« PreviousContinue »
them, having critically examined the subject, are convinced that the text does not countenance that unmerciful doctrine. Among the number of the last mentioned, is Doctor Adam CLARKE, a celebrated commentator, of the Methodist persuasion. The following is a brief, and we believe, correct exposition of the passage.
1. To blaspheme signifies to revile, rail against, and reproach another. The Jews blaspheiped against the Holy Spirit, when they attributed Christ's miracles of mercy, which were wrought by the spirit of God, to the agency of evil demons. They were thus guilty, “Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.” None but the Jews, therefore, (as Dr. Clarke justly maintains,) who were personal witnesses of the miracles of Christ, ever committed the sin against the Holy Ghost.
2. The reason why those who sinned against the Holy Ghost, were not forgiven, was not, that the sin was, of itself, strictly unpardonable; but because the wickedness and obstinacy of the blasphemers were such, that they would persevere in criminality, until the judgment of heaven should be realized, which had oft been threatened upon that rebellious people. Hence it is said, in the parallel passage, Mat. xii. they "shall not be forgiven, neither in this world, (age or dispensation, as Dr. Clark renders it,) neither in the world (or age) to come.” This is spoken prophetically, of what would be the character and fate of the Jews.
The word "forgiveness" is frequently used, in a sense which would by no means apply to the passage in question. When we change our feelings in relation to a person by whom we have been injured or offended, we forgive him, in a certain sense. But God is of one mind and changes not; therefore, when he forgives, the whole change takes place in the singer. To forgive in this sense, is synonymous with, to reconcile. When God sheds abroad his love in the heart, producing reconcili
ation, there is forgiveness of sin. But, in this sense the Jews, who persisted in a blasphemous course, were not forgiven.
But forgiveness of sin, is frequently represented by remitting a debt. See Luke vii. 41, 49.
One debtor owed five hundred pence, the other fifty, and when they had nothing to pay, (no means of making payment) the creditor frankly forgave them both. In this definition of the word, all men need forgiveness. They are under obligations of constant and unremitting obedience to God. Hence, just so far as they come. short of fulfilling this obligation, they must be found in debt, in a moral point of view. Their sufferings in consequence of sins, and their penitence when convicted in their consciences, cannot, in the least, atone for their wickedness. The punishment which all wicked men endure, is no more than what they deserve, for disobedience ; and to be penitent and humble, is no more than what duty requires, considering the situation in which they then are. And ali their subsequent obedience, is simply discharging a duty, which would have been justly required, even if they had never sinned. So that all men will need forgiveness, in this last sense of the word, in a ratio corresponding with the degrees of their former wickedness.
3. The Jews, the blasphemers, according to the text, were “in danger of eternal damnation," or, as the original word, xpiois, would be better translated, judgment or punishment. So Dr. Clarke renders it.—The meaning is, that they would persist in impenitence, and suffer the punishment, which Jesus repeatedly declared, should come upon that generation.-See Mat. xxiv.
The word eternal is not desigoed, particularly, to express the duration of the judgment, but to show that the denunciations would be completely executed. It implies an indefinite period of time, the complete round
of the duration of which, is unknown to all, excepting him, by whom it is purposed and limited. These are the words of the above named Commentator. “It (eternal) is often applied to those systems, periods, governments, &c. which have a complete duration, taking in the whole of them, from their commencement to their termination-leaving nothing of their duration unembraced.” This definition very happily expresses the meaning, we would wish to convey, in relation to the passage
before We maintain that the judgment, threatened on the blasphemers, was fully executed, "leaving nothing of its duration unembraced.” And for this very reason, it could not imply an eternity of punishment: because, such punishment could have no "termination.” That duration could not be called a period, all whose parts would ever be completely embraced.
It is surprising that any intelligent and candid people, who have bestowed suitable attention upon
the subject, should adduce it in proof of endless misery. They must be sensible, upon a moment's reflection, that if the text presents any direct proof of that doctrine, it consists in the declaration, that "the sin against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness,” or shall not be forgiven, neither in this, or the coming age. But if we maintain, that the non-forgiveness of a crime implies the endless wretchedness of the sinner, the text will be found to prove infinitely too inuch. Because, both this and the collateral text in Matthew, as fully declare, that all other sins shall be forgiven, as that the sin here mentioned shall not be. Hence, the inference would be, that all other sins shall be forgiven; and all men saved, those only excepted, who blaspheme against the Holy Ghost. But will the sticklers for endless misery be satisfied with this ? Do they preach that all men excepting those blasphemers, will be saved from their eternal hell? They certainly do not. Therefore, their applica
tion of the text, by proving too much, proves nothing.
By the interpretation which has here been given, in miniature, in which the punishment denounced on the “blasphemers," is limited, we avoid introducing contradiction and confusion, into the sacred scriptures. It is utterly impossible to reconcile the language in different parts of the Bible, on any other hypothesis. For instance, Jesus had power over all flesh, that he might give eternal life, to as many as the Father gave him. But will any rational man pretend, that Jesus gives eternal life to those who are eternally miserable ? whom, according to the popular creed, God never intended to sáve? Impossible. Again; it is the express declaration of scripture, that, by the blood of his cross, God will reconcile all things unto himself; whether they be things in earth, on things in heaven.-See Col. i. 20. But this cannot be true, if a great part of the human family remain forever in a state of alienation to God. Passages almost without number might be adduced, showing that the doctrine of interminable misery renders the Bible inconsistent and irreconcilable with it. self. How, in the name of wonder can that unmerciful doctrine be reconciled with the positive declaration, that God is good to all, and that his tender mercies are over all his works ? Or, how can it be made to harmonize with the determinate will of God, that all should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth ? We are satisfied that no candid and ingenuous opposer would feel himself prepared for such an arduous undertaking. The task must certainly appear unpromising and hopeless.
Furthermore; by this explanation we avoid exposing our fellow-mortals to the awful despondency, which always follows a conviction, that the person has committed the unpardonable sin, as this blasphemy is called. How frequently do we hear of instances, in which
people become irrecoverably dejected, under the delusive apprehension that their sins can never be forgiven; and, as they are taught, that they must, of course, be eternally miserable? This is an evil consequence, most deeply to be deprecated ; but, which cannot fail to be realized, as long as people are made to believe that a certain crime is strictly unpardonable, and exposes one to endless torment. Every man whose heart is moulded in the image of Jesus, will shudder at the idea of becoming accessary to such scenes of mental agony and ultimate self-slaughter. In almost every instance in which our fellow-beings commit violence on their lives, under religious impressions, it will be found that the miserable and deceived creatures had been made to believe, that “they were undone”-“had sinned out the day of grace"-"committed the unpardonable sin,” &c. Was it not for the notion that they could not possibly be restored and experience the Divine favor, they would still wish to live and improve the means which were granted them. Under the discouraging and soul-killing fear of having sinned against the Holy Ghost, so as to render their salvation impossible, they sink into despair and wretchedness. May God in mercy preserve our readers from the destructive influence of this papal, barbarous doctrine.
From the Christian Intelligencer.
THE SECOND COMMAND.
“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Matt. xxii. 39.
The uncommon importance which our divine Master attached to this command, should admonish us to be careful how we apply or explain it.
It is said to be one of the two commandments, on which "hang all the law and the prophets.” Altho it would at first appear, that the text is so plain and familiar that a misapplica