Copyright
Thomas Secker.

Works (Volume 1) online

. (page 15 of 20)
Online LibraryThomas SeckerWorks (Volume 1) → online text (page 15 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


his'Conditlon fhould be allowed fo very much
the leafl Part in his Thoughts.

But then to think of our Condition to good
Effect 5 we mull be fure, not to fet our Minds
more on the Privileges, than the Duties of it ;
but remember, that as the virtuous would fome-
times be the moil miferable of .Men, if there
were no Expectation of Futurity ; fothe vicious
mull be always the moil miferable, if there
be any. Every Promiie of the Gofpel is a
Threatening to them ; and the Doctrine of
Salvation will only condemn them to feverer
Punimments. Let every Man therefore, who hath
Hope in Chriji, purify kimfclf, even as he is
pure*. And let every Man, who dsiires to do
ib, remember, that he can do it only, by a
fledfaft Belief, that Chrift died and rofe again
on our Account; for this is the Victory that over-
come tb -the 'World, even our Faitbv : by an
humble Dependance on Grace from above,
to be obtained by our Prayers ; for ive are not
Jitt/icient of ourf elves to do any b:ng z : and by

* i John iii. 3. * i John v. 4. * 2 Cor. Hi. 15.

a dili-



190 SERMON VIII.

a diligent and conftant life of that Grace, in
labouring to perform every Part of our Duty >
for we are to work out our own Salvation, facaufe
God worketb in us> both to will and to do 3 -.



* Philr ii. 12,



SER-



SERMON IX,



MATTII. xii. 31, 32.

Wherefore I fay unto you : All Manner of Sin and
Blafpbemy Jkall be forgiven unto Men : but
the Blafphemy againjl the Holy Ghojl jhall not
be forgiven unto Men.

And 'whofbever Ipeaketh a Word azainft the Son

J Jl O J

of Man, it Jhall be forgiven him : but 'who-
foever fpeaketh againjl the Holy Gboft, it flail
not be forgiven him, neither in this World,
neither in the World to come.



Words of our bleffed Lord feldom,
JL if ever, fail to excite a peculiar Atten-
tion and Alarm in the Minds of all, who read or
hear them : and the Doctrine, which they con-
tain, appears to fome, either fo difficult tu
be underftood, or fo improper to be admictedj
and fills others with fuch Terrors,- or links

them



S E R M O N IX.
them into fuch Defpondency ; that, for the
$ake of great Numbers, it mould be well
explained from Time to Time. 5 And Men
ought to have the Nature of this Crime laid be-
fore them, when they are not diflurbed within
by the Imagination of having committed it. For
when they are, the Agitation of their Minds
too commonly difqualifies them from judging
rightly concerning either the Senfe of the Text,
of even their own Actions.

Now there are feveral Sins againft the Holy
Ghoft, mentioned in Scripture ; Lying to % re-~
Jifting^, tempt ing c , grieving, d , quenching, the
Spirit e ; yet none of theie is ever faid to be
unpardonable j and therefore, we may be fure,
none of them is fo : becaufe, if it had, un-
doubtedly the Word of God would have given us
that Warning in Relation to it : whereas on the
contrary, the Text itfelf, in the plainer!: Words,
afiures us, that every Sin is pardonable, ex-
cepting one, which is different from all thefc.
If then either the wicked, reflecting on their
Guilt, or the innocent, overcome with ground-
iefs Fears, are appreheniive, that they have
committed the Sin againft the Holy Ghofl> as

8 Afts v. 3. b Afls vii. 51. c Afts v. 9.

d Eph. iv. 30, e i Their, v. 19.

they



SERMON IX. 193
they ufually call it, and therefore cannot be for-
given : they fhould, jin the firft Place, be afked,
or afk themfelves, and anfwer diftinctly, what
Sin againft the Holy Ghoft they have com-
mitted ? What the particular Thing is,. that
weighs fo heavy upon them ? For unlefs it be
precifely Elafphemy aga'mft the Holy Gboft, there
is no Pretence for faying, they cannot be for-
given. There are but three Paffages in the
Bible, that mention this Matter : the Text :
Mark iii. 28, 29. and Luke xii. 10 : in every
one of which, the very fame Word, Elafphemy 9
is ufed; and no .other. So that, of what-
ever Sin elfe againft the divine Spirit -they
may have been guilty, if they have not been
guilty of that, they may undoubtedly be for-
given. And this fingle Obfervation, duly at-
tended to, is fufficient to preferve, or even re-
ftore, the Quiet cf Multitudes. But ftill too
many, for Want of underftanding the Nature
of the Blafphemy which our bleffed Lord here
means, may falfely conceive themfelves to be
chargeable with it : whilft others, of a different
Turn, may wonder, or be much offended, at
finding fo terrible a Denunciation againft it :
and a third Sort, if they perceive no Danger
of actually incurring this Condemnation, may
by no Means coniider, fo ierioufly .as they
VOL. I. N ought,



194 S E. R M O N IX.

ought, how near it. they may come. I ihall
therefore endeavour to ihew,

I. What the Blafphemy againil the Holy

Ghoft, mentioned hy our Saviour, is.
JJ. What is intended by his Declaration,
that it fiall not be forgiven, neither in
this World, nor that to come.

III. Why he palTes fo heavy a Sentence on

this one Sin.

IV. What Things do, or do not, approach

towards it.

I. What the Blafphemy againfl the Holy
Ghoft, mentioned by our Saviour, is.

Now the Term Blafyhemy, in the original
Language of the New Teftament, whence we
have derived it into our own, fignifies No-
thing elfe, than fp caking evil of any one
unjuftly. And it is frequently ufed to de-
note fpeaking evil of our Equals ; but more
peculiarly, of our Superiors -, and therefore,
moft eminently, of God the Father Almighty,
his Son and Spirit : to which three alone this
Expreffion is confined in our vulgar Tongue.
Blafphemy againfl: the Holy Ghoft therefore
is fpeaking irreverently and injurioufly of the
Holy Ghoft : which may be done, by vilify-
ing either his Perfon, or his Works. But
of the former our Saviour doth- not fpeak : for

Nothing



SERMON IX.

Nothing had happened, which could lead him
to it. The Jews, whom he was reproving.,
profeffed, and had, the higheft Veneration for
the Spirit of God : therefore they had certainly
uttered no perfcnal Reproaches againft him i
indeed it doth not appear, that they had named
him in what gave Rife to the Declaration^ made
in the Text. But the Cafe, to lay it before
you in the Words of the Gofpel, was this*
'There 'was brought to him one poff\ffed 'with a
Devil, blind and dumb -, and he healed him : and
all the People were amazed, andfaid, Is not this
the Son of David? But when the Pharifees heard
it, theyfaid, This Fellow doth not cafi out Devils*
but by Beelzebub the Prince of the Devils, It
follows, And Jefus knew their Thoughts ( > Upon
which he argued with them, that deftroying the
Works of the Devil, his Influence over the
Bodies and Souls of Men, could not proceed
from the Devil himfelf, for that would be ovei-
turning his own Kingdom; but evidently ihe wed
a Power oppoiite and fuperior to his : and then
he fubjoined the Words now under Cdnlider-
ation -, which many learned Interpreters havs
underftood thus : that fuch, as were ignorantly
led by common Prejudice to fpeak againft

' Matth. xii. 22 25.

N 2 Chrift,



i9& SERMON IX.

Chrill, appearing only as a Son of Man ; and,
taking him for a mere Man, reproached him
with being the Carpenter s Son s , or even glut-
tonous and a Wmc-bibber, and a Friend of Pub-
licans and Sinners 11 ', might, notwithftanding^
come to fee their Miftake, and be forgiven : but
when he performed Miracles, before their Eyes,
to rectify their Opinion, as he had juft done
then ; if they reviled thefe alfo, afcribing them
to the Agency of the Devil, contrary to all
Reafon, and perhaps to their own Confciences
too ; (for thus fome underftand the Obfervation,
that Jefus knew their 'Thoughts ;J this was add-
ing Sin to Sin { -, was in Effect imputing Wick-
ednefs to the Holy Spirit of God, by reprefent-
ing what was plainly done by him, as done by
an evil Being ; and fhould not be pardoned. Nor
can it be denied, but this Interpretation feems
to be much confirmed by St. Mark -, who ob-
ferves, that our Saviour gave them this Warn-
ing, becaufe they f aid > he had an unclean Spirit k .
But ftill other eminent Men, though they
allow, that he cafl out Devils, as himfelf ex-
prefsly affirms J , and performed the refl of his
wonderful Works, by the Spirit of God, which

E Matth. xiii. 55. k Matthi xi. 19. Lukevii. 34.

* If. xxx. i. K Mark iii. 50. ' Matth. xii. 28.

is



SERMON IX. 197

is the fame with the Holy Ghofl ; yet remark
very truly, that this Phrafe, the Holy Gboft, thefe
Words thus joined, in the Gofpels and Acts
never Signify the Power of working Miracles,
but often fignify the fpiritual Gifts, of fpeaking
with Tongues and the like, which the Apoftles
received : and that accordingly, though they
had long before done many Miracles, as well
as their Matter, we are told notwithstanding in
the New Tettament, that the Holy Gboft 'was
not yet given m -, but promifed, after our blelTed
Lord's Afcenfion. From hence then they argue,
that conformably to this Manner of fpeaking,
Blafphctny agamft the Holy Gboft mull mean
vilifying, not the miraculous Operations, of
which the Spirit was the Author then; but
the farther Manifettations of himfelf, which
were foon to follow them; and our Saviour mutt
delign in the Text to inform his Oppofers, that
all they had faid, and all they mould fay, of
him, while he remained on Earth, as a Deceiver
of the People* and even one that had a Devil ,
might be forgiven them : but if, when he was
gone to the Father ; and the Comforter, or Ad-
vocate, for fo it mould be tranilated, come p , by

Tn jnhnvii.39. "Johnvii.12. "Matth. xi. 18. Lukevii-33.
? John xv. 26.

N 3 fuper-



SERMON IX.

fupejrnatural Gifts to convince the World of Sin t
becaufe they bad not believed on him q ; if they
mould go on then to fpcak evil of thefe alfo,
their Guilt mould never be remitted. And, in
Confirmation of this Expofition, they obferve
further, that Chrift, at his Death, prayed the
Father to forgive r his Crucifiers, though at the
fame Time they reviled and derided both him
and his Miracles ; be faved others, himf elf he can-
not fay e ; let Chrift the King of Ifrael defcend now :
from the Croft, and we will believe him s : ani
that, fuitably to his Mailer's Example, St. Peter
intreated them afterwards to repent and be con-
verted, that their Sins might be blotted out \
which therefore was yet poffible : but when,
they {till refitted the Holy Ghoft, after thefe
fuller Proofs of his Interpofition, contradicting
and blajpbeming-, then the Apoflles turned from
them, as unworthy of ever lofting Life, and went
to the Gentiles*.

This latter Interpretation, I confefs, appears
to me the more probable. But, in this they
agree : that the Blafphemy, which is pro-
pounced unpardonable, was not fpeaking evil

. John xvi. 8, 9. * Luke xxiii. 34. s Matth. xxvii 42.
Mark xv 32. < A&s iii. 13. Ads xiii, 45, 46.

of



SERMON IX. 199

of the Perfon of the Holy Ghoft, but of the
miraculous Powers which he exerted : and the
Difference is only, what miraculous Powers are
meant ; whether thofe mighty Works, which
our Saviour performed by Means of the divine
Spirit, while on Earth j or thofe Gifts, which
were poured forth on Men, after he afcended to
Heaven : a Queftion, eafy, no Doubt, to be an-
fwered then ; but of no Importance to us now.

What we are concerned to .remark farther
is, that our blefied Lord's Denunciation was
pointed, not againft fuch Blafphemy or Evil-
fpeaking, as mere Miftake or Inconfideratenefs
might lead Men into ; but fuch, as proceeded
from wilful and deliberate Wickednefs : for
with this he charges the yews, immediately
after the Text : O Generation of Vipers, bow
can ye, being evil, fpeak good Things? For out of
the Abundance of the Heart* the Mouth fpeaketh w .
Nor doth he pafs fo dreadful a Sentence on the
Ufe of opprobrious Language, concerning Ope-
rations of the Spirit, manifefted in diftant Places
or Times ; but concerning Miracles performed,
or fupernatural Gifts exercifcd, before Mens
own Eyes ; for that Advantage they, to whom
he fpoke, enjoyed. Nor did even they fall

*Matth. xii. 34.

N 4 under



200 SERMON IX.

under this Condemnation for every hafty Ex-
preffion of Contempt ; but for fuch, as they
continued to utter, after a fufficient Time al-
lowed them to grow cool and ferious, and re-
fled:. For when, upon the Apoftles receiving
the Gift of Tongues, there were fome, that
mock'mg faid., T^hefe Men are full of new Wine x ;
:gh it was certainly a blafpheming Saying
in itfelf, and came from a wrong Difpoiition
of Mind, and reflected on a Work of the Holy
Ghoft done in their own Prefence ; yet being
only a fudden Flight, St. Peter did not impute
it as Blafphemy to them, but merely as Rafh-
nefs of Judgment; and therefore applied him-
felf to convince them of .their Miftake, with fo
-good Effect, that 3000 were converted that
very Day. On the Whole therefore, the only
Perfons, whom we have Ground to think
guilty of the Blafphemy againjl the Holy Gboft,
meant in the Text, are they, who from bad
Motives, and, as we fay, in cold Blood, revile
and rail againft fuch Operations of the divine
.Spirit, as are performed in their own Prefence.
Let us- new inquire,

II. What is the true Senfe of our Sa-
vicur's Declaration, that this one Sin Jhall not

* Afaii. 13.

be



SERMON IX. 201

lc forgiven, neither in tbisprefent World, nor that
to come.

Some have apprehended him to mean only,
that all paffionate and injurious Language on
common Occalions fhall be confidered as mere
human Infirmity, that doth not put Men out
of a State of Salvation -, whereas the like Lan-
guage concerning the Miracles and Gifts of the
Holy Ghoil doth : brings them into a Con-
dition of fpiritual Death here, which, unlefs
they rife again from it by a particular Repent-
ance, will be followed by eternal Death here-
after. But furely it is taking much too great
Liberty ; nrft, by all Manner of Sin and Blaf-
pbemy to underfland only all fmful Evil-fpeak-
ing about common Matters, though our Sa-
viour hath fpecified fpeaking againft himfelf :
then to lay, that allEvil-fpeaking about common
Matters is confident with Salvation ; and laftly,
when the Text affirms peremptorily, that the
Elafphemy againfl the Holy Ghoft, and that alone,
foall not be forgiven ; to add, unlefs Men par-
ticularly repent of it : a Limitation, for which
there is not the leaft Authority > and which
would bring down this Sin to juft the fame
Level with many more. Some again think the
Words of our bleiTed Lord, though exprefled

abfo-



202 SERMON IX.

abfolutely, are meant only in Comparifon ; that
all other Sins will be forgiven fooner ; and this
with the moil Difficulty of any. But, though
doubtlefs there are fome Inftances, efpecially
in the Old Teftament, where what is faid pofi-
tively, muft be underflood comparatively : yet,
I think none will be found of that Sort, where
the AfTertion is made with fuch great and calm
Solemnity, and fo circumftantially. Laflly,
not a few, obferving that in all Writers, the
moil general Denunciations often admit no
fmall Number of particular Exceptions, con-
ceive, that this before us may y . But then
fome Foundation muft always appear for fuch
Exceptions, either in other PafTages of the fame
or other Writers, concerning the fame Matter,
or in the Nature of the Thing: and no fuch
Foundation hath yet been fhewn in the prefent
Cafe. Befides, the Declaration, that Blafpbemy
againft theHqly Gboft Jha// not be forgiven, is it-
felf an Exception from a general Rule, that
all Manner of Sin Jhall be forgiven : and to fup-
pofe other Exceptions again from this Excep-



y Erafmus in hh Paraphrafe interprets it, vix inveniet vent am.
And Latimcr in Strypc's Memorials, vol. 2. p. 70. faith, This
Sin is called unforgiveable, becaufe feldom forgiven : but on
Repentance it raay k



SERMON IX. 203

tion, feems very unnatural. It v/ould indeed be
prefumptuous to reltrain the Mercies of God :
but it is equally and perhaps more dangerous to
extend them farther, than he permits us.

