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ACTS, VII. 51. Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.

The metaphors employed in this passage are too obvious in their import to justify much comment. The phrase, "stiff-necked," is suggested by the obstinacy of the bullock, when first subjected to the yoke: unaccustomed to obedience, and impatient of restraint, he heeds neither the caresses nor the goadings of his master. In the text, the phrase is employed to indicate the natural frowardness and contumacy of sinners under divine dispensations. God employs various methods to bring men to obedience. He instructs, he commands, he intreats, he threatens the agency of nature and providence, of the word and Spirit, is enlisted, to turn them from their idols to God; but sinners disregard all, and walk, each one, after the promptings of his own hard and impenitent heart.

Again, this same class of persons are styled "uncircumcised in heart and ears." Circumcision was the ancient symbol of a holy heart-of a conscience purified from dead works. In this solemn rite, the saints of the former dispensation recognised not only the seal that confirmed their title to the promises of the covenant, but also the evidence of their reconciliation, through the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. A circumcised heart, then, is a heart sanctified from sina heart once wayward and perverse, but now restored, with its affections and powers, to the Great Spirit above, from whom is our life. The ears are circumcised when the understanding and reason, and all the inlets of knowledge, are made subservient to the growth of that new life within, which is after God in righteousness and holiness. But those addressed by the apostle are, in both these senses, uncircumcised; their "hearts are alienated from God by wicked works;" "sin reigns in their members; "they know not God, and obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."

The description contained in the text demands of the preacher an extensive application. He is to carry it home to all men, and men of all times, who are favored with the overtures of mercy, but, like the unbe

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lieving Jews, reject these overtures, and strive to counteract the means employed for their salvation. In an eminent sense is he to urge it upon the consideration of those multitudes around him, who enjoy the stated ministrations of the Gospel, but pass on, from Sabbath to Sabbath, without hope and without God in the world. For a perpetual and solemn warning to all such, it is written" Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost." These words suggest several important inquiries, which merit the serious consideration of all the impenitent.

I. Who is the person mentioned in the text as slighted and dishonored?


Let it then be considered that it is not simply a thing, whether attribute or influence,--but an Agent-a living, conscious agent,-against whom the sinner is arrayed. It is a Being who has a source of influence in himself; and an influence suited to control and govern, not irrational, but intellectual and moral creatures: the name by which he is known, is the "Holy Ghost." The office which he sustains in the moral economy of the world, is that of teacher, sanctifier, comforter. The honors which he claims are those that belong to the uncreated God. The enterprise in which he is engaged in this world, is that of" destroying the works of the devil," (the crimes and the miseries with which he has desolated the earth,) by "reconciling the world unto God by Jesus Christ," and elevating "to the riches of the glory of the heavenly inheritance a multitude which no man can number. It is the same Holy Ghost, by whom holy men, under the former dispensation, uttered the law and the prophecies; the same Spirit of truth who taught the apostles "all things whatsoever they should speak;" the Holy One into whom the disciples were to be baptized, and from whom they received a witness, "whereby they might know all things;" the Being whom sinners in ancient times provoked and grieved, and thus exposed themselves to the wrath of God; that perfect Being, to avenge whose slighted honor all the attributes of the Eternal are awake. "Whoso speaketh a word against the Holy Ghost hath no forgiveness, neither in this world nor in the world to come." This is the Being presented in the text, as meeting with the resistance of sinful men-and resistance while executing the gracious design of reconciling the world unto himself.

