THE Lake of Galilee was a favourite resort of the wealthy from various parts of the land. It was a region of forest and fruittrees, gardens and luxuriant orchards. Cool breezes from the lake and its hills refreshed the loungers on shore, and filled the sails of the pleasureboat as it glided among the innumerable fishes that dimpled the surface of the blue waters.
Among others who had come to this spot were "Scribes from Jerusalem" (Markiii. 22), and Pharisees, all of them bitterly opposed to Christ. Hearing the people tell how He had cast out many devils at Capernaum (i. 34; iii. 11), they were irritated at His fame and influence, and when unable to deny the facts, suggested that these miracles were performed by the aid of Hell. "It is by Beelzebub," lord of the hosts of hell,0 "that He casts out devils I" When the report of their malicious insinuations reached the ear of Jesus, He seems to have resolved at once to confront them and seek to disarm them. "He called them unto Him"
* If we take "Beelzebul." the other reading of the MSS., the name signifies " Lord of Filth" a name given to Satan in scorn and contempt.
(iii. 23), that is, He invited* them into the house. As appears from v. 31, 32, He got the use of the public room for this purpose, His mother and brethren retiring for a time. There, then, He sat in the midst of these Scribes and Pharisees, His disciples listening. There were many persons present, for v. 32 calls them " a multitude," so that probably the room was full.
He explained to them why He had invited them to this somewhat private interview; and then, after speaking of Satan's policy in keeping perfect unity among His hosts, a compact phalanx, and pointing out the absurdity of supposing that Satan would cast out Satan, He came to the main point, viz., what was involved in their attack upon Him. "Verily I say unto you" (v. 28), was His solemn manner of address; "all sins shall be forgiven to the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith they shall blaspheme;" or, as given in Matt. xii. 31, "All manner of sin and blasphemy." He added, "Whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him;" as if to prevent them supposing there was anything personal in His words, proceeding from resentment at their unkind words. It is at present the lot of the Son of man to meet with the contradiction of sinners; His humiliation-state exposes Him to misunderstanding; and while sin of this sort is still sin, and blasphemy, or insulting words, of this sort must still be blasphemy; yet there is forgiveness for such sin.
'"Called them unto Him"—the same words that we find (Matt, xviii. 2), when He wished the little boy to come.
"But"—now take special notice—"He that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of (is exposed to) Eternal Damnation (Mark in. 29). He is exposed at any moment to the doom of never-ending wrath; he is tottering on the brink of a tremendous precipice, over which if he falls nothing but everlasting woe is his portion. "He hath never forgiveness;" he has no hold on pardon (ovk «X« afacriv) just as 1 John iii. 15, says, "He has not life," he has no hold of it; he shakes it off from him by his course of action.
In Matt. xii. 32, the sentence runs, "Whosoever speaketh against tJie Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him; and then, as equivalent to the "Eternal" doom mentioned by Mark, it is added, "Neither in this world, nor in that which is to come." No pardon for such, the door is shut against them, never to be opened. It is shut even in this world: it shall remain shut to all eternity.
He gave this warning to these "Scribes and Pharisees," because they said, "He hath an unclean spirit" (Mark iii. 30). And this warning of our Lord Satan has used in all ages to harass anxious souls and puzzle tender consciences. As if enraged at the Master for solemnly denouncing him and his ways, Satan has plied this saying against the peace and the hopes of very many who have not perceived the Lord's aim and meaning. It is altogether essential that we take it in connection with the circumstances in which it was spoken, in that room at Capernaum, in the course of that special interview with these "Scribes from Jerusalem."
In attempting to ascertain the nature of this unpardonable sin, this " sin" or "Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost," we are on firm ground when we say,—
I. It is not a sin that exhausts the virtue of Christ's Stood.
No sin is too great for that precious blood; it has power to cleanse from all sin (1 John i. 7). It is needless to enlarge on this truth, for all are agreed on this point: "all manner of sins and blasphemies" can be at once washed away by it, whenever it is applied.
But the sin in our passage is never brought into contact with this blood. The person who commits the sin against the Holy Ghost is not one who shall be seen sitting mournfully at the Fountain open for sin, in vain applying its waters. It is not said here or anywhere that a person may go thither and return in despair because his sin was found to be too great; no, the passage speaks of a person who never goes thither at all. He never tests its power. It is not that he looked to the Brazen Serpent but in vain; no, but he would not deign to try that cure.
