C H Spurgeon on Grieving the Holy Spirit.
My friend Peter Day preached on the danger of grieving the Holy Spirit last Sunday and it sparked a whole chain of thought with me. In this day and age, we hear much about the Spirit. We indulge in controversies about His gifts, how one receives Him primarily etc etc - but little is spoken on how He is upset or grieved. So I turned to my volumes of C H Spurgeon and found this most insightful, and indeed most convicting sermon on this topic. As I have done before I will present the structure of the sermon with key points - then will post some comments and thoughts of my own at the end, on the issues it has raised in my own mind.
Grieving the Holy Spirit
Ref: Sermon(No. 278) Delivered on Sabbath Morning, October 9th, 1859, by the Rev C H Spurgeon at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.
Text: "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption."—Ephesians 4:30.
"Grief is a sweet combination of anger and of love".
"Now, the purport of my sermon, this morning, will be to exhort you not to grieve the Spirit; but I shall divide it thus:—first, I shall discourse upon the love of the Spirit; secondly, upon the seal of the Spirit; and then, thirdly, upon the grieving of the Spirit".
1. Upon the love of the Spirit.
"Ah, then, in that blest hour, to memory dear, was it not the Holy Spirit who guided you to Jesus? Do you remember the love of the Spirit, when, after having quickened you, he took you aside, and showed you Jesus on the tree? Who was it that opened our blind eye to see a dying Saviour? Who was it that opened your deaf ear to hear the voice of pardoning love? Who opened your clasped and palsied hand to receive the tokens of a Saviour's grace Who was it that brake your hard heart and made a way for the Saviour to enter and dwell therein? Oh! it was that precious Spirit that self-same Spirit, to whom you had done so much despite, whom in the days of your flesh you had resisted!"
"I am afraid, dear friends, we are too much in the habit of talking of the love of Jesus, without thinking of the love of the Holy Spirit".
"We do not forget Christ's cross, let us not forget the Spirit's operations. We do not forget what Jesus has done for us, let us always remember what the Spirit does in us".
"Why you talk of the love, and grace, and tenderness, and faithfulness of Christ, why do you not say the like of the Spirit? Was ever love like his, that he should visit us? Was ever mercy like his, that he should bear with our ill manners, though constantly repeated by us? Was ever faithfulness like his, that multitudes of sins cannot drive him away? Was ever power like his, that overcometh all our iniquities, and yet leads us safely on, though hosts of foes within and without would rob us of our Christian life?"
2. It is BY the Spirit that we are sealed.
"Never be content, my dear hearers, unless you are sealed, unless you are sure, by the inward witness and testimony of the Holy Ghost, that you have been begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead".
"It is possible for a man to know infallibly that he is secure of heaven. He may not only hope so, but he may know it beyond a doubt, and he may know it thus,—by being able with the eye of faith to see the seal, the broad stamp of the Holy Spirit set upon his own character and experience. It is a seal of attestation".
3. The Grieving of the Spirit.
"Oh, I wish the Spirit had an advocate here this morning, that could speak in better terms than I can. I have a theme that overmasters me, I seem to grieve for him; but I cannot make you grieve, nor tell out the grief I feel".
"Now suppose the Holy Spirit is grieved, what is the effect produced upon us? When the Spirit is grieved first, he bears with us. He is grieved again and again, and again and again, and still he bears with it all. But at last, his grief becomes so excessive, that he says, "I will suspend my operations; I will begone; I will leave life behind me, but my own actual presence I will take away".
"And when the Spirit of God goes away from the soul and suspends all his operations what a miserable state we are in. He suspends his instructions; we read the word, we cannot understand it; we go to our commentaries, they cannot tell us the meaning; we fall on our knees and ask to be taught, but we get no answer, we learn nothing. He suspends his comfort; we used to dance, like David before the ark, and now we sit like Job in the ash-pit, and scrape our ulcers with a potsherd".
"There was a time when his candle shone round about us, but now he is gone; he has left us in the blackness of darkness. Now, he takes from us all spiritual power. Once we could do all things; now we can do nothing. We could slay the Philistines, and lay them heaps upon heaps, but now Delilah can deceive us, and our eyes are put out and we are made to grind in the mill. We go preaching, and there is no pleasure in preaching, and no good follows it. We go to our tract distributing, and our Sunday-school, we might almost as well be at home. There is the machinery there, but there is no love. There is the intention to do good, or perhaps not even that, but alas! there is no power to accomplish the intention. The Lord has withdrawn himself, his light, his joy, his comfort, his spiritual power, all are gone".
