LECTURE 25.

GRIEVING THE HOLY SPIRIT. # 2


Text.--Eph. 4:30."Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption."

In continuing this subject, as proposed in my last, I remark.

There can be no forsaking sin without confessing it. And as there can be no repentance without forsaking and no forsaking without confessing, it follows that without confession there is no salvation. It is enough to confess secret sins or sins committed only against God and known only to him, to God. But sins against our fellow men must be confessed to them. And refusing or neglecting to do so is to cover sin, in which case we are expressly informed that we shall not prosper. Many people seem to be afraid to confess their sin, or to have others confess, lest religion should be injured thereby. But this is so far from being true, that it is doubtful whether a case ever occurred in which a full and frank confession of sin committed against a human being was not more honorable than dishonorable to Jesus Christ. The more aggravated the circumstances and the deeper the shame of him who confesses, the more striking and honorable is the contrast between the spirit of Christ and the spirit of the world.

It is said that a certain minister in New England, in the transaction of business with an infidel lawyer, was thrown off his guard and manifested a spirit of anger which led the infidel to boast in his absence that he had always believed that man to be a hypocrite. But they had been separated only a short time before the minister followed the lawyer to his house and made the most humble and heartbroken confession of his sin. This greatly moved and confounded the lawyer, insomuch that he exclaimed with great emotion as soon as the minister has left the house, "Now I know that there is something in the religion of Christ. That spirit is not of this world. It is the very opposite of anything that has its origin on earth."

I doubt not that many persons who feel as if they ought to confess are really afraid to confess, for fear they shall injure religion. I have often heard doubts expressed by wise and good men, in regard to the expediency of confessing sins against our fellow men, so as to have the world or even the Church come into possession of the facts. But with the express declarations of the Bible on this subject what right have we to talk about expediency or inexpediency, as if we were wiser than God in regard to the results of doing what he requires? Human expediency would no doubt have concealed the to confess, for fear they shall injure religion. I have often heard doubts expressed by wise and good men, in regard to the expediency of confessing sins against our fellow men, so as to have the world or even the Church come into possession of the facts. But with the express declarations of the Bible on this subject what right have we to talk about expediency or inexpediency, as if we were wiser than God in regard to the results of doing what he requires? Human expediency would no doubt have concealed the crimes of Moses and David, the Patriarchs, and the disciples, and Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. But God has recorded them to be read and known of all men. And who does not see and has not felt that this very fact of the inspired writers' recording their own and each other's faults, is a most unequivocal demonstration of their honest humility and Christ-like spirit?

Many individuals abound much in confession, while they live on in their abominable course of conduct. Now remember that God has nowhere said, that he who merely confesseth his sins shall find mercy, but he who "confesseth and forsaketh, shall find mercy." And now do some of you stare at me as if I expected, as if God expected, that you would really forsake your sins and sin no more? Be sure this is demanded and expected of you, and your confessions, if you will not forsake, are an utter abomination. Hear that Deacon pray. Perhaps this is the nine hundred and ninety-ninth time he has confessed his lukewarmness, unbelief, and worldly-mindedness without the shadow of a reformation. What do you mean? Are you insulting God and trying to palm off your confessions upon your Maker? What shallow hypocritical confessions are those that are not followed by reformation! Suppose your neighbors and those indebted to you should attempt to satisfy you with confessing often to you, instead of walking right up to the discharge of their duty. How long think you, would you be imposed upon or suffer yourself to be insulted by such confessions as these?

And how can you help seeing that your confessions under such circumstances are among your greatest sins? Now when you confess again suppose you should tell God the honest truth, and when you have gone through with your confessions say right out, "O God, I pray thee to accept these confessions instead of reformation, for I protest unto thee, I do not seriously intend to reform." You would be shocked at such language as this and so would those that heard you. But who does not know that this is exactly the truth, and nothing but hypocrisy prevents your seeing and saying it right out! O from how many prayer meetings and closets is the Spirit of God grieved utterly away by abundant confessions, when there is no forsaking sin.

It is astonishing to see the amount of self-indulgence, and that too which is greatly injurious both to body and soul which is practiced even by professors of religion. Multitudes of families seem to be given up to the gratification of their appetites. To get something that is good to eat takes up a great part of their time, employs a great portion of their thoughts, and seems to be the principal object for which they live.
One of the greatest delusions under which men labor, is that at some future time it will be more convenient for them to attend to the claims of God, than at the present. Could you visit hell to-day, and inquire among all the groaning millions of its inhabitants, how they came there, the answer in almost every case would be; procrastination ruined my soul. I never intended to die in my sins; but on the contrary always intended, at a future but not far distant time, to repent. Millions will tell you that they had purposed from time to time to attend to the salvation of their souls, but had continued to defer it until death plunged his arrow into their hearts and they went to hell.
I say the more on this subject because the impression seems to be almost universal that preaching should not be personal, and consequently a kind of public sympathy is excited if anyone complains that the preaching had a personal application to him. And many individuals, if they are pierced by an arrow of truth, instead of repenting before God, go about and complain as if they thought they were abused. They consider themselves rather as persecuted than as being seriously called upon to repent. Their business seems to be rather to repel an injury, than to confess and forsake a fault. By this I do not mean to justify harsh and abusive language or any unreasonable attacks upon the character or conduct of individuals or classes of men either public or private. But I do mean to say, that if when your faults are pointed out in love, if the reproof is not more public than your sin, or the nature of the case demands, you are so far from having any right to complain, that you may be sure you grieve the Spirit of God, if you do not accept the reproof with all thankfulness of heart.
These are some of the ways in which the Holy Spirit is grieved. Let these serve to direct your thoughts to a thorough inquiry in regard to whether in these or in other respects you are grieving the Holy Spirit.

