By Elmer Ellsworth Shelhamer
Text: '"Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost, as your fathers did, so do ye." Acts 7:51.
"They that resist shall receive to themselves damnation." Rom. 13:2.
The Holy Ghost is a person and hence can be pleased or grieved just like any other person. It is improper and irreverent to speak of this third Person of the Trinity as "it", and when praying, to address Him in a flippant or commanding air.
If we could see with angelic vision we would behold at least five grades of men. Just as lumbermen and merchants grade their output, God grades mankind, -- from the roughest to the finest material.
1. Those who Resist the Holy Spirit.
2. Those who Grieve the Spirit.
3. Those who Quench the Spirit.
4. Those who are Led by the Spirit.
5. Those who are Filled with the Spirit.
In this first message we wish to consider those who Resist the Spirit. And how do rank sinners do this?
I. By Smothering Conviction.
II. By Fearing the Opinions of Others.
III. By Procrastination.
I. By smothering conviction. God says, "My Spirit shall not always strive with man." It is the office work of the Holy Spirit to strive with men and produce conviction of "sin, of righteousness and of judgment." He is working for the good of every soul. Now, for any one to deliberately stifle and put out the kindlings of holy desire, begotten by the Holy Ghost -- this is a great insult. He is courteous and will not force the door open, but says, "Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with me." Rom. 3:20.
Friend, how many times would you call upon a person, if every time you called, the door were slammed in your face and not only so, but bolted from within. In addition to this, if you heard a voice saying, "I wish you would let me alone; go away and do not bother me again!" I ask, how many times would you continue to call and receive such insults? Just about once, or twice. But not so with Jesus, in the person of the Holy Spirit. He has called repeatedly, only to be treated coolly, yea insultingly. And how long do you think he will continue these calls? If his pardon is rejected today, what right have you to expect a pardon tomorrow?
Suppose you could throw a rock with such force as to hurl it beyond earth's gravitating power, what would become of it? No doubt it would continue to travel, until after getting within the radius of Mars, Jupiter or some other planet, it would finally be drawn to the same. In like manner, a man can so resist the Spirit and choke the voice of conscience, until he finds himself farther and farther away from the drawing power of heaven. When this is the case it is not long until he crosses the dead line, after which it is easy to sin and be damned.
"More than sixty years ago there lived in Medina, Ohio, a Christian young man of remarkable natural abilities, equal in intellectual gifts to almost any of the great men in the early days of Oberlin. He was highly esteemed by all who knew him. He was always ready to take a part in the Sabbath-school, and was regarded by the church as giving promise of rare Christian usefulness. When past twenty years old he was urged by the pastor and Christian friends to go to Oberlin and study for the ministry.
"He admitted that the question was always before him, and that his conscience always said, 'Be a minister and preach the gospel.' When asked, Why not commit yourself to the work of preparation at once, he replied, 'O, I want to be a lawyer; I am sure I can be useful in that profession, and I can be a distinguished man. On the other hand, if I enter the ministry, I will never be anybody but Rev. Samuel McClure.'
"He taught school and studied law by turns for some time, his conscience continually upbraiding him for refusing to preach. At length he resolved to settle the question once for all. He piled his law-books on the table before him, resolving to end the conflict before he slept by a decision never to be revoked. He sat with his head resting on his hands, as he afterward related to the church, until the clock struck the midnight hour. Then rising from his chair, he took his law books and brought them down on the table with a slam, and exclaimed, 'I will have the law, come heaven or hell!'
"He instantly felt the cold" chills run over him from head to foot, and then and there the last religious emotion left his soul. He asked to be dismissed from the church, saying, 'My heart is utterly hardened. If I should see as many sinners as could kneel between Medina and Cleveland (forty miles) beseeching me to pray for them, it would not awaken in me the slightest desire to pray.' He became a lawyer and a judge and amassed $200,000, but was utterly godless, a drinking man and a blasphemer. He was sitting one day on his sofa after dinner, when the arrow of death hit him and he died in an instant, evidently a lost man!"
Occasionally a soul becomes alarmed as to what constitutes the unpardonable sin. Let me say here that though this sin may be committed in one act, yet I am fully convinced that it is approached gradually and no one can commit it, until he has repeatedly grieved and insulted the Holy Spirit. In other words, the "boundary line between God's patience and his wrath" is finally reached. Years ago our parents sang an old hymn during revival seasons which went something like this:
The Dead Line
There is a time we know not when,
A point, we know not where,
That marks the destiny of men,
To glory or despair.
