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The application of the foregoing discourse.
With respect unto the dispensation of the Spirit towards believers, and his holy operations in them and upon them, there are sundry particular duties, whereof he is the immediate object, prescribed unto them; and they are those whereby on our part we comply with him in his work of grace, whereby it is carried on and rendered useful unto us. Now, whereas this Holy Spirit is a divine person, and he acts in all things towards us as a free agent, according unto his own will, the things enjoined us with respect unto him are those whereby we may carry ourselves aright towards such an one, namely, as he is a holy, divine, intelligent person, working freely in and towards us for our good. And they are of two sorts, the first whereof are expressed in prohibitions of those things which are unsuited unto him and his dealings with us, the latter in commands for our attendance unto such duties as are peculiarly suited unto a compliance with him in his operations; in both which our obedience is to be exercised with a peculiar regard unto him. I shall begin with the first sort, and go over them in the instances given us in the Scripture:—
First, We have a negative precept to this purpose: Eph. iv. 30, Μὴ λυπεῖτε τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον, — “Grieve not the holy Spirit;” — “Consider who he is, what he hath done for you, how great your concern is in his continuance with you, and withal that he is a free, infinitely wise, and holy agent in all that he doth, who came freely unto you, and can withdraw from you; and grieve him not.” It is the person of the Holy Spirit that is intended in the words, as appears, — 1. From the manner of the expression, τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ ἁγιον,— “ that holy Spirit.” 2. By the work assigned unto him; for by him we are “sealed unto the day of redemption.” Him we are not to “grieve.” The expression seems to be borrowed from Isa. lxiii. 10, where mention is made of the sin and evil here prohibited: וְהֵמָּה מָרוּ וְעִצְּבוּ אֶת־רוּחַ קָדְשׁוֹ, — “But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit.” עָצַב is to “trouble” and to “grieve;” and it is used when it is done unto a great degree. The LXX. render it here by παροξύνω· which is so to grieve as also to irritate and provoke to anger and indignation, because it hath respect unto the rebellions of the people in the wilderness, which our apostle expresseth by παραπικραίνω and παραπικρασμός, words of the same signification. To “vex,” therefore, is the heightening of grieving by a provocation unto anger and indignation: which sense is suited to the place and matter treated of, though the word signify no more but to “grieve;” and so it is rendered by λυπέω, Gen. xlv. 5; 2 Sam. xix. 2.
Now, grief is here ascribed unto the Holy Spirit as it is elsewhere 414unto God absolutely: Gen. vi. 6, “It repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” Such affections and perturbations of mind are not ascribed unto God or the Spirit but metaphorically. That intended in such ascriptions is, to give us an apprehension of things as we are able to receive it; and the measure we take of them is their nature and effects in ourselves. What may justly grieve a good man, and what he will do when he is unjustly or undeservedly grieved, represent unto us what we are to understand of our own condition with respect unto the Holy Ghost when he is said to be grieved by us. And grief in the sense here intended is a trouble of mind arising from an apprehension of unkindness not deserved, of disappointments not expected, on the account of a near concernment in those by whom we are grieved. We may, therefore, see hence what it is we are warned of when we are enjoined not to grieve the Holy Spirit; as, —
1. There must be unkindness in what we do. Sin hath various respects towards God, of guilt, and filth, and the like. These several considerations of it have several effects. But that which is denoted when it is said to “grieve him” is unkindness, or that defect of an answerable love unto the fruits and testimonies of his love which we have received that it is accompanied withal. He is the Spirit of love; he is love. All his actings towards us and in us are fruits of love, and they all of them leave an impression of love upon our souls. All the joy and consolation we are made partakers of in this world arise from a sense of the love of God, communicated in an endearing way of love unto our souls. This requires a return of love and delight in all duties of obedience on our part. When instead hereof, by our negligence and carelessness, or otherwise, we fall into those things or ways which he most abhors, he greatly respects the unkindness and ingratitude which is therein, and is therefore said to be grieved by us.
2. Disappointment in expectation. It is known that no disappointment properly can befall the Spirit of God; it is utterly inconsistent with his prescience and omniscience. But we are disappointed when things fall not out according as we justly expected they would, in answer unto the means used by us for their accomplishment. And when the means that God useth towards us do not, by reason of our sin, produce the effect they are suited unto, God proposeth himself as under a disappointment. So he speaks of his vineyard: “I looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes,” Isa. v. 4.
Now, disappointment causeth grief: as when a father hath used all means for the education of a child in any honest way or course, and expended much of his estate therein, if he, through dissoluteness or idleness, fail his expectation and 415disappoint him, it fills him with grief. They are great things which are done for us by the Spirit of God; these all of them have their tendency unto an increase in holiness, light, and love. Where they are not answered, where there is not a suitable effect, there is that disappointment that causeth grief. Especially is this so with respect unto some signal mercies. A return in holy obedience is justly expected on their account; and where this is not, it is a thing causing grief. This are we here minded of, “Grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” So great a kindness should have produced other effects than those there mentioned by the apostle.
