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ever be found worthy of Him from whom they proceed. To every sin belongs a degree of evil, which it is utterly impossible for us to estimate ; because we are too imperfectly acquainted with the glory of that Being against whom it is committed, and the nature and extent of all the consequences which it involves. Had it seemed right to God to determine that no sin should be capable of forgiveness ; though we, in that case, must have suffered for ever his dire displeasure, we should have had no right to complain, that the Judge of the earth had done wrong. Had he been pleased to except a few from this utter and sweeping condemnation ; but to have left the many exposed to his unforgiving frown, we must have adored his clemency to the vessels of mercy, and trembled at his anger to the vessels of wrath. Had he proclaimed a grand amnesty to the countless multitudes, who have rebelled against him ; inviting them all to partake of his universal pardon, and to rejoice in his sovereign and allsufficient remedy; declaring that to the enjoyment.. of its blessings there existed but one solitary exception-should we not have glorified him for such a display of benevolence and compassion ? Now this is precisely what he may be said to have done, according to the declaration of our text: manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men."
Here is an announcement made by the heavenly Saviour, at once worthy of himself and of his
mission of mercy; calculated to disarm his fellest enemies of their rage, and to encourage and comfort his friends. It is scarcely less unlimited than the freest and fullest invitations of that Gospel, which is emphatically good tidings to all people ; and from the enjoyment of whose salvation no son or daughter of our race, who believes, is excluded. Still I am aware that the point which presses is this—there appears to be a limitation to the forgiveness which the Gospel proffers ; there seems an exception among those to whom its blessings are addressed.
If I am comprehended within that limitation, narrow as it is, and if I be that exception, what signifies its general benevolence to me? What avails it to my comfort, that all others may be saved, if I must be lost? that all other offences may be forgive n but mine ? that all may eternally enjoy the bliss of heaven, but I am doomed to everlasting despair? This has been the real source of uneasiness to many. They have not questioned the infinite worth of the Saviour's sacrifice, nor the gracious and universal invitation of his mercy; but fixing their minds on that specific case, which the sacrifice of Christ does not appear to meet, and to which the rich mercy of God does not seem to extend; and pondering over their own history, and thinking that they have found something in it, which corresponds with the specific description of evil which alone bounds and bars out the divine compassion, they have regarded their own doom as sealed, and concluded, that, whatever there
for others, there is no mercy for them. This is the case which we purpose, by the divine blessing, to meet, and these are precisely the fears which we shall endeavour to relieve.*
For this purpose, I shall direct your attention to the import of the term blasphemy, in the text;to the circumstances which occasioned the solemn declaration in which it is employed; to the design with which that declaration was made ; to the reasons why the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is irremissible; and lastly, to certain other passages of Scripture, which bear some analogy to those in which this offence is particularly described. Under these heads I hope to include every thing necessarily connected with this important and difficult subject, and which may, by the blessing of God, tend to the removal of the disquietude of some, and to the establishment and comfort of many.
I. It is impossible to think rightly on this, or any subject, without understanding the terms which are employed, and attaching to them correct and definite ideas. The leading term which our Lord employed on this, and on all the occasions on which he speaks of this offence, is the word blasphemy. † To blaspheme, signifies to speak evil, to calumniate, to revile, &c. It is generally used in Scripture to signify the employa ment of opprobrious or abusive language, under the influence of strong feeling, and with a view to
* See Note [A.]
produce the same state of feeling in others.* The word is by no means limited in its application to God. It is very indefinite in itself, and is applied very variously in Scripture. It is frequently used in reference to human objects. Paul speaks of himself and his brethren in the apostolate, as blasphemed, or defamed, by their enemies and false brethren ;t he demands why, if he was a partaker of grace, he was blasphemed, or evil spoken of, for that, for which he gave thanks ;I and he protests against his brethren and himself being blasphemed or slandered, as if they recommended men to do evil that good may come.g
· It is sometimes applied to the doctrine or character of the word of God. Hence Paul recommends to Christian women the cultivation of all the domestic virtues, that the word of God be not slandered, or blasphemed.| Peter speaks of the way of truth being blasphemed, or spoken evil of, by reason of the ungodliness of its professors ; and Jude represents wicked men, as blaspheming, or speaking evil of the things which they under. stand not.** It is used at the same time in reference both to God and to man; as in the case of Jezebel, who stirred up men to accuse Naboth the Jezreelite, of blaspheming God and the king ;tt and where the enemies of Stephen allege that he spake blasphemous words against
+ 1 Cor. iv. 13.
* See Note [B].
$ 1 Cor. x. 30.
s Rom. iii. 8. ** Jude 10.
Moses and against God.* It is applied even to a heathen goddess, as where the town-clerk of Ephesus vindicated Paul and his companions from being blasphemers or slanderers of the Ephesian deity. And what is very remarkable, it is used in reference to Satan himself. The apostle Jude assures us, that the archangel Michael durst not bring a blasphemous, or railing accusation against that foul spirit. I
In such cases, the translators of our common version, with great propriety, use the general and various expressions which occur in these passages -evil speaking, defame, slanderous report, railing accusation, &c.
It is in this sense, that I understand the apostle Paul to charge himself with being a blasphemer. Paul was not a profane swearer, nor was he a reviler of God; but in the period of his ignorance, he slandered Jesus of Nazareth ; defamed and reproached his disciples; and sometimes compelled them to blaspheme or revile either their persecutors or the Saviour himself.
That Jesus employs the word blasphemy in the text, in its common acceptation, is evident from the verse which follows: “ 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.” This
* Acts vi. 11.
+ Acts xix. 35–37. § 1 Tim. i. 13.