Every vain thought and idle word, and every wicked deed, is like so many drops to quench the Spirit of God. Some quench Him with the lust of the flesh; some quench Him with cares of the mind; some quench Him with long delays, that is, not plying the motion when it cometh, but crossing the good thoughts with bad thoughts, and doing a thing when the Spirit saith not. The Spirit is often grieved before He be quenched. -- H. Smith.
In times when vile men held the high places of the land, a roll of drums was employed to drown the martyr's voice, lest the testimony of truth from the scaffold should reach the ears of the people, -- an illustration of how men deal with their own consciences, and seek to put to silence the truth-telling voice of the Holy Spirit. -- Arnot.
ISRAEL, we are told, limited the Holy One of Israel. They vexed and grieved the Holy Spirit, and rebelled against His authority, but there is a special sin against Him, which we may profitably consider. The first description of it is in Matthew xii, 22d verse:
THE UNPARDONABLE SIN.
"Then was brought unto Him one possessed with a devil, blind and dumb; and He healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand. And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth abroad. Wherefore I say unto you, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come." That is Matthew's account. Now let us read Mark's account in chapter iii, 21, etc.:
"And when His friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on Him, for they said: He (that is Christ) is beside Himself. And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth He out devils."
The word Beelzebub means the Lord of Filth. They charged the Lord Jesus with being possessed not only with an evil spirit, but with a filthy spirit.
"And He called them unto Him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom can not stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house can not stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he can not stand, but hath an end. No man can enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house. Verily I say unto you, all sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation."
Now, if it stopped there, we would be left perhaps in darkness, and we would not exactly understand what the sin against the Holy Ghost is; but the next verse of this same chapter of Mark just throws light upon the whole matter, and we need not be in darkness another minute if we really want light; for observe, the verse reads: "Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit."
Now, I have met a good many atheists and skeptics and deists and infidels, both in this country and abroad, but I never in my life met a man or woman who ever said that Jesus Christ was possessed of an unclean devil. Did you? I don't think you ever met such a person. I have heard men say bitter things against Christ, but I never heard any man stand up and say that he thought Jesus Christ was possessed with the devil, and that he cast out devils by the power of the devil; and I don't believe any man or woman has any right to say they have committed the unpardonable sin, unless they have maliciously, and wilfully and deliberately said that they believe that Jesus Christ had a devil in Him, and that He was under the power of the devil, and that He cast out devils by the power of the devil. Because you perhaps have heard some one say that there is such a thing as grieving the Spirit of God, and resisting the Spirit of God until He has taken His flight and left you, then you have said "That is the unpardonable sin."
WHAT IT IS NOT.
I admit there is such a thing as resisting the Spirit of God, and resisting till the Spirit of God has departed; but if the Spirit of God has left any, they will not be troubled about their sins. The very fact that they are troubled, shows that the Spirit of God has not left them. If a man is troubled about his sins, it is the work of the Spirit; for Satan never yet told him he was a sinner. Satan makes us believe that we are pretty good; that we are good enough without God, safe without Christ, and that we don't need salvation. But when a man wakes up to the fact that he is lost, that he is a sinner, that is the work of the Spirit; and if the Spirit of God had left him, he would not be in that state; and just because men and women want to be Christians, is a sign that the Spirit of God is drawing them.
If resisting the Spirit of God is an unpardonable sin, then we have all committed it, and there is no hope for any of us; for I do not believe there is a minister, or a worker in Christ's vineyard, who has not, some time in his life, resisted the Holy Ghost; who has not some time in his life rejected the Spirit of God. To resist the Holy Ghost is one thing, and to commit that awful sin of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, is another thing; and we want to take the Scripture and just compare them. Now, some people say, "I have such blasphemous thoughts; there are some awful thoughts that come into my mind against God," and they think that is the unpardonable sin. We are not to blame for having
come into our minds. If we harbor them, then we are to blame. But if the devil comes and darts an evil thought into my mind, and I say, "Lord help me," sin is not reckoned to me. Who has not had evil thoughts come into his mind, flash into his heart, and been called to fight them!
One old divine says, "You are not to blame for the birds that fly over your head, but if you allow them to come down and make a nest in your hair, then you are to blame. You are to blame if you don't fight them off." And so with these evil thoughts that come flashing into our minds; we have to fight them, we are not to harbor them; we are not to entertain them. If I have evil thoughts come into my mind, and evil desires, it is no sign that I have committed the unpardonable sin. If I love these thoughts and harbor them, and think evil of God, and think Jesus Christ a blasphemer, I am responsible for such gross iniquity; but if I charge Him with being the prince of devils, then I am committing the unpardonable sin.
THE FAITHFUL FRIEND.
Let us now consider the sin of "Grieving the Spirit." Resisting the Holy Ghost is one thing, grieving Him is another. Stephen charged the unbelieving Jews in the 7th chapter of Acts, "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost as your fathers did, so do ye." The world has always been resisting the Spirit of God in all ages. That is the history of the world. The world is to-day resisting the Holy Spirit.
