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CHAPTER XXXV.

BLASPHEMY AGAINST THE HOLY GHOST.


This is a doctrine which rests on the following undisputed proof texts: Matt. xii. 31, 32, Mark iii. 28-30 (in which the Revised Version has "eternal sin"), and Luke xii. 10. Orthodox theologians disagree about the meaning of John xv. 22-24, Heb. vi. 4-6, x. 29, II Peter ii. 14 and I John v. 16.

Respecting the nature of this awful sin there are two opinions which divide the Christian world. One was maintained by Chrysostom, that this sin is the assertion that the miracles wrought by Christ through the aid of the Holy Spirit were done through the agency of the devil. Universalists and all who teach the doctrine of eternal hope advocate this view because it seems to limit this sin to the contemporaries of Jesus Christ.

The other theory, championed by Augustine, defines this sin as the obstinate impenitence of the sinner till the end of life while inwardly approving Christian doctrine as divine, yet, against his own convictions, opposing and blaspheming or slandering Christ and persevering in this deliberate contempt till the close of life. Hence this sin is possible in the present time. This is a subject on which we are not disposed to dogmatize. Yet it is a part and an important part of Christ's teaching and should not be withheld from the hearers of the gospel.

The most solemn and awful demonstration of the personality of the Holy Spirit is inferred from the fact that the only irremissible sin is found in some offence against Him. There could be no such pre-eminent offence against an impersonality, an influence, effluence or attribute. That such an offence is possible is implied in the warning given by the tender and merciful Son of God. Our subject does not require us to answer the question, "What constitutes this sin?" Yet since there is much inquiry we will modestly express our opinion. We agree with Julius Muller that the unpardonable sin is not an isolated sin, but sin in its full development.*
This is nearly the same as Joseph Cook's definition, "Any sin that involves final impenitence." It is a result of a series of acts of known sin, the outcome of a course of deliberate rejection of light and defiant repulse of the Holy Spirit's warnings in the great debate upon the subject of duty and destiny, a question which every soul in probation must answer for itself alone. He who persistently gives the wrong answer will come into a state of matured enmity to God and a "hatred of recognized eternal holiness." His irreversible choice is, "Evil, be thou my good." It, not God, closes the door of repentance. For such are the laws of man's moral nature that he can finally and eternally shut up his personality against grace and irreversibly expel the Holy Spirit whom he once received.

We must bear in mind that the dispensation of the Holy Spirit is the highest possible expression of divine mercy. God's mercy endureth forever, but man's ability to appropriate that mercy is for a short time. A man who by abuse of his body has entirely wasted its power of nutrition by assimilating food may starve in a house full of bread. There will be bread and to spare after the last returnless prodigal has refused his Father's tenderest and most persuasive invitation. At the funeral of every lost soul the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit will head the procession as the chief mourners, preceding the earthly kindred. There is nothing capricious or arbitrary on the part of the Holy Spirit in leaving a human soul to its deliberate self-determined destiny. He is not a judge, but a helper, and He ceases to help when character has become fixed in sin. All sin tends towards final permanence in sin. Can a man once truly regenerated fall into sin and take on this final permanence? Find your answer in I John v. 16, which plainly implies that "a brother" may ''sin unto death'' and put himself beyond the reach of prayer. Study Heb. vi. 4-8 and Julius Muller's weighty remarks thereon. The convert from Judaism who after Christian enlightenment and partaking of the Holy Ghost returned to Judaism must pronounce Jesus a false Messiah and the Holy Spirit an illusion in order to be received into the synagogue.