There is a line by us unseen,
That crosses every path:
The hidden boundary between
God's patience and his wrath.
To pass that limit is to die;
To die as if by stealth;
It does not quench the beaming eye;
Or pale the glow of health.
"But on that forehead God hath set,
Indelibly a mark;
Unseen by man, for man, as yet
Is blind and in the dark.
"And yet the doomed man's path below,
Like Eden may have bloomed;
He did not, does not, will not know,
Or feel that he is doomed.
"He thinks or feels that all is well,
And every fear is calmed;
He lives, he does, he wakes in hell,
Not only doomed -- but damned.
The conscience may be still at ease,
The spirit light and gay,
That which is pleasing still may please,
And care be thrust away.
Oh! where is this mysterious bourne
By which our path is crossed;
Beyond which God himself hath sworn
That he who goes is lost?
How far may we go on in sin?
How long will God forbear?
Where does hope end? and where begin
The confines of despair?
An answer from the skies is sent:
"Ye that from God depart!
While it is called today repent
And harden not your heart."
I may be preaching right now to some who have so resisted God, that if you have any feeling at all it is very feeble. Yea, some of you will never have the strong drawings you once had. If you ever get saved you must start seeking with little or no special conviction. We read of a certain class who "being past feeling" gave themselves over to lasciviousness to work all uncleanness with greediness. But this was not all! When God saw that they deliberately crushed out all "feeling," then he in return "gave them over to believe a lie that they might be damned." What a terrible sight it must be for heaven to behold a soul who is given over, and as sure of perdition long years before he dies, as though he were already there. I am not prepared to deny that such an one is not here now. Yea, I will be more positive and say there are souls here now whom I never expect to meet in heaven. What! Is not God willing to save them? Certainly! Is he not able to save them? Most certainly! Well, why can we not have faith or hope for them? Simply because they will not let him save them; they are free to choose and have already deliberately decided not to be saved. They do not need to die to be lost! They are lost already!
What a spectacle! A feeble man, a bubble, resisting his Instructor, his Provider, his Promoter, his Protector, his Maker! It looks as though he had gone mad. In fact he is morally insane. What is insanity? Mental insanity causes one to imagine that real things are unreal and unreal things are real. He believes his wife is trying to poison him when in fact she is trying to keep poison away from him. He is working against his own interest while his friends are planning for his highest good.
In like manner, every sinner is morally insane. He is working against his own happiness here and hereafter. Sinner-man, let us reason together for a moment! Why should you resist your best Friend? What is there about Him that you should despise? Why should you thrust from you the Peace of God as though it were smallpox? Will the Grace of God unfit you for life? Will it incapacitate you for being a good companion, a good business man, or a good citizen? Will it injure your health, good manners, or standing in the community? Will it prove a burden during life and bring despair in the hour of death? No! No! No!!! Now, if the smile of God is the best thing in youth, manhood, old age and when facing death, why should any one treat it as an enemy, or with silent contempt? I take it that he who does this is insane to such an extent that, like the prodigal of old, he is beside himself. Friend! Come back to yourself and resolve here and now that you will "play the fool" no longer, but live and work for God, and in so doing, work for your own highest good!
II. By Fearing the Opinion of Others. Moody said, More people will lose their souls because of fear of public opinion than any other thing." I believe it! It is easy to be influenced in the wrong direction by the frown, or up-curled lip of a lover, or friend. O, the multitudes who have already missed heaven because of this very thing. Years ago I held a meeting near Johnstown, Pa. A young lady and her lover drove a long distance to see the strange preacher. The first night she was brought under deep conviction. When the invitation was given she looked up into his face and asked if he would go with her to the altar. He shook his head positively. Then she pressed her way through the crowd and knelt at the penitent form. After removing her kid gloves and monstrous hat, she began to pray in earnest, and it was not long until she was happily converted. On their way home she asked him if he believed in this kind of meetings and his reply was that he did not. She further asked if he intended to preach like that (for he was preparing for the ministry), when he began preaching? His reply was that his church did not believe in such fanaticism.
"Well then," she said, "we had better break our engagement tonight, for this is the route I am taking."
She went home and was the means of her sister's salvation. Later, she went as a missionary to India and was used of God in the salvation of the heathen, after which she fell asleep. Then her sister took up the good work, and who can tell the final result of Emma Alcorn's wise decision that night when she disregarded the scornful look of her lover? Friend, you must not only have courage to say Yes to God, but No to those who would hinder you.
