Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Eph. 4:30
In this discussion, I shall pursue the following order.
I. Show that the Holy Spirit can be, and often is grieved by men.
II. How and when He is grieved.
III. The consequences of grieving the Holy Spirit.
1. The Bible, in this text and in various other texts, represents him as being grieved.
2. God is a moral being, and consequently he has the susceptibilities and feelings of a moral being, and must therefore be grieved with whatever is naturally grievous to a moral being.
3. His entire character is love or benevolence, and therefore he cannot but be grieved with whatever is wrong.
Before I enter upon this head of my discourse, I wish to make several remarks.
1. The great object of the Holy Spirit, as revealed in the Bible, is to sanctify the souls of men. Men are to be saved by "the sanctification of the Spirit through the belief of the truth."
2. He can sanctify men only with the truth. Sanctification is holiness. Holiness is voluntary obedience to God. Voluntary obedience certainly cannot be produced but by the influence of the truth. Hence Christ prays, "Sanctify them through thy truth." The Holy Spirit himself has no other means of sanctifying the soul but truth.
3. A moral agent can resist any and every truth. Moral agency implies power to resist any degree of motive that may be brought to bear upon the mind. Wherever force begins, moral agency ends. Were it possible for motive to force the mind, the forced action would have no moral character any more than the operations of the physical universe. Action must be free to be moral action. Necessary action is therefore neither virtuous nor vicious.
I repeat it then, that moral agency implies the power to resist any and every truth. Whether any man ever did or ever will as a matter of fact, resist all truth, is entirely another question. But certain it is, that men are able to resist the utmost influence that the truth can exert upon them; and therefore have ability to defeat the wisest, most benevolent, and most powerful exertions which the Holy Spirit can make to effect their sanctification.
4. Every moral evil must be counteracted by truth, and can be counteracted in no other way.
5. Whatever, therefore, hinders the truth from producing its sanctifying effect, grieves the Holy Spirit just in proportion to his desire to have it produce that effect.
6. In preaching this sermon, and in all my sermons, I design to be personal in what I say, so far as this is consistent with addressing so many persons at once. I am not one of those who feel as if I should be convicted of wrong, of course, if found to have adapted my discourse to the state of the audience before and around me. I never feel called upon to make an apology for being as personal as I can in "giving to each one a portion in due season." I wish, therefore, my hearers and my readers, to consider me as speaking to them individually. And as I cannot call you by name I beseech you by all that you hold dear, to pause at every step of this part of my discourse and solemnly ask yourselves, "Is it I?" Have I thus grieved the Holy Spirit?
With these remarks, I am prepared to notice some of the many ways in which the Holy Spirit is grieved.
1. By neglecting the truth. Men have the command of their attention and can take up any subject for contemplation they please. If they will not attend to truth they cannot be sanctified nor saved. Now how many of you are employing your thoughts about any thing and every thing else than that truth, which is infinitely important to you and wholly indispensable to your salvation? O, if your neglected Bible were allowed now to speak to you, what an overwhelming testimony would it bear! And when it shall rise up in the judgment against you, of what gross and ruinous neglect will it convict you!
Methinks I can almost hear it crying out to you as you go about in the neglect of it at one time wooing and beseeching you in the melting accents of eternal love to search it, to be instructed by it, and be saved and at another time it mutters, as you pass through the room where it is, its curses against you for neglecting it, or perhaps it cries out to you from some corner of the house, in the language of warning, and expostulation; and yet you heed it not! Of what are you thinking? Would you not be grieved and afflicted, if you should write letters of great importance to some beloved friend of yours, and he should neglect to read and understand them? And do you think that the Holy Spirit has less susceptibility upon this subject than you have?
2. Levity of mind, and conduct, and conversation grieves the Holy Spirit. Levity of conduct would certainly be very unbecoming in the presence of an earthly judge or sovereign. And how much less tolerable is it in the presence of the infinitely holy God? Are you a trifler? And about what are you trifling and in whose presence or under what circumstances? Few things in the universe can appear more shocking to one who has any faith in God, than to see a human being whose eternal destiny hangs as upon a moment's point, filled with levity right under the searching gaze of his omniscient judge.
Especially does this appear horrible and abominable when we consider the Holy Spirit as wooing, and beseeching, and following you towards the depths of hell, and pleading with constant and earnest importunity that you will turn and live! How can you and how dare you trifle? You would be shocked to see an individual, on trial for his life, trifle just as the judge was about to pronounce sentence upon him.
