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of its guilt, and some have been driven to the
borders of despair. Careless and stupid persons have but little dread of sinning the sin unto death ; but those of a more tender conscience and gloomy cast of mind are extremely prone to imagine that they have actually sinned beyond the reach of pardoning mercy. It is, therefore, of practical importance, to say something upon this subject which may be suited to remove the groundless fears of some, and to prevent the fatal presumption of others. And for this purpose, it is very necessary,
I. To point out the peculiar properties of the sin unto death. And here I would observe,
1. This sin is directly pointed against the Holy Ghost. Though there be but one true God, yet the scripture represents the one true God as existing in three distinct persons. These are called the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and are represented as bearing distinct parts in the work of our redemption. Hence one sin may be more directly pointed against the Father, another more directly pointed against the Son, and another more directly pointed against the Holy Ghost. The transgression of the divine law seems to be more directly pointed against the person of the Father, who assumes the character of Lawgiver. Unbelief more immediately dishonors the person of the Son, who claims the character of Mediator. And open opposition to the appearance of holiness more especially reproaches the person of the Holy Ghost, who performs the office of Sanctifier.
Our Saviour, speaking of the unpardonable sin, observes this distinction of persons in the Godhead; and represents it as more directly pointed against the Holy Ghost, than against either of the other persons in the sacred Trinity. In the twelfth chapter of Matthew we read, “ They brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind and dumb; and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David ? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them - Wherefore, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” Our Saviour wrought miracles by the power of the Holy.Ghost; and accordingly, he considers the Scribes and Pharisees as blaspheming the Holy Ghost, by ascribing a miracle, wrought by his divine
influence, to the power and agency of the devil. And he repeatedly declares that their sin
was unpardonable, not because it was pointed against himself, but against the Holy Ghost. “ Whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him." And to make the distinction plainer still, he says, “ All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.” According to this infallible description of the sin unto death, it is always directly pointed against the Holy Ghost.
2. The sin which shall never be forgiven, is a sin of the tongue. This appears from the express declaration of Christ. In the twelfth of Luke, he says, * 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.” And in the third of Mark, he conveys the same idea, in plainer and stronger terms." Verily I say unto you, all sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme; but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness.” The Evangelist adds, " Because they said, he hath an unclean spirit.” Though they had inwardly felt the keenest malice against Christ, yet, if they had not said, “ He hath an unclean spirit," they would not have blasphemed the Holy Ghost, by whom he wrought miracles, nor consequently have been guilty of the unpardonable sin. Blasphemy properly consists in evil speaking, and can be committed only in words. Though there is a multitude of ways of dishonoring the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, yet there is but one way of blaspheming these divine persons; and that is, by speaking reproachfully of them. And since our Saviour expressly says, that the sin unto death consists in blaspheming the Holy Ghost, we may safely conclude that the unpardonable sin is always a sin of the tongue. This leads me to observe,
3. That the sin which shall never be forgiven is a public, and not a secret sin. Some sins can be committed only in public. The sin of slander, for instance, is of a public nature. One man cannot slander another in secret. The essence of slander consists in one man's speaking falsely of another, with a view to injure his character. But no man can injure another's character without speaking against it in public; or, at least, so as to be heard by somebody besides himself. So blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is a public, and not a secret sin. When the Scribes and Pharisees committed this sin, they spake against the Holy Ghost before a multitude of people, with a malicious design of sinking his character and miraculous operations in the view of the world. And no man, at this day, can be guilty of the unpardonable sin, without blaspheming the Holy Ghost in public, or speaking against his peculiar operations in the hearing of others. The apostle, in the context, cautions christians against praying for those whom they know to be guilty of the sin unto death. If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death; I do not say that he shall pray for it.” This caution, in this connection, plainly supposes that the sin unto death is an open, public sin, which is known to others, as well as to the guilty person.
