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Quench not the Spirit.-1 Thess. v. 19.
IN discussing the subject presented in this text, I shall
I. To show how the Holy Spirit influences the mind; II. To deduce some inferences from the known mode of the Spirit's operations; III. Show what it is to quench the Spirit; IV. Show how this may be done; and, V. The consequences of quenching the Spirit.
I. How does the Holy Spirit influence the human mind?
I answer, not by physical agency -- not by the interposition of direct physical power. The action of the will is not influenced thus, and can not be. The very supposition is absurd. That physical agency should produce voluntary mental phenomena just as it does physical, is both absurd and at war with the very idea of free age. That the same physical agency which moves a planet should move the human will it absurd.
But further: the Bible informs us that the Spirit influences the human mind by means of truth, The Spirit persuades men to act in view of truth, as we ourselves influence our fellow-men by truth presented to their minds. I do not mean that God presents truth to the mind in the same manner as we do. Of course His mode of doing it must differ from ours. We use the pen, the lips, the gesture; we use the language of words and the language of nature. God does not employ these means now; yet still He reaches the mind with truth. Sometimes His providence suggests it; and then His Spirit gives it efficiency, setting it home upon the heart with great power.
Sometimes the Lord makes use of preaching; indeed, His ways are various.
But, whatever the mode, the object is always the same namely, to produce voluntary action in conformity to His law.
Now, it the Bible were entirely silent on this subject, we should still know from the nature of mind, and from the nature of those influences which. only can move the human mind, that the Spirit must exert not physical, but moral influences on the mind. Yet we are not now left to a merely metaphysical inference; we have the plain testimony of the Bible to the fact that the Spirit employs truth in converting and sanctifying men.
II. We next inquire what is implied in this fact and what must be inferred from it?
God is physically omnipotent, and yet His moral influences exerted by the Spirit may be resisted. You will readily see that if the Spirit moved men by physical omnipotence, no mortal could possibly resist His influence. The Spirit's power would, of course, be irresistible -- for who could withstand omnipotence?
The nature of moral agency implies the voluntary action, of one who can yield to motive and follow. light or not as he pleases. Where this power does. not exist, moral agency can not exist; and at whatever point this power ceases, there moral agency ceases also.
Hence, if our action is that of moral agents, our moral freedom to do or not do must remain. It can not be set aside or in any way overruled. If God should in any way set aside our voluntary agency, he would of necessity terminate at once, our moral and responsible action. Suppose God should seize hold of a man's arm with physical omnipotence and forcibly use it in deeds of murder or of arson; who does not see that the moral, responsible agency of that man would be entirely superseded? Yet not more so than if, in an equally irresistible manner, God should seize the man's will and compel it to act as Himself listed.
The very idea that moral influence can ever be irresistible originates in an entire mistake as to the nature of the wilt and of moral action. The will of man never can act otherwise than freely in view of truth and of the motives it presents for action. Increasing the amount of such influence has no sort of tendency to impair the freedom of the will. Under any possible vividness of truth perceived, or amount of motive present to the mind, the will has still the same changeless power to yield or not yield -- to act or refuse to act in accordance with this perceived truth.
Force and moral agency are terms of opposite meaning, They can not both co-exist. The one effectually precludes the other. Hence, to say that if God is physically omnipotent, He can and will force a moral agent in his moral action, is to talk stark nonsense.
This fact shows that any work of God carried on by more and not by physical power not only can be resisted by man, but that man may be in very special danger of resisting it. If the Lord carries the work forward by means of revealed truth, there may be most imminent danger lest men will neglect to study and understand this truth, or lest, knowing, they shall refuse to obey it. Surely it is fearfully within the power of every man to shut out this truth from his consideration, and bar his heart against its influence.
III. We next inquire what it is to quench the Spirit.
We all readily understand this when we come to see distinctly what the work of the Spirit is. We have already seen that it is to enlighten the mind into truth respecting God, ourselves, and our duty. For example, the Spirit enlightens the mind into the meaning and self-application of the Bible, It takes the things of Christ and shows them to us.
Now there is such a thing as refusing to receive this light You can shut your eyes against it. You have the power to turn your eye entirely away and scarcely see it at all. You can utterly refuse to follow it when seen; and in this case God ceases to hold up the truth before your mind.
Almost every one knows by personal experience that the Spirit has the power of shedding a marvelous light upon revealed truth, so that this truth shall stand before the mind in a new and most impressive form, and shall operate upon it with astonishing energy. But this light of the Spirit may be quenched.
Again: there is, so to speak, a sort of heat, a warmth and vitality attending the truth when enforced by the Spirit. Thus we say if one has the Spirit of God his soul is warm if he has not the Spirit, his heart is cold.
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.