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has let them alone. They have obstinately clung to their love of darkness rather than of light, and the Spirit has at length turned away from them since they will have it so. They wish not to believe, because their deeds are evil, and that Spirit has ceased to strive with them, who has so often spoken to them in vain; and whose many remonstrances have never prevailed upon them to abandon the evil of their doings.
guilt that can meet with no forgiveness, is not that one or all of your sins are of a die so deep and so inveterate, that the cleansing power of the Saviour's atonement cannot overmatch them. Let the invitation to the fountain that is opened in the house of Judah, circulate among you as freely as the preacher's voice; for sure we are, that there does not stand, at this moment, within the reach of hearing us, any desperado in vice, so sunk in the depths of his dark and unnatural rebellion, that he is not welcome if he, will. But, if ye will not come that ye may have life, this is your sin.
This is the barrier in the way of your forgiveness. Grant us repentance and faith, and we know not of a single mysterious crime in the whole catalogue of human depravity, that the atoning blood of our Saviour cannot wash away.. But withhold from us repentance and faith-let us see the man who stands unrebuked out of his wickedness by all that conscience has reproached him with-unmoved out of the hardness of his unbelief by all that power of tenderness, which should have softened his unrelenting bosom, when told of the Saviour who had poured out his soul unto the death for him
Take all this attentively along with you, and the whole mysteriousness of this sin against the Holy Ghost should be done away. Grant him the office with which he is invested in the Word of God, even the office of instigating the conscience to all its reprovals of sin, and to all its admonitions of repentance-and then, if ever you witnessed the case of a man whose conscience had fallen into a profound and irrecoverable sleep, or, at least, had lost to such a degree its power of control over him, that he stood out against every engine which was set up to bring him to the faith and the repentance of the New Testament-behold in such a man a sinner against conscience to such a woful extent, that conscience had given up its direction of him; or, in other words, a sinner against the Holy Ghost to such an-if all this contempt and resistance of his extent, that he had let down the office of has been so long and so grievously persisted warning him away from that ground of in, that the Spirit has ceased to strive-then, danger and of guilt on which he stood so it is not the power of the Gospel that is in immovably posted; or, of urging him on fault, but the obstinacy of him who has reward to that sure road of access, where if a jected it. The sufficiency of the Gospel is man seek for pardon, he will never miss it, not detracted from by so much as a jot or a and where, if he cry for the clean heart and tittle. To this very hour may we proclaim the right spirit, he will not cry in vain. it as the savour of life unto life, to the very worst of sinners who receive it. But if he so turn aside from its invitations, and the habit be so fixed with him, and conscience get into a state of such immovable dormancy, that the Spirit gives him over, it is not that the Gospel does not carry a remedy along with it for one and all of his offences, but because he refuses that Gospel, that it is to him the savour of death unto death.
And as there is nothing dark or incomprehensible in the nature of this sin, so there is nothing in it to impair the freeness of the Gospel, or the universality of its calls and of its offers, or its power of salvation to all who will, or that attribute which is expressly ascribed to it, that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. It is never said that pardon through that blood, which is distinctly stated to cleanse from all sin-it is A king publishes a wide and unexpected nowhere said, that this pardon is extended amnesty to the people of a rebellious disto any but to those who believe. If you do trict in his empire, upon the bare act of not believe, you do not get pardon-and if each presenting himself within a limited you will not believe, because you love dark-period, before an authorized agent, and proness rather than light-if you will not be- fessing his purposes of future loyalty. Does lieve, because you will not abandon those it at all detract from the clemency of this evil deeds which the Spirit tells you through the conscience, that you must forsake in coming unto Christ-if his repeated calls have been so unheeded and so withstood by you, that he has at length ceased from striving, then the reason why your sin is unpardonable, is just because you have refused the Gospel salvation. The reason why your case is irrecoverable, is just because you have refused the method of recovery so long, and so often, that every call of repentance has now come to play upon you in vain. The reason why you lie under a
deed of grace, that many of the rebels feel a strong reluctance to this personal exhibition of themselves; and that the reluctance strengthens and accumulates upon them by every day of their postponement; and that even before the season of mercy has expired, it has risen to such a degree of aversion on their part, as to form a moral barrier in the way of their prescribed return, that is altogether impassable? Will you say, because there is no forgiveness to them, that there is any want of amplitude in that charter of forgiveness which is proclaimed in the hear
ing of all; or, that pardon has not been pro- | vided for every offence, because some of fenders are to be found, with such a degree of perverseness and of obstinacy in their bosom, as constrains them to a determined refusal of all pardon?
The blood of Christ cleanseth from all and there is not a human creature, who, let him repent and believe, will ever find the crimson inveteracy of his manifold of fences to be beyond the reach of its purifying and its peace-speaking power. And tell us if it detract by a single iota from the omnipotence of this great Gospel remedy, that there are many sinners in the world who refuse to lay hold of it. To the hour of death it is within the reach of all and of any who will. This is the period in the history of each individual, at which this great act of amnesty expires, and to the last minute of his life, it is competent for me and for every minister of the Gospel to urge it upon him, in all the largeness and in all the universality which belong to it-and to assure him, that there is not a single deed of wickedness with which his faithful memory now agonizes him, not one habit of disobedience that now clothes his retrospect of the past in the sad colouring of despair, all the guilt of which, and all the condemnation of which, the blood of the offered Saviour cannot do away. But, though we may offer, that is not to say that he will accept. Though we may proclaim, and urge the proclamation in his hearing, with every tone of truth and of tenderness, that is not to say, that our voice will enter with power, or make its resistless way through those avenues of his heart, where he has done so much to rear a defending barrier, that may prove to be impenetrable. Though there be truth in our every announcement, that is not to say, that the demonstration of the Spirit will accompany it even that Spirit who long ere now may have left to himself the man, who, his whole life long, has grieved and resisted him. It is still true, that the pardon lies at his acceptance: and it may be as true, that there can be no pardon to him because he has brought such an inveterate blindness upon his soul, that he will neither receive the truth, nor love it, nor feel those genuine impulses by which it softens the heart of man to repentance. And thus it is, that while the blood of Christ cleanseth the every sin of every believer, the sin against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven, because with this sin, and with its consequences upon him, man wills not, and repents not, and believes not.
And now for the interesting question,How am I to know that I have committed this sin, that is said to be beyond the reach of forgiveness? We are sure that the right solution of this question, if well understood, would go to dissipate all that melancholy
which has been felt upon the subject, by many a bewildered inquirer. You cannot take a review of the years that are gone, and fetch up this mysterious sin to your remembrance out of the history of the sins that are past. There is not one of them, which, if turned away from, in the faith of that pardon that is through the blood of the atonement-there is not one of them beyond the reach of the great redemption of the Gospel. The sin against the Holy Ghost is not some awful and irrevocable deed, around which a disordered fancy has thrown its superstitious array, and which beams in deeper terror upon the eye of the mind, from the very obscurity by which it is encompassed. There ought to be no darkness and no mystery about it. The sin against the Holy Ghost is such a daring and obstinate rebellion against the prerogatives of conscience-that all its calls to penitency have been repelled-and all the urgency of its admonitions to flee to the offered Saviour, has been withstood-and all this obstinacy of resistance has been carried forward to such a point in the history of the unhappy man, that his conscience has ceased from the exercise of its functions; and the Holy Spirit has laid down his office of prompting it; and the tenderness of a beseeching God may be sounded in his ear-but unaccompanied as it is by that power which makes a willing and obedient people, it reaches not his sullen and inflexible heart. And instead, therefore, of looking for that sin among those imaginary few who mourn and are in distress, under an overwhelming sense of its enormity, I look for it to those thousands, who, trenched among the secularities of the world, or fully set on the mad career of profligacy, are posting their careless and infatuated way-and suffering Sabbaths and opportunities to pass over themand turn with contempt from the foolishness of preaching—and hold up the iron front of insensibility against all that is appalling in the judgments of God-and cling to this perishable scene under the most touching experiences of its vanity-and walk their unfaltering path amid all the victims which mortality has strewn around them-and every year drink deeper into the spirit of the world-till the moral disease rises to such an inveteracy, that all the engines of conversion, unaided as they are, by that peculiar force and demonstration which is from on high, fall powerless as infancy upon them, and every soul amongst them, sunk in torpor immovable, will never, never be made to know the power and the life of a spiritual resurrection.