4. The sin unto death cannot be committed without knowl. edge of a certain kind. Some suppose that high attainments in human learning, and high degrees of divine illumination, are necessary to render men capable of committing the unpardonable sin. But there seems to be no ground for this supposition. For the Seribes and Pharisees, who charged Christ with having an unclean spirit, and blasphemed the Holy Ghost, by ascribing his operations to the power and agency of the devil, appear to have been no other than the most ignorant and stupid sinners. And it is, indeed, much easier to conceive that the most ignorant and stupid sinners should be guilty of committing the sin unto death, than to conceive that the most enlightened and convinced sinners should openly and directly blaspheme the ever blessed Spirit
There is, however, a certain kind of knowledge, without which the unpardonable sin cannot be committed ; I mean the knowledge of the Holy Ghost, and of his peculiar operations. In the economy of redemption, it is the peculiar office of the holy Spirit to bestow spiritual gifts, and to produce holiness or gracious affections in the human heart. Accordingly we read, á The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness.” And again we are told, “ To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits ; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues. But all these worketh that one and the self same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." Now a person must know these peculiar operations of the Holy Ghost, in order to be capable of committing the unpardonable sin. For the unpardonable sin consists in ascribing any of these peculiar effects of the divine Spirit to the power and operation of the devil. The Scribes and Pharisees committed the sin unto death, by ascribing the supernatural effect of the Holy Ghost to an unclean spirit, contrary to the knowledge and conviction of their own minds. And it seems as though nothing but ignorance, prevented Paul from committing the sin unto death. He was actually guilty of blasphemy. This he freely acknowledges; but he says, “I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly, in unbelief.” Had he, contrary to his own knowledge, called Christ an impostor, and ascribed his miracles, or the miracles of his apostles, to the power and influence of Satan, he would have blasphemed the Holy Ghost, and put himself beyond the reach of pardoning mercy. No person can ignorantly commit the unpardonable sin. He must have the knowledge of the Holy Ghost and of his peculiar operations, in order to be capable of committing the sin which shall never be forgiven. I may add,
5. The sin unto death always springs from sensible enmity against the truth and spirit of Christianity. The external sin of blasphemy has its origin in a corrupt and malignant heart. Hence our Lord declares that “out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." We cannot conceive that any person should knowingly blaspheme the Holy Ghost by ascribing his peculiar operations to the agency of the devil, unless he felt sensible enmity of heart against the Holy Ghost and his holy operations. But we can easily conceive that sinners should feel such enmity of heart against the truth and spirit of Christianity, as knowingly and maliciously to blaspheme the Holy Ghost. Elymas the sorcerer, whilst he withstood the apostles, and endeavored to turn away the deputy from the faith, felt a malignant opposition to the truth and spirit of the gospel. This appears from his own conduct, and from that severe and pointed reproof which was given him by Paul. “Then Saul (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes upon him, and said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness; wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord ?" Since we have no account of what Elymas did or said, we cannot determine whether he did, or did not, commit the unpardonable sin; but this we may certainly conclude, that his heart was malignant enough to blaspheme the Holy Ghost. Though mere malignity of heart does not amount to the unpardonable sin, yet nothing but malignity of heart can ever prompt any person knowingly and maliciously to blaspheme the Holy Ghost, by ascribing his holy and supernatural operations to the agency of Satan.
Having described the sin unto death, I proceed to inquire,
II. Why it is unpardonable.
That the sin we have described is unpardonable, there is not the least reason to doubt; since the apostle calls it the sin unto death; and since our Saviour says, it shall not be forgiven, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. We have only to inquire, therefore, why this sin in particular shall never be forgiven.
Here it is natural to observe, in the first place, that blasphemy against the Holy Ghost cannot be unpardonable on account of any deficiency in the atonement of Christ. The scripture represents Christ as a complete and all-sufficient Saviour. He is said to "taste death for every man.” He is said to be the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” He is said to be “the propitiation for the sins of the whole world." And it is said that his “ blood cleanseth from all sin.” By dying the just for the unjust, he made a complete atonement for all mankind, and rendered it consistent with the character and government of God, to forgive the greatest, as well as the smallest sinners. Though one sin may be greater than another, and though blasphemy against the Holy Ghost may be the greatest of all sins, yet the blood of Christ is as sufficient to cleanse from this, as from any other sin. This sin, therefore, cannot be unpardonable, on account of any deficiency in the atonement of Christ.
And it is no less evident, in the next place, that it cannot be unpardonable on account of any insurmountable difficulty in the way of bringing the guilty person to repentance. It is true, some sinners are more hardened than others, and perhaps blasphemers are, of all sinners, the most hardened and obstinate; yet there is no reason to imagine that God is unable to conquer the stoutest human heart. He subdued the malignant heart of Manasseh. He softened the hard hearts of the murmuring Jews in Babylon. He cleansed the foul heart of Mary Magdalene. And what is still more striking, he awakened, convinced, and converted Paul, who had been an injurious persecutor, and a profane blasphemer. God is able, in the day of his power, to make any sinner willing to repent. If he saw fit to pardon blasphemers against the Holy Ghost, he could and would bring them to unfeigned repentance. It is not, therefore, in the least degree owing to any peculiar or insurmountable difficulty in the way of God's bringing blasphemers to repentance, that the sin against the Holy Ghost is unpardonable.
But if the atonement of Christ be sufficient for the pardon of the greatest sins, and if God be able to bring the greatest sinners to repentance, why is the particular sin of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost unpardonable? I answer, Because it