The man who commits this "blasphemy against the Holy Ghost," is not one who tried the Saviour's blood, and has found no place for his guilty soul at the cross. On the contrary, he is one who is alienated from Christ; who hates Christ in his heart; who tries to find out reasons why he should not own Him or accept Him as his Saviour; who puts aside all the testimony borne to Him. It is not that he has searched the Promised Land, and is compelled to declare it all a fable and delusion; no, but he is one who refuses to believe that there is any such Land, and therefore never sets out to seek it. It is not that he ran to the city of refuge and found its gates closed; but that he refused to run thither at all. The Blood of the Lamb never loses its power; it succeeds in cleansing every sin brought to it. "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isa. i. 16). What else could be true when the Blood is the Blood of " Jesus Christ His Son." As the snowflake disappears for ever at the touch of the furnaceflame, so does each sin when brought to the Blood of Christ. But,
II. It is a sin that exhausts the long-suffering of God.
It puts an end to God's waiting and striving with the man. And so it occurs only in cases where the Holy Spirit has been long at work striving with the soul. To keep this view in mind is of the utmost importance.
It is in no case an isolated, solitary sin; a single act, however vile and wicked. A single act was never known to exhaust God's patience and long-suffering. It cannot, then, be an accidental word wrung from a soul in distress, or escaping the lips in an hour of fierce temptation. John Bunyan was wrong here, as he afterwards discovered; for on one occasion he gave way to Satan's persistent temptation, and in a weary, dark, hopeless mood of mind, said, "Yes," when urged again and again to sell Christ. He thought on this account that all was over; that he had committed the unpardonable sin; that there was for him no forgiveness for ever. But the event proved his mistake; God's patient waiting on him was not exhausted, nor did the Spirit leave him.
Let us give in full the instance referred to in which Bunyan mistook his own case.
He relates it thus: "One morning, as I lay in my bed, I was most fiercely assaulted with this temptation, viz., to sell and part with Christ—the wicked suggestion still running in my mind, 'Sell Him! sell Him 1 sell Him!' as fast as a man could speak. Against which also, in my mind, as at other times, I answered, 'No, no, not for thousands, thousands,'—at least twenty times together. But at last, after much striving, even until I was almost out of breath, I felt this thought pass through my heart, 'Let Him go if He will!' and I thought also that I felt my heart freely consent thereto. Oh, the diligence of Satan! Oh, the desperateness of man's heart! Now was the battle won, and down fell I (as a bird that is shot from the top of a tree) into great guilt and fearful despair! Then, getting out of bed I went moping into the field; but God knows with as heavy a heart as mortal man, I think, could bear. There, for the space of two hours I was like a man bereft of life; and as now past all recovery, and bound over to eternal punishment. And withal, that Scripture did seize upon my soul—' Profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright! Tor ye know that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance though he sought it carefully with tears' (Heb. xii. 16, 17). Now was I as one bound; I felt myself shut up unto the judgment to come. Nothing now, for two years, would abide with me but an expectation of damnation; I say, nothing would abide with me but this, save some few moments of relief." And thus, he went on, as if in fetters of brass. "But one day," says he, " about ten or eleven o'clock of that day, as I was walking under a hedge, full of sorrow and guilt, bemoaning myself for this last hour, suddenly this sentence rushed in upon me, ' The blood of Christ remits all guilt' At this I made a stand in my spirit. "With that, this word took hold upon me,' The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin' " (1 John i. 7).
Assuredly John Bunyan was forgiven; so that it is clear that vile and blasphemous thoughts and fancies, even if accompanied by the utterance of words that are equally vile and blasphemous, do not exhaust God's patience. Nor does every deliberate sin against clear light. The Lord can pity; the Holy Spirit can bear and forbear. Look at a whole nation worshipping the Golden Calf under the light of the Pillar-Cloud, and yet the Lord did not cast them away. Or listen to the horrid and malicious blasphemies of a most malignant fbe in the case of Saul of Tarsus, who had sat under the heavens opened when Stephen was stoned at his feet, and who even, after that day, recklessly rushed on, causing others to utter blasphemies as vile as his own, all in spite of clear light. And yet he was forgiven.
