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sages were only designed to warn them of the sin, and that it was not possible to be actually committed till the pouring out of the holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost; and assigns this as a reason, That Christ afterwards prayed for those very persons*. But those for whom Christ prayed, knew not what they did : they were in the same situation with Saúl, while a persecutor; they did it ignorantly, and in unbelief. This, however, was not true of all his murderers. Those who made answer to Judas, who confessed that he had be. trayed innocent blood, See thou to that, could not, I am afraid, have this plea alleged on their behalf. : It is true, the multitude did it ignorantly, and many of their rulers, as Peter candidly acknowledged; but this, I should think, is more than could be said of them all. It is pretty evident that some of them acted upon the principles suggested by our Lord : This is the heir, come, let us kill him. It is no objection to this, that it is said, If they had known him, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; for knowledge is not here put for a mere conviction that he was the Messiah, but for that spiritual discernment, which is possessed only by believers, being revealed to them by the Spirit, who searcheth the deep things of Godt. From certain passages of scripture it appears to me, that some of the pharisees were guilty of the unpardonable sin. See John ix. 41. and xii. 42, 43.
Perhaps the next intimation that is given of this sin, is in Peter's address to Simon Magus: Repent of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if PERHAPS the thought of thine heart may be forgiven theet. It does not appear that the apostle considered the sorcerer as having certainly committed the unpárdonable sin ;
Luke xxiii. 34. + 1 Cor. ü. 7. 10. # Acts vüi. 22.
but it seeems he considered it as a matter of doubt, and therefore, with a view to impress upon his mind the greatness of his wickedness, and the danger he was in, expressed himself in that doubtful -manner, "which he was not used to do in ordinary cases.
The apostle Paul seems to have had an eye to this sin, when speaking of himself; he says, 1 obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly and in unbelief. None will suppose that Saul's ignorance, much less his unbelief, had any thing in it meritorious, which could induce the divine Being to show him mercy: on the contrary, it was sinful, and that for which he reckoned himself the chief of sinners. But it was not accompanied with such circumstances of aggravation, as to exclude him from an interest in divine mercy : it was not the unpardonable sin.
In the Epistle to the Hebrews there are several intimations of it; particularly in the following passages: It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come ; if they shall fall away, to nenew them again únto repentance ; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame-For if we sin wilfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses's law died without mercy, under two or three rvitnesses : of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hạth counted the blood. of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an un. holy thing, and hath done despite to the Spirit of grace* ?
Peter also describes the same characters : For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Je-8U8 Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened -unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again ; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the miret.
Lastly : It must be with reference to this sin that. John writes in his first Epistle-If any man see his brother sin a sin not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life-There is a sin unto death ; I do not say that he shall pray for it-We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that -is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him nott.
The above are the principal, if not the only passages, in which reference is made to the unpardonable sin. From these, taken altogether, I shall offer the following remarks :
I. When the Scripture speaks of any sin as unpardonable, or of the impossibility of those who have committed it being renewed again unto repentance, we are not to understand it as expressing any natural limitation of either the power or the mercy of God, nor yet of the efficacy of the Saviour's blood; but
+ 2 Pet. ü. 20. 22.
Chap. vi, 4, 5, 6, x. 26. 99. * 1 John v. 18.
merely of a limitation dictated by sovereign wisdom and righteousness.
II. It is not any one particular act of sin that denomia nates it unpardonable, but the circumstances under which it is committed. The act, in the case of the Pharisees, was uttering blasphemous language against the miracles of Christ; in the supposed case of Saul, it was blasphemously persecuting, and otherwise injuriously treating, the Church of Christ ; in the case of the Hebrews, it was apostasy from the truth ; in the false teachers, described by Peter, it was not only perverting the truth, but returning to sensual abominations. These acts being various, the unpardonable sin could not consist in any one of them, in itself con, sidered, but in their being committed under certain circumstances.
III. The peculiar circumstance under which either of these acts becomes unpardonable, seems to be, the party being possessed of a certain degree of light; and that not merely objective, as exhibited in the gospel, but subjective, as possessed by the understanding. This light, which is attributed to the holy Spirit, seems to afford the specific reason of the unpardonable sin being represented as committed against him. The distinction which our Lord makes between blasphemy against the Son of Man, and that against the Holy Ghost, declaring the one pardonable, and the other unpardonable, seems to consist in this : The former, during his humiliation, might be the effect of ignorance and unbelief; but the latter, (imputing to satanic influence those benevolent miracles, which were not only wrought before their eyes by the Spirit of God, but approved themselves to their consciences to be of God,) could be no other than wilful malignity. And this would be the case, especially after the pour. ing out of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, when such a blaze of light shone forth in confirmation of the gospel: a blasphemous opposition to it at that period would, where the light was not only exhibited, but possessed in the understanding, be a black mark of reprobation. The blasphemy of Saul was accompanied with a great degree of objective light; but it did not so possess his understanding and conscience, but that he did it ignorantly, and in unbelief. Had he committed the same blasphemy knowingly, or in spite of a full persuasion in his conscience, that the . cause he opposed was the cause of God; it is supposed, by his own manner of speaking, that it would have been unpardonable, and that he would not have obtained mercy. The case of the Hebrews turns entirely upon the same circumstance : they not only had the gospel objectively exhibited before them, but became the subjects of deep convictions, and powerful impressions. They were enlightened, and had tasted the heavenly gift; were made partakers of the Holy Ghost; tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come. None of these expressions, it is true, denote that divine change which accompanies salvation, being expressly distinguished from it; (and John also, in his first epistle intimates, that those who are born of God cannot be guilty of this sin,) yet they undoubtedly express powerful impressions, and deep convictions, together with some extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, which were common in those times. All this rendered a departure from the truth, what the apostle, in the tenth chapter of the same epistle, calls, sinning wilfully, after we have received the knowledge of the truth; treading under foot the Son of God, and doing despite to the Spirit of grace. It is also upon this circumstance of