III. The consequences of grieving the Holy Spirit.

REMARKS.

1. To grieve the Holy Spirit is great presumption. You are in danger every moment you persist in it of being given up forever. Remember there is a point, beyond which forbearance in God would not be a virtue. Long suffering as he is, he will bear with you no longer than is consistent with the public good. When the children of Israel had repeatedly grieved the Holy Spirit in the wilderness until they came upon the borders of the promised land, and were commanded to go up and take possession, through unbelief they began to murmur, and went not up. This one instance of rebellion, added to those that preceded it, was too much for divine forbearance. And God is represented as lifting up his hand and taking a solemn oath "that they should not enter into his rest." Now take heed therefore lest you sin once too much. Are you not convinced from what I have already said that you have often grieved the Holy Spirit? Have you not often done it in many of the ways I have mentioned as well as in innumerable ways I have not mentioned? And now dare you do it again? If you do it may be found to be true that you have grieved the Spirit once too much to be forgiven.

2. From this subject you can see the great forbearance of God. How many of you have grieved the Holy Spirit for days and for months and perhaps for years! How wonderful that God should spare you. He sent his ministers--his written word--his providences, and to no effect. Finally he came himself by his own Spirit, and has been abused by you in a thousand ways. And even now perhaps you are indulging some sin that grieves him almost beyond endurance. If you persist you do it at the peril of your soul.

3. You see how to account for the blindness of great multitudes of professors of religion. Many of you can see how to account for your own hardness and blindness of mind, both you who are in and you who are out of the Church.

4. You see why so many persons often pray for the influences of the Holy Spirit and yet do not receive his influences. It may be and doubtless often is because they have grieved him entirely away.

5. Again it may be, and doubtless often is true that many pray for the Holy Spirit who are continually grieving him by the indulgence of some lust or by the neglect of some duty, or in some way doing that or indulging that which is so offensive to the Holy Spirit that he will not abide with them.

6. You can see from this subject, that the Holy Spirit when he comes to many is like the "wayfaring man, that tarrieth but for a night." His visits are short and far between. The fact is their lives, and tempers, and habits are such, that for them to dwell with God or he with them is out of the question.

7. Many ministers seem to have grieved him away. Their ministry seems to be entirely barren. They preach, and pray, and perform other duties without unction, and of course without success. And while they continue their round of efforts, it is plain to the spiritual members of their Church that they have not the Holy Spirit. Their conversation during the week is not in heaven. Their preaching on the Sabbath has in it any thing but the spirit, power and demonstration of the Gospel.

Sometimes they seem to be sensible that they have grieved the Spirit. Some years since, a young man who had been several years in the ministry came to me for advice, saying that he had grieved the Holy Spirit when studying theology, since which time he had never enjoyed his presence, consequently his ministry was barren. His soul was shut out from God, and he felt that he must abandon the ministry, as God had rejected him in consequence of his sin. A Christian brother, some months since, related to me another fact, worthy of all consideration by ministers of the gospel. An elderly minister made this confession in a revival of religion, into the midst of which he was providentially brought. Said he, "When I was young and for years after I entered the ministry, the Spirit of God was with me. A divine unction attended my preaching. I was instrumental in promoting several revivals of religion. But finally on account of pecuniary considerations I was led to change my field of labor. For this the Spirit departed from me. After this my ministry was barren and my soul was as the barren heath. The heavens became brass over my head and the earth iron under my feet. Thus many years have passed over me. Still the Spirit of the Lord has not returned."

8. This subject will enable us to account for the present state of so great a number of the professed ministers of Christ. The barrenness of their ministry--the worldliness of their spirit--their bitterness, and jangling, and prejudice, and every thing that so much wounds and disgraces Christ.

9. Let us all take warning lest any of us while we think we are standing, should suddenly and hopelessly fall. Beloved, let us walk softly before the Lord, and look narrowly into all our ways. Let us see wherein we have been and are grieving the Holy Spirit.

And now let us all go down upon our knees, and confess our infinite guilt, in having, in so many ways and for so long a time, grieved the Holy Spirit, "whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption."