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the brutes. In this condition of his immortal spirit, the grace of God, through the great atonement of Christ, is sent to remove the thick film which rests upon his mental vision, and to breathe the first influence of holiness upon the heart. The agent in this great moral renovation is the Holy Ghost alone. He, by his blessed inspiration, introduces the first good desire, the first sacred fear, the first kindly turning of the affections to their true and proper sovereign. He enables us to repent, to believe and to obey the precious Gospel of salvation; and if we follow his leadings, if we answer to his secret calls, if we open our "hearts to the still and holy breathings of his grace, and diligently use all the means of instruction and of full conversion provided for us in the Christian dispensation, the change of our hearts is in due time effected, the knowledge of sin is increased and its power over us is lessened, our desires are gradually drawn from earth and placed in heaven, our hope is exalted, our charity established and enlarged, and the great work is at length so far perfected as to restore us to our real dignity, and fit us for that felicity which is eternal and Divine.
4. From this brief statement of the effectual agent in our spiritual change, which agent is the Holy Spirit of the Lord our God, it will be easy to understand the most obvious and practical interpretation of the text, where it is said that, 'the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.' And again, 'that whosoever speaketh a word against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world nor in the world to come.' For in these expressions we may see a true parallel to many other passages wherein we are warned not to resist the Holy Ghost, not to grieve the Holy Spirit, not to quench the Holy Spirit, and so on. By all of which we may perceive, that while
our sins are committed ignorantly and in unbelief, there is hope of mercy and forgiveness, but when they are committed against light and knowledge, and especially after an internal conviction of the truth as it is in Jesus, the Holy Spirit, grieved and wearied, as it were, abandons the soul, and then the grace of God being withdrawn, the only instrument of our salvation is lost for ever. Now, in this very thing, it has been thought that the difference between fallen angels and fallen men consisted. The angels who kept not their first estate, sinned against the light and knowledge of heaven itself. Hence the Holy Spirit abandoned them without the possibility of remedy; for what hope of repentance or returning love could remain for spirits who had rebelled under circumstances like these? But Adam fell, under the influence of outward temptation, and with much less of that spiritual evidence and illumination which proceed from the Holy Ghost, and hence a Mediator was provided for him and his posterity, through whom the Divine Agent might again visit their benighted souls with the offer of pardon and peace. But then, when the heavenly Messenger has dispensed his graces to the human heart, and the means of knowledge, and repentance, and faith have been so far vouchsafed to the sinner that he can no longer rebel in ignorance, nor blaspheme under delusion,— when sufficient evidence, and light, and power have been bestowed upon him to stamp his offences with the deep atrocity of wilful and malicious revolt against the majesty of God and the mercy of his Saviour, and when he sins, as it were, in absolute despite of the visitations of the Holy Spirit within him-then does the Celestial Comforter depart―his grace is quenched, his power withdrawn— the very means of repentance are lost-the instrument of a living faith is removed, and the miserable, God-forsaken
wretch is delivered up to that awful condition, where the mercy of Christ is clean gone for ever,' and he will be favorable no more.
A great variety of interpretations have been given with regard to the unpardonable sin, few of which appear deserving of particular notice, and none more practically important than that which we have endeavored to explain. Certain it is, that no one can commit this sin under the peculiar circumstances of the Pharisees, in the days of our Saviour's appearance upon earth, but yet this hinders us not from believing that any man may commit it eventually, by resisting, wilfully, the strivings of the Holy Spirit with his heart, by closing his eyes with obstinate infatuation against the light of truth, and especially by adding to his sin the dreadful aggravation of open and blasphemous contumely. But at what point of spiritual conviction, at what stage in life, or under what circumstances this sin is committed by any individual, it is not for man to say. It is enough for us to be assured that it is possible for us to be guilty of it, and the uncertainty we are in as to the time or the circumstances is only an argument for the greater humility and fear. While we watch and pray lest we enter into temptation, there is no danger of grieving the Holy Spirit, and therefore no danger of provoking him to abandon us. But when we are in the habit of neglect, of disobedience, of wilful unbelief, of hardened impenitence, and especially of open opposition to the Gospel, we are rushing blindfold towards the brink of that tremendous precipice, and God only knows the moment in which we may plunge into irrecoverable ruin and despair.
It only remains, on this branch of the subject, to state how the sinner may assuredly know that he has not yet committed the unpardonable sin. So long as life continues,
no man can certainly know that he has committed it, because it may happen in the long-suffering of God, that although his Spirit appears to forsake the rebel for a time, he may yet return and visit the soul with an effectual blessing. But although it is impossible for us to know in this life that any individual has committed this sin, yet we may certainly know that it has not been committed so long as there is the least symptom of grace remaining. No good thought, no movement of repentance, no sorrow for sin, no longing for pardon, no holy fear of the Divine wrath, no sense of the Divine goodness, no touch of religious sensibility or Christian feeling can possibly exist without the grace of the Holy Spirit, and, therefore, while any of these remain, it is demonstrably certain that the Holy Spirit remains, and is yet graciously laboring to regenerate and convert the soul. Hence it results, that those humble and timorous believers who distress themselves with the fear that they have committed the unpardonable sin, do by their very anxiety show that they have not committed it, and hence, also, those who think and care the least upon the subject, stand in the greatest danger.
Having now, my brethren, endeavored in plain simplicity to illustrate the language of the text, we must ask your attention to the subject of the forgiveness of sins, as it stands in connexion with the other articles of our venera, ble Creed. And first, you perceive that we profess our belief in God the Father, the Creator of all. Here is sovereignty, majesty, and power, but no forgiveness. Next, we profess our belief in God the Son, in his incarnation, his sufferings, his death, his resurrection, his exaltation, and his second coming to judgment. Here is love, compassion, tenderness, condescension, all wonderful, all beyond conception and degree,-all exhibiting a mighty preparation
for some great end yet still no application of the system, still no forgiveness. But thirdly, we profess our belief in God the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, to constitute the Holy Catholic or universal Church, in which alone is the communion of the saints or of the holy; and now it is that we arrive at the true end of the whole wondrous plan, the forgiveness of the sinner. To a superficial investigation, the order in which these articles are arrayed, seems arbitrary and unmeaning, but in that order there is the most luminous and admirable gradation, in which not one step has been fixed without a depth of wisdom, hardly less than might have been expected from apostolic inspiration. In vain, then, to the sinner, is the belief in God, the belief in Christ, or even the belief in the Holy Spirit, without the adoption into the Church, the entering the communion of the Saints, and in this appointed, visible, and necessary channel, the obtaining forgiveness of sins. We speak not here of those who are cast in the wilderness or amongst the heathen, and who CANNOT come in the appointed way. The Lord asks not for impossibilities. But we speak of those and to those who are in a land of Christian light and knowledge; we speak to some among yourselves, my brethren-to you who, if the forgiveness of your sins be worth your seeking, have no excuse for neglecting to seek it in the only regular and sure channel, by uniting yourselves in heart and in an open profession to the visible body of believers. Seek, then, the blessings of salvation, the grace of forgiveness, the pardon of your sins from the atoning sacrifice of Christ, in the communion of the saints, in the Holy Catholic or universal Church, and through that Holy Spirit who presides in the assemblies of his people. There, in the diligent use of the appointed means, you can never seek in