The fact that the Holy Spirit is the last test of orthodoxy throws much light on the subject of the irremissible sin. Human history has had three dispensations — that of the Father, the test of which is the worship of one God; that of the Son, the test of which is faith in Him as an infallible teacher, imitation of His perfect example, reception of Him as atoning Saviour, and obedience to Him as an invisible king, the God-Man. The last and highest test of loyalty in those who have stood the two former tests is the Holy Spirit, the substitute for the personal presence of our risen Lord Jesus. To receive Him is a more difficult test, for the following reasons: 1. The Spirit is perfectly abstract and colorless, beyond the reach of the senses. 2. He is destitute of the interest which attaches to the incidents of a bodily history. 3. His presence addresses no natural faculty of mental perception, and His work in the application of redemption is internal and mysterious. 4. He cannot be discovered by any process of reasoning. 5. Faith in Jesus Christ, resulting in newness of life and imparting the power of spiritual intuition, is the only avenue through which He can be known and received. Receptivity must first be unfolded from a capacity existing unused in the natural man before the Holy Spirit can be apprehended as a glorious and blessed reality. For the reception of the fulness of the Spirit there must be a large capacity produced by a strong and mature faith. 6. Such a faith is possible to those only who make "a total, affectionate and irreversible self-surrender" to Christ, consecrating to Him our good things, our possessions, our social standing and influence and all our powers of body and mind. When we received Christ we abandoned our evil things. This is an act less difficult than laying all our good things on the altar of Christ. Hence the greater severity of this last test. For this reason many fail to enter consciously into the dispensation of the Holy Ghost. They receive Christ, but remain spiritual babes, many of them so weak and prone to sin that Paul cannot call them wholly spiritual, but rather carnal (I Cor. iii. 1). In view of this fact, John Owen in his "Pneumatology" utters words of deep solemnity:
Wherefore the duty of the Church now immediately respects the Spirit of God, who acts toward it in the name of the Father and of the Son, and with respect unto Him it is that the Church in its present state is capable of an apostasy from God. The sin of despising His person and rejecting His work now is of the same nature with idolatry of old, and with the Jews' rejection of the person of the Son.
Hence the Paraclete as a specialty claiming the new prominence of the day of Pentecost has become the touchstone of true piety and the article of a standing or falling Church. The words of Fletcher are very similar to those of Owen:
To reject the Son of God manifested in the Spirit, as worldly Christians are universally observed to do, is a crime of equal magnitude with that of the Jews who rejected Christ manifested in the flesh.

A parable may help to show the relation of the three Persons of the Trinity to man's salvation. A father wishes his younger son to be educated for a certain profession. The elder brother of that son, who has learned it himself, gives all the books and apparatus necessary for acquiring a knowledge of it. And they together engage a teacher to teach the younger son the knowledge required. And it is evident — and this is the point of the illustration — that the final success of the plan of the father and elder brother depends on the success of the teacher whom they appoint. It is manifest, too, that it is only at this point that the younger son can yield to or resist the efforts of his father and brother. He may speak with the greatest respect and affection of both, but if he refuses to he taught by the teacher he will remain ignorant of the science which they wish him to learn. On, the other hand, he may speak most rebelliously of both, but if he submits to the teaching of the teacher they have appointed, he will end by learning the profession they wish. Thus resistance to the father and elder brother may be atoned for by submission to the teacher they have sent, but resistance to the teacher cannot be atoned for by any nominal submission to the father. By its very nature it will prevent his son learning the science.
It is evident in the last supposition that the obedience will be only "nominal," not real, while the younger son is defeating the cherished purpose of those to whom he presents a professed submission. Men cannot resist and grieve the third Person of the Trinity and at the same time be acceptably serving the other two Persons.

Another comparison has been used to illustrate the same truth. The Father is like a physician who by his wisdom has discovered a cure for a deadly disease. The Son is like another physician who by his skill prepares the medicine thus discovered. The Holy Spirit is like a third physician who goes about administering this medicine to the dying. Here again it is manifest that it is only by the work of the third physician that the work of the other two can be made effectual. They may have finished their work and done it perfectly, but if the sick refuse to take the only remedy from the hands of the third, their resistance cannot but be fatal to them. They may profess to admire the wisdom of the discoverer of this infallible specific for their disease and the skill of the compounder, but this will not heal them. They must render equal honor to the practitioner who applies the medicine, by submitting to all his directions.

Among those who refuse to obey the Holy Spirit there may be great moral diversities, a pure outward life or gross immoralities, but they are all alike in their destiny, after a persistent rejection of the agent appointed to heal them through regeneration and entire sanctification by the Holy Spirit. They must all abide under the wrath of God evermore.**







*"Christian Doctrine of Sin," ii, pages 418, etc.


**See Appendix. Note M.