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punish the ill actions of such inconsiderable creatures as men are ; but rather be assured that he is too wise and too just a Governor to suffer rebellion in his creatures with impunity, especially when he has so often and so plainly threatened the severest punishments to those that shall obstinately persist in doing those things he has forbidden, or neglecting due observance of what he has been pleased to command. And if love and gratitude will not persuade us to leave off striving with our Maker, our Redeemer, our greatest and best Friend, then let the consideration of the terrors of the divine vengeance do it: for be assured the contrary will be of most melancholy, most woeful consequence at last.
Nor will our discontents and murmurings at the divine disposals, which is another way, as we have shewn, of striving with our Maker, escape without due punishment. For suppose, and which is often done, that God should be so far provoked by our repinings as to throw us off from his care and protection, and leave us to ourselves, and, in his anger, comply with our foolish desires, and give us what we are so fond of, and which he sees will be our ruin ; how sadly sensible shall we then soon be of the vast difference between God's government and our own ! how entangled with difficulties, how harassed and perplexed, and even sinking in a bottomless ocean of sins and miseries; and whom then shall we call upon for help?
And so for impatience under troubles and afflictions, which is another instance of striving with our Maker: suppose our outcries and strugglings and resistance should make God withhold his paternal
chastisements, and suffer sin upon us without correction, and disregard us as desperate and incorrigible; what woe on earth could befall us greater than this? This would be properly reprobation, and a kind of sealing up to eternal destruction. And therefore did a holy man once say, and with as great reason as devotion, “Lord, here let me suffer “ what thou pleasest, and wound and scarify, and
even burn me here, so thou wilt shew me mercy at “ the day of judgmente.”
Finally, what but the extremest of all woes can be expected from our rejecting those proposals of reconciliation to God, which are not only offered, but pressed upon us daily, by the ministers of Christ, and to which we are constantly moved by the workings of the Spirit of God within upon our souls; what can be the consequence of our thus striving, not only with our Maker, but our Redeemer, and Advocate with the offended Majesty of heaven, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour those foolish and ungrateful adversaries of his, who would not be persuaded to be happy.
Having thus done with what I intended to discourse upon this subject, and shewn what it is to strive with our Maker, together with the vileness and folly of so doing, and how very miserable the consequence will inevitably be; let us beg of God so to give a blessing to what hath been delivered, that it may conduce to his glory and our eternal benefit, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ the righteous, our most blessed Lord and Saviour. To whom, &c.
e St. Augustine.
OF QUENCHING THE SPIRIT.
1 Thess. v. 19.
Quench not the Spirit. THESE few words contain advice of the greatest moment and importance to us; and deserve our most serious consideration, though I fear too seldom and too slightly thought on: and in discoursing upon them, I shall shew,
I. First, what it is to quench the Spirit; and who they are that are guilty of so great impiety.
II. Secondly, what are the sad consequences of it. And,
III. Thirdly, how we may best cherish and improve his blessed motions upon our souls, and those assistances which he is ready to afford us; and how happy it will be for those that do so, and entirely give themselves up to be led and guided and instructed by him.
I. As to the first particular, what it is to quench the Spirit, and who they are that are guilty of so great impiety. By the Spirit is here meant the various actings of the Holy Ghost upon the minds of Christians, to enlighten them to a right understanding of the great truths of our holy religion, and excite us to live according to them; to reprove us when we do amiss; to raise our devotion, and help us in the exercise of prayer; and to support and strengthen and comfort us under temptation and affliction. And therefore, in general, to quench the Spirit is so to neglect or resist these blessed motions of his, and so to pollute our souls with vile and impious practices and affections, as to render them unfit for the presence of so pure and holy a Spirit, and provoke him to depart.
And this is expressed in the text, by quenching the Spirit, partly in allusion to the Holy Ghost's descent upon the apostles in the likeness of fire a; and partly to denote the nature of his blessed influences, and what kind of behaviour will extinguish them, and drive him from us. For, like fire, his motions are designed to refine and purify our souls from the dross and filth of sin; and, like a light shining in a dark place, to direct our bewildered steps into the true way to happiness; and go before us in it, as the pillar of fire did before the Israelites in the wil. derness, till we arrive at the promised inheritance.
Like fire, they will inflame our devotion and zeal and holy love, and mount our desires and affections towards heaven; and spread themselves over our souls till they have destroyed every thing that is vile and wicked in them, and subdued all our powers and faculties to the obedience of Jesus Christ. Melting us down with godly sorrow and contrition for our sins, and then forming us anew into vessels of honour, sanctified and meet for our divine Master's use b; and impressing that mark upon us whereby we shall be known to be his c.
And he that quenches this heavenly fire is he that remains cold and numbed, and without any religious fervour; and is still filthy and impure, nota Acts ii. 3. b 2 Tim. ii. 19. 21.
c Rev. vii. 3.
withstanding all these cleansing, warming, and invigorating influences; and stifles them with a heap of earthly, sensual desires and propensions ; minding nothing but how to make provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
But more particularly, to quench the Spirit is, first, to shut our eyes against the light he affords our understandings in the great and most concerning truths of religion.
Thus, when a man has for a considerable time enjoyed the invaluable blessing of good and wholesome instruction in the mystery of godliness; and has had the doctrines of it faithfully and clearly laid before him, and the duties of it rightly stated, and pressed upon his practice by the most prevailing motives ; and the best directions given him how to add to his faith virtue in all the instances of it, together with the most earnest and affectionate dissuasives from wickedness and vice; whereby his conscience has been convinced that true piety is the ready and only way to make him infinitely happy, and that a wicked, irreligious course of life will render him at present, and for ever, miserable; and thereupon feels himself inclined to act according to these his convictions, and wish he could do it effectually, and it may be begins, and for a while makes some progress in the ways of religion and virtue; all this is owing to the Holy Spirit's endeavour to make him wise to salvation.
But then, if, after all, he falls off from his good purposes, grows weary of religious duties, seldom thinks of, and at length forgets the good lessons he had learned, and is willingly led away with the vanities and pleasures of the world; this man grieves