Reading #14 – Solitude, Silence, Submission

(Excerpted from

Based on: “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.”—Lamentations 3:28, 29.

By Charles Spurgeon

II. The text goes on to say, in the next place, that we should practice SUBMISSIVE SILENCE: “Let him sit alone and keep silence.”

In what respects should seeking souls keep silence? I answer, first, if the burden of sin is pressing upon thee, be sure to abstain from all idle talk; for if the idle talk of others, as I have reminded thee, can distract thy thoughts, how much more would thine own! It ill becomes a man, who is on the brink of hell, to be laughing and jesting. When God is angry with thee, canst thou make mirth? I can understand how thou canst be merry when once thou hast come back to the great Father’s house, and the fatted calf is killed, and thy Father rejoices over thee; but whilst thou art still covered with thy sins, and art not yet sure of God’s forgiveness, sit silent. It is the best thing thou canst do; quietness becomes thee. Lay thy finger on thy lip till thou hast something better to speak of than thou hast as yet. Keep silence, then, from all idle talk.

Keep silence also in another respect. Do not attempt to make any excuse for your sin. Oh, how ready sinners are with their excuses! A man says, “But, sir, I have a besetting sin.” Do you not think that a great many people make a mistake about besetting sins? There was a negro who used to get drunk, and he said that it was his besetting sin; but his brother negro said, “No, Sambo, it is your upsetting sin;” and so it was. If I were to go to-night across Clapham Common, and half-a-dozen men were to surround me, and rob me of my purse, then I should be beset; but if I were to know that there were thieves there, and yet I walked across the common on purpose to meet with them, you could not say that they had beset me, you would say that I was a fool to walk into their hands. The besetting sin is that which a man fights against, and wars against with all his soul, yet he is overcome by it. Do not lay any stress upon that, as though thy being beset by sin was any excuse to thee, especially if thou goest into the ways of sin. You go and sit with those who drink, and then wonder that you get drunk! You go and associate with those who swear or sing lewd songs, and then you wonder that, the next time you try to pray, a nasty verse of a bad song comes up! It is your own fault; if you go and wilfully mingle with sinners, how can you be a child of God? No, when you know that anything is a sin, keep out of the temptation. He that does not want to get wet should not go out into the rain. Instead of your excuse making your case any better, it makes it worse; therefore, keep silence before thy God.

And next, keep silence from all complaining of God. No man is truly saved while he sets himself up as the judge of God; yet this is the practice of many men. If you give them the Word of God, they begin to pull it to pieces. They ask, “Is God so severe that he will mark our faults? Does he even take notice of our evil thoughts? Can it really be true that, for every idle word that a man shall speak, he will have to give an account in the day of judgment?” And then, after judging God to be austere, and too harsh in his dealings with poor fallible flesh and blood, they go on to snatch from his hand the balance and the rod, and sit upon their little throne, and dare to impugn the decrees of the great Judge of all. “It would be wrong,” they say, “to cast men into hell, and to punish with eternal wrath the sins of a short life.” And then they begin to traverse all the teaching of Scripture, and to cavil at this and object to that. O sirs, if you would be saved, you must give up this wickedness! This kind of conduct will damn you as surely as you live.

When prisoners are tried by an earthly judge, and are condemned to die, if they are permitted to speak, they can have no hope of obtaining mercy by criticising the judge, and cavilling at the law. Of course they are not guilty, poor innocents!” It is the harsh law,” they say, “that is to blame.” But the law must maintain its majesty against such cavillers, and it cannot stoop to mercy, or sheath its sword, while a man is in that humor. So, sinner, sit thou alone, and keep thou silence; presume not to judge thy God. Behold, he cometh with clouds! The trumpet will soon proclaim his appearing, and they who were so free to judge their Maker will cry in another tone when that great day has at last come. With the earth reeling beneath their feet, and the heavens themselves on fire, they will beg the rocks to fall on them, and the hills to hide them from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. Go, thou guilty one, sit thee still, and hold thy tongue, and bring thy rebellious heart to submission. Shall the flax contend with the fire, or the stubble fight with the flame? What canst thou do in warring with thy Maker?

Sit thou alone, and keep silence, next, from all claims of merit. I know that the tendency of the human heart is to say, “I am no worse than other people, I am a good chapel-going, church-going, psalm-singing person. I give to the poor, I say my prayers, and attend to all that sort of thing.” Thou wilt never obtain mercy whilst thou hast a word of that kind to plead. Till thou art like a vessel turned upside down, and drained of every drop of human merit, there is no hope of salvation for thee. Thou must sit alone, and keep silence about those good works of thine, for they are all a lie, and thou knowest it. Thou hast never done a good work in thy life; thou hast either spoilt it by thy selfish motives before it, or by some carelessness in it, or else by some vainglorious pride after it. At the best, thou art nothing but a boasting Pharisee; and though thou mayest wash the outside of thy cup and platter, yet thine heart is full of wickedness, thy soul is steeped in sin. O man, talk no more so exceeding proudly, but sit thou still, and hold thy tongue about merit and deservings before the holy God. There is no way of mercy for any one of us until we shut our mouths, and utter not a single boastful word, but stand guiltily silent before the Lord.

I think it is well, too, when a poor sin-burdened soul is silent before God, and unable to make any bold speeches. I recollect that, when I first was seeking the Lord, I heard some good people talking about their confidence in God. I had to hold my tongue then, for I could not say a word about that matter. I heard a young friend say that he had found Christ; but I had to hold my tongue then, for I knew that I had not found him, and even after I had found him, there were times when I dared not say so. I felt in my spirit the question, “Am I self-deceived, or am I not? And if I have spoken pretty boldly since that time, even now, occasionally, I feel that same silence creeping over me. It would have been well if Peter had been silent when he said to his Lord, “Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.” I like a man who knows, not only how to speak, but how to sit still; but that latter part is hard work to many. There came a young man to Demosthenes to learn oratory; he talked away at a great rate, and Demosthenes said, “I must charge you double fees.” “Why?” he asked. “Why,” said the master, “I have first to teach you to hold your tongue, and afterwards to instruct you how to speak.” The Lord teaches true penitents how to hold their tongues. They open not their mouth when he has laid trouble upon them, and even in the company of good people they are sometimes dumb with silence, and they hold their tongue even from good. It is not an ill thing that they should act thus, for often the will of the Lord is not done with words; and sometimes, that silence which is frost of the mouth is thaw of the soul, and the heart flows best before God when even praise sits silent on our tongues. O beloved, in thine hour of darkness because of thy sin, sit thou still, and hold thy tongue, for it is oftentimes the way of peace to the soul!

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