Genesis 6:3
And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, &c. The life of man, whether longer or shorter, is a time during which the Spirit of God strives with him. It is at once in judgment and in mercy that the strife is not prolonged; for where there is continued opposition to the will of God there is continual laying up of judgment against the day of wrath. The allotted time of man upon the earth is sufficient for the required probation, clearly manifesting the direction of the will, the decided choice of the heart. Here is -

I. THE GREAT MORAL FACT OF MAN'S CONDITION IN HIS FLESHLY STATE. The striving of God's Spirit with him.

1. In the order of the world and of human life.

2. In the revelation of truth and positive appeals of the Divine word.

3. In the constant nearness and influence of spiritual society.

4. In the working of conscience and the moral instincts generally.

II. THE DIVINE APPOINTMENT OF SPIRITUAL PRIVILEGE at once a righteous limitation and a gracious concentration. That which is unlimited is apt to be undervalued. Not always shall the Spirit strive.

1. Individually this is testified. A heart which knows not the day of its visitation becomes hardened.

2. In the history of spiritual work in communities. Times of refreshing generally followed by withdrawments of power. The limit of life itself is before us all. Not always can we hear the voice and see the open door.

III. THE NATURAL AND THE SPIRITUAL ARE INTIMATELY RELATED TO ONE ANOTHER IN THE LIFE OF MAN. He who decreed the length of days to his creature did also strive with the evil of his fallen nature that he might cast it out. The hundred and twenty years are seldom reached; but is it not because the evil is so obstinately retained? Those whose spirit is most in fellowship with the Spirit of God are least weighed down with the burden of the flesh, are strongest to resist the wearing, wasting influence of the world.

IV. THE STRIVING OF GOD'S SPIRIT WITH US MAY CEASE. What follows? To fall on the stone is to be broken, to be under it is to be crushed. The alternative is before every human life - to be dealt with as with God or against him. "Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!" The progressive revelations of the Bible point to the winding up of all earthly history. Not always strife. Be ye reconciled to God. - R.







My Spirit shall not always strive with man.
I. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN THE ASSERTION, "My Spirit shall not always strive with man"? It is implied: —

(1)that the Spirit does sometimes strive with men;

(2)that men resist the Spirit.

II. WHAT IS NOT INTENDED BY THE SPIRIT STRIVING. It is no form of physical struggling or effort whatever. It is not any force applied to our bodies.

III. WHAT, THEN, IS THE STRIVING OF THE SPIRIT? It is an energy of God applied to the mind of man, setting truth before his mind, reasoning, convincing, and persuading.

IV. HOW MAY IT BE KNOWN WHEN THE SPIRIT OF GOD STRIVES WITH AN INDIVIDUAL?

(1)When a man finds his attention arrested to the great concerns of his soul;

(2)when a man finds himself convinced of sin;

(3)when the mind is convicted of the great guilt and ill-desert of sin;

(4)when men see the folly of seeking salvation in any other way than through Christ alone.

V. WHAT IS INTENDED BY THE SPIRIT NOT STRIVING ALWAYS? Not that He will at some period withdraw from among mankind, but that He will withdraw from the individual in question. There is a limit to the Spirit's efforts in the case of each sinner; at some uncertain, awful point, he will reach and pass it.

VI. WHY WILL GOD'S SPIRIT NOT STRIVE ALWAYS?

(1)Because longer striving will do the sinner no good;

(2)because sinners sin wilfully when they resist the Holy Ghost;

(3)because there is a point beyond which forbearance is no virtue.

VII. CONSEQUENCES OF THE SPIRIT'S CEASING TO STRIVE WITH MEN.

(1)A confirmed hardness of heart;

(2)a seared conscience;

(3)certain damnation.

( C. G. Finney..)

God strives with man in many ways by the working of His blessed Spirit within him; by the working of our own conscience, by various warnings from without constantly strewn in our paths; but if we grieve and resist the Holy Spirit of God, then He will not always strive with us, but will give us over to a reprobate mind.

I. Consider the great mercy of God, in consenting to strive with man at all.

II. The striving of the Spirit is a means of resisting the flesh.

III. The Spirit of God strives in many ways. His strivings have a meaning, a message, and a warning to us all.

(Bishop Atlay.)

I. THAT THE SPIRIT OF GOD DOES EXERT AN INFLUENCE ON MAN FOR THE PURPOSE OF SECURING HIS BEST INTEREST. Notice —

1. That this spiritual influence is universal. No doubt respecting its possibility. He who made man can influence him.

2. That this spiritual influence is essential to the production of good. Human nature is depraved, and therefore incapable of itself of producing anything good. As every drop of rain which falls from the clouds, and every spring that issues from the rocky mountains, comes from the mighty oceans; as the light which makes every planet and satellite gleam in the dark void of space comes from the sun, so does all good in man proceed from the Spirit of God.

