I THESSALONIANS 5:19

Mr. Beebe: – Please give your views, when convenient, on I Thessalonians 5:19, “Quench not the spirit,” and oblige an enquirer after light.

William Waters
Fallatown, Maryland

REPLY: In view of the perilous times which should come in the last days, and which should surprise the children of darkness like a thief in the night, of which the apostle had been speaking, he takes occasion to admonish the children of the light and of the day to regard to the duties devolving on them as the people of God not to sleep as do others, but to watch and be sober, putting on the breast plate of faith and love, and for an helmet the hope of salvation. For, says he, “God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.” Having thus clearly discriminated between the living and the dead, the children of light and the children of darkness, he addresses his admonitions to those for whom he says Christ died, and who are not, therefore, appointed to wrath, but who are appointed to salvation by Jesus Christ. In these he recognizes the spirit of Christ. For, “If any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” To these exclusively these admonitions are given. He does not call on those who never had the spirit of Christ, for they can not quench a spirit which they never had, and of which they have no knowledge. “For the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” The church of the Thessalonians, which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ, who knew their election of God, to whom the gospel had come in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance, who had become followers of the apostles, and of the Lord, received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost. Such were the saints to whom Paul addressed the words of our text, and to no other description of characters could his faithful admonitions possibly apply.

It is true the persecuting Jews were accused by Stephen of resisting the Spirit as their fathers had done, but not of quenching the Spirit. The carnal Jews had resisted the testimony of the Spirit through the prophets, just in the same manner these Jews were then opposing it in Stephen, by stoning the prophets who spake by the Spirit, as he was then speaking by the same Spirit. But mark, the Spirit was in the prophets, not in the fathers who stoned them; and, Stephen was full of the Holy Ghost, while his murderers were full of the spirit of their father, the devil. So Noah, while the ark was being prepared, by the Spirit preached righteousness to the antedeluvians while they resisted his testimony. But the quenching of the Spirit in the sense of our text is quite another thing. We can not suppose the apostle to mean by the “Spirit” to mean God himself, although God is a Spirit, infinite and eternal; and he is also called figuratively, “A consuming fire.” (Heb. 12:29) But he can not be quenched. No power exists in heaven, earth, or hell that can change him, or divert him from the execution of his sovereign pleasure. “He is of one mind, and none can turn him.” Nor can the Holy Ghost be quenched in any sense by any opposing power; for he is God, doing his pleasure in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of earth. Still there is a sense in which Christians may quench the spirit. But what spirit can they quench? We think the experience of all the children of God will explain to them what spirit they may quench, and how. Christ said, “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit;” and all who possess that spirit which is born of God are admonished to walk after the spirit, and through it to mortify the deeds of the flesh. Christians, while here in the flesh, are compound beings - having a spirit which is born of the spirit, and a fleshly nature which is born of the flesh. And these are contrary the one to the other; so that they can not do the things which they would. Either the flesh or the spirit will predominate in them; for there is a constant warfare with them; and they are admonished to cherish the one, and to crucify the other. “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. Therefore brethren, we are debtors not to the flesh to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father.” (See Romans8) The saints, then, have the spirit of adoption which they have received of God, and by which they are sealed. This is the spirit of life and immortality, and the business of the child of grace is to cherish it, to be governed by it, and not to grieve or quench it. The spirit of the gospel of Christ, of life, in the saints is calculated to warm, enliven, and produce joy in those who are led by it. Its fruits are love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against which there is no law. To yield to the carnal passions and lusts of our fleshly nature is to quench the spirit in the sense of our text. How often do the children of God feel drawn by this spirit in them to speak comfortably to Jerusalem, to visit their closets, to attend to the assembling of themselves together, to visit the widow and the fatherless, but a counter influence of the flesh, which is like water to fire, sets in so strongly that this influence is suppressed, the flesh prevails, and the poor Christian is brought into captivity to the law of sin which is in his members, and so the spirit is quenched or grieved.

But the admonition applies not only to our personal exercises, but also to our dealings with our brethren and sisters. As fellow members of the body of Christ we are exhorted to endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit in the bonds of peace. If we fail to do so, and indulge in unkind expressions or actions towards our brethren, the spirit in them is grieved, and if a disorderly course be long persisted in, the spirit of love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, and faith ultimately becomes so quenched that fellowship is marred, and perhaps broken, for if ye bite and devour one another, take heed lest ye be consumed one of another.

