By Aaron Hills
GRIEVE NOT THE SPIRIT.
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are united in the great work of redemption. The Father seems to be revealed as the source, who "so loved the world as to give his only-begotten Son." In the fulness of time Jesus came, to make atonement. He then ascended to the right hand of the Father, there to rule till all is brought into subjection to Himself. He promised when he went to the Father to send the Holy Spirit to take His place and continue His work. (See John, chapters xiv. to xvi.)
We are now living in the dispensation of the Holy Ghost. He is revealed to us as the Executive of the Triune God -- the exclusive Divine Force that now comes directly and actually into contact with the human spirit, in order to effect its enlightenment, conviction, conversion, regeneration, and sanctification. He alone does this work. It is not the blood, nor the truth, nor faith that finally and actually cleanses and restores the image of God, but the Holy Ghost. As Dr. Asbury Lowrey has written: "The Holy Ghost resolves all the forces and virtues of redemption into experience. The Father sanctifies, but sanctifies through the Spirit; the Son sanctifies through the Spirit; the truth sanctifies, but also sanctifies through the Spirit; the blood sanctifies, but it sanctifies through the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the medium (Agent) through whom all the efficacies of redemption reach the heart. The Spirit, like a minister at court, is the channel through which all saving power comes to the soul. The enduement of power from on high is the endowment of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Ghost that gives efficiency and productiveness to every agency of salvation."
I am writing on the work of the Holy Spirit for and in every heart, and how the Spirit may be grieved and the work stopped. I am writing, then, directly to every one who may ever read these lines, be he sinner, believer or saint. If you are now far from God, and are ever brought to Him, it will be by the Holy Spirit. If you are now a believer, and ever become sanctified, and persevere unto the end, it will be by the aid of the same blessed Spirit. So, whoever you are, or whatever you be, I WRITE TO YOU.
I. Consider the nature of the Spirit's work in the heart.
1. He sometimes specially strives with men to persuade them to abandon sin, or to take some advance step in the Christian life.
2. The means He uses is the TRUTH. The Holy Spirit operates as a Guide, a Teacher, a Friend. His strivings are persuasive strivings. Just as you might go to a neighbor and urge upon him some duty, plying him with all arguments and motives and persuasions, so the blessed Spirit of God comes to us, throwing a divine light upon some duty hitherto only dimly perceived and felt. He explains its bearing upon us and others; He debates with the mind, reasons to convince the judgment, then drives home on the conscience, and all that He may inspire us to right action. Several times Jesus calls the Holy Spirit "the Spirit of truth" (John xv. 26; xvi. 13), because truth is the instrumentality which He uses to bring men into harmony with God. He uses a word, a sermon, a providence, a prayer to arrest the attention of the soul and then pours in a flood of truth to move the will and change the life. A religious tract was kindly handed to a young man. He saw what it was, and indignantly flung it to the winds. God caused a corner of a leaf with the one word ETERNITY on it to fall upon his coat-sleeve and remain long enough for his eye to read it; then the Spirit sent the mighty thought of eternity into his soul, for which he was unprepared. It drove him to his knees and to Jesus. Thus the Spirit works. The result aimed at is voluntary obedience to truth and to God.
3. We learn from these passages of Scripture that God, having once created man to be like Himself -- a voluntary free-agent, a moral sovereign -- never forces him, never overwhelms him by mere power. He never robs man of his self-control. If God should force man or angel to an act against his will, that moment He would destroy all accountability for the act, and He would degrade that moral being from his free-agency. Dr. Parker, of London, has truly said: "Our experience and the teaching of Scripture, and the condition of free moral-agency, unite in affirming that so long as man is man he must have the power of resisting God; and so long as God is God He must wait until the heart's door is opened from the inside. Even Omnipotence can not force a human heart." In the same vein says Dr. Lyman Abbott: "No man can be saved against his will, because salvation is conformity of the free-will to the eternal and immutable law of God. Salvation and compulsion are contradictory terms. Salvation can only be accomplished by persuasion." President Fairchild well says: "God can accomplish whatever is an object of power. But works which involve an absurdity or self-contradiction are, of course, excluded; they do not belong to Omnipotence. For example, to determine that two and two shall be five instead of four, or that there should be a shorter distance between two points than a straight line, is not predicable of Omnipotence, and does not belong to God. There are also moral absurdities, not quite so obvious but just as real. For example, that God should compel a wicked man to become virtuous, or should by His power turn the hearts of men from sin to holiness, are such absurdities. Holiness and virtue are the free, voluntary choice of men, and can not be enforced by power." These writers all state the truth. The strivings of the Holy Spirit are persuasive only. The sinner is forever free to reject God, and may do it in spite of all that God can properly and wisely do for his salvation. If any are foolishly waiting for some overwhelming, irresistible influence to force them to become Christians, or to become holy, they are waiting for something that will never come to them.
4. It logically follows, therefore, as all experience and Scriptures teach, that it is possible to resist all the influences God ever exerts to bless the soul. He entreats us: "Quench not the Spirit," "grieve not the Spirit," for "my Spirit shall not always strive with man." We have the fearfully solemn power to do it, to brace ourselves in successful resistance to every redeeming influence of the Spirit of God. Dr. Abbott says: "The most awful fact in human life is the fact that man can resist all the sympathetic pleadings and persuasions of God; can choose death rather than life, and destroy himself in spite of his Father's love." O solemn, awful thought! Dear reader, in all the range of your eternal years nothing will ever come to you so supremely important as the ministrations of the Holy Spirit. He comes to enlighten, to guide, to regenerate and to sanctify. Don't resist Him. He who deliberately and persistently and finally does it is forever lost.
