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hath pleased God, by a positive determination to make it so. And though we may not be able to comprehend all the reasons which moved him to make this determination, yet there appears to be one plain and sufficient reason for his absolutely refusing to pardon any person who blasphemeth the Holy Ghost. It is the natural tendency of ascribing the peculiar operations of the Holy Ghost to the power and agency of Satan, to prevent the spread of the gospel and the conversion of sinners. To say that Christ, who had the Spirit without measure, wrought all his miracles by the influence of Satan, had a direct tendency to destroy his religion, and to make him appear in the eye of the world, as a vile and odious impostor. To say that the apostles, who went forth under the influence of the Holy Ghost to preach the gospel and to work miracles, were instigated and assisted by the power of the devil, had the same tendency to defeat their whole design; for they had no higher credentials of their divine mission, than the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, and the efficacy of the gospel upon the hearts of men. To say at this day, when there is a great effusion of the Spirit, and a great revival of religion, that these effects are owing to the power and delusion of Satan, is directly calculated to prevent the spread of Christianity, and the salvation of sinners. And to ascribe the peculiar operations of the Spirit to the influence of the devil, in any future period, must equally tend to subvert the evidence and design of the gospel. Therefore, to keep the world in awe, God has set a dreadful mark of distinction upon blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, and made its penalty death without reprieve.
1. It appears from the description which has been given of the unpardonable sin, that the two noted passages in the sixth and tenth of Hebrews, have no reference to it. To make this appear, it is necessary to recite these texts at large, and consider them distinctly. The first is this. “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” The second, which follows, is very similar. “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses. Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace!"
These texts have often been supposed to be descriptive of the unpardonable sin; and in this view, they have given great distress to awakened sinners, laboring under a deep sense of their own vileness and the divine displeasure. But there appears to be no reason to understand these passages in this
There is a very great dissimilarity between the sins here described, and that which has been described in this discourse. The sins bere described appear to be secret sins; but the unpardonable sin can be committed in public only. The sins here described appear to be sins of the heart; but the unpardonable sin is a sin of the tongue. The sins here described appear to consist in internal opposition to truth and holiness; but the unpardonable sin consists in nothing but blasphemy, directly pointed against the Holy Ghost. In short, there is no mention nor description of the unpardonable sin in these passages, and therefore, there is no ground to suppose that the apostle is here speaking to sinners, and warning them against the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost; which consists in ascribing his peculiar operations to the power and agency of Satan. But on the other hand, the apostle appears to be speaking to saints, and warning them against the guilt and danger of final apostacy. This is the sin which he expressly mentions, and which is peculiar to saints. Though sinners may quench the Spirit, stifle convictions, and run to the greatest excess in wickedness, yet they cannot irrecoverably fall away, this side of eternity. Manasseh, Mary Magdalene, and many other loose and abandoned sinners, have been converted from the error of their ways, and brought to genuine repentance. But if real saints should be guilty of falling away from the faith and practice of Christianity, they would sin beyond repentance and pardon. Accordingly the persons whom the apostle addresses in these passages appear to be real saints; for none but such ever arrived at those high attainments which he expressly mentions. It is peculiar to saints, to receive the knowledge of the truth, to be divinely enlightened, to taste of the heavenly gist, to be partakers of the Holy Ghost, to taste the good word of God and the powers of the world to come. Persons of this character may be properly warned of the danger of falling away. It is the language of both the Old and New Testament, that if real saints should renounce religion, they would be infallibly lost. The prophet Ezekiel says, “ When the righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeih iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the ked man doth, shall he live?
All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned ; in his trespass that he has trespassed, and in the sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.” Our Lord says, “ If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered ; and men gather ihem, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” And Paul says, " I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection ; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away.” It appears from these representations, that if real saints should totally apostatize from their faith and profession, they would never be recovered from their apostacy, but eventually perish. And this is the very sentiment contained in the passages under consideration. But some may ask, Is not the danger of saints' falling away, inconsistent with the doctrine of their final perseverance ? answer, No. David was in danger of being slain by Saul, who determined, if possible, to take away his life. And he realized his danger, when he said, “ Surely I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul.” And there is no doubt but he would have actually fallen by the hand of Saul, if he had not taken peculiar care and precaution to escape his subtile stratagems and violent assaults. But all the while Saul was pursuing David and attempting to destroy him, it was absolutely certain that David should live, and succeed him on the throne of Israel. For God had anointed David to be ruler over his people, and had promised to put the reins of government into his hands. So God has promised to keep all true saints from actual apostacy, and to conduct them safely to his heavenly kingdom. But though the power and faithfulness of God be engaged in their favor, yet they must watch, and pray, and take heed lest they fall
. And upon this principle, the apostle solemnly warns them, in the texts under consideration, not against the unpardonable sin in particular, but against the sin of final apostacy, or a total renunciation of Christianity.