3. That this spiritual influence is, in every case, limited by the conditions of man's free agency. Nothing compulsory in its nature. If religion be virtue, man in becoming religious must act from choice and not from necessity.

4. That this spiritual influence is effective in proportion to the adaptation of the means by which it acts upon men's minds. Nature. Providence. Chiefly the gospel.

II. THAT THE SPIRIT OF GOD MAY CEASE TO INFLUENCE MEN FOR GOOD. This proved by facts. Saul (1 Samuel 28:15); Belshazzar (Daniel 5); Jews in time of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 15:1).

III. THAT THE SPIRIT OF GOD CEASES TO INFLUENCE MAN FOR GOOD BECAUSE OF MAN'S CONTINUED REBELLION. "For that he also is flesh." The word "flesh" is often used in Scripture to denote the sinfulness of man. This ceasing to strive may not be the result of a positive act of withdrawal of heavenly influences, so much as that of the law of nature which determines that the momentum of any moving body is diminished by constant resistance. In the moral universe, as well as in the physical, this law operates.

IV. THAT THE BENEVOLENCE OF GOD IS MANIFESTED IN THE MANNER IN WHICH SPIRITUAL INFLUENCES ARE WITHDRAWN FROM MAN. "Yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years."

1. The withdrawal never happens till after a long period of existence.

2. It never happens suddenly, but gradually.

3. It never happens without sufficient warning.

(Evan Lewis.)

Homilist.
I. A WONDERFUL FACT IMPLIED. The Holy Spirit strives with man.

1. Remarkable power. Man can refuse to obey the Creator.

2. Amazing Divine condescension.

3. Astonishing human obduracy.

4. A merciful reason. Why not abandon man? Love of God.

5. The benevolent purpose. That man may forsake sin.

6. The mysterious method.

II. AN ALARMING PACT STATED.

1. A calamity of awful magnitude.

2. Most melancholy.

(Homilist.)

There is a time when God will strive; but when that time is gone, God will strive no more. To make this plain I will lay down these six things: —

1. I will let you see that it hath been so by testimonies of Scripture. (1 Samuel 15:23; Hebrews 12:16-18; Luke 19:41, 42)

2. I will show in or after what manner God deals with a soul in giving it over.(1) The Lord changes His mind, and repents of the good He has done to such rebellious and stubborn creatures.(2) The Lord gives over that man to the power of that sin, which He never did before when He strove with him; we must either lose our sins or our souls; and if no means will serve to bring a man home, then the Lord gives him over to commit his old sin (Psalm 81:11, 12).(3) As God gives a man over to the power of his lusts, so He doth blast a man in regard of all abilities and gifts that formerly he hath had. Look into the world, and you shall see this plain. Great scholars, learned doctors and preachers, their learning hath been blasted; they were bright candles, yet in the end they became snuffs, men of corrupt minds, etc. Look upon other common Christians, who have given hope of coming unto God when they were in sickness or necessity, etc. Yet at last it turns to nothing; He sent leanness into their souls (Psalm 106:15). He gave them their request. One aims at honour; well, God gives it unto Him. Another will have profit; well, saith God, and thou shalt have it, but My Spirit and the excellency thereof thou shalt never have.(4) The Lord hardens that man. He repents of the good that is done unto him; He gives him up to the power of his lusts, and blasts all his parts, so that he hardens his heart. And look by what means God sought to bring him unto Him, those means harden him; afflictions harden, him, which should have been the means to have recalled him. God brays a fool ten times in a mortar, and yet he is the harder, harder, and harder.(5) The Lord lets that man build upon false bottoms, live by false principles: that man which hath been enlightened must have somewhat to hold upon; else he would be in a little hell, and ergo a man hath his shifts. Saul saith, I have performed the will of the Lord, I have done that which He commanded me. Have you so, says Samuel? What then means the lowing of the oxen? Oh, saith he, it is to do sacrifice unto the Lord.(6) The Lord gives a commission to all means formerly used, that they shall never come to Him more; the Lord bids those judgments and mercies wherewith He sought to humble him before, never more to meddle with him. Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone (Hosea 4:17).