The sin of our passage then, is not an isolated act, but a sin occurring in a course of sin. This seems clear; and let us add, it occurs only in cases where resistance to the Holy Spirit is persistently offered. The Holy Spirit, in certain cases of this latter kind, ceases to strive, and altogether forsakes the soul. In the case before us, the case of these " Scribes from Jerusalem" who were sitting with Christ in that room, and with whom He was so kindly remonstrating, this sin would be committed by them (He lets them know) if they went on in the present reckless course, scoffing and reviling. "It is all from Satan!" He warns them that they would find themselves forsaken of the Spirit; left in the state described in Psalm lxxxi. 12, "So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust," and again, in Eom. i. 28, "As they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, He gave them over to a reprobate mind."
"We repeat it. In our passage, the Lord warns those with whom He is dealing that, inasmuch as He had told them that He cast out devils " by the Spirit of God," and that therefore " the Kingdom of God was come nigh unto them " (Matt. xii. 28), they exposed themselves to the danger of being left in their sins, given over to Eternal Damnation, if they went a step further in their scoffing derision. They were virtually assailing the Holy Spirit who was striving with them, doing their utmost to get Him to cease His striving; and so they would find themselves left in their sin, left in their guilt, left without the blood that pardons. Take warning, ye Scribes from Jerusalem, and ye Pharisees! the
grieved Spirit may go away for ever, and ye will iu that case never have a desire for pardon from the Saviour. If it be asked why He did not more directly say that such a man would "grieve away the Spirit," the reason may have been that the full discovery of the Holy Spirit's work was not yet made; as we find stated in John vii. 39. And perhaps the Lord had also some special reference to what was soon to be witnessed in Jerusalem. At present the Son of man in His low estate was reviled and rejected; but the Holy Spirit was to testify of Him at Pentecost ere many months had passed, and who ever then should go on in his course of resistance must run the risk of being given up to a reprobate mind .
Isaiah xxii. 12-14, if not parallel, is, at least, analogous to this case: "In that day did the Lord God of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning—and behold joy and gladness. And it was revealed in mine ear by the Lord of hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the Lord God of hosts." As if He had said: The grieved Spirit will forsake you, and so you shall be left in a state of alienation from God, which shall end in your never all your days being purged from this sin. And so Ezekiel xxiv. 13, "Because I have purged thee, and thou wast not purged, thou shalt not be purged from thy JUthiness any more." The Lord ceases to press them to accept the provided cleansing, and so they go on ever more in their filthiness. It is as if He had said, "I have so often offered to purge thee, and thou hast so often refused, that now I shall let thee alone, and shall no more again biring pardon within thy reach; but shall cause my fury to rest npon thee." It may be awfully perilous to let one other drop fall into the cap. A thousand times before this warning, you may have sinned, and yet all is not lost . But now beware—one more such sin, and who can tell but it may drive the Holy Spirit away for ever! Ton may have ascribed Christ's works to the devil again and again, and yet be forgiven; but if now, when warned, you go on persisting in this course, all is over! you are left by the Spirit to your own evil heart.*
TIT, Some inferences fitted to relieve tender consciences.
1st. Some fear that they may fall into this sin altogether unwittingly and unconsciously, and they sometimes point to the case in 1 John v. 16, 17. But "the sin unto death" in that passage, is not at all of the same sort with the unpardonable sin; for in it nothing is said of "Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost." Xo; it is a case like that in 1 Cor. xi . 30; where not the loss of the soul, but temporal chastisement, in the form of disease and death, overtook the sinning believer, for some special sins. It is not unlike what befel TJzzah in 2 Sam. vi 7, for a rash act that threatened to give wrong ideas of the God of Israel. The averting of this temporal chastisement was not to be prayed for; just as Moses was forbidden to ask the reversing of the judgment on his public sin: "The Lord was wroth with
* In a great many MSS. the reading is in danger of " eternal «»" (Mark iii 29).
me and would not hear me: and the Lord said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto Me of this matter" (Deut. iii. 26). As Jeremiah also was, on a special occasion expressly told, "Pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to Me; for I will not hear thee" (Jer. vii 16). God had declared that judgment must come, and that He would make Jerusalem desolate as Shiloh. All these are cases of judgment in this life, and do not speak of spiritual death.