II. The serious question now arises: How is the Holy Spirit resisted and grieved? We answer -
1. He is grieved by resisting and refusing to put in practice THE TRUTH. We have already called attention to the fact that the truth is the means the Spirit uses in instructing the mind and reaching the conscience and changing the life. To this end God, the Spirit, draws near to the soul, and makes some truth as clear as sunlight. A hitherto neglected, and perhaps unperceived, duty now faces the man. It matters not what truth and what duty it may be. It may be the duty to repent of sin, or to submit to the will of God, or to accept the new birth by faith in Jesus; to make some restitution and right some wrong, or to make public confession of Christ, or to abandon some evil habit, or to consecrate the whole being and accept sanctification from the Holy Ghost. When this new truth comes, it is the voice of God to the heart. Everything now depends on how it is received. If the soul is vexed and harassed and irritated, and struggles against the unwelcome revelation, and persists in it, the grieved Spirit w ill, in time, leave the wilful soul to its own chosen darkness. So all truth may be resisted and the Spirit quenched forever.
2. The Spirit is grieved by courting infidelity and defending errors and false positions in morals. The abuse of the intellect has a subtle attraction for some minds. They delight to be on the contrary side, and to argue against "whatsoever things are lovely and of good report," and defend everything that is off-shade in thinking and morals and religion. Of choice, they read infidel books rather than the books written by reverent and devout minds. Start any question or subject, and they will at once, by their speech, show their hostility to truth and Christian morality and their friendliness to error and wrong. They will argue against the sacredness of the Sabbath, and the divine inspiration of Scriptures, and the divinity of Christ, and everything that looks like practical Christian living will be sneered at as Puritanical, while everything loose in thinking and lax in morals is persistently advocated and defended. The writer had a college classmate and two seminary classmates who swung themselves out into infidelity by this very mental process. Two years ago a man in Massachusetts was converted in one of my meetings, who stood up and testified that thirty years before he read an infidel life of Christ, which had made him an unbeliever, and cost him thirty years of sin and sorrow and shame. Six months ago a young man knelt at the altar to come back to Christ. He afterward told the writer that he lost his religion by reading a single book of Robert Ingersoll. He said: "The Holy Spirit warned me at the time not to read it, but I disobeyed, and it cost me years of backsliding."
God has given an awful warning on this subject: "They received not the love of the truth that they might be saved; and for this cause God sendeth them a working of error that they should believe a lie, that they might be judged who believed not the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness." God gave us our minds to LEARN TRUTH, and not to court and defend error, and he who does the latter insults the illuminating Spirit of God.
3. Men grieve the Holy Spirit by procrastinating when convicted of sin, and by refusing to repent and give their hearts to God. When God comes robed in mercy and offering salvation to the guilty sinner, and pleading for his heart, it is the critical hour of soul destiny. Then eternal life hangs trembling in the balance. I believe that God, having created us moral beings with sin and temptation in us and around us, is under a solemn obligation to strive with us by special illumination and effort to win our souls at least once; but I do not see that He is obliged to strive with us more than once. As a matter of fact, I do not believe any man ever lived on the globe with whom that ever-blessed God did not strive at least once, giving a full and fair opportunity for salvation, by that heavenly influence, that Spirit-light "which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." No soul will ever dare to meet God in judgment and say he did not have a chance for salvation. But such an hour of heavenly help, of blessed opportunity, need not, may not, come but once. Such an hour came to Felix when God sent Paul all the way from Jerusalem to Cesarea to reason with him of "righteousness, temperance and a judgment to come," and the striving Spirit drove home the message till Felix trembled. It was his one fair, full chance for eternal life, and he abused it. When, under the deceitful plea of waiting for "a convenient season," he ordered Paul back to the guard-room, the Spirit of God went with him, and Felix's day of grace was over. He had frequent interviews with Paul afterward, but the insulted, grieved, fatally-resisted Spirit of God strove no more. Thus multitudes are quenching, for the last time, the Spirit of God. They may live on afterward, but, once deserted by the Spirit, they are already as truly lost as if finally shut up in the realms of despair. Listen to this awful echo of this solemn truth from Canon Farrar: "The Spirit of God hath striven with him and striven in vain. The Holy Light is but a beam shining quietly in the darkness, easily strangled in the wilful midnight; the pleading voice is but a low whisper amid the silence, easily drowned in the tempest of the passions. It is one last call to repentance, and the presumptuous sinner carelessly and wilfully rejects it; and after that, the call comes no more again forever, and the things that belonged to his peace are hid forever from his eyes. Life continues, but it is really death; and on the dead soul, in the living body, the gates of the eternal tomb have closed."
4. We grieve the Holy Spirit by wilfully, deliberately violating conscience. This is a truth of the utmost importance to Christians. All growth in grace and soul-development is in it. The Holy Spirit has vastly more to do with conscience than we suppose. Joseph Cook says: "Conscience is the voice of God in the soul." It is not difficult to make the matter plain by illustrations. A person goes on for years in a course of conduct or in the practice of some habit, never questioning its propriety. All at once his attention is arrested; he sees his conduct in a new light. Its enormity becomes apparent, and the guilt of his past life in connection with it. Everything stands out before the mind and aroused conscience as clear as the noonday, and a silent appeal is made to the soul by an unseen person to alter the life. Now, whence came all this flood of new light? Who was it that thus arrested the attention and enlightened the mind, and convinced the judgment and appealed to the heart? It was the Holy Spirit. That is the way He takes to correct the evils of men and bring them to godliness. That is His way to lift the churches and the nations heavenward. A century ago the pastor of the First Congregational Church in Hartford, Conn., was partner in a distillery, and ministers and deacons and men and women universally drank intoxicants, with scarcely a thought of the immorality of their conduct. Why isn't it so universal now? Because the Spirit of God has come to one, and another, and another, pointing out the inconsistency of this in Christians. The Christian conscience has been so aroused and illuminated that millions have become total abstainers. Something like a century and a quarter ago a bright young Congregational minister in New England bought a hogshead of rum, and sent it by the captain of a slave vessel to Africa, stipulating that in return for it he should bring him a Negro from Africa to be his slave. Such an infamous transaction as that brought no reflection on that minister's piety, and he was made president of Vale College! But should a minister be guilty of such a deed today he would be esteemed no more a Christian than a Modoc savage. Why this change of opinion about the propriety of exchanging New England rum for human flesh and blood? Oh, the Spirit of God has been opening the eyes of Christian men and women to perceive the wickedness of such gross conduct, and inspiring them to practice temperance and righteousness. So God's Spirit is abroad among men, plying hearts everywhere with light and truth, that His people may be "holy and without blemish before him." When the blessed Spirit thus comes to any man, it is the day of his visitation. If he is disobedient to that heavenly vision, it may never again return, because the grieved Spirit leaves the soul to his wilful darkness and the practice of the sin he loves.
