« PredošláPokračovať »
but there is the same objection, besides many more, against this opinion, as against the two former, and it has very long and very deservedly been exploded by all sober Divines.
Some say, that every malicious resisting or opposing the Gospel truths, when sufficiently propounded, is the sin against the Holy Ghost : but infidelity is one thing, and blasphemy another: and the sin which the text censures consists more in reviling than in resisting, as before observed : so that neither is this account at all satisfactory
There is one more remaining still, which has been esteemed as highly plausible, and which has met with several very considerable abettors. It is, that the holding out obstinately against the last dispensation, the dispensation of the Spirit, commencing after Christ's ascension, was the sin against the Holy Ghost. They who maintain this opinion are obliged also to maintain, that the Scribes and Pharisees, who attributed our Lord's miracles to the devil, were not then and therein guilty of the sin against the Holy Ghost. They plead, that those blaspheming Pharisees were not yet excepted out of the general pardon offered to as many as would repent and believe; but that our Lord himself prayed for their forgiveness upon the cross, which shews that they were yet capable of pardon. They further add, that the Holy Ghost was not yet given till our Lord ascended, and therefore could not, properly speaking, be blasphemed before that time : and that the blaspheming and resisting him then, being holding out against the very greatest miracles, the strongest proofs, and the last remedies, this of course must be the most sinful and provoking obstinacy that could be, and on that account is pronounced unpardonable.
These reasons are specious: but then here is no account given how it comes to pass, that neither in the Acts of the Apostles, nor in any of the Epistles, is there a word said by way of reproof, or of caution against blaspheming the Holy Ghost ; and that it should never have been mentioned but by our Lord himself at a time when nobody was capable of committing it: and yet, by all the circumstances of our Lord's discourse at that time, one would be very apt to conclude, that those blaspheming Pharisees were then verily guilty of the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. Nay, it seems further, that St. Mark's comment upon the case may be alone sufficient to decide the doubt. For after reciting our Lord's dreadful sentence against such as should blaspheme
against the Holy Ghost, he immediately adds, “ because they said, “He hath an unclean spiritk." What is this but declaring in so many words, that the reviling the Holy Spirit, as an unclean spirit, was the blasphemy our Lord spake of, and was then committed by those blaspheming Pharisees.
As to what is objected, that those very Pharisees were yet capable of pardon, because our Lord upon the cross prayed for their forgiveness; it may as reasonably be said, on the other hand, that those also who rejected the last dispensation of the Holy Ghost were capable of pardon ; for St. Stephen prayed for the forgiveness of those who stoned him, though he had before told them, that they had “ resisted the Holy Ghost?." This objection therefore returns upon the objectors, and equally affects either their interpretation of the sin against the Holy Ghost or
Besides, the objection goes upon the supposition that the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is absolutely unpardonable, which indeed the text does seem to say: but yet good critics have observed, that according to the Hebrew idiom the words may, or rather must, bear a softer construction; importing only, that of all kinds of slander and calumny, slandering the Holy Ghost is most daring and impious ; and that any other calumnies will sooner meet with pardon than that will. But supposing the sin to be absolutely unpardonable, then it must be said, that our Lord's praying for the forgiveness of his enemies upon the cross is to be understood only of his praying for the Jews in general, and not of his praying for those persons in particular who had been guilty of the unpardonable sin.
As to the other objection, that the Holy Ghost could not be blasphemed at that time, because he was not yet given ; it is of very little weight. Our blessed Lord most undoubtedly had the Holy Spirit always residing in him without limitation or measure m: and he himself professes, that it was “ by the Spirit of “ God” that he cast out devils n : so that the blaspheming that Divine power by which he wrought his miracles was plainly blaspheming the Holy Spirit. It is true, that the Holy Ghost was not yet given in full measure to our Lord's disciples, but to our Lord himself he most certainly was; and therefore the objection, in this case, is slight, and comes not up to the point.
Upon the whole then, I conclude as before, that the blasphemy
k Mark iii. 30.
| Acts vii. 51.
m John iii. 34.
n Matt. xii. 28,
against the Holy Ghost was the imputing our Lord's miracles to the devil; and that that dreadful sin was committed by those very men who so reviled, slandered, and traduced that Divine power by which he wrought them.
II. The heinousness of that sin, which was the second particular I proposed to go upon, may be competently understood from what hath been already said, and will not need many words more.