"Faithful are the wounds of a friend." The Divine Spirit as a friend reveals to this poor world its faults, and the world only hates Him for it. He shows them the plague of their hearts. He convinces or convicts them of sin, therefore they fight the Spirit of God. I believe there is many a man resisting the Holy Ghost; I believe there is many a man to-day fighting against the Spirit of God.
In the 4th chapter of Ephesians, in the 30th, 31st, and 32d verses, we read:
"And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be ye kind, one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
Now, mark you, that was written to the Church at Ephesus. "Grieve not the Holy Spirit, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." I believe today the Church all over Christendom is guilty of grieving the Holy Spirit. There are a good many believers in different churches wondering why the work of God is not revived.
THE CHURCH GRIEVES THE SPIRIT.
I think that if we search, we will find something in the Church grieving the Spirit of God; it may be a mere schism in the church; it may be some unsound doctrine; it may be some division in the Church. There is one thing I have noticed as I have traveled in different countries; I never yet have known the Spirit of God to work where the Lord's people were divided. There is one thing that we must have if we are to have the Holy Spirit of God to work in our midst, and that is unity. If a church is divided, the members should immediately seek unity. Let the believers come together and get the difficulty out of the way. If the minister of a church can not unite the people, if those that were dissatisfied will not fall in, it would be better for that minister to retire. I think there are a good many ministers in this country who are losing their time; they have lost, some of them, months and years; they have not seen any fruit, and they will not see any fruit, because they have a divided church. Such a church can not grow in divine things. The Spirit of God don't work where there is division, and what we want to-day is the spirit of unity amongst God's children, so that the Lord may work.
Then, another thing, I think, that grieves the Spirit, is the miserable policy of introducing questionable entertainments. There are the lotteries, for instance, that we have in many churches. If a man wants to gamble, he doesn't have to go to some gambling den; he can stay in the church. And there are fairs -- bazaars, as they call them -- where they have rafflings and grab-bags. And if he wants to see a drama, he don't need to go to the theater, for many of our churches are turned into theaters; he may stay right in the church and witness the acting. I believe all these things grieve the Spirit of God. I believe when we bring the Church down to the level of the world to reach the world, we are losing all the while and grieving the Spirit of God.
But some say, if we take that standard and lift it up high, it will drive away a great many members from our churches. I believe it, and I think the quicker they are gone the better. The world has come into the Church like a flood, and how often you find an ungodly choir employed to do the singing for the whole congregation; the idea that we need an ungodly man to sing praises to God! It was not long ago I heard of a church where they had an unconverted choir, and the minister saw something about the choir that he didn't like, and he spoke to the chorister, but the chorister replied: "You attend to your end of the church, and I will attend to mine." You can not expect the Spirit of God to work in a church in such a state as that.
Paul tells us not to speak in an unknown tongue, and if we have choirs who are singing in an unknown tongue, why is not that just as great an abomination? I have been in churches where they have had a choir, who would rise and sing, and sing, and it seemed as if they sung five or ten minutes, and I could not understand one solitary word they sung, and all the while the people were looking around carelessly. There are, perhaps, a select few, very fond of fine music, and they want to bring the opera right into the church, and so they have opera music in the church, and the people, who are drowsy and sleepy, don't take part in the singing. They hire ungodly men, unconverted men, and these men will sometimes get the Sunday paper, and get back in the organ loft, and the moment the minister begins his sermon, they will take out their papers and read them all the while that the minister is preaching. The organist, provided he does not go out for a walk -- if he happens to keep awake, will read his paper, or, perhaps, a novel, while the minister is preaching; and the minister wonders why God don't revive His work; he wonders why he is losing his hold on the congregation; he wonders why people don't come crowding into the church; why people are running after the world instead of coming into the church. The trouble is that we have let down the standard; we have grieved the Spirit of God. One movement of God's power is worth more than all our artificial power, and what the Church of God wants to-day is to get down in the dust of humiliation and confession of sin, and go out and be separated from the world; and then see if we do not have power with God and with man.
WHAT IS SUCCESS?
The Gospel has not lost its power; it is just as powerful to-day as it ever has been. We don't want any new doctrine. It is still the old Gospel with the old power, the Holy Ghost power; and if the churches will but confess their sins and put them away, and lift the standard instead of pulling it down, and pray to God to lift us all up into a higher and holier life, then the fear of the Lord will come upon the people around us.
It was when Jacob put away strange gods and set his face toward Bethel that the fear of God fell upon the nations around. And when the churches turn towards God, and we cease grieving the Spirit, so that He may work through us, we will then have conversions all the while. Believers will be added to the Church daily. It is sad when you look over Christendom and see how desolate it is, and see how little spiritual life, spiritual power, there is in the Church of God to-day, many of the church members not even wanting this Holy Ghost power. They don't desire it; they want intellectual power; they want to get some man who will just draw; and a choir that will draw; not caring whether any one is saved. With them that is not the question. Only fill the pews, have good society, fashionable people, and dancing; such persons are found one night at the theater and the next night at the opera. They don't like the prayer-meetings; they abominate them; if the minister will only lecture and entertain, that would suit them. I said to a man some time ago, "How are you getting on at your church?" "Oh, splendid." "Many conversions?" "Well -- well, on that side we are not getting on so well. But," he said, "we rented all our pews and are able to pay all our running expenses; we are getting on splendidly." That is what the godless call "getting on splendidly;" because they rent the pews, pay the minister, and pay all the running expenses. Conversions! that is a strange thing. There was a man being shown through one of the cathedrals of Europe; he had come in from the country, and one of the men belonging to the cathedral was showing him around, when he inquired, "Do you have many conversions here?" "Many what?" "Many conversions here?" "Ah, man, this is not a Wesleyan chapel." The idea of there being conversions there! And you can go into a good many churches in this country and ask if they have many conversions there, and they would not know what it meant, they are so far away from the Lord; they are not looking for conversions, and don't expect them.
