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Matthew xii. 22—32. We have seen in several instances, in the course of these lectures, that whilst our Lord was upon earth, Satan was permitted to afflict the bodies of men, in a visible and tremendous manner. Whilst our Lord was in Galilee, and probably in Capernaum, there was brought to him a demoniac who was both blind and dumb. Though he was silent, his wants spoke for him, and moved the compassionate heart of the Saviour, who immediately and perfectly cured him. The people, struck with astonishment, immediately concluded that Jesus was the promised Messiah, who was to descend from David. But the pharisees, who were filled with enmity against the Saviour, who were hardened against conviction, and resolved not to believe in Jesus, whatever proofs he might give of his divine commission, although they
LIFE OF CHRIST. 281 could not deny the reality of the miracle, endeavoured to persuade the people that it was wrought by confederacy with Beelzebub, and that Christ was only a magician, who cast out devils by the aid of the prince of devils. " Jesus," says the Evangelist, "knew their thoughts." He perceived that this opinion (if it were really their opinion) proceeded not from the weakness of their judgments, but from the malignity of their hearts. But probably it was not their real sentiment, but only an assertion made contrary to their conviction, in order to prevent the people from believing on Jesus. Instead, therefore,
of deserving pity for their mistake or ignorance, they merited the severest censures ; and accordingly we perceive our Lord severely reproaching them, after he has repelled this calumny. To show the absurdity of supposing that he was aided by Beelzebub, he bids the pharisees remember, that on this supposition, the devils would assist in overturning their own empire, and that it is not to be imagined that beings like them, who are endued with immense subtlety and wicked prudence, would aid in subverting their own kingdom, and would not feel the necessity of union among themselves. " Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation ; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand ; and if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself: how then shall his kingdom stand ?" Our Saviour adds, " If I by Beelzebub cast out devils; by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges." We learn from the Acts of the Apostles, and from Josephus, that in the time of our Saviour, there were among the Jews many exorcists, who pretended to eject vol. ii. 36
282 SERMO LH. evil spirits. These were probably, in general, of the sect of the pharisees, and their claims to this power were not questioned by their brethren. Jesus Christ, to silence them, here addresses them on their own principles, without, however, asserting the reality of the ejections in which they believed ; and reproaches them with their inconsistency in imputing his cure of demoniacs to Beelzebub, when they
ascribe to God the pretended success of their own exorcisms; and at the same time he taxes them as persons of the most shameless disposition, and guilty of a malicious and wicked obstinacy, in countenancing the grossest impostures, while they resisted a miracle supported by the clearest evidence.* " How can one enter into a strong man's house," continues our Saviour, " and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man ; and then he will spoil his house ?" othing can be more striking than this representation. It is as though our Lord had said, 4 When you see a person enter into the house of a bold and resolute enemy, bind him, deprive him of his wealth, and reduce him to distress and penury ; can you suppose that the vanquished person assisted his conqueror, and was pleased with his subjection ? This is an image of what passes between me and Satan. The whole business of my life is to oppose and destroy him ; and when I dispossess him, it is plain that he obeys me, not from choice, but necessity, and because I am stronger than he.' Our Lord concludes his vindication of himself from their calumny, by reminding them of a proverbial saying, common among them, " He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with * See Farmer on Miracles, p. 272.
LIFE OF CHRIST. 283 me scattereth abroad ;" the import of which maxim is, 4 He that is not my friend, is my enemy.' You see immediately the application of this saying. 4 If it be a common maxim, that he is to be regarded as an enemy who merely refuses his assistance, how can you esteem me the friend and confederate of Satan,
when I am not merely neutral, but directly engaged in destroying his power, and shaking his dominion in the souls and bodies of men ?' Our Lord then addresses to the pharisees that remarkable declaration, than which few parts of scripture have been more discussed, and concerning which so many volumes have been written : " Wherefore I say unto you, 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 a word against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world nor in the world which is to come" St. Mark, in the parallel place, adds : " Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.' 1 '' It would be inconsistent with the limits of these exercises, and the design of these lectures, to examine in detail all the various sentiments which have been entertained concerning this sin against the Holy Ghost. I shall only show you, with as much brevity as will be consistent with perspicuity, what is its real nature. It appears to me that the great cause of the difficulty which some theologians have found . on this subject was, an erroneous opinion that this particular sin was spoken of in Heb. vi. 4 — 6, and 1 John, v. 16. Let us examine these texts, and if we find that they do not relate to the blasphemy against the
284 SERMO LII. Holy Ghost, we shall be able easily to ascertain the precise nature of this crime. " 7/ 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 to repentance : seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.'''' One consideration is sufficient to prove that this cannot be the sin against the Holy Ghost. The sin which the apostle here describes, evidently could be committed by none except those who were professors of the Christian religion, and who had enjoyed in a high degree the common operations of the Spirit : which surely was not the case with those pharisees whom the Saviour addresses in the text. Besides, in order to consummate the sin against the Holy Ghost, it is necessary that the tongue externally blaspheme ; whereas the sin here described by Paul may be perpetrated by the heart, even though the tongue should be silent. The truth is, that the apostle is here speaking of a wilful and total apostacy, whether he refers to real or apparent Christians ; and if to the former, how the supposition of their falling away can be reconciled with the doctrine of the saint's perseverance, are subjects foreign from the present discourse. either is the sin unto death, spoken of by John, the sin against the Holy Ghost. This apostle says, (1 John, v. 16) "If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and [God] 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." 1 ' To understand this verse, you must recall some circumstances in the history of ihe primitive church.