This explains the fall of many people who have long been followers of Christ. The Spirit of God urged them to rise to some higher plane of Christian living, and they consciously refused, and by so doing they forfeited their justification and lost religion altogether. The Spirit of God would no longer keep companionship with their disobedient souls. This, too, is the way young Christians fall. They run well for a time. They are seen in the house of prayer, and their voice is heard witnessing for Jesus. But they suddenly drop away. Why? They love play naturally, and the world and Satan tempt them to indulge in some amusement that the Holy Spirit condemns. They yield, and fall into the snare, and the guiding Spirit no longer goes with them.
This leads me to discuss briefly three amusements, indulgence in which on the part of Christians peculiarly grieves the Spirit, and has caused countless thousands to fatally fall away from Christ.
(1) The theater. Spurgeon said of it: "It must be a strange school for virtue that attracts the harlot and the debauchee. It is no place for a Christian, for it is best appreciated by the irreligious and the worldly. If our church members fall into the habit of frequenting the theater, they will lose all relish for the ways of God. Theater-going, if it become general, will soon prove the death of piety." Why did that great man of God, with his church of seven thousand members under his eye and the great city of London for a field of observation, make such a charge? The following are among the manifest reasons to any Spirit-filled soul:
(a) The theater introduces to the public, as its entertainers, many people of loose morals and disreputable character. There are exceptions; but this is so apt to be the rule that the great McCready, after retiring from the stage, said: "None of my children, with my consent, under any pretense, shall ever enter the theater, nor shall the have any visiting connection with play-actors or actresses." The late famous tragedian, Edwin Booth, wrote, in the Christian Union, that he would never let his daughter see a play till he himself had first gone to see if it was decent. He married the leading actress of his company, after which she never performed again, "because," Mr. Booth said, "the stage is no fit place for woman." The Frenchman, Dumas, said: "The very place is immoral."
(b) The theater usually exalts vice and holds up virtue and piety to ridicule. The Christian is pictured as a hypocritical sneak, and the villain or seducer is made the hero. John B. Gough, once an actor before his conversion, said: "I have found that in the theater piety and religion and virtue are almost always held up to ridicule. The praying Christian is represented as an impudent, mean fellow, whereas a reckless seducer is presented as a gentleman with every noble quality under the sun."
(c) The theater panders to all that is low and base in human nature. The great theatrical manager, McVicker, said: "The Shakespearean dramas never paid and never will pay." Edwin Booth, with all his prestige and magnetism, even though supported by all the genius of Barrett and Bangs, sunk a fortune in New York City, in the early seventies, with the best of Shakesperean plays, while two fortunes were made at the same time, in the same city, by the unspeakably vile Black Crook. Dr. Cuyler says: "The experiment once made in Boston of so managing a theater as to exclude every indelicacy from the stage, and every notoriously improper person from the audience, ended in a pecuniary failure."
(d) The theater degrades the women before the footlights, and debauches the young men and maidens in the audience. It is a notorious fact that the spectacular exhibitions of females in scant attire and the lewd speech appropriate to such scenes are the chief attractions of the modern play -the more nudity the better. Keep off the stage everything indecent and impure, and there is not a theater in America that could keep open its doors. "The greatest authority on theatrical management," says Rev. G. Douglas, D. D., "affirms that the exclusion of sexual passion from the stage would in six months necessitate the closing of every theater on the continent." The great actor, Edward Keene, confessed that "the influence of the theater was to destroy the sensibilities and to harden the heart." Mr. A. M. Palmer, an authority on this subject, says: "The bulk of the performances on the stage is degrading and pernicious. The managers strive to come just as near the line as possible without flagrantly violating the laws against decency. It is not so much a question whether people can play or sing as how little they will consent to wear." Mr. Daniel E. Bandmann, after twenty-nine years on the stages of all countries, says: "The Hindoo would turn away with disgust from the exhibitions which are sought after and applauded on the stage of this country. Our shop windows are full of, and the walls covered with, show-cards and posters which should be a disgrace to an enlightened country, and an insult to the eye of a cultured community." Yet Christian people rush to theaters to witness these sensuous and indecent spectacles! The young man and young maiden who, in their homes, have been shielded from every coarse and indecent suggestion, here gaze upon and listen to that which at first makes their cheeks burn with shame. "The coarse jest, the innuendoes against virtue and morality, lust but thinly veiled, and vice in its most seductive forms, make their assault upon eye and ear, while passion lays its siege at the citadel of the heart." These things once seen and heard and felt blister themselves into the memory, and innocence is lost forever. Under the infernal spell many a soul reels and falls, and is engulfed in eternal ruin.
Furthermore, the excitements of the theater unfit for the normal enjoyments and exercises of the mind and heart. The church members who frequent it lose all relish for the closet and the Bible. The prayer-meeting becomes tame and distasteful. They who can stay till eleven o'clock at night at the theater, clamor for much music and short prayers and sermonettes in the churches, simply because all relish for purely spiritual things has been destroyed by this unhallowed dissipation. The theater, whenever permitted, desecrates the Sabbath, and is in perpetual and malignant opposition to the church and kingdom of Jesus Christ. Wherever it thrives the church declines and religion decays. No wonder that attendance upon the theater by the people of God grieves His Spirit, and brings them into coldness of heart and backsliding, which often ends in the loss of the soul!
