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preclude him from all suffering, (though they heighten the worth of his love,) lessen our concern to show a proper regard for him ? Shall we, because he is God and not man, be encouraged so to act toward him, as that we should feel the keenest anguish if any one whom we loved and whom we had done much for should so conduct himself towards us? God forbid ? Certainly the expression is borrowed from the language of men, to teach us how we should abhor the thought of ingratitude to such a friend. It indicates indeed, that he still loves those whom he has begun to seal to the day of redemption; but it implies that they are in danger of acting so contrary to their obligations to him, as that their conduct would be greatly disapproved by him; and would be followed with his conducting himself toward them like an aggrieved friend.
Let us then inquire, First, What may we justly apprehend would grieve the Holy Spirit ?
Certainly, all sin is very offensive to a Holy God. The commission of outward, scandalous evil.
Would it not grieve an earthly friend, for one to hold familiar intercourse with his enemies ? All duplicity or deceit. (25.) He is the Spirit of truth. All impurity. (19, 20.) He is the Holy Spirit. 1 Thess. iv. 7, 8. God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his Holy Spirit.” All levity and trifling conversation (29. v. 4, &c.) God has revealed to you heavenly things by his Spirit, therefore your conversation should be in hea
The omission of known and evident duty. Neglect of appointed opportunities of enjoying fellowship with him, or of engaging in his immediate service. Neglect of prayer; he is the Spirit of supplication, or of the word ; which he indited, &c. Neglect of inquiry into the nature and bounds of sin and duty. Not being concerned to know his pleasure. By the indulgence of any unholy dispositions. The Holy Spirit is omniscient; discerns hearts; is grieved with most secret evils. Immoderate affections toward earthly objects; idolatrous attachments; inordinate desires or anxieties; coldness and lukewarmness toward
divine things. Bitter, unchristian resentments toward our fellow-men, or fellow-christians. Slighting or undervaluing the Lord Jesus Christ, and his atoning blood and righteousness. It is the Spirit's office to reveal Christ. He who neglects Christ cannot but grieve the Holy Spirit. Merely formal attendance on divine ordinances, without any earnest concern about our frame of heart therein. Would not a friend be grieved, if, when you had ground to expect a visit from him, no preparation were made to receive him ? no place prepared for his entertainment? Slighting bis word, its promises, its precepts, as though you scorned his messages or letters. Undervaluing his consolations, and his counsels for your good. If you value not his influences; deface his work; do not long to see and feel his work perfected. If you retain not a high sense of his love, and of the blessed nature of his gracious operations.
The Holy Spirit is grieved by presumption and self-confidence. And by sloth, and abuse of the doctrine of his influence, throwing blame virtually on him.
Secondly: What may we expect to be the consequences of grieving the Holy Spirit ?
I suggest not that he will abandon the work he has begun; but he will surely take methods to make us forsake our evil way; he will withdraw from us his consolations ; take away the joys of salvation; he may leave us to be filled with our own devices, and cause our own backslidings to reprove us. He will show us that ordinances are vain and unprofitable without his blessing. He may correct us with outward affiliction, and withhold the support he used to grant us in trouble; or may suffer us to be assaulted by temptations, and fall into
He may leave us in darkness and uncertainty, whether we are heirs of the heavenly kingdom ; and perhaps, suffer us to die in this awful suspense; or may suffer us so to dwindle and decay, or to fall before our enemies, as that our brethren may give us up for apostates, and the ungodly triumph over us! If this be not enough to affect us, surely we have no security that worse will not befall us. Let the perseverance of true saints be ever so certain, you are not
Eph. iv. 32. Forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven you.
In order to our forming a just estimate of evangelical religion, it is necessary that we should consider this as one of its most essential characteristics—that it is the religion of sinners. Hence, though it is as pure and holy as the immutable law itself, it is essentially different from a mere code of precepts, or a directory, concerning duty. It would be of no avail to us, if it did not contain glad tidings to the guitly, impotent, and depraved. Though it teaches the saved how they ought to please God, by walking in newness of life; yet it teaches also where to look for strength; and adds motives, new and more endearing than were originally employed by the law. Hence also we are called to some new duties, which, though they naturally spring from the application of the two great commands to our new circumstances, yet seem not to have been needful, or required, but in consequence of this change of situation.
