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point out the awful extent of their guilt, who wilfully and maliciously, in opposition to strong convictions of the truth, ascribed those miracles to Satan, which were wrought by the Spirit of God. [Mat. xii. 31, 32.] Wherefore, I say unto you, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And 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. generally admitted by the inhabitants of every Christian country, that it is appointed unto all men once to die, and, after death, to appear at the tribunal of God; and as every one is conscious of having broken the commands of his Maker; it has always been considered as a very interesting enquiry, what is this crime which shall never find forgiveness? both that we may be able to assure ourselves that it has not yet entered into the number of our transgressions; and that we may take the most effectual care, at no future time, to render ourselves obnoxious to its dreadful penalties. As we have met with nothing which tends more to elucidate the subject than Dr. Campbell's remarks on the meaning of the word blasphemy, we shall give them at full length, only, as in a former instance, either translating or omitting his greek.
Blasphemy properly denotes calumny, detraction, reproachful or abuseful language, against whomsoever it be vented.
First, to recur to analogy, and the reason of the thing: I believe there are few who have not sometimes had occasion to hear a man warmly, and, with the very best intentions, commend another for an action which, in reality, merit not praise, but blame. Yet no man would call the person who, through simplicity, acted this part, a slanderer, whether the fact he related of his friend were true or false, since he seriously meant to raise esteem of him; for an intention to depreciate is essential to the idea of slander. To praise injudiciously is one thing, to slander is another. The former, perhaps, will do as much hurt to the character, which is the subject of it, as the latter; but the merit of human actions depends entirely on the motive. There is a maliciousness in the calumniator which no person, who reflects, is in danger of confounding with the unconscious slandering of a man, whose praise detracts from the person whom he means to honour. The blasphemer is no other than the calumniator of Almighty God. To constitute the crime, it is as necessary that this species of calumny be intentional as that the other be. He must be one, therefore, who, by his impious talk, endeavours to inspire others with the same irreverence towards the Deity, or, perhaps, abhorrence of him, which he indulges in himself. And, though for the honour of human nature, it is to be hoped that very few arrive at this enormous guilt it ought not to be dissembled, that the habitual profanation of the name and attributes of God by common swearing, is but too manifest an approach towards it. There is not an entire coincidence. The latter of these vices may be considered as resulting solely from the defect of what is good in principle and disposition; the ormer, from the acquisition of what is evil in the extreme; but there is a close connection between them, and an insensible gradation from the one to the other. To accustom one's self to treat the sovereign of the universe with irreverent familiarity, s the first step; malignly to arraign his attributes, and revile his providence, is the last.
"Before I finish this topic, it will naturally occur to inquire, what that is in particular which our Lord denotes blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? It is foreign from my present purpose to enter minutely into the discussion of this difficult question. Let it suffice here to observe, that this blasphemy is certainly not of the constructive kind, but direct, manifest and malignant. First, it is mentioned as comprehended
under the same genus with abuse against man, and contradistinguished only by the object. Secondly, it is further explained by being called speaking against in both cases. The expressions are the same in effect in all the evangelists who mention it, and imply such an opposition as is both intentional and malevolent. This cannot have been the case of all who disbelieved the mission of Jesus, and even descried his miracles, many of whom, we have reason to think, were afterwards converted by the apostles. But it is not impossible that it may have been the wretched case of some who, instigated by worldly ambition and avarice, have slandered what they knew to be the cause of God, and, against conviction, reviled his work as the operation of evil spirits."