(2) Consider card-playing. Innocent people, who have not thought deeply and observed widely, ask what possible harm can there be in playing cards in the home or social circle? Such a question deserves an honest and candid answer. The evil lies in the tendencies and attendant perils associated with it. Some people have nothing in their mental make-up to which such games appeal. They are utterly indifferent to their fascinations. With them it is only a question of moral influence and a waste of time. But for another type of mind card-playing has a strange fascination, which easily grows into a perfect mania. It becomes so absorbing that for such people, whether at home or on the cars or the steamboat, or in the hotel or in the social gathering, the inevitable cards must be produced. All higher and nobler and more rational forms of social entertainment are crowded out that this dwarfing, driveling game may be enthroned. Sooner or later, the victim of this stupid infatuation craves something more than m ere amusement. This, like every other abnormal and unhealthful indulgence, has lost its power to satisfy, and, for the sake of added excitement, the game is played for stakes. Now the once innocent card-player is on the gambler's incline. By a natural evolution the "innocent" home card-party degenerates into the fashionable "progressive eucher" party, which is only polite gambling. Sam Jones well says it is "progressing hellward a mile a minute"; for the male victim of it easily progresses into the gambler's hell.
Mr. John Philip Quinn kept a gambling saloon in Chicago for twenty-five years. A few years ago he was converted, and at once started out to lecture and warn the people against the evils of card-playing. So wholesome and effective was his work that Chauncey Depew sent him over the New York Central in his private car in recognition of his service to railroad men. In an address in the People's Temple, in Boston, Mr. Quinn said: "Card-playing at home simply makes the home a kindergarten for the gambling saloon." He probably knew what he was talking about.
Of course, it is possible to gamble about anything. But no other game has been so absolutely prostituted to Satan's uses as cards. They are found in every house of sin on the globe. I submit that Christian parents have something better to do in their homes and social gatherings than to train the young for the haunts of vice. There is getting to be a public mania for gambling -gambling in stocks and bonds, and real estate and grain, in speed of horses, and baseball and football and prize fights. The public conscience is being swept away to a degree perilous, says Chauncey Depew, to the business world. This degrading passion for gambling is usually awakened by card-playing. Nobody can tell in what mind the slumbering germs of this passion lie. It is with this as with drinking -- the safest and easiest time to stop is before one begins. Card-playing may be condemned, also, on the simple ground that it involves a most wicked waste of time, all of which belongs to the Saviour who bought us, and should be w holly spent in His service. Dr. J. G. Holland, the famous editor and author, says his father's most intimate friend said to him with dying breath: "Keep your boy from cards. Over the card-table I have wasted time and lost eternity."
Lastly, it is utterly fatal to the spirituality of Christians and churches. A popular pastor of a large church in an eastern city startled his congregation one Sabbath morning by offering his resignation. In it he said: "It is not because my salary is insufficient; not because the field is not large enough to satisfy my ambition; not because there is any dissatisfaction with me, as far as I know, but because the church is so given up to worldly amusements that I have no hope of accomplishing anything in this place; and having witnessed against these things in vain, I have decided not to waste the prime of my life in a barren field."
An eminent Christian physician of Falls River, Mass., said to a ministerial friend of the writer: "Once, a few years ago, our prayer-meeting filled our lecture-room, which seats three hundred. But the ladies began to play cards, and it became a fashionable craze, and the pastor rather favors it. As a result, we now have but twenty-five at the weekly prayer-meeting, and they are not card-players. I was talking with a young man about to enter the ministry, and he said to me that he thought cards were a harmless, innocent amusement. I said to him: 'Let me tell you something for your own good. If you want your church to commit spiritual suicide, just encourage them to play cards as a harmless amusement.' " The harm which this senseless craze for this amusement, that reigns supreme in every den of iniquity on earth, has wrought to the Church of Christ, the prayer-meetings it has emptied, the family altars it has thrown down, the closets it has caused to be deserted, the backsliding it has occasioned, and the millions of these backsliders and their children whom it has sent to hell can never be known till we all stand before the bar of God at the judgment of the great day. What wonder that the Holy Spirit is grieved when the followers of Jesus forget their covenant vows, and run, with groveling worldlings, after this sport that is death to earnest piety.
(3) What of dancing? I am compelled, of course, to speak of it as it is among all classes and under all circumstances. The least objectionable forms lead to the most objectionable; the social private dance leads to the masquerade or public ball. We must examine the thing as it is, and not discuss some imaginary thing that might be. At the outset we cheerfully admit that there are not a few innocent, not to say verdant, people who have not thought much about the subject, and do not really understand why the dance is utterly pernicious. Let me, by a few simple questions, aid such people in their thinking. Do you ever hear of men hiring a hall and an orchestra, and dancing till morning by themselves? Why not? Do you ever hear of women dancing by themselves till they are half dead? Why not? Do you ever hear of a family doing it -- father dancing with mother and brother dancing with sister till long past midnight? Never. Why not? Honest now, do you not know why? If you really do not, let me kindly aid you r dull thinking. The SEX ELEMENT is the charm of the dance, and the one thing that makes it even tolerable. It is, therefore, essentially an evil thing. It leads, first, to impure thought; second, to improper conversation; third, to immodesty of action, and last, to immorality of living. Of course, such statements coming from a preacher are likely to be challenged as untrue. Very well; let others, who are not preachers, speak.
