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Silence and Speech; or Conviction and Confession

A. J. Pollock

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven . . . a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7).

There is one class of people in this world with whom silence is criminal. They are Christians, whose feet are upon the straight and narrow road heavenward, who have become the participators of eternal life; and yet they are silent, as they think the awful doom of the unsaved.

There was, long centuries ago, a siege. Samaria was hemmed in by the Syrian hosts. Four starving lepers decided to cast themselves upon

the mercy of the foe.

When they advanced to the enemy’s camp they found that God had fought for His people. The Syrians had fled in precipitate haste. The lepers entered into the deserted tents, ate and drank, gathered together gold, silver, and raiment—more food than they could eat, and more valuables than they could carry away. They went from tent to tent, burying what they could not carry, till at last they said one to another—“We do not well: this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace: if we tarry till the morning light, some mischief will come upon us: now, therefore, come, that we may go and tell the king’s household.” In imagination see these four joyous lepers; they are in the midst of plenty. In the city things are at famine prices, and they are starving. They are right. They tell the good news of plenty to the starving city. Thousands flock out, and the city is saved. It was not well for them to hold their peace.

Ten thousand times more so it is not well that the Christian should hold his peace, when he has salvation, the forgiveness of his sins, eternal life, and the knowledge of God’s love. Knowing all this, he is passing up and down amongst a world of sinners travelling to eternal doom. The Christian knows a greater deliverance than even the Samaritan lepers did, and is in the presence of need more terribly pressing than ever befell a besieged city.

I think it was the Rev. John Berridge, in the time of John Wesley, who was summoned to appear before his bishop for preaching at irregular times, and out of his own parish. The bishop remonstrated with him for these awful (?) irregularities.

At last Mr. Berridge replied, “My lord, I promise you that I shall only speak on two occasions in future.” The bishop smiled, and, rubbing his hands, as if with invisible soap, he said, “That is something like common sense. Name your times, Mr. Berridge.”

Berridge replied that by the grace of God he was going to be “instant

in season, out of season.”

See 2 Timothy 4:2.

These are the two times you are called upon, my Christian hearer, to speak—in season and out of season. The fields are white already to harvest. Souls are perishing. Men and women on every hand are dying. Your opportunities are real. Seize them, and let not your silence be criminal.

People think that Sunday morning in church is the time to hear these things, and when a gospel meeting is held in a dancing academy on a week evening, they think it is out of place. It is no such thing. If you were stretched upon your deathbed this moment, and had only twenty-four hours to live, would you wait until Sunday for the clergyman to come to speak to you? Your need, unsaved sinner, is urgent tonight.

Let me speak to you tonight about the Saviour’s time to keep silence, and His time to speak; the sinner’s time to keep silence, and his time to speak. The Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, is the Creator of this world in which we live; “He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast;” He said, “Let there be light: and there was light.” By the mere fiat of His word this world of ours was sent rolling upon its appointed course. He spake, but there was a time when the blessed Son of God had to keep silence.

Let your thoughts wander down the ages, let your mind travel to Judea, and look outside Jerusalem’s walls upon those three crosses. See upon the central one Jesus, the Saviour of sinners, uplifted. But a little while before in the garden of Gethsemane, Judas Iscariot, the traitor, came to Him, and betrayed Him with a traitor’s kiss; He was seized by cruel men and beaten, bandied about from judgment hall to prison, and from prison to Calvary’s hill; the soldiers in mockery knelt before Him—they put a reed in His hand, and a crown of thorns upon His blessed brow, and said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” But

He kept silence.

Not a word did He utter. Why was this? Answer me that. When those puny creatures of His hand insulted their Creator, He might have hurled them out of existence with a single word. Why did He then keep silence? Isaiah prophesied this of Jesus long centuries before He was born into this world. “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted; yet HE OPENED NOT HIS MOUTH: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so HE OPENETH NOT HIS MOUTH” (Isa. 53:7). Here it is fulfilled. The love of His heart for sinners brought Him to this.

Let me borrow an illustration. A mother says to her boy, “John, I have put into this basket a couple of chickens, two or three loaves of bread, and a few vegetables, and I want you to take it across to widow Smith. Her two sons are out of work, and she does not know where to get the next meal from. Take it with my kind love.” John sets off willingly on his errand. The hours roll by, and the time is long past when he should have reached home, but no John returns.

The mother grows anxious.