But such conduct, and under such circumstances, would be decency and propriety, when compared with the unutterable abomination of trifling in the presence of the great Jehovah who stands, and commands, and exhorts, and urges, and threatens, and expostulates, and pleads, and, in every way, endeavors to get your solemn attention to the subject of your soul's salvation.
3. The reading of light and trifling publications grieves the Holy Spirit. Woman, Man, dare you spend an hour in defiling your mind with some vain novel or foolish story, when so much truth of infinite weight and importance urges your investigation and instant attention? Can Jesus Christ, can eternal life and death, can the glory of God and the salvation of the souls of men, can the commandments of God be solemnly weighed, can the blood, and groans, and mercy of Calvary be duly considered, when novels and plays and frivolous reading have gotten possession of your mind?
O! you poor, wicked, helpless, loathsome, miserable sinner, what do you mean? No matter whether you are a professor of religion or not. You are a miserable sinner before God, and the law of your own conscience, if you spend your time in such reading. What is your name? Let me visit your chamber, your parlor, or wherever you keep your books.
What is here? Byron, Scott and Shakespeare, and a host of triflers and blasphemers of God, and despisers of the Holy Ghost. Are these your companions? these the spirits with whom you commune? this the way in which you spend your time? And you a professor of religion? Do you not know that you are a great hypocrite to neglect your Bible and communion with the Holy Spirit, and give your mind up to communion with such earthly, sensual and devilish works as these?
But do you say I do not profess to be a Christian? Then I reply, you are never likely to be a Christian in such company. You might as well expect to be weaned from habits of intoxication by sitting in the bar-room with drunkards or while holding communion with a pipe of brandy, as to expect to become religious surrounded with such companions as these.
4. Vain conversation grieves the Holy Spirit. Christ says, "Let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay, for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil." "And, for every idle word that men shall speak they shall give an account thereof in the judgment." In the chapter of which the text is a part, the Apostle warns Christians not to be guilty of "vain conversation and foolish jesting." Would you spend your time in vain and idle conversation, if you knew you had but one hour to live? And perhaps you have not.
But suppose you have, are your circumstances those in which it becomes an immortal being to spend his time in vain conversation? Do you not know that God is listening to every word you say? He is pouring the blaze of his eye through your inmost soul, as if he would speak out and rebuke you. Why are you not using your conversational powers in instructing those around you in the way of life?
Perhaps those of your own household, and your nearest friends need to be reproved and warned, exhorted and instructed in regard to their salvation. Professor of religion, how do you spend your time, when in the midst of your impenitent friends, and what is your conversation when in the midst of professing Christians?
I beg of you to answer to your own heart and to God. And if you doubt just how you appear to them, will you show them this sermon, and ask them to read this paragraph and then give their candid opinion of what you ought to think of yourself and of your conversation? Now if your conversation has hitherto been vain and trifling or useless, and in any way unbecoming in a Christian, will you immediately repent and confess to those before whom you have laid a stumbling block and confess to the Holy Ghost whom you have grieved, and beseech him to forgive you, and return and take up his dwelling in your heart?
But perhaps you are not a professor of religion. Then I ask, Why are you not? And I add that you probably never will be, unless you make a false profession, if you are in the habit of indulging in vain conversation. Do you expect the Holy Spirit to strive with you, and wait upon you day after day, month after month, and year after year, while you keep up your incessant and senseless babble, regardless of his solemn presence, his awful holiness, and of his great and infinite love and desire to get your serious attention that he may save you?
5. Too much study, I mean too much mental application to those arts and sciences that have no direct reference to the sanctification of your souls, grieves the Holy Spirit. This is particularly a sin of students, into which they are sometimes betrayed by ambition, and into which, at other times, they are almost crowded by their teachers. Their whole mind is swallowed up from day to day in literary and scientific pursuits to the neglect of the solemn calls, and warnings, and strivings of the Holy Spirit. So did not James B. Taylor. With him it was the first and principal thing to obey the calls of the Holy Spirit. This was his determination, and a practical adherence to this rule was the secret of all his piety.
6. Neglect of study grieves the Holy Spirit. Where study is your employment, and you are negligent and attend to less than is consistent with all your other duties, you err quite as much as if you studied too much.
7. Too much business grieves the Holy Spirit. There is the necessity of diligence in business but also there is the danger of engaging in too much business. Suppose your father should visit you on some most important business, and that you should suffer yourself to be so much employed as to be unable to give him any part of your time. This certainly would be entirely inexcusable. But what is this when compared with the wickedness of being too busy to converse with God?
