PREACHED UPON WHITSUNDAY.
Matthew xii. 31.
Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin nnd blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
As when a merchant hath a fair and large, a deep and open sea, into that harbour to which he is bound with his merchandise, it were an impertinent thing for him, to sound, and search for lands,
78 John xviii. 30.
and rocks, and cliffs, which threaten irreparable shipwreck; so we being bound to the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem, by the spacious and bottomless sea, the blood of Christ Jesus, having that large sea opened unto us, in the beginning of this text, All manner of sin, and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men, it may seem an impertinent diversion, to turn into that little creek, nay upon that desperate, and irrecoverable rock, The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven to men. But there must be discoverers, as well as merchants ; for the security of merchants, who by storm and tempest, or other accidents, may be cast upon those sands, and rocks, if they be not known, they must be known. So though we sail on, with a merry gale and full sails, with the breath of the Holy Ghost in the first part, All manner of sin, and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men, yet we shall not leave out the discovery of that fearful and ruinating rock too, But the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
I would divide the text; and fewer parts than two, we cannot make, and this text hath scarce two parts: the whole text is a conveyance, it is true; but there is a little proviso at the end: the whole text is a rule, it is true; but there is an exception at the end; the whole text is a royal palace, it is true; but there is a sewer, a vault behind it; Christ had said all that of himself he would have said, when he said the first part, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven to men, but the iniquity of the Pharisees extorted thus much more, But the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men: the first part is the sentence, the proposition, and the sense is perfect in that, All manner of sin, &c. The last part is but a parenthesis, which Christ had rather might have been left out, but the Pharisees, and their perverseness inserted, But the blasphemy, Stc. But since it deserves, and requires our consideration, as well, that the mercy of God can have any stop, any rub, determine any where, as that it can extend, and spread itself so far, as it doth in this text, let us make them two parts : and in the first consider with comfort, the largeness, the expansion of God's mercy, that there is but one sin, that it reacheth not to ; and in the second let us consider with fear, and trembling, that there is one sin, so swelling, so high, as that even the mercy of God does not reach to it. And in the first we shall proceed thus, in the magnifying God's mercy, first, in the first term, sin, we shall see that sin is even a wound, a violence upon God; and then Omne peccatum, Every Bin is so ; and nothing is so various, so diverse as sin; and even that sin, that amounts to blasphemy, a sin not only conceived in the thought, but expressed in contumelious words; and those contumelious and blasphemous words uttered against the Son, (for so it is expressed in the very next verse) all this shall be forgiven: but yet it is in future, They shall be : n0 man's sins are forgiven him, then when he sins them; but by repentance they shall be forgiven; forgiven unto men; that is, first, unto any man, and then, unto none but men ; for the sin of the angels shall never be forgiven : and these will be the branches of the first part. And in the second part, we shall look as far as this text occasions it, upon that debated sin, the sin against the Holy Ghost, and the irremissibleness of that; of which part, we shall derive and raise the particular branches anon, when we come to handle them.
First then, for the first term, sin, we use to ask in the school, whether any action of man's can have rationem demeriti, whether it can be said to offend God, or to deserve ill of God: for whatsoever does so, must have some proportion with God. With things which are inanimate, things that have no will, and so no good nor bad purpose, as dust, or the wind, or such, a man cannot properly be so offended, as to say that they deserve ill of him. With those things which have no use, no command of their will, as children, and fools, and madmen, it is so too; and then, there is no creature so poor, so childish, so impotent, in respect of man, as the best man is in respect of God: how then can he sin, that is, offend, that is, deserve ill of him ? The question begun not in the school; it was asked before of Job1: If thou sinnest, what doest thou, against him ? or if thy transgressions be multiplied, what doest thou unto him ? Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art; but what is it to God? For, as Gregory says upon that place, Humana impietas ei nocet, quem pervertendo inquinat, Our sins hurt them, whom our example leads into temptation; but our sins cannot draw God to be accessory to our sins, or to
1 Job xxxv. 6.
make him sin with us. Our sin cannot hurt him so; nor hurt him directly any way; not his person: but his subjects, whom he hath taken into his protection, it may; his law, which he hath given for direction, it may; his honour, of which he is jealous, which honour consists much in our honouring of him, it may. Wherein is a king's person violated, by coining a false penny, or counterfeiting a seal ? And yet this is treason. God cannot be robbed, he cannot be damnified ; whatsoever is taken from him (and there is a sacrilege in all unjust takings) wheresoever it be laid, he sees it, and it is still in his possession, and in his house, and in his hands. God cannot be robbed, nor God cannot be violated, he cannot be wounded, for he hath no limbs. But God is Ultimus finis, The end to which we all go, and his law is the way to that end; and Transilire lineam, To transgress that law, to leave that way, is a neglecting of him: and even negligences, and pretermissions, and slightings, are as great offences, as actual injuries. So God is communis Pater, the Father of all creatures ; and so the abuse of the creature reflects upon God, as the injuries done to the children, do upon the parents.
