/ Nathan Eshelman

Gentle Spirit, Gentle Conviction

Robert Murray M'Cheyne, arguably one of the 19th century's best preachers preached on John 16:8, "And when He [the Comforter] is come, He will convince the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment." In that sermon he showed how the gentleness of the Holy Spirit and the the conviction of sin are not incongruous in the life of the believer. Occasionally (frequently?) ministers are accused of harshness when the one in the pew is convicted of sin under his preaching. Maybe he's being gentle in his pleadings and your conscience is the one being harsh towards you?

It's worth considering.

Here's M'Cheyne's reasoning:

It is curious to remark, that wherever the Holy Ghost is spoken of in the Bible, he is spoken of in terms of gentleness and love. We often read of the wrath of God the Father, as in Romans 1: "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." And we often read of the wrath of God the Son: "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way;" or, "Revealed from heaven taking vengeance." But we nowhere read of the wrath of God the Holy Ghost." He is compared to a dove, the gentlest of all creatures. He is warm and gentle as the breath: "Jesus breathed on them, and said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost." He is gentle as the falling dew: "I will be as the dew unto Israel." He is soft and gentle as oil; for he is called "The oil of gladness." The fine oil wherewith the high priest was anointed was a type of the Spirit. He is gentle and refreshing as the springing well: "The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up unto everlasting life." He is called "The Spirit of grace and of supplications." He is nowhere called the Spirit of wrath. He is called the "Holy Ghost, which is the comforter." Nowhere is he called the avenger. We are told that he groans within the heart of a believer, "helping his infirmities;" so that he greatly helps the believer in prayer. We are told also of the love of the Spirit—nowhere of the wrath of the Spirit. We are told of his being grieved: "Grieve not the Holy Spirit;" of his being resisted: "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost;" of his being quenched: "Quench not the Spirit." But these are all marks of gentleness and love. Nowhere will you find one mark of anger or of vengeance attributed to him; and yet, brethren, when this blessed Spirit begins his work of love, mark how he begins—he convinces of sin. Even he, all-wise, almighty, all-gentle and loving though he be, cannot persuade a poor sinful heart to embrace the saviour, without first opening up his wounds, and convincing him that he is lost.
Now brethren, I ask of you, Should not the faithful minister of Christ just do the very same? Ah! brethren, if the Spirit, whose very breath is all gentleness and love—whom Jesus hath sent into the world to bring men to eternal life—if he begins his work in every soul that is to be saved by convincing of sin, why should you blame the minister of Christ if he begins in the very same way? Why should you say that we are harsh, and cruel, and severe, when we begin to deal with your souls by convincing you of sin? "Am I become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" When the surgeon comes to cure a corrupted wound—when he tears off the vile bandages which unskillful hands had wrapped around it—when he lays open the deepest recesses of your wound, and shows you all its venom and its virulence—do you call him cruel? May not his hands be all the time the hands of gentleness and love? Or, when a house is all on fire—when the flames are bursting out from every window—when some courageous man ventures to alarm the sleeping inmates—bursts through the barred door tears aside the close-drawn curtains, and with eager hand shakes the sleeper—bids him awake and flee—a moment longer, and you may be lost—do you call him cruel? or do you say this messenger of mercy spoke too loud—too plain? Ah, no. "Skin for skin, all that a man hath will he give for his life. " Why, then, brethren, will you blame the minister of Christ when he begins by convincing you of sin? Think you that the wound of sin is less venomous or deadly than a wound in the flesh? Think you the flames of hell are less hard to bear than the flames of earth? The very Spirit of love begins by convincing you of sin; and are we less the messengers of love because we begin by doing the same thing?
Nathan Eshelman

Nathan Eshelman

Pastor in Orlando, studied at Puritan Reformed Theological & Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminaries. One of the chambermen on the podcast The Jerusalem Chamber. Married to Lydia with 5 children.

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