A chief-of-police in New York City has said: "Three-fourths of the women and girls that are leading lives of immorality have fallen through the dance." Mrs. General Sherman said: "Virtuous women ought to blush at the very mention of the dance." James G. Blaine's famous relative and author, "Gail Hamilton," says: The dance is essentially unclean, and can not be washed. The very pose of the parties suggests impurity." The Police Gazette, one of the lowest papers in America, whose circulation is forbidden in some places, said: "Strange that young ladies will allow gentlemen to assume positions and take liberties in the public dance that they would not allow in their private parlors." We may remark, in passing, that it does seem as if a self-respecting woman ought to want her conduct to be, at least, up to the standard of the Police Gazette. Prof. Amos R. Wells: "Dancing, like all Gaul, is divided into three parts: one-third is aesthetic, one-third is physical exercise, and the remaining one-third is sensual. The last third of this heathen Gaul is the stronghold of the province. The sensuality of the dance makes bold-eyed women of soft-eyed maidens; makes swaggering rakes of pure young men; it changes love to flirtation and a game of flippant shrewdness. It never recreates a Christian; it creates a sensualist." The editor of the Utica Herald, of New York, said: "More young men and girls are ruined in this city at dances than by any other means. This is a severe indictment, but it is, nevertheless, true, and the destruction of nine-tenths of the young women who are known to the police as 'street walkers' is due to the bad associates of the dance."
The New York Tribune of March 4, 1881, quotes a Roman Catholic bishop as saying: "The confessional reveals that nineteen out of every twenty women who fall and are lost can trace the beginning of their sad state to the modern dance."
Prof. A. T. Sullivan, an ex-dancing master, says: "Waltzing is the spur to lust." Mr. T. A. Faulkner, who for years was a teacher of dancing, and held the championship of the Pacific Coast in fancy and round dancing, was convicted of his sin by the fierce arraignment of a ruined girl who had fallen in his dancing school. It led to his conversion, and then to the writing of a book against this awful sin, entitled, "From the Ball-room to Hell." In it he writes: "The matron of a home for fallen women in Los Angeles says: 'Seven-tenths of the girls received here have fallen through dancing and its influence.' " He himself, as a city missionary, asked two hundred inmates of brothels how they came to fall, and one hundred and sixty-three of them confessed that they were ruined by dancing schools and ball-rooms. He says: "I know of a select dancing school where, in a course of three months, eleven of its victims are brothel inmates today." He gives this advice to silly, fashionable mothers who send their daughters to the dancing-master for training: "If you have a choice of a saloon for your son, and a so-called select dancing school for your daughter, I beseech you, in the name of God, place your son in the saloon, but keep your daughter out of the dancing school."
You see, up to this point I have not quoted preachers against the dance, but men and women in all walks of life. Now let the pastors speak:
Dr. Howard Crosby, Presbyterian: "The foundation for the vast amount of domestic misery and domestic crime which startles us was laid when parents allowed the sacredness of their daughters' persons; and the purity of their maiden instincts, to be rudely shocked in the waltz."
Dr. H. M. Tenney, Congregationalist: "Those who are under the spell of cards and dancing are the last to be reached by the gospel and the first to backslide."
Bishop Coxe, Episcopal: "The gross, debasing waltz would not be tolerated another year if Christian mothers in our communion would only set their faces against it, and remove their daughters from its contaminations, and their sons from that contempt of womanhood which it begets."
Dr. James Brand, Congregationalist: "The real core of the Christian's objection to the dance is, it is naturally dangerous to social purity. Its chief fascination lies in the relations of the sexes. It is useless to mince matters on this point. The danger of the promiscuous dance lies in the too familiar handling of each other's person. It is a very rare thing to find a devoted Christian worker who is a dancer. I can learn of no man or woman with a decidedly evangelistic spirit who approves of the dance. It is equally difficult to find any church members who are regularly and helpfully at the prayer-meetings who are at all given to the dance. I have not been able to discover any church, which it known far and wide as a power for the kingdom of Christ, whose members, to any large extent, patronize the dance."
The Roman Catholic bishops, in council at Baltimore, in 1866, sent out this in their pastoral letter: "We warn our people against those amusements which may become an occasion to sin, and especially against the fashionable dances, which, as at present carried on, are revolting to every feeling of delicacy and propriety, and are fraught with the greatest danger to morals."
The writer, in his rounds as an evangelist and pastor, has seen and heard so much about the evils of the dance that his heart is sick. In one city a hotel was pointed out where three women fell in one single evening at a dance. Within six months he has helped a pastor in revival work who informed him that within a few weeks five girls of his congregation had becomes mothers, without being wedded, as the result of the last season's dancing. In another city a doctor of divinity was pointed out, pastor of the leading church, whose daughter, attending the dances of the most fashionable club, was ruined, and afterward died in a hospital in a far-away city, whither she had gone to hide her shame. Yet with such facts ever repeated, constantly multiplied; with this stream of iniquity ever widening and deepening, that is flowing like an Amazon tide and sweeping countless thousands down to hell, Christian women look up into his face, with an innocence that rivals the daisies, and a verdancy that surpasses the grass of June, and ask, "What harm is there in dancing?''
Some worldly, fashionable people are not amenable to argument. They are beyond all rational persuasion. They are a thousand times more afraid of not being in the fashion than they are afraid of sin. They have lost all conscience. Worldliness has reduced their moral backbone to the limpness of a cotton string. To seem to be aristocratic they will have intoxicants on the table, even though it does engulf their husbands and sons in hopeless ruin. They must patronize the dance, even if it is likely to make their sons roues and their daughters harlots. "O Fashion! Fashion, what power hast thou to browbeat holy nature so that she dare not speak to assert her sacred claims against thy imperious sway!" I am not writing for such people. It would be useless. They are abandoned to the pleasures of sin. They may be church members; multitudes of them doubtless are. But they are strangers to Jesus. They "love the world, and the love of the Father is not in them."
But there are others not utterly committed to a career of Christless worldliness. They are toying with these fashionable pleasures which so many church members run after. They are troubled about it because the Spirit of God has not wholly left them; they are willing still to listen to the voice divine. For them I write. To them the Spirit speaks: "O do not this abominable thing that I hate" (Jer. xliv. 4)!