If then we can sin so against God, as we can against the king, and against the law, and against propriety, and against parents ; we have ways enow of sinning against God. Sin is not therefore so absolutely nothing, as that it is (in no consideration) other than a privation, only absentia recti, and nothing at all in itself: but, not to enter farther into that inextricable point, we rest in this, that sin is actus inordinatus, it is not only an obliquity, a privation, but it is an action deprived of that rectitude, which it should have ; it does not only want that rectitude, but it should have that rectitude, and therefore hath a sinful want. We shall not dare to call sin merely, absolutely nothing, if we consider either the punishment due to sin, or the pardon of that punishment, or the price of that pardon. The punishment is everlasting ; why should I believe it to be so? Os Domini locutum, The mouth of the Lord hath said it. But why should it be so I Justum est ut qui in suo ceterno peccavit contra Deum, in Dei ceterno puniatur*, It is but justice, that he that sins in his eternity, should be punished in God's eternity : now to sin in our eternity, is to sin as long as
* Gregory. Vol. it. f
we live, and if we could live eternally, to desire to sin eternally. God can cut off our eternity, he can shorten our life ; if we could cut off his eternity, and quench hell, our punishment were not eternal. We consider sin to be quoddam infinitum; as it is an aversion from God, who is infinite goodness, it is an infinite thing: and as it is a turning upon the creature, it is finite, and determined; for all pleasure taken in the creature, is so: and accordingly sin hath a finite, and an infinite punishment: that which we call pcenum sensus, the torment which we feel, is not infinite; (otherwise, than by duration) for that torment is not equal in all the damned, and that which is infinite must necessarily be equal; but that which we call pcenam damni, the everlasting loss of the eight of the everliving God, that is infinite, and alike, and equal in all the damned. Sin is something then, if we consider the punishment; and so it is, if we consider our deliverance from this punishment: that which God could not pardon in the way of justice without satisfaction, that for which nothing could be a satisfaction, but the life of all men, or of one man worth all, the Son of God, that that tore the Son out of the arms of his Father, in the Quid dereliquisti, when he cried out, Why hast thou forsaken me I That which imprinted in him, who was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows, a deadly heaviness, in his tristis anima, when his soul was heavy unto death, that which had power to open heaven in his descent hither, and to open hell, in his descent thither, to open the womb of the Virgin in his incarnation, and the womb of the earth in his resurrection, that which could change the frame of nature in miracles, and the God of nature in becoming man, that that deserved that punishment, that that needed that ransom (say the echoolmen what they will of privations) cannot be merely, absolutely nothing, but the greatest thing that can be conceived; and yet that shall be forgiven.
That, and all that; sin, and all sin ; and there is not so much of anything in \the world, as of sin. Every virtue hath two extremes, two vices opposed to it; there is two to one; but Abraham's task was an easy task to tell the stars of heaven; Bo it were to tell the sands, or hairs, or atoms, in respect of telling but our own sins. And will God say to me, Confide fli, My son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee* ? Does he mean all my sins ? He knows what original sin is, and I do not; and will he forgive me sin in that root, and sin in the branches, original sin, and actual sin too ? He knows my secret sins, and I do not; will he forgive my manifest sins, and those sins too ? He knows my relapses into sins repented; and will he forgive my faint repentances, and my rebellious relapses after them ? Will his mercy dive into my heart, and forgive my sinful thoughts there, and shed upon my lips, and forgive my blasphemous words there, and bathe the members of this body, and forgive mine unclean actions there ? Will he contract himself into himself, and meet me there, and forgive my sins against himself, and scatter himself upon the world, and forgive my sins against my neighbour, and imprison himself in me, and forgive my sins against myself? Will he forgive those sins, wherein my practice hath exceeded my parents, and those wherein my example hath misled my children ? Will he forgive that dim sight which I have of sin now, when sins scarce appear to be sins unto me, and will he forgive that over-quick sight, when I shall see my sins through Satan's multiplying glass of desperation, when I shall think them greater than his mercy, upon my death-bed! In that he said all, he left out nothing4, is the apostle's argument: and, he is not almighty, if he cannot; his mercy endures not for ever, if he do not forgive all.