2nd. The sin in our passage seems to he a sin which the person is understood to be quite aware of. Christ does not speak of it as mysterious. Yet we find most of those who fancy that they have committed the unpardonable sin cannot tell what it is, or when, or how, they were drawn into it. In most of such persons an indefinite fear or dread is all that can be detected as producing their misery; no positive deed or provocation has occurred, or is alleged; they do not point to any definite act .
Dr. Spencer (" Sketches,") gives details of a case of this kind. One of his congregation used from time to time, to spread her hopeless state before him, insisting that she must have committed the unpardonable sin. He pressed her to say what the sin was; she replied, "Speaking against the Holy Ghost;" but when further asked, "Have you been speaking against the Holy Ghost ?" she said most earnestly, " Oh, no! I have not done that." On being pressed to state if she still fancied she had committed this sin, her reply was,
"God would have forgiven me before this time if it had not been for this sin." Dr. Spencer replied—"And so you think it is for no present fault of yours that you have not found acceptance, but for something done months ago?" "Yes, sir." Upon this he sent her away to tell all her case to God; and when next day she persisted in repeating, "I know I have committed that sin; I know I have! I know I have!" Dr. Spencer firmly but kindly, and very plainly showed her —(a.) That it was pride, the foolish pride of a wicked heart, that made her speak thus, and led her to strive to believe that she had done this sin, that so she might be able to console herself with the thought that some uncommon thing was keeping her from salvation. (5.) That she was excessively self-righteous, without perceiving it; trying to persuade herself that she was not to blame for her unbelief, for God was hindering her on account of this fancied sin. (c.) That her gloomy fancy clung to the idea of this unpardonable sin as an excuse for continuing in disobedience, the hindrance all the time being simply her wickedness of heart. She was looking away from her other sins and stifling all true conviction. The Lord blest this dealing; she saw that "True light in the conscience is very different from a deceitful gloom in the proud heart." She became alarmed at her desperately wicked heart, and her whole nature opposed to God and His Holy Law; and soon after found forgiveness, as other sinners do, in the blood of the Lamb. Now many, by indulging some vague fancy such as this, torment themselves in. vain. Let such persons carefully observe that Christ's words are plain, and lead to the conclusion that the person who speaks against the Holy Ghost knows that He has so done—knows that he has set himself directly and distinctly against the working of the Holy Ghost. If you do not know that you have so done, your very ignorance on this point is a proof that you have not fallen into the unpardonable sin.
3rd. We have already shown what is the state of mind presented by one who has been guilty of this "Blasphemy," this insulting speaking against the Holy Ghost. We have seen that this sin induces a state of mind that inclines the person to seek out reasons which may justify him in rejecting Christ. It puts him in full opposition to Christ, and cold alienation from God; desire for fellowship is gone.
Never think, then, that you have committed this sin, if you are still under anxiety and concern about Christ. For in all cases of the unpardonable sin, the sinning one loses all desire for Christ and salvation, the Holy Spirit withdrawing altogether from the soul and leaving it to its own lusts and desires. One who knew much of soul-exercise has given it as his full and unhesitating conviction that, "JSTo soul is guilty of this unpardonable sin who believeth that Christ is the Son of God, and the Eedeemer of the world, and who would fain have part in the merits and mercy of that Eedeemer." (E. Baxter in a sermon on this sin, iii. 23, 24.) He goes on to say, "The sin against the Holy Ghost casts out this desire. It is the sin of infidels, or at least of men that would have none of Christ if they might. Those, therefore, who would have Christ and yet fear they have committed this sin, they know not what they are afraid of; they know not what it is. It is a sign that a man hath not committed this sin against the Holy Ghost, when he is troubled with fear lest He hath committed it, and complaineth of his danger and sad condition." To the same effect the eminent Archbishop Usher, in one of his sermons, asks, " Why is that sin unpardonable?" and his reply is, "Only because it is the nature of the disease that it will not suffer the plaster to stick on. If this sinner would not tread the plaster under foot, he should be saved."*
You may have committed some terrible crime; you may have given way to some outrageous and malignant display of defiance; you may be stained with foul guilt; you may have sinned against light and love. But so did Adam, who ruined millions upon millions by his sin, covering his own soul with appalling blackness: and yet to him was "The Seed of the woman" freely given. So did Lot, after most remarkable deliverance, committing enormous wickedness, the very mention of which makes us shudder; yet he too found pardon, and is declared "righteous" (2 Peter ii. 7). So was it with Saul of Tarsus, who hated Christ with a virulence and
* Dr. Owen (Mortifio. of Sin, chap, xvi.) says of this sin, "A man by it is brought to renounce the means of his coming to the enjoyment of God." "He chooses to have no more to do with God."
malignant intensity that had no parallel. Would you, then, fain go to the mercy-seat; go at once, for that desire is the Spirit's call to you. Go to the blood that cleanses, and assuredly you shall find welcome. It is for such as you; for if Christ sent the message, "Tell My brethren, and Peter," selecting Peter because he was most likely to think himself excepted because of his denial, as truly is He sending a message to you in terms that surely take you in, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden." "Let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will."
4th. You surely do not give place to the idea that the Holy Ghost is more easily offended, ,and resents offence more readily, than the Father or the Son? You forget that the voice that shall say to the sinner, "Thou shalt not enter into my rest," is the voice of the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost alike. Has some (almost sentimental) fancy about the Spirit being "The Dove," and the Dove being very easily affrighted and driven away, made you suppose that the Spirit is far more likely to give you up soon, than Jesus the Saviour? Is He sensitive and touchy, after the manner of men? No; He is long-suffering and very pitiful. He is in all things and to the same degree, as patient with us as Jesus has ever been; for His name is "That other Comforter," the representative of Christ, the same in nature, the same in love and tenderness, dwelling in that Believer's soul, just as Jesus dwelt in Nazareth; from day to day working there, in spite of all the evil that He witnesses. 0 blessed Spirit, how infinitely loving art Thou! How slow to wrath! Mighty to save and infinitely able!
5th. Let us look back to the circumstance in which this passage was spoken. Let us look round upon the company of "Scribes from Jerusalem" and Pharisees that filled that room in the house at Capernaum. Just as Jesus had finished His solemn warning to them, some movement was heard at the door of the room, and a voice whispered to the Master that His mother and brethren were anxious to get admittance into the house (from which they had been shut out during this interview), desiring to see Him. Jesus, ever kind and obedient to His mother, and ready to gratify every natural and lawful request of His brothers and sisters, seems at once to have prepared to comply with their desire: but before dismissing these Scribes and Pharisees spoke to them a most gracious word. In the audience of these Scribes from Jerusalem and Pharisees who had been so malignant in their reviling, and had gone so near to the unpardonable sin, He lifted up His voice, and pointing with His hand to His disciples, said, "Who is My mother, and who are My brethren 1" Every eye was again fixed, and every ear attentive, when He answered His own question. "Whosoever shaU do the will of My Father in heaven the same is My brother and sister, and mother." I am ready at this moment to take such to My heart, and to show Myself as loving as I am to My mother, as considerate and sympathizing as I am to My brothers and sisters. To all such as do the will of My Fatlter I To you, O Scribes and Pharisees, among the rest, in spite of all your blasphemies! Only "Bo the will of My Father" by accepting Me whom the Father has sent. For the way to "do His will" (as written in John vi. 30), is to see the Son and believe on Him." Yes, I say "WhoSoeveb" of you, notwithstanding all your provocations, and blasphemies, and sins!" Whosoever" of you! The kingdom of heaven is come nigh unto you, and the door is open still." , T the time when first I was enabled to say, "Christ is mine," I recollect I had some mistaken ideas about the Holy Spirit. I had a secret feeling that I could not count so much upon His kindness as upon the Father's kindness, or the Son's. I thought He might be more easily grieved, or might go away for some little offence. I soon discovered, however, that this was a complete mistake. There is no love so mighty as the Spirit's love,—no love which will bear so much with us except the love of the lather and of the Son. I began to love Him in another manner than before,—to love Hini much. Let me ask you, Do you positively love the Spirit?— Do you ever feel aglow of love to Him who has done so much for you in your conversion 1—who loves you and bears with you so much? You know it is He who has written the Bible,—every line of the Bible,—and therefore all about the love of God that you find there. Now have you not often taken a letter which was sent you from a very kind friend, and shown it to one you love, your companion, saying, "Did you ever read a letter like that 1 I can't tell you what I feel to the friend who wrote that letter." And is it not thus you feel toward the Holy Ghost? I sometimes -wonder if, when Christ has come, and we have been a little time with Him in the kingdom,—I wonder if we shall not get the opportunity of personally and directly thanking the Holy Ghost. Sometimes I feel great love to the Spirit . I know I should, and I am sure all should, so feel always.
