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Holy Ghost: I say unto you, all manner of but also from the works of the most celebrated sin 'and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto of the fathers, I mean Chrysostom. The folmen; but the blasphemy against the Holy lowing is the substance of his paraphrase on Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And the text in St. Mattbew:- You bare called whosoever speaketh a word against the Son me a deceiver, and an enemy of God; I forgive of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whoso this reproach Having some cause to startever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it ble at the flesh with which I am clothed. Fog shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, might not know who I am. But can you be neither in that which is to come. This text, ignorant that the casting out of demons, is which Augustine deems the most difficult in the work of the Holy Ghost? For this cause, the Scriptures, will become intelligible, if we he who says, that I do these miracles by examine the occasion and weigh the words. | Beelzebub, shall not obtain remis ion.'
The occasion is obvious to understand Such is the comment of Chrysostom, to Jesus had just cured a demoniac. The Pha: / whom we add the remark of an author. vor. risees had attested the fact, and could not thy of superior confidence; it is St. Mark, deny its divine authority: their eyes decid. who subjoins these words: • Because the ed in favour of Jesus Christ. But they had Pharisees said he hath an unclean spirit.' recourse to an extraordinary method of de. Hence it is inferred that the Pharisees, by as faming his character. Unable to destroy the cribing the miracles of the Holy Ghost, to force of the miracle, they maintained that it an unclean spirit, were guilty of the identical proceeded from an impure source, and that it sin against the Holy Ghost, of which Jesus was by the power of the devil Jesus Christ Christ had spoken: as is apparently proved. healed this afflicted class of men. This was | The second text we shall explain, occurs the occasion on which he pronounced the in the fifth chapter of the first epistle of St. words we have recited.
John “If any inan see his brother sin a sin The import of the expressions is no way which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he difficult to comprehend Who is the Son of shall give him life for them that sin not anto man? And who is the Holy Ghost And death: there is a sin unto death; I do not say what is it to speak against he one and the ye shall pray for it.' On this question there are, other? The Son of man is Jesus Christ reveals as we usually say, as many opinions as parties. ed in human form. Without staying her to Consult the doctors of the Romish church, refute a mistake of the learned Grotius, who and they will establish, on these words, the pretends because the article does not pre ode frivolous distinct on between venial and morihe word, it is not to be understood of our tal sins; a conjecture both false, and directly Saviour, but of minin general. To confirm opposed to the design of those from what the sense here t tached to the term. e shall it proceeds. Because, if this sense be true, only observe, at St. Luke,chan. XI.8, after the moment a man commits a mortal sin, calling our Saviour' the Son of inan,' imme- prayer must cease with regard to him ; and diately adds," " soever !!) speak a word he who commits a venial sin, will still need against the Son of in in, it shall be forgiven the prayers of saints to avoid a death be bas himn :' where it evidently follow3, that by the not deserved; this is not only indefensible, Son of man,' Jesus Christ must be under but what the Catholics themselves could not stood. And though the expression may else- presume to maintain where have other significations, they have Waving the various glosses of the Nora. no connexion with our subject.
tians, and other commentators, do you ask By the Holy Ghost, must be understood | what is the idea we should attach io these the third person in the adorable Trinity; com words of the apostle, and what is the sin of sidered not only as God, but as Author of which he here speaks? We repeat what we the miracles achieved for the confirmation of have already intimated, that it is difficult to the gospel. Hence, to speak against the explain. However, on investigating the Son of man,' was to outrage the Lord Jesus ; views of the apostle throughout the chapter, t render his doctrine suspected; to call his we discover the sense of this text. His demission in question; and particularly to be sign was, to embolden the young converts in offended at the humiliations which surround the profession of the religion they had so ed it on earth. Such was their conduct who happily embraced. With This view, he here said, 'Is not this the carpenter's son? Can recapitulates the proofs which established its there any good thing come out of Nazareth? truth: . There are three that bear witness on A gluttonous mail, a wine-bibber, a friend of earth, the water, and the spirit, and the blood. publicans and sinners.