Sin, and all sin, even blasphemy: now blasphemy is not restrained to God alone; other persons besides God, other things, besides persons, may be blasphemed. The word of God, the doctrine, religion may be blasphemed'. Magistracy and dignities may be blasphemed*. Nay, Omnia quc e ignorant, says that apostle, They blaspheme all things which they know not. And for persons, the apostle takes it to his own person, Being blasphemed, yet we intreaf; and he communicates it to all men, Neminem blasphemate, Blaspheme no man*. Blasphemy, as it is a contumelious speech, derogating from any man, that good that is in him, or attributing to any man, that ill that is not in him, may be fastened upon any man. For the most part it is understood a
* Matt. be. 2. * Heb. ii. 8. 4 1 Tim. -n. 1.
* Jude 8, 10. 7 1 Cor. iv. 13. * Tit. iii. 2.
sin against God, and that directly ; and here, by the manner of Christ expressing himself, it is made the greatest sin; all sin, even blasphemy. And yet, a drunkard that cannot name God, will spew out a blasphemy against God: a child that cannot spell God, will stammer out a blasphemy against God : if we smart, we blaspheme God, and we blaspheme him if we be tickled; if I lose at play, I blaspheme, and if my fellow lose, he blasphemes, so that God is always sure to be a loser. An usurer can show me his bags, and an extortioner his houses, the fruits, the revenues of his sin; but where will the blasphemer show me his blasphemy, or what he hath got by it ? The licentious man hath had his love in his arms, and the envious man hath had his enemy in the dust, but wherein hath the blasphemer hurt God ?
In the school* we put it for the consummation of the torment of the damned, that at the resurrection, they shall have bodies, and so be able, even verbally, to blaspheme God; herein we exceed the devil already, that we can speak blasphemously. There is a rebellious part of the body, that Adam covered with fig-leaves, that hath damned many a wretched soul; but yet, I think, not more than the tongue; and therefore the whole torment that Dives suffered in hell, is expressed in that part, Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue10. The Jews that crucified God, will not sound the name of God, and we for whom ho was crucified, belch him out in our surfeits, and foam him out in our fury : an impertinent sin, without occasion before, and an unprofitable sin, without recompense after, and an incorrigible sin too; for, almost what father dares chide his son for blasphemy, that may not tell him, sir, I learnt it of you ? Or what master his servant, that cannot lay the same recrimination upon him ? How much then do we need this extent of God's mercy, that he will forgive sin, and all sin, and even this sin of blasphemy, and (which is also another addition) blasphemy against the Son.
This emphatical addition arises out of the connexion in the next verse, A word, (that is, a blasphemous word) against the Son, shall be forgiven. And here we carry not the word son so * Aquin. 22 x. q. 13. ar. 4. "1 Luke xvi. 24.
* Aquin. 22 x. q. 13. ar. 4. "1 Luke xvi. 24.
11 Matt. xi. 19. " Mark xii. 14. " Heb. jrii. :<,
construed, his zeal to assist God's bleeding and fainting cause, called innovation, his proceeding by ways good in themselves, to ends good in themselves, called indiscretion, let him be content to forgive them, any calumniator, against himself, who is but a worm and no man, since God himself forgave them against Christ, who was so Filiit s hominis, the Son of man, As that he was the Son of God too.
There is then forgiveness for sin, for all sin, even for blasphemy, for blasphemy against the Son, but it is infuturo remittetur, it shall be forgiven. It is not remittebatur, it was forgiven ; let no man antedate his pardon, and say, His sins were forgiven in an eternal decree, and that no man that hath his name in the book of life, hath the addition, sinner; that if he were there from the begining, from the beginning he was no sinner. It is not, in such a sense, remittebatur, it was forgiven; nor it is not remittitur, that even then, when the sin is committed, it is forgiven, whether the sinner think of it or no, that God sees not the sins of his children, that God was no more affected with David's adultery, or his murder, than an indulgent father is to see his child do some witty waggish thing, or some sportful shrewd turn. It is but remittetur, any sin shall be, that is, may be forgiven, if the means required by God, and ordained by him, be entertained. If I take into my contemplation, the majesty of God, and the ugliness of sin, if I divest myself of all that was sinfully got, and invest myself in the righteousness of Christ Jesus, (for else I am ill-suited, and if I clothe myself in mammon, the righteousness of Christ is no cloak for that doublet) if I come to God's church for my absolution, and the seal of that reconciliation, the blessed sacrament, remittetur, by those means ordained by God any sin shall be forgiven me. But if I rely upon the remittebatur, that I had my quietus est before-hand, in the eternal decree, or in the remittuntur, and so shut mine eyes, in an opinion that God hath shut his, and sees not the sins of his children, I change God's grammar, and I induce a dangerous solecism, for, it is not they were forgiven before they were committed, nor they are forgiven in the committing, but they shall be, by using the means ordained by God, they may be; and so, They shall be forgiven unto men, says the text, and that is, first, unto every man.