The preceding connection of our text will show how the apostle applies the admonition in regard to our relative obligations one toward another. In verse eleven he says, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” This includes all the saints with whom we have intercourse. They all need the kindly offices of each other to comfort and edify, and if this course be not pursued, their spirit is grieved, and the unity of it quenched. And here the apostle imploringly speaks a kind word in behalf of the ministers of the word: “And we beseech you brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.” There is a great weight of responsibility resting on them. How is their spirit kindled, enlivened, and comforted when they find their feeble labors appreciated by the saints, and their hands strengthened and held up, as Aaron and Hur stayed up the hands of Moses. But when the members become indifferent about attending on their ministry, turn a deaf or indifferent ear to their admonitions, indulge in a fault-finding, and censorious spirit, neglect to look to their temporal comforts, and perhaps ready to join with the world in censuring them for the faithful discharge of their duties in preaching the word, their spirit is grieved, if not quenched, or entirely discouraged. O listen brethren, to an imploring apostle of the Lamb on this subject: And be at peace among yourselves. If you are not at peace among yourselves, you can not keep the unity of the spirit. If you indulge your fleshly passions, jealousy, and prejudices one against another, you will certainly quench the spirit of love and union, “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice; and be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:30-32) “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly.” That is, them who are not governed by the divine, the gospel rule, the law of Christ, as defined by the apostles, warn them of the sad consequences of their departure from the rule. “Comfort the feeble minded.” Such you will be likely to find among the flock of Jesus. Do not be rash, or impatient with them, because their mind is not so strong as your own; as their minds are feeble, their spirit is easily grieved. Comfort them, support the weak, and be patient towards all men. Impatience does not become Christians, either at home or abroad, in the church, or even in the world. “See that none render evil for evil, unto any man: but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.” The Spirit of Christ in all his saints is a Spirit of peace and good will to all men, especially to those who are of the household of faith, and on no occasion should it be quenched. The Master who came into the world not to destroy men s lives but to save them, has given us both precept and example to love our enemies, and pray for those who spitefully use and persecute us, and certainly if we do not quench that spirit, by unbridling the violent passions of our carnal nature, we shall use all the influence of our example and Christlike deportment in allaying the madness of the times in which we live. In all the terrible wars which have devastated the earth, and crimsoned the ground with human gore, the spirit of Cain has predominated, and anti-Christ has always developed the same cruel and blood-thirsty spirit which the Jews and Romans betrayed when with wicked hands they nailed our Saviour to the cross. The more thoughtless masses of the people then, as now, were instigated by the maddening appeals of their religious instructors. Through all the dark and dismal ages of Pagan and Papal persecutions, the priesthood led the van. And in the early persecution of Baptists, Quaker, and all other dissenters of our country, the professedly pious Puritans swayed the people and urged them on to deeds of violence and blood. And we can not close our eyes to the fact that in bringing on and prosecuting the present dreadful fratricidal war in our States, the clergy have been the more clamorous of any class for violence and blood. The pulpits of every anti-christian sect, both North and South, have rang with the most maddening appeals to the worst passions of depraved human nature, lashing them to the most desperate and cruel violence. They have not quenched the spirit, for the Bible assures us that the way or spirit of peace they have never known, for there is no fear of God before their eyes, therefore, their feet are swift to shed blood, and misery and destruction are in all their ways.

But Christians, before they can stain their hands in blood, and join the popular shout of anti-Christ, must quench the spirit of peace and good will which has been implanted in their hearts. Admitting that we have enemies, and that they have wronged us, the command of God is upon us: “See that none render evil for evil to any man.” Vengeance belongs to God, and not to us. He will repay, but our course is clearly pointed out in the examples and precepts of our Lord Jesus Christ. Follow then that which is good, both among yourselves and to all men. Then shall ye, “Rejoice ever more,” and, “Pray without ceasing,” and, “In every thing give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus, concerning you.” “Quench not the spirit,” this spirit, for it is the spirit of holiness, the Spirit of Christ, of life and immortality. Quench it not - grieve it not - obey its dictates - follow its peaceful instructions, and never forget that, “If any man have not this spirit of Christ,” whatever may be his profession or standing among men, “He is none of his.” When the disciples of the meek and lowly Jesus feel disposed to pray for fire to destroy their enemies, they know not what spirit predominates in them. The spirit of grace and supplication from the Lord never led a child of God to pray for or desire the destruction of his fellow men. What a paradise would men enjoy if all were led by the gentle and loving spirit of Christ! If men would labor as hard to promote each other’s welfare and happiness as they now labor to injure and destroy one another! But such is the deep depravity of mankind that we have reason to expect, so far as God permits, that the pot-sherds of the earth will strive with the pot-sherds of the earth, but Christians have a higher, holier, and more blessed calling.

“Blest are the meek, who stand afar
From rage and passion, noise and war;
God will secure their happy state,
And plead their cause against the great.

Blest are the men of peaceful life,
Who quench the coals of growing strife;
They shall be call’d the heirs of bliss,
The sons of God, the God of peace.”

Middletown, N.Y.
August 15, 1863.

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 5
Pages 391 – 397