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Christ and his apostles were governed, in their quotations from the Old Testament; or how far the use they have made of it is accommodated to the ignorance and prejudice of their cotemporaries. A few passages will be noticed in their plain and obvious import. In the eleventh of Hebrews, we are told, that, “by faith Enoch was translated, that he should not see death; and was not sound, because God had translated him; for before his translation, he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” It cannot be doubted, that Paul supposed Enoch was suddenly removed from life to a state of happiness on account of his piety. The same apostle has said, in the following verses,that Abraham “looked for a city which hath foundations;” (v. 10,) and that the ancient patriarchs “confessed they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth,” thus “declaring plainly, that they sought a better country, that is an heavenly.” (vs. 13–16.) The Sadducees were “put to silence” by the argument of Christ, Matt. xxii. 23, 24. “As touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God—the patron, the benefactor—of the dead, but of the living.” IV. The internal character of the Old Testament urges upon us a belief, that many of the sacred writers looked forward to the rewards and punishments of a future life. The works of Pagan authors, whenever they speak of God, or of a future state, abound in absurdity. Not so the Old Testament. However imperfect were the views entertained, nothing is exhibited low or mean in the character of God—nothing inconsistent with his majesty and glory—nothing trifling or sensual in the enjoyments or the sufferings of the future. The sacred writers are silent, or speak what is worthy of Jehovah. However obscure their view
of the future, no descriptions of God are more elevated; no worship is more exalted in its nature; no piety is more serveut. Even the most enlightened christian of our own time, dwells with rapture on the beautiful and sublime passages in the Psalms and Prophets—they afford him instruction, consolation, and joy; and the more he contemplates them, the more he loves them; and the more readily, he acknowledges their divine original. A very important distinction is noticed by the most accurate observers of the powers of the human mind in various ages and circumstances, between the intellectual character of Pagan and Christian authors. The views of the former, though perhaps equally acute and vivid, are more limited, more superficial, more confined to sensual objects. Those of the latter are more expanded; they flow from the deep foundations of the soul; they bear the impress of eternity, which gives a colouring to all temporal objects, and throws around them a shade of melancholy. And is there nothing of this in the Old Testament? Is there nothing of this in the nineteenth Psalm, the one hundred and third, the one hundred and thirty-ninth P W. In conclusion, it is evident the sacred writers of the Old Testament expected to exist after death; and that their general views of the future were in a good degree just. These views appear in successive revelations to have become more and more definite. To suppose that nothing remained to be revealed in the New Testament, would seem not only to contradict what is so frequently implied by Christ and his apostles, that the Gospel is a new and better dispensation, and the most precious gift of heaven; but would diminish its peculiar value in our estimation. If it is demanded, why the events of the future are no more explicitly revealed in the Old Testament—a work inspired by God for the benefit of man—the answer is easy, that tre cannot tell. We might ask in return,
why he suffered so many generations to pass away without any written revelation; or why so many millions, now inhabiting our earth, have uever yet heard of the bible, or of a Savionr. We receive the facts in relation to the mode of God's revelation, as they are exhibited in the scriptures; and humbly acknowledge his wisdom in all his dispensations to man. And especially would we acknowledge, with unceasing gratitude, his goodness to us, in giving us the glorious gospel of our Lord, in which “life and immortality are” clearly “brought to light” (II. Tim. i. 10)—and a sure and certain hope of immortal happiness beyond the grave is revealed. MARO. A SERMoN.
I. Thess. v. 19. Quench not the Spirit.
This was one of those directions which the Apostle gave in the concluding part of his first epistle to the brethren in Thessalonica. After haviug inculcated various christian duties, he here reminded them of the necessity of cherishing the influences of the Holy Spirit in their breasts, knowing that by these influences alone could they be in possession of those “gifts of the Spirit” which were peculiar to the Apostolic age, or of those graces which are ever the characteristics, the joy, and the ornament of christians.
The phraseology of the text is highly appropriate. Quench not the Spirit. Allusion is made to the extinction of fire in the material world, and from this process, with which all are familiar, the form of the address is borrowed. No indistinct analogy can be traced between the effects of fire, and those of the Spirit. It is the Divine Agent which dispels the horror of mental darkness, and illumines the soul with the light of life, which kindles a flame that shall impart a sacred glow, and celestial warmth to continue during the ages of eternity.
