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but to specify what the occasion was, which called forth so awful an admonition. In that very place, the inspired writer contrasts the blasphemy against the Son of man, which the Pharisees now uttered, with the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which they were in danger of uttering, when the Holy Ghost should be sent down from heaven:b and he observes that the former might be forgiven; but that the latter could
The sin against the Holy Ghost was the acting towards the Holy Spirit, as they now did towards Christ: it was, the resist, ing of all the evidences of Christianity, so as deliberately to pour contempt upon the truths revealed by the Holy Spirit; and, the ascribing of his miraculous powers, and gracious influences, to the agency of Satan.] ]
Why this sin in particular is excepted from the general offers of pardon, it is also of great importance to understand
[It is plainly declared to be unpardonable. But is not the mercy of God sufficiently extensive to cover this? Yes doubtless; for it is infinite, as all his perfections are. Is there not then a sufficiency in the blood of Christ to atone for this? Yes; his death is a sufficient propitiation for the sins of the whole world. Must we then refer it to the sovereign decree of heaven; and say, that God, in righteous judgment, has excepted this from the general proclamation of forgiveness? Perhaps this may be one reason: for St. John mentions“ a sin unto death, for the forgiveness of which it is in vain to intercede. But the more substantial reason is, that the sin itself, in the very nature of things, excludes a person from all hope of mercy. God has provided salvation for us through the blood of his Son, and the influences of his Spirit; and has told us that there
b Mark iii. 29. He does not say “ hath blasphemed,” but “shall blaspheme.”
e This cannot be made more plain, than by the following para. phrase of a very learned commentator, “ You have represented me as a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners, and as one who çasts out devils by Belzebub; and you will still go on, after all the miracles which I have done among you, to represent me as a false prophet, and a deceiver of the people: nevertheless all these grieva ous sins shall be forgiven you, if that last dispensation of the Holy Ghost which I shall after my ascension send among you, shall prevail with you to believe in me: but if, when I have sent the Holy Ghost to testify the truth of my mission, and of my resurrection, you shall continue in your unbelief, and shall blaspheme the Holy Ghost, and represent him also as an evil spirit, your sin shall never be forgiven, nor shall any thing further be done to call you to repentance." See Whitby's Dissertation on the subject.
di John' v. 16.
neither is, nor ever will be, any other way of salvation for sinful man. Now if we despise this salvation, and account it only a devilish delusion, what can be done? We must die, because we reject the only means of life. As a man who has taken a poisonous draught, may live, provided he apply a proper remedy, so may a man who has committed the most deadly sins be saved, if he embrace the gospel: but if he will not use the remedy provided, he must abide the consequences, and perish for ever. We must not however imagine, that every rejection of the gospel is unpardonable; for that, which is occasioned by an ignorance of its true nature, may be forgiven;e but it then becomes unpardonable, when it is wilful and deliberate, against the convictions of our conscience, and the dictates of an enlightened judgment. It then argues a mind given up to its own delusions, and sealed up under final impenitence; and therefore it cannot be forgiven, because it will never be repented of.]
There being no other liimit to God's mercy, it is easy
II. To what it will extend
This only excepted, every species and degree of sin may be forgiven. This blessed truth may be abundantly proved 1. From scripture examples
[If we look at sins committed before conversion, we shall see every species of enormity has been pardoned: What horrible uncleanness had the Corinthians been guilty of! yet they were washed, justified and sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. Murders have in some in: stances been, not only committed, but multiplied: yet Manasseh; who, in addition to the most impious idolatries, had “ filled the streets of Jerusalem with the blood of innocents," was pardoned. The persecuting of God's church and people also, though it is like the “piercing of the apple of God's eye,” has been forgiven; yea, Saul, the most furious of all zealots, was stopped in the midst of his outrages, and transformed into a blessed apostle, in order that he might be an everlasting monument of the power and grace of Christ. To sum up all in one; the very murder of the Son of God himself has been forgiven; and thousands of those who cried out, “ Crucify him, crucify him," were converted in answer to that petition of our Lord, “ Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
We may extend our observation also to sins committed after conversion. Who can contemplate without horror the conduct of David; who, though an eminent professor and patron of religion, defiled the wife of his faithful subject, and, in order to conceal his crime, laid a plot to destroy him? Consider him, I say, murdering this man who was exposing his life continually for his sake, murdering also a multitude of other persons together with him, involving another person in the guilt of all these murders as his instrument and accomplice, and making the very man, whose death he was contriving, the bearer of that letter, which was devoting him to destruction: consider him moreover, when he had accomplished his purpose, blasphemously ascribing the death of all these persons to God; then instantly taking the adulterous Bathsheba to live with him as his wife; and, after all, living at least nine months in utter impenitence, as though he had committed no crime at all: in an ignorant heathen, such conduct would have been inexpressibly vile; but in a saint of God, the man after God's own heartwho would conceive it possible? To believe that such iniquity was ever committed, seems almost a libel upon human nature. Yet even this, surpassing as it does almost the bounds of credibility, was forgiven, and that too, upon the very first motion of penitence in David's heart. Peter's sin, if viewed in all its aggravations, was scarcely less than this: yet, even while he was committing it, our Lord looked on him with pity and compassion; and afterwards thrice repeated the commission, ivhich restored him openly to his apostleship. ]
el Tim. i. 13,
fi Cor. vi. 9-!. 6 2 Kings xxi. 16. with 2 Chron. xxiii. 9, 12, 13,
2. From scripture declarations
[Consult we the prophets? They speak strongly on this point, declaring that we are redeemed from all sins, even those of a scarlet or crimson dieok Ask we of the apostles? They speak in terms of similar import,' and contrast the gospel with the law in this particular; that whereas there were some sins; for which there was no sacrifice appointed under the law of Moses, there is no iniquity whatever from which we may not be justified by the gospel of Christ.m If we attend to the voice of Christ himself, we shall find him no less explicit: he assures us that whosoever believeth in him shall never die, shall never be cast out." Thus universally do the scriptures testify, that “all manner of sin,” yea, even the most horrid“ blasphemies wherewith any man can blaspheme," (except the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost) “shall be forgiven unto men.
