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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 12

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

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Verses 1-21

XXVII

OUR LORD’S GREAT MINISTRY IN GALILEE

Part II

Harmony -pages 89-45 and Matthew 9:27-34; John 5:1-47; Matthew 12:1-21; Mark 2:23-3:19; Luke 6:1-16.


This is a continuation of the great ministry of our Lord in Galilee and the next incident is the healing of the two blind men and the dumb demoniac. It will be noted that our Lord here tested the faith of the blind men in his ability to heal them, and when they were healed he forbade their publishing this to the people, but they went forth and told it and spread his fame in all the land. It was "too good to keep." Immediately after this they brought to him one possessed with a demon and dumb, and he cast out the demon. This produced wonder among the common people, but brought forth another issue between our Lord and the Pharisees. Tins is the third issue with them, the first being the authority to forgive sins at the healing of the paralytic; the second, the eating with publicans and sinners at the feast of Matthew; the third, the casting out of demons by the prince of demons, which culminated later in the unpardonable sin.


The next incident in our Lord’s ministry is his visit to Jerusalem to the Feast of the Passover (see note in Harmony, p. 39), at which he healed a man on the sabbath and defended his action in the great discourse that followed. In this discussion of our Lord the central text is John 5:25 and there are three things to be considered in this connection.

THE OCCASION

The scriptural story of the circumstances which preceded and called forth these utterances of our Saviour is very familiar, very simple, and very touching. A great multitude of impotent folk, blind, halt, withered, were lying in Bethesda’s porches, waiting for the moving of the waters. It is a graphic picture of the afflictions and infirmities incident to human life; the sadness of ill-health; the unutterable longing of the sick to be well; the marvelous power of an advertised cure to attract to its portals and hold in its cold waiting rooms earth’s despairing sufferers, so grouped as to sicken contemplation by the varieties and contrasts of all the ills that flesh is heir to.


Blindness groping its way trying to see with its fingers; deafness vainly and painfully listening for a voice it cannot hear – listening with its eyes; lameness limping along on nerveless, wooden feet; blistered, swollen tongues, dumb and senseless, appealing to fingers for speech and to nostrils for taste; the pitiful whining of mendicancy and vagabondage and raga timidly dodging from an expected blow while begging alms; the hideousness of deformity, either shrinking from exposure or glorifying to make conspicuous its repulsiveness, while a side-light reveals, crouched in the misty background, Sin, the fruitful mother of all this progeny of woe.


Ah I Bethesda, Bethesda, thy porches are the archives of unwritten tragedies! If the hieroglyphics inscribed by suffering on thy cold stone pavements could be deciphered, the translations age by age, would be but a repetition of sorrow’s one prayer to pitying heaven: Oh heaven! have compassion on us! Oh heaven I send a healer to us.


It was a sad sight. Now, among the number gathered about that pool was a man who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. His infirmity was impotence – lack of power. His physical and his mental powers were prostrated, paralyzed. His affliction was so great that it prevented him from availing himself of any chance of being cured in this pool, and he was tantalized by lying in sight of the cure, continually seeing cures performed on others, and never being able to reach it himself. Such a case attracted the attention of Jesus. He came to this man and propounded an important question: "Do you want to be healed? Are you in earnest? Do you really wish to be made whole?" The man explains the circumstances that seemed to militate against his having a desire to be made whole: "I have not continued in this condition thirty-eight years because I did not try to help myself. I would be cured if I could be, but I cannot get down there into that water in time. Somebody always gets ahead of me. There is nobody to put me into the pool. My lying here so long and suffering so long, does not argue that I do not wish to be healed." Now, here is the key of the passage. Without employing the curative powers of the water, without resorting to any medical application whatever, by a word of authority, Jesus commanded him to rise up: "Be healed and walk." Now, do not forget that it was by a simple command, an authoritative voice, that that cure was consummated.


The time was the sabbath. There were certain bigots and hypocrites who imagined that they were the conservators of religion, and the only authoritative interpreters and expounders of the obligations of the Fourth Commandment: "Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy." They preferred two charges against the Lord Jesus Christ. The first charge was that he had violated the sabbath in performing that cure on the sabbath day. He worked on the sabbath day, whereas the commandment said that there should be a cessation from work on that day. And the second count in the charge was that he had caused another to work on that day, in that he made this man take up his bed and walk. Now, that is the first controversy. It is a controversy with reference to the violation of the Fourth Commandment. Jesus defended himself: "My Father worketh on the sabbath day. You misunderstand that commandment. It does not say, ’Do no work,’ but that commandment says, ’Do no secular and selfish work.’ It does not gay, ’Do no work of mercy.’ It does not say, ’Do no work of necessity.’ And as a proof of it, God, who rested upon the day originally and thereby hallowed it, himself has worked ever since. True, he rested from the work of creation, but my Father worketh hitherto and I work." His defense was this: That they misunderstood the import of the commandment, and that what he did had this justification – that is was following the example of the Father himself. Now comes the second controversy. Instantly they prefer a new charge against him, growing out of the defense that he had made. The charge now is a violation of the First Commandment, in that he claimed God as his father, his own father, and thereby made himself equal with God, which was blasphemy.