It was a most wicked and impudent lie and slander upon the Holy Spirit, and was flying, as it were, in the face of God. One would think, when God himself interposes, giving the Divine signal in plain uncontested miracles, that it might become all men to be mute, and to lay aside their otherwise unconquerable rancour and prejudice : but the Pharisees were so resolute, and so outrageous in reviling every thing that gave any countenance to Christ and his Gospel, that they would not spare even God himself, but called him Beelzebub, spitefully defaming his most Divine works, as being nothing else but diabolical impostures. They saw the miracles of our blessed Lord, and were very sensible that they were real and true miracles : they knew also that they were wrought in direct opposition to the devil and his kingdom, having all the fair appearances possible of being divine: nor would they have scrupled to have received them as divine, had they been wrought by any one else, excepting Christ or his disciples : but such was their envenomed hatred and inveteracy against him and his, that, at all adventures, contrary to all candour or equity, and in contradiction to reason and common sense, they resolved to say however, scarce to believe, (for they hardly could be so stupid,) that he was in league with the devil ; and that all his mighty works, which he wrought in the name of God, were the works only of Beelzebub the prince of the devils. There could not be a more insolent slander or a more provoking outrage against the Divine Majesty than this was. All other calumnies, against men or against angels, come short of this; for it was calumniating God himself, the tremendous and most adorable Deity; and was done very maliciously and designedly, to hinder and obstruct, as much as possible, the first planting of the Gospel, to the universal hurt and detriment of mankind : in a word, it was sacrificing the honour of Almighty God, and both the present and future happiness of men, to their own private humours and party passions ; being resolved to take up with any wretched cavil, any improbable and self-contradictory lies and slanders against God, rather than permit the honest and wellmeaning people to believe in Christ Jesus, upon the brightest evidence of his miracles.
Such was the heinous nature and the transcendent guilt of blaspheming against the Holy Ghost, in that instance: and therefore it is, that our blessed Lord took so particular care, first, to confute the calumny, and next, to pass a most righteous but dreadful censure upon the sin contained in it. The Divine vengeance should pursue a crime of that deep die, both in this world and in the world to come. The offenders in that kind, being unreclaimable and incurable, should, by the just judgment of God, be sealed up to everlasting destruction ; like Pharaoh or like Judas, like Sodom or like Gomorrah, ripe for perdition, and fit to be delivered over to eternal ruin.
Having thus largely considered what the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost means, and how heinous a sin it was ; it remains now only,
III. To inquire whether any sins committed at this day are the same thing with it; or which of them come the nearest to it. Of this very briefly, having no room to enlarge.
1. First, for the sake of the over-tender and scrupulous consciences, I would observe, that rooing, and which some call blasphemous thoughts, which rise up accidentally, and as accidentally go off again, are nothing akin to the sin which I have been speaking of; which consisted in premeditated lies and slanders against God, formed with design to obstruct or darken the evidences of the true religion, and to prevent others from looking into them, or being convinced by them. None but professed Atheists or infidels can be guilty of such spite and malice against the Gospel salvation. No one, while he believes the Christian religion, and seriously professes himself a member of Christ's Church, can be guilty of the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.
2. I observe, secondly, that even the Atheists or infidels of these times can scarce come up to the same degree of guilt with the Pharisees of old ; because they have not seen the miracles of Christ with their own eyes. It is some mitigation of their sin, and it makes their infidelity the more excusable, that they have
not altogether so strong and glaring evidences of the truth of Christianity, as those had who lived in the first ages, and saw the “wonderful works of God." Rational and historical evidence may be as convincing as the other, when duly considered : but as it strikes not upon the senses, it does not waken the attention, and alarm every passion of the soul, in such a degree as the other does. For which reason the unbelievers of our times, though abandoned and profligate men, are not altogether so blameable in the opposition they make to Christianity, as the unbelievers of old time were. They may indeed, at this day, attribute the miracles of Christ and his Apostles, (which they read of in credible history,) to the devil, as the Pharisees of old did ; and this will be blaspheming the Holy Ghost : but it will not be exactly the same sin; not the same in degree, (though in kind the same,) because circumstances are different; and upon the circumstances depend the heightening aggravations.
Nevertheless it must be said, that the obstinate rejecting the miracles of our Lord and of his disciples, (which have been so fully attested,) and much more the ridiculing and bantering them, and the endeavouring to run them down by lies and slander, (as the way of some is ;) this is a very high and heinous crime, as well as horrid blasphemy; especially if committed in a Christian country and in a knowing age, and where men have all desirable opportunities of learning the truth, as well as the strongest motives offered for submitting to it. Scoffers Qf this kind come very
little short of the Pharisees of ancient time, either in spleen and malice, or in perverseness and hardness of heart, or in an impious and desperate defiance to God and Christ, and to the Holy Spirit of both. From such blasphemers turn away, and have nothing to do with the tents of these wicked men, lest ye be consumed in their iniquities. Look upon them as vessels of Divine wrath, sons of perdition, prepared for vengeance, which will either suddenly overtake them in this world, or will fall the heavier upon
them in a world to come. The Christian religion has been so abundantly proved and settled by great variety of evidences, beyond reasonable exception, that all gainsayers are now left without excuse.
It has had the concurrent testimony of Christ and his Apostles, and both established by many and great miracles, unparalleled and uncontrolled : and were there nothing else, its prevailing and triumphing so much, so early, and so long, over Jewish superstition and Pagan idolatry, is itself a miracle as