That not every act of ascribing to the agency of Satan the miracles of our blessed Redeemer involves in it the awful guilt of this unpardonable crime, is, we think, sufficiently apparent from the number of unbelieving Jews and profane idolaters, who were, in the first ages of the Christian religion, made partakers of the faith of the gospel. It is impossible that these, in the days of their ignorance, could have considered the miracles in question as the operations of the Spirit of God; but myst have either denied the facts, or else attributed them to fraud or to magic The first of these opinions does not appear to have been at all generally embraced the second few would have recourse to, as it supposes certain effects to result from human policy, of which every cool and impartial reasoner must believe it to be incapable. The third, therefore, of these theories, appeared, to the unbelievers of that day, the most rational of the three; and was, we find, accordingly, the most commonly recurred to by such as wished to cavil against the Christian religion. Since, then, it is probable, almost to certainty, that not only some, but vast numbers, who had thus ascribed Christ's miracles to infernal agency, were afterwards enrolled among his most zealous disciples, we must conclude that this crime, when committed in ignorance or unbelief, is not the unpardonable blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
Again if we read some other passages of scripture, this opinion will derive additional strength. John says, in the fifth chapter of his first epistle, the sixteenth and seventeenth verses, If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin; and there is a sin not unto death. [Heb. vi. 4..6.] For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost: and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come: if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance, seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame, [Heb. x. 26..29. For if we sin wilfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins; but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and of fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses's law died without mercy, under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under-foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace. The first of these passages implies that there is only one sin, from the perpetrators of which the hope of pardon is absolutely excluded, and, therefore, to whom the gospel does not belong; and the other two passages connect this unpardonable sin with the guilt of a deliberate and wilful apostacy from that which is known and believed to be the truth of God. Collecting all these considerations together, we are induced to conclude, that the unpardonable sin consists in the opposing and blaspheming the religion of Jesus Christ, at the
same time knowing and firmly believing that it was attested by miracles wrought by the Holy Spirit.
The scribes and Pharisees requesting a sign from heaven, Christ informed them that they had to expect no other than that of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The miraculous preservation of Jonah for three days in the belly of a fish, was, to the Ninevites, a certain proof of his mission from God; being credibly attested to them, either by the mariners who threw him overboard at a great distance from land, or by some other persons who happened to see the fish vomit him alive upon the shore, might enquire his story of him; and who, in the course of their business, met him afterwards at Nineveh, where they confirmed his preaching by relating what they had seen. In like manner,
Christ's resurrection from the dead, after having been three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, being credibly attested to the Jews, should clearly demonstrate that he came from God. Farther: Jesus told his hearers that the Ninevites being judged at the same time with the men of that generation, and their behaviour being compared with theirs, should make their guilt appear in its true colour, and condemu them: for, though they were idolaters, they repented at the preaching of Jonah, a stranger, a poor person, and one that continued among them only three days, and did no miracle to make them believe him. But the men of that generation, though worshippers of the true God by profession, could, every day, hear, unmoved, the much more powerful preaching of a prophet infinitely greater than Jonah, even the preaching of the eternal Son of God, who confirmed his doctrine by the most astonishing miracles. Likewise, he told them, that the queen of the south being judged with them, would condemn them, she having taken a long journey to hear the wisdom of Solomon : whereas, they would not hear one much wiser than Solomon, though he was come to their very doors. Or, if they condescended to hear his wisdom, they would not embrace it. He concluded his whole discourse with the following comparison, [Mat. xii. 43..45.] When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house, from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation. The probable meaning of these verses is, that when a man, after having received such strong convictions of sin as began to make an alteration in his conduct, find means to stifle these convictions, and returns again to his evil practices, he becomes more totally depraved than before, and is prepared for a more awful portion of divine indignation.
In the heat of this debate, Christ's mother and his brethiren came to seek him, on which occasion, he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of my Father, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. This short speech, related by the evangelists with great simplicity, is, without their seeming to have designed it, one of the finest encomiums imaginable. Could the most elaborate panegyric have done Jesus Christ and his religion half the honour which this divine sentiment hath donet them? I regard obedience to God so highly, that I prefer the relation it constitutes, and the union which it begets, to the strongest ties of blood. They who do the will of my Father have a much greater share of my esteem than my kinsmen; as such, I love them with an affection tender and steady, like that which subsists between the Dd
nearest relations; nay, I reckon them, and them only, my brethren, my sisters, and my mother. An high commendation this, and not a reflection upon our Lord's mother, who, without doubt, was among the chief of those who did the will of God. What veneration should live in the hearts of men for Jesus and his religion, which exhibits an idea of such perfection in goodness!
It seems, the calumnies of the Pharisees had not the effect intended; for the crowd was now become so great, that neither the house nor the court before it could contain the people that came. Jesus, therefore, carried them out to the sea-side, and taught them. And, because there were many still going and coming, he judged it necessary to enter into a boat, for the conveniency of being heard and seen by all, which he might casily be, if the shore thereabouts was somewhat circular and declining, after the manner of an amphitheatre. Thus commodiously seated in the vessel, he delivered many doctrines of the highest importance, wisely making choice of such for the subject of his sermons, when he had the greatest number of hearers; because, on those occasions, there was a probability of doing the most good by them. [Mark iv. 2.] And he taught them many things by parables. He began with the parable of the sower, who cast his seed ou different soils, which, according to their natures, brought forth either plentifully, or sparingly, or none at all. By this similitude, he represented the different kind of hearers, with the different effects which the doctrines of religion have upon them, according to their different dispositions. In some, these doctrines are suppressed altogether; in others, they produce the fruits of righteousness, more or less, according to the goodness which is implanted in their hearts. A parable of this kind was highly seasonable, now the multitude shewed such an itching desire of hearing Christ's sermons, while, perhaps, they neglected the end for which they ought to have heard them.