3. I will let you see what persons they are.(1) Those that have lived a good while under the means of grace, but are still unprofitable and no good is wrought upon them; it is likely such men are given over (Matthew 23:34-37). And a man that hardens his neck when he is rebuked, shall suddenly be destroyed and cannot be cured (Proverbs 29:1).(2) Those that have much calling and means and also many secret workings of the Spirit on them, that when they have gone out of the house of God have determined never to be drunk more, never to swear, lie, nor steal more, etc., and yet these come to nought. He that hath had many proclamations, as Ezekiel 24:13.(3) Those that have much grieved the good Spirit of God in bringing in some sin contrary to the light of conscience and the suggestions of the good Spirit of God, as did the children of Israel, who resisted the good Spirit of God, and He sware, etc.(4) Such as have a common, base, vile, and contemptible esteem of the gospel and ministers thereof. They mocked the ministers till the wrath of God broke out against them and there was no remedy (2 Chronicles 36:16).

4. Now I come to the fourth thing which is the grounds of it, viz. Why the Lord in this life doth give men over and strive with them no more. The grounds of this point arise from these two attributes of God, His justice and His wisdom.(1) God is a just God; and is it not just that those who have rejected Him, that He should reject them? I have called, but you answered not (Jeremiah 7:13).(2) God is a wise God. A man that knocks at the door if he be wise, will not always lie knocking if none answer: he gives over and goes away; so the Lord knocks at our hearts by mercies to allure us, by judgments to terrify us: yet He can find no entrance. Is it not wisdom then to be gone? Why should I smite you any more, saith God? (Isaiah 1:5).

(W. Fenner.)

I. THE LONG SUFFERANCE OF JEHOVAH TOWARDS HIS WAYWARD CREATURES IS SET FORTH IS THE SCRIPTURES IN VARIOUS WAYS. It is stated in a multitude of passages, that longsuffering is one of His distinguishing attributes; and the truth of this is evidenced by the exceeding great forbearance manifested towards many whose character and conduct are recorded in Holy Writ (Exodus 34:6, 7; Numbers 14:8; Psalm 86:15; 2 Peter 3:9). Consider, then, the fact of God's exceeding great forbearance, and let it be the means of gently leading you to repentance. But, in addition to this, there is another consideration which ought to operate on your minds — namely:

II. THE WARNINGS AFFORDED TO SINNERS BEFORE THE POURING OUT OF HIS JUDGMENTS. There is nothing more clearly manifested in the account given us in the Word of God of His dealings with mankind, than the fact of the unwillingness with which the Almighty inflicts punishment on sinners. It is termed in the twenty-eighth chapter of Isaiah, and the twenty-first verse, "His strange work, His strange act." Mercy is the work in which the Lord delights; and judgment when executed is performed as a matter of constraint, the effect of necessity. How many are the warnings which the Lord holds forth before He strikes the blow I This was remarkable in the case of the antediluvians.

(T. R. Redwar, M. A.)

I. THAT GOD'S TAKING AWAY HIS SPIRIT FROM ANY SOUL IS THE CERTAIN FORERUNNER OF THE RUIN AND DESTRUCTION OF THAT SOUL. This is clearly evinced from the words; for, although the flood did immediately terminate in the destruction of the body only, yet because it snatched these men away in a state of impenitence, it was consequentially the destruction of the soul.

II. THAT THERE IS IN THE HEART OF MAN A NATURAL ENMITY AND OPPOSITION TO THE MOTIONS OF GOD'S HOLY SPIRIT; outward contention is the proper issue and product of inward hatred: striving in action is an undoubted sign of enmity in the heart (Galatians 5:17). Here we see there is a sharp combat between these two: and the apostle subjoins the reason of it: "for these two are contrary." Things contrary will vent their contrariety in mutual strife.

III. THAT THE SPIRIT IN ITS DEALINGS WITH THE HEART IS VERY EARNEST AND VEHEMENT. To strive, imports a vigorous putting forth of the power: it is such a posture as denotes an active desire. There is none that strives with another but conquest is the thing both in his desire and in his endeavour.

IV. THAT THERE IS A SET AND PUNCTUAL TIME, AFTER WHICH THE CONVINCING OPERATIONS OF GOD'S SPIRIT UPON THE HEART OF MAN IN ORDER TO HIS CONVERSION BEING RESISTED, WILL CEASE AND FOREVER LEAVE HIM.

1. Scripture proof (Psalm 95:10; Luke 19:42).

2. How the Spirit may be resisted in His workings upon the heart. Where we must first lay down, what it is in general to resist the Spirit.And this I conceive is, in brief, to disobey the Spirit commanding and persuading the soul to the performance of duty, and the avoidance of sin. Now, the Spirit commands and persuades two ways.

1. Externally, by the letter of the word either written or preached.

2. By its immediate internal workings upon the soul, which I shall reduce to two:

(1)The illumination of the understanding.