Jesus was truly man, "Son of Man," and showed Himself to be so in all His ways. When this interview was over, it appears, He left the heated room to go forth to the open air—" He went out of the house and sat by the sea-side " (Matt. xiii. 1), to be refreshed by the pleasant breeze and the quiet of the scene, pondering all the while what might be the effect of the words he had just spoken; for He had, wich quick eye, perceived on the faces of His audience the different impressions made on different individuals. When thus engaged, "that same day" (Matthew xiii. 1), He was noticed by the people, and, and soon a multitude of them pressed around Him, thronging Him, so that He got into a boat, and sat in it, while they lined the shore. Full of the subject that had occupied His thoughts, He opened His mouth and taught them the ever-memorable "Parable of the Sower." He had been that day sowing seed; was it likely to spring up 1 There were many hindrances ; let every one look well to himself. "Hearken!" (Matthew iv. 3) "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear" (v. 9). Hear and be warned. Hear and be at rest!
But, coming more directly to the subject before us to-night. Two disciples, you recollect, were on a memorable occasion on their way to the village of Emmaus, talking about Him who they thought was to have been their Redeemer. As they were thus talking, Jesus Himself drew near and walked with them, probably coming gently between them. Engrossed with the subject, they never turned to gaze at Him. He, on His part, "beginning at Moses and all the prophets, expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself,"—and at length came into the house. Then, as He was breaking bread, He vanished from their sight. It was after He was gone, and only then, that they discovered and took notice of who had been with them. It seems to me we may find here a helpful illustration of the way in which the Holy Ghost acts vand manifests Himself when He is leading a sinner to Christ. When you, brother, were awakened, you were anxious to have clear views of the gospel. You had difficulties, and you spoke of them to some friend, who tried to clear away your misconceptions with little success. You and your friend were like Cleopas and his friend (Luke xxiv. 18). But one came in between you both. The Holy Ghost came in between you both as you conversed together. He made the scales fall from your eyes, and at one point of the conversation, in a moment, you saw clearly the sinner's way to God. You did not, however, know, or at least you did not consider, that it was the Spirit who had touched your eyes, and opened them; and perhaps you now think the Holy Spirit must have been angry with you, because you did not take your thoughts off the Saviour and fix them on Him. No: no more than Jesus was angry with the Emmaus disciples, because they did not know Him. But do you remember that when you got Jesus to come in and sup with you, then you began to think of how all this change had come about 1 You now began to discover who it was that had been with you, and that He who had led you to Christ was still with you, still in the house, in the temple of your heart. Jesus vanished out of the sight of the two disciples, leaving them for a time; but the Spirit does not leave those whom He has aided. Our comparison fails here; for when the Spirit has come into your heart He says, "This is my rest. Here will I stay, for I do like it well." No sooner is a soul sprinkled with the blood of Christ, to whom He has led the sinner, than the Spirit says, "I will stay here for ever. I will never let this soul forget Christ." Be sure of this,—the Spirit that led you to Christ is in you to-night; and now I want to shew you some of the ways He is working in you.
I. One of the things He is doing is, He is sealing you. This you will find in Eph. i. 13; "In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise,"—the Holy Spirit promised to Christ by the Father, and promised by Christ to us. Let me dwell specially on one view of the Seal. Wherever a seal is mentioned in Scripture, you find that it is something that everybody can see. Everybody could see the seal on the mouth of the cave, when Daniel was cast into the den of lions. I have no doubt the men who put Daniel in would look more than once during the night to make sure that the seal had not been broken. It would be a seal, perhaps with the king's likeness on it, or, at any rate, with his name; and this seal, which was wont to be stamped on a document, would, in the case of the den, be stamped upon softened clay. The king's face and the king's name being on it, no one would venture to break the seal, and every one could see it. It was in a similar manner, when Christ was laid in the sepulchre, the Pharisees and elders put the seal of Eome on the stone, and no doubt visited the tomb more than once or twice, to see that it was there. And so with other "sealings," such as that in Rev. vii. 1-3, and similar cases.