"The churches of the present day are very much in the position of those who have grieved the Spirit of God; for the Spirit deals with churches just as it does with individuals".
"You know right well that this is the case with many London churches to this day; and there be some that do not mourn about it. They go up to their accustomed place, and the minister prays, and the people either sleep with their eyes or else with their hearts, and they go out, and there is never a soul saved. The pool of baptism is seldom stirred; but the saddest part of all is this, the churches are willing to have it so. They are not earnest to get a revival of religion".
"He is grieved, and he is gone".
"Let us cry aloud to the Holy Spirit, who is certainly grieved with his church, and let us purge our churches of everything that is contrary to his Word and to sound doctrine, and then the Spirit will return, and his power shall be manifest".
"It is a mercy for you to know that the Spirit of God never leaves his people finally; he leaves them for chastisement, but not for damnation. He sometimes leaves them that they may get good by knowing their own weakness, but be will not leave them finally to perish. Are you in a state of backsliding, declension, and coldness? Hearken to me for a moment, and God bless the words. Brother, stay not a moment in a condition so perilous; be not easy for a single second in the absence of the Holy Ghost. I beseech you use every means by which that Spirit may be brought back to you".
* End of Sermon Extract*
The first matter to grip and claim my attention was the point that Spurgeon made in his first section on the "Love of the Spirit". He said; "I am afraid, dear friends, we are too much in the habit of talking of the love of Jesus, without thinking of the love of the Holy Spirit". And again; "We do not forget Christ's cross, let us not forget the Spirit's operations". That simply struck a chord with me, because that has been my unfortunate experience these last two and a half years in Sovereign Grace Ministries. And the question posed in my mind is - how? How can it be possible to not forget Christ's cross - indeed have it remembered every time the church ever met together, and yet forget the working and operation of the Holy Spirit. I have no particular answer other than that I am seriously grieved that I have been guilty of such error, for surely Spurgeon would not have mentioned such a point unless that too grieved the Spirit.
The second matter of interest was his clear theology on the sealing of the Spirit. He said; "Never be content, my dear hearers, unless you are sealed, unless you are sure, by the inward witness and testimony of the Holy Ghost, that you have been begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead". It seems certain to me from this point that C H Spurgeon clearly held a similar view on the sealing of the Spirit to that of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones. "Never be content". Why would he say such a thing if we received such a sealing automatically and unconciously upon conversion? "Unless you are sure". How can we be sure unless such a sealing was vibrantly experiential?
The third matter concerns a few blog entries I made regarding an issue my friend Mark Heath raised on "Inviting the Spirit" to meetings. He stated that he was concerned with this because it seemed to contradict the Spirit's omnipresence and I wrote a reply stating that Scripture itself seems to suggest that the Spirit can be both present, and yet "More or Less" present in an active sense.
C H Spurgeon would seem to verify those observations of Scripture by making comments such as; "But at last, his grief becomes so excessive, that he says, "I will suspend my operations; I will begone; I will leave life behind me, but my own actual presence I will take away" and again; "And when the Spirit of God goes away from the soul and suspends all his operations what a miserable state we are in. He suspends his instructions; we read the word, we cannot understand it; we go to our commentaries, they cannot tell us the meaning; we fall on our knees and ask to be taught, but we get no answer, we learn nothing."
He mentioned of course that there is a very clear similarity between what happens in an individual and what happens in a church setting; "The churches of the present day are very much in the position of those who have grieved the Spirit of God; for the Spirit deals with churches just as it does with individuals". And then of course ended the sermon powerfully with an empassioned plea that if we were guilty of grieving the Spirit, to repent and pray and beesech God for His return.
I do not mention these points to endlessly raise controversy but because it is a matter of very real concern to me. It seems to me that there is huge danger in the common evangelical view that the Spirit is omnipresent, that we will therefore take His Presence for granted, and not notice if He actually goes and departs. Even more so, such a view will surely also begin to erode the clear teaching and need to pray for and expect a mighty revival of religion. Therefore I am tremendously encouraged by finding this sermon of C H Spurgeon's and unashamedly reproduce it here.
May God light urgent fires in the hearts of people who read his words and may we see an increasing urgent prayer rising up that God will visit this nation again in mercy and pour out His Spirit in an overwhealming flood of Pentecostal power.