Genesis 6:3 Commentary - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
STRIVINGS OF THE SPIRIT
Gen 6:3. And the Lord said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man.
MAN, at first, was created in the image of his God: but when he fell, he begat children in his own fallen image. His very first-born became a murderer. Some of his posterity, however, were pious: but they, not being careful to connect themselves with those who feared God, were drawn aside from religion by their ungodly wives, insomuch that, in eight or nine generations, “all flesh had corrupted their way,” and it repented “God that he had made man [Note: Gen 6:6-7; Gen 6:12.].” In consequence of this, God determined to destroy the whole earth. But yet, being full of mercy, he would not proceed to this extremity without giving to man space for repentance. Accordingly, he commanded Noah to preach to them; and to declare, that in the space of 120 years the threatened judgments should be inflicted, if the people did not avert those judgments by their penitence. During that period his Holy Spirit should continue to strive with them—but no longer: for “he should not always strive with man, who was now become altogether flesh,” and carnal; and who, if he did not repent in the time allotted him, should be left to reap the bitter fruit of his own ways.
That this warning may have a salutary effect on us, I will endeavour to shew,
That the Spirit of God, if long resisted, will cease to strive with us.
Certain it is, that the Spirit of God does strive with unregenerate men—
[He strove with the whole antediluvian world, by the ministry of Noah: for “by the Spirit did that holy man preach, during the whole period whilst the ark was preparing, even to the spirits which for their disobedience were condemned, and shut up in the prison” reserved for all impenitent transgressors [Note: 1Pe 3:19-20.]. “To the whole nation of Israel, also, did the Holy Spirit for ages testify, in and by his Prophets, notwithstanding they dealt proudly, and withdrew their shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear [Note: Neh 9:29-30.].” With us also does he strive, both by the ministry of his word, and by his own immediate agency on the hearts of men. For, what is conscience, but God’s vicegerent in the soul? By that, God speaks to us; warning, and inviting us from time to time, if by any means we may be induced to repent and turn unto him. Let any one only look back upon his past life; and he shall find that there have been some periods when he has felt a conviction upon his mind that it was his duty, and would be his happiness, to seek after God, and obtain, whilst yet he might, the remission of his sins.]
But we resist his sacred motions—
[To whom amongst us may not those words of Stephen be applied, (if not in reference to the present moment, yet certainly in reference to some period of our lives,) “Ye stiff-necked, and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so also do ye [Note: Act 7:51.].” We may not, indeed, have set ourselves in such hostility to the truth as they did; but have we been more practically obedient than they? Have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, calling us to repentance, and to a dedication of our whole selves to him? Alas! there has been the same stoutness of heart in us, as in persons of a more profane character; many of whom, perhaps, have “said, I will not, but afterwards have repented, and went” into their Lord’s vineyard; whilst we, perhaps, have said, “I go, Sir,” but have been as far from executing our acknowledged duty as ever [Note: Mat 21:28-30.].]
And will the Spirit always continue to strive with us?
[No: we are assured he will not. We know that his motions may be resisted, till they are altogether “quenche [Note: 1Th 5:19.].” And in many instances has he been driven away by the obstinacy of those with whom he had striven. Of Saul we are told, that “the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul; and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him [Note: 1Sa 16:14.].” And it was not without reason that David prayed, “Cast me not away from thy presence! and take not thy Holy Spirit from me [Note: Psa 51:11.] !” When God saw his ancient people incurably addicted to idolatry, He said, “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone [Note: Hos 4:17.].” And what else can we expect, if we continue obstinate in our sins? The doom of Israel must of necessity be ours. Of them it is said, “They rebelled and vexed his Holy Spirit; therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and fought against them [Note: Isa 63:10.]:” and we verily can expect no other, than that He, whose solicitations we refused to follow, as a Friend, shall send forth his vindictive judgments against us, as an Enemy.]
Let me then proceed to shew,
What is the state of a soul thus abandoned by the Lord.
Truly its condition is most pitiable. God has said, “Woe unto them, when I depart from them [Note: Hos 9:12.]:” and verily it will be a woeful day for any one of us, if God should ever abandon us to ourselves! for the deserted soul is from that moment given up, yes, and given up for ever,
[It is surprising what delusions an abandoned sinner will harbour in his heart: “I shall have peace, though I walk in the imaginations of my heart to add drunkenness to thirst, and sin to sin [Note: Deu 29:19.].” Refuges of lies he shall have in plenty, to administer to his composure: ‘There is no future state: death is but an eternal sleep: or, at all events, God is too merciful to inflict punishment in a future state: or, at any rate, the punishment cannot be eternal. As for the Holy Scriptures, perhaps they are only the writings of fallible men, like ourselves: or, at best, they are so highly figurative, that you cannot depend upon them.’ Thus men take refuge in infidelity, that so they may rid themselves of records, which, if credited, would be subversive of their peace. And to these delusions God will give them up; as he has said: “They have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations: I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them [Note: Isa 66:3-4.].” In the New Testament, this judgment is yet more emphatically denounced: “They (the Antichristian powers) received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved,” says St. Paul: “and for this cause, God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness [Note: 2Th 2:10-12.].” Oh, terrible judgment!—and the more terrible, because they who are subjected to it have no conception that they are lying under it: but it will be the assured portion of all with whom the Spirit of God has ceased to strive.]