It is the innocence of the primitive Christians, eak against the Holy Ghost, was ma- , which is called the water; the miracles liciously to reject a doctrine, when he who | which are called the spirit ; and martyrdom, delivered it, confirmed the truth of it by so by which the faithful have sealed their testidistinguished and evident a miracle as heal. Inony, and which is called the blood : attesting ing a demoniac; and to ascribe those miracle- that those three classes of witnesses, demonto the devil, which, they were assured, hait strate the truth of the Christian religion, God alone for their author. Here, I conceive, and render its opposers utterly inexcusable. is all the light we can derive from the text After these and similar observations, the And as many persons determine the sense of postle says expressly, that he wrote for the the text, not so much by the letter as the re-confirmation of their faith, and closes with putation of the interpreter, we must apprize this exhortation: Little children, keep them, that we have derived this explanation yourselves troin idols.' Between these two not only froin the writings of our most cele exts, occur the words we wish to explain: hrated commentators who have espoused it,'. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that
ye shall pray for it.' Must not the sin unto saves us, is not the putting away the filth of death,' be that, against which he wished to the flesh, but the answer of a good confortify the saints ; I mean apostacy?
science.' The ansu er of a good conscience, What! you will say, is a man lost without is the rectitude of conduct, resulting from remedy who has denied the truth; and is the catechumen's knowledge and faith. every one in the sad situation of those for Hence they commonly gave the appellation of whom the apostle prohibits prayer? God for illuminated to a man atter baptism. The bid, my brethren, that we should preach so washing of baptism,' says Justin Martyr, is strange a doctrine; and once more renew called illumination ; because he who is inthe Novatian severity! There are two kinds of structed in these mysteries, is enlightened.' apostates, and two kinds of apostacies: there Hence also the Syriac version instead of is one kind of apostacy into which we fall by enlightened, as our rea 'ing which follows the the fear of punishment, or on the blush of Greek, bas rendered it baptized. the moment, by the promises Satan makes to 2. They had tasted of the heavenly gift ;' bis proselytes. There is another, into which that is, they had experienced the serenity of we fall by the enmity we have against the i that peace, which we feel when we no longer truth, by the detestable pleasure we take in fear the punishment of sin: having passed, opposing its force. It were cruel to account if I may su speak, the rigorous road of repenthe first of these offences,' a sin unto death;' tance, into favour with fiod. but the Spirit of God prompts us to attach 3. • They were made partakers of the Holy this idea to the second. There are likewise Ghost, they had relished the good word of two kinds of apostates. There is one class, ! God, and the powers of the world to come.' All
ave made only smal a taruments in these various expressions may be understood the knowledge of the truth; weak and in- of miracles performed in their presence, or perfe
et, with acbieved by themselves. The Holy Ghost the joys and transports excited in the soul himself has assumed this acceptation, in va
on, which promises remission of rious parts of the Scriptures, as in that re. sin, and everlasting fel city. There is ano- 'markable passage in the nineteenth chapter ther, on the contrary, to whoin God has of the Acts, 'Have ye received the Holy given superior knowledge, to whom he has Ghost? - We have not so much as beard, communicated the gifts of miracles, and whither there be any Holy Ghost. The good whom he has caused to experience the sweet word, says Grotius, is the promise of God, as ness of his promise. It would be hard to re- in the twenty-ninth of Jeremiah, I will ject the first ; but the apostle hud regard to perform my good word towards you ;' that the second. Those, according to St. John, is, iny promise ; and one of the greatest prowho have committed the sin unto death,' , mises inade to the primiti e Christians, was are the persons who abjure Christianity, af- the gift of miracles These signs,' says Jeter the reception of all those gifts. In the sus, - shall follow thein that believe ; in my primitive church, where some were honour name they shall cast out devils, they shall ed with the endowment of discerning spirits, speak with tongues, they shall take up serthere probably were brethren who could dis. pents.' In fine, 'the powers of the world to cern the latter apostates from the former. come,' were, likewise, the prodigies to be
These observations lead to the illustration achieved during the gospel economy; which of the two passages yet to be explained: the the Jews call the age, or world to come; proone is in the tenth chapter to the Hebrews; digies elsewhere called, the exceeding greatthe other is our text. In both these passages, it ness of his power, and the mighty working is obvious the apostle had the second class of of his power.' apostates in view. This is very apparent These are the endowments, with which from our text. Throughout the whole of the persons in question were favoured; their this epistle, it is easy to prove, that the apos. criine was apostacy. It is impossible, tle's wish was the prevention of a postacy. if they fall away, to renew them again unto He especially designed to demonstrate, that repentance.' to renounce Christianity, after attesting its To fall away, does not characterize the confirmation by iniracles, here denominated state of a man, who relapses, after having distributions of the Holy Ghost,' was a obtained remission. How deplorable soever crime of the grossest enormity. He has his situation may be, it is not without rethe same design in the text. Let us exainine ! source. The falling away in our text signithe terms.
