Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.'
0NE day, in a fit of boyish temper, I spoke hot words of anger, somewhat unjustly, against another person, and this deeply grieved my mother. She said but little, and though her sweet face has mouldered many years beneath the Southern daisies, her look of grief I can still see across the years of a third of a century. That is the one sad memory of my childhood. A stranger might have been amused or incensed at my words, but mother was grieved-grieved to her heart by my lack of generous, self-forgetful, thoughtful love.
We can anger a stranger or an enemy, but it is only a friend we grieve. The Holy Spirit is such a Friend, more tender and faithful than a mother; and shall we carelessly offend Him, and estrange ourselves from Him in spite of His love?
There is a sense in which every sin is against the Holy Ghost. Of course, not every such sin is unpardonable, but the tendency of all sin is in that direction, and we are only safe as we avoid the very beginnings of sin. Only as we 'walk in the Spirit' are we 'free from the law of sin and death ' (Rom. viii. 2). Therefore, it is infinitely important that we beware of offences against the Spirit, ' lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin' (Heb. iii. 13) Grieving the Holy Spirit is a very common and a very sad offence of professing Christians, and it is to this that must be attributed much of the weakness and ignorance and joylessness of so many followers of Christ.
And He is grieved, as was my mother, by the unloving speech and spirit of God's children.
In his letters to the Ephesians, Paul says, ' Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.' And then he adds: '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 clamour, and evil-speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us ' (Eph. iv. 29V. 2).
What does Paul teach us here? That it is not by some huge wickedness, some Judas-like betrayal, some tempting and lying to the Holy Ghost, as did Ananias and Sapphira (Acts v. I - I0), that we grieve Him, but by that which most people count little and unimportant; by talk that corrupts instead of blessing and building up those that hear, by gossip, by bitterness, and uncharitable criticisms and fault-findings. This was the sin of the elder son when the prodigal returned, and it was by this he pierced with grief the kind old father's heart.
By getting in a rage, by loud, angry talking and evilspeaking and petty malice, by unkindness and hardheartedness and an unforgiving spirit, we grieve Him. In a word, by not walking through the world as in our Father's house, and among our neighbours and friends as among His dear children; by not loving tenderly and making kindly sacrifices for one another, He is grieved. And this is not a matter of little importance. It may have sadly momentous consequences.
It is a bitter, cruel and often irreparable thing to trifle with a valuable earthly friendship. How much more when the friendship is heavenly; when the friend is our Lord and Saviour, our Creator and Redeemer, our Governor and judge, our Teacher, Guide and God! When we trifle with a friend's wishes-especially when such wishes are all in perfect harmony with and for our highest possible good-we may not estrange the friend from us, but we estrange ourselves from our friend. Our hearts grow cold toward him, though his heart may be breaking with longing toward us.
The more Saul ill-treated David, the more he hated David. Such estrangement may lead, little by little, to yet greater sin, to strange hardness of heart, to doubts and unbelief, and backslidings and denial of the Lord.
The cure for all this is a clean heart full of sweet and gentle, selfforgetful, generous love. Then we shall be 'followers of God, as dear children ', then we shall' walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us ' (Eph. v. 1, 2).
But there is another offence, that of quenching the Spirit, which accounts for the comparative darkness and deadness of many of God's children.
In I Thess. v. 16-19 the Apostle says: ' Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit.'
When will the Lord's dear children learn that the religion of Jesus is a lowly thing, and that it is the little foxes that spoil the vines? Does not the Apostle here teach that it is not by some desperate, dastardly deed that we quench the Spirit, but simply by neglecting to rejoice and pray, and give thanks at all times and for all things ?
It is not necessary to blot the sun out of the heavens to keep the sunlight out of your house-just close the blinds and draw the curtains; nor do you pour barrels of water on the flames to quench the fire-just shut off the draught; nor do you dynamite the city reservoir and destroy all the mains and pipes to cut off your supply of sparkling water, but just refrain from turning on the tap.
So you do not need to do some great evil, some deadly sin, to quench the Spirit. just cease to rejoice, through fear of man and of being peculiar; be prim and proper as a white and polished gravestone; let gushing joy be curbed; neglect to pray when you feel a gentle pull in your heart to get alone with the Lord; omit giving hearty thanks for all God's tender mercies, faithful discipline and loving chastenings, and soon you will find the Spirit quenched. He will no longer spring up joyously like a well of living water within you.