II. What is it to resist the Holy Ghost?

When our Saviour left the earth, to resume that glory which he had with the Father before the world was, he committed the destinies of his kingdom among men to the Spirit of Promise. On the day of Pentecost, the divine personage took the precious trust into his hands, and began to build the new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. An alienated and lost world was to be reclaimed and saved; and all this effected by an influence that should proceed from him. The image of the earthly was to be destroyed, and the image of the heavenly impressed on the spirits of men; hence, a rigorous and protracted agency--an agency adequate to the wants, and compatible with the laws, of our moral being-was to be exerted, and exerted through all time. The nature of this influence, and the mode of applying it, may not be, in all respects, intelligible to us. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou

hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." But though we may not understand all that is done in "quickening those who were dead in trespasses and sins," nor how it is done; still, there is an influence exerted for this end, of which men are clearly conscious; and this influence, the word of God teaches us, has its source in him. Mind and spirit, as all admit, are exempt from the action of brute force, being made subject only to the laws of intelligence and conscience. Whatever mediate and redeeming influence then the Spirit exerts upon man, must be through the truth. And it is noticeable that one of the appellations he bears is, the Spirit of Truth; the Source of Truth; the Revealer of Truth; the Being who, working by and in the truth, carries forward the renewing process in the hearts of men. Here, now, is an influence that may be seen and felt; an influence that always attends the truth of God as it circulates in the world, or is transmitted to rising generations; an influence, without which no true faith is exercised; and, finally, an influence incessantly operating for the salvation of the world. Resistance, then, is offered to the Holy Ghost, when an attempt is made to circumscribe or to defeat the influence of his word. By an attempt to stay its progress in the earth, or to counteract its tendencies on our own hearts, then, we are chargeable with the act for which the unbelieving Jews were condemned. And here let it be noticed, that the word resistance involves the idea of design, intention. We may hinder or prevent the execution of some design through ignorance, or from inability to do otherwise; but in order to resist, in the proper sense of the word, there must be a consciousness of aim and intent, and a desire or at least willingness, to succeed in our aim. All this is involved in the term employed in the text. Sinners not only hinder the work of the Holy Spirit on the heart, but they resist it: they are not only willing that his grácious designs should be defeated, but they choose it. This leads us to consider,

III. The fact, that the impenitent do, in various forms, resist the Holy Ghost.

We have seen that He who is styled "the Spirit of Truth," is engaged in the execution of a great and god-like design among men. He is abroad on an errand of mercy, seeking "to lead the blind by a way which they know not; to gather up a dispersed flock, and restore them "to the Shepherd and Bishop of souls." To effect this object, he labors with assiduity; shedding forth, at all times and in all places, an influence on the minds of men,-an influence wisely adapted to the capabilities of men; and which, if not counteracted by human perverseness, would make all men wise unto salvation. But this influence encounters an opposition in every impenitent heart; and an opposition which, in a vast multitude of cases, never subsides, never relaxes. "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost." My object now will be to point out some of the various forms in which this resistance is exhibited.

1. Men resist the Holy Ghost when they attempt to stifle the convictions of conscience.

Man is a moral being, a being living under a moral law, and destined to a tribunal where every work shall be brought into judgment for

the conviction or acquittal of its author. Hence, in the constitution of such a being, conscience, an intuitive perception of the nature of actions, considered as right or wrong,-conscience, commanding us to pursue whatever is good, and sternly rebuking all conformity to evil,-must have a place. Deprive man of this distinctive attribute, and you incapacitate him for the great moral end for which he was created; you extinguish his relation to that spiritual world, of which he was designed to form a constituent part: yes, divest a man of conscience, and no other gifts or advantages he may possess can fill the chasm, and re-unite him to that elevated race who were made in the image of God. Conscience, then, is an elementary part of our being. As a teacher, its voice is heard in early childhood its checks and monitions are felt through all the temptations and sins of life. As witness for God, it confronts us with the record of our crimes: as our judge, it brings the whole world in, guilty before God. This endowment of a rational soul can never be obliterated. It may for a time be obscured, but it can never be extinguished. It will adhere to the soul in its passage into the world of spirits; and, in that world of retribution, it will be to the righteous the voice of God, whispering thoughts of peace to their souls; but to the wicked, "the worm that never dies."