fies a total defection; an entire rejection of 1. “They were once enlightened ;' that is, Jesus Christ, and of his religion. The fallthey had known the truth. They had coming away, according to St Paul, in the ninth pared the prophets with the apostles, the pro. 1 chapter of his epistle to the Romans, marks phecies with the accomplishment; and by the first stage of obduracy in the Jewish pa. the collective force of truth, they were full; tion. But the falling away in our text, is persuaded that Jesus was the Messiah. Or, not only a rejection of Christ, but a rejection if you please,' they were once enlightened ;' after having known him: it is not only to that is, they were baptized ;' baptism, in the I reject, but to outrage and persecute him with primitive church, succeeding instruction, ac- nalice and enmity of heart Here is all the cording to that precept of Christ, ' Go ye and information we can derive from the text. teach all nations, baptizing them,' &c. St | The unpardonable sin, in these words, is that Paul, at the beginning of this chapter, speak f apostates; and such as we have characing of baptism, expresses the same senti terized in the preceding remarks. ment. So also we are to understand St Peter. This also is the genuine import of the tenth when he says, that 'the baptisın which now! chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, If we sin wilfully, after having received the know. an audience, it is an invariable duty to reledge of the truth, as would be easy to solve these questions according to the chaprove.
racters of the inquirers. The questions Now, if you have been attentive to all the amount in substance to this: Can a man in considerations we have just advanced: if you this age cominit the unpardonable sin ? And, have understood the explanations we have I assure you, they may be proposed from given of the several texts, you may form a three principles, widely different from each correct idea of the unpardonable sin. You other: froin a melancholy, from a timorous, may know what this criine was, at least, in and a cau ious disposition. We shall direr. the time of the primitive church. It was de. sify our solutions, conformably to this divernying, bating, and maliciously opposing the sity of character. truth, at the moment they were persuaded 1. One may make this inquiry throaghe it proceeded from God. Two classes of men melancholy disposition, and mental derangemight commit this crime in the apostolic ment is an awful complaint. It is a disease age.
which corrupts the blood, stagnates the spiFirst, those who had never embraced rits, and flags the mind. From the body, it Christianity ; but opposed its progress in de- quickly communicates to the soul; it induces fiance of rational conviction, and the dictates the sufferers to regard every object on the of conscience. This was the sin of the Pha- dark side; to indulge phantous, and cherish risees, who maliciously ascribed to the devil anguish, which, excluding all conslation, miracles, which they knew could have God wholly devotes the mind to objects, by which alone for their author.
it is alarined and tormented. A man of this Secondly, those who had embraced the gos-'disposition, on examining his conscience, and pel, who had been baptized, who had receiv. reviewing his life, will draw his own characed the gift of miracles, and experienced all ter in the deepest colours. He will construe the graces enumerated in the text This his weakness into wickedness, and his ipfirmwas the sin of those, who, after conversion, ities into crimes ; he will magnify the namabjured the truth, and pronounced against ber, and agrravate the atrocity of his sins; Jesus Christ the anathemas which his ene- he will class himself, in short, with the worst mies, and particularly the Jews, required of of human characters. And, our reasons for apostates. These St Paul bad in view, in self-condemnation and abasement before God, the words of our text, and in the tenth chap. being always too well founded, the person in ter of this epistle. Of this St. John also question, proceeding on these principles, and spake, when he said, there is a sin unto mistaking the causes of huniliation and redeath. Hence the sin described in these pentance, for just subjects of horror and desthree passages, and the sin against the Holy pair, readily believes himself lost without re'Ghost, is the same in quality, if I may so source, and guilty of the unpardonable sin. speak, though diversified in circumstances: Without doubt, it is bighly proper to reawe have, consequently, comprised the whole son with people of this description. We under the vague appellation of unpurdonable should endeavour to compose them, and en sin.
