A young brother of Mississippi has desired us to give our views on the above text, and as it is a subject which has been much perverted by the enemies of the truth, the minds of some young Christians have been perplexed to know its true meaning. As these words were addressed in admonition to the church of God, they must have a definite and important signification. The Holy Ghost has never inspired the apostles to write in ambiguous terms, nor to enjoin rules or restrictions upon the church of God which are unimportant. The text on which our vies are desired has been claimed by the Arminians as being addressed to the world of mankind in general, and to the unregenerated portion of the fallen race more particularly. They say, God, who is a Spirit, is a desirous of converting all men, and that the Holy Ghost sues for admission into every sinner's heart, knocks at every door, and makes proffers of mercy and grace to all the unconverted, on the simple condition that they accept of the terms and admit the Spirit into their hearts. And they pretend to understand this text as a warning to sinners to quench not the Spirit; that is, the Holy Ghost, which they say is wooing and striving, and endeavoring to gain admission into their hearts.
Such we understand to be in substance, the doctrine and language of all carnal, graceless, work-mongrel professors of Christianity, and during the almost six thousand years in which this blasphemous heresy has been promulgated on earth, the ingenuity of man and the subtlety of Satan has been exerted to the utmost to give the delusion a plausible appearance, and to transform its deformity into a resemblance of truth. The natural mind of men, in their depraved state, being enmity against God, is predisposed to favor the heresy, for they love darkness rather than light, and error rather than truth; hence their susceptibility to the imposition, and the readiness of ungodly men to favor any sentiments which are derogatory to the character and truth of God.
Those, however, who are born of God, and taught by his Spirit, have the witness in themselves that he above described heresy is false, for they are brought to an experimental knowledge of him. "This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent." – John xvii. 3. And God has provided in the new covenant, that those with whom this covenant is made, "Shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest." – Heb. viii. 11; Jer. xxxi. 34. "And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of they children." – Isa. liv. 13. Being divinely taught to know God, they have the witness in themselves that he is not a being who can be quenched, baffled, thwarted, or successfully resisted, by any of his creatures in heaven, earth or hell. They know that he does not labor and strive to gain admittance to the sinner's heart, and they know that the sinner has no power to prevent the execution of the will of God. They know that their Savior has power over all flesh to give eternal life to as many as the Father has given him. (John xvii. 2.) And that all that the Father has given him shall come unto him, and they that come to him he will in no wise cast out; and that no man can come unto him, except the Father which sent him draw him; and Christ is pledged to raise up all such at the last day. (John vi. 37, 44.) They know by their own experience, as also by the Scriptures of truth, that all their own efforts at reformation, their resolutions to get religion, &c., were abortive and vain; that they could no more accomplish the work than the Ethiopian can change his complexion, or the leopard his spots. (Jer. xiii. 23.) Their own experimental knowledge of God, and the testimony of his written word, compel the saints to reject the interpretation which will- worshipers and Arminians give to out text, and it is unquestionably much easier for them to detect the absurdity and blasphemy of the heresy of the enemies of the truth on this subject, than to fully comprehend the precise meaning of the admonition, "Quench not the Spirit."
All who are taught of God, know that he is a Spirit, but they also know that he is infinite, eternal, immutable, omnipotent, all-wise, of one mind, and none can turn him, that with him there is no variableness nor shadow of turning, that he doeth his pleasure in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of earth, that none can stay or resist his hand, that he speaks the word and it sands fast, he commands and it is done. And knowing this, they know that he does not stand wooing and beseeching the sinner for permission to do his pleasure, for he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he hath compassion on whom he will have compassion, and whom he will he hardeneth. (Rom. ix. 15-18.) They cannot, therefore, regard God as a Spirit liable to be quenched, put out or subdued, by saints or sinners, angels or devils. Those admonitions, therefore, which warn the saints against grieving the Spirit whereby they re sealed, and to quench not the Spirit, cannot be so construed as to signify that God is a being subject to passions like us; that he can be grieved and extinguished by his creatures.
Let us then examine carefully and prayerfully, that we may learn what spirit it is that the saints are not to grieve or quench. While we adore and worship that God who is a Spirit, we are to remember that all of God'' manifested children are born of the Spirit of God, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, as that which is born of the flesh is flesh. This spirit which is born of the Spirit is not God, but it is of God, and is called the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Eph. iv. 24.) This spirit which is born of the Spirit, being of God, is a holy spirit, and is called the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. (Rom. viii. 15.) It is called the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead. (Rom. viii. 11.) It is called, "the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." – Eph. iv. 30. It is distinguished from the Holy Ghost, which is God, as an emanation from God. The Holy Ghost is not said to be born of God – it being God – but the spirit which the saints have received, and whereby they are sealed, is born of God, born of the Spirit, and is spirit and life in all the saints. This spirit which is born of the Spirit, is that by which the saints are sealed, marked, and are distinguished from all other men and women, until "the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." "But if the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead, dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies, by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." – Rom. viii. 11. "But ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves waiting for the adoption, to wit. The redemption of our body." – Rom. viii. 23. This spirit which is born of the Spirit, which dwells in us, and is called the spiritual man, the new man, the inner man, and which is called the spirit of Christ, the spirit of adoption, and the spirit whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption, is susceptible of grief, of sorrow, conflict, elevation and depression, which changes, conflicts, depressions and triumphs, are totally inapplicable to God, the eternal Spirit, from whom it proceeds, and of whom it is born.