Night is beginning to fall. She goes to the door of her little house, and longingly, anxiously peers down the dark road to see if her boy is coming back. Well nigh distracted with fear and fright, she is about to set off in search of him, when Johnny stumbles into the doorway, and falls down insensible on the floor, all covered with wounds, and blood from head to feet. His anxious mother puts him to bed, and for days watches over him whilst the fever runs its course, and in his delirium his mother gets bit by bit the story of his ill-treatment. At last he recovers, and the mother says to him, “My boy whatever is the meaning of all this?”

“Well,” says John, “I took that basket with your love to Mrs. Smith; and, just as I gave it to her, she set her two sons upon me. They threw stones at me, knocked me down, and ill-treated me, and I was just able to crawl home.” The mother hotly replies: “Johnny, if I had known the way in which they were going to treat you, I would never have sent you.” And so would every mother in this hall say, and who would blame her?

Now, friends, we ask it reverently: Did the blessed God know how this world was going to treat the Lord Jesus, His Son? He knew the end from the beginning. God knew that men with wicked hands would seize hold of Jesus, heap indignities upon Him, put Him on the cross, and jeer at His dying agonies; yet, knowing all this, His love was so great, so deep, that He sent His Son to die for you and me. Do you believe

the story of His love?

And the Lord Jesus Christ, when the moment of His suffering comes, is silent. He is put upon the cross, the sun has risen high in the heavens, it is twelve o’clock noon, and, suddenly, for three hours a pall of darkness settles over the scene. Moment of all moments! God forsakes His Son, because upon the Person of Jesus falls all the weight of His judgment against sin. He is the sinner’s Substitute, making atonement by the blood of the cross. Awful mystery God forsakes His Son, and Jesus for three hours bears the penalty due to sin. We stand as it were with the shoes from off our feet for the ground is holy. Does any word of complaint escape His lips? Nay, with head erect, amidst the darkness on that central cross; He bears in deepest love all the judgment which was due to sin, in order that God might open the very flood-gates of His love, and invite the vilest to His heart and home; in order that God might let loose

the prodigality of His love

in a world that hated His Son, and cried, “Away with Him, away with him, crucify Him.” For three hours the holy Sufferer does not speak.

But the time comes when He does speak. Three thrilling words escape His lips. With a loud voice He exclaims, “IT IS FINISHED!” Oh! ponder those words. If they had never been uttered, your salvation and mine would have been an utter impossibility. In the question of suffering for sin, the only person in the whole universe of God, who could have uttered those three words, was the Person of God’s Son.

For one moment let us go down to the portals of hell. Look! See the lost, doomed souls there. Will they ever be able to say, “It is finished”? As the waves of God’s righteous judgment roll over those lost souls, as age succeeds age in eternity, will they ever be able to look forward and see one little gleam of hope in the far-off future? Nay; they will never be able to say, “It is finished,” but Jesus said it. May God save you from such an eternity of unmeasured woe.

And now His time to speak has come. What says He? In virtue of His work upon Calvary’s cross, the blessed Saviour of sinners can utter one sweet, gracious word. ’Tis


And does He say, “Come,” merely to the respectable and the religious? Nay; He says, “Come,” to the wide world. That word, “Come,” can be echoed and re-echoed by gospel preachers amidst the millions of London, in the thronged streets of New York, under the palm trees of  Central Africa, upon the parched plains of India, in the far-off islands of the sea, in short wherever man is found. The preacher, constrained by the spirit of his Master, can say to the vilest and the most wicked, “Come.”

The Lord Jesus Christ sits yonder in glory, and says, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” It is a restless world we are in. Jesus is the only One who can give rest. There is no rest for the wicked, and there is no rest in hell. But now this glorious invitation goes forth to you. When you receive an invitation, you have to decide whether you will accept it or not. An invitation comes to you tonight—an invitation from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the soul, the Friend of sinners. In His name we extend it to you at this very hour, “Come; for all things are now ready.” What will you say to this grand invitation? You must accept it, or refuse it. Which? Which? You are bound to do one or the other—there is no neutral ground in the things of God.

For the last eighteen hundred years that blessed Saviour has been seated on the throne in glory, and from His lips has sounded that one, sweet, gracious, persuasive word, “Come.” He lingers still, but one day

the last invitation

will be given—one day the last message of love will come—the last moment of long-suffering grace will be reached, and then no more gospel preachings—no more offers of salvation. The church of God will be caught up to glory—the redeemed will be with Christ for ever, the door will be shut in your face, and shut for ever, shut against the unrepentant, the drunkard, the harlot, against the mere church-goer, the unconverted sacrament-taker, all those who are out of Christ and in their sins. My hearer, on which side of the shut door would you be, if Christ were to come this very moment?

The Lord Jesus Christ will speak yet again. You are about to hear Him. If you close your ears to that gracious invitation, “Come,” be prepared to hear the stern command, “Depart!” You must hear the one or the other. “Every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him” says the apostle John in the opening of the Revelation. Mark you, your eye shall see the Son of God, and your ears shall hear the sound of His voice, but will you listen to Him now, whilst He says, “Come,” or wait until the day of judgment, when His eyes shall be like flames of lire, and His voice like the sound of many waters, and

your ears shall tingle

to all eternity with that hope-withering, soul-crushing word, “Depart.” You will go, then, like the lightning’s flash from the great white throne to the everlasting burnings, there to weep and gnash your teeth throughout the dreary ages of eternity, with the awful thought in your soul, “I have seen the face of Jesus, I shall never see it again. O God, let me forget the sight! I am in a place where mercy can never come.” Eternity will not suffice to efface from your memory that scene. Memory is the worm that never dies.

Now what about the sinner’s time to keep silence? When is that? NOW. God means that every tongue shall be dumb in His presence, every mouth stopped, and no excuses offered. Why was the law given? People are very fond of going in for law-keeping, and doing their best, and trying to get to heaven on the ground of so doing. Again, we repeat the question, Why was the law given? Let Scripture give the answer. “That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” Before ever you receive blessing to your soul

your mouth must be stopped,

you must bring no excuse into God’s presence, or measure yourself by your neighbour, or even by the requirement of the law. You must find out that you are a poor, lost, vile sinner in God’s presence.

How was Job’s mouth stopped? Through long chapters in his book he argues out his own righteousness. He boasted that he was eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, a father to the poor, that he caused the widow’s heart to sing, and put on righteousness as a garment, judgment as a crown. And it was no idle boast. At last he comes into God’s presence and says, “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer Thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.” In God’s presence his mouth is stopped.

Take the case of the prophet Isaiah. He is something like a man in a chamber with six windows. He looks out of one window and sees the monopolist, the greedy, avaricious man, who joins house to house, and field to field till all others are elbowed out. He cries woe to him. Then he looks out of another window and sees the drunkard in his cups, and cries woe to him. He next marks the out-and-out sinners, those who draw sin as it were with a cart-rope—the harlot, the gambler, the swearer, and pronounces woe unto them. Next he sees the hypocrites that call “evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter”—and upon the head of the hypocrite he cries woe. Next he marks those “that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent their own sight,” and cries woe to them. God cannot stand self-satisfied people, who think their thoughts are good enough for Him. Lastly, he calls woe upon the men of the world; pleasure-lovers, men without conscience, “which justify the wicked for reward”—

corrupt, political jobbers.

There are plenty of them in America.

But now it is as if these six windows were all closed, and a window at the top were opened, and the very light of God streams down, revealing to the prophet his own awful condition, and he now cries: “WOE IS ME! for I am undone;” his mouth, too, is stopped.

Now, look at Saul of Tarsus, who, from a religious standpoint, towers head and shoulders above his fellows. He says of himself, “Touching the righteousness which is in the law, BLAMELESS.” Yet one day whilst journeying on the Damascene road in hot haste to persecute God’s people, he was stricken down with a light above the brightness of the sun, in its mid-day strength and, blinded by that light, he neither ate nor drank for three days, learning the terrible truth that in his flesh there dwelt no good thing. His estimate of himself is changed. His mouth, too, is stopped, and his testimony to God’s grace is written down: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners;

of whom I am chief.”

Oh! my hearer, your mouth, too, must be shut. Before blessing reaches your soul, you must find out that you are a poor, lost sinner, without excuse in God’s presence. You could not compare favourably with a Job, an Isaiah, a Saul of Tarsus. Their mouths were stopped when once they got into God’s holy presence. Have you ever been there? That is the place where the shutting-up process takes place.

But there are two times when a sinner must speak—once to confess his sins, and, then, to confess his Saviour. Have you ever confessed your sins yet in the presence of God? It is a serious thing to get into God’s presence. If you get there, you must acknowledge that you are a poor sinner, only worthy of the deepest hell. You will confess your sins in the spirit of the Psalmist. He says, “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old, through my roaring all the day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me, my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.” He got no relief as long as he kept silence about his sins, the burden of them lay heavy on his conscience, but at last he opened his lips, and confessed to God: “I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid.” Then he had to add, “And Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.”

