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that it appears from his revealed will, this offence constitutes an exception to the grand rule of the divine forgiveness, I do not see that it ought not perfectly to satisfy us.
But I question much whether any of God's operations of justice are of this arbitrary nature. They are all founded on certain great and fixed principles of his moral administration; which, whenever they are understood, will approve themselves to the judgments and consciences of his creatures. We may not always be able to discover those reasons, and we may frequently be dissatisfied with them, when we do discover them, from our ignorance of what it is proper for God to do, and from our prejudices against his right to punish. But while “ the secret things belong to the Lord our God; the things that are revealed belong to us;" and it is both our duty and our interest to discover them.
Two reasons arising out of what appears to me to be the scriptural view of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, may be stated why it is incapable of forgiveness.
1. The dispensation of the Spirit being the last display of Jehovah's mercy, for the wilful rejection of it, there can be no provision of salvation, according to the principles of the Gospel. I think I have satisfactorily shown, that blaspheming the Holy Spirit is the rejection of the Gospel, under very aggravated circumstances. It must therefore follow, that the fault is irreparable ; un
less it could be proved, that something else in the shape of redemption is to occur, to remove offences, which it is impossible the Gospel should meet, as its final overtures are rejected with scorn. The limits of pardon, if there be limits to its exercise, must be fixed somewhere; and where, more mercifully to us, could they be fixed, than in the final rejection of the pardon itself? For certain offences against the law of Moses, that law provided no forgiveness, because it provided no atonement. What the law could not do, the Gospel has done, providing for every species of offence which could formerly have been committed. But for the rejection of itself, the Gospel provides no forgiveness, because its great atonement can only operate in favour of those who receive it. By a constitution most merciful and wise in all its parts, it is provided, that “whosoever believeth in the Lord Jesus Christ shall not perish, but have eternal life;" but this very constitution necessarily excludes from salvation every individual who rejects it. In this world there is no revelation of mercy which meets the case of such an offender; in the world to come, if the Gospel be true, there shall no remedy be found. Christianity proclaims in accents of heavenly grace and encouragement, “ He that believeth shall be saved ;" but it also pronounces, with solemn and inflexible firmness, “ He that believeth not shall be damned.”
It is the unbelief of man, then, and not the deficiency of generosity in God, that brings con
demnation. It is not because God has formed an irrevocable determination to exclude certain persons from his friendship, that their sin is declared to be irremissible; but solely because they treat his offers of mercy with neglect and disdain. They die, not because he is unwilling to bestow life ; but because, they will not come to him that they might obtain it. Has the sinner a right to complain, that God does not employ force to compel him to attend to his own interests, and to save himself from eternal ruin? Is it not enough, that he has declared he is willing and able to save to the
uttermost all who come unto him? Shall the persons who have been invited, persuaded, and encouraged to come, blaspheme the God of Heaven, because, having wilfully despised these things, they are left to the consequences of their own folly, and to perish in their own way? Has the singer a right to complain, if, by his conduct, he shall bring upon himself the divine threatening ?—“Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh ; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your
destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: they would none of my
counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.” *
2. God never forgives sin, but in connexion with the existence or excitement of a certain condition of moral feeling. This state of disposition is produced by his Word and Spirit; and hence, if that Word and Spirit are rejected and scorned, as there can be no right condition of the soub towards God, without their influence, there cannot be the enjoyment of divine forgiveness. Were pardon a mere arbitrary act of the divine administration, I do not see what need there was for the provision of the atonement of Christ; or why God might not forgive the rejection of the Gospel itself. But pardon can only be dispensed according to God's revealed method in the economy of redemption. Were it bestowed irrespective of its effects on character, wicked men and devils might be forgiven, and remain wicked men and devils still. But God forgives, that he may be loved, feared, obeyed, enjoyed. He never pardons without purifying. The heart which receives the divine forgiveness, has the divine fear implanted in it; the divine laws written upon it; and ceases from that time forth to be a heart of stone, and becomes a heart of flesh.
Without this spiritual change, the object of God in the salvation of the world would not be accomplished. His grand design is to reinstate
* Prov. i. 24–31.
man in his favour, by putting him in possession again of his moral image; to form him to be a temple for himself, to show forth his praises; and to create a community of holy and happy creatures, who should all be conformed to the image of his dear Son. With this view, he has constructed the entire system of redemption, and with this view, he dispenses all its spiritual and heavenly blessings.
As the Gospel and Spirit of Christ are the means and agency by which this work is carried on, wherever they do not produce the hallowed effects described, pardon is impossible; because it would not answer its end either to the sinuer or to God. The former it could not render happy; it could not save him from the inseparable attendants of depravity—the undying worm of an accusing conscience—the unquenchable fire of unsubdued rebellion. The latter would not gain a friend in the forgiven rebel, would not add a new trophy to his own glory, or an additional worshipper in his celestial temple. What end then would forgiveness answer?
As it is by means divinely provided and suitable, that God brings men to himself, it must be obvious, that when the last means are tried and fail; and when, instead of being grateful for them the siuner despises and rejects them, even with indignation, the consequences must be eternally fatal. Where the mind is imperfectly informed, there may be hope that, when proper information is received, a change will take place. So long as