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4. Again, their resistance tempts the forbearance of God. Never do sinners so grievously tempt the forbearance of God as when they resist His Spirit. You may see this developed in the Jews of Stephen's time. Ye stiff-necked, said he, and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did so do ye. He had been following down the track of their national history, and running fearlessly across their Jewish prejudices, laboring in the deep sincerity and faithfulness of his soul, to set before them their guilt in persecuting and murdering the Son of God. And what do they do? Enraged at these rebukes, they gnashed on him with their teeth -- they set upon him with the spirit of demons, and stoned him to death, although they saw the very glory of God beaming in his eye and on his countenance as if it had been an angel's. And did not this fearful deed of theirs seal up their damnation? Read the history of their nation and see. They had tempted God to the last limit of His forbearance; and now what remained for them but swift and awful judgments? The wrath of God arose against them, and there was no remedy. Their resistance of the Holy Ghost pressed the forbearance of God till it could bear no more.
It is a solemn truth that sinners tempt God's forbearance most dangerously when they resist His Spirit. Think how long some of you have resisted the Holy Spirit. The claims of God have been presented and pressed again and again, but you have as often put them away. You have said unto God, Depart from us; we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways. And now have you not the utmost reason to expect that God will take you at your word?
5. There is a point beyond which forbearance is no virtue. This is and must be true in all governments. No government could possibly be maintained which should push the indulgence of a spirit of forbearance toward the guilty beyond all limits. There must be a point beyond which God can not go without peril to His government; and over this point we may be assured He will never pass.
Suppose we should as often see old, gray-headed sinners converted as youthful sinners, and this should be the general course of things. Would not this work ruin to God's government -- ruin even to sinners themselves? Would not sinners take encouragement from this, and hold on in their sins till their lusts were worn out, and till they themselves should rot down in their corruptions? They would say, We shall be just as likely to be converted in our old age, putrid with long-indulged lusts, and rank with the unchecked growth of every abomination of the heart of man, as if we were to turn to God in the freshness of our youth; so let us have the pleasures of sin first, and the unwelcomeness of religion when the world can give us no more to enjoy.
But God means to have men converted young if at all, and one reason for this is that He intends to convert the world, and therefore must have laborers trained up for the work in the morning of life. If He were to make no discrimination between the young and the aged, converting from each class alike, or chiefly from the aged, the means for converting the world must utterly fail, and in fact on such a scheme the result would be that no sinners at all would be converted. There is therefore a necessity for the general fact that sinners must submit to God in early life.
VII. Consequences of the Spirit's ceasing to strive with men.
2. Another consequence will be a confirmed opposition to religion.This will be wont to manifest itself in dislike to everything on the subject, often with great impatience and peevishness when pressed to attend to the subject seriously. Perhaps they will refuse to have anything said to themselves personally, so settled is their opposition to God and His claims
3. You may also expect to see them opposed to revivals and to gospel ministers,and pre-eminently to those ministers who are most faithful to their souls. All those means of promoting revivals which are adapted to rouse the conscience, will be peculiarly odious to their hearts. Usually such persons become sour in their dispositions, misanthropic, haters of all Christians, delighting if they dare to retail slander and abuse against those whose piety annoys and disturbs their stupid repose in sin.
4. Another consequence of being forsaken of the Spirit is that men will betake themselves to some refuge of lies, and will settle down in some form of fatal error. I have often thought it almost impossible for men to embrace fatal error heartily. Unless first forsaken by the Spirit of God. From observation of numerous cases, I believe this to be the case with the great majority of Universalists. They are described by Paul: They receive not the love of the truth that, they may be saved, and for this cause God sends them strong delusion that they should believe a lie. They hate the truth, are more than willing to be deceived -- are restive when pressed with Gospel claims, and therefore are ready to grasp at any form of delusion which sets aside these claims and boldly asserts, Ye shall not surely die. It has long been an impression on my mind that this is the usual course of feeling and thought which leads to Universalism. There may be exceptions; but the mass go into this delusion from the starting point of being abandoned by the Spirit. Thus abandoned they become cross and misanthropic -- they hate all Christians, and all those truths that God and His people love. This could not be the case if they had the love of God in their hearts. It could not well be the case if they, were enlightened and restrained by the present agency of the divine Spirit.
5. Again, generally those who are left of God, come to ham a seared conscience. They are distinguished by great insensibility of mind. They are of choice blind and hardened in respect to the nature and guilt of sin. Although their intelligence affirms that sin is. wrong, yet they do not feel it, or care for it. They can know the truth and yet be reckless of its application to their own hearts and lives. God has left them, and of course the natural tendencies of a depraved heart are developed without restraint.