The kings of the earth are fair and glorious resemblances of the King of heaven; they are beams of that sun, tapers of that torch, they are like gods, they are gods : The Lord killeth and maketh alive, he bringeth down to the grace, and bringeth up1*: this is the Lord of heaven; the Lord's anointed, kings of the earth do so too; they have the dispensation of judgment, and of mercy, they execute, and they pardon : but yet, with this difference amongst many other, that kings of the earth (for the most part, and the best, most) bind themselves with an oath, not to pardon some offices; the King of heaven swears, and swears by himself, that there is no sinner but he can, and would pardon. At first, Illuminat omnem hominem, He is the true light, which lighteneth every man that cometh into the world"; let that light (because many do interpret that place so) let that be but that natural light, which only man, and every man hath; yet that light makes him capable of the super-natural light of grace; for if he had not that reasonable soul, he could not have grace; and even by this natural light, he is able to see the invisible God, in the visible creature, and is inexcusable if he do not so. But because this light is (though not put out) brought to a dimness, by man's first fall, therefore John Baptist came to bear witness of that light, that all men, through him, might believe " .- God raises up a John Baptist in every man ; every man finds a testimony in himself, that he draws curtains between the light and him; that he runs into corners from that light; that he doth not make that use of those helps which God hath afforded him, as he might.
Thus God hath mercy upon all before, by way of prevention; thus he enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world: but, because for all this men do stumble, even at noon, God hath given collyrium, an eye-salve" to all, by which they may mend their eye-sight; he hath opened a pool of Bethesda to all, where not only he that comes at first, but he that comes even at last, he that comes washed with the water of baptism in his infancy, and he that comes washed with the tears of repentance in his age, may receive health and cleanness; for, the font at first, and the deathbed at last, are cisterns from this pool, and all men, and
14 1 Sam. ii. 6. " John i. 9.
" Ver. 7. 17 Rev. iii 18.
at all times, may wash therein : and from this power, and this love of God, is derived both that catholic promise, Quandocunque, A t what time soever a sinner repents, and that catholic and extensive commission, Quorum remiseritis, Whose sins soever you remit, shall be remitted. All men were in Adam; because the whole nature, mankind, was in him; and then, can any be without sin I All men were in Christ too, because the whole nature, mankind, was in him; and then, can any man be excluded from a possibility of mercy? There were whole sects, whole bodies of heretics, that denied the communication of God's grace to others; the Cathari denied that any man had it but themselves: the Novatians denied that any man could have it again, after he had once lost it, by any deadly sin committed after baptism, but there was never any sect that denied it to themselves, no sect of despairing men. We have some somewhere sprinkled; one in the Old Testament, Cain, and one in the New, Judas, and one in the Ecclesiastical Story, Julian ; but no body, no sect of despairing men. And therefore he that abandons himself to this sin of desperation, sins with the least reason of any, for he prefers his sin above God's mercy, and he sins with the fewest examples of any, for God hath diffused this light, with an evidence to all, that all sins may be forgiven unto men, that is, unto all men ; and then, herein also is God's mercy to man magnified, that it is to man, that is, only to man.