8. Not business enough grieves the Holy Spirit. Idleness is one of the greatest of sins, and wholly inconsistent.
9. Intemperance of every kind grieves the Holy Spirit. In its largest sense, intemperance is any violation of the laws of life and health, in eating, and drinking, or dress, or exercise, in any thing and every thing that is injurious to the body. Every man is bound to understand, so far as he is able, the structure and laws of his whole being, body and mind, and to conform most rigidly and conscientiously to those laws upon which his health and highest usefulness depend.
And yet how many of you are neglecting, and perhaps refusing to give your attention to the examination of the structure and laws of your own being; and in the indulgence of your filthy lusts are injuring your health and beclouding and stupifying your minds, and are following in the footsteps of those "whose god is their belly, whose end is destruction, and who glory in" that which ought to be "their shame."
10. Self-justification grieves the Holy Spirit. Many persons seem to be as anxious to justify their conduct, as if they expected to be saved by their own works, and knew that to be found guilty in any thing were to insure their damnation. They are therefore continually resorting to apologies, and shifts, and self-justifying pleas, either in the way of entirely exculpating themselves from blame in any thing, or at least to bring their blame-worthiness into doubt; so as to be able to say, "if they have done wrong they are sorry."
Now it should always be understood, that a spirit of self-justification is but adding insult to injury, first abusing God, and then justifying yourself in it. Such a course as this renders sanctification impossible. Why do you not, at once, break down, confess and forsake your sin? Why do you go about to fritter away your guilt? It is unspeakably great. No human language can sufficiently describe it.
No one ever has or can accuse you of half as much as you are guilty of before God. Probably you never were accused of any form of sin, of which in heart and in the sight of God you are not fully guilty. But however this may be, it is certain, and you ought deeply to consider it, that the thousandth part of your real guilt, as it appears in the sight of God has never been named nor told nor conceived of by mortal man.
Your iniquities are infinite. They are broader than the earth, they are high as heaven, they are deep as hell, and black as the midnight of the second death. And why do you justify yourself, or spend your time or breath in making apologies for your sins?
11. Condemning others grieves the Holy Spirit. Perhaps some of you are judging and condemning those around you instead of judging and condemning yourselves. "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."
12. Speaking evil of your brethren or of any human being, or even of the devil himself, grieves the Holy Spirit. By evil speaking I do not mean speaking the truth when manifestly called to speak it. But speaking falsehood is always evil speaking, or telling truth in regard to the faults of others, when uncalled for, is also evil speaking.
God is love. He exercises infinite benevolence toward all his creatures whether holy or unholy. He is infinitely far from consenting to injustice in any case. And he is infinitely opposed to all injurious treatment of his friends or his foes. He would as fully resent, as sternly rebuke, and as promptly punish injustice done to the devil as to any soul on earth or in heaven.
He will not, cannot, connive nor consent to any abusive treatment of the vilest sinners in the universe. You, therefore, as greatly grieve him, when you trifle with the name, the reputation, or the feelings of the wickedest sinner on earth or even the devil in hell, as if you were guilty of the same conduct toward any of his friends.
He is infinitely unlike sinful man in this respect. Wicked men will connive at the abuse of their enemies, and even secretly acquiesce in it. But it is infinitely otherwise with God. There is a great and universal mistake upon this subject. There are few if any who do not consider it wicked to speak evil of a brother. But how many there are who throw up the rein when speaking of others than their brethren, and are guilty of absolute railing at and shocking abuse of the enemies of God; and perhaps also of the professed friends of God.
Now let me ask, what are your habits in this respect? Woman, when you have company, do you sit down and serve up a dish of slander? Do you dissect and mangle the character of your neighbor? Man, are you a railer? Have you forgotten that God has said, "Speak evil of no man," - "be no brawler, but be gentle showing all meekness unto all men"?
Ah, but perhaps you are speaking of a political opponent, or of a competitor in business, or some opponent of religious views and practices. You think him very wicked - an enemy of God, of truth, and righteousness, and perhaps think yourself "doing God service" in giving him over to all the curses of reprobation. Now stop! O stop! Pause as upon the brink of eternity! What are you saying? Of whom are you speaking? Of a man "made in the image of God."
Suppose he is as bad or even immeasurably worse than you think he is; can the Holy Spirit be otherwise than grieved to hear such language as this? Remember that there is a sense in which all mankind are the children of God. Suppose they do sin and rebel; will this afford an apology think you, in his view, for your abuse of them? I tell you nay. Infinitely far from it! And every time you do it, you grieve and provoke the Holy Spirit. And it is wonderful, that he does not turn away his face from you forever.
