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RESISTING THE HOLY SPIRIT -
A LOOK AT OLD-TIME EVANGELISM

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Wednesday Evening, July 18, 2001


"Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost"(Acts 7:51)


Dr. I. S. Spencer became the pastor of Jonathan Edwards' church in Northampton, Massachusetts in 1828. He pastored there four years, in which time 250 people were converted and joined the church under his ministry, about 60 a year. This was before Finney's "decisionism" came into the pulpits of America, so these were not just modern "decisions." They were actual conversions that led to church membership and life-long commitment.

Dr. Spencer then refused a call to pastor at Park Street Church in Boston, the largest church in New England. But later in the year 1832 he accepted the call to start a new church in Brooklyn, New York. He had no building and only about 40 people. He remained at this church for 22 years, until the end of his life in 1854. By the time of his death the church had grown to be one of the largest in all of New York State. His biographer states, "He was one of the greatest preachers the American pulpit produced during that era." Dr. Theodore Cuyler called him "The Bunyan of Brooklyn."

Dr. Spencer did not use the modern techniques of "decisionist" evangelism. He followed the old path, the old way of our Baptist and Protestant forefathers, in guiding sinners to conversion. Narratives of Dr. Spencer's dealing with the lost are given in a remarkable book titled, A Pastor's Sketches , recently republished by Solid Ground Christian Books, P.O. Box 660132, Vestavia Hills, Alabama 35266 (solid-ground-books@juno.com), phone (205)978-9469.  I do not agree with every point Spencer makes, but there is a great deal of good in this book and every pastor should have it.

Dr. Tom Nettles, professor of Historical Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, has said of Dr. Spencer's book, "The republication of Spencer's sketches gives a rare opportunity for contemporary pastors, who have few if any models of pastors who understand the work of evangelism."

I present here one of Dr. Spencer's interviews with a lost girl, taken from pages 104-106 of his insightful book.


Said I (to a young woman), "Do you feel that you are a sinner, unreconciled to God?"

"Yes, I do; I am a lost sinner! "

"Can you save yourself?"

"None but Christ can save me! "

"Why, then, don't you come to Him? He is willing to save you; He loves to save sinners like you."

"Indeed, I do not know! My heart is hard and wicked; and I am afraid I never shall be saved!" She burst into tears, which she had seemed anxious to suppress, and buried her face in her handkerchief.

"How long have you been in such deep trouble of mind?"

"For three weeks," said she, sobbing aloud.

"Then for three weeks you have done nothing but resist the Holy Spirit."

I left her and passed on to the next individual. In a few minutes I left the room, and went on my way.

(The next week Dr. Spencer happened to meet this same young woman on the street).

"That was true – that was true, sir," she said.

"What was true?" said I. For I did not know who she was, though I recognized her face as one that I had seen.

"What you told me at the inquiry room that morning – that I had done nothing for three weeks but resist the Holy Spirit. That expression pierced my very heart. I did not believe it. I thought I was yielding to the Holy Spirit, because I was anxious and had begun to seek the Lord; And I thought you was most cruel to speak to me so. I did not believe you, but I could not get the idea out of my mind. It clung to me night and day, 'For three weeks you have done nothing but resist the Holy Spirit.' That expression opened my eyes. And I could not let you pass us here, without stopping to tell you how much I thank you for it."

She said this very rapidly, her eyes swimming with tears, and her countenance beaming with joy. Her whole heart seemed to be embarked in what she was saying.

…She was at peace not only, but full of joy. "Oh, I am so happy," said she. "I am so happy. You opened my eyes. You told me the truth. I thought you was a cruel man. I wanted you to explain yourself, but you would not stop to hear me. As I reflected on what you said, I hated you with all my heart. But the words would come up, 'For three weeks you have done nothing but resist the Holy Spirit.' It seems to me now, that if you had said anything else, or made any explanation as I wanted you to, I should not have been led to Christ. I can never thank you enough for the words which showed me my very heart."