ter into their sentiments, in order to altack After these considerations, perhaps, you their arguinents with more effect; but, after already rejoice. This sermon, designed to all, a man so afflicted has more need of a phyinspire the soul with sanctifying fear, has, sician than a minister, and of medicine iban perhaps, already contributed to flatter your serions. If it is not a hopeless case, we security: you no lon rer see any thing in the must endeavour to remove the complaint, by text, which affects your case ; nor any thing meuns which nature and art afford; by air, in the most disorderly life, connected with a exercise, and in nucent recreations. Above crime, peculiar to the primitive Christians. all, we must pray that God would cause the Let us dissipate, if possible, so dangerous an bones he has broken to rejoice ;' and that he illusion. We have done little, by tracing the would not abandon, to the remorse and tormanner in which the first witnesses of the ments of the damned, souls redeemed by the gospel became guilty of the unpardonable blood of his beloved Son, and reconciled by sin; we must also inquire, what relation it his sacrifice. may have to us.
2. This inquiry may also be made through In general, it is not possible to hear sub- a timorous disposition. We distinguish ti. jects of this nature discussed, without a va. midity from melancholy; the first being a riety of questions revolving in the mind, and disposition of the mind, occasioned by the
e's self, have I not already commit- mistaken notions we entertain of God and his ted this sin ? Does not such and such a vice, word; the second, of the body. The timo. by which I am captivated, constitute its es- rous man fixes his eye on what the Scripsence? Or, if I have never committed it yet, tures say of the justice of God, without paymay I not fall into it at a future period ? It ing adequate attention to what is said of his is bui just, brethren, to afford you satisfaction i mercy. He looks solely at the perfection to on points so important. Never did we dis- which a Christian is called, without ever recuss inore serious questions; and we frankly garding the leniency of the gospel. Such a acknowledge, that all we have hitherto ad- man, like the melancholy person, is readily vanced, was merely introductory to what we induced to think himself guilty of the unpar. have yet to say; and for which we require donable sin. Should he flatter himself with the whole of the attention, with which you not having yet perpetrated the deed, he lives have favoured us.
in a continual fear. This fear may, indeed, Though truth is always the same, and proceed from a good principle, and be pronever accommodates itself to the humours of ductive of happy effects, in exciting vigilance and care ; but, if not incompatible with the ing called him Reelzebub; bor has any one liberty of the children of God, it is at least received the gift of miracles, and afterwards repugnant to the peace they may obtain ; i denied the truth, as those apostates, of which constitutes one of the sweetest com- whom we spake But a man may commit forts of religion, and one of the most effec- the crime, with regard to what constitutes tual motives to conciliate the heart.