13. Evil thinking, as well as evil speaking, grieves the Holy Spirit. God looks at the heart. Your thoughts and the secret movements of your mind, lie open before him. And your words and actions are no otherwise pleasing or offensive in his sight, than as they are the expression of what passes within. You may, therefore, as effectually, and no doubt do more frequently, grieve the Holy Spirit by your thoughts than by your words.
All your silent and most secret musings, are distinctly observed, and marked, and pondered by the Holy Spirit. He weighs every thought of your heart in his balance. If you indulge evil, and unkind and unchristian thoughts of any being in the universe, he knows it and is as truly grieved and offended with them, although you may never have given utterance to them, as if they were penciled in sunbeams in every part of the universe.
Are you in the habit of taking up a strict scrutiny and searching into the secret thoughts, and purposes, and workings of your mind? O how much you may have grieved the Holy Spirit without scarcely being aware of it. You can see, that if all the thoughts you have entertained, had been spoken out, both God and man might have been grieved and had a just cause of offense.
Now remember that to God's ear these thoughts have been as audibly expressed as if spoken in thunder-tones. To God's eye they have been as open, and as black, and as grievous as if written in letters of darkness upon the very skies. Now do commune with your own heart, and be still, and take up the solemn question: what have I thought as well as what have I said?
14. A disposition to retaliate grieves the Holy Spirit. This temper of mind is as far as possible from the temper of Christ, and is the direct opposite of a state of sanctification. The spirit of Christ would be, to forgive enemies, and those who have injured you, and to labor, and suffer great self-denial for their good. But the spirit of retaliation is earthly, sensual, devilish.
15. Prejudice grieves the Holy Spirit. There are few things more astonishing than that prejudice should be regarded and spoken of as it often is by professors of religion. Prejudice, as the term imports, is to prejudge a case, to make up your mind without hearing both sides of a question.
Now, as shameful as the truth is, few things are more disgustingly common than prejudice among professors of religion. Making up their minds that this or that thing is right or wrong, and setting their faces, and using their influence accordingly, deaf and blind to every thing on the other side. Scarcely any thing is more common than to find professors of religion of all denominations, on all the most solemn subjects in regard to men, and measures, and doctrines, in such a state of committal on one side or the other through prejudice as to render it useless to try to approach their mind and possess them of the real truth.
And thus they go blindly and often madly forward in fighting against God, and the dearest interests of his kingdom. There is scarcely any thing I have witnessed since I became a professor of religion, at which I have been more frequently shocked, and made to groan in my inmost soul than the exhibition of this wicked spirit.
And what is worse than all the rest, this spirit is spoken of by almost all as a calamity rather than a crime. The most unreasonable conduct and the most wicked and persecuting temper seems to be sufficiently excused by saying, "O the individual is under the influence of prejudice." And if peradventure a man gets his eyes open upon any question where he has been in the wrong, he speaks of his former vices and conduct as, in a great measure, excusable on the ground of his having been prejudiced.
The truth is that prejudice is one of the most detestable sins that disgraces the Church and grieves the Holy Spirit of God. And now are any of you under its influence? Of course you will say, no, for the very fact that you are implies that you are ignorant of it. But let me ask you, if you are sure that upon every subject, that at present agitates the Church and the world especially upon those great and leading topics upon which the nation and the world are so much divided: Abolition, Moral Reform, Temperance, Holiness, Revivals of Religion, Measures, Doctrines, &c. are you sure that you have attended to both sides of the question before you judge?
Have you taken sufficient pains to inform yourself in regard to men and measures, and the actual or probable results, to have made up an enlightened and unbiassed judgment in the case? And if not, what do you mean? Why are your feelings enlisted on one side? Why do you use your influence in the manner you do? How do you know but a view of the whole subject would entirely change your views and practice, and cause you to go sorrowing down to your grave because you had been found to fight against God? O! how is the Holy Spirit grieved at the vast amount of prejudice which causes the jangling and misunderstanding and misrule of both the Church and the world.
16. Pride grieves the Holy Spirit. Pride is undue self-esteem, and vanity is the exhibition of it. Nothing is more preposterous and marvelous than human pride; and very few things are at a greater remove from the spirit of Christ. It manifests itself in ten thousand ways; but wherever it exists, it is an effectual barrier against the exhibition or existence even of the spirit of Christ.
