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As the Holy Spirit is the immediate minister of God's will upon earth, and transacts all the great affairs of the church of Christ; if while he pours'out the riches of his grace upon us, he finds them all unsuccessful, no wonder if he appeals to all the world in the words of the prophet, against our ingratitude: “And now, oh ye men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes ?" These, and many more such, which we meet with in the Holy Scriptures, are the highest expressions of the deepest concern; such as imply the utmost unwillingness to deal severely even with those, whom yet, by all the wise methods of his grace, he could not reform. The Holy Spirit here represents himself as one who would be glad to spare sinners if he could; and therefore we may be sure it is grievous to him that by their sins they will not suffer him.
For men thus to disappoint the Holy Spirit of Love, for that too is his peculiar title, to make him thus wait that he may be gracious, and pay attendance on us through our whole course of folly and vanity, and to stand by, and be a witness of our stubbornness, with the importunate offers of infinite kindness in his hands, is a practice of such a nature, that no gracious mind can bear the thoughts of it. It is an argument of God's
unbounded mercy, that he is pleased to express, that he is only grieved at it; that his indignation does not flame out against those who are thus basely ungrateful, and consume them in a moment.
It was such ingratitude as this in the Jews, after numberless experiences of his extraordinary mercies towards them, that made Infinite Love, at last, turn in bitterness to reward them according to their doings, as we find the account given by the prophets in the most affecting and lively manner. And surely, considering the much greater obligations he hath laid on us, who enjoy the highest privileges, we may be sure that our sinful and untoward behaviour will, at last, be as great as the mercies we have abused.
There is no doubt but God observes all the sons of men, and his wrath abides on every worker of iniquity. But it is the unfaithful professor, who has known his pardoning love, that grieves his Holy Spirit; which implies a peculiar baseness in our sins. A man may be provoked indeed by the wrongs of his enemy, but he is properly grieved by the offences of his friend. And, therefore, besides our other obligations, our very near relation to God, as being his friends, and children, would, if we had a spark of gratitude in our souls, be a powerful, restraint upon us, in preserving us from evil.
3. But if arguments of this kind are not strong enough to keep us from grieving our best friend, the Holy Spirit of God, let us consider, that by this ungrateful conduct, we shall provoke him to withdraw from us.
The truth of this, almost all who have ever tasted of the good gifts of the Holy Spirit, must have experienced. It is to be hoped that we have had, some time or other, so lively a sense of his holy influence upon us, as that when we have been so unhappy as to offend him, we could easily perceive the change in our souls, in that darkness, distress, and despondency, which more especially follow the commission of wilful and presumptuous sins. At those seasons the blessed Spirit retired and
concealed his presence from us, we were justly left to a sense of our own wretchedness and misery, till we humbled ourselves before the Lord, and, by deep repentance, and active faith, obtained a return of divine mercy and peace.
And the more frequently we offend him, the more we weaken his influences in our souls. For frequent breaches will necessarily occasion estrangement between us ; and it is impossible that our intercourse with him can be cordial, when it is disturbed by repeated interruptions. So a man will forgive his friend a great many imprudences, and some wilful transgressions ; but to find him frequently affronting him, all his kindness will wear off by degrees; and the warmth of his affection, even towards him who had the greatest share of it, will die away; as he cannot but think that such a one does not any longer either desire or deserve to maintain a friendship with him.
II. I come now to consider by what kinds of sin the Holy Spirit is more especially grieved. These sins are, in general, such as either at first wholly disappoint his grace of its due effect upon our souls, or are afterwards directly contrary to his gracious and merciful assistances. Of the former sort I shall only mention, at present, inconsiderateness : of the latter, sins of presumption.
