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THE BLASPHEMY AGAINST THE HOLY GHOST.
MATTHEW, xii. 31, 32.
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 for. given unto men. And 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 torgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to
OUR Saviour spake the words of our text in his reply to the Pharisees, who said of him, “ this fellow doth not cast out devils but by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils."
The circumstance which led the Pharisees to speak as we have just noticed was the following. There was brought unto Jesus one possessed with a devil, blind and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, is not this the son of David ? That is, is not this man who cast out devils and works so many miracles the Messiah or Christ of whom the law and the prophets have spoken ? As the Pharisees were bitterly opposed to Jesus, this exclamation from the people gave them great uneasiness, for as much as the people were in favor of Jesus, so much they must be in opposition to the Pharisees. In order, therefore, to prevent the people from believing in Jesus, the Pharisees said that he cast out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.
It seems that the miracles of Jesus were so evident, so open, so undisguised, that his keenest eyed enemies found no chance of success with the people by denying the facts of the miracles; they must, therefore, deceive the people by some other means. In the case of the miracle wrought on the man that was born blind, they seemed to doubt the fact of his having been born blind; but having called his parents and received their testimony, they were compelled to believe the fact, but they said to the man to whom sight had been given, “ give God the praise, we know that this man is a sinner.” It was contended, that as this miracle was performed on the sabbath day, he who wrought it could not be of God. If the Pharisees could persuade the people that Jesus was a sinner, notwithstanding all the miracles which he did, they were sure that they would not believe that he was the Messiah promised. But it seems that the people had discernment enough to raise the question, “ How ca a man that is a sinner do such miracles ?” This question must receive some sort of an answer; and almost any thing would do that superstition would countenance, for the common people supposed that these Pharisees and learned doctors of the law, being godly people and of deep discernment must know. When, therefore, their wisdom suggested that the miracles of Jesus were effected by the agency of the prince of the devils, it was by no means difficult for the people to give credit to the opinion, for they were already fixed in the superstitious notions of devils.
The declaration, that Jesus cast out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils, was a declaration directly against the spirit and power by which the miraacle was effected. In reply to this the Saviour reasoned in his usual, natural, plain and energetic manner, as follows: “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 shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else, how can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. He that is not with me, is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth abroad." Then follow the words of our text, which, when considered in the connexion in which they are found, plainly indicate that the Pharisees, who said that Jesus cast out devils, by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils, did, in so saying, speak blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.
We shall now proceed to inquire why this sin or blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, by which thé miracles of Jesus were wrought could not as easily be forgiven as any other sin or blasphemy. It is generally contended that this sin against the Holy Ghost cannot be forgiven because it is so much more heinous than all other sins; but because this is the general opinion it is no proper evidence of its being true. Has it ever been proved that this blasphemy is more heinous than other sins! The speaker feels solicitous that the hearer may be disposed, on this subject, to admit of nothing without proof. We are not only at liberty to reject all ideas which have been established by tradition without proper evidence, but it is our religious duty so to do. Let it then be proved that this sin against the Holy Ghost could not be forgiven the Pharisees as easily as any other sin that they committed, because this sin was more heinous than any other, and then we will believe it; but not before. But it is contended that this sin is certainly greater than any other, because it is committed against greater light. Here again we call for proof. Are we informed in the scripture, that this sin is committed against greater light than any other ? No, we have no such information. It is granted, that learned divines, so called, have made very nice calculations respecting the degrees of divine light and knowledge which were required in order to enable a person to commit this sin ; but then we must be just enough to these pious doctors to allow them the whole of the credit due to such profound researches, for they alone are entitled to it; they have had no help from divine revelation. On the other hand it is our duty to re
ceive nothing which they have said on this subject as the least evidence in the case. Let us look at the subject candidly. The Pharisees spake against Jesus, and said, we know that this man is a sinner." —Again, they spake against the spirit by which he wrought miracles, and said : “ this fellow doth not cast out devils but by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.” Now have we any evidence to believe that these Pharisees had any more light or divine knowledge when they spake the latter sentence, than when they spake the former? No, we have no such intimation. Why then, you will ask, might not this sin be forgiven as easily or as soon as other sins? We still continue to reply negatively and say, not because this sin is greater or more heinous than other sins; we have a right to say, because the divine word gives no authority to the contrary, . Furthermore, if the divine forgiveness flow from the infinite fulness of grace in God, the supposition that some sins are so small that they can be forgiven, but that others are so great that they cannot be forgiven, is a flagrant violation of rea
If some sins are small and others large as they compare together, it is plain that the small cannot be infinitely great, and it follows of course that the largest cannot be infinite if the small bear any proportion to them. Now if all sin be of the finite character of the mortal sinner, is it not absurd to pretend that some sins are too great for the infinite goodness of God to forgive? The scripture is plain on this subject. See Isaiah, i. 18. “Come now, 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 most natural sense of this text is, that though the sin of the people were of the deepest dye, they might be washed away. How then is it proper to explain our text in a way to contradict this evident testimony? The forerunner of Jesus said of him; “ Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away
the sin of the world.” Here is no exception, no reserve. The beloved disciple says; “ If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us
our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” In these passages there is mention made of the sin of the world, of all sin and of all unrighteousness, and the power of the blessed Son of God is honored as being sufficient to overcome the whole, without any exception.
If the hearer will be careful enough to attend to a particular method of argument on this subject, we will endeavor to prove from the divine oracles that it is the design of the Saviour to cleanse every sin ner of the human race from all sin, not excepting the sin against the Holy Ghost. If the hearer say, that this argument is off of our subject, and that what he wishes to know is, why the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost may not be forgiven, or why it could not be forgiven as soon as other sins, he may be told, that the argument proposed is thought to be necessary in order to settle the question whether the sin against the Holy Ghost is ever to be forgiven according to the scriptures. If we find that this sin will eventually be washed away by the blood of Christ, then our main question will be to ascertain why it could not be forgiven “neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”
St. Paul in his Ist Epistle to Timothy lays it down as an important fact in the great truths of the gospel, that Jesus, the Mediator between God and men, had given himself a ransom for all men, to be testified in due time. To the Ephesians he lays it down as an important fact, that Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. By these two passages we have it proved that all men constitute the church of Christ which he hath purchased with his own blood. This agrees also with this Apostle's declaration to the Corinthians; “I would have you to know, that the head of every man is Christ.” To the Hebrews he says, that Jesus, by the grace of God tasted death for every man; and the beloved John said, that he is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. Now it is certain, that if we can prove any thing from the scriptures, we have proved, by the quotations made, that the blessed Sa