The keynote grows out of his defense against this second charge – not the charge about the violation of the sabbath day, but the charge suggested by his defense – the charge that he made himself equal with God. His defense is this: "I admit the fact. I do make myself equal with God. There is no dispute about the fact. But I deny the criminality of it. I deny that it furnishes any basis for your accusation." And then he goes on to show why. He says, "As Son of man, in my humanity I do not do anything of myself. I do not put humanity up against God. As Son of man I never do anything unless I first see my Father do it. Then, if my Father doeth it, I do it. In the next place, everything that the Father doeth I see. He shows it to me." What infinite knowledge; what intimacy with the Father! Why does he show it? "He shows it to me because he loves me. Why else does he? He shows it to me in order that he may induce all men to honor me as they honor him, and therefore he does not himself execute judgment upon anybody. He hath committed all judgment to me. He hath conferred upon me all authority and all power. And whoever hears my voice and believeth in me hath eternal life and shall not come unto condemnation, but is passed from death unto life." Thus he claims omniscience – that he sees everything that the Father does. He claims omnipotence – that he does everything that his Father does. He claims supreme authority – that he exercises all the judgment that is exercised upon this earth and in the courts of heaven and in the realms of woe. He claims that he does this because, like the Father, he hath life in himself – underived life, self-existence. Now, that brings us to the key verse: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour cometh and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live." Hence the theme of this passage is "The Voice and the Life."


Everyone that hears the voice of the Son of God, from the moment that he hears it, is alive forevermore; is exempt from the death penalty; is possessed of eternal life and shall not receive the sting of the second death and shall stand at the right hand of the Father, happy, saved forever!

THE EXEGESIS

The meaning of this passage is easily determined. We have only to compare this verse with a statement of the context. Let us place them side by side: "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming [not "now is,"] in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." Here are two things set over against each other. One present, the other future. Two kinds of dead people: Those who are alive and yet dead, and those who are dead and in their tombs. The dead who are alive may now hear and live. The dead in their graves cannot hear until the resurrection. It follows that the first is spiritual death and the second physical death. The dead soul may now hear and live; the dead body not now, but hereafter. As there are two deaths, there are two resurrections. Spiritual resurrection is now – resurrection of the body is not now. And the meaning is that the death in each case is broken by the voice. The voice gives life now to those "dead in trespasses and sins." "You hath he quickened." The voice raises the dead in the tombs at the second coming.


I have already called attention to this fact, that that impotent man was healed, not by the application of any medicine; that he was healed by a word of authority. He spoke and it was done. The thought that runs all through this passage, that indeed is the essence and marrow of it, is that the voice which confers life is a voice of command, is a voice of authority, is a divine voice, speaking from the standpoint of sovereignty and of omniscience and of power, and commanding life, and life coming in a moment, at the word. That is the thought of it. The dead shall hear his voice. The dead shall hear his voice when he says, "Live," and, hearing, shall live. I want to impress that idea of the voice being a voice of command, a voice of authority and of irresistible power.


Let me illustrate: John, in the apocalyptic vision, sees the Son of God, and I shall not stop to describe his hair, his voice, his girdle, his feet, or his manner. He is represented as opening his lips and a sword coming out of his mouth – a sword!


The word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword. The command that issues from the lips of Jesus Christ is irresistible. No defensive armor can blunt the point of that sword. No ice can quench the fire that is in it. No covering can protect from it. It reaches into the joints and into the marrow, and it touches the most secret things that have been hidden even from the eyes of angels.


Let me illustrate again: Once there was chaos, and chaos was blackness – wave after wave of gloom intermingled with gloom. Suddenly a voice spoke, "Let there be light," and light was. What means were employed? No means. Only the voice. He spake and it stood fast. It was the voice of authority. It was the voice of God. It was the voice of commandment, and nature obeyed her God. Read Psalm 28. A mountain is described in that psalm – a mountain covered with tall cedar trees – and then it says God spoke and the mountain trembled and the cedar trees snapped in twain and skipped like lambs, carried away, not on the breath of the wind, but on the voice of God.


Take but this case: Job had some ideas about salvation. God spoke to him and after asking how much knowledge he had, "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the world? What do you know about the heavenly bodies? What do you know about the giving of color, and the father of the rain, and in what womb the hoar frost and the ice are gendered? What do you know? Then what power have you? Can you feed the young lions when they lack? Can you drag out Leviathan with a hook? Can you pierce Behemoth with a spear when he churneth the deep and maketh it hoary?" Now comes the climax: "Have you a voice like God? If you think you have, rise up and speak; and speak to all the proud, and by your voice cast the proud down and bind their faces in secret. Then I will confess that your right hand can save you. But if you have no such knowledge; if your knowledge is not infinite; if your power is not infinite; if you cannot bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades or loose the bands of Orion; if you cannot abase the proud by a word, then do not attempt to say you save yourself."


