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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?
V. I am lastly to speak of the consequences of quenching the Holy Spirit.
1. Great darkness of mind. Abandoned of God, the mind sees truth so dimly that it makes no useful impression. Such persons read the Bible without interest or profit. It becomes to them a dead- letter, and they generally lay it aside unless some controversy leads them to search it. They take no such spiritual interest in it as makes its perusal delightful.
2. There usually results great coldness and stupidity in regard to religion generally. It leaves to the mind no such interest in spiritual things as men take in worldly things.
Persons often get into such a state that they are greatly interested in some worldly matters, but not in spiritual religion. Their souls. are all awake while worldly things are the subject; but suggest some spiritual subject, and their interest is gone at once. You can scarcely get them to attend a prayer-meeting. They are in a worldly state of mind you may know, for if the Spirit of the Lord was with them, they, would be more deeply interested in religious services than in anything else.
But now, mark them. Get up a political meeting or a theatrical exhibition and their souls are all on fire; but go and appoint a prayer-meeting or a meeting to promote a revival, and they are not there; or if there, they feel no interest in the object.
Such persons often seem not to know themselves. They perhaps think they attend to these worldly things, only for the glory of God; I will believe this when I see them interested in spiritual things as much.
When a man has quenched the Spirit of God his religion is all outside. His vital, heart-affecting interest in spiritual things is gone.
It is indeed true that a spiritual man will take some interest in worldly things because he regards them as a part of his duty to God, and to him they are spiritual things.
3. The mind falls very naturally into diverse errors in religion. The heart wanders from God, loses its hold on the truth, and perhaps the man insists that he now takes a much more liberal and enlightened view of the subject than before;
A short time since, I had a conversation with a man who had given up the idea that the Old Testament was inspired -- had given up the doctrine of the atonement, and indeed every distinctive doctrine of the Bible. He remarked to me, I used to think as you do; but I have now come to take a more liberal and enlightened view of the subject. Indeed! this a more liberal and enlightened view! So blinded as not to see that Christ sanctioned the Old Testament as the oracles of God, and yet he flatters himself that he now takes a more liberal and enlightened view! There can be nothing stronger than Christ's affirmations respecting the inspiration of the Old Testament; and yet this man admits these affirmations to be true and yet denies the very thing they affirm! Most liberal and enlightened view, truly!
How can you possibly account for such views except on the ground that for some reason the man has fallen into a strange, unnatural state of mind -- a sort of mental fatuity in which moral truths are beclouded or distorted? Everybody knows that there can not be a greater absurdity than to admit the divine authority of the teachings of Christ and yet reject the Old Testament. The language of Christ affirms and implies the authority of the Old Testament in all those ways in which, on the supposition that the Old Testament is inspired, He might be expected to affirm and imply this fact.
The Old Testament does not indeed exhaust divine revelation; it left more things to be revealed. Christ taught much, but nothing more clearly than the divine authority of the Old Testament.
5. Another result is great hardness of heart. The mind becomes callous to all that class of truths which make it yielding and tender. The mobility of the heart under truth depends entirely upon its moral hardness. If very hard, truth makes no impression; if soft, then it is yielding as air, and moves quick to the touch of truth in any direction.
6. Another result is deep delusion in regard to their spiritual state. How remarkable that persons will claim to be Christians when they have rejected every distinctive doctrine of Christianity. Indeed, such persons do sometimes claim that by thus rejecting almost the whole of the Bible, and all its great scheme of salvation by an atonement, they have become real Christians. Now they have got the true light. Indeed!
How can such a delusion be accounted for except on the ground that the Spirit of God has abandoned the man to his own ways and left him to utter and perfect delusion? 7. Persons in this state often justify themselves in most manifest wrong, because they put darkness for light and light for darkness. They intrench themselves in perfectly false principles, as if those principles were true and could amply justify their misdeeds.
1. Persons often are not aware what is going on in their minds when they are quenching the Spirit of God. Duty is presented and pressed upon them, but they do not realize that this is really the work of the Spirit of God. They are not aware of the present voice of the Lord to their hearts, nor do they see that this solemn impression of the truth is nothing other than the effect of the Holy Ghost on their minds.
2. So when they come to take different views and to abandon their former opinions, they seem not conscious of the fact that God has departed from them. They flatter themselves that they have become very liberal and very much enlightened with, and have only given up their former errors. Alas, they do not see that the light they now walk in is darkness -- all sheer darkness! Woe to them who put light for darkness and darkness for light!
You see how to account for the spiritual state of some persons. Without the clue which this subject affords, you might be much misled. In the case just described, suppose that I had taken it for granted that this man was in truth taking a more rational and liberal view; I should have been misguided entirely.
3. I have good reason to know how persons become Unitarians and Universalists, having seen at least some hundreds of instances. It is not by becoming more and more men of prayer and real spirituality -- not by getting nearer and nearer to God; they do not go on progressing in holiness, prayer, communion with God, until in their high attainments they reach a point where they deny the inspiration of the Bible, give up public prayer, the ordinances of the Gospel, and probably secret prayer along with the rest. Those who give up these things are not led away while wrestling in prayer and while walking humbly and closely with God; no man ever got away from orthodox views while in this state of mind. But men first get away from God and quench His Spirit; then embrace one error after another; truth falls out of the mind and we might almost sly truthfulness itself, or those qualities or moral attributes which capacitate the mind to discern and apprehend the truth; and then darkness becomes so universal and so deceptive I that men suppose themselves to be wholly in the light,
5. When an individual or a people have quenched the Spirit, they are in the utmost danger of being given up to some delusion that will bring them by a short route to destruction.
6. They take entirely false ground who maintain that if a religious movement is the work of God, it can not be resisted. For example, I have often seen cases where persons would stop a revival, and then say, It was not a real revival, for if it had been it would not have stopped.
Let a man adopt the opinion that he can not stop the work of God in his own soul; nothing can be more perilous. Let a people adopt the notion that revivals come and go without our agency and by the agency of God only, and it will bring perfect ruin on them. There never was a revival that could exist three days under such a delusion. The solemn: truth is that the Spirit is most easily quenched. There is no moral work of His that can not be resisted
7. An immense responsibility pertains to revivals. There Is always fearful danger lest the Spirit should be resisted.
So when the Spirit is with an individual, there is the greatest danger lest something be said, ruinous to the soul.
How many young men could I name here, once thoughtful, now stupid. Where are those young men who were so serious, and who attended the inquiry meeting so long in our last revival? Alas, have they quenched the Holy Spirit?
Is not this the case with you, young man? with you, young woman? Have not you quenched the Spirit until now your mind is darkened and your heart woefully hardened? How long are the death-knell shall toll over you and your soul go down to hell? How long before you will lose your hold on all truth and the Spirit will have left you utterly?
But let me bring this appeal home to the hearts of those who have not yet utterly quenched the light of God in the soul. Do you find that truth still takes hold of your conscience -- that God's word flashes on your mind -- that heaven's light is not yet utterly extinguished, and there is still a quivering of conscience? You hear of a sudden death, like that of the young man the other day, and trembling seizes your soul, for you know that another blow may single out you. Then by all the mercies of God I beseech you take care what you do. Quench not the Holy Ghost, lest your sun go down in everlasting darkness. just as you may have seen the sun set when it dipped into a dark, terrific, portentous thunder- cloud. So a benighted sinner dies! Have you ever seen such a death? Dying, he seemed to sink into an awful cloud of fire and storm and darkness. The scene was fearful, like a sun-setting of storms, and gathering clouds, and rolling thunders, and forked lightnings. The clouds gather low in the west; the spirit of storm rides on the blast; belching thunders seem as if they would cleave the solid earth; behind such a fearful cloud the sun drops, and all is darkness! So have I seen a sinner give up the ghost and drop into a world of storms, and howling storms, and flashing fire.
So dies the saint of God. There may be paleness on his lip and cold sweat on his brow, but there is beauty in that eye and glory in the soul. I think of a woman just converted, when she was taken sick -- brought down to the gates of death -- yet was her soul full of heaven. Her voice was the music of angels; her countenance shone, her eye sparkled as if the forms of heavenly glory were embodied in her dying features.
Nature at last sinks -- the moment of death has come; she stretches out her dying hands and hails the waiting spirit-throng. Glory to God! she cries; I am coming! I am coming! Not going -- observe -- she did not say, I am going, but, I am coming!
But right over against this, look at the sinner dying. A frightful glare is on his countenance as if he saw ten thousand demons! As if the setting sun should go down into an ocean of storms -- to be lost in a world charged with tornadoes, storms, and death!
Young man, you will die just so if you quench the Spirit of God. Jesus Himself has said, If ye will not believe, ye shall die in your sins. Beyond such a death, there is an awful hell.