The voice of conscience, then, is nothing less than the voice of the Holy Ghost speaking within us, and warning us to choose the good, and to refrain from the evil. When conscience says to the sinner, "do not this abominable thing, for it is wrong, and God hates it," it is the voice of the Holy Ghost that he hears. When conscience says to him, "break of thy sins by righteousness, and put away evil from thy heart," it is still the voice of the Holy Ghost reproving the world of sin and righteousness and judgment. When conscience spreads the record of his sins before him, and rolls the burden of guilt upon his soul; what is it but the voice of the Holy Ghost warning him to flee from the wrath to come? And now, does the sinner harden his heart against the monitory voice within? does he turn away his eye from this blazing record of his guilt? What is it all but resistance of the benevolent work of the Spirit? Is it his daily employment to administer some opiate to his troubled conscience; to obscure his vision with the mists of error; or to thrust business or pleasure between himself and the dread tribunal ? What is it but an illustration of the fact, that the impenitent do always resist the Holy Ghost?

2. We resist the Holy Ghost when we disregard the dictates of prudence.

As conscience is the appointed guardian of our morals, so does pru. dence watch over our true interests. The first teaches us to regard what is right and just; and the second instructs us to pursue those things which make for our peace. They are both the endowments of the same holy and merciful God, who would have all men become holy and happy like himself. Now, the Scriptures teach us, that "God will forsake those who forsake him," that "there is no peace to the wicked;" that "they shall be driven away in their wickedness;" that " they shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power." And God has endowed our natures with

a conservative principle, to protect us from those intolerable evils to which the sinner is exposed. This endowment the word of God denominates prudence. "Wisdom dwelleth with prudence." "The prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself." This forecast of the mind is one of the gifts of God; and, enlightened and instructed by the Holy Spirit, it becomes an important instrument of the salvation of men. Prudence draws her lessons from the recorded instructions of the Holy Ghost, and reads them in the ears of the sinner. Her language is"Soul, thou hast destroyed thyself! Thou hast made the infinite and eternal God thy foe. Thou hast sacrificed thy peace for this world, and treasured up for thyself wrath against the day of wrath: but God, who is rich in mercy, hath sent his own Son into the world to save sinners, even the very chief. Now, therefore, why will you die? Turn, Oh! turn to the stronghold, thou prisoner of hope. Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain: escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed." Such is the voice of prudence, the guardian of man's interests for time and eternity. With such arguments does the Holy Spirit teach her to address the sinner, if, peradventure, he may turn unto God and live. But how are these lessons regarded by mankind? Do they gather around, and take their seats at the feet of this heavenly teacher, and receive the word of wisdom from his lips? No. They turn away from his instructions; they stop their ears and brace their hearts against his counsels and warnings, and rush forward to their destruction. Sinners listen to the teachings of prudence when she discourses on things of time; when she points out the way to wealth and long life, to riches and honors, she never fails of an audience. But when she opens the Book of God, and discourses on sin and holiness, and spreads before the eye hell and its miseries, and heaven with its glories, and would fain take the sinner by the hand and lead him to the cross, and thence on to heaven,-many, very many, are grieved, and go away sorrowful. Thus, again, is the Holy Spirit resisted, by the neglect or contempt with which sinners treat the counsels of prudence.

3. The Holy Spirit is resisted when the means of grace are neglected. In the enterprise of reclaiming the world unto himself, God treats man as a free and rational being,-free, because unconstrained, and rational, because subject to the government of motives addressed to reason. Hence, means adapted to set motives in an impressive light before the mind, are constantly employed to lead sinners to repentance. The word of God, supplied with its high and authoritative sanctions, is published and sent forth into the world; the Sabbath is consecrated for a day of rest to the body, and of holy employment for the mind; the Christian ministry is instituted; hours for prayer and religious instruction are interspersed through the toils and distractions of the week; and churches are planted, and made fountains of a holy influence to be sent forth for the regeneration of the world. Now, all these are so many agencies in the hands of the eternal Spirit, that are brought to bear on the conscience and the heart of the impenitent sinner: and these agencies are always operating. A man can hardly pass through a day of his life, or an hour of the day, without encountering the means of grace in some of their multiplied forms: and these means are all wisely adapt

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