[To the power of their own lusts will they be given up, so that Satan shall lead them captive at his will. How awful is that declaration of Solomon, “His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself; and he shall be holden with the cords of his own sins [Note: Pro 5:22.] !” Yet this must be the fate of all who constrain the Holy Spirit to depart from them. If men “will despise and reject all the counsel of the Lord, they will assuredly be left to eat the fruit of their own ways, and be filled with their own devices.” It was so with the Heathen, “who liked not to retain God in their knowledge: he gave them over to a reprobate mind [Note: Rom 1:28.].” It was so, also, with the Israelites: “My people would not hearken to my voice, and Israel would none of me: so I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust; and they walked in their own counsels [Note: Psa 81:11-12.].” What more common than to see this very judgment inflicted before our eyes? The infidel, the drunkard, the whoremonger, the thief, the covetous man, the profane swearer, what slaves do they become to their respective habits! These shew us the very truth that I am insisting on; and declare, with one voice, that the Ethiopian may as well change his skin or the leopard his spots, as they renounce the habits to which they have been given over by their God.]
[Pharaoh, for his obstinacy, was given up to a state of hardness that is scarcely to be credited. And how many, in every age, when forsaken by the Lord, have had “their consciences seared as with a hot iron,” and become altogether “past feeling [Note: Eph 4:19; 1Ti 4:2.] !” Behold the scoffer, who pours contempt on all religion, and, with daring impiety, cries, “Where is the promise of God’s coming to judgment? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation [Note: 2Pe 3:4.].” If reproved for their impiety, they will in effect say, “Who is Lord over us [Note: Psa 12:4.] ?” “We know not the Lord; neither will we obey his voice [Note: Exo 5:2.].” Even in death itself, they often evince the very same hardness, and shew how entirely they are given over by the Lord. Their friends around them are ready to say, “They died like lambs:”—and so indeed they did, even like brute beasts that have no understanding, having no conception of the state which awaits them at their departure hence. A terrible judgment this is! and a certain prelude,]
[There is a time wherein God may be found, by every living man: but that season may be passed; and a time arrive, when he will no more be found [Note: Isa 55:6.], and when all God’s offered mercies shall be for ever withheld. Such a period had actually arrived to the Jewish nation, when they crucified the Lord of glory. Our blessed Saviour, previous to his death, took up this lamentation over them: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them who are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate [Note: Mat 23:37-38.] !” “Oh that thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes [Note: Luk 19:42.].” Thus, it is to be feared, there may be, even amongst ourselves, some with whom God will strive no longer: they have so long trifled with the means of grace, and been unprofitable under all the culture that has been bestowed upon them, that they shall be henceforth left only to be gathered, in due season, as fuel for the fire [Note: Heb 6:7-8.]. What an awful thought, To be left only to “fill up the measure of their iniquities,” and to ‘’treasure up wrath against the day of wrath [Note: Rom 2:5.] !” Better were it for a man that he had never been born, than that ever he should live for such an end as that! But such is the state of the deserted soul: and at the appointed hour, “wrath will come upon him to the uttermost.”]
Those who are yet withstanding the motions of the Holy Spirit—
[Little do you think how greatly you offend your God, or what misery you are entailing on your own souls. But let me ask, Is there one amongst you that does not look back upon his past rebellion with regret? Is there one who is not persuaded in his mind, that he would have been a far happier man, if he had obeyed the voice of the Lord, and followed, instead of resisting, the dictates of his conscience? How long, then, will ye continue this rebellious course? Shall not the declaration in my text affect you? Shall not even the possibility of your day of grace having come to an end, appal you? Do but think how much you have at stake — — — and how short is the time which you have to seek the things belonging to your peace. — — — I pray you, Arise, ere it be too late, and cry unto your God, “if God peradventure may give you repentance, and you may be recovered out of the snare of the devil, by whom you have been taken captive at his will [Note: 2Ti 2:25-26.] !” “To-day, while it is called to-day, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, as in the day of temptation in the wilderness; lest you provoke God to swear, in his wrath, that you shall never enter into his rest [Note: Psa 95:7-11.].”]
Those who through grace have obeyed his blessed will—
[Truly this is of the Lord, who alone has “made you willing [Note: Psa 110:3.],” and has thus caused you to “differ from those around you [Note: l Cor. 4:7.].”— — — Be thankful for this distinguishing grace; but remember that you still need his gracious influences as much as ever. There is not any part of the divine life that can be carried on within you but by the operation of the Holy Spirit. He must be within you “a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and of might, a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord, and must make you of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord [Note: Isa 11:2-3.].” Seek him, then, for all these gracious ends: and be careful that you “do not grieve him,” by any sinful disposition, or any secret neglect [Note: Eph 4:30.]. It is by him that you are to be “sealed unto the day of redemption [Note: Eph 4:30.],” and by him that you are to be “rendered meet for your heavenly inheritance.” To him, therefore, “I commend you, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them that are sanctified [Note: Act 20:32.].”]
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Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
Charles Simeon (1759 - 1836) was an English evangelical Anglican cleric.
Horae Homileticae reflects the rich source of Biblical understanding of Simeon, a towering figure in the history of evangelical theology.