"But," they say, "can not we be saved, and go to theaters and play cards and dance?" I do not know about it. It is not for me to say what people can or can not possibly do, and finally be saved. David committed adultery and murder, and doubtless was finally saved. You would better not try it. If you do, the chances are a thousand to one you will perish. Doubtless many professors of religion have indulged in these amusements, and by the infinite cleansing grace of God have been finally saved. But multitudes have tried it, and made their bed in hell. Let me say just here, in passing, if you have no other purpose in following Jesus than merely to escape perdition; if you prefer to walk as far from Christ as possible and walk as much with the world as you can, and as close to the border of hell as you dare, and not consciously go over the brink, it is more than probable that you do not really love the blessed Saviour at all, and have no part or lot with Him.
But I put this whole question on a higher and nobler plane. If you are a genuine Christian, God owns you, body and soul. Your time, your strength, your influence, your money, all belong to Jesus, to be used in His service and for His glory. You have stood at the altar and taken upon you vows, solemn as eternity, that you would live for Jesus. And now, have you nothing better to do with your eyes and ears than to have them feast, hour after hour, on the pollutions of the theater? The sight of the bill-boards is enough to make a decent man's face crimson with shame, to say nothing about the living reality. Have you nothing better to do with your time than to waste it over the card-table, in brainless excitement or roars of silly laughter, because you hold a good hand or because a ten-spot can cover a nine? After giving your body to Jesus, to become the temple of the Holy Ghost, can you find nothing better to do with it than to waste its strength in the licentious embrace of the waltz?
And what about your influence? Jesus says: "Ye are the light of the world"; "Be not conformed to the world"; "Love not the world, neither the things of the world"; "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Are you doing all this, letting "your light shine" by a holy influence, "not conformed to the world," when you are loving precisely the same pleasures that the vilest sinners love, and pursuing them with the same zest? Did the blessed Son of God walk the earth in self-sacrifice and sorrow, and suffer in Gethsemane and die on Calvary, and tell us to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him, meaning by it that we were to go to theaters and play cards and dance and be merry? Can He say to such professors of religion at last: "Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast denied thyself and followed me: enter into the joy of thy Lord"? O shame, that such questions need to be asked to professedly Christian people! All unchristian people know better, and they have little or no respect for the religion of those church- members who indulge in these amusements. They never ask dancing, card-playing, theater-going Christians to lead them to Jesus. They will invite you to their unhallowed pleasures, and applaud you for joining with them; but behind your back they sneer at your religion as canting hypocrisy. No sinner in the dying hour wants one who loves these things to pray with him, or speak to him of the life to come. It is also a fact that the persons, of all classes, the most difficult to win to Jesus Christ are the children of church members who approve of these pastimes. The lives of such are a reproach to the cause of Christ. Their influence is often worse than that of avowed infidels. They may repent and be saved, but it will be "so as by fire." What wonder, then, that the Holy Spirit, who comes to sanctify the church and to save the world, is grieved when the cause of Christ is thus betrayed by His own disciples! Moody once said: "The Roman spear did not hurt the heart of Christ so much as the kiss of Judas." O, let us not betray the Master! For Jesus' sake, young Christians, for the sake of your own growth in grace, and for the sake of your Christian usefulness, give up, cheerfully, these perilous, inexpedient pleasures, or you will grieve the Spirit, and lose His companionship -- the crowning blessing of life.
(4) People grieve the Spirit by using intoxicants and tobacco, etc. Science has spoken unmistakably on these subjects, and the masses of intelligent people know better than to practice these vile, injurious habits; and if Christians do it, it must be against the protests of conscience, and so the Spirit is grieved. Only last night a Christian brother was bowing with me in prayer, crying out to God for some cure for his conscious leanness of soul. I found, by questioning, that he had been attending theaters and smoking against the protests of conscience. He told me that he had been trying in vain for months to find peace with God and enjoyment in religion. Of course, he couldn't, because he was constantly grieving the Spirit. I have never known one who used tobacco or liquor, or ran after these pleasures of the world, to obtain the baptism with the Spirit until he gave up his filthy indulgences. It is only as we heed the illuminated conscience and "walk in the light as he is in the light" that "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin."
(5) It grieves the Holy Spirit when men neglect the Bible and prayer. The Bible is the Spirit's book, and He must be wounded if it is not lovingly read, just as a mother would be grieved if her children should not read her letters. Prayer is talking with God. How it would grieve a husband if his wife should go about him continually, and never speak to him! Such cold, unloving treatment of God can not be otherwise than displeasing to Him. Here is the first start of a world of backsliding. Christians forsake their closets and neglect the Word and religious literature, and then try to feed their immortal natures on the chaff of irreligious reading, or by devouring the husks of the satanic press. Of course, it grieves the Spirit to see the followers of Jesus thus turn away from the living bread and go down to death moral suicides, "because of the virus of a baneful literature voluntarily poured into their arteries.''
