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OF THE SIN AGAINST THE HOLY GHOST.
Wherein is shewed, 1.-WHAT THIS SIN AGAINST THE HOLY Ghost is? II.-How AND IN WHAT RESPECT THIS SIN AGAINST THE HOLY Ghost
IS ABOVE ALL OTHER SINS THE UNPARDONABLE Sin.
PREACHED AT STEPNEY, DECEMBER 29, 1650.
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 shall be forgiven; but whosoever speaketh a word against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”—Matt. XII. 31, 32.
HERE are two great arguments laid before you in these words :
First, The largeness of God's heart in forgiving sins unto the children of men: every sin: “ All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men.”
Secondly, You have here the unpardonableness of the sin against the Holy Ghost: “But the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men."
I would rather choose to speak unto the former argument, but if I should do so at the first, possibly some poor soul would say, Though God's heart be very large in forgiving sins, yet there is one sin that shall never be forgiven, the sin against the Holy Ghost; and I fear I have committed that.
That I may therefore take away this obstruction, and make your way plain and easy to the forgiving mercy of the Lord, I shall at this time speak unto the last of these two arguments; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven. “Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”
For the opening of which words two questions must be answered.
The first is, Whether these Jews, that our Saviour spake these words unto, did then sin against the Holy Ghost?
I answer, Some think, no; but I rather conceive that these pharisees did sin this sin against the Holy Ghost; for if you look into Mark iii., ye shall find that our Lord and Saviour spake this because of some words that they had spoken against him: he had cast out devils, and they said, “ He cast out devils by the prince of devils,” verse 22. Whereupon our Saviour reasoned with them, and at last he saith, at verse 28,“ Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies : (verse 29) but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost shall never be forgiven.” And the reason of this speech is given at verse 30: “ Because they said He hath an unclean spirit.” And indeed if these men did not sin the sin against the Holy Ghost, our Lord and Saviour Christ should tell us that there is an unpardonable sin, and not tell us what it is; for unless it be in this scripture, you shall not find, either in the gospel or in the epistles, that the sin against the Holy Ghost is any where mentioned in express words. Now our Lord and Saviour would not tell us that there is an unpardonable sin, and not tell us what it is: but he saith expressly, that “whoever doth blaspheme or speak against the Holy Ghost shall never be forgiven.” And he chargeth those Jews, that they blasphemed and spake against the Spirit of God, or that work which was done by the Spirit; and therefore, without doubt, they did then sin the unpardonable sin, the sin against the Holy Ghost.
But again, Why is it here said, that he that sinneth this sin shall never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come; is there any forgiving of sins in the world to come ?
Chrysostom saith, As men are punished in this world, and in the world to come; so they are pardoned in this world, and in the world to come: pardoned in this world, when any temporal affliction for sin is removed. So I also understand that parable in Matt. xviii. at the latter end; and pardoned in this life when a man is justified, Rom. iv., pardoned and forgiven in the world to come. So saith the apostle in Acts
iii. 19, “ That your sins may be blotted out in the day of refreshing.” Which day of refreshing, compared with the speech which you have in Heb. ii. speaking of the world to come, shews that the day of refreshing is the time of the world to come. But it is an usual phrase with Scripture, noting the eternity of misery; and therefore if you look again into Mark iii., you shall find, that whereas here in Matthew the words run thus: “ Shall not be forgiven, either in this world, or in the world to come;" Mark hath it thus, “ He shall never be forgiven," that never being the explication of this, " not in this world, nor in the world to come.”
The words being thus far opened, the doctrine then will presently be this :
That the sin against the Holy Ghost is the unpardonable sin; that whosoever sins against the Holy Ghost, shall never be forgiven, either in this world, or in the world to come.
For the opening of this great truth, which I shall the rather desire you to hearken unto, because as it lies out of the ordinary road, so it makes your way clear to the laying hold of the former words of God's mercy. I say, for the opening of this truth, we must inquire into two things.
First: What this sin against the Holy Ghost is, for people are very ignorant of it.
Secondly: How and in what respect this sin against the Holy Ghost, is above all other sins the unpardonable sin,
First: If you ask, what this sin is ?
Negatively. It is not that sin, whereby men do barely deny the personality, or the deity of the Holy Ghost. Possibly a man may deny the personality or the deity of the Holy Ghost, and yet not sin the sin against the Holy Ghost. For as Chrysostom observes,* in his time there were divers heretics, that did deny the personality and the deity of the Holy Ghost, and yet afterwards repented, and were received into the bosom of the church. And ye do not find that these pharisees, who are here charged with this sin, did either deny the personality or the deity of the Holy Ghost. So that plainly then, the sin against the Holy Ghost doth not
* ΓΙoλλoι γαρ των ταυλα ειρηκοτων επιστευσαν, υστερον δε παντα αυTOLS apɛIn-Chrysostom in Math. x.
consist in this, the mere and bare denying of the personality or the deity of the Holy Ghost.
As it doth not consist therein, so neither doth it consist in every opposition, or in a bare opposition unto the work of the Holy Ghost, as distinct from the Father and the Son. Unto God the Father belongs power; unto the Son, wisdom; unto the Spirit, holiness. The work of the Father is to create; the work of the Son, to redeem ; the work of the Spirit, or the Holy Ghost, to sanctify. And hereupon some have thought, that opposition unto holiness is the sin against the Holy Ghost. But you find here it is a blasphemy, therefore not every opposition. And if you look into Acts vii., you find that Stephen speaking of the Jews, saith at verse 51, “ Ye stiff-necked, and uncircumcised in heart and ear, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost :" yet they did not sin this sin against the Holy Ghost : why? for Stephen prays for them at the last verse, “ Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." But now saith the apostle John, in 1 John v. 16, “ There is a sin unto death, I do not say that ye shall pray for it.” Had they in Stephen's account sinned this sin unto death, he would not have prayed for them; but he did pray for them. So that this sin against the Holy Ghost, doth not consist in every opposition unto the work of the Holy Ghost, as it is distinct from the Father and the Son.
As it doth not consist therein, so it is not necessary that every man that sins the sin against the Holy Ghost, should be an universal apostate, backsliding from the profession of the gospel, and the power thereof. I know it is ordinarily thought so; but I say, it is not necessary that whosoever doth sin the sin against the Holy Ghost, should be a gospel apostate, backsliding from the gospel, and the power thereof, once professed : for these pharisees, who sinned against the Holy Ghost, never professed the gospel, neither do we read of any
backsliding in them, from the power of the gospel once professed; and yet they sinned against the Holy Ghost. Surely, therefore, such a gospel apostacy is not of the essence of the sin against the Holy Ghost. Only here I must distinguish concerning the word apostacy. A man may be said to be an apostate two ways: either because he doth decline and fall away from the profession of the truth, and power of godliness, once professed; or else because he doth rebel
against truth revealed, and the will of God manifested, and will go no further. I will express it thus: five or six men go a great journey, suppose to Wales, or into the north, to Scotland; when they come about the middle of the way,
twu or three of them say, These ways are dirty, and longer than we intended, and therefore we will go no further ; but say the other, Let the way be as dirty, and as long as it may be, we will go on; and on they go: which of these men do depart one from the other ; do those that go on depart from them that stay? No; those that will go no further depart, they are the forsakers. So in the way to heaven, professors set out together, and some find the way long, further than they thought of, We will go no further, say they, and we will have no more light; but say the other, God willing, we will on ; and on they go. Which of these two sorts are the apostates ? Those that will go no further : they think not so, but the Lord knows the truth, that those that will go no further are they that leave and forsake the other. I will give you one scripture for it, it is in Numb. xiv. ; there were certain spies went into the land of Canaan, and they brought an ill report upon the good land, “ and the children of Israel murmured against Moses,” verse 2; whereupon Moses speaks unto them, and saith at verse 9, “ Only rebel not against the Lord.” The words in the Septuagint, which greek the New Testament follows, are, “ Only be not apostates against the Lord.” So that in Septuagintal language, those that rebel against light revealed, and will go no further, are called apostates. Now, indeed, this kind of apostacy always goes with the sin against the Holy Ghost, but not the former, always ; for we do not find that the pharisees were guilty of the former, for they did not profess the gospel. So that the essence of this sin doth not consist in apostatizing or backsliding from the profession of the gospel and the power thereof.
Some think that this sin doth consist in final unbelief and impenitency; but final impenitency and unbelief is not the sin against the Holy Ghost, for by final unbelief and impenitency, they either understand that impenitency and unbelief which a man lives and dies in, or that which he purposeth to
ntinue in to the last. The latter cannot be the sin against the Holy Ghost, for many have purposed to continue in their unbelief to their death, and yet have been converted and par