THERE is a harmony between all Christian graces, and a dependence of one upon another; so that none can be exercised aright, unless all be allowed their due place and influence. There are doubtless many occasions of grief and sorrow; yet no circumstances are so afflictive, but we may find in them some ground of joy and gratitude. Hence in the directions which the Apostle gives to the Thessalonian Church, he bids them to “rejoice evermore,” and “in every thing to give thanks.” But to moderate our feelings, and to combine them in such a proportion as occasions may require, is difficult, yea, impossible, to flesh and blood. In this arduous work, we must be directed and assisted by the Spirit of God. In this connexion, the caution in the text is extremely forcible: for if we be not attentive to improve the proffered aids of the Spirit, we shall never be able to execute any other part of our Christian duty.
The words before us may have some reference to the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit; but being inserted amidst exhortations to various graces, they must be understood in reference to them also.
They contain a very solemn caution; in discoursing upon which we shall,
Consider the operations of the Spirit under the emblem of fire—
The Spirit is frequently spoken of under the emblem of fire [Note: Act_2:3-4. Mat_3:11. Rev_4:5.]: and fire justly represents his offices and operations—
[Kindle a fire in a dark place, and it will give light to all around it. Draw near to it when chilled with cold, and it will warm and comfort you. Cast wood or straw upon it, and it will cause them to burst forth into a flame. Suppose it heated to a furnace, and, if you put stones into it, it will break and dissolve them. Let gold or silver be submitted to its action, and it will purge them from their dross. Let iron be cast into it, and it will transform the metal into its own likeness, so that it shall come out a solid mass of fire.
Here we see the operations of the Spirit. It is his office to enlighten the mind [Note: Eph_1:17-18.]; nor had the Apostles themselves any light which they did not derive from him [Note: 1Co_2:12.]. Call upon him in a state of great dejection; and he will be your Comforter [Note: Joh_14:16-17; Joh_14:26. 2Co_7:6.]. Beg of him to reveal to you the Father’s love, and the grace of Christ; and he will inflame your soul with love and gratitude [Note: Joh_16:14. Rom_5:5; Rom_15:13.]. Submit your stony heart to his powerful operations; and he will break it in pieces, as he did in the days of old [Note: Act_2:37.], and will melt it to contrition [Note: Eze_36:26-27.]. Carry your corruptions to him to be subdued; and he will purify your soul from their power and defilement [Note: Eze_36:25 and 1Co_6:11.]. Let him exert his full influence upon you; and he will assimilate you to himself, and transform you into the very image of your God [Note: 2Co_3:18.].]
Such being the operations of the Spirit, we shall,
Shew in what way we may “quench” them [Note: There are passages of Scripture which seem to militate against this doctrine: see Joh_4:14 and 1Jn_3:9. But give them all the force you please, they do not prove, that sin will not quench the Spirit; or, that they who live and die in sin shall not perish. And to bring them forward on such an occasion, is to weaken (and, in reference to many, to destroy) the force of the Apostle’s admonition. The caution is addressed to all Christians without distinction; and therefore ought to be enforced in that extent. The very giving of the caution sufficiently shews the possibility and danger of quenching the Spirit; and therefore we should all attend to it with fear and trembling.]—
We may quench the Spirit in a variety of ways:
By resisting his operations—
[There is not any one, on whom the Spirit has not frequently exerted his influence, to bring him to repentance. But how have his motions been regarded? Have they not in many instances been resisted? Have we not plunged ourselves into business or pleasure, perhaps too into revelling and intoxication, in order to drown his voice, and silence the remonstrances of our conscience?
This then is one way in which many quench the Spirit. God has warned us, that “his Spirit shall not always strive with man [Note: Gen_6:3.]:” and has told us how he dealt with his people of old; that “because they hearkened not to his voice and would none of him, he gave them up to their own hearts’ lusts [Note: Psa_81:11-12.].” And a similar resistance on our part will bring the same judgment upon us [Note: Pro_1:24-26.].]