its essence, and its atrocity. This also we If a man of this description should ask me, hope to prove For, I ask, what constituted whether one may now commit the unpardon-the enormity of the crime? Was it the mira. able sin ? I would repeat what I have just said, cles, simply considered? Or was it the con. that this sin, in all its circumstances has pe. | viction and sentiments which ensued, and culiar reference to the miracles by which which proceeded from the hearts of the witGod formerly confirmed the evangelical doc- ' nesses? Without a doubt it was the convic
at this period guilty of the crime, is to follow and prodigies, separately considered, and the emotions of fear, rather than the con- without the least regard to their seeing them viction of argument. I would compare the performed, or themselves being the workers. sin which alarois his conscience, with that If we shall, therefore, prove, that the efforts of the unhappy man of whom we spake. I which Providence now employs for the conwould prove by this comparison, that the dis. ' version of mankind, may convey to the mind position of a man, who utters blaspheny the saine conviction, and excite the samne senagainst Jesus Christ, who makes open war timents afforded to the witnesses of these with the professors of his doctrine, has no re miracles, shall we not consequently prove, semblance to the style of another, who sins that it men now resist the gracious efforts with remorse and contrition; who wrestles of Providence, they are equally guilty as the with the old man; who sometimes conquers, ancients; and, of course, that which conand sometimes is conquered: though he has stitutes the essence and atrocity of the unpar. sufficient cause from his sin to perceive, that donable sin, subsists at this period, as in the the love of God by no means properly burns apostolic age. in his heart; he has, however, encourage- ! 1. A man, at this period, may sin against ment from his victories, to admit that it is the clearest light. Do not say that he cannot totally extinguished. I would assist this not sin against the same degree of light, man to enter more minutely into his state; which irradiated the primitive church. I alto consider the holy fears which fill, the ter- low that none of you have seen the miracles rors which agitate, and the remorse which performed for the confirmation of our faith ; troubles his heart; and in such a way as to but I will venture to affirm, that there are derive from the cause of his grief, motives of truths as palpable, as if they had been conconsolation. We should never stretch our firmed by miracles; I will venture to affirm, subjects, nor divide what Jesus Christ has that if they collect all the proofs we have of joined by a happy temperature. If you look our Saviour's mission, there will result a consolely at the mercy of God, you will unavoid- viction to the mind as clear, as that which ably form excuses to flatter your security; resulted to the Pharisees, on seeing the de. if you confine your regards to his justice, moniac healed. you will fall into despair. It is this happy! 2. What constituted the atrocity of the temperature of severity and indulgence, of oriine in the first ages, was attacking this remercy and justice, of hope and fear, which ligion, whose evidence they had attested. brings the soul of a saint to perinanent re- i This may also be found among men of our pose; it is this happy temperature which own time. A man, who is convinced that constitutes the beauty of religion, and ren- the Christian religion was revealed from ders it efficacious in the conversion of man- heaven ;--a man who doubts not, among all kind. This should be our method with per- the religious connexions in the Christian sons of a doubtful disposition.
world, that to which he adheres is among the But wo unto us, if under the pretext of purest ;-a man who abandons this religion; giving the literal import of a text of Scrip- ; -a man who argues, who disputes, who ture, we should conceal its general design ; writes volume upon volume, to vindicate his a design equally interesting to Christians of apostacy, and attacks those very truths, every age and nation, and which concerns whose evidence he cannot but perceive ;you, my brethren, in a peculiar manner : wo such a man has not committed the unpardonunto us, if under a pretence of composing the able sin in its whole extent ; but he has so conscience of the timnorous, we should afford far proceeded to attack the truths, of whose the slightest encouragement to the hardened, veracity he was convinced. to flatter their security, and confirm them in 3. What farther constituted the atrocity their obduracy of heart.
of the crime, was falling away ; not by the 3. This inquiry.-Whether we can now | fear of punishinent, not by the first charms commit the unpardonable sin?-may likewise Satan presents to bis proselytes, but by a be made on the ground of caution, and that principle of hatred against truths, so restricwe may know the danger, only in order to tive of human passions. This may also be avoid it. Follow us in our reply.
found among men of our own age. For exWe cannot commit this sin with regard to ample, a man who mixes in our congregathe peculiar circunstances of those, who liv. tions, who reads our books, who adheres to ed in the first ages of the church. This has our worship; but who, in his ordinary conbeen proved, I think, by the preceding argu. versation, endeavours to discredit tbose ments; no person having seen Jesus Christ truths, to establish deism or impiety, and work miracles, and, like the Pharisees, hay. abandons himself to this excess, because he
bates a religion which gives him inquietude. But who among our hearers can be actuand pain, and wishes to expunge it froin every ated by so great a frenzy? What deluded heart ; this man has not committed the unconscience can enjoy repose under a pretext, pardonable sin in all its extent, but he has that it has not yet committed the unpardon. so far proceeded as to hate the truth.
