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VII. Consequences of the Spirit’s ceasing to strive with men.
1. One consequence will be a confirmed hardness of heart. It is inevitable that the heart will become much more hardened, and the will more fully set to do evil.
2. Another consequence will be a confirmed opposition to religion. This will be wont to manifest itself in dislike to everything on the subject, often with great impatience and peevishness when pressed to attend to the subject seriously. Perhaps they will refuse to have anything said to themselves personally, so settled is their opposition to God and His claims
3. You may also expect to see them opposed to revivals and to gospel ministers, and pre-eminently to those inisters who are most faithful to their souls. All those means of promoting revivals which are adapted to rouse the conscience, will be peculiarly odious to their hearts. Usually such persons become sour in their dispositions, misanthropic, haters of all Christians, delighting if they dare to retail slander and abuse against those whose piety annoys and disturbs their stupid repose in sin.
4. Another consequence of being forsaken of the Spirit is that men will betake themselves to some refuge of lies, and will settle down in some form of fatal error. I have often thought it almost impossible for men to embrace fatal error heartily. Unless first forsaken by the Spirit of God. From observation of numerous cases, I believe this to be the case with the great majority of Universalists. They are described by Paul: “They receive not the love of the truth that, they may be saved, and for this cause God sends them strong delusion that they should believe a lie.” They hate the truth, are more than willing to be deceived—are restive when pressed with Gospel claims, and therefore are ready to grasp at any form of delusion which sets aside these claims and boldly asserts, “Ye shall not surely die.” It has long been an impression on my mind that this is the usual course of feeling and thought which leads to Universalism. There may be exceptions; but the mass go into this delusion from the starting point of being abandoned by the Spirit. Thus abandoned they become cross and misanthropic—they hate all Christians, and all those truths that God and His people love. This could not be the case if they had the love of God in their hearts. It could not well be the case if they, were enlightened and restrained by the present agency of the divine Spirit.
5. Again, generally those who are left of God, come to ham a seared conscience. They are distinguished by great insensibility of mind. They are of choice blind and hardened in respect to the nature and guilt of sin. Although their intelligence affirms that sin is. wrong, yet they do not feel it, or care for it. They can know the truth and yet be reckless of its application to their own hearts and lives. God has left them, and of course the natural tendencies of a depraved heart are developed without restraint.
6. Again, this class of sinners will inevitably wax worse and worse. They become loose in habits—lax in their observance of the Sabbath-slide backwards in regard to temperance and all kindred moral subjects—slip into some of the many forms of sin and perhaps vice and crime; if they have been conscientious against the use of tobacco, they relinquish their conscientiousness and throw a loose rein on their lusts; in short, they are wont to wax worse and worse in every branch of morals, and often become so changed that you would hardly recognize them. It will be no strange thing if they become profane swearers—steal a little and anon a good deal; and if God does not restrain them, they go down by a short and steep descent to the depths of hell.
7. Another consequence of being abandoned by the Spirit will be certain damnation. There can be no mistake about this. It is just as certain as if they were already there.
This state is not always attended with apathy of feeling. There may be at times a most intense excitement of the sensibility. The Bible describes the case of some who “sin willfully after they have received a knowledge of the truth, and there remains for them only a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation.” Some persons of this description I have seen, and such agony and such wretchedness I pray God I may never see again. I have seen them, the very pictures of despair and horror. Their eyes fully open to see their ruined state, exclaiming, “I know I am abandoned of God forever—I have sinned away my day of hope and mercy, and I know I never shall repent—I have no heart to repent, although I know that I must, or be damned;” such language as this they utter with a settled, positive tones! and An air of agony and despair which is enough to break a heart of stone.
8. Another consequence often is that Christians find themselves unable to pray in faith for such sinners. There are some in almost every community for whom Christians cannot pray. It is, I believe, common for many Christians, without being aware of each other’s state, to have a similar experience. For example, several Christians are praying in secret for some one individual, and with considerable freedom up to a certain moment, and then they find that they can pray for him no longer. They chance to meet together, and one says, “I have been praying a long time with great interest for that certain impenitent sinner, but at a particular time I found myself all shut up; I could not get hold of the Lord again for him, and never have been able to since.” Says another, and another, “I have felt just so myself. I did not know that any one else felt as I have, but you have described my case precisely.”
Now if you will go to that sinner, he will tell you a story which will develop the whole case, and show that he came at that eventful moment to some fatal determination, grieved the Spirit, and was abandoned of God. The Spirit ceased to strive with him, and consequently ceased to elicit prayer in his behalf in the hearts of God’s people.
9. Finally, when God has ceased to strive with sinners, no means whatever, employed for the purpose, can he effectual for their salvation. If you, sinner, have passed that dreadful point, you will no more be profited by my preaching though I were to preach to you five thousand sermons; nay, you could not be profited though an angel should come and preach to you, or even Christ Himself. All would be only in vain, You are left of God to fill up the measure of your iniquities.
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