By James Caughey
Quench not the Spirit. I Thess. 5:19.
"Don't kill yourself!" once wrote a gentleman to a minister who was laboring zealously for God; "don't kill yourself!" he wrote at the bottom of a long sheet in large letters. So you may say to me, "Don't make so much ado about religion; don't kill yourself." But we must do the work of God, let the consequence be what it will. And if we should die a few years sooner, it will be all right, we should be happy, and the work would go on. As Charles Wesley observes, "God, buries his workmen, and carries on his work." But to the point. Everyone of you has his own particular way of sinning. Some are in the habit of neglecting the house of God. You say you worship God in the great temple, under the canopy of heaven. If you had been in Palestine, you would have objected to the building of the Temple.
I shall meet you at the day of judgment, and I hope you will have to bless God that you and a stranger met together in Wesley Chapel. If you cannot go with me in my remarks all the way, go with me as far as you can, and may God bless you.
The passage I have chosen as a text has been impressed on my mind this day with very solemn weight:-- Quench not the Spirit! Quench not the Spirit! Quench not the Spirit!
I. The Spirit's Operations Are True.
I see now before my imagination a range of mountains that I crossed a few months ago, the Alpine mountains. There are awful precipices on that Alpine range. There is a solitary about to cross that range of mountains. It is midnight. There is no moon; there are no stars to be seen; it is pitchy dark. The solitary takes his lamp; it is well trimmed; he knows its value, for he knows the darkness of night, the narrowness of the way, and the precipices on the right and on the left. But his friend comes to him just at starting, and says, "Take care of your lamp, for if you put it out, you will be in a most dangerous place. Quench not the light! Quench not the light!"
Sinner, the way to heaven is over the mountains. The way is narrow and difficult, the night is dark; but, with the light of truth and the light of the Spirit, you may find your way and land safe in the fair regions of heaven! Hallelujah! hallelujah! Now, backslider, you were converted about ten years ago, it may be, and if ever anybody was happy, you were; but you have yielded to the devil, and allowed the light to go out.
I told you this morning that providence was God in motion, God in nature: and nature is true. There is a certainty about the laws of nature. The laws of attraction, repulsion, adhesion, and gravitation, are to be relied upon because they are the laws of God. God is true in his operations, his designs are perfect; and if I can depend upon his motions, cannot I depend upon his words? Why should I depend upon his motions producing spring and summer, harvest and winter, and not depend upon the words of his mouth? Do you think he is a dumb God? Do you think he has no voice?
God has spoken. He has caused his words to be written down in a book, the Bible. There is no book professing to come from God but this. This book is the expression of his mouth; they are the words of God's mind. There is no other book throughout the intellectual world that comes from God; and as there is a certainty in the laws of nature, so there is a certainty in the word of God. There is a certainty in the Spirit of God.
Shall I relate to you a part of my own experience, not what I have heard or read in dusty books, but what I have known in my own experience? This little head of mine had been very busy to get as much knowledge as possible, in preparing for the ministry, all very right in its place. The Lord took me aside. I did not see a vision, I did not hear a voice, but the impression was made deeply upon my mind. 1st. The absolute necessity of praying more earnestly and constantly. 2d. That without the Spirit of God attending my ministry, I should be as a tree without fruit and as clouds without rain.
It was a stray leaf on one of the mountains in America that was the means, in the hands of God, of producing that change which from that time was to be observed. The words upon that stray leaf were written in England by Dr. Adam Clarke. Little did he think that those words would be wafted on to the mountains in America and be made an instrument of so much good.
Perhaps some of you are saying, "Do you recollect the words?" I do; they were these:-" All this scriptural and rational preaching will be useless without the Spirit of God. Without the Holy Ghost we are but as a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal: but with the Holy Ghost, the word must be effective, sinners must be converted." These words of truth must be guarded because, under a luminous burning agency, a man may grieve the Spirit, and go to hell at last.
God's winds wafted the doctor's remarks across to the American shores; they were transferred from the leaves of the book, and written with the Spirit of God. On the leaves of this poor memory of mine there was then a great important truth written; now see the deep and wonderful counsel of this same Spirit, first sending a passage across the ocean, writing that passage on this poor heart of mine, and then wafting me like a stray leaf back to the shores of old England, to utter this great truth -- this all-important truth, -- "The necessity of a larger measure of the Holy Ghost in the ministry, in the Church, and in the world."
Hear the circumstances that led me to these shores. The step was not taken on the spur of the moment, but was the subject of calm deliberation, during several months. Our Conference of 1839 was held in New York. That year I was appointed to Whitehall, New York.
I began to reflect upon the propriety of choosing a wife; but while indulging in this purpose, for some reasons I cannot explain, my heart became very hard. The Lord seemed to depart from me, and my soul appeared now to be mantled in the thickest gloom. God, who had honored me with such intimate communion with himself since my conversion, apparently left me to battle it out alone.