We know nothing that goes farther to nullify the Bible, than the habit of subjecting the interpretation of its passages to any other principle, than that all its parts must consist and be in harmony with each other.
ceive to occur but seldom in the history of human wickedness. They would say, that there is forgiveness to no sin whatever but on the faith and the repentance of him who has incurred it-and we must, therefore, suppose this, and qualify the clause by this indispensable condition, and thus make the clause to tell us, how such is the power of the Gospel, that all the sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven of those who have embraced it-save that one sin against the Holy Ghost, for the remission of which, not even their acceptance of the Gospel of Christ could avail them.
There has a world of mischief been done by the modifications that have been laid on the obvious meaning of Scripture, with the purpose of rendering it more palatable to our independent views of what is right, and wise, and reasonable. This, in fact, is deposing the word of God from that primitive authority which belongs to it, as the court of highest appeal--all whose decisions are final and irreversible. Grant us that there is no contradiction between what we find in the book of God's counsel, and what we know by the evidence of our own experience, or the overbearing testimony of others --and such we hold to be the ignorance of Now, the explanation we have given of man about the whole of that spiritual and this sin renders all this work of annexing unseen world which lies beyond the circle terms and modifications to this verse of the of his own observation, that we count it not Bible unnecessary, and gives, we think, even merely his most becoming piety, but we to its literal and unrestricted meaning, a count it also his soundest and most en- most lucid consistency with all that is leadlightened philosophy, to sit down with the ing and that is undeniable in the doctrine docility of a little child to all that is inti- of the New Testament. If the sin against mated and made known to him by a well- the Holy Ghost be just that sin, in virtue of attested revelation. After the deductions we which the calls and offers of the Gospel are have just now made, we know of no other so rejected, as to be finally and irreversibly principle on which we should ever offer to put away from us, then it is true, it is absomodify a verse or a clause of the written lutely and unreservedly true, that all other record; but the principle of that entire con- manner of sin shall be forgiven but this one sistency which must reign throughout all only. All who so reject this Gospel, have its communications. We know of no other sinned against the Holy Ghost-and none cross-examination which we have a right to who accept this Gospel have incurred this set up on this witness to the invisible things sin, nor shall they want the forgiveness that of faith-than to try it by itself, and to con- is there provided for them. It is quite in demn it, if possible, out of its own mouth, vain to think, that the sin against the Holy by confronting together its own depositions. Ghost is confined to that period of the world We are only at freedom to sustain or to at which our Saviour made his personal apqualify the literal sense of one of its an-pearance in it. The truth is, that it is since nouncements, by the literal and equally authoritative sense of some other of its announcements. And such is our respect for the paramount authority of Scripture, that we know of no discovery more pleasing, than that by which the apparent inconsistency between two places, is so cleared up, that all necessity for encroaching upon the literal sense of either of them is completely done away-for it goes to establish our every impression of the unviolable sanctity of its various communications, and to heighten our belief that every semblance of opposition between the particulars of the divine testimony, exists not in the testimony itself, but in the misapprehension of our own dark and imperfect understandings.
Now, if you look to the 31st verse of the 12th chapter of Matthew, you will perceive, that all who think the sin against the Holy Ghost to lie in the commission of some rare and monstrous, but at the same time specific iniquity, cannot admit the first clause of the verse without qualifying it by some of the undeniable doctrines of the New Testament. They would say, it is not true that all manner of sin shall be forgiven unto men, with the exception of this blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which they con
Christ withdrew from the world, that he now carries forward by the Spirit, as his agent and substitute, the business of pressing home upon men the acceptance of the Gospel, by working with their consciences. He employs the Spirit as his witness, since he himself has gone away from us; and as in the business of entertaining the calls and the offers of the New Testament, our doings are more exclusively with this Spirit, and not at all with the Saviour himself personally, we are surely as much in the way of now committing the sin in question, as in those days when the Holy Ghost was not so abundantly given, because Jesus Christ was not then glorified. All those, be assured, who refuse the Gospel now, do so because they refuse the testimony of this witnessdo so because they stifle within them the urgency of his rebuke, when he tells them of faith and of repentance-do so when he offers to convince them on principles that would be clear to themselves, could they only be so far arrested by the imperious claims of God and of eternity, as to attend to them-convince them that they are indeed on a way of guilt and of alienation, which, if not turned from, through the revealed Mediator, will land them in the condemna
tion of a most righteous and unmitigable | shape of proofs or of remonstrances on the law. And thus, in the day of reckoning, will side of Christianity? Was there a volunthis verse, in its most plain and obvious tary darkening, on their part, of the light literality, be so accomplished on the hosts of truth when it began to dawn upon their who are assembled round the judgment- souls, and threatened to carry their convicseat-that all who are free from this sin tions away from them? Was there a habit shall have their every other sin forgiven, of fetching up, at all hazards, every argujust because they have obeyed the Gospel ment, however false and however blasin embracing the overtures of forgiveness- phemous it may be, on which they might and that all who, on that day, shall find no rest the measures of a proud and interested escape, and no forgiveness, have this doom party, and thus might give the shape and laid upon them, just because each, without the colour of plausibility to that systematic exception, has incurred the sin to which no opposition they had entered on? forgiveness is awarded, by the very act of neglecting the great salvation.