Nothing can fall into this comparison, but angels ; and angels shall not be forgiven : we shall be like the angels, we shall participate of their glory which stand; but the angels shall never be like us ; never return to mercy, after they are fallen. They were primogeniti Dei, God's first born, and yet disinherited; and disinherited without any power, at least, without purpose of revocation, without annuities, without pensions, without any present supply, without any future hope. When the angels were made, and when they fell, we dispute; but when they shall return, falls not into question. Howsoever Origen vary in himself, or howsoever he fell under that jealousy, or misinterpretation, that he thought the devil should be saved at last, I am sure his books that are extant, have pregnant and abundant testimony of their everlasting, and irreparable condemnation. To judge by our evidence, the evidence of Scriptures, for their sin, and the evidence of our conscience, for ours, there is none of us that hath not sinned more than any of them at first; and yet Christ hath not taken the nature of angels, but of man, and redeemed us, having reserved them in everlasting chains, under darkness" : How long? Unto the judgment of the great day, says that apostle ; and is it but till then, then to have an end ? Alas no ; it is not until that day, but unto that day ; not that that day shall end or ease their torments which they have, but inflict accidental torments, which they have not yet; that is, an utter evacuation of that power of seducing, which, till that day come, they shall have leave to exercise upon the sons of men : to that are they reserved, and we to that glory, which they have lost, and lost for ever; and upon us, is that prayer of the apostle fallen effectually, Mercy, and peace, and love is multiplied unto us"; for, sin, and all sin, blasphemy, and blasphemy against the Son, t//all be, that is, is not, nor was not, but may be forgiven to men, to all men, to none but men ; and so we pass to our second part. In this second part, which seems to present a bank even to this sea, this infinite sea of the blood of Christ Jesus; and an horizon even to this heaven of heavens, to the mercy of God, we shall proceed thus: first, we shall inquire, but modestly, what that blasphemy, which is commonly called The sin against the Holy Ghost, is: and secondly, how, and wherein it is irremissible, that it shall never be forgiven: and then thirdly, upon what places of Scripture it is grounded; amongst which, if this text do not constitute and establish that sin, the sin against the Holy Ghost, yet we shall find, that that sin which is directly intended in this text, is a branch of that sin, the sin agaiust the Holy Ghost: and therefore we shall take just occasion from thence, to arm you with some instructions against those ways which lead into that irrecoverable destruction, into that irremissible sin : for though the sin itself be not so evident, yet the limbs of the sin, and the ways to the sin, are plain enough.
St. Augustine says, There is no question in the Scripture harder than this, what this sin is: and St. Ambrose gives some reason of the difficulty in this, Sicut una Divinitas, una vffensa :
10 Jude 6. 1* Ver. 2.
As there is but one Godhead, so there is no sin against God (and all sin is so) but it is against the whole Trinity: and that is true; but as there are certain attributes proper to every several person of the Trinity, so there are certain sins, more directly against the several attributes and properties of those persons, and in such a consideration, against the persons themselves. Of which there are divers sins against power, and they are principally against the Father; for to the Father we attribute power; and divers sins against wisdom, and wisdom we attribute to the Son ; and divers against goodness, and love, and these we attribute to the Holy Ghost. Of those against the Holy Ghost, considered in that attribute of goodness, and of love, the place to speak, will be in our conclusion. But for this particular sin, the sin against the Holy Ghost, as hard as St. Augustine makes it, and justly, yet he says too, Exercere nos voluit difficultate qucestionis, non decipere falsitate sententice, God would exercise us with a hard question, but ho would not deceive us with a false opinion: Quid sit quceri, voluit, non negari; God would have us modestly inquire what it is, not peremptorily deny that there is any such sin.
It is (for the most part) agreed, that it is a total falling away from the Gospel of Christ Jesus formerly acknowledged and professed, into a verbal calumniating, and a real persecuting of that Gospel, with a deliberate purpose to continue so to the end, and actually to do so, to persevere till then, and then to pass away in that disposition. It falls only upon the professors of the Gospel, and it is total, and it is practical, and it is deliberate, and it is final. Here we have that sin, but, by God's grace, that sinner no where.
It is therefore somewhat early, somewhat forwardly pronounced, though by a reverend man, Cerium reprobationis signum, in Spiritum blasphemiaTM, That it is an infallible assurance, that that man is a reprobate that blasphemes the Holy Ghost. For, whatsoever is an infallible sign, must be notorious to us; if we must know another thing by that, as a sign, we must know that thing which is our sign, in itself: and can we know what this blaspheming of the Holy Ghost is ? Did we ever hear any man say, or see any man do anything against the Holy Ghost, of whom we might say npon that word, or upon that action, This man can never repent, never be received to mercy ? And yet, says he, Tenendum est, quod qui exciderint, nunquam resurgent; We are bound to hold, that they who fall so, shall never rise again. I presume, he grounded himself in that severe judgment of his, upon such places, as that to the Romans, When they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind": that that is the ordinary way of God's justice, to withdraw his Spirit from that man that blasphemes his Spirit; but St. Paul blasphemed, and St. Peter blasphemed, and yet were not divorced from God.