17. Ill will grieves the Holy Spirit. This is the direct opposite of benevolence or the spirit and temper required by both the law and the Gospel. Benevolence is good-willing. Malevolence is ill-willing. To will evil to any being under the sun is the opposite of all that is lovely. And how can it be otherwise, than that a God of infinite benevolence, should be grieved with the malevolence of any of his great family? How would a parent feel to see one of his children manifest ill will to others of his offspring? How this would enkindle his grief and indignation! And how must the infinite heart of God glow with grief and indignation when you are found with a spirit of retaliation or revenge rankling in your heart.
18. Every neglect of duty grieves the Holy Spirit. So much of religion consisted in the discharge of relative and social duties. Many people seem to overlook this part of religion and content themselves with what they call devotion to God. What they mean by devotion is praying, reading the Bible, attending on the exercises of the Sabbath, giving their money to benevolent objects, and such like things, while in their temper they exhibit any thing but the spirit of Christ.
Now Christianity wherever it truly exists, will, from its very nature, develop itself to the view of men mainly in its influence in making them discharge all their social and relative duties; and if it be not apparent here it is certain that it does not really exist. There is such a vast amount of negligence among professors of religion as to render it almost certain were there nothing else forbidding in their history that multitudes of them have no religion at all.
But again let me say that many neglect to do things when and as they ought to be done. Now it is certainly a part of religion to do everything incumbent upon us at the right time and in the right manner, and any and every negligence in this respect is sin. Have you an appointment to meet a neighbor at a particular hour for the transaction of business; be there at the moment, lest you hinder him and all others associated with you in the affair.
Is there an appointment for a Church or any other religious meeting, for worship or the transaction of business; be there at the moment, lest you interrupt or hinder the business or devotion of others. Have you engaged to do any thing for your neighbor or for any man or woman on earth, see that you do it just when and as it ought to be done. And in short, no man can keep a conscience void of offense - no man can fulfill the law of love - no man can abstain from grieving the Holy Spirit but by a most faithful and constant discharge of every duty to God or man.
19. Every form of selfishness grieves the Holy Spirit. I have often taught in my sermons that selfishness and sin are synonymous terms. By selfishness, I have often said that I do not mean the mere desire of your own happiness, for this is natural. It is self love, and not selfishness. But when even this desire becomes supreme, and leads you to sacrifice greater interests, for the sake of promoting your own, this is selfishness; and in whatsoever form it is cherished or exhibited, it is an utter abomination to God.
How odious and detestable does selfishness appear to God, when he sees it exercised among his children in their intercourse with each other. If you are a parent, you know how you are grieved and offended, if you see one of your little ones bent upon gratifying himself at the expense of the good or happiness of the rest of your children. Now "if you being evil" are so stung and grieved with such a spirit as this, how much more shall your Heavenly Father be grieved at such an exhibition of selfishness among his children?
But there are so many ways in which the Holy Spirit may be grieved, that I must resume the subject, and also show the consequences of grieving the Holy Spirit in my next.
20. Refusing or neglecting to confess your sins grieves the Holy Spirit. God has said, "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper, but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall find mercy." And Christ has said, "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted," and again, "If thou bring thy gift to the altar and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, first go and be reconciled to thy brother and then come and offer thy gift." 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 shoto 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?
21. Refusing to forsake your sins grieves the Holy Spirit. I have said there is no forsaking sin without confession. I now say there is no forsaking without restitution, where restitution is in your power. Certainly the man who steals your money does not forsake that sin while he keeps it in his pocket, and refuses to return it. There is and can be no forsaking sin until all has been done, that the nature of the case admits to repair whatever injury has been done by it to God or man. It is not enough to resolve to do it no more. And although confession is indispensable, yet confession is not the whole of your duty. You are bound to make restitution as well as confession, and until you do that, God cannot and has no right to forgive you.
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.
22. Every kind and degree of self-indulgence that is inconsistent with life, and health, and piety, grieves the Holy Spirit. Some make a god of their belly; and it is astonishing and lamentable to see to what an extent the flesh is indulged to the ruin of the soul. Even professors of religion suffer themselves to be slaves to appetite and have not religion enough to keep under their bodies to mortify the flesh, or to exercise that dominion over their appetites, lusts, and passions that might be expected even of a heathen philosopher.
Some men use tobacco and complain that the habit is so fixed and overpowering that they cannot abstain from its use. Others use alcohol in some of its forms, and others still indulge in the use of tea and coffee and fashionable narcotics, to the permanent injury of their health, and still persuade themselves that these things are essential to their health. And if they feel languid, and debilitated, and experience a temporary diminution of appetite when they have attempted to abstain from them, they imagine that they cannot do without them.