Forgiveness is consequent on confession.

And so, my hearer, if you will confess, in humble contrition of soul your sins to God, you will find He will abundantly pardon, because His blessed Son shed His precious blood upon Calvary’s cross. Upon confession of sin, you will find a Saviour offered to you. Then comes confession of Jesus as Lord with the lips.

What does it say in the 10th chapter of Romans? “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” We quote this to show that confession of the Lord Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation—indeed, there are two things necessary—confession with the lips, and belief of the heart. Until you believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, and until you confess that same Jesus as Lord, you cannot say that you are saved. Have you confessed Jesus as your Saviour yet?

We sometimes think that the devil likes to have four parts of our body, whilst the blessed Lord claims two. The devil says—“I want your hands and feet—your hands to work and your feet to walk; I want you to be doing, doing, DOING.” What does God say, as it were? “I want your heart, and your lips—your heart to believe that I have raised Jesus from the dead, and your lips to confess Him Lord.” Look at the poor, dying thief crucified on the cross, hands and feet nailed to the gibbet. He can

neither walk nor work,

he can do nothing for his salvation.

It would be an easy matter to preach the gospel to a lot of crucified people, who wouldn’t talk about turning over new leaves, and working. The thief with hands and feet nailed to a cross can neither walk nor work. What, then, can he do? Why, he has his heart and his lips, and he turns to that blessed Saviour beside him dying in such agonies, and he sees something more than a mere man dying there—’tis the Saviour of sinners—the long promised Messiah. He believes in his heart in that brief moment, and turning to Him opens his lips, and says, “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.” He acknowledges Him Lord. What does the Saviour say to him in reply? “Today shalt thou be with He in paradise.” But that morning he trod the floor of the condemned cell, a poor thief, his hands stained with guilt (it may have been with human blood); at night, whiter than the driven snow,

treading the golden streets

in the heavenly Jerusalem. What a change! He got far more than the privilege he asked for. He said, “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.” He as much as said, “The time is coming when Thou shalt reign over this world, and Thou, the Son of God and Son of David, the Messiah, shalt sit upon the throne of David. When the flags shall be flying, and the drums beating, and glad hallelujahs rend the sky, Lord think of the poor, dying thief by Thy side.” And the Lord so sweetly responded, “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be WITH ME in paradise.”

As you sit upon your seat, if you acknowledge Jesus Lord, and in your heart trust Him, as the One raised by God to glory, and if your lips confess Him, salvation is yours.

What did the world do? Crucified the Saviour, cast Him out. They said, “We will not have this Man to reign over us.” On the contrary, the believer, when he confesses the Lord Jesus, says, “I will have this Man to reign over me;” in other words, he reverses the world’s verdict. He joins issue with the world—goes straight in the teeth of its choice—like the live fish he swims against the stream. The world voted Jesus to the cross; the Christian says, “This Man shall reign over me,” that is where confession comes in.

And then, further, why does it say, “If thou shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead.” Why did God raise Jesus from the dead? Because He had really finished the work, He had glorified God to the full—He had made atonement for sin, and had covered the throne of God with a fresh glory, and the very fact of the Father raising that blessed Saviour from the dead proves that God is eternally satisfied. For GOD raised Him.

A sailor lad was anxious about his soul. The preacher spoke to him again and again, and the youth replied, “But, sir, I am not satisfied with what you say on the point.” The preacher retorted, “It little matters whether you are satisfied or not, the question is,

Is God satisfied?”

And he showed him how in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, God has proved His deep and eternal satisfaction in the work that Christ has done by raising Him and placing Him at His own right hand in glory. He grasped the fact that God was satisfied, and the sailor there and then was cleared of his doubts. If God is satisfied, it is a very small thing whether you are satisfied; and if the Lord Jesus did all the work on Calvary’s cross, it is a simple thing for those for whom He died to confess Him Lord.

Once a Roman emperor called a very famous architect into his presence and said, “I want you to build a coliseum—a structure that will hand my name down to posterity, and be the glory of the Roman empire. I will give you money, and men, and time—as much money as you like, as many men as you need, and as long a time as you want; only build a structure which shall be the most magnificent possible.” The emperor further promised that on the opening day he would proclaim a national holiday in honour of the event, open the coliseum with some magnificent and costly games, and that the architect should sit by his own side, a laurel wreath encircling his brow—

the hero of the moment.