3. The concernment of the Holy Spirit in us concurs to his being said to be grieved by us; for we are grieved by them in whom we are particularly concerned. The miscarriages of others we can pass over without any such trouble. And there are two things that give us an especial concernment in others:— (1.) Relation, as that of a father, a husband, a brother. This makes us to be concerned in, and consequently to be grieved for, the miscarriages of them that are related unto us. So is it with the Holy Spirit. He hath undertaken the office of a comforter towards us, and stands in that relation to us. Hence he is so concerned in us as that he is said to be grieved with our sins, when he is not so at the sins of them unto whom he stands not in especial relation. (2.) Love gives concernment, and makes way for grief upon occasion of it. Those whom we love we are grieved for and by. Others may provoke indignation, but they cause not grief, I mean on their own account; for otherwise we ought to grieve for the sins of all. And what is the especial love of the Holy Ghost towards us hath been declared.
From what hath been spoken, it is evident what we are warned of, what is enjoined unto us, when we are cautioned not to grieve the Holy Spirit, and how we may do so; for we do it, —
(1.) When we are not influenced by his love and kindness to answer his mind and will in all holy obedience, accompanied with joy, love, and delight. This he deserves at our hands, this he expects from us. And when it is neglected, we are said to grieve him, because of his concernment in us; for he looks not only for our obedience, but also that it be filled up with joy, love, and delight. When we attend unto duties with an unwilling mind, when we apply ourselves unto any acts of obedience in a bondage or servile frame, we grieve him, who hath deserved other things of us.
(2.) When we lose and forget the sense and impression of signal mercies received by him. So the apostle, to give efficacy unto his prohibition, adds the signal benefit which we receive by him, in that he seals us to the day of redemption; which what it is, and wherein 416it doth consist, hath been declared. And hence it is evident that he speaks of the Holy Spirit as dwelling in believers; for as such he seals them. Whereas, therefore, in and by sin we forget the great grace, kindness, and condescension of the Holy Spirit in his dwelling in us, and by various ways communicating of the love and grace of God unto us, we may be well said to grieve him. And certainly this consideration, together with that of the vile ingratitude and horrible folly there are in neglecting and defiling his dwelling-place, with the danger of his withdrawing from us on the continuance of our provocation, ought to be as effectual a motive unto universal holiness and constant watchfulness therein as any that can be proposed unto us.
(3.) Some sins there are which in an especial manner above others do grieve the Holy Spirit. These our apostle expressly discourseth of, 1 Cor. vi. 15–20. And, by the connection of the words in this place, he seems to make “corrupt communication,” which always hath a tendency unto corruption of conversation, to be a sin of this nature, Eph. iv. 29, 30.
Secondly, That which we have rendered to “vex him,” Isa. lxiii. 10, is but the heightening and aggravation of his being grieved by our continuance, and, it may be, obstinacy, in those ways whereby he is grieved; for this is the progress in these things:— If those whom we are concerned in, as children or other relations, do fall into miscarriages and sins, we are first grieved by it. This grief in ourselves is attended with pity and compassion towards them, with an earnest endeavour for their recovery. But if, notwithstanding all our endeavours, and the application of means for their reducement, they continue to go on frowardly in their ways, then are we vexed at them, which includes an addition of anger and indignation unto our former sorrow or grief. Yet in this posture of things we cease not to attempt their cure for a season; which if it succeed not, but they continue in their obstinacy, then we resolve to treat with them no more, but to leave them to themselves. And not only so, but upon our satisfaction of their resolution for a continuance in ways of sin and debauchery, we deal with them as their enemies, and labour to bring them unto punishment. And for our better understanding of the nature of our sin and provocation, this whole scheme of things is ascribed unto the Holy Ghost with respect unto them. How he is said to be “grieved,” and on what occasion, hath been declared. Upon a continuance in those ways wherewith he is grieved, he is said to be “vexed,” that we may understand there is also anger and displeasure towards us. Yet he forsakes us not, yet he takes not from us the means of grace and recovery. But if we discover an obstinacy in our ways, and an untractable perverseness, then he will 417cast us off, and deal with us no more for our recovery; and woe unto us when he shall depart from us! So when the old world would not be brought to repentance by the dispensation of the Spirit of Christ in the preaching of Noah, 1 Pet. iii. 19, 20, God said thereon that his Spirit should give over, and “not always strive with man,” Gen. vi. 3. Now, the cessation of the operations of the Spirit towards men obstinate in ways of sin, after he hath been long grieved and vexed, compriseth three things:— 1. A subduction from them of the means of grace, either totally, by the removal of their light and candlestick, all ways of the revelation of the mind and will of God unto them, Rev. ii. 5; or as unto the efficacy of the word towards them, where the outward dispensation of it is continued, so that “hearing they shall hear, but not understand,” Isa. vi. 9, John xii. 40: for by the word it is that he strives with the souls and minds of men. 2. A forbearance of all chastisement, out of a gracious design to heal and recover them, Isa. i. 5. 