A Loss Deprecated
James Smith, 1859
Every believer possesses the Holy Spirit, must possess the Spirit; for he is the author of faith, and there is no believing unto salvation without him. He is the worker of all inward religion, working in the Lord's people, to will and to do of his good pleasure. But he so works in us, after regeneration, as to influence, dispose, and prompt us; helping our infirmities—but not in the least interfering with our accountability or responsibility. Though he works in us, yet we act freely; as freely as if no power were exerted, or influence employed. Therefore we read of his being resisted, grieved, and vexed; and have the exhortation given us, "Quench not the Spirit," as if the Spirit's influence were a gentle flame within us, which may be extinguished by us. And that his presence and comforting influence may be forfeited and sinned away is clear, which caused David with intense feeling to cry out, "Take not your Holy Spirit from me." Psalm 51:11.
The Spirit entirely leaves some, on whom he has acted, as he did those with whom he strove before the flood; as God said, "My Spirit shall not always strive with men." And as he did Saul the King of Israel, as we read, "The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him." And as he did the people of the Jews, which caused him to say, "Woe also to them when I depart from them." How careful then should people be, not to stifle convictions, harden their hearts, and resist the Holy Spirit. Everyone should encourage the first motions of the Spirit, yielding to him, and asking for more and more of his influence and operation. Without the Holy Spirit working within us, and forming Christ in the heart, we cannot be saved; for the work of the Spirit within us, is as necessary to salvation, as the work of Christ without us.
When the Spirit of God once takes up his residence as the Spirit of life, of love, and adoption, he never finally withdraws, or abandons the soul to ruin. But though he does not totally and finally withdraw, he withholds his influence, and leaves us pretty much to ourselves. He ceases to comfort us, or to strengthen us with might, according to his power in the inner man. He refuses to assist us in prayer, and we are left to toil alone. Then like Samson, we become weak, and are like other men; or like the church we cry out, "The Comforter that should relieve my soul, is far from me!"
When the Spirit is withdrawn from us, all our graces wither, our evidences become obscured, our joy dies out, and our duties become a task. Then we become light and frivolous, or gloomy and morose; our hearts are hardened, our understanding is darkened, and all within us appears carnal or cold. The greatest loss we can sustain, is the presence and operation of the holy Comforter in the heart. Then very often doubts, fears, and misgivings spring up, unbelief works, and a sense of condemnation is felt in the conscience. We turn everything against ourselves, refuse to be comforted, and begin to neglect duties, because we have no enjoyment in them. Past experience looks like delusion, the hard heart refuses to weep, and the mouth is often ready to speak against God. Sad, very sad, has been the experience of many professors, when the Spirit has left them for a time; well therefore may David pray, "Take not your Holy Spirit from me."
This is never done—but for sin. It is a punishment, or rather a paternal correction. When we forsake the Lord, slight his word and ordinances, and improperly mix up with the world, we provoke the Lord to anger. When we ungratefully slight and disregard his sweet intimations, and resist his kind and gentle promptings to duty, we grieve his loving heart. When we sin against the light, oppose the suggestions of a tender conscience, and openly act contrary to his divine word, we vex and rouse up his displeasure. When we allow ourselves to live in the neglect of known duty, in the practice of any acknowledged sin, or persevere in any course in opposition to the testimony of our conscience, we resist the Holy Spirit, and must expect to suffer.
All such conduct dishonors God, belies our profession, wounds the Savior, and causes the Holy Spirit to withdraw. But the Spirit, seldom if ever, withdraws at once, he checks us, smites us, and in various ways expostulates with us; and only when he is wearied with forbearing does he say, "I will go and return to my place until they acknowledge their iniquity—in their affliction they will seek me early.
Reader, have you received the Holy Spirit? Have you enjoyed the sweet comforts of his love, his soul-ravishing joy, and his precious revelations of the Savior? Has your heart been softened, humbled, and purified by his gracious operations? Has your conscience been enlightened, made honest, and tender, by his revealing the truth and applying the blood of the Savior! Has he liberated the will, elevated the affections, and filled the understanding with pleasant and saving light, in your experience? Do you enjoy his help in prayer, his teaching in reading the Scriptures, and his presence in the ordinances of God's house? If so, happy are you, and it befits you to walk softly, carefully, and closely with God.
The dove is one of the most timid of birds, and is soon startled; and this is the bird selected to represent the Holy Spirit. Why should you vex and grieve his love? Rather seek his more powerful operations, that possessing him as a pledge, being sealed by him unto the day of redemption, and enjoying his witness to your adoption, you may rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Beloved, let us watch and be sober, for it is more easy to sin away, and lose the gracious operations of the Spirit, than to recover and regain them. Let us be much in prayer, that we may receive the spirit in greater measure, enjoy his work in greater power, and be by him more thoroughly conformed to the likeness of our beloved Lord. Let us cultivate filial fear and tenderness of heart, lest we become hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
Who can tell either the power or deceitfulness of sin! To what lengths it led David, into what depths of sorrow it brought him, and how many good things it kept back from him. If David fell—we may. If he grieved away the Spirit—we may. He had to groan over broken bones, blighted hopes, and blasted prospects, and all the effect of his own sin—so may we. Let us therefore fear, lest we peril our peace, confidence, and comfort; and let us cultivate a sense of our dependence on the Spirit, and learn to live in the Spirit, to walk in the Spirit, and to sow to the Spirit, that we may of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
Blessed Comforter, dwell in our hearts, rule our spirits, and regulate our lives—that we may ever, and in all things, glorify free and sovereign grace!