My distress and gloom were so great, I could not unpack my library nor arrange my study. I began to reflect on my unhappy state of mind. The world was a blank, a bleak, howling wilderness to my soul, without the smiles of my Saviour. In fact, I could not live, but must wither away from the face of the earth without his comforting and satisfying presence. With many tears, I besought him to reveal again his face to my soul: that if my purposes were crossing his, to show me; and whatever was his will, I would at once, by his help, yield my soul unto it. "Lord God," I said, "if my will crosses thy will, then my will must be wrong; for thine cannot but be right." Now, I cared not what he commanded me to do, or leave undone; I stood ready to obey. I felt assured clear light from God on some point would reach my soul; but I no more expected such an order as came soon after than I expected he would command me to fly upward and preach the Gospel in another planet. During three days I cried to God, without any answer. On the third day, in the afternoon, I obtained an audience with the Lord. The place was almost as lonely as Horeb, where Moses saw the burning bush. It was under the open sky, a considerable distance from the habitations of men; steep rocks and mountains, deep forests, and venomous reptiles, surrounded me. Here, and in a moment the following passage was given me to plead: "And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord, And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious , long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth; keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty." Exod. 34:5, 6, 7. I took hold of this; many of the words were as fire, and as a hammer to break the rocks in pieces before the Lord. The fountains of tears were opened, and the great deep of my heart was broken up. I left the place, however, without receiving any light; but my heart was fully softened and subdued, and I felt assured I had prevailed in some way with God. I was confident light and direction were coming; but of what nature I could not tell. This was on the 9th of July, 1839. The same evening, about twilight, eternal glory be to God, when reading in a small room adjoining my study, a light, as I conceived from heaven, reached me. My soul was singularly calmed and warmed by a strange visitation. In the moment I recognized the change. The following, in substance, was spoken to my heart, but in a manner, and with a rapidity I cannot possibly describe. Every ray of divine glory seemed to be a word, that the eye of my soul could read, a sentence which my judgment could perceive and understand: "These matters which trouble thee must be let entirely alone. The will of God is that thou shouldst visit Europe. He shall be with thee there, and give thee many seals to thy ministry. He has provided thee with funds. Make thy arrangements accordingly; and next Conference ask liberty from the proper authorities, and it shall be granted thee. Visit Canada first; when this is done, sail for England. God shall be with thee there, and thou shalt have no want in all thy journeyings; and thou shalt be brought back in safety again to America."
The above is far beneath the dignity and grandeur of the impression. It was like the breaking forth of the noonday sun at midnight. I fell upon my knees before the Lord, and, oh! the sweetness of the communion I then enjoyed with God. My sky was cloudless. My rest of soul unutterable. I arose from my knees under the strong conviction that God had called me to take this tour. The time for the sitting of Conference arrived; I presented my request, and a resolution was passed that I should have liberty to visit Europe. The Spirit's operations are true.
II. The Spirit's Operations May Be Quenched.
You cannot stop the sun in his course; you cannot roll back the tide; you cannot stop the raging tempest; but you can quench the Spirit's operations. For God's government over you is quite different to that exerted over mere matter. He does not govern you as he governs the sun, the tide, and the tempest. His government over you is a government of motives, a moral government. Quench not the Spirit. You may extinguish this holy fire in many ways. Neglect to put fuel to the fire and it will go out; cover it with ashes that no air can get to it; pour water upon it and it will go out. The Spirit of God is easily grieved. Do not quench it. "But," says one, "I have quenched the Spirit, for my heart is as hard as a rock." Are you willing to give up sin? Have you any desire to be saved from sin, from hell to heaven? If so, you have not quenched the Spirit, you may be saved.
There's a backslider here; you were once happy, you loved the house of God; 'tis a mercy that His influences are not totally quenched. There is an importance about that uneasiness in your mind. There is something about you with which you are not acquainted. Ah! that may be the last uneasiness you may ever have upon earth, the last time the Spirit may ever strive with you, if you do not give your heart to God.
A young man once said," After I have been to the ball, I will give my heart to God." The Spirit was making the last effort with him. He went to the ball and died on the floor. As others have been damned, you may be damned. Take care! take care! Quench not the Spirit.
There's a man who is a tippler. He goes on tippling, tippling, till he tipples into hell. Brandy, rum, gin, and such intoxicating drinks, are the devil's agents. Thank God for teetotalism!
A man on the Hudson river was very unhappy, under a concern for his soul. He said to his wife, "I am very unhappy." She succeeded in turning his attention away from his concern for his soul; he died unhappy.
A man came to chapel some time ago; the word came under a luminous burning agency upon his soul, which made him say, "I cannot stand it." So out he went to a dram-shop, where he had some liquor; he said, "I think I can stand it now." He went to the chapel again, but the word was too much for him; he went out again, got some more drink: in the morning he was found dead. You won't burn your bodies out, perhaps; but you will swear, perhaps. You will lie, perhaps; you will break the Sabbath, perhaps; you will practice uncleanness, perhaps; you will neglect to pray, perhaps. In any of these ways you may quench the Spirit. What will be the consequences if you grieve the Spirit? You will be able to disbelieve the Bible, to be an Infidel, to look upon hell as a scarecrow, on heaven as a fairyland, the character of God as a fiction; you will be able to launch forth into boundless atheism, you will be able to go quietly down to the grave without any concern about it. At last, you will drop into hell. Those who quench the Spirit of God do it at the peril of their damnation.
Now, let every one in God's presence kneel down, let every head be bowed before the Lord, and let every one that can say after me, "I renounce the devil and all his works. I promise, God being my helper, to leave my wicked companions, and use every means in my power to secure the salvation of my soul"