able sin? Whence is it, after all, that this 4. What, lastly, rendered the crime atro. crime is so dreadful ? All the reasons which cious with regard to apostates, was their may be assigned, terminate here, as in their running to this excess, after having tasted centre, that it precipitates the soul into bell. the happiness, which the hope of salvation | But is not bell the end of every sin? There produces in the soul. This may, likewise, is this difference, it must be observed, bebe found among Christians of our own age. tween the unpardonable sin, and other sins, For example a temporary professor ;-a man that he who commits it is lost without re(to avail myself of an expression of Jesus source; whereas, after other sins, we have a Christ) who receives the word with joy ;'-- sure remedy in conversion. But, in all cases, a man, who has long prayed with fervour, a man must repent, reform and become a new who has communicated with tran-ports of creature ; for we find in religion, what we delights ;-a man of this description, who find in the human body; some diseases quite forgets all these delights, who resists all incurable, and others which may be removed these attractive charms, and sacrifices them with application and care : but they have to the advantages offered by a false religion; both the similarity of becoming incurable by he has not yet committed the unpardunable neglect; and what, at first, was but a slight sin, but he surely has the characteristic' of indisposition, becomes mortal by presumption falling away, after having been once enlight- and delay. oned, and tasted of the heavenly gift'
Besides there are few persons among us,You now perceive, my brethren, that all there are few monsters in nature,-capable these characteristics may be found separately of carrying wickedness, all at once, to the among men of our own age. But should point we have described. But how many there be a man in whom they all unite; a are there who walk the awful road, and who man who has known and abjured the truth: attain to it by degrees? They do not arrive, who has not only abjured, but opposed and in a moment, at the summit of impiety. The persecuted it, not in a moment of surprise, first essays of the sinner, are not those horand at the sight of racks and tortures, but rid traits which cause nature to recoil. A from a principle of enmity and hatred ; do man educated in the Christian religion, does you not think he would have just cause to not descend, all at once, from the full lustre fear, that he had committed the unpardona- of truth, to the profoundest darkness. His ble sin.'
fault, at first, was mere detraction; thence To collect the whole in two words, and in he proceeded to negligence; thence to vice; a yet shorter way to resolve the question, ` Is next he stifles remorse; and, lastly, proceeds it possible now to commit the unpardonable to the commission of enormous crimes : so he sin?' I answer: We cannot commit it with who, in the beginning, trembled at the regard to every circumstance; but, in regard thought of a weakness, beconies insensible of to what constitutes its essence and atrocity, the foulest deeds, and of a conduct the most it may be committed; and though men sel- atrocious. dom fall so deeply, yet it is not impossible. There is one reflection with which you Few complete the crime ; but many commit cannot be too much impressed, in an age in it in part, and in degree. Some imagine which Jesus Christ approaches us with his themselves to be guilty by an ill-founded light, with his Spirit, and with all the advanfear; but a much greater number are daily tages of the evangelical economy; that is, going the awful road, and, through an ob- concerning the awful consequences of not stinate security, unperceived. They ought, improving these privileges, according to their of course, to reject the thought of having original design. You rejoice to live in the
time, to take precaution, that, in the issuc, phets have desired to see.' You have reason the dreadful period niay never come, which so to do. But you rejoice in these privileges, is nearer, perhaps, than they imagine. while each of you persist in a favourite vice,
and a predominant habit; and because you APPLICATION
are neither Jews nor heathens, you expect What effects shall the truths we have de to find, in religion, means to compose a conlivered produce on your minds ? Shall they science, abandoned to every kind of vice: augment your pride, excite vain notions of this is a most extraordinary, and almost geyour virtue, and suggest an apology for vice, neral prejudice among Christians. But this because you cannot, in the portrait we have light, in which you rejoice,--this Christianigiven, recognize your own character? Is ty, by which you are distinguished,- this your glory derived from the consideration, faith, which constitutes your glory, will ag. that your depravity has not attained the high-gravate your condempation, if your lives est pitch; and that there yet remains one continue unreformed. The Pharisees were point of horror, at which you have not ar highly favoured by seeing Jesus Christ in the rived? Will you suffer the wounds to corrode flesh, by attesting his iniracles, and hearing your heart, under the notions that they are the wisdom which descended from his lips; not desperate, and there is still a reniedy? but these were the privileges which caused And do you expect to repent, and to ask for their sin to be irremissible. Tha Hebrews giveness, when repentance, is impracticable; were happy by being enlightened, by tasting and when all access to inercy is cut off of the heavenly gift, and the powers of the