Sinless creatures could not be required to repent, and seek forgiveness ; and being placed out of the reach of injury, could not be required to forgive injury. Love to God would absorb love to disobedient creatures : therefore, holy angels durst not pity fallen angels ; nor durst they have pitied fallen men, had not God made known his design to save. But pardoned sinners are left in circumstances liable to suffer through the sins of others; and though they must not justify or excuse them, yet they may, yea, they must pity and
pray for them. While they have a peculiar complacency in the saved, they must show unfeigned benevolence to sinners : and while they wish they may obtain forgiveness from God, they must be ready to imitate the divine forgiveness, to which they themselves are so infinitely indebted.
This is the branch of evangelical religion we are now more particularly to consider. It is here, Ist. Most expressly en
joined : and 2dly, most powerfully enforced.
I would endeavor,
First, To explain the duty. Forgiving one another.
The same duty is enforced, in Col. iii. 13. rather more fully, and a similar motive added ; only, forgiveness, which is here ascribed to God through Christ, is there ascribed to Christ himself. Our Lord also inculcated the same duty, in the strongest manner imaginable, in the Lord's Prayer, Matt. vi. 12. 14, 15. and enforced it by a parable, Matt. xviii. 23–35.
If you ask to what persons it applies, I answer, It is evidently not confined to our brethren in Christ, though this passage seems to have a special regard to them. It is peculiarly evil to neglect this duty in respect of our fellow believers; but it is to be still more widely extended; to man in general, even to the worst of men; to those who injure us from a spirit of persscution, and spite against religion. Matt. v. 44. " But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray
for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” and if it extend to them who hate us for our evangelical principles, or for our holy practice, surely to them who take a prejudice against us on lighter grounds, or even through some measure of occasion given on our parts. If to strangers, can it exclude friends and relations ? Yet sometimes resentments are keenest, where previous connexions were closest. Prov. xviii. 19. “ A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city : and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.”
Perhaps you wish to limit it, as to the nature and number of offences. How shall we manage here? Tell me, what offences would you forgive ? There are no pleasant offences. Can you suppose it must be confined to very trivial offences? or very inadvertent? or very few? Do you ask pardon for such only? Peter thought he proposed a generous question, in Matt. xviii. 21. “How oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him ? till seven times ? But our Lord's answer made his generosity look small. Yet I fear some of
yours is less.
What is included in this forgiveness ? Suppressing or laying aside all disposition to revenge ourselves, or to be pleased with the retaliation of evil to him who had injured you. Suppression of every malevolent feeling. Yea, a positive exercise of benevolence, or desire of his real welfare, and a readiness to contribute towards it, if it be consistently in your power. A disposition to treat such a person with kindness, if it can be done with prudence, and without encouraging future injury from him or others. I annex that limitation, because there are cases in which the head of a family may find it needful to withhold the usual freedom for a time, for the sake of general order and decorum. And merely in the capacity of an individual, offenders may forfeit future trust and confidence, or it may be proper to keep them more at a distance, or not to admit them to former intimacy, though no malevolence is indulged. Yet, considering the selfish bias of human nature, it may be often expedient to consider an injury offered, as giving the person some claim on our attention, even beyond a stranger, lest we should be insensibly influenced by resentment. It was said of Archbishop Cranmer, no bad Christian, “Do my Lord of Canterbury an injury, and he will be your friend as long as you live.” Thus improve an injury as an opportunity of giving a hard blow to native depravity ; or of showing a peculiar degree of conformity to Christ. But observe, this is not inconsistent with church discipline; nor yet with bringing criminals to legal punishment, when the good of society requires it.
But may we not confine our forgiveness to those who make full acknowledgement and reparation ?
There are cases, in which the good of the offender may render it requisite, especially for the purpose of family government. But as to other cases, I will say, if you are very strict in requiring acknowledgements, I hope you will be still more strict in making them!
SecondLY: Exhibit the strength of the motive. God, for Christ's sake, has forgiven you.
You have needed much forgiveness. Your sins have been neither few nor small. You might sooner count the sands,