6. There is a conceited, irreverent, flippant treatment of the Bible which grieves the Holy Spirit. We will quote a noble Christian scholar on this point. Dr. Daniel Steele says: "When the Holy Spirit moves holy men to write saving truth for the spiritual healing of the nations throughout all generations, and bad men develop a satanic ingenuity in assailing this precious record, and in destroying the faith of men in that religion which transforms sinners to saints here and reveals life eternal hereafter, the Spirit of inspiration is not only grieved, but is deeply disgraced ... There are in our times a class of higher critics, who are studious to conserve all the truth that the Holy Spirit has inspired, With such He is well pleased. His honor is safe in their keeping. But there is a class of destructives who are madly attempting to sweep out of the universe every vestige of a supernatural revelation, and to beat down to the dead level of naturalism every religious truth that stands a foot above the level. The personal Holy Spirit, whose mission it is to conserve and apply saving truth, can not look upon this attempt with indifference. It dishonors Him to assault His work." Professor Sayce shows that these critics argue from baseless assumptions, and come to their conclusions by utterly unscientific methods; that "Christ was in the law and the prophets, as Jesus taught; that Christianity was essentially a historical religion, and if we will not have a historical religion we must go elsewhere for our faith." "By hostile criticism 'the law and the prophets' have been sliced and dissected, until little or nothing has been left to the traditional authors, and the law, instead of having been promulgated on Sinai, has been pronounced to be the product of the Babylonian exile, and we are forced to assign the origin of the belief in the divine message and supernatural authority of the law to successful fraud. The very conception of the Mosaic law, as held by our Lord and His apostles, has been swallowed up in chaotic darkness ... This 'critical' method of the 'higher critics' is essentially vicious, and archaelogical discovery is proving it to be so ... The same method applied to the New Testament would lead to the same results. The same canons of criticism which have led to the denial of the historical character of Genesis would also lead to the rejection of John. If all that the higher critics tell us of the Old Testament is true, it can not be long before the New Testament is deprived of its historical character. The Gospels will follow the Pentateuch, and the personality of the Founder of the Christian Church will be as nebulous as the founder of the Hebrew polity. The 'higher critics' never seem to realize that their conclusions are opposed to the great practical fact of the existence of traditional Christianity. Against this fact they have nothing to set forth but the linguistic speculations of a few individual scholars. On the one side we have a body of doctrines which has been the support in life and the refuge in death of millions of men of all nationalities and grades of mind, which has been witnessed to by saints and martyrs, which has conquered first the Roman Empire, and then the barbarians who destroyed it, and which has brought a message of peace and good-will to suffering humanity. On the other side there is a handful of critics with their lists of words and their polychromatic bibles. And yet the 'higher criticism ' has never healed any bodies or saved any souls." Of course not, for a grieved and insulted Spirit can not co-operate with a criticism which breaks down all rational faith in the integrity and veracity of the sacred Word. Dr. Steele says: "We have heard one of the champions of 'liberal Christianity' read in his Boston pulpit from Job, Plato, Seneca, Cato and T. Starr King, and then say, 'Thus endeth the reading of the Scriptures.' " Another shabby insult to the Book of books, and to the Holy Spirit, its Author.
7. The Holy Spirit is grieved when He is practically ignored in the administration of the church. "The whole administration of the affairs of the Church of Christ has, since the day of Pentecost, devolved upon the Holy Spirit. That day He was installed as the Administrator of the church in all things." "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." When the hierarchy or the democracy ruling the church do not listen for His voice or seek His guidance; when solemn issues are settled by a "show of hands" instead of prayerfully waiting for the direction of the Spirit, an awful blunder is made that will be sure to tell against the welfare of the Church of Christ. Today, as of old, by waiting on the Spirit in humble prayer, church conferences and councils may render their decisions: "It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us" (Acts xv. 28). "Quench not the Spirit." How easily it may be done, in the choice of a pastor, by political wire-pulling, by the prayerless, self- willed action of a domineering few! Says Dr. A. J. Gordon: "The humble and godly membership of the little church may turn to some pastor after much prayer and waiting on God for the Spirit's guidance, and the signs of the divine choice may be clearly manifest, when some pulpit committee or some conclave of 'leading brethren' vetoes their action. Alas! for the little flock so lorded over that the voice of the Holy Ghost can not be heard." Who has not seen it, and seen, as a consequence, the church rent by dissension or killed by barrenness, because the Spirit had been grieved? "From the watch-tower where we write," says Gordon, "we can look out on half a score of churches on which 'Ichabod' has been evidently written, and the glory of which has long since departed. They were founded in prayer and consecration 'to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven.' Why has their light been extinguished, though the lampstand that bore it still remains, adorned and beautified with all that th e highest art and architecture can suggest? Their history is known to Him who walks among the golden candle-sticks. What violence may have been done by headstrong self-will to Him who is called 'the Spirit of counsel and might'? What rejection of the truth which He, the 'Spirit of truth,' has appointed for the faith of God's Church till at last the word has been spoken: 'Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye.' The Spirit is the breath of God in the body of His Church. While that divine body survives, and must, multitudes of the churches have so shut out the Spirit from rule and authority and supremacy in the midst of them, that the ascended Lord can only say to them: 'Thou hast a name to live, and art dead.' The body may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing; but simply because the Spirit has been withdrawn from it, it has passed from a church into a corpse."
8. Akin to the last point, we may truly observe that the Holy Spirit is grieved by being ignored in the management of church finances. When money is needed for the Lord's work people rely upon themselves, their tact and judgment, upon their business, and sometimes unbusiness, methods. Says Rev. C. A. Cook: "Just so long as no place is given to the Holy Spirit in the financial matters of the church, just so long will she remain on the side-track of mere human plans and possibilities, and come far short of her God-given privileges." Says Dr. John Humpstone: "The question of finance is a question of the Holy Spirit. Given Pentecostal blessing, and Pentecostal consecration of property will follow. No one but the Holy Spirit can incite souls to that degree of faith which will lead them to set at defiance the dictates of selfishness, the maxims of worldly policy, and the suggestions of over-cautious prudence." The churches turn their back on the Spirit, and then come the feasting schemes, the broom-drills , the crazy sociables, the pious lotteries, dances, and other like disgraceful, worldly schemes, until the Spirit has been grieved and His influence quenched. Six weeks ago the writer was holding meetings in Cincinnati. Two squares away a church fair was in progress for two weeks. All kinds of musical instruments, furniture, stoves, flour, ale, wine, live goats and other beasts were raffled for, and four thousand dollars were cleared. Had Jesus appeared on the scene, as of old, He would again, doubtless, have driven them out with a whip of cords, saying, with indignation, "Ye have made my Father's house of prayer a den of thieves."
The Boston Congregationalist of November 11, 1897, lies before me, saying: "Thirty young women of families connected with Trinity Church of N. Y., gave an entertainment recently in the Opera House. They blackened their faces and impersonated Negroes in a minstrel show. The proceeds went to swell an organ fund for the church. If there are still honorable men in that church, the show must have stirred other music than that drawn from the organ. Such antics in aid of a church are a disgrace to Christianity." These lines are being written in a church whose pastor was approached, not long ago, by a female member of a fashionable city club, offering a club dance in behalf of the church. The pastor had the wisdom and piety to decline the offer; but, alas! it was accepted by another church a few squares away. Thus the Spirit is grieved and quenched, and the churches become as barren as the Sahara desert.
9. Ministers of the gospel and other Christian workers must certainly grieve the Spirit "when they more earnestly desire His gifts than Himself; when they are more eager to be clothed with His power than to be filled with His presence; when they rely more on polished rhetoric than on the power of the Holy Ghost; when they are more concerned about preparing the sermon than themselves; when they are more ambitious to please the church (people) than the 'Head of the Church'; when they aim to tickle 'itching ears' rather than to convict and convert wicked hearts; when they are using the sacred office as a ladder to personal fame or gain, instead of a stairway up which they may lead repenting sinners to the bosom of God." Dr. Steele, from whom the above was quoted, also observes: "The Spirit is dishonored whenever Christ is not exalted as the only Saviour of lost men; when anything is substituted for the Spirit's offices in the inspiration of the spiritual life and the development of Christian character, such as a germ of natural goodness instead of the new birth, education instead of sanctification, culture of the aesthetic tastes instead of the fruit of the Spirit; when He is displaced in the pulpit by some fad or fancy of momentary interest; when Jesus Christ crucified is regarded as a less attractive Saturday pulpit bulletin than the last international yacht race, or a panegyric on the last humoristic poet of liberalism." The writer once sat in a Boston audience and heard a doctor of divinity preach on "The Gospel of Greece," and he announced for the next Sunday's theme, "The Gospel of Montenegro." The Advance of yesterday tells of a minister who filled his house by preaching on "Your Weight for a Cent." Where can such things end but in stranded churches, deserted by the grieved Spirit of God? One Sunday a preacher from New York filled the pulpit of that mighty warrior of Israel, Dr. Hawes, of Hartford. The next morning a brother minister met him, and referred to it. "Yes," he quickly replied, "there are a great many ways of going to hell, and flashy preaching is one of them." The writer heard Dr. Godbey make a remark recently that made his soul quake. It was this: "I would sooner have a saloonkeeper's hell than to have the hell of a recreant preacher." Oh, that we who stand before men as the accredited ambassadors of Jesus Christ, may not grieve the Spirit of God!
10. Individuals and churches often grieve the Holy Spirit by being penurious and dishonest in reference to the enterprises of the church and kingdom of Christ; in other words, by robbing God in tithes and offerings. No man who is niggardly can have spiritual power. He has too little of the Spirit of the self-sacrificing Jesus to be used and honored of the Holy Spirit. A Boston deacon came to his pastor's study some years ago, and said, with deep solemnity: "Pastor, I want to tell you something as a warning to others. Seventeen years ago I became interested in a certain kind of spiritual work, and the Holy Spirit said to me, 'Deacon, put your money into it generously.' I said to myself, 'No; I can't afford it. It is a man's business to accumulate; I must accumulate, accumulate!' Pastor, for the last few years I have lost heavily. It has set me to thinking; and as near as I can calculate, I have lost to a dollar all my accumulations for the LAST SEVENTEEN YEARS, and I have been lean in Spirit besides!"
That wonderful Spirit-led pastor, Dr. A. J. Gordon, felt that at one season his church was not being blessed spiritually as it ought to be. He went before his church -- the Clarendon Street Baptist Church, Boston -- and preached a missionary sermon, and told his people to pray over the matter and then give as the Holy Spirit prompted them, and put God to the test and see if He would not bless them spiritually. He thought they would give a thousand dollars extra. But, lo! under the promptings of the Spirit, they brought an offering of twenty thousand dollars for missions. Immediately the heavens opened above them, and a mighty revival of flood-tide power broke upon them. More churches would have these gracious visitations if they did not grieve the Holy Spirit by robbing God.
11. The Holy Spirit is grieved by speaking against and by rejecting holiness or sanctification. It would grieve an author to malign and reject his best and favorite work. The Spirit is called "Holy" because it is His chief work to impart holiness to fallen men, and keep them in it. "The masterpiece of the Holy Spirit is the completed holiness of a soul born with a propensity to sin." When one fights the doctrine of sanctification as a possible experience, and says malignant things about it and about all who advocate it, they are approaching perilously near the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost which hath never forgiveness.
And when God comes to a soul with special illumination, through persons or books, or fresh light upon the sacred Word, and awakes a hunger for holiness and clearly points out the way to obtain the sanctifying baptism with the Spirit, it is a solemn and critical hour. It is a special honor conferred, a special call given to be one of God's saints, and walk with Him in white, and bear witness to the power of an uttermost Saviour to give full salvation. The religious life, then, is like riding a bicycle -- it must go forward or fall. There are given to some revelations so distinct, calls to sanctification as a privilege and duty so clear, light so abundant, that then, to consciously cling to some sin and prefer the world to Christ, means to so grieve the Spirit that justification itself will be lost, and there is nothing before the soul but backsliding and ruin. It is a solemn thing in the march of the spiritual life to consciously reach Kadesh (which means holiness); one must then go forward and take the Canaan of sanctification, or turn back and die in the wilderness. With many illuminated hearts, I am persuaded it becomes, then, literally a choice of HOLINESS OR HELL! May God graciously keep back the reader of these pages from the fatal step!
In conclusion, let me entreat my Christian readers to put in practice no business principles, to indulge no appetites, to tolerate no habits, and to allow no amusements that can not stand the search-light of closet prayer and the most critical investigation, aided by the illuminating Spirit and the Word of God. Break all unhallowed connection with the world, and with all energy of soul, as the Spirit leads, press on in the Christian race "for the prize of the high calling of God." "For God hath called you unto holiness'' (sanctification, R. V.). I once heard Moody say, in a burst of eloquence: "I would to God that these Christians who live so near the border-line between the church and the world that you can not tell on which side they are, would either stay with the world or cross the line and get as far from it as possible." Oh, reader, walk in all the light the Holy Spirit brings you, "and the blood of Jesus Christ will cleanse you from all sin," you "being sanctified by the Holy Ghost." For you the re is