St. Augustine's rule is good; not to judge of this sin, and this sinner especially, but a posteriori, from his end, from his departing out of this world. Neither though I do see an ill-life, sealed with an ill-death, dare I be too forward in this judgment. He was not a Christian in profession, but worse than he are called Christians, that said, Qui pius est, swnme philosophatur" ; The charitable man is the great philosopher ; and it is charity not to suspect the state of a dead man. Consider in how sudden a minute the Holy Ghost have sometimes wrought upon thee; and hope that he hath done so upon another. It is a moderation to bo embraced, that Peter Martyr leads us to: the Primitive church had the spirit of discerning spirits; we have not; and therefore, though by way of definition, we may say, This is that sin, yet by way of demonstration, let us say of no man, This is that sinner: I may say of no man, This sin in thee is irremissible.
Now, in considering this word, irremissible, that it cannot be forgiven, we find it to be a word, rather usurped by the school, than expressed in the Scriptures: for in all those three evangelists, where this fearful denunciation is interminated, still it is in a phrase, of somewhat more mildness, than so; it is, It shall not be forgiven, it is not, it cannot be forgiven : it is an irremission, it is not an irremissibleness. Absolutely there is not an impossibility, and irremissibleness on God's part: but yet some kind of impossibility there is on his part, and on ours too. For, if he could forgive this sin, he would ; or else, his power were above
*1 Rom. i. 28. " Trismegistus.
his mercy; and his mercy is above all his works. But God can do nothing that implies contradiction; and God having declared, by what means only his mercy and forgiveness shall be conveyed to man, God should contradict himself, if he should give forgiveness to them, who will fully exclude those means of mercy. And therefore it were not boldly, nor irreverently said, that God could not give grace to a beast, nor mercy to the devil, because either they are naturally destitute, or have wilfully despoiled themselves of the capacity of grace, and mercy. When we consider, that God the Father, whom, as the root of all, we consider principally in the creation, created man in a possibility, and ability, to persist in that Pgoodness, in which he created him, and consider that God the Son came, and wrought a reconciliation for man to God, and so brought in a treasure, in the nature thereof, a sufficient ransom for all the world, but then a man knows not this, or believes not this, otherwise than historically, morally, civilly, and so evacuates, and shakes off the God the Son, and then consider that the Holy Ghost comes, and presents means of applying all this, and making the general satisfaction of Christ reach and spread itself upon my soul, in particular, in the preaching of the word, in the seals of the sacraments, in the absolution of the church, and I preclude the ways, and shut up myself against the Holy Ghost, and so evacuate him, and shake him off, when I have resisted Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is there a fourth person in the Godhead to work upon me ? If I blaspheme, that is, deliberately pronounce against the Holy Ghost, my sin is irremissible therefore, because there is no body left to forgive it, nor way left, wherein forgiveness should work upon me; so far it is irremissible on God's part, and on mine too.
And then, take it there, in that state of irremissibleness, and consider seriously the fearfulness of it. I have been angry ; and then, (as Christ tells me") I have been in danger of a judgment; but in judgment, I may have counsel, I may be heard; I have said Maca, expressed my anger and so been in danger of a council; but a council does but consult, what punishment is fit to be inflicted; and so long there is hope of mitigation, and commutation of penance ; but I have said fatue, I have called
** Matt. v. 22.
my brother fool, and so am in clanger of hell fire. In the first, there is ira", an inward commotion, an irregular distemper; in the second, there is ira et vox; in the first it is but ira carnis, non anima, it is but my passion, it is not I that am angry, but in the second I have suffered my passion to vent and utter itself; but in the third, there is ira, vox et vitiiperatio, a distemper within, a declaration to evil example without, and an injury and defamation to a third person, and this exalts the offence to the height: but when this third person comes to be the third person in the Trinity, the Holy Ghost, in all the other cases, there is danger, danger of judgment, danger of a council, danger of hell, but here is irremissibleness, hell itself, and no avoiding of hell, no cooling in hell, no deliverance from hell; irremissible ; those hands that reached to the ends of the world, in creating it, and span the world in preserving it, and stretched over all in redeeming it, those hands have I manacled, that they cannot open unto me: that tenderness that is affected to all, have I damped, retarded that proneness, stupified that alacrity, confounded that voice, diverted those eyes, that are naturally disposed to all: and all this, irremissibly, for ever ; not, though he would, but because he will not show mercy; not, though I would, but because I cannot ask mercy; and therefore beware all approaches towards that sin, from which there is no returning, no redemption.