Not understanding as is a matter of fact, that these very symptoms of which they complain, are demonstration that they are permanently injuring their health. Why do you have the headache, when you abstain from tea? Simply because your stomach has been greatly debilitated by its use. 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.
23. Endeavoring to excuse your sins grieves the Holy Spirit. It is very common to see persons racking their ingenuity to find excuses for their sins. Some are pleading inability to do any better than they do. Others plead their peculiar circumstances, and others still their dependence on the Spirit of God. In short there is scarcely any plea to which a proud heart can resort to evade the force of truth, which is not resorted to by many, to appease their consciences, and get away from breaking down their hearts before the Lord.
Now it should be understood and remembered forever that a spirit that apologizes for sin is not only one of the most odious forms of iniquity in the sight of God, but is the most hardening and self-destroying process that can be pursued. And in just as far as you resort to any excuses and apologies for your sins you confirm yourselves in those sins, grieve the Holy Spirit, and render your salvation impossible.
24. Procrastination grieves the Holy Spirit. God requires you now to humble yourself before him. And every attitude you take that defers obedience to a future time, is direct disobedience and most provoking to God. It is truly wonderful to see to what extent this spirit is cherished. Many pretend to be waiting God's time, as if he, notwithstanding all his requirements, was not really ready to have them do their duty.
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 today, 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.
25. Giving wrong instructions to those who are under conviction, and to professors of religion who are inquiring after sanctification, grieves the Holy Spirit. Multitudes give such instructions as directly to counteract the influences of the Spirit, and thus grieve him away from themselves, and from those whom they attempt to instruct. Remember that you take upon you a fearful responsibility when you attempt to aid the Holy Spirit in conducting the sinner through the labyrinth of his own delusions, and bring him to an acquaintance with Christ. If you tell him one thing while the Spirit tells him another, you will probably ruin his soul, if you do not your own also.
26. Taking sides against God always, of course, grieves the Holy Spirit. "Take heed," said Gamaliel, "lest ye be found even to fight against God." I have already said, that through prejudice, many persons get committed on the wrong side of some important question, and thereby injure their own souls, and the cause of God. Many individuals, on account of personal friendship or personal dislike will take sides against the truth, and plunge their souls into impenetrable darkness.
Whenever a question comes up that respects the character or conduct of an intimate friend, or relative, on the one hand, or some enemy on the other, be on your guard lest personal feelings influence you, and you be found to take sides against the truth. Beware lest you shut your eyes against the light, and suffer yourself to be deluded and drawn into an attitude in which God will not go with you. He will have no sympathy with your wrong feelings, nor go with you at all in any of your prejudices. His soul is infinitely upright and honest, and the moment you depart from the same state of mind, your fellowship with him ceases, and a dark cloud hangs between you and the mercy seat. Will you not examine yourselves and see whether something of this kind has not shut you out from God's presence?
27. Remaining in willful ignorance upon any important subject grieves the Holy Spirit. It is amazing to see how many there are who refuse to come to the light on some of the most important subjects that have ever agitated the Church or the world. They seem to remain not in accidental, but in willful ignorance in the midst of all the light that is pouring around them. It is wonderful to see to what an extent ignorance prevails upon so many important questions and especially to witness the manifest resistance of mind indulged in by many when these subjects are brought up.
28. All want of candor in the examination of important questions also grieves the Holy Spirit.
29. The indulgence of feelings of contempt for particular persons, or for their sentiments, and all contemptuous expressions, and all attempts to put down by ridicule, persons, or sentiments, or practices to which we feel opposed, grieves the Holy Spirit. By this I do not mean that things which are really ridiculous may not be treated according to their nature; but that serious and important subjects cannot be treated with contempt or ridicule without grieving the Holy Spirit.
Some persons are always disposed to treat all subjects of dress, tight lacing, dietetics, and such like very important subjects, with contempt and ridicule. Now I cannot believe that any person who will indulge in this can enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit. These certainly are feelings with which the Spirit of God can have no sympathy or fellowship whatever.
30. Making direct resistance to the truth whenever it has a personal application to you grieves the Holy Spirit. To general truth, or to particular truth, or to almost any truth that has no direct bearing upon themselves, they will manifest no opposition. But when they perceive that it means them, they manifest the spirit of the Pharisees when they exclaimed, "Thus saying thou reprovest us also."