2. If what has been said is true, then sinners have no ground to imagine that they have committed the unpardonable sin, because they have inwardly opposed God, and resisted the strivings of the Spirit. No inward exercises of heart, however strong and sensible and criminal, ever amount to the sin unto death, which is an external sin of the tongue. Though sinners under the strivings of the Spirit do actually feel enmity against God, and sensibly resist convictions, yet so long as they suppress their feelings, and never utter them in blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, they do not sin unto death. All sinners are totally depraved. They have a carnal mind which is enmity against God, not subject to his law, neither indeed can be. It is their nature, therefore, always to resist the Holy Ghost, and to endeavor to stifle convictions. They hate the light, and are extremely unwilling to come to the light, lest their hearts should be discovered, and their deeds reproved. But under the awakening and convincing influences of the Spirit, they are obliged to come to the light; and in this situation, it is as natural for their hearts to rise in direct and violent opposition to God and divine truth, as for a corrupt fountain to send forth corrupt streams. There are, indeed, no thoughts nor exercises of heart too malignant for them to feel, in the clear view of their guilt and danger. They may hate their own existence, and wish to be annihilated. They may hate, the divine existence, and wish to dethrone and destroy the Most High. But neither these, nor any other internal exercises of the carnal mind, partake of the nature of the unpardonable sin, which essentially consists in blasphemous words, and not in blasphemous thoughts. There is reason to believe that some persons, who have felt the most malignant exercises of heart, have notwithstanding obtained the pardoning mercy of God. It is certain, however, that some eminent christians in appearance, have given this account of themselves, and there is nothing in scripture nor reason to contradict their account. Though it be extremely criminal to quench the Spirit and stifle convictions, yet there is nothing unpardonable in such inward exercises of heart. Those sinners, therefore, who are conscious of the most malignant feelings towards God and divine objects, have no right to conclude that they have committed the sin unto death, and have put themselves beyond the reach of divine mercy.
3. If what has been said is true, then it is altogether criminal for any to despair of salvation, who have not committed the unpardonable sin. Since God has promised to pardon all penitent sinners except blasphemers against the Holy Ghost, it must be altogether criminal in any others to despair of forgiveness, on account of the greatness of their guilt. So long as sinners remain secure and stupid, they are too apt to presume upon the mercy of God; but when they are awakened to attend to their hearts, and to the nature, number and aggravations of their sins, they are too prone to despair of salvation. They appear to themselves so vile and guilty, that they imagine a holy and just God must make them completely and eternally miserable. But these apprehensions are altogether groundless and criminal. What if they have cast off fear, and restrained prayer? what if they have walked in the ways of their heart
66 Come now,
and in the sight of their eyes? what if they have said to God, Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy ways? what if they have hated instruction and despised reproof? what if they have resisted the Spirit, and rejected the counsel of God against themselves ? yea, what if in reality they are the very chief of sinners ? yet if they now heartily repent, and return to God upon his own terms, he will freely and abundantly pardon. For he makes no distinction between great sinners and small, in the offers of salvation. He freely promises forgiveness and acceptance to all who repent, and submit to the terms of life.
and let us reason together, saith the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” . The more the guilt of sinners has abounded, the more the grace of God can abound in their forgiveness. Those who have indulged the most virulent enmity against God, and the cause and friends of Christ, may, like penitent Paul, obtain mercy. Those who have long abused the patience of God, and grown gray in their sins, may, like penitent Manasseh, be received at the eleventh hour. The vilest sinner, upon repentance, may turn the greatness of his guilt into an argument for mercy, and in the language of David, say, “ Lord, pardon mine iniquity, for it is great." To despair of salvation, therefore, on account of aggravated guilt, is extremely criminal in the most ill deserving sinners. Their despondency is a reproach both upon the mercy and faithfulness of God. · It is so far from being an expression of real humility, that, on the other hand, it is a real justification of their present impenitency and unbelief. It is a practical declaration that they would rather it should be owing to past than to present obstinacy, that they are denied divine mercy. But God has ordered it so in the gospel, that nothing but present opposition to the offers of life can exclude the most unworthy and guilty sinner from the kingdom of heaven. All things are ready on God's part; and therefore let sinners, instead of murmuring and desponding, “ hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption."
4. If blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall never be forgiven, then it seriously concerns all sinners to beware of committing this unpardonable sin. It appears from what has been said, that it is a sin which may be committed at this day, as well as in the primitive days of Christianity. It consists in ascribing the peculiar operations of the Holy Ghost to the power and agency of Satan. And though the miraculous gifts of the Spirit have long since ceased, yet his gracious and sanctifying influences still continue. There have been many remarkable