These saving influences of the Spirit, are peculiar to christians. The natural man receireth not the things
of the Spirit of God. It is not, however, for the peculiar benefit of real christians that our text has been chosen, nor shall we, at this time, dwell upon the necessity of their cherishing these influences as they would grow in grace. The Spirit of God strives with many who have not been translated from the kingdom of darkness into that of his dear Son, and this present opportunity for religious instruetion will be principally devoted to their benefit. God grant that it may be for their benefit ! While so many are turning a deaf ear to the calls of mercy, let me exhort you, my friends, not to quench the Spirit. Some, perhaps, may be disposed to enquire, “but are not the influences of the Spirit irresistible, and must not therefore all who have the “strivings of the Spirit,” inevitably become pious?” It is indeed true, that all real christians are made such by the grace of God. “And you, says the Apostle, hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” None, however, will be saved contrarily to their inclinations. “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.” That is irresistible, in the only sense in which the term can be used with reference to the subject, which man as a rational being can no longer resist. “Effectual calling,” says our excellent catechism, “is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the Gospel.” This is irresistible grace. Man can no longer resist the goodness, the mercy, the loving-kindness of his God. Many have the strivings of the Spirit who never become pious. Christians often suppose that they had these strivings at many periods long anterior to their conversion. Sinners often confess that they believe God has admonished them by his Spirit. The word of God warrants the belief. “My Spirit,” said God at a time of peculiar wickedness, “shall not always strive with man.” Language which authorises us to conclude that men had its influences and resisted them. To those then who are yet in their sins, we may accommodate the instruction of our text, and admonish them not to quench the Spirit. This may be done by various methods. 1. By the neglect of the means of grace.—The Spirit may be said to be quenched, when those means are neglected which are frequently the medium of his operation. A fire may be considered as extinguished when fuel is withholden. In many instances it has pleased God by the foolishness of preaching, (i.e. by the simplicity of this method) to save them that believe. The sanctuary has been the spiritual birth-place of many souls. Those then who from Sabbath to Sabbath neglect the assembling of themselves together, as the manner of some unhappily is, who instead of giving their attendance upon the word preached, and thus calling the Sabbath a delight and the holy of the Lord honourable, remain in their houses, or wander in their fields, can hardly be considered as candidates for heaven. Neglecting the sanctuary of God on earth, they cannot expect to enter the Temple of the King of Kings above. Refusing to come within what may here be called the sphere of Divine influence, or to permit the calls of mercy to vibrate on their ear, by mercy they will not profit, by the influences of the Holy Spirit, they will not be made meet for a participation in the inheritance of the saints in light. Again, the scriptures are able to make men wise unto salvation,through faith which is in Christ Jesus. The scriptures are the most powerful instrument used by the Holy Ghost. They are termed the sword of the Spirit; a sword which penetrates the conscience, and the heart; and by a nungency. known only to those who
feel it, disturbs the quiet of a carnal security. Millions, sleeping upon the brink of destruction, have by the word of God as a faithful messenger, been awakened to a real knowledge of their danger, and will point, some to one portion, and some to another, as the precious word which prevented their fall into the lake of death. While, therefore, the word of God is often rendered so efficacious, those who neglect it, who never consult it, who permit it to remain fastened by the rust of time upon the shelf, to repose in undisturbed quiet in the drawer, or who permit it to be supplanted by the inferior portions of the library, can hardly expect the blessing of God. They never invite the monitions of the Spirit, they rather quench his blessed influences. 2. Those may be said to quench the Spirit who indulge in a continual course of levity. Without thought, what is man! It is reason which exalts him above the brute, it is reflection which raises him above his fellows, enlarges his powers, and directs them to wise and useful purposes. To drive reason from her throne, and exalt feeling to an elevation which will make her giddy, and to power which will manifest her imbecility, is ruin toward'self and treason against God. To sport while interests so great and so awful demand attention, to flit and trifle in a sphere implanted with eternal realities, is the height of folly and of sin; it is to be the butterfly without its innocence. Before a mind devoted to the vain delights of a trifling spirit, the subjects of reason,-the “deep things of God,” never pass in solemn review. Its possessor quenches alike the light of reason, and of the Spirit. 3. Those may be said to queuch the Spirit who live in the indulgence of known sin. Here the light enjoyed increases the guilt. The precepts of God, known and familiar, are broken with constancy, and dreadsul presumption. The monitions of God by his word. by his ministers, and by his Spirit, are deliberately set at nought, and every violation of them not only increases the guilt, but tends to prostrate the moral powers of the sinner. The voice of God which resounded as thunder in the ears of the transgressor when commencing his course of gross wickedness, soon ceases to appal him. It, by degrees, loses its majesty, and terror. He sins without compunction, reflects upon his transgressions without remorse. This is the consequence of indulgence in sin, of indulgence in any sin. The observations just made, will apply not only to the notorious offender, to the Sabbath breaker, the profane swearer, to those who live in habits of intemperance, or of dishonesty, but will be pertinent when made with reference to those who live in the indulgence of any sin. All sin hardens the heart and blinds the mind—leads man from one degree of guilt to another, and prepares him to walk the rounds of iniquity with alacrity and with cheerfulness, undisturbed by any corroding reflections, by any monitions of the voice of conscience, which is the voice of God. A worldly minded man for example, will when commencing his active life, occasionally, if not frequently, meditate upon the guilt which he is incurring, by refusing God the love and service which are his most just due, business, however, soon occupies his attention, engages his affections, and he serves the god of this world with assiduity and zeal. The concerns of his soul once thought of with solemnity, are now seldom adverted to, they now occupy less, and now again less of the attention, until at length the aged sinner, without a thought of God, of Heaven, or of Eternity, is busied only in contriving the ways and means of increas ing and securing his substance, in pulling down his barns, and in building greater. So effectually has he quenched the Spirit. 4. The Spirit is resisted by directly attempting to stifle his influences.
