By Elmer Ellsworth Shelhamer
Text: "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of
redemption." (Eph. 4:30.)
Paul is here speaking of a grade of Christians who evidently have the Holy Spirit and are "sealed," yet he admonishes them not to grieve Him. We often wonder why we see so little of the mighty co-operation and power of the Spirit in our meetings? Is it not because the rank and file of professed Christians grieve and insult Him?
When a man falls in love with a fair young virgin, it is not long until he is aware that certain things please her and certain others displease her. When he finds the things that do not set well, he is quick to avoid them. On the other hand, when he learns what pleases -- a certain kind of candy, flowers, or conversation, he plays that string for all that is in it.
In like manner, when one falls in love with his Lord, it will not be long until he discovers what grieves and what pleases Him. If he truly loves Him, as he did the young virgin, he will studiously avoid those things that grieve Him and delight in those things that please Him. Let us notice a few ways in which good people grieve the Spirit, and this may account for their lack of power and success.
I. In conversation. Most people talk entirely too much. Hear the word of the Lord: "In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin." (Prov. 10:19.) "Be not rash with thy mouth and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God: for God is in heaven and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few." (Eccl. 5:2). "But let your communication be yea, yea, and nay, nay, for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil." (Jesus). "But I say unto you that every idle word (every unnecessary and unprofitable word) that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment" -- Jesus. "If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man." (Jas. 3:2). Now, in view of these passages we are convinced that most people are guilty of a grievous fault. Show me a person who is a great talker (though he be a bishop) and i will show you one who grieves the Holy Spirit in at least four ways:
(a) Evil Speaking. Wesley called this the "universal sin of the world." It is the sin that nearly every one commits. It is almost impossible to go to a home and talk for half an hour without hearing something said that is unkind, something that reflects upon an absent person, something that tends to magnify the faults and failings rather than the gifts and virtues of others. Is this not contrary to the Golden Rule? If you knew that some one were speaking thus of you, would you not want to be present and tell the other side -- for there are always two sides? Yes, this grieves the Spirit and brings leanness to many a soul. "Speak evil of no man." (b) Foolish Talking. We are told that "foolish talking" should not be "once named among you as becometh saints." Here is where many young people lose their keen edge. Lightness of spirit is the devil's substitute for the joy of the Lord. And when one begins to lose out, as a rule he will give way to this, in order to silence his own conscience and keep others from suspecting that something is wrong. God says, "The thought of foolishness is sin." And if thinking on foolish things is sinful, the deed itself must certainly grieve the Spirit. (c) Unkind Words. There are very few homes where there is never a harsh, nor unkind word spoken; where there is no scolding, no blaming and no insinuating. Few husbands and wives retain their honeymoon love for years. How seldom do we see them sit, or walk together arm in arm. Many children never saw their parents kiss or embrace each other. Many more never heard one of them apologize to the other for a little inattention or rudeness that would have been thought out of place when courting. And why all of this coldness and lack of affection; this lack of consideration for each other's heart feelings? We answer-unkind and cutting words. This is why the Spirit is grieved and many children unsaved, though the parents make loud professions. Friend, are you clear in this matter? "And be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Eph. 4:32).
(d) Vain Conversation. "For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, whose mouths must be stopped." It is so easy to give way to "great swelling words of vanity," telling (incidentally) where you have been and what you have seen and from what school, or college you graduated. And if you can not do this you do the next thing and boast of your state, city or relatives. It is sickening to hear some people magnify themselves, their ancestry, and their accomplishments. All this grieves the blessed Holy Spirit. Friend, if you would grow in grace, study to magnify Jesus; keep quiet and hide behind the cross. Few can sing from the heart with Charles Wesley: "Never let the world break in Fix a mighty gulf between; Keep us little and unknown, Prized and loved by God alone. "Save us from the great and wise, Till they sink in their own eyes, Tamely to Thy yoke submit, Lay their honor at Thy feet."
II. In the Employment of our Time! Here is another way in which many grieve the Spirit. We read, "See then that ye walk circumspectly... Redeeming the time because the days are evil." John Wesley said, "Never be unemployed; never be triflingly employed; he is idle who might be better employed." The not observing this has caused many to become an easy prey to temptations of various kinds. Another old-time writer said, "There never was an idle man, if he be a healthy man, who was strictly a virtuous man." This is true, for just as certain as one is idle, the devil will find something for him to do. And especially, if he is in good health it will not be long before his eyes and hands are carrying out the propensities of the flesh. Idleness paves the way for fickleness and self-indulgence. This is why most fallen men and women can trace their downfall to the fact that there was no system and hard work in their younger days. It would be a blessing if some women had a family to keep them at home. When a woman has nothing to do but fondle a cat, or poodle dog she can easily gad about, tattle and flirt with strange men and this often leads to estrangement and divorce proceedings. Busy people are not so easily tempted on those lines. What a man is largely depends upon what he thinks and does when he is idle and nobody is looking at him.