31. Justifying resistance to the truth on the ground that it is personal grieves the Holy Spirit. I have already said in this discourse, that my object in preaching is to be as personal as I can consistently with the general design of preaching to a popular audience, and as far as possible to "give to every one his portion in due season." And now if any of you feels disposed to complain if I point out the particular way in which you are grieving the Holy Spirit, or because you suppose that I know you to be rebuked for your particular sin, you are entirely unreasonable.
For certainly I do mean and ought to mean to preach about the particular sins of the persons whom I address. Preaching can do you no good except as you feel it to be personal and to mean you. I design to speak in love, but with all plainness, and address myself to every man's conscience in the sight of God. I shall not therefore feel myself convicted of having done wrong, if what I say should be complained of as having a personal application to any one or every one of my hearers, I would that I could so address you that every person should feel that I was telling him all that ever he did.
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.
32. Neglecting his solemn visitations and strivings, and attending to other things, grieves the Holy Spirit. Christ is represented as standing at the door of the heart and knocking, and in another place as waiting until his "head is wet with the dew," &c. It is often truly shocking to see how little attention is paid to the manifest presence and agency of the Holy Spirit in professedly religious families.
When they are aware that he is striving with some member of the family, and has come to their house on the solemn errand of eternal salvation, they behave themselves with as little solemnity and pay as little attention to his awful presence and majesty as if he were only a servant of servants. Sometimes even the very individual with whom he is striving and with whom he has taken up a solemn labor to bring him to repentance, will neglect attending to his directions, and suffer almost anything to divert his attention from the great subject of his own salvation.
33. Suffering your thoughts and time to be swallowed up in business, amusements, or any thing else, until you have settled the question of your unqualified submission to God, grieves the Holy Spirit. No doubt many an individual has grieved the Spirit entirely away by suffering himself to be engaged with his business or amusement, just at the time when his destiny was trembling on a moment's point.
34. Indulging the fear of men rather than of God grieves the Holy Spirit. How many ministers have grieved the Spirit entirely away by fearing men so much as not to declare to them all the counsel of God. And how often is it the case perhaps that some of you are pressed by the Spirit up to the faithful discharge of your duty in warning and reproving those around, you dare not do it for fear of their ill will, and in the greatness of your unbelief, instead of assigning to yourself the real reason for your negligence, you persuade yourself that faithfulness on your part would do no good.
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.
1. One of the consequences of grieving the Holy Spirit is to be abandoned by him. If you continue to grieve the Holy Spirit you may expect him to abandon you forever. God's Spirit will not always strive with man. He gave up the Israelites because they vexed and grieved his Spirit. He abandoned the old world for the same reason. And many individuals, and families, and nations, in every age of the world have been given up because they grieved the Holy Spirit.
2. Spiritual blindness. This follows as a matter of course from the absence of the Spirit's influences. Men are naturally blind and deaf to all the great truths which should sanctify their souls. Not that you have not naturally eyes and ears with which to see and hear were you well disposed, but "having eyes you see not, and ears, you hear not." And being unwilling to retain God in your knowledge you blind your own eyes, and deafen your own ears, and harden your own hearts. And when once the Spirit of God has given you up, your blindness though voluntary is as certain and eternal as your existence.
3. A conscience seared as with a hot iron is another effect of grieving the Spirit. This will naturally follow from your great spiritual blindness. A silent or seared conscience is a state of mind to be infinitely dreaded. For if its voice be silenced you may go on in security crying peace and safety until sudden destruction cometh upon you. It is an unspeakable blessing to have a quick and tender conscience, one that will enforce the slightest obligation with great power. But you should by all means, as you would the murder of your own soul, avoid that which will silence your conscience and hush its warning voice.
4. If God abandon you, you will become the confirmed and complete slave of that sin, whatever it be, on account of which he has given you up. If it be some vile indulgence in some form of intemperance or the love of money, the love of pleasure, passion under any form- or infidelity or error - in short whatever sin has been persevered in until God has given you up or the Holy Spirit departed from you, that sin has become your master.
It will chain you like a slave, and rule over you with a rod of iron. It will impose on you its galling yoke until you shall be filled with your own ways. How many cases of this kind have come under my own observation, where persons have tempted God by indulging in some form of sin, until he has given them up to its reigning power; and then how feeble are all their efforts to overcome it. Their resolutions are as yielding as air. Every breath of temptation carries them away. And finding themselves all weakness and swept away by temptation as with a flood, they throw up the reins, and drive furiously to destruction.