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which are frequently mentioned in the ew Testament. At that period God frequently punished with sickness and disorders those who had violated their duty and fallen into sin. 1 need produce no other example of this than the Corinthian church, in which St. Paul teaches us many were sick, and many died, because of their profanation of the Lord's supper. Among the extraordinary gifts communicated to the primitive church, was the faith of miracles, which, in the person about to work the miracle, was a full assurance supernaturally infused, that God would be present with him, and enable him to perform it. These well-known facts explain this text. Its meaning may be conveyed in the following paraphrase : 4 If any brother fall into a sin which is punished by a temporal disorder, and you discover by the gift of discerning spirits, and by the faith of miracles, that this disorder will not terminate in death, you shall pray for him ; and God, in answer to the prayer of faith, will restore him to health. But if, when thus sick as a punishment for his sin, you have no such assurance that God will restore him, as will enable you to pray with miraculous faith, you must not ask for his restoration to health. You may pray that he may repent ; you may pray for his salvation ; but knowing (as in such a case you must know) that he has committed a sin unto temporal death, you must, in this respect, submit to the appointment of God.' This I suppose to be the import of this verse. From the many reasons which lead me to suppose that the sin unto death is unto temporal and not eternal death, I have time to select only a few. Unless we adopt this interpretation, we make the apostle give a direction which is useless as to all practical influence upon the conduct : since no man
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can be assured that another has committed the un* pardonable sin, and since we are bound to pray for all men without exception. According to our interpretation, it was a direction suited and necessary to the state of the church at that time, and which might daily be a directory to their conduct. Again, the death here spoken of must be of the same kind with the life that was given in answer to prayer : according as this life is eternal, so must be the death. ow who does not know that God never gives eternal life merely in answer to the prayers of another mortal ; no man ever received it without personal piety, personal sanctification, and personal devotions. God has frequently given temporal life in consequence of the prayers of the pious. The life then here spoken of must be temporal, and so then must be the death. And finally, the phrase is thus used in several parts of scripture. In a variety of places in the Pentateuch, which we have translated " a sin worthy of death" it is in the original, simply " a sin unto death :" and in these places there can be no question that the death is a temporal ono. This phrase then was familiar to the Jews, and when used by a Jew in the ew Testament, we must annex to it that sense which it uniformly bears in the writings of his countrymen. Laying aside then this verse as of no moment in the present inquiry, we find that the only passages in the scripture which speak of the sin against the Holy Ghost are, our text, with the parallel passages in Mark iii. 28, and Luke xii. 10. When we carefully consider these texts, and attend to the circumstances in which they were uttered, we must. I think, conclude, that
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The sin against the Holy Ghost consists in ascribing the miracles ivrought by Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Ghost, to the devil ; while those who thus blasphemed were actuated by envy, malice, pride, and other malignant passions, or spoke against conviction and the light of their conscience. This definition is calculated to afford relief to those timid consciences which are agitated with fear, lest they have committed this crime. They form false ideas of the nature of it, and then give themselves up to despair. Every gross sin committed against knowledge and conscience is not this sin, nor every denial of Christ's miracles, nor every denial of the divinity and personality of the Holy Spirit, nor every blasphemous suggestion of Satan, nor every sin against grace received, nor every malicious persecution of Christianity, nor every resisting, opposing, and quenching the motions of the spirit ; for many thousand persons who have committed these sins have afterwards repented and been forgiven, have become ornaments of the church on earth, and received the crown of glory beyond the grave. But why is this sin unpardonable ? ot from any defect of mercy in God, or merit in Christ ; but partly from the nature of the sin, which precludes the possibility of repentance by rejecting the Holy Ghost, the only principle of penitence, and partly from the positive determination of God who, for reasons no doubt infinitely wise, has thought proper, as one expresses it, "to set a dreadful mark of distinction on this blasphemy, and make it death, eternal death, without reprieve." What effect shall this subject have upon you ? Shall it flatter your pride ? Shall it give you high ideas of your virtues, because you cannot recognise
288 SERMO LII. yourselves in the portrait which has been traced ? Will you boast that your corruption is not extreme, that there is one point of horror at which you have not arrived ? Because your wounds are not desperate, will you neglect them ? Because your repentance is possible, will you wait till it be impracticable? Who can be animated with this fury ? What enchanted conscience can remain tranquil, because it has not committed this sin ? Why is this sin so formidable ? Because it casts into hell. So do others. But there is this difference : here it is without resource; there, there is a resource in conversion. Pause then, my brethren, in your career to misery, and repent. Stifle the convictions of conscience, resist the influences of the Spirit no longer. Fly to Jesus, and he will make your sins, which « are as scarlet, white as snow."
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