We apply this fact about the seal to the passage before us (Eph. i. 13). The Lord puts a seal upon His own, that everybody may know them; and this is done (says the passage) "after you believed" Something took place after you were converted, viz., you were sealed. This must mean something that marks you out to the observation of the world as God's people; it must mean something that the world can see. The Roman Governor, the Pharisees, any one, could look upon the seal on the Sepulchre; and so the world can see you to be sealed ones. The sealing in your case is the Spirit producing in you likeness to the Lord,—to the King and to the King's Son. If the likeness of Christ appear in you, shining out in your character, in your life, in your exhibiting the mind that was in Christ in you, and bearing in your person some resemblance to the Son of God,—that is the sealing. You have got the seal of God on you when you exhibit likeness to God's Son. The holier you become the seal is the more distinct and plain, the more evident to every passer-by, for then will men take notice of you that you have been with Jesus. A seal like that spoken of in Rev. vii. 2, " on the forehead," is yours. The sealing is something that cannot be hid. It is not even on the palm of your hand. It is in your forehead: all men see that you are not what you once were. The world takes notice that you are like what they have heard Jesus was. Whenever that takes place, the sealing is begun, and it remains all your lifetime, and becomes more and more plain. Every believer is thus "sealed."
II. But now we go on to another work of the Spirit in you. The passage says, He is "the Earnest of our Inheritance" Here is a second view of the Holy Spirit in the same passage:—The Spirit the Seal, but the Spirit also the Earnest. Three times in the Epistles the Holy Spirit is called the Earnest. You all know what an earnest is—the same that in Scotland we call "arles" It is different from the pledge or the pawn; for the pawn or the pledge may be anything left in the room of another, and, when you bring the value of it> you get back the pledge. But it is not so with the earnest. In the "earnest" you get nothing back, for it is a part, a small part, of what you are going to get in great abundance afterwards. Is it not common, when any one is hired as a servant, to give them arles—it may be a shilling, and they are to get ten pounds, that is, two hundred shillings, when the time for full wages comes 1—that shilling is arles, or earnest . Even so the Spirit is the Earnest of our inheritance—He gives us the beginning of what we are to possess in fulL And carefully notice this, viz., that just as the Seal is outward, so the Earnest is inward. The world cannot see the Earnest; but you can, for you feel it. The world cannot know what passes within you; but you know, and this earnest is the beginning of your enjoyment of the glorious inheritance. "When the Israelites were in the desert, and coming near the land of Canaan twelve spies were sent into the land, who brought back great clusters of figs and pomegranates, and one bunch of grapes from Eshcol so large that it could be carried only by two men bearing it on a staff. Think for a moment of the spies laying these down—figs, pome" granates, and delicious grapes—on the dry desert before all the people!" That is a taste of what the land is," they would say. "That is a sample, an earnest of the land." Moses would say to Aaron "Taste that pomegranate." And Aaron would hand some of the large grapes deliciously juicy, to Miriam, and say, "When we get to the land, we shall have whole orchards of pomegranates like this, and figs, and whole vineyards —mile upon mile, and acre upon acre—of such clusters of grapes!" Even so the Spirit comes into your heart, and gives you peace and joy as you look on Christ, and grace for grace out of His fulness; but yet all is only the earnest of what is to come. "Still there's more to follow." This is just a taste of what you will get in boundless abundance for ever and ever. The Spirit gives you this for your own enjoyment. It is all in yourselves. Your neighbour, your fellow-believer, does not share the same earnest of these things. Some believers get more of it, some less of it, but all get some. If what you have got is a taste of heaven, will you be content with that kind of heaven? Is that the holy, pure joy your soul longs for? Is this begun heaven so satisfying that you say, "Only let me have more of this, and nothing of earth shall ever tempt me away to any broken cistern?" The more of this earnest we have, the more we are weaned from the world. I am sure that when Moses and Aaron and the princess of Judah were refreshed by the taste of these delicious grapes, they would say one to another, "Well, we won't care much for the desert now. We will weary for Canaan. What will the land be, if this is a sample of it?" Young believers, this is what the Spirit delights to give. This earnest He gives not only on special occasions—not only at the communion table— He gives it every day in the week. He gives it as you meditate on the Word. He gives it as you pray. He may sometimes do it when you are walking on the street. I remember in my first days of fellowship with Christ, being greatly interested by the experience of an aged Christian whom some of us often met as he walked along the North Bridge in Edinburgh. He sometimes moved along the crowded street, holding his hat a little above his head: and when asked the reason of this peculiar custom, he said, "As I am walking along the streets, there are times when I get such glimpses of the Lord, and the communion is so sweet, that I cannot but take off my hat in reverence —His presence is so near 1"
