Then the spirit entered into me, and set me upon my feet, and spake with me, and said unto me, Go, shut thyself within thine house. Behold, they shall put bands upon thee, and shall bind thee with them, and thou shalt not go out among them: I will make thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth, that thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be to them a reprover: for they are a rebellious house. But when I speak with thee, I will open thy mouth, and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD…
C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Ministers are sometimes silenced through the sins of their people, and it becomes them to plead against such a judgment.
WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): God sometimes stops the minister’s mouth because the people shut their hearts. Why should the [tap] run to have the water spilt upon the ground? It is just that God should take away the ministry, or stop the minister’s mouth, when they despise His counsel, and the Word becomes a reproach to them.
C. H. SPURGEON: The Lord save us, who are his ministers, from being made the instruments of inflicting such a penalty. Let us exhibit a cheerful hopefulness in God, that we may plead it in prayer with Him when He threatens to close our lips.
JOHN FLAVEL (1630-1691): It is an unspeakable affliction to God’s workmen to be rendered useless and unserviceable—it spends a minister to preach, but more to be silent. It is a loud speaking judgment, when God shall say to them as to Ezekiel, “Son of man, I will make thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth, and thou shalt be dumb.” Such silencing providences, speak thundering language to gracious hearts; yet, even then, the keepers of the vineyard have a private vineyard of their own to look after, they have much home-work, when no out-work.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): I have seen men who have been indefatigable in the work of the kingdom suddenly laid aside by illness, and scarcely knowing what to do with themselves. What is the matter? They have been living on their own activities. You can be so busy preaching and working that you are not nurturing your own soul. You are so neglecting your own spiritual life that you find at the end that you have been living on yourself and your own activities. And when you stop, or are stopped by illness or circumstances, you find that life is empty and that you have no resources…That is why it is a good thing for all of us from time to time to stop and take a rest, and to examine ourselves, and ask, “What am I living on?”
ROBERT MURRAY M’CHEYNE (1813-1843): When I was laid aside from the ministry, I felt it was to teach me the need of prayer for my people. I used often to say, “Now God is teaching me the use of prayer.” I thought I would never forget the lesson, yet I fear I am grown slack again when in the midst of my work.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: May I remind you that the great Dr. Thomas Chalmers always said that what really brought him, under God, to understand the Gospel truly was an illness which confined him to his sick chamber for nearly twelve months. He had been a brilliant ‘scientific’ and ‘intellectual’ preacher, but he came out of that sick chamber as a preacher of the Gospel, and he thanked God for that visitation.
C. H. SPURGEON: That is the cause of many ministers’ afflictions; they are necessary to our work.
MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): I never knew the meaning of God’s Word, until I came into affliction. I have always found it one of my best school-masters.
J. H. M. d’AUBIGNÉ (1794-1872): God usually removes his servants from the field of battle to bring them back stronger and better armed.
MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: But then sometimes God does this to us to prepare us for something.
ROBERT MURRAY M’CHEYNE: Every wise workman takes his tools away from the work from time to time that they may ground and sharpened; so does the only-wise Jehovah take his ministers oftentimes away into darkness and loneliness and trouble, that He may sharpen and prepare them for harder work in His service.
GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): Luther said that he never undertook any fresh work but he was visited either with a fit of sickness or with some powerful temptation.
C. H. SPURGEON: Before any great achievement, some measure of the same depression is very usual…This depression comes over me whenever the Lord is preparing a larger blessing for my ministry; the cloud is black before it breaks, and overshadows before it yields its deluge of mercy. Depression has now become to me as a prophet in rough clothing, a ‘John the Baptist’ heralding the nearer coming of my Lord’s richer benison. So have far better men found it.
JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): But as to the general purpose, God’s intention is by no means obscure, namely, that the Prophet ought not to take it ill, if he be for a time apparently useless…We see then that this is said for the Prophet’s comfort, that he should not murmur or take it ill that God wishes him ‘to remain shut up at home; because the fit time had not yet come.’
GEORGE MÜLLER (1805-1898): God not only orders our steps; He orders our stops.
JOHN CALVIN: They might be shut up, as in prison―The apostles are put in prison, but the force of their preaching is spread far and wide, and the course thereof is at liberty. Of which thing Paul boasteth very much, that the Word of God is not bound with him, 2 Timothy 2:9.
MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Some have observed that what this apostle wrote when he was a prisoner had the greatest relish and savour in it of the things of God.
JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): John Bunyan would not have done half the good he did, if he had remained preaching in Bedford, instead of being shut up in Bedford Prison.
WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): It was well that Bunyan did not escape from the prison at Bedford. Or we should not have had his Pilgrim’s Progress, and his Holy War.
THOMAS ADAMS (1583-1656): Our books may come to be seen where ourselves shall never be heard. These may preach where the author cannot, and which is more―when he is not.
C. H. SPURGEON: It is a great trial to be unable to preach in the pulpit, but it is no small comfort to be able to preach through the press. By the aid of friends, the discourses which I have delivered in former times have been piloted through the press in a masterly manner, and would be forthcoming for several years, even if I were taken home to God; hundreds of manuscripts are in my publisher’s stores, and so I shall live and speak long after I am dead…My silent sabbaths breed in me a great hunger for the salvation of those to whom I can only speak through the press. O that the Lord would honour me by making me fruitful in the winter of my weakness!*
*Editor’s Note: C. H. Spurgeon died two weeks after this writing this final note.