The Addition, that this Sin foall neither be
forgiven in this World, nor the World to come, is
taken by many for no more, than a flronger and
fuller Way of faying, that itjhall not, or fhall
never, be forgiven : which are the Expreffions
ufed in St. Mark and St. Luke. Some under-
fland by it, neither in the Age or Difpenfation
pf the Law, which was then prefent, when our
Saviour fpoke ; nor of the Gofpel, which was
ready to take Place of it : for fo the Phrafes,
this World ?&& the World to come, are ufed in fome
Paffages of theNewTeftament. But others, with
good Appearance of Truth, carry the Meaning
further, and apprehend it to be ; that, whereas
Corrections, and fevere ones, are inflicted on.
many Sins in this Life, which yet, through
the Grace and Mercy of God, are not imputed,
to Mens Condemnation, at the laft Day : for
this Sin, on the contrary, both heavy Punifh-
ment fhould fall on the guilty here, and heavier
yet hereafter. And accordingly, in Fact, thefe
blafphemous yews underwent, in a few Years,
the moft dreadful temporal Judgements : nor

have



204 S E R M O N IX.

have we Caufe to think of their eternal State

otherwife, than with great Horror. Such then,

being the Senfe of our Saviour's Words, let us

enquire,

III. Why he palTed a Sentence, thus pecu-
liarly fevere, againft this one only Sin.

Now,- had the Offence been fpeaking irreve-
rently concerning the Perfon of the Holy Ghofr. :
it would not have been eafy to aflign any Reafon,
why that fhould be lefs pardonable, than the
fame Irreverence towards the Father, or the Son.
But fince, as you have feen, it was vilifying
his miraculous Operations and Gifts : there ap-
pear in it the moil evident Marks of fuch Guilt
and Danger, as could belong to no other. It
was the greateil and wilfullefr. Obilinacy in
the wrong, thaf can be imagined ; when they,
and all around them, faw the moft illustrious
and beneficial Miracles, done in Confirmation
of the rnoft holy and benevolent Doclrine, to
Hand out in Oppofition to both : to infift, that
the Devil confpired againft himfelf, rather than
own the Finger of God, where it was fo exceed-
ingly viable : and not only to blafpheme the
Son of Man thus, during his State of Humili-
ation, at which indeed their Prejudices might
naturally take feme confidcrable Offence; but

after



SERMON IX. 205

after he was exalted by the right Hand of God*,
and had baptized his Apoftles with the Holy Gboft
and with Fire, as John had foretold he fhould * ;
and enabled them by that Means, both to do
greater Works than hlmfelf\ and befides to -
derjlandall Myfteries c , to difcern and make manl-
fejl the Secrets of Hearts d , tofpeak 'with unknown
Tongues e , to flew beforehand Things to come f ,
to confer the fame Gifts on whom they would ;
and when every AiTembly of ChrifKans afforded
almofr, daily Proofs of thefe Things ; to perfift
yet, neither entering Into the Kingdom of Heaven
tbemfefoes, nor fujfering others to enter In * ; and
not only to oppofe, but to revile, the ftrongeft
Evidence, laid before them in the fullefl Man-
ner; and that, very probably, againflthe fecret
Conviction of their own Hearts too : fuch Be-
haviour manifests the moft hardened and defpe-
rate Wickednefs. All Men muft fuppofe it,
and our Saviour knew it, to proceed from an
incurable Difeafe within ; prevailing over the
powerfulleft and laft Remedy, which divine
Wifdom thought fit to ufe : and therefore his
Declaration, however awful, was but the natu-

2 Abii.33. "Matth. iii. n. b John xivr. 12.

c i Cor. xiii. 2. d i Cor. xii. 10. xiv. 25. e i Cor. xiv. 2, &c,
- f John xvi. 13. g Matth. xxiii. 13.



206 SERMON IX.

ral Confequence of the State they were in. Had
they only doubted, had they only denied, there
might have been fome Hope of them: but when
Men are come to railing and blafpheming, as
they were, they have done with attending and
coniidering. Yet {till, had they only rejected
the Teftimony of others concerning the won-
derful Operations and Gifts of the Spirit; ftrong-
cr Teftimony of others, or that of their own
Senfes, might have been added : but when this
laft had been vouchfafed them, there could pof-
fibly be no higher. It might indeed appear to
them, on maturer Reflection, more convincing,
than at firft : but after fufficient Leifure to re-*
flecl had been alfo allowed them, as I have
{hewn you it was j every Thing, that could be
done for them, confidently with leaving them
Freedom of Will, had been done, and all in
vain.

