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MAT. XII. 31, 32.
ALL MANNER OF SIN AND BLASPHEMY SHALL BE FORGIVEN UNTO MEN: BUT
THE remarkable passage of sacred Scripture which we have selected as the groundwork of this discourse, suggests four topics of inquiry, namely, What is sin-what is blasphemy-how is forgiveness of them to be obtained-and under what circumstances must they be committed in order to be incapable of forgiveness? These questions, by the grace of God, we design briefly to consider in their order, with an especial view to that portion of the Apostolic Creed in which we profess to believe in 'the forgiveness of sins.'
1. What, then, in the first place, is sin? The answer is furnished by the great Apostle, SIN IS THE TRANSGRESSION OF THE LAW,' a definition which is demonstrably just, even on the principles of human reason. For God is our Creator. His will called us into being, and furnished us with all that gives value to existence. Equally absurd and impious, therefore, would it be, to question his right to make laws for that life which his goodness has bestowed. And, clearly, the right which justifies the annunciation of these laws, equally justifies the condemna. tion of all who should transgress them,
But again, the laws of God are obligatory on us, because they are devised for the sole purpose of making us happy. In the nature of things, goodness and happiness are inseparable. The Deity himself is infinite in both, supremely good, and supremely happy. In order, however, to make us partakers of his felicity, it is indispensably necessary that we secure his approbation, and surely we cannot expect his approbation, unless we be obedient to his will. Thus our own best interest becomes involved in the claims of the
Divine law, and the sinner, therefore, is not only a rebel against the rightful authority of heaven, but he is the effectual destroyer of his own bliss—a suicide, both of the body and the soul.
Now on the first of these grounds, the transgression of the Divine will is wickedness; for if God possesses the right to command, it is wicked to deny or resist that right by our disobedience. And on the second ground, this transgression of his will is egregious folly; for if our happiness can only be derived from him, what folly can equal that by which we rebel against the laws of his goodness and the government of his love? Hence it is that, in Scripture, the fool is usually but another name for the wicked, since there is no wickedness like his who sins against his God,no folly like his who scorns his own salvation.
There is, however, a difficulty to many minds in apprehending this simple definition of sin, produced chiefly by the influence of worldly associations, for men are so apt to put their own judgment in the place of the judgment of the Deity, that they think themselves safe when they tolerate each other, and imagine that the approbation of earth must be a sure passport to the approbation of heaven. Nay, it is not uncommon to find persons of intelligence, who profess belief in Christ, and acknowledge the authority of
the Bible, and yet give up their opinions, feelings, principles, and habits, so unreservedly to the customs and fashions of society, that the world becomes their lawgiver, and their God. But it is impossible to conceive a grosser degree of inconsistency. For what is the world but a collection of our fellow beings, mortal, weak, sinful, and accountable creatures, like ourselves? Were it possible for the judgments of the whole race of mankind to be arrayed against our allegiance to our God, what influence should it possess over our conduct, when we know that they and we are alike impotent in comparison with the Almighty? And when we contemplate the fact that so few of our fellow beings concern themselves about us—that in truth what we call 'the world' is to each one amongst us nothing more than a handful from the heap—a few dozen perhaps of individuals, for not one of whom, in general, do we entertain any '. special degree of reverence or esteem, how astonishing it is, that we should invest this handful with the importance of ‹ the world,' and then advance them to the infinite majesty of a God-yea, place them above the only living and true God, and make their praise or censure, their principles or customs, a superior law, higher than the Word of the Most High, and stronger than the will of the All Powerful. O what wonderful absurdity—what marvellous infatuation!
But the world is not our creator, the world is not capable of making us happy, and therefore it possesses no right to bind us by any of its laws, except in strict subordination to the law of God. Whenever, therefore, we yield a more ready obedience to the opinions or rules of society than we render to the will of God, we commit the atrocious sin of despising the highest and most sacred obligations of duty, in order to honor our little circle of fellow sinners; and whenever we follow the maxims of the world in known
opposition to the Divine law, we not only transgress against the rightful Head of all authority, but we do it without the slightest apology or palliation.
2. Having thus shown, that sin is the transgression of the law of God,—that it is characterised alike by wickedness and folly, and is incapable of any excuse derived from the laws or customs of the world, we have next to consider the blasphemy mentioned in the text, which is simply the aggravation of speaking unjustly, insultingly, or contemptuously ́of the Divinity himself, as did the Pharisees, who gave our Lord occasion to utter the language of the text, by saying that his miracles were the works of Satan, and as many do in our own day by deriding his word, ridiculing his threats, setting his power at open defiance, and boldly mocking all the provisions of his wisdom and his love towards our fallen world.
3. But all sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men, saith our Saviour, and we are next to enquire how this forgiveness may be obtained. Here we are led at once to the marvellous history of that blessed Being whom the love of our gracious Creator accepted as the representative of our race; who, although he was the brightness of the Father's glory and the express image of his person, yet took our nature upon him, obeyed the law of God with sinless perfection in our stead, and endured the penalty due to our transgressions in the blood and agony of the cross, in order that the majesty of the violated law might have an adequate atonement offering, and that one, as the head and representative of mankind, should merit the Divine felicity which God had designed for his intelligent creation. Those whom Christ Jesus receives as his family, his household, and his friends, through his sufferings and his perfect obedience, and for his sake, are forgiven and accepted of
the Father, and Christ receives those, and those only, who come to him by repentance and faith. Repentance is necessary because it is a godly sorrow for sin, whereby we are enabled to see it in its true enormity, abhor it on account of its wickedness, hate it on account of its ingratitude, and despise it on account of its folly. And faith is next essential, because by it we behold the only avenue which God has opened for our escape from condemnation, through the blood of the Saviour-we are enabled with humble joy and alacrity of heart to take upon us the light and blessed yoke of Divine obedience, to follow our gracious Mediator on earth, and to unite our souls, to him in that spiritual communion, which shall bind us to his love for ever in the kingdom of heaven. Thus our Eternal Sovereign no longer looks upon us as we are in ourselves, but as connected with and belonging to our Redeemer, and through him and by him all manner of sin and blasphemy are freely and fully forgiven.
This repentance and faith in the Saviour, however, are not to be obtained by the unassisted labor of mortal exertion. The effect of sin is to darken the intellect and to harden the heart, so that the sinner, in his natural state, is utterly blind and desperately infatuated in regard to his real guilt and danger. He cannot see his sins, he cannot understand the purity and extent of the Divine law, he cannot discern the deceitful sophistry of unbelief nor the puerile folly of worldly pleasure. He lies sunk and degraded in all his tastes and hopes and expectations-grovelling on earth-sighing after unknown delights, which he vainly supposes earth can yield to him-longing after some unknown peace which he trusts that earth is able to bestowin his highest flights of mental elevation, soaring no farther than the material universe, and in his lowest and most ordinary enjoyments, too often falling beneath the level of