If, then, there are such earnests given, what will the kingdom be1! There is the seal for others to look at: there is the earnest for yourselves to enjoy. "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of Christ," for by TTim "we are sealed till the day of redemption" (Eph. iv. 30); and who is also "the Earnest" till the redemption-day has come (Eph. i. 14). .Remember He has not shown you as yet anything more than the mere beginnings. And let me add this other thought, before passing from this topic. Go back to the Spirit in the Old Testament symbols. At Christ's baptism (Matthew iii. 16) the Spirit came down "as a dove," and abode upon Him. Why as the dove? You might say, because of its gentleness; even as Christ is the Lamb of God. But the gentleness of the Lamb is only a small part of the truth in Christ's case, and so also the idea of gentleness is only a small part of the truth in the case of the dove. Go back to Noah's dove (Gen. viii. 11), and what it brought to the ark—the olive leaf plucked off from some tree that was now above the water. The bringing of that leaf from the olive tree was meant to tell that the flood was over—that a New Earth was appearing. Now, this is what the Spirit does as the Earnest. He is the dove bringing us tidings of the deluge of wrath past, and of the New Earth ready to appear. He is always bringing us tidings of both wrath past and glory coming. The earnest He gives of peace and joy and love, and blessedness, are olive leaves plucked from the trees of the New Earth.
III. But let us speak of another view of the Spirit's working in us. It is this, The same Spirit is the Intercessor in your soul. He is the Sealer, the Earnest, and He is, at the same time, the Intercessor in your hearts (Rom. viii . 26). "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities." (Notice in passing here: Christ is touched with a feeling of our infirmities, and that is love; but the Spirit "helpeth our infirmities" —surely that also is love. You see His kindness. He not merely feels for us, but He helps us.) "For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit Himself malceth intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered." There are times you know what to pray for, times when you see what things to ask; but in times of trouble, to which specially the text points, when we do not know what to say—whether to say, Take this thorn in my flesh away, or, Help me to bear it, the Spirit makes intercession for us with unutterable groanings. But note further, "groaning desires" is the full meaning; and these He raises in us on a thousand occasions, when we might have been content to be still, or would have sent forth our desires in another form. Only think of His kindness! He wants us to pray much, and for many things, for there is an answer to every such prayer; and so He says, "I will come into your heart, I will fill you with groanings that cannot be put into words; and He that searcheth the hearts will take them up and show them to the Father, and you shall get a large answer." There is a line of a hymn, sometimes printed in a wrong way—
"Nor prayer is made on earth alone—
The Holy Spirit pleads:
And Jesus, on the eternal throne,
For sinners intercedes."
It ought to be
"Nor prayer is made by man alone—"
For that other line seems to say that the Spirit pleads in heaven, whereas He does not plead for us in heaven, but here on earth, by enabling us to pray for ourselves. When you pray, do you often say, "Let the Spirit enable me to pray; let me pray in the Spirit?" Does the Spirit dictate your prayer 1 You will find it is often wonderfully helpful to look up to the Spirit to enable you to ask, to enable you to groan." Oh this love of the Spirit! How He helps !—the Spirit the Sealer, the Spirit the Earnest, the Spirit the Intercessor within us, teaching us what to pray for, and how to pray; while Christ, at the right hand, takes up the prayer and sends the answer. Indeed, He is never done working in us; He is never for a moment letting us alone; He is always in some form taking the things of Christ and showing them to us.
IV. Add to all this one other thought. What is "The Communion of the Holy Ghost t" (2 Cor. xiii. 14). Will you not henceforth love the Spirit more 1 Christ called Him "the other Comforter "—the Comforter who is every way like Himself, who is with us from day to day, who abides with us for ever. Let us honour Him; let us delight in Him; let us cast the crown at His feet, the crown of salvation. Is not His loving-kindness infinite 1