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him, after weighing his claims. Now it is impos. sible to conceive that men who saw what they did, and heard what they heard, and witnessed the display of moral goodness and benevolence which they frequently beheld, should have been without some conviction that Jesus was no impostor. They must have had secret, and perhaps very powerful feelings, that he was indeed sent of God, and that in opposing him they were opposing the designs of Heaven. When the same class of persons were afterwards addressed by the apostles, it is evident that they knew a great deal—they took time to consider--they had great reasonings among themselves and with the full splendour of the apostolic ministry shining upon them, they deliberately and violently rejected the Gospel—thus judging themselves unworthy of the eternal life which was offered them.
The difference between these classes must, I think, be apparent to all. So long as men will listen, however carelessly, and attend, though under the influence of the most corrupt motives, to the word of God, some hope may be cherished that the light of truth will yet penetrate their darkness, and that the power of God may yet subdue their enmity. But when there is considerable knowledge of the subject, with a perception of its evidence, and a professed examination of its claims, combined with high indignation at its spiritual glory, and violent opposition to its propagation, what can be expected ? “ If any man incline to do the will of God, he shall know whether the
doctrine be of God;" but if men' deliberately prefer falsehood to truth, and unrighteousness to holiness -- it is a righteous thing with God to leave them to the natural consequences of their sin and folly-blindness of mind, and hardness of heart, so that they cannot be converted or saved.
Many of those who reject Christianity from ignorance, give themselves no concern to oppose or to calumniate it; whereas, the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is the direct and open reviling of the Gospel, from malevolence against its Author, and a desire to obstruct the progress of his glory.
While I speak of those who reject the Gospel, as not opposing or misrepresenting it, I do not mean, that the conduct of unbelievers, in regard to the divine cause, is harmless or neutral : “ He that is not with us is against us; and he that gathereth not with us scattereth abroad.” The conduct of every individual tends either to good or to evilis productive either of benefit or of injury to his fellow-men; and for all its effects he will be held accountable at last. If the people of God are not joined, their enemies are countenanced and strengthened. Every thing that is detracted from the claims of truth, is added to the interests and influence of error. There is an indirect and nameless counteraction of religion, often more injurious, and more difficult to resist, than the most avowed and persevering opposition.
But this is a different thing from the malignant and violent hostility involved in the blasphemy of
the Spirit of God. The law of murder requires that there shall be evidence of malice prepense, as well as of death having been actually inflicted, to constitute the crime. The divine law of blasphemy supposes the existence of malice towards God, and that this feeling is displayed in the language of calumny and abuse, or in conduct corresponding with it. It implies not only that the Holy Ghost in his dispensation of mercy is rejected; but that it is rejected, knowing something of its high character and claims; and that it is rejected from hatred of its moral and sublime design. On the part of the individual to whom this offence is brought home, there has been the perpetration of violence to the light of his understanding and the conviction of his conscience ; there has been a deadly hatred to Jesus and his cause,
in their latest manifestations of power and mercy; and the employment of the language of opprobrium and of insult, respecting Him whom the Father hath pronounced blessed for ever.
Need I say, that this is the highest offence, which, persevered in, it is possible for a sinner to commit against God? That beyond this it is impossible to proceed in the career of iniquity and crime? All the transgressions of the divine law, however aggravated—the omissions and the commissions of a life-time-the neglect of the invitations of mercy and forgiveness—the abuses of privilege, and the violations of duty--the unnumbered iniquities which arise from our common depravity, and our common circumstances, are all as nothing to this :
-“ For all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.” It resembles in its nature, and will be followed with the consequences of, the sin of those angelic spirits, who, while they encircled the eternal throne, beheld its glory, and enjoyed its blessedness, dared to lift their hands against Him who sat upon it;—preferred
“ To reign in hell, to serve in heaven;"
and, who were therefore hurled from its happiness, to endure the ten-fold vengeance of eternity.
That the crime may be committed, needs scarcely to be said. The statements of Scripture show that this mortal evil has been perpetrated ; and the warning voice of God would not have been lifted up, did no danger exist of its repetition. What iniquity is too great for rebel man! There is no offence which it is possible for imagination to conceive, for depravity to create, for limited power to perpetrate, which may not be found in the black calendar of human crime.
While we would preach repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, to all men, we would warn those who hear the Gospel to beware how they treat it. It is the message of the Holy Ghost, in the name and on the behalf of the exalted Redeemer. It cannot be trifled with without much sin; it cannot be heard long or often without proving a heavy aggravation of guilt; it
cannot be considered and disobeyed, without eminent hazard; it cannot be effectually resisted without ruin. Every fresh proclamation of its forgiveness is a greater proof of the love of God, than all the preceding overtures; because it is a new triumph of mercy over judgment: but it will also prove an additional ground of condemnation at last. Every new opportunity of hearing the Gospel, while it affords fresh encouragement to believe it, if trifled with or scorned, will give additional hardness to the heart, a greater inveteracy to the habit of sin, and increase the facility of resisting the dictates of conscience, and the admonitions of Scripture. If the Gospel does not prove the savour of life unto life, it will certainly be the savour of death unto death, to those who hear it.
IV. If the argument of these discourses has been attended to, an explanation has nearly already been furnished, of the reasons why the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is declared to be irremissible. It may, however, be proper to notice them more particularly.
In many cases we can discover no higher reason for the conduct of God, than that it bath seemed good to him thus to determine and to act. When this is so, it becomes us to be satisfied : because our most enlightened reason must be persuaded, that what God does, or determines to do, must be right. Should we therefore be able to assign no other reason for God's providing no pardon for the crime under consideration, than