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I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” It appears from these representations, that if real saints should totally apostatize from their faith and profession, they would never be recovered from their apostasy, but eventually perish. And this is the very sentiment contained in the passages under consideration. But some may ask, Is not the danger of saints' falling away, inconsistent with the doctrine of their final perseverance? I answer, No. David was in danger of being slain by Saul, who determined, if possible, to take away his life. And he realized his danger, when he said, “Surely I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul.” And there is no doubt but he would have actually fallen by the hand of Saul, if he had not taken peculiar care and precaution, to escape his subtle stratagems and violent assaults. But all the while Saul was pursuing David, and attempting to destroy him, it was absolutely certain, that David should live, and succeed him on the throne of Israel.. For God had anointed David, to be ruler over his people, and had promised to put the reins of government into his hands. So God has promised to keep all true saints from actual apostasy, and to conduct them safely to his heavenly kingdom. But though the power
. and faithfulness of God be engaged in their favor; yet they must watch, and pray, and take heed, lest they fall. And upon this principle, the Apostle sol. emnly warns them, in the texts under consideration, not against the unpardonable sin in particular, but against the sin of final apostasy, or a total renunciation of christianity.
2. If what has been said is true, then sinners have no ground to imagine, that they have committed the unpardonable sin, because they have inwardly opposed God, and resisted the strivings of the Spirit. No
inward exercises of heart, however strong and sensible and criminal, ever amount to the sin unto death; which is an external sin of the tongue. Though sin. ners under the strivings of the Spirit, do actually feel enmity against God, and sensibly resist convictions; yet so long as they suppress their feelings, and never utter them in blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, they do not sin unto death. All sinners are totally, depraved. They have a carnal mind which is enmity against God, not subject to his law, neither indeed can be. It is their nature, therefore, always to resist the Holy Ghost, and endeavor to stifle convictions. They hate the light, and are extremely unwilling to come to the light, lest their hearts should be discovered, and their deeds reproved. But under the awakening and convincing influences of the Spirit, they are obliged to come to the light; and in this situation, it is as natural for their hearts to rise in direct and violent opposition to God and divine truth, as for a corrupt fountain to send forth corrupt streams. There are, indeed, no thoughts nor exercises of heart too malignant for them to feel, in the clear view of their guilt and danger. They may hate their own existence, and wish to be annihilated. They may hate the divine existence, and wish to dethrone and destroy the Most High. But neither these, nor any other inter- '. nal exercises of the carnal mind, partake of the nature of the unpardonable sin; which essentially consists in blasphemous words, and not in blasphemous thoughts. There is reason to believe, that some persons, who have felt the most malignant exercises of heart, have, notwithstanding, obtained the pardoning mercy of God. It is certain, however, that some eminent christians in appearance, have given this account of themselves; and there is nothing in Scripture nor reason, to contradict their account. Though it be extremely criminal to quench the Spirit and stifle convictions; yet there is nothing unpardonable in such inward exercises of heart. Those sinners, therefore, who are conscious of the most malignant feelings towards God and divine objects, have no right to conclude, that they have committed the sin unto death, and put themselves beyond the reach of divine mercy.
3. If what has been said is true, then it is altogether criminal for any to despair of salvation, who have not committed the unpardonable sin. Since God has promised to pardon all penitent sinners, except blas. phemers against the Holy Ghost, it must be altogether criminal in any others, to despair of forgiveness, on account of the greatness of their guilt. So long as sinners remain secure and stupid, they are too apt to presume upon the mercy of God; but when they are awakened to attend to their hearts, and to the nature, number, and aggravations of their sins, they are too prone to despair of salvation. They appear to themselves so vilo and guilty, that they imagine a holy and just God, must make them completely and eternally miserable. But these apprehensions are altogether groundless and criminal. What if they have cast off fear, and restrained prayer; what if they have walked in the ways of their heart, and in the sight of their eyes; what if they have said to God, Depart from us, we de. sire not the knowledge of thy ways; what if they have hated instruction, and despised reproof; what if they have resisted the Spirit, and rejected the counsel of God against themselves, yea, what if in reality they are the very chief of sinners; yet if they now heartily repent, and return to God upon his own terms, he will freely and abundantly pardon. For he makes no distinction between great sinners and small, in the
offers of salvation. He freely promises forgiveness and acceptance to all who repent, and submit to the terms of life. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” The more the guilt of sinners has abounded, the more the grace of God can abound in their forgiveness. Those, who have indulged the most virulent enmity against God, and the cause and friends of Christ, may, like penitent Paul, obtain mercy. Those, who have long abused the patience of God, and grown gray in their sins, may, like penitent Manasseh, be received at the elev. enth hour. The vilest sinner, upon repentance, may turn the greatness of his guilt into an argument of mercy, and in the language of David say, “Lord, pardon mine iniquity, for it is great." To despair of salvation, therefore, on account of aggravated guilt, is extremely criminal in the most ill deserving sinners.
Their despondency is a reproach both to the mercy and faithfulness of God. It is so far from being an expression of real humility, that, on the other hand, it is a real justification of their present impenitency and unbelief. It is a practical declaration, that they would ather it should be owing to past, than to present obstinacy, that they are denied divine mercy. But God has ordered it so in the gospel, that nothing but pres: ent opposition to the offers of life, can exclude the most unworthy and guilty sinner from the kingdom of heaven. All things are ready on God's part; and, therefore, let sinners, instead of murmuring and desponding, “hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.”
4. Jf blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall nev. er be forgiven; then it seriously concerns all sinners
to beware of committing this unpardonable sin. appears from what has been said, that it is a sin, which may be committed, at this day, as well as in the primitive days of christianity. It consists in ascribing the peculiar operations of the Holy Ghost, to the power and agency of Satan. And though the miraculous gifts of the Spirit have long since ceased; yet his gracious and sanctifying influences still continue. There have been many remarkable seasons of the outpourings of the Spirit, in these latter ages. And should such a season come again, in this land, when the awakening, convincing, converting, and comforting influences of the Spirit, should be very common and very powerful; and should any virulently oppose this good work of the good Spirit, and knowingly ascribe it to the power and delusion of Satan; there is no reason to doubt but they would blaspheme the Holy Ghost, and bring upon themselves unpardonable guilt. It behoves sinners, therefore, to keep at the greatest distance from this fatal sin. Let them avoid all appearances of it, and shun every way of sinning, which leads to it, or stands more nearly connected with it. In particular, let them beware of despising religion; of trifling with the name of God; and of profaning his day, his house, his word and sacred ordinances. The transition is easy from these sins to the sin unto death. Those who have habituated themselves to despise and profane divine objects in gen. eral, are in peculiar danger of blaspheming the Holy Ghost in particular, whenever they have an opportunity of seeing his peculiar and powerful operations upon the hearts of men. Let no sinners, therefore, dare to trifle with sacred things; lest they should be left in awful judgment to themselves, to speak a word against the Holy Ghost, which is death without reprieve!