Do Not Quench the Spirit
The thought is of the Holy Spirit as a lamp burning in the heart. "The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord." It is an unlighted candle, however, in the natural, unregenerated heart—until the fire of the Divine Spirit touches it and sets it aflame. A Christian is a man with a burning candle in his heart. The light shines out through him, and his life is thus transfigured. He becomes then a light in the world; and the brighter the candle burns within—the clearer light he is before men.
The counsel here is that we do not quench this candle in our hearts. We may do so very easily. The degree of the intensity of the Spirit's burning within us is a matter with which we have much to do. The flame may be very dim, like that of smoldering lamp. The ideal Christian life is one in which the blaze is very intense. But we may quench the spirit within us until the lamp burns very low, or even goes almost out.
There are two ways of quenching a lamp. We may do it either by withholding the oil that is needed to feed the flame, or we may drown or smother it out. In both these ways, also, we may quench the flame of grace in our hearts.
No lamp will burn always without replenishing. The trouble with the five foolish virgins in the parable, was that they had no reserve supply of oil—and when their own lamps were empty the flame died out. In the same way, unless we go to Christ continually for new supplies of grace, the light in us will grow dim. To put it very simply, we cannot be shining Christians, bright lights in this world—without much meditation and prayer.
If therefore, we forsake our prayer-closet, let our Bible lie unread on the table, stay away from the sanctuary and from the Lord's table—we are most surely quenching the Spirit.
The sad confession of the foolish virgins was, "Our lamps are going out!" Are there not in all our churches, a good many lamps that are going out—just because no new oil is added. Many Christian people are good enough in a way, but they do not shine. There is only one way to get the smoldering lamp to blaze out brightly again—you must go back to "those who sell, and buy for yourself." You must get into direct, personal communication with Christ, that his life may flow into your heart in new fullness. Then the lamp will burn brightly again!
But a still surer, sadder way of quenching the Spirit in the heart, is by sin. This flame will not burn in an impure atmosphere. It is utterly impossible for the lamp to continue to shine brightly in our hearts if we are yielding to any sin, or indulging in any secret vice, or allowing any evil lust to take possession of our hearts.
We cannot but live in the midst of sin, while we stay in this world. There is no spot in it where sin is not. But we may be in an atmosphere of sin—and the sin not be in us. Christ lived in the midst of the world's evil—but no breath of it ever entered his heart. It is when the sin gets into us, that it quenches the flame of the lamp and leaves us in darkness. We must be holy if we would keep the heavenly lamp burning always brightly in us, and be lights in the world. Sin is fire-damp, in which no candle of the Lord will live.
This counsel puts upon us the responsibility of keeping the lamp of the Spirit always shining. We are besought not to quench the Spirit—we can, then, quench the Spirit; and if the holy lamp goes out, the fault is always ours, never God's. God never stints the supply of His Spirit, but there must be room in us to receive, and there must be the desire to receive and the asking that is so urgent that it will not be denied.
In Holman Hunt's picture, "The Light of the World," the Savior stands outside a closed door and knocks. He holds in his hand a lantern which pours bright beams all about on the darkness of the night. Yet there he stands and knocks—and there is no answer from within. As you look closely at the picture, you observe that there is no knob or handle outside; the door can only be opened from the inside. If our lamp is going out, and if it is growing dark within, it is because in some way we ourselves have quenched the light. Either we have driven Christ out by our sin, or we are keeping him out by our indolence and sloth.
In either case the calamity is very sad. Friends condole with us if we have worldly loss or if sorrow touches us in some way. We think it very sad when we see that one we love is wasting away under disease—when the lamp of health and of life is going out. But it is a far worse calamity, a far sorer misfortune, when the divine Spirit within us is in any way being quenched. It is leaving it dark in our hearts. Then it is the putting out of a light whose gentle beams are needed to show the weary, and those stumbling about the way—the right and the safe way home. Quench not the Spirit. Keep the candle burning always brightly!