6. Again, this class of sinners will inevitably wax worse and worse.They become loose in habits -- lax in their observance of the Sabbath-slide backwards in regard to temperance and all kindred moral subjects -- slip into some of the many forms of sin and perhaps vice and crime; if they have been conscientious against the use of tobacco, they relinquish their conscientiousness and throw a loose rein on their lusts; in short, they are wont to wax worse and worse in every branch of morals, and often become so changed that you would hardly recognize them. It will be no strange thing if they become profane swearers -- steal a little and anon a good deal; and if God does not restrain them, they go down by a short and steep descent to the depths of hell.
7. Another consequence of being abandoned by the Spirit will be certain damnation. There can be no mistake about this. It is just as certain as if they were already there.
This state is not always attended with apathy of feeling. There may be at times a most intense excitement of the sensibility. The Bible describes the case of some who sin willfully after they have received a knowledge of the truth, and there remains for them only a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation. Some persons of this description I have seen, and such agony and such wretchedness I pray God I may never see again. I have seen them, the very pictures of despair and horror. Their eyes fully open to see their ruined state, exclaiming, I know I am abandoned of God forever -- I have sinned away my day of hope and mercy, and I know I never shall repent -- I have no heart to repent, although I know that I must, or be damned; such language as this they utter with a settled, positive tones! and An air of agony and despair which is enough to break a heart of stone.
8. Another consequence often is that Christians find themselves unable to pray in faith for such sinners. There are some in almost every community for whom Christians cannot pray. It is, I believe, common for many Christians, without being aware of each other's state, to have a similar experience. For example, several Christians are praying in secret for some one individual, and with considerable freedom up to a certain moment, and then they find that they can pray for him no longer. They chance to meet together, and one says, I have been praying a long time with great interest for that certain unrepentant sinner, but at a particular time I found myself all shut up; I could not get hold of the Lord again for him, and never have been able to since. Says another, and another, I have felt just so myself. I did not know that any one else felt as I have, but you have described my case precisely.
Now if you will go to that sinner, he will tell you a story which will develop the whole case, and show that he came at that eventful moment to some fatal determination, grieved the Spirit, and was abandoned of God. The Spirit ceased to strive with him, and consequently ceased to elicit prayer in his behalf in the hearts of God's people. 9. Finally, when God has ceased to strive with sinners, no means whatever, employed for the purpose, can he effectual for their salvation. If you, sinner, have passed that dreadful point, you will no more be profited by my preaching though I were to preach to you five thousand sermons; nay, you could not be profited though an angel should come and preach to you, or even Christ Himself. All would be only in vain, You are left of God to fill up the measure of your iniquities.
1. Christians may understand how to account for the fact already noticed, that there are some for whom they can not pray. Even while they are walking with God, and trying to pray for particular individuals, they may find themselves utterly unable to do so; and this may be the explanation. I would not, however, in such a case, take it for granted that all is right with myself, for perhaps it is not; but if I have the best evidence that all is right between myself and God, then I must infer that God has forsaken that sinner and does not wish me to pray any longer for him.
2. Sinners should be aware that light and guilt keep pace with eachother. They are augmented and lessened together. Hence the solemn responsibility of being under the light and the strivings of the Spirit.
While enlightened and pressed to duty by the Spirit, sinners are under the most solemn circumstances that can ever occur in their whole lives. Indeed, no period of the sinner's existence through its eternal duration can be so momentous as this. Yes, sinner, while the Spirit of God is. pleading and striving with you, angels appreciate the solemnity of the hour -- they know that the destiny of your soul is being decided for eternity. What an object of infinite interest! An immortal mind on the pivot of its eternal destiny -- God debating and persuading -- he resisting, and the struggle about to be broken off as hopeless former. Suppose, sinner, you could set yourself aside and could look on and be a spectator of such a scene. Were you ever in a court of justice when the question of life and death was about to be decided? The witnesses have all been heard -- the counsel have been heard -- it is announced that the jury are ready to deliver their verdict. Now pause and mark the scene. Note the anxiety depicted in every countenance, and how eagerly and yet with what awful solemnity they wait for the decision about to be made; and with good reason -- for a question of momentous interest is to be decided. But if this question, involving only the temporal life, is so momentous, how much more so is the sinner's case when the life of the soul for eternity is pending!! O how solemn while the question still pends -- while the Spirit still strives, and still, the sinner resists, and none can tell how soon the last moment of the Spirit's striving may come!
This ought to be the most solemn world in the universe.style='font-family:In other worlds, the destinies of the souls are already fixed, It is so in hell. All there is fixed and changeless forever. It is a solemn thing indeed for a sinner to go to hell, but the most solemn point in the whole duration of his existence is that one in which the decision is made.