By delaying to comply with them—
[Few, if any, are so impious as to determine that they will never turn to God. Men deceive themselves with some faint purposes of turning to God at a future period. Thus, when the Spirit “knocks at the door of their hearts [Note: Rev_3:20.],” they send him away, as Felix did St. Paul, with an intention to “send for him at a more convenient season.” But, as in the instance alluded to, the more convenient season never came, so it too often happens with respect to us. The Spirit is a sovereign agent, that is not at our command: he is “a wind that bloweth where he listeth:” and, if we will not spread our sails to the wind, and avail ourselves of the advantage afforded us, we may bemoan our lost opportunity when it is too late [Note: Isa_55:6.].]
By entertaining sentiments inimical to them—
[It is not uncommon for those whose consciences are awakened to a sense of their condition, to take refuge in infidel opinions. If they do not cull in question the divine authority of the Scriptures, they doubt the veracity of God in them, and deny the certainty and duration of the punishment which he denounces against impenitent sinners. Others adopt an antinomian creed; and from some experience which they suppose themselves to have had of the divine life, conclude they shall never be suffered finally to perish, notwithstanding their present experience attests their hypocrisy and self-deceit. But. all of these are “speaking peace to themselves when there is no peace;” and, if they he not roused from their delusions, will soon reap the bitter fruits of their folly [Note: Jer_8:11. Deu_29:19-20.].]
By indulging habits contrary to his mind and will—
[God abhors iniquity of every kind: nor will he dwell in any heart that is allowedly debased by sin. If then we harbour pride, envy, malice, covetousness, uncleanness, or any other secret lust, we shall provoke him to abandon us to ourselves [Note: Psa_66:18.]: for he has said, “If any man defile the temple of God. him shall God destroy [Note: 1Co_3:17.].”]
Lest any of you should be inattentive to the operations of the Spirit on your hearts, we shall,
Enforce the caution, not to quench them—Consider then,
Whom it is that you resist—
[It may appear to us to be only a friend or minister, or, at most, our own conscience, that we resist: but, whatever be the means whereby God speaks to us, the voice is his; and an opposition to the dictates of the Spirit is an opposition to God himself [Note: Act_5:4.]. Have we sufficiently considered whom we thus “provoke to become our enemy [Note: Isa_63:10.]?”]
What is his design, in striving with you—
[Has God any interest of his own to serve? Will he be less happy or glorious, whether we be saved or perish? He is moved by nothing but love and pity to our souls. And all that he desires is, to enlighten, sanctify, and save us. The first impressions that he makes upon us may be painful; but they are a needful incision, in order to a perfect cure. And should we resist his love and mercy? In what light shall we view this conduct, when his gracious designs shall be fully known, and our ingratitude be contrasted with them?]
How awful will be our state, if we finally prevail to quench his motions—
[While he continues to strive with us, there is hope. If there be but a spark of this heavenly fire within us, the dying embers may be rekindled: but if once this fire be extinguished, there is no hope. If God has once said, “Let him alone [Note: Hos_4:17.],” let him live only to fill up the measure of his iniquities, and to “treasure up wrath against the day of wrath [Note: Rom_2:5.],” our state will be inconceivably dreadful: better would it be for us that we had never been born. And who can tell but that this very day the Spirit may depart from him never to return? Let the dread of this awaken us to a sense of our danger, and stimulate us to improve the calls and assistances we now enjoy.]
Renounce every thing that may lead you to quench the Spirit—
[Do ungodly companions try to lull you asleep in sin? forsake them. Do earthly, sensual, and devilish affections grieve the Spirit? mortify them. Whatever it be that tends to damp this sacred fire, put it away. Better were it to lose all that we have in the world, than to have the Spirit finally taken from us.]
Do all that you can to stir up the sacred fire within you—
[Fire will go out, if left to itself. We are commanded to “stir it up [Note:
, 2Ti_1:6.].” This must be done by meditation [Note: Psa_39:3.], by prayer [Note: Psa_40:1-3.], by reading of the word of God [Note: Jer_23:29. Heb_4:12.], by attending on divine ordinances [Note: Act_10:33-34], and by holy and spiritual conversation [Note: Luk_24:32.]. Watch then the motions of the Spirit, and delay not to comply with them. Let every thing serve as fuel to the flame: and, how much soever you delight in God, endeavour to abound more and more.]