This, you fee, is plainly a very different Cafe
from that of any other Sin. And the peculiar
Guilt and Danger of it confifts, not in its being
committed againft the Holy Spirit ; but in its
being a wilful and obfHnate Rejection, from
wicked Motives, of the only Means remaining
for Reformation and Forgivenefs. Suppofe the
Providence of God had fo ordered it, that all

Difeafes
5



SERMON IX. 207

Difeafes fhould be curable, by fome one particu-
lar Courfe of Medicine : ftill whoever defpifed
and ridiculed that Courfe, inftead of taking it,
muft perim. And in like Manner, though all
Sins would elfe be pardonable through the Grace
of the Gofpel : whoever fcorns the utmoft Ef-
forts of that Grace, muft fail of it. And our
Saviour forcfeeing, that thefe Perfons would,
pronounces their Doom. Every Advantage,
that any others ever were to enjoy, they had en-
joyed to the full, without ErFec~l : and it was
not fuitable to the Honour of God's Govern-
ment, or the Holinefs of his Nature, to ftrive
withfuch by ftill more extraordinary Methods;
and do for the worft of Men, what he had not
done for the reft. Their Condition, therefore,
was not, that they mould be denied Pardon,
though they did repent : but it was foreknown,
that they would not repent. So that whoever
doth, may be fure, for that very Reafon, that
he hath not been guilty of the unpardonable
Blafpbemy againft the Holy Ghoft. Indeed no one
now, when, through Length of Time, the Cir-
cumftances of the Cafe are fo much altered, can
lie under the fame Guilt with thofe, to whom
our Saviour fpoke : nor can he therefore be unr
der the fame Condemnation : for tht Judgement '



208 SERMON IX.

of God is always according to *fruth h . But
though we cannot equal the Wickednefs of the
Jews in this RefpecT:, yet we may come dread-
fully near it. And therefore I proceed now to
{hew you,

IV. What Sins do, or do not, approach
towards that, which is mentioned in the
Text.

And here I mall fpeak feparately, firft of the
Cafe of Unbelievers in Chrift, then of Believers
in him.

Unbelievers, ignorant of the Gofpel, or of
its proper Evidence, and who could not help
their Ignorance, are not blameable for their
Unbelief: nor furely inexcufeable, though they
mould add reproachful Words to it, jpcaking
evil of things which they know not \ And though
it be a great Unhappinefs to them, that they
have neither the fame Means of Reformation and
fpiritual Improvement, nor the fame Amirance
of Pardon and Acceptance, that Chriftians have:
yet it is their Unhappinefs only, not their Fault.
But fuch Unbelievers, as through a contemptu-
ous Negligence refufe to confider the Doctrine
of Chrift, or from a vain Opinion of the Suffi-
ciency of their own Reafon, or from Love to

b Rom. ii. z. Judc 10.

any



SERMON IX. 209

any Sin, reject it ; thefe put themfelves in the
high Road towards the Sin, condemned here
by our Saviour. And if they add to their In-
fidelity profane and irreverent Language ; they
advance nearer to it. But if Part of that
Language be afcribing the Miracles and fpiri-
ttul Gifts, mentioned in the New Teftament,
to an evil Power, of which fome amongft them
have given Intimations -, and above all, if they
do this from a malicious Heart, and perhaps
againfl their own inward Perfuafion too ; then
they come as near to it, as they are able. And
yet one cannot but hope, that fmce the Evi-
dence of the Gofpel is not either quite fo full
and ftrong, or fo obvious and eafily feen at
once, as it was in the Days of our Saviour and
his Apollles ; they may, after all, think better
of it, repent and obtain Pardon.

If indeed they have, fince they came to a fulj
Ufe of Reafon, deliberately profeffed Chriftia-
nity, and then forfaken it, and become Railers
and Scoffers at it; this Cafe is worfe, than if they
had never believed ; in Proportion as they have
feen the Evidences, underilood the Nature, and
felt the Influences of the Gofpel ; and yet, after
all, have broken the Faith, which they had fo-


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryThomas SeckerWorks (Volume 1) → online text (page 15 of 20)