O what a world is this! Throughput all its years and centuries we can not see one moment on whose tender point, there hangs not a balancing of the question of eternal life or eternal death! And is this a place to trifle? This a place to be mad and foolish and vain? Ah, no! it were more reasonable to trifle in any other world than in this. The awful destinies of the soul are being determined here. Heaven sees it and hell too, and all are filled with solicitude, swelling almost to agony; but you who are the subjects of all this anxiety -- you can trifle and play the fool and dance on the brink of everlasting woe. The Psalmist says:
I heard the wretch profanely boast, Till at thy frown he fell; His honors in a dream were lost, And he awoke in hell.
God represents the sinner as on a slippery steep, his feet just sliding on the very verge of an awful chasm -- God holding him up a short moment, and he trifling away even this short moment in mad folly. All hearts in heaven and in hell are beating and throbbing with intense emotion: but he can be reckless! O what madness!
If sinners duly estimated this danger of resisting the Spirit, they would be more afraid of it than of anything else whatever. They would deem no other dangers worthy of a moment's thought or care compared with this.
Again, it is a very common thing for sinners to grieve away the Spirit long before death. So I believe, although some, I am aware, are greatly opposed to this doctrine. Do you doubt it? Think of almost the whole Jewish nation in the time of the Savior, given up to unbelief and reprobacy abandoned of the Spirit of God; yet they sinned against far less light and of course with much less guilt than sinners now do. If God could give them up then, why may He not do so with sinners now? If He could give up the whole population of the world in Noah's time when he alone stood forth a preacher of righteousness, why may He not give up individual sinners now who are incomparably more guilty than they, because they have sinned against greater light than had ever shone then? O it is infinitely cruel to sinners them selves to conceal from them this truth. Let them know that they are in peril of grieving away the Spirit beyond recall, long before they die. This truth ought to be proclaimed over all the earth. Let its echo ring out through every valley and over every mountain-top, the world around. Let every living sinner hear it and take the timely warning!
Again, we see why so few aged sinners are converted. The fact is striking and unquestionable. Take the age of sixty, and count the number converted past that age. You will find it small indeed. Few and scattered are they, like beacons on mountaintops, just barely enough to prevent the aged from utter despair of ever being converted. I am aware that infidels seize upon this fact to extort from it a cavil against religion, saying, How does it happen that the aged and wise, whose minds are developed by thought and experience, and who have passed by the period of warm youthful passion, never embrace the Gospel? They would fain have it, that none but children and women become religious, and that this is to be accounted for on the ground that the Christian religion rests on its appeal to the sensibilities, and not to the intelligence. But infidels make a most egregious mistake in this inference of theirs. The fact under consideration should be referred to an entirely different class of causes. The aged are converted but rarely, because they have grieved away the Spirit -- have become entangled in the mazes of some loved and soul-ruinous delusion, and hardened in sin past the moral possibility of being converted. Indeed, it would be unwise on the part of God to convert many sinners in old age; it would be too great a temptation for human nature to bear. At all the earlier periods of life, sinners would be looking forward to old age as the time for conversion.
I have already said what I wish here to repeat -- that it is an awfully interesting, moment when God's Spirit strives with sinners. I have reason to know that the Spirit is striving with some of you. Even within the past week your attention has been solemnly arrested, and God has been calling upon you to repent. And now are you aware that while God is calling, you must listen -- that when He speaks, you should pause and give Him your attention? Does God call you away from your lesson, and are you replying -- O, I must, I must get my lesson? Ah, your lesson! and what is your first and chief lesson? Prepare to meet thy God. But you say, O the bell will toll in a few minutes, and I have not got my lesson!! Yes, sinner, soon the great bell will toll-- unseen spirits will seize hold of the bell-rope and toll the dread death- knell of eternity, echoing the summons -- Come to judgment; and the bell will toll, toll, TOLL! and where, sinner, Will you be then! Are you prepared? Have you got that one great lesson, Prepare to meet thy God?
In the long elapsing ages of your lost doom you will be asked, how and why you came into this place of torment; and you will have to answer, Oh, I was getting my lesson there in Oberlin when God came by His Spirit, and I could not stop to hear His call! So I exchanged my soul for my lesson! O what a fool was I!!
Let me ask the people of God, Should you not be awake in such an hour as this? How many sinners during the past week have besought you to pray for their perishing souls? And have you no heart to pray? How full of critical interest and peril are these passing moments? Did you ever see the magnetic needle of the compass vacillate, quiver, quiver,and finally settle down fixed to its position? So with the sinner's destiny today.
Sinners, think of your destiny as being now about to assume its fixed position. Soon you will decide it forever and forever!
Do you say, Let me first go to my room, and there I will give myself up to God? No, sinner, no!go not away hence in your sin; for now is your accepted time -- now -- today, after so long a time -- nowis the only hour of promise -- now is perhaps the last hour of the Spirit's presence and grace to your soul!