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of his character and designs had not been given,the completion of the evidence establishing his high and uncompromising claims had not been brought forward. Another dispensation of mercy was yet to take place, another exhibition of his high pretensions was to be made, a higher species of evidence than casting out devils was yet to be afforded. Hence a greater degree of guilt might yet be contracted,-and, therefore, while blaspheming the Son of man might be forgiven, blaspheming the Holy Spirit should not be forgiven.
The dispensation of the Holy Ghost, to which our text, I think, refers, commenced with the exaltation of Christ, and the effusion of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. * Till then, we know that the Holy Ghost had not been given, because Jesus had not been glorified. To the enjoyment of this Spirit, the Redeemer looked forward as his own reward, he promised it for the comfort of his disciples, and declared that his office should be to “ convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.”
This Spirit, in its copious, powerful, and sanctifying influences, was the grand consummating proof of our Lord's divine character, and exclusive claims as the Redeemer of the world. The great design of the Spirit's economy, is to bear testimony for Christ; and hence the Gospel which was preached at the beginning with the Holy Ghost, sent down from Heaven, was so demon
* See Note [G.)
strated to be the power of God, and the wisdom of God, that men who rejected it were left altogether without excuse; and men who calumniated and blasphemed it, were left without remedy. It was then that the Divine Spirit appeared as the visible minister of righteousness and mercy. Jesus himself had withdrawn-his substitute now appeared in his place, arrayed in all the charms of his love, and in all the majesty of his power; proclaiming for the last time forgiveness and eternal life through the blood of the cross. All that had hitherto been said and done against the Son of man might be forgiven; but the contradiction of the Holy Spirit could not be forgiven. Opposition to the words and to the works of Jesus of Nazareth might obtain mercy; but hostility to the Spirit of the Son of God must issue in endless ruin. He who stumbled at the stone might be broken; but he on whom the stone fell should be ground to powder.
In accordance with these views, we may remark, that had the Pharisees who reviled our Lord been guilty of an unpardonable offence, we might have expected that they would be excepted from the universal amnesty which the apostles were appointed to proclaim ; that wbile they were commanded to preach the Gospel to every creature, they should be interdicted from speaking a word of comfort to these forlorn and utterly reprobate offenders ; that a mark would have been set upon them, indicative of their transgression, and of their appointed doom:thus punishing the enormity
of their guilt, and exhibiting them as beacons of Divine wrath, for the admonition of others. But no such exception occurs in the commission of the Gospel ;--no such limitations are marked in Heaven's last law of mercy ;-no such mark of reprobation was set upon the sinners who blasphemed and reviled the Son of man.
On the contrary, to these very men, many of whom must have been guilty of the crime charged on them by our Lord, were the apostles commissioned to make the first overtures of pardon and favour. “Beginning at Jerusalem,” by the express request of their Master, and proclaiming by his command to its guilty inhabitants, a free and full pardon for all past offences, of whatever character and whatever dye, they must have comprehended not a few who had formerly reviled Jesus, and who probably joined in the fiend-like exclamation,-"His blood be upon us and our children.”
Did the apostles then object to such individuals, when they presented themselves as desirous of salvation ? When, in an agony of despair, they inquired what they must do to be saved, did the messengers of mercy inquire, Whether they belonged to this proscribed class of offenders? Did they seek to discriminate the reprobate wretches for whom there was no forgiveness, from those for whom mercy was yet in store? Most assuredly not. They engaged in no such heartless and heartrending inquiries. They knew no such persons, and recognizer 1 class of offences for which
they had no cure. They had but one office to discharge, and this was to proclaim, “ that God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all' acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. — All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."*
Hence, the only persons whom the apostles considered as hopeless, and from whom they turned away, were those who despised the salvation which they preached, and reviled the divine evidence by which the Holy Spirit attested it to be from God. We find them invariably pressing upon their countrymen, as well as upon others, the message which they were appointed to deliver; giving to them the same encouragement to receive it as to all others; solemnly charging it upon them not to resist the Holy Ghost, but to be submissive to his heavenly communication. Never did they cease to intreat and persuade these men to receive God's salvation, till they resisted and reviled them. The instances with which we are furnished in the Book of Acts, of the conduct of the Jews, and of the manner in which they were treated by the
* John iii. 16. 1 Tim. i. 15. 2 Cor. v. 18, 21.
apostles, are particularly worthy of consideration, and strikingly illustrative of the sentiments we are advocating.
Thus at Antioch, after there had been a great deal of preaching, and some important results from it, we are told," that when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. Then Paul and Barnabus waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth."
Thus at Corinth : When Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.”+
Thus finally at Rome, when Paul had with great labour endeavoured to convince them that Jesus was the Christ, we are told : — “Some believed the things which were spoken, and soine
* Acts xiii. 45-47.
+ Acts xviii, 5, 6.