We are come now, in our order, to our third and last branch of this last part, that this doctrine of a sin against the Holy Ghost, is not a dream of the schoolmen, though they have spoken many things frivolously of it, but grounded in evident places of Scriptures : amongst which, we look especially, how far this text conduces to that doctrine. There are two places ordinarily cited, which seem directly to concern this sin ; and two others, which to me seem not to do so. Those of the first kind, are both in the Epistle to the Hebrews: there the apostle says, For those who were once enlightened, mtd have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, if they fall away, it is impossible to renew them by repentance". Now, if final impenitence had been added, there could have been no question, but
" Augustine^ Chrysostom. " Ueb. vi. 4.
that this must be the sin against the Holy Ghost; and because the apostle speaks of such a total falling away, as precludes all way of repentance, it includes final impenitence, and so makes up that sin. The other place from which it rises most pregnantly, is, Of how sore a punishment shall they be thought worthy, who have trodden under foot the Son of God, and have done despite irnto the Spirit of grace" ? As he had said before, If we sin wilfully, after we have received the knowledge of truth, there remaineih no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation". But yet, though from these places, there arises evidence, that such a sin there is, as naturally shuts out repentance, and so is thereby irremissible, yet there arise no marks, by which I can say, this man is such a sinner; not though he himself would swear to me, that he were so now, and that he would continue so, till death.
The other places that do not so directly concern this sin, and yet are sometimes used in this affair, are, one in St. John, and this text another. That in St. John is, There is a sin unto death, I do not say, that he shall pray for itTM. It is true, that the master of the sentences, and from him, many of the school, and many of our later interpreters too, do understand this, of the sin against the Holy Ghost, because we are (almost) forbidden to pray for it; but yet we are not absolutely forbidden, in that we are not bidden. And if we were forbidden, when God says to Jeremy, Pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry, nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me, for I will not hear theeTM, and again, Pray not for them, for I will not hear them**, not them, though they should come to pray for themselves, God forbid that we should therefore say, that all that people had committed the sin against the Holy Ghost. And for this particular place of St. John, that answer may suffice, which very good divines have given, pray not for them, is indeed pray not with them, admit them to no part in the public prayers for the congregation, but if they sin a sin unto death, a notorious, an inexcusable sin, let them be persons excommunicated to thee.
For the words in this text, which seem to many appliable to
M Heb. x. 29. " Ver. 26. * 1 John v. 16.
"4 Jer. vii. 16. M Jer. xi. 14.
that great sin, it is not clear, it is not much probable, that they can be so apphed. Take the words invested in their circumstance, in the context and coherence, and it will appear evident. Christ speaks this to the Pharisees, upon occasion of that which they had said to him, and of him before, and he carries it, intends it no farther. That appears by the first word of our text, Propterea, Therefore I say unto you,; Therefore, that is, because you have used such words unto me. And St. Mark makes it more clear*1, He said this to them, became they said, he had an unclean spirit; because they said he did his miracles by the power of the devil. Now, this was certainly a sin against the Holy Ghost, so far, as that it was distinguished from the sins against the Son of man; but it was not the sin against the Holy Ghost: for, Christ being a mixed person, God and man, did some things, in which his divinity had nothing to do, but were only actions of a mere natural man, and when they slandered him in these, they blasphemed the Son of man. Some things he did in the power of his Godhead, in which his humanity contributed nothing; as all his miracles; and when they attributed these works to the devil, they blasphemed the Holy Ghost. And therefore St. Augustine says, that Christ in this place, did not so much accuse the Pharisees, that they had already incurred the sin of the Holy Ghost, as admonish them, that by adventuring upon such sins as were sins against the Holy Ghost, they might at last fall into the sin, that impenitible, and therefore irremissible sin. But that sin, this could not be, because the Pharisees had not embraced the Gospel before, and so this could not be a falling from the Gospel, in them: neither does it appear to have continued to a final impenitence; so far from it, as that St. Chrysostom makes no doubt, but that some of these Pharisees did repent upon Christ's admonition.
Now, beloved, since we see by this collation of places, that it is not safe to say of any man, he is this sinner, nor very constantly agreed upon, what is this sin, but yet we are sure, that such a sin there is, that captivates even God himself, and takes from him the exercise of his mercy, and casts a dumbness, a speechlessuess upon the church itself, that she may not pray for
" Mark iii. 30.
such a sinner; and since we see, that Christ, with so much earnestness, rebukes the Pharisees for this sin in the text, because it was a limb of that sin, and conduced to, it, let us use all religious diligence, to keep ourselves in a safe distance from it. To which purpose, be pleased to cast a particular, but short and transitory glance, upon some such sins, as therefore, because they conduce to that, are sometimes called sins against the Holy Ghost. Sins against power, (that is the Fathers attribute) sins of infirmity are easily forgiven; sins against wisdom, (that is the Son's attribute) sins of ignorance are easily forgiven ; but sins against goodness, (that is the Holy Ghost's attribute,) sins of an hard and ill nature are hardly forgiven: not at all, when it comes to be The sin; not easily, when they are Those sins, those that conduce to it, and are branches of it.
For branches, the schoolmen have named three couples, which they have called sins against the Holy Ghost, because naturally they shut out those means by which the Holy Ghost might work upon us. The first couple is, presumption and desperation; for presumption takes away the fear of God, and desperation the love of God. And then, they name impenitence, and hardness of heart; for impenitence removes all sorrow for sins past, and hardness of heart all tenderness towards future teutations. And lastly, they name The resisting of a truth acknowledged before, and the envying of other men, who have made better use of God'1* grace than we have done; for this resisting of a truth, is a shutting up of ourselves against it, and this envying of others, is a sorrow, that that truth should prevail upon them. And truly (to reflect a very little upon these three couples again) to presume upon God, that God cannot damn me eternally in the next world, for a few half hours in this; what is a fornication, or what is an idolatry to God ? what is a jest, or a ballad, or a libel to a king ? Or to despair, that God will not save me, how well soever I live, after a sin? What is a tear, what is a sigh, what is a prayer to God? what is a petition to a king ? To be impenitent, senseless of sins past; I passed yesterday in riot, and yesternight in wantonness, and yet I hear of some place, some office, some good fortune fallen to me to-day ; to be hardened against future sins ; shall I forbear some company, because that company leads me
into tentation ? Why, that very tentation will lead me to preferment ; to forsake the truth formerly professed, because the times are changed, and wiser men than I change with them; to envy and hate another, another state, another church, another man, because they stand out in defence of the truth, (for, if they would change, I might have the better colour, the better excuse of changing too) all these are shrewd and slippery approaches towards the sin against the Holy Ghost, and therefore the schoolmen have called all these six, (not without just reasou, and good use) by that heavy name.
And some of the fathers have extended it farther, than to these six. St. Bernard, in particular, says, Nolle obedire, To resist lawful authority; and another, Simulata pcenitentia, To delude God with relapses, and counterfeit repentances ; and another also, Omne schisma, All schismatical renting of the peace of the church, all these they call in that sense, sins against the Holy Ghost. Now, all sins against the Holy Ghost, are not irremissible. Stephen told his persecutors, They resisted the Holy Ghost**, and yet he prayed for them. But because these sins may, and ordinarily do come to that sin, stop betimes. David was far from the murder of Uriah, when he did but look upon his wife, as she was bathing. A man is far from defying the Holy Ghost, when he does but neglect him; and yet David did come, and he will come to the bottom quickly. It may make some impression in you, to tell, and to apply a short story. In a great schism at Rome, Ladislaus took that occasion to debauch and corrupt some of the nobility; it was discerned; and then, to those seven governors, whom they had before, whom they called sapientes, wise men, they added seven more, and called them bonos, good men, honest men, and relied, and confided in them. Goodness is the attribute of the Holy Ghost; if you have greatness, you may seem to have some of the Father, for power is his ; if you have wisdom, you may seem to have some of the Son, for that is his: if you have goodness, you have the Holy Ghost, who shall lead you into all truth. And goodness is, to be good and easy in receiving his impressions, and good and constant in retaining them, and good and diffusive in deriving them upon others : to embrace
0* Acts vii. 51, 60.
the Gospel, to hold fast the Gospel, to propagate the Gospel, this is the goodness of the Holy Ghost. And to resist the entrance of the Gospel, to abandon it after we have professed it, to forsake them, whom we should assist and succour in the maintenance of it, this is to depart from the goodness of the Holy Ghost: and by these sins against him, to come too near the sin, the irremissible sin, in which the calamities of this world shall enwrap us, and deliver us over to the everlasting condemnation of the next. This is as much as these words do justly occasion us to say of that sin; and into a more curious search thereof, it is not holy sobriety to pierce.