Sinners are, often, brought to a consideration of their spiritual condition. They know and feel that they are guilty before God. Comparing their conduct with the requirements of his holy law, they see that in all things they have come short, that in many they have most grievously of fended, and that their only hope and their only safety consists in making their peace with God. With this knowledge, instead of walking in the path of safety and of peace, to which God has directed them, instead of exercising “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,”—they desire and attempt to rid themselves of serious thought, and feeling.
Carefully avoiding whatever may be calculated to prolong, or increase their solicitude, they seek for mental guiet. In the bustle of business, they attempt to drown the voice of that monitor which proclaims, “There is no peace to the wicked.”—Any book but the bible, any house but that of God, where they believe or fear his word will be faithfully preached, any company, but that which is religious, any employment, but that which is holy, is chosen, searched for, and cherished This murder of the soul is accomplished with a cruelty which baffles description, and a perseverance the most desperate. In the company of the vain, the vicious, and the sensual, they continue the courses with whose termination they are acquainted, and hasten on to destruction.
What a spectacle! To see an immortal being, informed of the destiny of the righteous and the wicked, made to feel, and to feel deeply, that he is a sinner, that a way and but one way is open for his escape from ruin, go on in the road to hell, cannot but excite astonishment and horror. To see him, instead of kneeling before his Maker in humble adoration, dancing to the sound of the viol, aud compose his features for the smile of pleasure, while his conscience loudly reproaches him for his sins, and in
spires his soul with terror, is indeed a spectacle without a parallel. Who beholding or knowing of it, can re frain from adopting the language of inspiration, and saying, “The heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.” It cannot be thought singular, that such conduct will effectually quench the Spirit in his breast, and that relieved from conviction he will soon sin with an high hand, and seal his own damnation. I 5. The Spirit may be quenched by the commission of the unpardonable sin. There is a sin which has no remission; no, neither in this world, nor in the world which is to come. “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.” The circumstances under which this portion of scripture, and which is the language of the Saviour, was spoken, were the following: There had been brought unto Christ one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb; and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. But when the Pharisees heard, they said, “This fellow doth not cast out Devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the Devils.” It was this declaration of the Pharisees, which drew observations from our Saviour, among which was the passage we have noticed. The sin of the Pharisees, was probably thesin against the Holy Ghost, and it appears to have consisted in attributing the operations of the Holy Spirit to Satanic influence, and this when there was sufficient evidence to the contrary. From the facts that this declaration respecting the unpardonable sin, was made when a miracle had been wrought, and that the days of miracles are now past, some have concluded that the unpardonable can no longer be committed. Upon this momentous question who can decide? The subject amazes and chills us.
Permit me however to point out a sin in some respects similar to that of the Pharisees; a sin which if not unpardonable, must surely be eminently calculated to quench the Spirit. In these latter days, the manifestations of the Spirit with which we are favoured, may be considered as consisting in revivals of religion. At times, God is pleased to bow the hearts of multitudes, as the heart of one man, to turn many sinners from the error of their ways, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just. Many at such times are offended, and wish as did the Pharisees of olden time, to decry what they ought to ponder, and admire. They attribute these revivals to any thing but their real cause,_to any excitement, but that of the Holy Spirit. They speak of the power of sympathy, of the arts of designing men, by whose devices it is pretended that these revivals are conjured up, or of hypocrisy, and say that what is pretended, is not felt. If there be a sin against the Holy Ghost, is there not some reason to believe that this may be that sin P We will briefly, but yet distinctly, trace the resemblances between these two offences, that of the Pharisees, and that of these modern sinners. There are in both cases operations of the Holy Spirit. The same Divine Agent which wrought in the maniac, brings sinners to a knowledge of the truth, and transforms them into the image of the Saviour. In both cases there was sufficient evidence that what was done, was wrought by the mighty power of God. It was a miracle that speech and sight were restored to him that had been dumb, and blind. How distinct is it from a miracle, that hardened sinners are brought to cry for mercy, that the tear of penitence is made to trickle down the cheek of the veteran in wickedness, that the haunts of vice become houses of prayer, and that the ways of Zion rejoice in beholding multitudes flock to her solemn feasts, where of late the multitude walked in the way of their heart, and in the sight of their eyes P