3. A giving of them up unto themselves, or leaving them unto their own ways; which although it seems only a consequent of the two former, and to be included in them, yet is there indeed in it a positive act of the anger and displeasure of God, which directly influenceth the event of things, for they shall be so given up unto their own hearts’ lusts as to be bound in them as in “chains of darkness” unto following vengeance, Rom. i. 26, 28. But this is not all. He becomes at length a professed enemy unto such obstinate sinners: Isa. lxiii. 10, “They rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit; therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.” This is the length of his proceeding against obstinate sinners in this world. And herein also four things are included:— 1. He comes upon them as an enemy, to spoil them. This is the first thing that an enemy doth when he comes to fight against any; he spoils them of what they have. Have such persons had any light or conviction, any gift or spiritual abilities, the Holy Spirit being now become their professed enemy, he spoils them of it all: “From him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to have.” Seeing he neither had nor used his gifts or talent unto any saving end, being now at an open enmity with him who lent it him, it shall be taken away. 2. He will come upon them with spiritual judgments, smiting them with blindness of mind and obstinacy of will, filling them with folly, giddiness, and madness in their ways of sin; which sometimes shall produce most doleful effects in themselves and others. 3. He will cast them out of his territories. If they have been members of churches, he will order that they shall be cut off, and cast out of them. 4. He frequently gives them in this world a foretaste of that everlasting vengeance which is prepared for them. Such are those horrors of conscience, and other terrible 418effects of an utter desperation, which he justly, righteously, and holily sends upon the minds and souls of some of them. And these things will he do, as to demonstrate the greatness and holiness of his nature, so also that all may know what it is to despise his goodness, kindness, and love.
And the consideration of these things belongs unto us. It is our wisdom and duty to consider as well the ways and degrees of the Spirit’s departure from provoking sinners, as those of his approach unto us with love and grace.
These latter have been much considered by many, as to all his great works towards us, and that unto the great advantage and edification of those concerned in them; for thence have they learned both their own state and condition, as also what particular duties they were on all occasions to apply themselves unto; as in part we have manifested before, in our discourses about regeneration and sanctification.
And it is of no less concernment unto us to consider aright the ways and degrees of his departure, which are expressed to give us that godly fear and reverence wherewith we ought to consider and observe him. David on his sin feared nothing more than that God would take his holy Spirit from him, Ps. li. 11. And the fear hereof should influence us unto the utmost care and diligence against sin; for although he should not utterly forsake us, — which, as to those who are true believers, is contrary to the tenor, promise, and grace of the new covenant, — yet he may so withdraw his presence from us as that we may spend the remainder of our days in trouble, and our years in darkness and sorrow. “Let him,” therefore, “that thinketh he standeth,” on this account also “take heed lest he fall.” And as for them with whom he is, as it were, but in the entrance of his work, producing such effects in their minds as, being followed and attended unto, might have a saving event, he may, upon their provocations, utterly forsake them, in the way and by the degrees before mentioned. It is therefore the duty of all to serve him with fear and trembling on this account. And, —
Secondly, It is so to take heed of the very entrances of the course described. Have there been such evils in any of us as wherein it is evident that the Spirit is grieved? as we love our souls, we are to take care that we do not vex him by a continuance in them. And if we do not diligently and speedily recover ourselves from the first, the second will ensue. Hath he been grieved by our negligence in or of duties, by our indulgence unto any lust, by compliance with or conformity to the world? let not our continuance in so doing make it his vexation. Remember that whilst he is but grieved, he continues to supply us with all due means for our healing and recovery: 419he will do so also when he is yet vexed; but he will do it with such a mixture of anger and displeasure as shall make us know that what we have done is an evil thing and a bitter. But have any proceeded farther, and continued long thus to vex him, and have refused his instructions, when accompanied, it may be, with sore afflictions or inward distresses, that have been evident tokens of his displeasure? let such souls rouse up themselves to lay hold on him, for he is ready to depart, it may be forever. And, —
Thirdly, We may do well to consider much the miserable condition of those who are thus utterly forsaken by him. When we see a man who hath lived in a plentiful and flourishing condition, brought to extreme penury and want, seeking his bread in rags from door to door, the spectacle is sad, although we know he brought this misery on himself by profuseness or debauchery of life; but how sad is it to think of a man whom, it may be, we knew to have had a great light and conviction, to have made an amiable profession, to have been adorned with sundry useful spiritual gifts, and had in estimation on this account, now to be despoiled of all his ornaments, to have lost light, and life, and gifts, and profession, and to lie as a poor withered branch on the dunghill of the world! And the sadness hereof will be increased when we shall consider, not only that the Spirit of God is departed from him, but also is become his enemy, and fights against him, whereby he is devoted unto irrecoverable ruin.
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