What is public opinion? Nothing but the breath of the people and many times foul breath at that. Oh, the number of souls who are now in hell, while others are going there, because of fear of public opinion! Friend, you are now in the midst of a giddy throng, but some of these days you will be in a lonely room, deserted by your associates, and your beautiful face and form will be so emaciated that your own relatives will hardly be able to recognize you. What will you care then for the jeers, or sneers of this old, changeable world?
Christ said, "If thy foot offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched." Mark 9:45.
Better begin now to place the right estimate upon things and treat the world the way it will treat you when you are without friends, health, or money. Remember, that people can laugh you to hell, but cannot laugh you out and if you will make it through to heaven, you must die out here and now to public opinion.
Remember another thing, There is no friendship in hell. If you are so unfortunate as to miss heaven, there will be no flirting, or joking in perdition. But, on the contrary, the moment you meet those with whom you sinned and those who in any way kept you from obeying God, you will shriek out:
"Away from me! You helped to damn me! O, that I had never met you! Cursed be the day I sat beside you and let you influence me in the wrong direction!" Yes, children will upbraid their parents, and parents their children. Neighbors and relatives will gnash upon each other and methinks their eternal despair and disappointment will be the keener as fiends gather round them and with sarcastic grins, remind them how near they were to the point of yielding to God and yet did not, because of the towns or threats of their fellow creatures.
III. By Procrastination. The devil does not care how you endorse our preaching, or singing, yea, he is pleased to have you do so, for this gives you temporary relief and hope. He is glad to hear you say, "If ever I get religion, I want the real thing, but I am not quite ready now." He is sure of getting your poor soul as long as you assent to truth, but at the same time keep putting off the definite time of your return to God. It is a little like a mortgage on a piece of property. Many a man has lost his farm, or city property because he reasoned that the mortgage did not come due for several years and in the meantime he thought he would take things easy, or invest in something else. He did so, not realizing that the mortgage was silently, but steadily eating away, when behold the unexpected panic, or poor health slipped up on him; he was unprepared and -- lost everything.
Satan has a mortgage on every unsaved soul! Here you are, feeling easy and indifferent, because you are not sick, or dying. But what of it! You are as assuredly in the hands of your unprincipled enemy as though he had now foreclosed on you. Man, bestir thyself and attend now to the most important thing of life!
I had a dear brother, Peter, who was dying with tuberculosis. As a last effort to save his life my other brother Will, took him to a specialist in Cincinnati, O. The trip from Pittsburgh, Pa., was very trying and when they reached Cincinnati, they were too late to see the doctor, so put up at a hotel for the night. A big, polite porter took them to their room and after showing them how to make themselves comfortable and secure, wished them a good rest, graciously bowing himself out. It was not long until Will was sound asleep, but Peter kept hacking and coughing until after midnight, when suddenly he was startled to see the transom tip and in came a little boy who slid down on a rope. Immediately he ran to the bedside and threw chloroform upon them. Peter covered his head, but his brother got the effects and though shaken by the sick man, slept more soundly than before. The boy quickly unlocked the door and in stepped the polite porter. With what little strength the dying man had, he raised up in bed and pointing his bony finger at the robber said, "You rascal! You showed us how to bolt the door and make ourselves secure and now you have come to rob us. Get out of here! I'll report you!"
With this the big fellow backed out and could not be found next morning. When Peter informed Will that a burglar had tried to rob them during the night, his eyes grew big with excitement as he said, "Why didn't you wake me?"
"I tried my best, but could not!"
"Why didn't you shake me?"
"I did, but you were chloroformed."
In like manner, Satan as a robber has stupefied and chloroformed the sinner, so that he is asleep to his danger. We are doing our best to awaken you, but you sleep on! If, perchance we do succeed in arousing you, you criticize rather than appreciate our efforts. Man, bestir thyself! Summon all thy ransomed powers, shake off thy lethargy and save thy soul! The night is far spent, the thief is at the door and what thou doest, thou must do quickly! Hear it again! "They that resist shall receive to themselves damnation."
That awful day will surely come,
The appointed hour makes haste,
When I must stand before my Judge,
And pass the solemn test.
Jesus, thou source of all my joys,
Thou ruler of my heart,
How could I bear to hear thy voice
Pronounce the word "Depart!"
The thunder of that awful word
Would so torment my ear,
'Twould tear my soul asunder, Lord,
With most tormenting fear.
What, to be banished from my Lord,
And yet forbid to die;
To linger in eternal pain,
And death forever fly?
O wretched state of deep despair,
To see my God remove,
And fix my doleful station where
I must not taste his love.
-- Isaac Watts.