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are vilely misrepresented and defamed. Without regard to consistency or common sense, they confound all distinction of good and evil, and to gratify their own malice and hostility to Jesus of Nazareth, at once impeach him of infernal confederacy, and, of being the instrument of Satan, in his mightiest works of power and kindness.
It is impossible to ascribe such language and conduct to ignorance or mere prejudice. They must have proceeded from enmity to the personal character,and to the extraordinary claims of the Saviour. Our Lord accordingly reduces their charges to absurdity, and thus exposes their folly, while he demonstrates their guilt. *If Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you."
These persons were unquestionably guilty of “blasphemy against the Son of man.” They reviled and calumniated his character; they vilified his works; they ascribed that 'to the god of this world, which proceeded from the Father of mercies; and out of sheer hatred to the Redeemer's claims, without one justifiable reason, they held him up, even when acting the part of the world's friend, as deserving only of its execration. This was the sin of which they were guilty. That it was an offence of the deepest turpitude, must be apparent. It was a crime against light, and love, and truth.
It must have been a violation of the convictions of their own minds, and of all that they must soberly have considered due to the peerless excellence of the Saviour's character, and the strength of that moral evidence by which his person and mission were attested as divine.
It was not, however, the private opinion which they entertained of him, so much as the language which they employed respecting him, that our Lord thus stigmatized. While they evinced by it their own hardness of heart, and obstinate rejection of his intreaties, and of all the proofs of his heavenly design, they did all that in them lay to injure and destroy others. They reviled Christ, that others as well as they, might revile him. They refused to enter into the kingdom of Heaven themselves, nor would they suffer those who were entering in to go. They were thus recklessly proceeding to perdition, and endeavouring to drown others in it too.
No wonder then, that the Saviour employed strong language, — that he charged them with speaking against and blaspheming him. They hated and reviled him without a cause--and did every thing in their power to obstruct and defeat the progress of his grand design. All this he felt, and bewailed, and characterized as it deserved. But all this you will observe, is only charged as “blaspheming the Son of man,” which, though black and detestable beyond what we are capable of expressing, is not pronounced to be unpardonable. There was a provision of mercy even for this offence. This manner of sin and blasphemy, horrid as it was,
might be forgiven, because directed only against the Saviour himself :-For “whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”
III. I conceive, therefore, that the design of our Lord in the employment of this language, was not to accuse the Pharisees of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, but to warn them against it. His object is to impress upon them the heinousness of the guilt they had contracted against Him; the habit of opposing and slandering the work of God, which they were forming; and the danger to which they should soon be exposed, of calumniating the Divine Spirit, and resisting the consummating evidence of the character of the Saviour ; by which they should be rendered incapable of forgiveness in this world, and that which is to come.
In support of this view of the subject, let it be observed, that no distinct appearance of the Holy Spirit took place on the occasion to which the declaration of Christ immediately and properly refers. He is not mentioned in all the context. He was not invoked by Jesus when he wrought the miracle; it was not performed with any specific reference to his agency; and even when Jesus speaks in allusion to the power by which it was performed, it is subsequently to the miracle, and to the blasphemy of the Pharisees. He then refers to it, saying,—"If I by the Spirit of God, cast
out devils, then is the kingdom of God come unto you.'
"* The blasphemy of the Pharisees was plainly and intentionally directed against the person and work of the Redeemer, and not immediately against the Holy Spirit. This accounts for the distinction which is made in the text, and in all the parallel passages between all manner of sin and blasphemy, even that directed most pointedly against Jesus himself, for which there is forgiveness; and the slander of the Holy Spirit, for which there is no forgiveness.
The phrase, “ the Son of man,” is never employed except by our Lord himself, and is always used by him in reference to the humbled state of his person and ministry on earth.+ Then indeed he appeared as a poor, feeble, despised, suffering, and dying man:-the partaker of all the infirmities of our nature, and heir to all the ills of flesh :possessed of all the properties of humanity, and appointed to undergo the heaviest of its woes. In the body of his humiliation, and while presenting the outward form of a servant, it became him to speak of himself as " the Son of man." The veil of flesh concealed the glory which dwelt in it, and wrapped up from human cognizance, the enormity of the offences which were committed against the only begotten of the Father.
But the phraseology which it became him to use respecting himself, and which is in harmonious * See Note [D].
+ See Note [E].
keeping with every part of his character, and with the nature of his earthly ministry, it would have been unseemly for his disciples to have employed. He was their Master and Lord; and that very humiliation in which he appeared, only rendered him more entirely worthy of their admiration and respect. Never once, therefore, do they venture to apply the expression to him, or concerning him, during the period of his ministry here ; nor even respecting him after his ascension, but in allusion to his own words. While on earth, he was indeed the Son of God; and now in Heaven, he is as truly the Son of man: but during his incarnate state, he appeared chiefly in his character as man; while in his glorified state, he appears chiefly in his character as the Son of God.
While he lived here, it was properly the dispensation of the Son of man; the earthly ministry of the heavenly Saviour. It was limited, inefficient, and partial in its effects, when compared with the ministry of the Redeemer in his glorified state. It was preparatory to something that was then future; and though designed to perfect that which was ready to vanish away, it was intended to introduce that which should abide for ever.*
Hence, offences committed against our Lord during this period of the divine economy, were not regarded in the same light in which the same offences were afterwards viewed. His work had not then been completed, the full revelation
* See Note [F].