The disciples of Christ having embraced the earliest opportunity to request an interpretation of this parable, and to be informed of the reasons why he adopted that mode of teaching, he explained himself in the following words: Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables; because they seeing, see not; and hearing, they hear not; neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive for this people's heart is waved gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear these things which ye hear, and have not heard them. It is generally understood, that Christ here intimates that the Jews were delivered over to a judicial hardness and impenitence, and that the very design of their being taught in parables was to put an obstacle in their way to divine knowledge but Dr. Macknight inclines to a different opinion, which is, at least, a very serious consideration. He says, that because the state of their minds was thus hardened, Christ wrapped up his doctrine in parables, with an intention that they might see as much of it as they were able to receive, but not perceive the offensive particulars which would have made them reject both him,and his doctrine; and that they might hear as much of it as they were able to hear, but not understand
any thing to irritate them against him, and all with a design to promote their conversion and salvation.
Thus Jesus assured his apostles, that the only reason why he tanght the people by parables was their wickedness, which had rendered them incapable of receiving his doctrine any other way. Whereas, he could safely unfold it to his apostles in the plainest terms, the honesty and teachableness of their dis position fitting them for such a favour, in which respect, he told them they were peculiarly happy. And, to enhance this privilege the more, he told them, that many patriarchs and prophets of old had earnestly desired to see and hear the things which they saw and heard; but they were denied that favour, God having, till then, shewed them to his most eminent saints in shadows only, and afar in the womb of futurity.
In Christ's interpretation of the parable of the sower, the devil is said to come and catch away the word from the hearers by the way side; not because he has power to rob men of their knowledge or religious impressions by any immediate act, but because they expose themselves, through carelessness, to the whole force of the temptations which he lays in their way; and particularly to those which arise, whether from their commerce with men, a circumstance observed by Luke, who tells us that the seed was trodden down, or from their own headstrong lusts, which, like so many hungry fowls, fly, to quickly eat up the word out of their mind. The perturbation occasioned by the passions of this kind of hearers, and by the temptations which they are exposed to, renders them altogether inattentive in hearing: or, if they attend, it hardens them against the impressions of the word, and effaces the remembrance of it in an instant ; : insomuch, that the pernicious influence of evil passions and bad company cannot truly be represented by any lower figure than that of the word, as taken away by the devil, whose agents such persons and lusts most certainly are. The rocky ground represents those hearers, who so far receive the word into their hearts that it springs up in good resolutions, which, perhaps, are accompanied with a partial reformation of some sins, and the temporary practice of some virtues. Nevertheless, they are not thoroughly affected with the word; it does not sink deep enough to remain in their minds: and, therefore, when persecution arises for the sake of the gospel, and such hearers are exposed to fines, imprisonments, corporal punishments, banishments, and death, or even to any great temptation of an ordinary kind, which requires firmness to repel. it, those good resolutions which the warmth of their passions had raised so quickly in hearing do as quickly wither; because they are not rooted in just apprehensions of the reasons that should induce men to lead such lives: just as vegetables, which, because they have not depth of soil sufficient to nonrish them, are soon burnt up by the scorching heat of the mid-day sun. The ground full of thorns, that sprang up with the seed and choked it, represents all those who receive the word into hearts full of worldly cares, which, sooner or later, destroy whatever convictions or good resolutions are raised by the word. Worldly cares are compared to thorns; not only because of their pernicious efficacy in choking the word, but because it is with great pain and difficulty that they are eradicated. Those who received the word to effect, and are represented by seed falling on the good ground, are particularly said to have brought forth fruit with patience, in opposition both to the stony and thorny grounds, which nourished the seed which was cast into them only for a while; the former till the sun arose, the latter till the thorns sprang up.
When Jesus had ended his interpretation of the parable of the sower, he did not direct his discourse to the people, but continued speaking to the apostles, shewing them, by the similitude of the lighted lamp, the use they were to make of this, and