Saturday, February 27, 2010

Quench Not the Spirit


Conversion to the Christian faith, the acceptance of the apostolic gospel,
was not a
thing which made little difference to men : it convulsed
their whole nature to its depths ; they were never the
same again ; they were new creatures, with a new life
in them, all fervour and flame.
A state so unlike nature, in the ordinary sense of
the term, was sure to have its inconveniences. The
Christian, even when he had received the gift of the
Holy Ghost, was still a man ; and as likely as not a
man who had to struggle against vanity, folly, ambition,
and selfishness of all kinds. His enthusiasm might
even seem, in the first instance, to aggravate, instead
of removing, his natural faults. It might drive him
to speak—for in a primitive church anybody who
pleased might speak—when it would have been better
for him to be silent. It might lead him to break out
in prayer or praise or exhortation, in a style which
made the wise sigh. And for those reasons the wise,
and such as thought themselves wise, would be apt to
discourage the exercise of spiritual gifts altogether.
"You contain yourself," they would say to the man whose
heart burned within him, and who was restless till the
flame could leap out; "contain yourself; exercise a
little self-control ;it is unworthy of a rational being
to be carried away in this fashion."

...Every one knows that a fire smokes most when it is
newly kindled ; but the way to get rid of the smoke
is not to pour cold water on the fire, but to let it burn
itself clear. If you are wise enough you may even
help it to burn itself clear, by rearranging the materials,
or securing a better draught ; but the wisest thing most
people can do when the fire has got hold is to let it
alone ; and that is also the wise course for most when
they meet with a disciple whose zeal bums like fire.
Very likely the smoke hurts their eyes ; but the smoke
will soon pass by ; and it may well be tolerated in the
meantime for the sake of the heat. For this apostolic
precept takes for granted that fervour of spirit, a
Christian enthusiasm for what is good, is the best thing
in the world. It may be untaught and inexperienced ;
it may have all its mistakes to make ;
it may be wonderfully
blind to the limitations which the stern necessities
of life put upon the generous hopes of man : but it is
of God ; it is expansive ; it is contagious ; it is worth
more as a spiritual force than all the wisdom in the
world.
I have hinted at ways in which the Spirit is
quenched ; it is sad to reflect that from one point of
view the history of the Church is a long series of
transgressions of this precept, checked by an equally
long series of rebellions of the Spirit.
" Where the
Spirit of the Lord is," the Apostle tells us elsewhere,
" there is liberty." But liberty in a society has its
dangers ; it is, to a certain extent, at war with order ;
and the guardians of order are not apt to be too
considerate of it. Hence it came to pass that at a very
early period, and in the interests of good order, the
freedom of the Spirit was summarily suppressed in
the Church.

(By James Denney in The Epistles to the Thessalonians)

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