The first I shall mention, as being more especially grievous to the Holy Spirit, is inconsiderateness and inadvertence to his holy motions within us. There is a particular frame and temper of soul, a sobriety of mind, without which the Spirit of God will not concur in the purifying of our hearts. It is in our power, through his preventing and assisting grace, to prepare this in ourselves, and he expects we should, this being the foundation of all his after works. Now this consists in preserving our minds in a cool and serious disposition, in regulating and calming our affections, and calling in and checking the inordinate pursuits of our passions after the vanities and pleasures of this world. The doing of which is of such importance, that the very reason why men profit so little under the most powerful means, is, that they do not 'look enough within themselves; they do not observe and watch the discords and imperfections of their own spirits, nor attend with care to the directions and remedies which the Holy Spirit is always ready to suggest. Men are generally lost in the hurry of life, in the business or pleasures of it, and seem to think that their regeneration, their new nature, will spring and grow up within them, with as little care and thought of their own as their bodies were conceived, and have attained their full strength and stature: whereas, there is nothing more certain, than that the Holy Spirit will not purify our nature, unless we carefully attend to his motions, which are lost upon us, while, in the prophet's language, we “scatter away our time ;* while we squander away our thoughts upon unnecessary things, and leave our spiritual improvement, the one thing needful, quite unthought of and neglected.
There are many persons, who, in the main of their lives are regular in their conversation, and observe the means of improvement, and attend upon the holy sacrament with exactness, who yet, in the intervals of their duties, give too great liberty to their thoughts, affections, and discourse : they seem to adjourn the great business of salvation to the next hour of devotion. If these professors lose so much in their spiritual estate for want of adjusting and balancing their accounts, what then must we think of those who scarce ever bestow a serious thought upon their eternal welfare? Surely there is not any temper of mind less a friend to the spirit of religion, than a thoughtless inconsiderate one, that by a natural succession of strong and vain affections, shuts out every thing useful from their souls, till at length they are overtaken by a fatal lethargy; they lose sight of all danger, and become insensible of divine convictions; and, in consequence, quite disappoint all the blessed means of restoration. If, therefore, we measure the Holy Spirit's concern at the sins of men by the degrees of his disappointment, we may conclude, that there is no state of mind that grieves him more, unless that of actual wickedness.
Presumptuous sins are, indeed, in the highest manner offensive to the Holy Spirit of God. They are instances of open enmity against him, and have all the guilt of open rebellion. The wilful sinner is not ignorant or surprised, but knowingly fights against God's express commandment, and the lively, full, and present conviction of his own mind and conscience ; so that this is the very standard of iniquity. And all other kinds of sins are more or less heinous, as they are nearer or farther off from sins of this dreadful nature; in as much as these imply the greatest opposition to God's will, contempt of his mercy, and defiance of his justice. This, if any thing can, doubtless must so griere him, as to make him wholly withdraw his gracious presence.
III. I come now to show the force of the apostle's argument against grieving the Holy Spirit: because "we are sealed to the day of redemption."
By the day of redemption, may be meant, either the time of our learing, these bodies at death, or, of our taking them again at the general resurrection. Though here it probably means the latter ; in wbich sense the apostle uses the word in another place : “Waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our bodies. And to this day of redemption we are sealed by the Holy Spirit these three ways:
1. By receiving his real stamp upon our souls; by being made the partakers of the divine nature.
2. By receiving him as a mark of God's property; as a sign that we belong to Christ. And,
3. As an earnest and assurance to our own spirits, that we have a title to eternal happiness.
And, first : We are sealed by the Holy Spirit of God, by our receiving his real stamp upon our souls : being made the partakers of the divine nature, and "meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.” This is, indeed, the design of his dwelling in us, to heal our disordored souls, and to restore that image of his upon our nature, which is so defaced by our original and actual corruptions. And until our spirits are, in some measure, thus renewed, we can have no communion with him. For "if we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” But by the renewal of our minds in the image of him that created us, we are still more capable of his influences; and by means of a daily intercourse with him, we are more and more transformed into his likeness, till we are satisfied with it.
This likeness to God, this conformity of our will and affections to his will, is, properly speaking, holiness; and to produce this in us, is the proper end and design of all the influences of the Holy Spirit. By
means of his presence with us, we receive from him a greater fulness of holy virtues: we take such features of resemblance in our spirits as correspond to his original perfections. And thus we are sealed by him, in the first sense, by way of preparation for our day of redemption.
And since we are so, and our new nature thus grows up under the same power of his hands, what do we, when we grieve him by our sins, but undo and destroy his work; we frustrate his designs by breaking down the fences which he had been trying to raise against the overflowings of corruption : so that, at last, we entirely defeat all his gracious measures for our salvation.
2. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption, as a sign of God's property in us, and as a mark that we belong to Christ. And this is, by his appointment, the condition and security of that future happiness into which he will admit none but those who have received the Spirit of his Son into their hearts. But in whomsoever he finds this mark and character, when he shall come to judge the world, these will he take to himself, and will not suffer the destroyer to hurt them. To this very purpose, the prophet Malachi, speaking of those who feared God, says, “ They shall be mine, saith the Lord, in the day when I make up my jewels;"—that is to say, when I set my seal and mark upon them;" and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth' him.”
Now if the Holy Spirit be the sign, the seal, and the security of our salvation, then by grieving him by our sins, we break up his seal with our own hands, we cancel our firmest security, and as much as in us lies, reverse our own title to eternal life.
Besides this, the Holy Spirit within us, is the security of our salvation; he is likewise an earnest of it, and assures our spirits that we have a title to eternal happiness. “The Spirit of God beareth witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God.” And in order that this inward testimony may be lively and permanent, it is absolutely necessary to attend carefully to the secret operation of the Holy Spirit within us; who by infusing his holy consolations into our souls, by enlivening our drooping spirits, and giving us a quick relish of his promises, raises bright and joyous sensations in us; and gives a man beforehand, a taste of the bliss to which he is going. In this sense, God is said, by the apostle to the Corinthians, to have “sealed us, and to have given the earnest of his Spirit in our hearts ;" and that earnest, not only by way of confirmation of our title to happiness, but as an actual part of that reward at present, the fulness of which we expect hereafter.
SERMON CXXXVI.-On Love.
Preached at Sarannah, February 20, 1736. " Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing," 1 Cor. xiii, 3.
There is great reason to fear, that it will hereafter be said of most of you who are here present, that this Scripture, as well as all those you have heard before, profited you nothing. Some perhaps are not serious
enough to attend to it; some who do attend will not believe it; some who do believe it, will yet think it a hard saying, and so forget it as soon as they can; and of those few who receive it gladly for a time, some, having no root of humility, or self denial, when persecution ariseth because of the word, will, rather than suffer for it, fall away. Nay, even of those who attend to it, who believe, remember, yea, and receive it so deeply into their hearts, that it both takes root there, endures the heat of temptation, and begins to bring forth fruit, yet will not all bring forth fruit unto perfection. The cares or pleasures of the world, and the desire of other things, (perhaps not felt till then,) will grow up with the word and choke it.
Nor am I that speak the word of God, any more secure from these dangers, than you that hear it. I too have to bewail “ an evil beart of unbelief.” And whenever God shall suffer persecution to arise, yea, were it only the slight one of reproach, I may be the first that is offended. Or if I be enabled to sustain this, yet should he let loose the cares of the world upon me, or should he cease to guard me against those pleasures that do not lead to him, and the desire of other things, I should surely be overwhelmed, and having preached to others be myself a cast away.
Why then do I speak this word at all? Why? Because a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me: and though what I shall do to morrow, I know not, to day I will preach the gospel. And with regard to you, my commission runs thus: “Son of man, I do send thee to them; and thou shalt say unto them, thus saith the Lord God ;whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear.”
Thus saith the Lord God, “ If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." (In order to this, “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”) “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is.”—“In secret, likewise, pray to thy Father who seeth in secret,” and “pour out thy heart before him.". Make my word "a lantern to thy feet, and a light unto thy paths.”“Keep it in thy heart, and in thy mouth, when thou sittest in thy house, when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”_"Turn unto me with fasting,” as well as prayer: and, in obedience to thy dying Redeemer, by eating that bread, and drinking that cup,
“show ye forth the Lord's death till he come." By the power thou shalt through these means receive from on high, do all the things which are enjoined in the law; and avoid all those things which are forbidden therein, knowing," that if ye offend in one point, ye are guilty of all." “To do good also, and to distribute, forget not Yea, while you have time, do all the good you can unto all men.” Then, “ deny thyself, take up thy cross daily ;'' and, if called thereto, “resist unto blood.” And when each of you can say,
“ All this have I done;" then let him say to himself farther, (words at which not only such as Felix alone, but the holiest soul upon earth might tremble,) “Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing."
It concerns us all, therefore, in the highest degree, to know,
I. The full sense of these words, “Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned ;":
II. The true meaning of the word love: and,