The architect set to work, and erected a most magnificent building. The opening day arrived, the games were proclaimed, the holiday announced. Crowds—thousands upon thousands—flocked into the coliseum. There was the emperor, and, true to his promise, beside him the architect, with the laurel wreath upon his brow. The gladiators fought, there was a display of prowess, and skill, and courage. At last a wild cry arose, “Throw the Christians to the lions!” The roars of the famished lions could be plainly heard in their cells, as they champed the chains that bound them! The white- robed Christians were brought out, and stood in the midst of the arena. Every eye was fixed upon them, but, with hands folded and eyes closed, and heads uplifted, they were engaged in silent prayer, or chanting softly some hymn of praise. Presently, the gratings were lifted, and the hungry lions rushed forward to their prey. With one stroke of their terrible paws, the happy spirits of those martyrs were at home in the presence of Jesus.

Cheer after cheer rent the sky. That blood-thirsty, Christ-hating, heathen throng yelled, and yelled, and yelled at the sight. Moved deeply by the sight the architect stood up, as if to speak. He had thrown aside his laurel chaplet, and waited patiently until silence was restored. With pale face, yet in tones of ringing triumph, he cried aloud

I, too, would be a Christian,”

and there, and then, and thus confessed his Lord. In another instant they threw him amidst the wild beasts, but he had confessed his Lord. It was a noble deed. But Jesus was worthy. Better far be torn limb from limb, until the ransomed spirit be freed for its flight to glory, than sit in heathen state with laurel-encircled brow.

During the reign of Licinius, who employed the Thundering Legion in suppressing Christianity in Armenia, forty Christians at Sebaste were doomed to stand upon a frozen lake all night. Beside the lake a cottage was erected; inside was a large fire, and plenty of warm clothing, and food and drink for any of them, who would recant and give up Christianity. All they had to do was to leave the lake, pass into the cottage, and enjoy the fire, the warm clothing, the food and drink.

The biting wind swept from the snow-clad heights of Mount Caucasus, but these Christians stood in prayer upon the cold ice. They prayed, “O Lord, forty wrestlers have come forth to fight for Thee, grant that forty wrestlers may receive the crown of victory.” An hour or two passed by, when one of their number, benumbed by the cold, recanted and went into the cottage. Such an act might gain life in this world, but what about the soul? “He that hateth his life in this world, shall keep it unto life eternal.”

But what of the prayer of those forty Christians? Was it going to be answered? It was. The centurion of the soldiers—Sempronius—moved with admiration at the sight of these Christians, sealing by their death the testimony of their lives, stepped forward, and stood upon the ice, and in dying thus confessed his faith. When the morning’s sun burst upon that scene, there were

forty faithful martyrs,

witnesses to the name of the Lord Jesus.

We don’t live in such days as those, when Christians were butchered to make a Roman holiday; yet, it is strange how backward people are to confess Christ. There may be a lady here who dares not confess her Saviour because she is afraid of the curl of her husband’s lip, or a man who fears the sneer on his wife’s face, or the jeer of his companion in the office or the workshop. Take care! you may be laughed into hell, but you will never be laughed out. It would be better far to stand up on your two feet, today, and say, “Christ for me,” than go to a coward’s hell. “The fearful (cowardly), and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone which is the second death.”

When you do confess, you will get

the joy of confession

in your soul. God will support you in it, and you will be happy in the sense of His love. Oh it is a grand thing to be a Christian.

Again we repeat, the sinner’s time to keep silence is now. If you will persist in talking, and excusing yourself, there is a time coming when you will say no more than that man to whom the king said, “Friend, how comest thou in hither, not having a wedding garment?” We read, “And he was speechless,” and the king said, “Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” That man was silenced at last—you, too, will be silenced; either in time for blessing, or in eternity for judgment. A servant of my mother’s used to boast, “Plenty of people go to hell, there will be plenty of society there.” She went to the preaching, and one sentence she heard riveted her to her seat, “There will be plenty of company in hell, but

no society.”

Ah! if unconverted, yours will be a speechless woe. Bound hand and foot in outer darkness, you will for ever weep over your mad folly in refusing the Saviour. You will be silent in eternity, save to wail out your woe, while those who have confessed the Lord Jesus Christ, will be singing the everlasting hallelujah-chorus of heaven—the mighty anthem of the redeemed.

Cease excusing yourself now, confess your sins, and confess too Jesus, as Lord, and remember that the three shalts go together, “If thou SHALT confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and SHALT believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou SHALT be saved.” These three shalts go together—if thou shalt confess, and shalt believe, thou shalt be saved. We have God’s word for it. May He bless the word for His name’s sake. Amen.