This spirit, born of God, in the antediluvian saints, was grieved with the abominations which prevailed in their day, and in Noah, it was resisted by the wicked antediluvians, until the flood came and swept them away; was resisted in all the prophets, by the carnal Israelites; in the apostles, by the Jews and Romans; in Stephen, by his murderers, and is still resisted, not only by the unconverted world, but also by the fleshly powers and passions of the saints themselves. Thus Paul himself found a law in his members, warring against the law of his mind, and he assures us that the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other, so that we cannot do the things that we would.
How this holy Spirit of Christ in us can be grieved, and how it is grieved by opposition, reproach, persecution and malice, from foes without, and more especially it is grieved by the inbred corruptions of our own fleshly nature, our doubts, our fears, our short-coming, our wicked thoughts, unholy propensities, ingratitude, sluggishness in the cause of Christ, greediness after the vanities of the world, unreconciliation to God, and the rebellion of our nature against the God we love and adore, all this the christian can sensibly feel, and measurably know, and of how it can be resisted by the world, the flesh and the devil, they are fully aware. But how the admonition of our text, "Quench not the Spirit," is to be understood, still may require some explanation. Let us look to it.
This admonition is connected with many others, and addressed to the brethren exclusively, and cannot without perverting the Scriptures be applied to any but brethren. Thus it is presented by the inspired apostle to the church of the Thessalonians, which are in God the Father, and in the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess. i. 1.) "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the week, be patient toward all. See that none render evil for evil unto any; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves and to all. Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things, hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you; who also will do it. Brethren, pray for us," &c. – 1 Thess. v. 14-25.
By carefully observing the connection of these exhortations, we perceive that the apostle presents them as the will of God in Christ Jesus, concerning the saints, which are in God the Father, and in the Lord Jesus Christ. But how is this the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us? We possess the spirit of Christ. "For if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his." – Rom. viii. 9. The law, or will, of God is in the heart, or spirit of Christ, and Christ by his spirit dwells in his saints, therefore we find the New Covenant promise fulfilled in the saints. "I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts." – Heb. viii. 10. This law of the spirit of life, in Christ Jesus, is fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. (Rom. viii. 2,4.) These faithful admonitions, being embraced in the spirit of Christ which he ahs implanted in our hearts, are to be cherished, revered, regarded and obeyed. But while this spirit which embodies them as the will of God concerning his children, is opposed by the fleshly nature and corrupt propensities which are opposed to the law of the spirit of our mind , we are to quench not the spirit, but crucify its opposite, the old man with its affections and lusts, and put on the new man. Or, in other words, to walk after the spirit, and not after the flesh. The flesh and the spirit in the Christian are antagonistic to each other; both cannot at the same time predominate in us. To gratify the one is, on our part, to quench, suppress or repel 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. For to be carnally minded is death: but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." – Rom. viii. 5-8. To quench or repress the spirit, in the sense of our text, is to walk after the flesh. Study the inclinations of our carnal and depraved minds, attend to whatever will gratify our fleshly propensities, make our religion conform to our feelings, attend to the things of the spirit only when convenient and agreeable to our fleshly feelings and interests, lose no opportunity to amass the treasures of this world, or to gratify our lust for worldly fame, honor or applause, for the sake of bearing the cross of the dear Redeemer, never offend visitors, nor neglect your worldly interest, to attend on the solemn assemblies of Zion, or to mingle with the despised followers of the Lamb. Do not follow the Master in baptism, or in any of his ordinances, until your carnal mind is satisfied with the hope which God has given you, nor so long as it will subject you to some inconvenience or mortification of the flesh, pay no attention to such brethren as are unruly, or feeble, or weak, render evil for evil, pray only when you feel like it, and consider what you have as your own, without thanksgiving. Pursue this course, and if you do not quench the spirit of Christianity, so far as its comfort and consolation, and benign influence is concerned, we have failed to comprehend the meaning of the text. We appeal to the experience of every saint, for confirmation of the words of the apostle, "to be carnally minded is death." Is it no so? Death to our enjoyments, to our usefulness in the house of God, to ourselves and to all the saints. "And if Christ be in you, the body is dead, because of sin." Bury then yourselves in the body in the affections and lusts thereof, and are you not buried in death? The body is dead. There is no spiritual life in it; therefore, when Christians are looking to find something good, spiritual or comforting in their carnal nature, they are seeking the living among the dead; and they will seek in vain. "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." – Rom. viii. 13.
By dying in this case, we are not to understand that the child of God can possibly lose his immortality, or fail of his inheritance of glory; but of his comfort and living enjoyment of his salvation. He that knows his Master's will and does it not, shall be beaten with many stripes. The Lord has said he would visit the transgressions of his people with the rod, and their iniquities with stripes; but his loving kindness he will not utterly take away from him, nor suffer his faithfulness to fail. May it be our privilege, as the followers of our Redeemer, to put on the new man, to crucify the old man; to walk after the spirit, and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, to mortify the deeds of the flesh, and quench not the spirit; and may we deny ourselves of all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world. To this end let us pray without ceasing, that we may rejoice evermore.
Greatly as we have extended this article, much more might be said on this important subject; for it is certainly no less important that the children of God should walk worthy of their high and holy calling, than that they should hold sound and scriptural views of the doctrine of the gospel.
Middletown, N.Y., August 1, 1857
Elder Gilbert Beebe