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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 pouring 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 onderstanding, 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 un. pardonable, and that he would not have obtained mercy. The case of the Hebrews turns entirely upon the same circumstance : they not only bad 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 Spirit; tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come. None of these expressions, it is true, depote 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 Spirit, 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 ; trending under foot the Son of God, and doing despite to the Spirit of grace. It is also upon this circumstance of light, that the case of those apostates mentioned by Peter, turns. After they have known the way of righteousness, to turn from the holy commandinent is that which seals their doom.
Fourthly: The impossibility of such charaçlers being recovered and saved, arises from two causes :
1. The only way, or medium, of a sinner's salvation is by the sacrifice of Christ ; but the nature of their sin is such, that they wilfully tread him under foot, and treat the blood of the covenuni, wherewith he was sanctified, as an unholy thing. Now, if the sacrifice of Christ be thus treated, there is no other way of escape : There remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a fearful looking for of judgment. Hence it becomes a hopeless undertaking for the servants of God to attempt any thing for their recovery. What can they do ? Nothing but what they have done already in vain. The grounds which they bave ordinarily to go over in saving sinners from the wrath to come, are, Repentance from dead works ; faith towards God; baptism of water, and in the primitive times, of tbe Holy Spirit, accompanied with the laying on of hands ; exbibiting to them the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment : but these things have been known and rejected, have lost their force ; why should they be repeated ? No, saith the apostle, leav. ing these first principles, and those who have rejected them, in the hand of God, we will go on with our work unto perfection. The plowinan doth not plow ALL DAY to sow—and bread-corn is bruised, because he will not ever be threshing it.
2. The only efficient cause of a sinner's being brought to re. pentance, and so to forgivness, is the almighty and sovereign influence of tbe Holy Spirit; and the only hope that is left for such characters, must arise from the exertion of His power, with whoin all things are 'naturally possible : But of him they are given up! they have done despite to the Spirit of grace, and he hath utterly abandoned them to their own delusions ! See Heb. vi. 7, 8.
Fifthly : The cases which in our times appear to approach the nearest to this sin, are, those of persons who apostatize from the truth after having enjoyed great religious advantages, obtained much light, felt strong convictions, and made considerable progress in reforming their conduct. The apostasy of such characters, as of some among the Hebrews, is sometimes sentimental. Having long felt the gospel way of salvation to grate upon their feelings, they fall in with some flesh-pleasing scheme ; either that of open infidel. ity, or some one of those which approach nearest to it; and now their conduct becoming equally loose with their principles, when
reproved by their friends, they keep themselves in countenance by professing to have changed their sentiments in religious matters. In them is fulfilled what was predicted of some by the apostle Paul : They received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause, God shall send them strong delusions, that they should believe a lie :-and be damned.
The apostasy of others, like those described in the Second Epistle of Peter, is of a more practical nature. Having long felt the yoke of religion galling to their inclinations, they burst the bonds, and let loose the reins of lust; and 10 ward off reproof and keep themselves in countenanc?, affect to treat all religion with contempt ; raking together the faults of professing Christians, as an excuse for their own iniquities. Such characters are commonly the worst of all, and the most dangerous to society ; nor do I recollect any instance of their having been renewed again unto repentance : twice dead, they seem doomed to be plucked up by the roots. In them is verified what our Lord speaks, of a man out of whom should be cast an unclean spirit, which goeth forth in search of a new babitation, seeking rest, but findeth none, and at length resolves on a return to his old abode. And wben he cometh, he findeth it empty, swept and garnished. Then he goetb, and taketh with him seven other spirits, more wicked than himself, and they enter in, and dwell there ; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. :
I am afraid, that to the above might be added a great number of characters, whoin early life, were of a decent and grave deportment; and who, possessing promising abilities, were encouraged by their friends to engage in the work of the ministry. Their main study being to cultivate their powers, they have at length attained the art of conveying truth and commending virtue in a style of pleasing energy. But as they have never loved nor lived upon the truth which they have communicated, so neither have they practised the virtues wbich they have recommended. Slaves to popularity, avarice, or Just, they pass through life under a mask of disguise ; and being conversant with divine things, as surgeons and soldiers are with the shedding of human blood, they cease to have any effect upon them, with respect to their own souls. I would not presume to pass sen., tence on all such characters; but neither would I be in their situa
tion for the whole world! The chief difficulties which attend the account of the unpardonable sin, affect ministers, in their praying for, and preaching to sinners and dejected souls, who are apt to draw dark conclusions against themselves. With respect to prayer, we have directions given us on this head. (1 John v. 16.) We are not to pray that God would forgive men this sin, because this would be contradicting the revealed will of God; but as we cannot tell with certainty who are the subjects of it, we may pray for sinners, without distinction, that God would give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth ; always submitting our petitions to the sovereign direction of unerring wisdom. But it may be asked, with respect to preaching, How can a minister proclaim the mercy of God to his auditory in an indefinite way? How 'can he invite them to a participation of the blessings of the gospel ? How can he declare, that if any one of them, even the greatest sinner among them, return to God by Jesus Christ, he will be accepted ; when for anght he knows, there may be persons in his presence who may be in the situation above described, and for whom no mercy is designed ? To this I answer, the same objection may be made against the doctrine of election ; and is made by the adversaries of that doctrine. Let a minister pursue his work, and leave the effect to God. What he declares of the willingness of Christ to pardon and receive all who turn to him, is true; and it might be said of any man in truth, that if he returned to God by Jesus Christ, he would be forgiven. The impossibility, with respect to those who have committed the unpardonable sin, respects their repentance, as well as their forgiveness; and even that is not a natural, but a moral impossibility.
With respect to dejected minds, let it be observed, that no per: son, let his crimes have been what they may, if he be grieved at heart for having committed them, and sincerely ask forgiveness in the name of Christ, needs to fear that he shall be rejected. Such grief is itself a proof that he has not committed the sin against the Holy Spirit, because it is a mark of that sin to be accompanied with a hard and impenitent heart. Such characters may feel the remorse of a Cain, a Saul, or a Judas ; but a tear of godly sorrow never dropped from their eyes.
THE DUTY OF CHRISTIAN FORGIVENESS:
In answer to R. W. who requests an explanation of Matt. xviii. 33. and
following verses, according to the Calvinistic plan.
The manifest design of the parable is to impress upon us the duty of forgiveness one to another, from the consideration of God's freely forgiving us. That in the parable, I imagine, which struck the querist as inconsistent with Calvinistic principles, was the supposition of a man being given up to the tormentors, whose sins had been forgiven. Some expositors, in order to solve this difficulty, suppose the punishment to mean his being given up to church censyres; others to temporal calamities, and the accusations of a guilty conscience : But it appears to me that this is altogether foreign from the design of Christ. Our Lord certainly meant to suggest to all the professors of Christianity, all the subjects of his visible kingdom, that unless they forgave men their trespasses, they themselves should not be forgiveo, but should be cast into endless torment. The true solution of the difficulty I take to be this : it is common with our Lord in his parables to #ddress men upon their own principles ; not according to what they were in fact, but what they were in profession and expectation. For example : There is joy over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons WHICH NEED) NO REPENTANCE. The WHOLE need not a physician, but they that are sick : I come not to call THE RIGHTEOUS, but sinners to repentance. Not that there were any among mankind who were righteous, whole, and need no repentance, in fact, but merely in their own account. The elder son in the parable, in Luke xv. is doubtless intended to represent the scribes and pharisees, who at that time drew near and murmured at Christ's receiving sidners. Ver. 1, 2. And yet this elder son is allowed to be very obedient, (at least he is not con