« PreviousContinue »
it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come (a).” St. Mark's words are, “ All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewithsoever they shall blaspheme; but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation (6).” Upon another occasion, when no imputation of the above kind seems to have been alleged against our Saviour, St. Luke tells us that Christ declared that, “ Whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven(c).” It thus appears, that all the three Evangelists agree in representing the sin or blasphemy against the Holy Ghost as a crime which would not be forgiven; but no one of them affirms that those, who had ascribed Christ's power of casting out devils to Beelzebub, had been guilty of that sin; and in St. Luke it is not mentioned that any such charge had been made. Our Saviour, according to the account in St. Matthew and St. Mark, endeavoured to convince the Jews of their error ; but so far from accusing them of having committed an unpardonable sin in what they had said
concerning (a) Matt. c. 12. v. 31 and 32. (6) Mark,.c. 3. v. 28 and 29.
(c) Luke, c. 12. V. 10. VOL. II.
concerning him, he declares that, “ Whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him,” that is, whatever reproaches men may utter against the Son of man during his ministry, however they may calumniate the authority upon which he acts, it is still possible that hereafter they may repent and believe, and all their sins may be forgiven them; but the reviling of the Holy Ghost is described as an offence of a far more heinous nature : “ The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men." --" He that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, hath never forgiveness.”_" Unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven.”—It is plain that this şin against the Holy Ghost could not be committed while our Saviour was upon earth, since he always speaks of the Holy Ghost as not being to come till after his ascension into heaven (d). A few days after that great event, the descent of the Holy Ghost enabled the Apostles to work miracles, and communicated to them a variety of other supernatural gifts. If men should ascribe these powers to Beelzebub, or in any respect reject their authority, they would blaspheme the Holy Ghost, from whom they were derived ; and that sin would be unpardonable, because this
was (d) John, c. 7. v. 39. c. 16. v. 7.
was the completion of the evidence of the divine authority of Christ and his religion ; and they who rejected these last means of conviction, could have no other opportunity of being brought to faith in Christ, the only appointed condition of pardon and forgiveness. The greater heinousness of the sin of these men would consist in their rejecting a greater body of testimony; for they are supposed to be acquainted with the resurrection of our Saviour from the dead; with his ascension into heaven ; with the miraculous descent of the Holy Ghost, and with the supernatural powers which it communicated; circumstances, all of which were enforced by the Apostles when they preached the Gospel ; but none of which could be known to those who refused to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah during bis actual ministry. Though this was a great sin, it was not an unpardonable one; it might be atoned for by subsequent belief, by yielding to subsequent testimony. But, on the other hand, they who finally rejected the accumulated and complete evidence of Jesus being the Messiah, as exhibited by the inspired Apostles, precluded themselves from the possibility of conviction, because no farther testimony would be afforded them; and consequently, there being no means of repentance, they would be incapable of forgiveness and redemption. U 2
Thus it appears that the sin against the Holy Ghost consisted in finally rejecting the Gospel, as preached by the Apostles, who confirmed the truth of the doctrine which they taught“ by signs and wonders, and divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost (e).” And it was unpardonable because this was the consummation of the proofs afforded to the men of that generation of the divine mission of Christ. This sin was manifestly distinct from all other sins; it indicated an invincible obstinacy of mind, an impious and unalterable determination to refuse the offered mercy of God.
As a farther illustration of this subject, I will transcribe Dr. Doddridge's paraphrase of the above passages in the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark : “I therefore give you the most solemn and compassionate warning of your danger, for you are on the brink of the most dreadful precipice. That malignity of heart which leads you to ascribe these works of mine to a confederacy with Satan, may incline you to pass the same impious sentence on the greatest and fullest confirmation which is to be given to my Gospel, by the effusion of the Spirit on my followers; and therefore to prevent, if possible, such guilt and ruin, verily I say unto you, that all other sins shall be forgiven to the children of men, and
even (e) Heb. c. 2. v. 4.
even all the other blasphemies with which they shall blaspheme, but the blasphemy against the Spirit of God, in this most Glorious dispensation of it, shall not be forgiven to those impious and incorrigible men, who shall dare to impute to diabolical operation those glorious works of divine power and goodness. And I add, that whosoever speaks a contemptuous and impious word, even against the Son of man himself, while here on earth, in this obscure form, he may possibly be brought to repentance for it, and so it shall be forgiven him ; and consequently even your case, bad as it is, is not entirely hopeless; but whosoever shall maliciously speak any thing of this nature against the Holy Spirit, when the grand dispensation of it shall open in those miraculous gifts and operations that will be attended with the most evident demonstrations of his mighty power, it shall never be forgiven him at all, either in this world or in that which is to come; but he is obnoxious to eternal damnation, and must irrecoverably sink into it; nor will all the grace of the Gospel, in its fullest display, afford a remedy for so aggravated a crime, or furnish him with means for his conviction and recovery.”
We now proceed to explain the article itself.
St. Paul tells us, that “the wages of sin is death (f):" and therefore, though all sins are by
(f) Rom. c. 6. v. 23.