It must however be remembered, that these declarations
h 2 Sam. xii. 13.
i John xxi. 15–17.
suppose that we repent and believe the gospel; for, without repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus, no sin whatever can be pardoned.]
Before we close, it will be proper to add a word 1. Of admonition
[We hope and trust that there are not any in this day, who are guilty of the sin, which is here declared unpardonable: but many who scoff at religion, and deride the influences of the Spirit, may be much nearer to the commission of it than they imagine. It will be well for all such persons to pause', and consider on what a precipice they stand: for they may do despite to the spirit of grace till they have quenched his sacred motions, and provoked him to abandon them to their own delusions. The Lord grant that none of us may bring down on ourselves such a tremendous judgment!] 2. of consolation
[Some are tempted to think that they have committed the unpardonable sin: but if it be true, that the commission of it is always attended with judicial blindness, and followed by final impenitence, then no one can have committed it, who is apprehensive that he has; because, instead of indulging such fears, he would go on glorying in his shame, and hardening himself in his iniquities. Let all such apprchensions then be put away; and let that other declaration of the text abide upon our minds for our comfort and encouragement under all the accusations of a guilty conscience.]
CCCXCII. THE EXTENT AND IMPORTANCE OF A
Matt. xvi. 24, 25. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any
man will come after me, let him deny himself, and tuke up his cross, und follow me. For whosoever will sure his life, shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sure, shall find it,
THE precepts of the gospel are often considered as harsh and severe; but, if they were duly considered, there is not one of them, which would not appear highly reasonable— Perhaps there is not a stricter prccept in the whole Bible than this before us, since it plainly declares, that no man shall ever enter into heaven, who is not willing to renounce every thing in the world, yea, VOL. IV.
even his own life, for the sake of Christ. But can we think this too strict, if we observe the time and manner of its delivery? Qur Lord had just foretold his own sufferings and death; and had reproved Peter with great severity for attempting to dissuade him from subjecting himself to such miseries: and “ then it was, that he gave this injunction to hịs followers.” In this view we may conceive our Lord as saying, “Do I deny myself, and take up my cross, and even surrender up my life, from love to you? then do ye the same in obedience to me; if I do it willingly for your salvation, surely you cannot hesitate to do it for my glory.”
This precept then leads us to point out 1. The extent of a Christian's duty
To be Christians indeed, we must enter in at a strait gate, and walk in a narrow way; we must 1. Deny ourselves
[Since the first introduction of sin into the world men have cast off the love and fear of God, and have subjected themselves to the dominion of self-Instead of conforming themselves to the will of their Maker, and living wholly for his glory, they have made their own will, the principle, and their own honour or interest, the end, of all their actions-Christianity is intended to bring us back to the state from which we are fallen-The very first step towards our restoration is, to “ deny self," and to restore God to the dominion of which we have robbed him-Our enquiries must henceforth be, not, what do I choose! or, what will gratify self? but what does God command? and, what will glorify him?-To “put off the old man,” to “mortify the deeds of the body,"to" cify the flesh with the affections and lusts;” in a ward, to deny, self in all its actings, is the course, on which every Christian must enter, and which he must resolutely follow to the end of life 2. Take up our cross
[Every Christian must of necessity have some cross to bear: for though there will be seasons of comparative rest, when the storms of persecution shall subside, yet; as long as there are any of " the serpent's seed" on earth, “ the seed of the woman” will be treated by them as “ the filth of the world, and the off-scouring of all things”—But to this the Christian must submit: he must not expect to be above his Master, but be willing to suffer in conformity to his example-He must not indeed bring trials on himself by his own misconduct: