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IV. We are next to notice some of the ways in which the Spirit may be quenched.
1. Men often quench the Spirit by directly resisting the truth He presents to their minds. Sometimes men set themselves deliberately to resist the truth, determined they will not yield to its power, at least for the present. In such cases it is wonderful to see how great the influence of the will is in resisting the truth. Indeed, the will can always resist any moral considerations; for, as we have seen, there is no such thing as forcing the will to yield to truth.
In those cases wherein the truth presses strongly on the mind, there is presumptive evidence that the Spirit is present by His power. And it is in precisely these cases that men are especially prone to set themselves against the truth, and thus are in the utmost peril of quenching the Spirit. They hate the truth presented—it crosses their chosen path, of indulgence—they feel vexed and harassed by its claims; they resist and quench the Spirit of the Lord.
You have doubtless often seen such cases, and if so, you have doubtless noticed this other remarkable fact of usual occurrence—that after a short struggle in resisting truth, the conflict is over, and that particular truth almost utterly ceases to affect the mind. The individual becomes hardened to its power—he seems quite able to overlook it and thrust it from his thoughts; or if this fails and the truth is thrown before his mind, yet he finds it comparatively easy to resist its claims, He felt greatly annoyed by that truth until he had quenched the Spirit; now he is annoyed by it no longer.
If you have seen cases of this sort you have doubtless seen how as the truth pressed upon their minds they became restive, sensitive—then perhaps angry—but still stubborn in resisting—until at length the conflict subsides; the truth makes no more impression, and is henceforth quite dead as to them; they apprehend it only with the greatest dimness, and care nothing about it.
And here let me ask—Have not some of you had this very experience? Have you not resisted some truth until it has ceased to affect your minds? If so, then you may conclude that you in that case quenched the Spirit of God.
2. The Spirit is often quenched by endeavoring to support error.
Men are sometimes foolish enough to attempt by argument to support a position which they have good reason to know is a false one. They argue, it till they get committed; they indulge in a dishonest state of mind; thus they quench the Spirit, and are usually left to believe the very lie which they so unwisely attempted to advocate. Many such cases have I seen when men began to defend and maintain a position known to be false, and kept on till they quenched the Spirit of God—believed their own lie, and, it is to be feared, will die under its delusions.
3. By uncharitable judgments. Perhaps nothing more certainly quenches the Spirit than to impeach the motives of others and judge them uncharitably. It is so unlike God, and so hostile to the law of love, no wonder the Spirit of God is utterly averse to it, and turns away from those who indulge in it.
4. The Spirit. is grieved by harsh and vituperative language. How often do persons grieve the Spirit of God by using such language toward those who differ from them. It is always safe to presume that persons who indulge such a temper have already grieved the Spirit of God utterly, away,
5. The Spirit of God is quenched by a bad temper. When a bad temper and spirit are stirred up in individuals or in a community, who has not seen how suddenly a revival of religion ceases—the Spirit of God is put down and quenched; there is no more prevailing prayer and no more sinners are converted.
6. Often the Spirit is quenched by diverting the attention from the truth. Since the Spirit operates through the truth, it is most obvious that we must attend to this truth which the Spirit would keep before our minds. If we refuse to attend, as we always can if we choose to do so, we shall almost certainly quench the Holy Spirit.
7. We often quench the Spirit by indulging intemperate excitement on any subject. If the subject is foreign. from practical, divine truth, strong excitement diverts attention. from such truth and renders it almost impossible to feel its power. While the mind sees and feels keenly on the subject in which it is excited, it sees dimly and feels but coldly on the vital things of salvation. Hence the Spirit is quenched. But the intemperate excitement may be on some topic really religious. Sometimes I have seen a burst—a real tornado of feeling in a revival; but in such cases, truth loses its hold on the minds of the people; they are too much excited to take sober views of the truth and of the moral duties it inculcates. Not all religious excitement, however, is to be condemned. By no means. There must be excitement enough to arouse the mind to serious thought—enough to give the truth edge and power; but it is always well to avoid that measure of excitement which throws the mind from its balance and renders its perceptions of truth obscure or fitful.
8. The Spirit is quenched by indulging prejudice. Whenever the mind is made up on any subject before it is thoroughly canvassed, that mind is shut against the truth and the Spirit is quenched. When there is great prejudice it seems impossible for the Spirit to act, and of course His influence is quenched. The mind is so committed that it resists, the first efforts of the Spirit.
Thus have thousands done. Thus thousands ruin their souls for eternity.
Therefore let every man keep big mind open to conviction and be sure to examine carefully all important questions, and especially all such as involve great questions of duty to God and man.
I am saying nothing now against being firm in maintaining your position after you thoroughly understand it and are sure it is the truth. But while pursuing your investigations, be sure you are really candid and yield your mind to all the reasonable evidence you can find.
9. The Spirit is often quenched by violating conscience. There are circumstances under which to violate conscience seems to quench the light of God in the soul forever. Perhaps you have seen cases of this sort where persons have had a very tender conscience on some subject, but all at once they come to have no conscience at all on that subject, I am aware that change of conduct sometimes results from change of views without any violation of conscience; but the case I speak of is where the conscience seems to be killed. All that remains of it seems hard as a stone.
I have sometimes thought the Spirit of God had much more to do with conscience than we usually suppose. The fact is undeniable that men sometimes experience very great and sudden changes in the amount of sensibility of conscience which they feel on some subjects. How is this to be accounted for? Only by the supposition that the Spirit has power to arouse the conscience and make it pierce like an arrow; and then when men, notwithstanding, the reproaches of conscience, will sin, the Spirit is quenched; the conscience loses all its sensibility; an entire change takes place, and the man goes on to sin as if he never had any conscience to forbid it.
It sometimes happens that the mind is awakened just on the eve of committing some particular sin. Perhaps something seems to say to him—If you do this you will be forsaken of God. A strange presentiment forewarns him to desist. Now if he goes on the whole mind receives a dreadful shock; the very eyes of the mind seem to be almost put out: the moral perceptions are strangely deranged and beclouded; a fatal violence is done to the conscience on that particular, subject at least, and indeed the injury to the conscience seems to affect all departments of moral action. In such circumstances the Spirit of God seems to turn away and say
“I can do no more for you; I have warned you faithfully and can warn you no more.”
All these results sometimes accrue from neglect of plainly revealed duty. Men shrink from known duty through fear of the opinions of others, or through dislike of some self-denial. In this crisis of trial the Spirit does not leave them in a state of doubt or inattention as to duty, but keeps the truth and the claims of God vividly before the mind. Then if men go on and commit the sin despite of the Spirit’s warnings, the soul is left in awful darkness—the light of the Spirit of God is quenched perhaps forever.
I know not in how many cases I have seen persons in great agony and even despair who had evidently quenched the Spirit in the manner just described. Many of you may know the case of a young man who has been here. He had a long trial on the question of preparing himself for the ministry. He balanced the question for a long time, the claims of God being clearly set before him; but at last resisting the convictions of duty, he went off and got married, and turned away from the work to which God seemed to call him. Then the Spirit left him. For some few years he remained entirely hardened as to what he had done and as to any claims of God upon him, but finally his wife sickened and died. Then his eyes were opened; he saw what he had done. He sought the Lord, but sought in vain. No light returned to his darkened, desolate soul. It no longer seemed his duty to prepare for the ministry; that call of God had ceased. His cup of wretchedness seemed to be filled to the brim. Often he spent whole nights in most intense agony, groaning, crying for mercy, or musing in anguish upon the dire despair that spread its universe of desolation all around him. I have often feared be would take his own life, so perfectly wretched was be under these reproaches of a guilty conscience and these thoughts of deep despair.
I might mention many other similar cases. Men refuse to do known duty, and this refusal does fatal violence to their own moral sense and to the Spirit of the Lord, and consequently there remains for them only a “certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation.”
10. Persons often quench the Spirit by indulging their appetites and passions. You would be astonished if you were to know how often the Spirit is grieved by this means until a crisis is formed of such a nature that they seem to quench the light of God at once from their souls. Some persons indulge their appetite for food to the injury of their health, and though they know they are injuring themselves, and the! Spirit of God remonstrates and presses them hard to desist from ruinous self-indulgence, yet they persist in their course—are given up of God, and henceforth their appetites lord it over them to the ruin of their spirituality and of their souls. The same may be true of any form of sensual indulgence.
11. The Spirit is often quenched by indulging in dishonesty. Men engaged in business will take little advantages in buying and selling.” Sometimes they are powerfully convinced of the great selfishness of this, and see that this is by, no means loving their neighbor as themselves. It may happen that a man about to drive a good bargain will raise the question—Is this right? Will balance it long in his mind will say, “Now this neighbor of mine needs this article, very much, and will suffer if he does not get it; this will give me a grand chance to put on a price; but then, would this be doing as I would be done by?” He looks and thinks—he sees duty, but finally decides in favor of his selfishness. Eternity alone will disclose the consequences of such a decision. When the Spirit of God has followed such persons a long time—has made them see their danger—has kept the truth before them, and finally seizing the favorable moment, makes a last effort and this proves unavailing—the die is cast; thereafter all restraints are gone, and the selfish man abandoned of God, goes on worse and worse, to State’s prison perhaps, and certainly to hell!
12. Often men quench the Spirit by casting off fear and restraining prayer. Indeed, restraining prayer must always quench the Spirit. It is wonderful to see how naturally and earnestly the Spirit leads us to pray. If we were really led by the Spirit, we should be drawn many times a day to secret prayer, and should be continually lifting up our hearts in silent ejaculations whenever the mind unbends itself from other pressing occupations. The Spirit in the hearts of saints is pre-eminently a spirit of prayer, and of course to restrain, prayer must always quench the Spirit.
Some of you, perhaps, have been in this very case. You have once had the spirit of prayer—now you have none of it; you had access to God—now you have it no longer; you have no more enjoyment in prayer—have no groaning and agonizing over the state of the church and of sinners. And if this spirit of prayer is gone, where are you now? Alas, you have quenched the Spirit of God—you have put out His light and repelled His influences from your soul. 13. The Spirit is quenched by idle conversation. Few seem to be aware how wicked this is and how certainly it quenches the Holy Spirit. Christ said “that for every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”
14. Men quench the Holy Ghost by a spirit of levity and trifling.
Again by indulging a peevish and fretful spirit.
Also by a spirit of indolence. Many indulge in this to such an extent as altogether to drive away the Holy Spirit. Again by a spirit of procrastination, and by indulging themselves in making excuses for neglect of duty. This is a sure way to quench the Spirit of God in the soul. 15. It is to be feared that many have quenched the Spirit by resisting the doctrine and duty of sanctification.
This subject has been for a few years past extensively discussed; and the doctrine has also been extensively opposed. Several ecclesiastical bodies have taken ground against it, and sometimes it is to be feared that members have said and done what they would not by any means have said or done in their own closets or pulpits. Is it not also probable that many ministers and some laymen have been influenced by this very ecclesiastical action to oppose the doctrine the fear of man thus becoming a snare to their souls? May it not also be the case that some have opposed the doctrine really because it raises a higher standard of personal holiness than they like—too high, perhaps, to permit them to hope as Christians, too high for their experience, and too high to suit their tastes and habits for future life? Now who does not see that opposition to the doctrine and duty of sanctification on any such grounds must certainly and fatally quench the Holy Spirit? No work can lie more near the heart of Jesus than the sanctification of His people. Hence nothing can so greatly grieve Him as to see this work impeded—much more to see it opposed and frustrated.
A solemn and awful emphasis is given to these considerations when you contemplate the facts respecting the prevalent state of piety in very many churches throughout the land. You need not ask—A revivals enjoyed—are Christians prayerful, self-denying, alive in faith and in love to God and to man. You need not ask if the work of sanctifying the Church is moving on apace, and manifesting itself by abounding fruits of righteousness; the answer meets you before you can well frame the question.
Alas, that the Spirit should be quenched under the diffusion of the very truth which ought to sanctify the Church I What can save if Gospel promise in all its fullness is so perverted or resisted as to quench the Spirit and thus serve only to harden the heart?
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