(2)The conviction of the will. Now, suitable to all these ways of the Spirit's dealings with us, there are so many different acts of resistance by which these dealings are opposed. Of all which in their order.

1. Concerning the resistance of the Spirit in disobeying the letter of the Word. The reason that disobedience to the Word is to be accounted an opposing of the Spirit, is because the Word was dictated and inspired by the Spirit itself.

2. I shall next show how it is resisted in its immediate internal workings upon the soul. Here we must reflect upon ourselves, and know that upon the unhappy fall of man, sin and the wretched effects of sin immediately entered upon, and took full possession of all his faculties: his understanding, that before shined clear like the lamp of God, was by sin overspread with darkness; his will, that bore a perfect conformity to the Divine will, was rendered totally averse from and contrary to the things of God.(1) Concerning our resistance of it in illumination or its enlightening work. And these enlightenings both may be, and often are, resisted by the soul. Illumination in general may be described, the Spirit's infusing a certain light into the mind, whereby it is in some measure enabled to discern and judge of the things of God. Now, this light is threefold.(a) That universal light which we usually term the light of nature, yet so as it may also be rightly termed the light of the Spirit; but in a different respect. It is called the light of nature, because of its general inherence in all men; because it is commensurate and of equal extent with nature, so that wheresoever the nature of man is to be found there this light is to be found. "It enlightens every man that comes into the world." But on the other hand, it is called the light of the Spirit, in respect of the Spirit's efficiency, in that it is the producing cause of it as it is of every good and perfect gift.(b) The second kind of light may be called a notional Scripture light; that is, a bare knowledge of or assent to Scripture truths. This light is begot in the mind of all professors by the mere hearing or reading the word; it is the bare perception of evangelical truths placed in the intellect, resting in the brain, treasured up there by a naked apprehension and speculation. So that the resisting this is almost the same with our resistance of the Spirit speaking in the word, only with this difference, that in the former we resist the word as considered in the letter, in this we resist it as it lies transcribed in the conceptions of the understanding.(c) The third kind of light may be called a special convincing light, which is a higher degree of the enlightening work of the Spirit. This is the highest attainment of the soul on this side saving grace; it is like the clear shining of the moon and stars, which is the greatest light that is consistent with a state of darkness. Yea, it is such a light as does not only make a discovery of the things of God, but also engenders in the soul a certain relish and taste of them.(2) We come now to the second, which is the conviction of the will, which conviction may be described in general. A work of the Spirit of God upon the will and affections, producing in them some imperfect liking of the ways of God, and dislike to the ways of sin. Now, the convincing works of the Spirit upon the will may be reduced to these three.

(a)A begetting in it some good desires, wishes, and inclinations.

(b)An enabling it to perform some imperfect obedience.

(c)An enabling it to leave some sins. In all these works the Spirit may be resisted and opposed.

3. Why, upon such resistance, the Spirit finally withdraws.(1) The first reason is drawn from God's decree.(2) The second reason is because it is most agreeable to the great intent and design of the gospel.(3) The third ground or reason why God withdraws His Spirit upon our resistance, is because it highly tends to the vindication of His honour. Now, God may vindicate His honour two ways in the Spirit's departure.

(a)As it is a punishment to the sinner, that has dishonoured Him. God's glory cannot be repaired but by the misery of the party that made a breach upon it.

(b)God may vindicate His honour by clearing His injured attributes from those aspersions that human mistakes might charge upon them.(4) God withdraws His Spirit upon resistance, because this naturally raises in the hearts of men an esteem and valuation of the Spirit's workings: and the reason of this is, because in so doing, men apparently see that God Himself puts an esteem and value upon them, otherwise why should He so severely bereave men of them upon their abuse? Were it not a treasure God would not be so choice of it. APPLICATION; And now, what can be more seasonable than to wrap up all in the apostle's own exhortation, "Quench not the Spirit" (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Now, as arguments to dissuade or deter you from this, and withal to persuade and excite you to the former, take these motives.

1. Our resisting of the Spirit in His precepts and instructions will certainly bereave us of His comforts.

2. The second motive why we should comply with the Spirit is, because the resisting of it brings a man under hardness of heart and a reprobate sense.

3. The third motive is, because resisting of the Spirit puts a man in the very next disposition to the great and unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost.

(R. South, DD.)

There is a certain point beyond which He will not go for sufficient reasons known fully to Himself, partly to us. Two of these we are to notice for our instruction.

1. He will not touch the free agency of His rational creatures. He can put no force on the volitions of men. An involuntary or compulsory faith, hope, love, obedience, is a contradiction in terms, and anything that could bear the name can have no moral validity whatsoever.