It strikes us, that the whole history of the Pharisees in the New Testament, holds The sin, then, against the Holy Ghost, so them out in the very attitude of mind which far from conferring any rare distinction of we have now described to you. And think wickedness on him who is guilty of it, is, in you, not that in the work of maintaining fact, the sin of all who, living under the this attitude against the warfare of all that dispensation of the Gospel, have, by their moral and miraculous argument which was rejection of it, made it the "savour of death brought to bear upon them, they never unto death." It is a sin which can be smothered the instigations of conscience, charged upon every man who has put the and through it rebelled against that Spirit, overtures of forgiveness away from him. It who conveyed, by this organ of the inner is a sin which if, on the great day of ex- man, the whispers of his still but impresamination, you are found to be free from, sive voice? "Which of you convinceth me will argue your acceptance of the Gospel, of sin," says the Saviour, “and if I tell you in virtue of which its forgiveness is made the truth, why do you not believe me?" Did sure to you. And it is a sin, which, if found conscience never tell them how impossible on that day to adhere to you, will argue it was that Jesus of Nazareth could lie? your final refusal of this same Gospel, in Did not the words of him who spake as virtue of which your forgiveness is impossi- never man spake, bear upon them the imble-because you are out of the only way press of truth as well as of dignity? Is given under heaven whereby men can be there not such a thing as the suspicious assaved. So that this sin, looked upon by pect of an impostor, and is there not also many as the sin of one particular age, or, if such a thing as the open, the declared, the possible to realize it in the present day, as ingenuous, and altogether overbearing asonly to be met with in a few solitary in- pect of integrity-and is it not conceivable, stances of enormous and unexpiable trans-how, in this way, the words of the Saviour gression, is the very sin upon which may be made to turn the condemnation and the ruin of the existing majority of our species.
might have carried such a moral evidence along with them, as to stamp an unquestionable character on all his attestations? Now, was there no resisting of the Holy Spirit in the act of shutting the eye of the judgment against the whole weight and au
Before we are done with this subject, there is one question that remains to be disposed of. Does it appear, from the his-thority of this character? In the person of torical circumstances of the case, that that conduct of the Pharisees which called forth from our Saviour the denunciation of the text, bears a resemblance to the account we have given of the sin against the Holy Ghost, as exemplified by the men of the present generation? In their rejecting of Christ, was there a determined rebellion of purpose against the light of their own conscience? Was there a wilful and resolved suppression of the force of evidence? Was there a habitual stifling within them of the movement and the impulse of moral principle? Was there a firm and deliberate posting of themselves on the ground of opposition, in the whole of their past resistance to this Jesus of Nazareth? Was there an obstinate keeping of this ground? Was there an audacious and desperate intent of holding out against all that could be offered in the
Jesus of Nazareth, the men of that day were honoured with the singular privilege of beholding God manifest in the flesh-of seeing all the graces of the Holy Spirit substantiated, without one taint of imperfection, on the life and character of one who wore the form of the species-of witnessing, if we may so express ourselves, a sensible exhibition of the Godhead-of hearing the truth of God fall in human utterance upon their ears, with a tone of inimitable candour-of seeing the earnest longing of God after the creatures he had formed, stamped in living and undeniable traces upon a human countenance-of beholding the tenderness of God expressed in human tears, by him who wept over the sins and the sufferings of mankind-and all the goodness of Deity distinctly announcing itself in the mild and impressive sympathies of a human voice.