…I learned that a few weeks afterwards she made a public profession of religion (of having been converted). Her pastor told me that he esteemed her highly, as one of the most intelligent and accomplished of his flock. She belonged to a very excellent family. She possessed a discriminating mind; And did she err in thinking that for three weeks she had done nothing but resist the Holy Spirit?"


Notice, in those days before Finney's "decisionism" ruined the churches, that no one "led her to Christ." She was left on her own, as Jacob was left alone to wrestle with Christ until the break of day. She was left alone by both the evangelist and the pastor, to deal with her own stubborn heart. This was the way of our old-time pastors in dealing with the lost. This was the way of Whitefield, and Wesley, and Bunyan, and all the old Baptist and Protestant pastors. This was the way that produced thousands upon thousands of converted Baptists and Protestants. This was the way God used to send the three Great Awakenings of revival to America! Read the book, and weep. The glory of the Lord has departed from our churches through weak and superficial evangelism – that leaves lost sinners in an unconverted state in our churches, literally by the millions.

And now I speak to you young people in our church tonight. Are many of you not in the same condition as that girl? Haven't you heard the gospel now for over three weeks? Night after night, in these evangelistic meetings – at Pastor Waldrip's church, at camp, and for another ten nights at our church you have come without being converted.

I say to you, in the words of our text,

"Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost" (Acts 7:51).


Aren't Dr. Spencer's words to that young girl true of you as well?

"For three weeks you have done nothing but resist the Holy Spirit!"

1.   You have resisted Him telling you that you are going to die, and that it might be very soon – and you are not prepared for death – because you are not saved. Isn't that true? Isn't it true that you have pushed the thoughts of death out of your mind again and again and again? Isn't it true that "For three weeks you have done nothing but resist the Holy Spirit"?

2.   You have resisted thinking about your sins, your actual sins, the ones you have committed against a Holy God. Isn't it true that you have pushed the thoughts of the sins you have committed out of your mind again and again and again? Isn't it true that "For three weeks you have done nothing but resist the Holy Spirit"?

3.   You have resisted thinking about your inwardly depraved heart. You have pushed out of your mind the thoughts that are in your heart constantly – of lust, and greed, and blasphemy, and anger, and rebellion. Isn't it true that you have refused to think much about your desperately wicked heart of unbelief and sin? Isn't it true that "For three weeks you have done nothing but resist the Holy Spirit"?

4.   You have resisted thinking of the fact that you deserve to go to Hell. You have refused to agree with God that it is just and right for Him to send an unrepentant sinner like you to the place of the damned, to the fire that never shall be quenched. Isn't that true? Isn't it true that you have pushed the thoughts of your punishment for sin out of your mind again and again and again? Isn't it true that "For three weeks you have done nothing but resist the Holy Spirit"?

5.   You have resisted the death of Christ as payment for your sins. You have pushed the Saviour, crucified to pay for your sins, out of your mind. You have refused to think very much about how His holy Blood can wash away the sins God has against you. Isn't it true that you have repeatedly pushed out of your mind Christ's sacrifice for your sins and His eternal Blood being able to wash your sins away? Haven't you thought very little about how His Blood in Heaven can cleanse your sins? Isn't it true that "For three weeks you have done nothing but resist the Holy Spirit"?

You have waited so flippantly, refused Him so lightly,
You have sinned long and dreadfully, your heart is so wrong;
Oh, if God grows impatient, the sweet Spirit offended;
If no longer He calls you, doom is yours when He's gone.

Then how sad facing Judgment, you'll recall with no mercy,
That you tarried and lingered till the Spirit was gone. ,
What reproaches and mourning, if when death finds you hopeless,
You have tarried and lingered and have waited too long! ,
"If You Linger Too Long" by Dr. John R. Rice (1895-1980).


(END OF SERMON)



Scripture Read Before Sermon: Acts 7:51-60.

Solo by Benjamin Kincaid Griffith: "If You Linger Too Long"

                                                                            by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980.



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