5. If the Holy Spirit abandon you, you may expect God to "send strong delusions upon you that you may believe a lie, that you may be damned because you obey not the truth but have pleasure in unrighteousness." It is said that an "evil spirit from the Lord troubled Saul," and that a "lying spirit" was suffered by the Lord to deceive Ahab to his own destruction. A man who grieves the Holy Spirit and who is hiding away from the light, receives not the truth, but has pleasure in some form of unrighteousness. It is remarkable to see in how many ways the providences of God will help a man, in this state, forward to some fatal delusion. Infidel books or lecturers, universalist ministers or publications, wicked companions and associates and often times the prince of hell, is suffered to delude and lead such a soul into impenetrable darkness, and destructive delusion.
6. Self-disgrace may be and often is a consequence of being abandoned by the Holy Spirit. It is remarkable to see when an individual has grieved the Holy Spirit, how blind he is in regard to the light in which his conduct is and will be viewed by those around him. If this be your case you will probably go from step to step, beginning perhaps with indulgence in levity, next you will discover an irritable spirit, and show that you have no command of your temper, then a spirit of worldly-mindedness may develop itself, next a spirit of licentiousness may be plainly discerned by those around you and then some form of intemperance may get the mastery of you, then a spirit of exaggeration and perhaps of lying may take possession of your soul and thus in the midst of your blindness wander on until you find yourself deeply disgraced in the eyes of men, and forever lost in the eye of God.
7. You may be left to inflict the deepest disgrace on your family and friends and perhaps ruin many over whom you have influence. "A little leaven leaventh the whole lump." Men naturally have great influence over each other, and with great facility do "evil communications corrupt good manners," because wicked example so falls in with the corrupt state of the human heart. It is exceedingly easy to influence individuals to sin, because they are already so inclined to sin. A slight amount of temptation therefore may lead those around you to follow your example, until all together, at last you sink to the depths of hell.
8. If you are a professor of religion, and the Holy Spirit leave you, you will of course greatly wound and dishonor Christ.
9. You may be given up to Satan "to be led captive at his will." I have already adverted to the case of Saul and Ahab as being given up to Satan for their wickedness. Paul speaks of having delivered a certain man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, and it doubtless often occurs when the Spirit of God has left a man, that Satan takes full possession of his heart. Christ seems to teach this in the following language. "When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and finding none. Then he saith, I will return into my house whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first." Now here it is plainly taught by Christ himself that when the Holy Spirit has left a man, his heart is like a room swept and garnished waiting to entertain the devil, and that he may be expected to take possession, to exert over him at least sevenfold more influence than ever before.
10. If the Holy Spirit leave you, you may expect to become very insensible and blind in regard to the state of your own soul. You may be left to think that you are engaged in religion, and mistake the silence of your conscience for the peace of God, and the absence of all concern about your soul for a good hope through grace. It doubtless has often occurred and I think I have myself seen cases, where persons seem to have the most undoubting assurance of mind that they were in a gracious state, when their temper and conduct manifest any thing else than the Spirit of Christ. Christ himself represents some as being in such a state of delusion as to carry their false hopes and delusions to the very bar of God. He represents them as saying, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works?" But hear his answer. "Then will I profess unto them, I never knew you. Depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
11. If the Spirit leave you, you will have no heart to offer prevailing prayer, and if you attempt to pray, you will find that your mouth is shut, and if opened it will only be opened to mock God. And you will find as a matter of fact, that instead of being benefited you are only hardened by engaging in prayer.
12. You will wax worse, and worse if abandoned of God. This may be true of you and still you not observe it, and yet if you will be honest with yourselves, if any of you have grieved the Holy Spirit away, by comparing your recent with your former experience, you may see that you are waxing worse and worse.
13. If the Spirit leave you, your damnation is certain, God has said. "Woe unto them when I depart from them." If left to yourself, remember that you are as certain of being lost as if you had already been a thousand years in hell.
14. If the Spirit abandon you, all things will work together for your destruction. The very means that should make you better will make you worse. The efforts that God makes to save those around you will only confirm you in your sins. In short all God's providences, with all the influences of his grace which surround you will be but so many stumbling blocks to your poor blinded soul. The Sabbath with its cheerful light and solemn stillness, will rise upon you but to harden your heart. "The sound of the Church-going bell," and the voice of the living preacher, the song of praise and everything in the sanctuary as well as every thing within and without yourself, will conspire to work out for you an exceeding great and eternal weight of damnation.
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."