2. After giving ample warning, instruction and invitation, He will, as a just judgment on the unbelieving and the impenitent, withdraw His Spirit and let them alone.

(Prof. J. G. Murphy.)

When I think of opportunities, I think I may liken us here tonight to a number of men in the Arctic regions. They have been frozen up for a long time, and the ship is high and dry on great masses of ice. The thaw comes on; but the thaw, however, will last but for a very short time. They set their saws to work; they see a split in the ice; there is a long and very narrow lane of water. If they can get the ship along there before the water freezes it up again, they may yet reach the shores of dear old England, and be safe; but if not, they are frozen in for another winter, and very likely will be frozen in forever. Well, now, tonight it seems just so with us. It seems as if the Spirit of God had purposely brought some of you here; and I do trust He is opening, as it were, the lane of mercy for you — causing your sins for a little time to loose their frosty hold, and opening your heart a little to the genial influences of the gospel. But, oh! if it should be frozen up again.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

It is sad, when the physician, having exhausted all the resources of his skill, gives up his patient and retires. It is sad when the parent, having tried severity and kindness, correction and encouragement, in vain, at last, heartbroken and hopeless, desists from his endeavours to reform his wayward child. But it is sadder still when Almighty God foiled, as it were, by human obduracy, in all the manifestations of His grace and mercy, at last gives up His efforts for the salvation of men, and retires exclaiming: "How often would I have gathered you under My wing, and ye would not." Such is the spectacle here. The Spirit of God has, all through, been connected with our world. It was He who moved on the face of the waters, reducing the discordant elements to order, and building up that fair and goodly structure, which has still so many traces of its original beauty lingering amid its ruin and decay. It was He who was breathed into man, making him a living soul, spiritual, and like to God in wisdom, goodness, happiness, and truth. After the Fall, He did not forsake the work of His hands, but clave to the souls of men, seeking to help their recovery, and if that might not be, seeking to act as a drag on their downward progress. Oh, how long-continued, constant, and persevering have been His efforts for the good of man! What has been the treatment which He has received from them in return? God tells us what it was from the men before the flood. They were going on in evils ways, and the Spirit strove with them, tried to stop them, and turn them back. He pleaded with them, warned them, but it was in vain; they went on, and grew worse and worse. Like a mighty torrent they swept along, and drew even the godly along with them. At length it became time for God to decide and act, and so He did. "My Spirit shall not always strive with man." Slowly and reluctantly, God comes to this determination. Oh, the evil of man's sin! It makes, as it were, a conflict in the Divine bosom. Mercy calls for delay, but justice says, "It must be limited." Love to men, and unwillingness that they should perish, cry, "Let alone a little longer," but God is jealous for the honour of His Spirit. And so a time comes when the blessed God must decide and act; and so He does. "Man has become flesh," mere flesh; all, with one exception, flesh. The case is hopeless, "Open the windows of heaven, and break up the fountains of the great deep." So it was with Israel. With growing light, unparalleled privileges, they grew worse and worse — more hardened, formal, hypocritical. The case was hopeless; Israel was mere flesh — a dead, corrupting carcase. Ho, ho, ye Roman eagles, come and devour!

(J. Milne.)

The stroke of judgment is like the lightning flash, irresistible, fatal; it kills — kills in the twinkling of an eye. But the clouds from which it leaps are slow to gather; they thicken by degrees; and he must be intensely engaged with the pleasures, or engrossed in the business of the world, whom the flash and peal surprise. The mustering clouds, the deepening gloom, the still and sultry air, the awful silence, the big pattering raindrops, these reveal his danger to the traveller, and warn him away from river, road, or hill, to the nearest shelter.

(T. Guthrie, D. D.)

In an age of despotism, an Italian prince became celebrated for his forbearance, also for his severe punishment when aroused to do vengeance. He had an offending servant who was repeatedly admonished. With every pardon he became more reckless and impudent, and thought he could do any. thing with impunity. One day, he entered the presence of the prince with his hat on, and, when rebuked, said he had a cold. His much-enduring master said, "I will take care that you never catch cold again." He immediately ordered the man to prison, and that the executioner should nail his hat to his head. One of the prince's friends expressed surprise at this severe sentence, because the servant had been pardoned for more serious crimes. The prince took a goblet, and having half filled it with water, requested his friend to put an apple into it. This made the water rise to the brim. The prince then told his friend to drop in a coin. This made the water to run over. "How is it?" the prince asked, "that the small coin caused the water to run over, whereas the large apple raised it only to the brim?" The overflowing of the cup of God's mercy is wrath and destruction to the impenitent.

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