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If we have in some measure escaped the bondage of sin, we are still in the wilderness of the world. Great, and rich, and many as are our mercies, our present state is not to be compared with the future we hope for. Sin is still within us, enemies surround us in the form of temptations, afflictions try, and our weak hearts by reason of difficulty are sometimes ready to despond.
"In the waste howling wilderness,
Yet as the Israelites of old were sealed as God's people, and sealed for Canaan, by rites and ceremonies of the law, so we have been sealed for Christ. As the owner marks his sheep, that he and others may know them wherever they may be wandering, so Christ set His own mark upon us in baptism; and every striving of the Spirit within, every gracious renewal, every tear of penitence, every action of faith and obedience, hath made that sacred mark clearer and brighter. "Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." (2 Cor. i. 22.) We are "sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise," unto the day of redemption.
Such, brethren, is the affecting truth. Let us now come to the well-grounded exhortation. Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. This exhortation implies another truth, which may startle some of us, and which is, that the Holy Spirit is capable of grief, and that it is in our power to grieve Him. How is this? We are compelled to believe that when men sin, there is something in the Divine nature which is best represented to us by the word grief. It does no more dishonor to God to say that He can grieve, than to say that He can love. Indeed, it is difficult to conceive how He could love such creatures as we are, without grief proportioned to our unhappy weakness and obstinacy, grief arising from His very love to us. We can only know God by knowing ourselves. When, then, a godly and tender mother sees the son she bare, and watched over, and taught, and trained, and warned, and prayed for, running heedlessly downward as if bent on destruction, the mother cannot but grieve.
So with the Spirit. Being the Spirit of love, He grieves over the sins of men. He is the Spirit of Christ, who lamented the hardness of the Scribes and Pharisees, who wept over Jerusalem when her day of grace was gone. Brethren, we have heard of God's anger against sin, we have trembled at the sound of the wrath to come. Have we ever sufficiently taken His grief to heart? "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God."
Our sins grieve the Spirit because they are contrary to His nature as the Holy Spirit. It may be profitable for us here to refer to the sins which St. Paul particularly mentions in connexion with the text, and against which he particularly cautions us. St. Paul is that one of all the writers of Holy Scripture, who, in the high mysteries of his doctrine, requires the greatest learning and stability in his readers, lest his meaning be wrested and misunderstood. How far he has been wrested by some, will not perhaps be fully known until the Day of Judgment. His Epistles are full of doctrinal truth. But they are also intensely practical; and all his truth he labors to connect at once with duty, to make it suggestive of godliness, justice, kindness, purity and temperance. By the former part of this Epistle to the Ephesians, if taken alone, it might have been supposed, that his main reason for writing was revelation of truth; in order that, to use his own words, "we might understand his knowledge in the mystery of Christ." Yet the last three chapters are, according to his wont, entirely filled with precepts. If we neglect these, we shall grieve the Holy Spirit of God. Let us read some of them "This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk. Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ. That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour :
for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." Observe here, that as it is the Spirit of God who helps us to put off the old man, who renews us, and after God creates the new man in righteousness and holiness, all contrary tendencies in us occasion grief to Him. Observe what a reason is given for speaking truth. "We are members one of another." That is, in the Church of Christ, wherein His Spirit dwells, making it one. Every falsehood, therefore, is an offence and grief to the Spirit, and mars the unity of the Church. Schism, which is occasioned by falsehood, is particularly grievous to the Spirit of truth, love and unity. On the same principle, our union with our brethren in one body, depends the precept against stealing. The motive for labor, "That he may have to give to him that needeth," is given in the same spirit, and is highly characteristic of Gospel morality. It is remarkable that nearly all the sins which are specified here, are offences against our neighbour. Christianity is a system of humanity as well as godliness, and the humanity is based upon the godliness. When David had committed against Uriah the greatest injuries which man can do to man-being brought to repentance, he was compelled to confess thus before God: "Against thee, thee, only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight." So here, these offences against our neighbour are represented as grievous to the Spirit of God, who makes human nature the object of His especial love. God's kind and tender-hearted forgiveness of us in Christ,
is set forth as the grand reason why we should be kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving towards one another.
Again, brethren, observe that our sins grieve the Spirit, not only because they are contrary to His nature, but by reason of our ingratitude. He is ever striving with us for our salvation. He has on His side done all hitherto that has been necessary to secure it, and He is ready to do the rest. It was by this "Eternal Spirit that Christ offered Himself without spot to God." The same Spirit inspired the messengers by whom the word was at first delivered. This Spirit is still present in the midst of the Church, and still strives to instruct us and lead us in the right way. To resist Him, then, is great and horrible ingratitude, from which may God preserve us!
Our sins grieve the Spirit by their folly, by their tendency to ruin us. It is His aim to save us. If we thwart Him,
we shall have ourselves to thank for our destruction. All His suggestions tend the other way. Turn ye, turn ye from your evil way; for why will ye die? His pleasure is our salvation, and our destruction grieves Him in proportion. If then, by your sins, you perish, it will be your own doing. You will have perversely resisted the Spirit's long-suffering love. How awful are the words of St. Stephen: Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost. It will be no insignificant ingredient in the sufferings of the lost, to remember the strivings of the patient Spirit while their trial lasted; that for their own obstinacy, they died not in the Lord, but their worthless carcases fell in the wilderness; that their stubbornness provoked at last the wrathful oath, They shall not enter into my rest; and that their ruin itself grieved the Spirit, even when in judgment He departed from them, leaving them to perish.
Beware, then, of grieving the Spirit, on account of the heinousness of the crime. Well may we tremble at the thought of the awful power we hold; at the possibility, to say the least, that we have already misused it, and have disturbed with grief the Holy Spirit of God! If we have any reverence for
God, any sense of His sacred Majesty, any dread of incurring most fearful guilt-O brethren! let us be on our guard for the future.
Grieve not the Spirit, because He is the Spirit of love. Have we not all felt that the conduct of the prodigal son in the parable was not more foolish than it was mean and selfish? He thought not of the dishonor he put on his parent, when he prematurely claimed his portion of goods, nor of the grief his vices would occasion when he was wasting his substance in riotous living. He was seeking only his own gratification. Now, if an earthly father grieves over his lost child, how much more the Heavenly! Much greater than the mean selfishness of the prodigal son is ours, when we grieve the holy and loving Spirit of God, whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption.
Grieve Him not, lest He depart from you. The Israelites in the wilderness rebelled and vexed God's Holy Spirit: therefore He was turned to be their enemy, and He fought against them. (Is. lxiii. 10.) If He should finally depart—all the resources of His long-suffering, exhausted by our resistance, and His yearning to save changed to indignation-far worse will be our condition, and more tremendous our punishment, than if He had never abode with us at all, than if our brows had never felt the washing of His font, nor our foreheads received His mark. O let us listen to God's most kind but awful warning! To-day, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts; as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness; when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works. Forty years long was I grieved with this generation and said; It is a people that do err in their hearts, for they have not known my ways; unto whom I sware in my wrath, that they should not enter into my rest.
"Wherefore if any man thinketh he standeth, let him take heed lest he fall." "Let us pass the time of our sojourning here in fear," "giving all diligence to make our calling and election sure."
Once more, brethren, I beseech you by God's inestimable love in the sending of His Son, "for the Lord Jesus Christ's