Self-made men are as a rule, more practical and dynamic than college breds. Any one who will be methodical can average reading an hour each day, or seven hours a week. Fifteen minutes here, thirty minutes there, and more on rainy days, Sundays and at night when children are asleep. Some can read faster than others, but on an average, about twenty pages can be read thoughtfully in an hour. This will aggregate about twenty-six volumes of over three hundred pages each, in a year. Think of it! No one need plead ignorance because of lack of an early education. If he will but insist on gathering up the fragments of time and improve them systematically he can acquire a great fund of knowledge in a short time. And is not the Spirit grieved when preachers and others waste valuable moments and let their minds remain sluggish and barren?
Not only should the money-tithe be given, but the time-tithe. Two hours and twenty-four minutes each day should be set apart as especially sacred. Every day should record something learned, something said or done that can be referred to as worth while. If such is not the case, twenty-four murdered hours will rise up later to testify against the guilty.
There are multitudes of people who have had good educational advantages and remarkable answers to prayer on lines of financial and physical deliverances, but like the nine lepers have never returned to give glory to God. They have both ability and means with which they could publish articles or pamphlets which would live and bless others in after years. But because the mind is inactive and the purse tight, nothing is set in motion calculated to mold character after they are dead and gone. Does this not grieve the Spirit?
III. On Money Matters! "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread and your labor for that which satisfieth not?" (Isa. 55:2.) Here is a third way in which many grieve the Spirit. There are two extremes; one of being extravagant, the other -- that of penuriousness. Let us consider them separately: (a) Extravagance. Some people are born on the rich order. They do not know how to economize. They buy the best of everything. Their favorite expression is, "It is the cheapest in the end." Yes, sometimes this is true, but not always. Some people lack good judgment and buy a great deal that they could get along without. They can not resist the oily tongue of the salesman and wish afterwards that they had been more positive. It seems, as long as they have money in their pockets they feel that they can afford anything they desire. This will not only weaken the individual himself, but have a tendency to ruin his posterity. And does God care? He certainly does. It is the duty of all, whether rich or poor to practice economy. The fact that one has plenty does not give him the privilege of spending more than is strictly necessary. Think of Miss Edith Gould spending $160,000 a year, $18,000 of which goes for clothes, shoes and underwear alone. Of course this is an extreme case, but many of the poorer class are wasteful, and self-indulgent. Children are allowed to spend their money as fast as they get it for candy and ice cream cones, then later for clothing, furniture and musical instruments, even if they have to pay for them on the installment plan. Many quarrels and divorces can be traced to the fact that wives spend money faster than the husband can make it. It all began in childhood and the parents are largely responsible. If every one properly practiced economy there would be very few poor people among us. This is the case with the Jews, though most of them are tricky and go too far. From their infancy their children are taught to save.
We are not pleading for a grasping spirit, but personally know of cases where brethren were so pressed financially, they could not afford to put into pamphlet or book form a valuable manuscript which would have blessed the world; yea, could not do many things that they desired. And why? Had they no vision? Yes! Were they not above the average in intelligence? Yes! Did they not have a fair income? Yes! But they had never learned the art of saving and hence were not prepared for a glorious opportunity. They lived, they enjoyed life, they died, then went into oblivion and God and future generations were disappointed.
If you honor God in little things He will honor you in larger things. For instance: do your own pressing, shaving, shoe polishing, etc. By planning and remodeling a little, much service could be had from hats, shoes and garments that are not half worn out. Just look in the attic and see.
Suppose the style has changed. Can you not rejoice in being dead to the world and its ridiculous fashions?
Does it not grieve God the way many good people pamper their appetites with gum, soft drinks, and knickknacks? One can create an abnormal and artificial desire along these lines until he imagines he can not do without them. This paves the way for looseness on other lines and not only is money wasted, but many times health and character are ruined.