Alas! how many young converts have made shipwreck against such churches. Instead of being a harbor of delight to them, they have proved false lights, alluring them to destruction. Isn't it time for us to get down on our faces before God and cry mightily to Him to forgive us our sins. The quicker we own it the better. You may be invited to a party, and it may be made up of church members, and what will be the conversation? Oh, I got so sick of such parties that I left years ago; I would not think of spending a night that way; it is a waste of time; there is hardly a chance to say a word for the Master. If you talk of a personal Christ, your company becomes offensive; they don't like it; they want you to talk about the world, about a popular minister, a popular church, a good organ, a good choir, and they say, "Oh, we have a grand organ, and a superb choir," and all that, and it suits them; but that don't warm the Christian heart. When you speak of a risen Christ and a personal Saviour, they don't like it; the fact is, the world has come into the church and taken possession of it, and what we want to do is to wake up and ask God to forgive us for "Grieving the Spirit."
Dear reader, search your heart and inquire, Have I done anything to grieve the Spirit of God? If you have, may God show it to you to-day; if you have done any thing to grieve the Spirit of God, you want to know it to-day, and get down on your face before God and ask Him to forgive you and help you to put it away. I have lived long enough to know that if I can not have the power of the Spirit of God on me to help me to work for Him, I would rather die, than live just for the sake of living. How many are there in the church to-day, who have been members for fifteen or twenty years, but have never done a solitary thing for Jesus Christ? They can not lay their hands upon one solitary soul who has been blessed through their influence; they can not point to-day to one single person who has ever been lifted up by them.
In 1st Thessalonians, 5th chapter, we are told not to Quench the Spirit. Now, I am confident the cares of the world are coming in and quenching the Spirit with a great many. They say: "I don't care for the world;" perhaps not the pleasures of the world so much after all as the cares of this life; but they have just let the cares come in and quench the Spirit of God. Anything that comes between me and God -- between my soul and God -- quenches the Spirit. It may be my family. You may say: "Is there any danger of my loving my family too much?" Not if we love God more; but God must have the first place. If I love my family more than God, then I am quenching the Spirit of God within me; if I love wealth, if I love fame, if I love honor, if I love position, if I love pleasure, if I love self, more than I love God who created and saved me, then I am committing a sin; I am not only grieving the Spirit of God, but quenching Him, and robbing my soul of His power.
EMBLEMS OF THE SPIRIT.
But I would further call attention to the emblems of the Holy Spirit. An emblem is something that represents an object; the same as a balance is an emblem of justice, and a crown an emblem of royalty, and a scepter is an emblem of power; so we find in the 17th chapter of Exodus and 6th verse, that water is an emblem of the Holy Spirit. You find in the Smitten Rock, in the wilderness, the work of the Trinity illustrated.
"Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shall smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel."
Paul declares, in Corinthians, that the rock was Christ; it represented Christ. God says: "I will stand upon the rock," and as Moses smote the rock the water came out, which was an emblem of the Holy Spirit; and it flowed out along through the camp; and they drank of the water. Now water is cleansing; it is fertilizing; it is refreshing; it is abundant, and it is freely given; and so the Spirit of God is the same: cleansing, fertilizing, refreshing, reviving, and He was freely given when the smitten Christ was glorified. Then, too, fire is an emblem of the Spirit; it is purifying, illuminating, searching. We talk about searching our hearts. We can not do it. What we want is to have God search them. O that God may search us and bring out the hidden things, the secret things that cluster there and bring them to light. The wind is another emblem. It is independent, powerful, sensible in its effects, and reviving; how the Spirit of God revives when He comes to all the drooping members of the Church. Then the rain and the dew -- fertilizing, refreshing, abundant; and the dove, gentle -- what more gentle than the dove; and the lamb? -- gentle, meek, innocent, a sacrifice. We read of the wrath of God; we read of the wrath of the Lamb, but nowhere do we read of the wrath of the Holy Spirit -- gentle, innocent, meek, loving; and that Spirit wants to take possession of our hearts. And He comes as a voice, another emblem -- speaking, guiding, warning, teaching; and the seal -- impressing, securing, and making us as His own. May we know Him in all His wealth of blessing. This is my prayer for myself -- for you. May we heed the words of the grand Apostle: "My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power: that your faith should not stand IN THE WISDOM OF MEN, BUT IN THE POWER OF GOD."