Think you not that there was no struggling he had sealed his testimony by his blood, with their own consciences, and no wilful mark how the man who presided over the blinding of their own hearts, on the part of execution, was overpowered into the acthose by whom such an exhibition was re-knowledgment, that "Surely this was the sisted? Surely, surely, the Spirit of God Son of God;" and how they, unsoftened did much to subdue their acquiescence in and unsubdued, stood fast to their object— the alone way of salvation-when all his and got his body to be watched, and a story fruits and all his accomplishments were to be devised, and a falsehood of deliberate gathered upon the person of the Redeemer manufacture to be thrown afloat, with which into one visible assemblage--when the they might stem the growing faith of our whole force of this moral ascendency was Saviour's resurrection. Now, in this differmade so nearly and so repeatedly to bear ence between the resolved and inflexible upon them-when truth, with all its plead- hatred of the Jewish persecutors of Christ, ing energy, assailed them—and gentleness and the relentings of other men, do you see tried to win them over to the cause of their no suppression of the voice of conscienceown eternity---and the soft eye of compas- no resistance to that light of principle which sion beamed upon them-and the unwearied sends forth an occasional gleam over the forbearance, which no weight of personal path of the determinedly reprobate, do you injustice could overcome, told them how, see no one of those ingredients which give for their sakes, Jesus of Nazareth was ready to the sin against the Holy Ghost all the to do all and to suffer all-and patience, even malignancy that belongs to it-or, rather, in unto martyrdom, left a meek, but a firm testi- this hard and unmovable hostility against mony behind it. O! think you not, that in one whose challenge to convince him of the perverse representations, and the spite- sin, they dared not to entertain; against ful malignity, and the sullen immoveable one, of whom they could not fail to perceive, hardness, by which all this was withstood that he was the mildest, and the sincerest, and overborne, there was such an outrage and the most unoffending, and the most unupon the authority of conscience, and such wearied in well-doing of all the characters a dark and determined principle of rebellion that had met their observation, do you not against him who prompts it with all its in- perceive how it was in the cause of their stigations, as by provoking him to cast them own offended pride, and their own threatoff from all his further communications, ened interest, that they made their sysmight raise an eternal barrier against that tematic resistance to every moral argument, faith, and that repentance, and that obedi- and hurried away their minds from every ence to the Gospel of Christ, through which painful remonstrance-and that, too, in the alone forgiveness is extended to a guilty very style in which the obstinately impeniworld. tent of the day do, in resistance to every demonstration of guilt, and to every warning of danger, walk in the counsel of their own hearts, and in the sight of their own eyes.
To aggravate still further this resistance to the moral claims of the Saviour, on the part of his inflexible enemics, let us see how these very claims told on the consciences of other men. The officers whom they sent It is very true, that it was upon an outto apprehend him, when they went, faltered ward act of speaking, on the part of the from the purpose, at what they saw and Pharisees, that our Saviour uttered this reheard---and when they returned with their markable denunciation. But remember errand unfulfilled, and the answer in their what he says himself upon this subjectmouth, that "surely never man spake like how the things which come out of a man this man," they found the masters they had are evil, because they are the products of a to deal with were made of sterner mate- heart which is evil. Remember what is rials---men who knew not what it was to said a few verses before-how our Saviour, falter---men who reproached them for their who knew what was in man, knew the moral sensibility--and who had sternly thoughts of those Pharisees; and it is upon resolved, at all hazards, and in defiance to his knowledge of their thoughts, that he all principle, to rid themselves of this dan- ascribed such a malignity, and laid such a gerous pretender. Again, when they insti- weight of condemnation on the words gated Pilate to a capital sentence against which conveyed them. Remember what him, the Roman governor was shaken by is said a few verses after, where the fruit all that he observed of this innocent victim is represented as bad, just because the tree ---but look all the while at the unrelenting is bad-where the words have their whole constancy with which they kept by their character of evil imparted to them, just bepurpose; and in the barbarous prosecution cause it is out of the abundance of the heart of it schooled the governor out of his diffi- that the mouth speaketh, and out of the evil culties; and raised the phrenzy of the popu-humours of the heart, that the man bringlace; and surrounded the best and kindest eth forth evil things. And surely, when, of the species with the scowl of a brutal after our Saviour had uttered such a pecuand reviling multitude. And, lastly, when liar sentence of condemnation on the sin