But give the Spirit a vent, an opening, a chance, and He will rise within you and flood your soul with light and love and joy. Some years ago a sanctified woman of clear experience went alone to keep her daily hour with God; but, to her surprise, it seemed that she could not find Him, either in prayer or in His word. She searched her heart for evidence of sin, but the Spirit showed her nothing contrary to God in her mind, heart or will. She searched her memory for any breach of covenant, any broken vows, any neglect, any omission, but could find none.
Then she asked the Lord to show her if there were any duty unfulfilled, any command unnoticed, which she might perform, and quick as thought came the words, 'Rejoice evermore. Have you done that this morning?' She had not. It had been a busy morning, and a well-spent one, but so far there had been no definite rejoicing in her heart, though the manifold riches and ground for joy of all Christians were hers. At once she began to count her blessings and thank the Lord for each one, and rejoice in Him for all the way He had led her, and the gifts He had bestowed, and in a very few minutes the Lord stood revealed to her spiritual consciousness.
She had not committed sin, nor resisted the Spirit, but a failure to rejoice in Him who had daily loaded her with benefits (Ps. 1xviii. 19) had in a measure quenched the Spirit. She had not turned on the main, and so her soul was not flooded with living waters. She had not remembered the command: ' Thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God in all that thou puttest thine hands unto' (Deut. xii, 18). But that morning she learned a lifelong lesson, and she has ever since safeguarded her soul by obeying the many commands to 'rejoice in the Lord '.
Grieving and quenching the Spirit will not only leave barren and desolate an individual soul, but it will do so for a corps, a church, a community, a whole nation or continent. We see this illustrated on a large scale by the long and weary Dark Ages, when the light of the gospel was almost extinguished, and only here and there was the darkness broken by the torch of truth held aloft by some humble, suffering soul that had wept and prayed, and through painful struggles had found the light.
We see it also in those corps, churches, communities and countries where revivals are unknown, or are a thing of the past, where souls are not born into the Kingdom, and where there is no joyous shout of victory among the people of God.
Grieving and quenching the Spirit may be done unintentionally by lack of thought and prayer and hearty devotion to the Lord Jesus; but they prepare the way and lead to intentional and positive resistance to the Spirit.
To resist the Spirit is to fight against Him.
The sinner who, listening to the gospel invitation, and convicted of sin, refuses to submit to God in true repentance and faith in Jesus, is resisting the Holy Spirit.
We have bold and striking historical illustrations of the danger of resisting the Holy Spirit in the disasters which befell Pharaoh, which came upon Jerusalem, and have for twenty centuries followed the Jews.
The ten plagues that came upon Pharaoh and his people were ten opportunities and open doors into God's favour and fellowship, which they themselves shut by their stubborn resistance, only to be overtaken by dreadful catastrophe.
To the Jews, Stephen said, ' Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost' (Acts vii. 51); and the siege and fall of Jerusalem, and the butchery and enslavement of its inhabitants, and all the woes that came upon the Jews, followed their rejection of Jesus and the hardness of heart and spiritual blindness which swiftly overtook them when they resisted all the loving efforts and entreaties of His disciples baptized with the Holy Spirit.
And what on a large scale befalls nations and people, on a small scale also befalls individuals. Those that receive and obey the Lord are enlightened and blessed and saved; those that resist and reject Him are sadly left to themselves and surely swallowed up in destruction.
Likewise the professing Christian who hears of heartholiness and cleansing from all sin as a blessing he may now have by faith and, convicted of his need of the blessing and of God's desire and willingness to bestow it upon him now, refuses to seek it in wholehearted affectionate consecration and faith, is resisting the Holy Spirit. And such resistance imperils the soul beyond all possible computation.
We see an example of this in the Israelites who were brought out of Egypt with signs and wonders, and led through the Red Sea and the wilderness to the borders of Canaan, but, forgetting, refused to go over into the land. In this they resisted the Holy Spirit in His leadings as surely as did Pharaoh, and with quite as disastrous results to themselves, perishing in their evil way. For their sin was as much greater than his as their light exceeded his.
Hundreds of years later, a prophet, writing of this time, says: 'In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them: in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bare them, and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled, and vexed His Holy Spirit: therefore He was turned to be their enemy, and He fought against them' (Isa. 1xiii. 9, 10).
We see from this that Christians must beware and watch and pray and walk softly with the Lord in glad obedience and childlike faith. if they would escape the darkness and dryness that result from grieving and quenching the spirit, and the dangers that surely come from resisting Him.
Arm me with jealous care,
As in Thy sight to live;
And 0 Thy servant, Lord prepare
A strict account to give
Help me to watch and pray,
And on Thyself rely,
Assured, if I my trust betray,
I shall for ever die.
HAVE YE RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST SINCE YE BELIEVED?
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