Charles G. Finney (a Presbyterian), cried out against professing Christians spending millions not only for lodges, tobacco, banquets, and jewelry, but for other things. Hear him: "What does that gaudy ribbon and those ornaments upon your dress say to every one who meets you? It makes the impression that you wish to be pretty. Take care! You might just as well write on your clothes, 'No truth in religion.' It says, 'Give me dress, give me fashion, give me flattery and I am happy.' The world understands this testimony as you walk down the streets. You are living epistles known and read of all men. Only let Christians act consistently, and heaven will rejoice and hell will groan at their influence. But, oh, let them fill their ears with ornaments and their fingers with rings, let them put feathers on their hats, and clasps upon their arms, and heaven puts on the robes of mourning and hell holds a jubilee.
"I might refer to tea and coffee. It is known generally that these substances are not nutritious at all, and that nearly $100,000,000 are spent annually for them in this country. Now will any man pretend that he does not doubt the lawfulness of spending all this money for that which is of no use, and which are well known to all who have examined the subject, to be positively injurious, intolerable to weak stomachs and as much as the strongest can dispose of? And all this while the various benevolent societies of the age are loudly calling for help to send the gospel abroad and save the word from hell? To think of the church alone spending millions upon their tea tables -- is there no doubt here?" Criticize Finney if you dare, but not until you stir the world as did he.
(b) Penuriousness! This is the other extreme. There are some sins, if committed, will disgrace a man, but covetousness (which is peculiarly the sin of old age), can be indulged in to the fullest extent side by side with a profession of holiness. God says there is no hope for such a man. He is an "idolator and hath no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." It is certainly sad to see a person who is well able to do so and yet too stingy to buy good books, or take a good paper; too miserly to take the family to camp meeting for ten days; too hard, to let the overworked wife have conveniences in the kitchen and home; too mean, to let her go to the dentist once a year; too close, to go to a restaurant, but rather take dinner at the parsonage without leaving a cent; too shrewd, to be without small change for the orphanage, or missionary collection. Yes, there is absolutely no hope for such a soul unless he repents. No wonder his wife is crushed, his children unsaved and he is dry and prosy. The Spirit is greatly grieved and insulted.
IV. Family Government! We wonder why there are so few young people today who are deeply spiritual. There is no wonder about it. Just look at about nine homes out of every ten. What do we see? No respect for parents, no reverence for God and no responsibility for the upkeep of the home. Instead of the children obeying and waiting upon the parents as in olden days, the "old folks" consult and ask favors, besides doing all the drudgery work.
Many a home is more like a boarding house than a happy, contented family. The children come in for meals, then out again till late at night when they return from the "hike," movie or dance. The parents must first get the consent of these youngsters before they dare ask for a cottage prayer meeting, or bring the man of God home to dine. A hearty "Amen," or "Hallelujah" at meal time would be entirely out of place. Do not these things grieve God?
But are not many of the parents largely responsible for lack of family discipline? It is a pity that some of them ever became parents. For in so doing they have gone to a great deal of trouble and expense. Why? To raise children to help damn the world and bring their own gray hairs down to the grave with sorrow and disgrace.
For instance: Here is a girl of sixteen who keeps company against her mother's wishes with a wicked young fellow. If mother dares to ask where she is going for the evening the snappish reply is, "Do I have to tell every place I go? I guess I am old enough to take care of myself. I am no longer tied to your apron string." Think of a child speaking thus to her mother! But it began back there in the cradle when the baby was permitted to have its own way.
Where will you find a woman like Susanna Wesley, the mother of nineteen children? She would not allow a child who was a year old to scream or cry aloud, except when in pain. She ruled that no act of rebellion or willful disobedience should pass without correction and repentance. She declared that disobedience was as sure a way to damnation as cursing and swearing. She held that if a child was taught to readily submit to the parent, he would the more easily submit to God when he came to the years of accountability. Sooner or later the will must be conquered if the soul be saved.
This is the tendency of the whole world: The children of today are allowed to develop self-will and form habits that any sensible parent knows must be broken if they are ever saved and become strong, Christian characters. Because of these and other things it is difficult to have old-time revivals and the young people are going to hell by the millions. Is not the Holy Spirit greatly grieved?
And now, you who are particularly concerned, Will you not enter into a solemn pledge that by God's grace you will amend and do all in your power to have others do likewise? God help you! He will help you if you put forth the proper effort.
"How oft have I the Spirit grieved,
Since first with me he strove;
How obstinately disbelieved,
And trampled on his love!
"How have I sinned against the light;
Broken from his embrace;
And would not, when I freely might,
Be justified by grace.
"I take thee at thy gracious word;
My foolishness I mourn;
And unto my redeeming Lord,
However late, I turn.
"Savior, I yield, I yield at last,
I hear thy speaking blood;
Myself, with all my sins, I cast
On my atoning God."
-- Charles Wesley