himself. Hearing is a sense formed to receive sounds, and is rather passive than active, admitting, but not communicating sensation; and if we would hear, we must lend the ear for that purpose: so Christ, the eternal Word, without whose Divine inspeaking the soul is dead, dark, and barren, when He would speak within us, requires the most silent attention to His all-quickening and efficacious voice.
Hence it is so frequently enjoined us in Sacred Writ, to hear and be attentive to the Voice of God: of the numerous exhortations to this effect I shall quote a few: |Hearken unto me, my people, and give ear unto me, O my nation!| (Isa. li.4), and again, |Hear me, all ye whom I carry in my bosom, and bear within my bowels| (Isa. xlvi.3), and farther by the Psalmist |Hearken, O daughter / and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father's house; so shall the King greatly desire thy beauty| (Psal. xlv.10, 11).
We should forget ourselves, and all self-interest, and listen and be attentive to the voice of our God: and these two simple actions, or rather passive dispositions, attract His love to that beauty which He Himself communicates.
Outward silence is very requisite for the cultivation and improvement of inward; and indeed it is impossible we should become truly internal without the love and practice of outward silence and retirement. God saith, by the mouth of His prophet, |I will lead her into solitude, and there will I speak to her heart| (Hos. ii.14 vulg.); and unquestionably the being internally occupied and engaged with God is wholly incompatible with being busied and employed in the numerous trifles that surround us (Luke xxxviii.42).
When through imbecility or unfaithfulness we become dissipated, or as it were uncentred, it is of immediate importance to turn again gently and sweetly inward; and thus we may learn to preserve the spirit and unction of prayer throughout the day; for if prayer and recollection were wholly confined to any appointed half-hour or hour, we should reap but little fruit.