Notice again: A man had one of his senses locked up – the sense of hearing. He had an ear, but it could not hear, and be came to Jesus. There he is, the deaf man. Jesus spoke one word, Ephphatha. What does it mean? "Be open." And the ear opened.


Occasionally now for the benefit of the gullible and the credulous some man will claim to have such vast powers as that he shall put his hand upon the sick and they shall be made whole – for two dollars a visit! But the whole of it is a fraud.


Here is one who spoke to an ear whose power of hearing was destroyed, and to give hearing to that ear meant creative power, and he simply said, "Be open," and it was open.


Take another case: A centurion comes upon the recommendation of the Jews to Jesus. He says, "Lord, I have a servant very dear to me and he is very sick. He is at the point of death. But I am not worthy that you should come to my house. You just speak the word and my servant shall be healed. I understand this; I am a man of authority myself. I have soldiers under me and I say to this one, Do that, and he doeth it. And I say to another, Do this, and he doeth it. Now you have authority. You need not come. You need not go through any movements of incantation. Speak the word and my servant will be healed." Jesus says, "He is healed."


Take another case: In Capernaum was a nobleman. He had one child, just one, a little girl twelve years old and she died. His only child is dead, and he comes to Jesus, and Jesus follows him, comes into the house, pushes people aside that are weeping there and wailing, walks into the room of death, takes hold of that dead girl’s hand, and he says, "Talitha Cumi – damsel, arise." And at the word of the Son of God, the dead girl rose up and was well.


Take another. He is approaching a city. There comes out a procession, a funeral procession. Following it is a brokenhearted widow. On the bier is her son – her only son. The bier approaches Jesus. He commands them to stop. They put it down. He looks into the cold, immobile, rigid face of death, and he speaks: "Young man, I say unto thee, arise." And at the voice of the Son of God he rises.


Take another. In Bethany was a household of three, but death came and claimed one of the three, and the sisters mourned for the brother that was gone. And he was buried four days; he had been buried, and decay and putridity had come. Loathesomeness infested that charnel house, and the Son of God stands before that grave, and he says, "Take away that stone." And there is the presence, not of recent death, as in the case of that girl on whose cheek something of the flush of life yet lingered; not like the young man of Nain, who had not been buried. But here was hideous death. Here was death in all of its horror and loathesomeness. The worms are here. And into that decayed face the Son of God looked and spoke, "Lazarus, come forth!" And he rose up and came forth. He heard the voice of the Son of God, and he lived.


Take yet another, Ezekiel 37. There is a valley. That valley is full of bones – dead men’s bones – dead longer than Lazarus – dead until all flesh is gone, and there is nothing there but just the dry, white bones. And the question arises, "Can these dry bones live?" And there comes a voice, “O breath, breathe on these slain." And at the voice they lived. That is why I said that the voice of this passage is the voice of authority. It is a voice of power. It is an irresistible voice. And whoever hears it is alive forevermore.


It is winter, and winter has shrouded the world in white and locked the flow of rivers and pulsation of lakes; stilled the tides which neither ebb nor flow, and there comes a voice, the voice of a sunbeam shining, the voice of a raindrop falling, the voice of a south wind blowing, and winter relaxes his hold. Cold winter is gone and the waters flow, and the juices rise, and the flowers bud and bloom, and fruit ripens and the earth is recreated. That represents the voice of God.

THE DOCTRINE

Now, what is the doctrine? The doctrine of this passage is that Jesus Christ is God Almighty manifest in the flesh – the self-existent, eternal, immutable, all-powerful God. That his word is authoritative; that his word conveys life; and that he speaks that word when, where, bow, and to whom he wills. He is the sovereign.


If there are many lepers in Israel he may speak to Naaman, the Syrian, only, "Be thou clean." If there are many widows in Israel he may speak to the widow of Sarepta alone, "Be thou saved from famine." If there are a multitude lying impotent around this pool he may speak to this one only and say, "Rise up and walk." He is a sovereign. The election is his.


I can no more tell to whom he will speak than I can count the stars, or the leaves, or the grains of sand. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. I know to whom I speak. I do not know to whom Jesus shall speak.


But I can tell the evidences from which we may conclude that he has spoken when he does speak, and that is the great point here. It is the ringing trumpet note of the Eternal God. How may we know that we hear him? Paul says in his letter to the Thessalonians, "This gospel came unto you, not in word only, but in power." In power I If, then, we hear the voice of Jesus, there will be energy in it. There will be vitality in it. There will be life in it. It will not be mere sound, but Bound embodying life. And how is that power manifested? It is manifested in this, that if we hear him we feel that we are singled out from all the people around us. We feel that we are cut out from the crowd. We feel that his eye is on us. We feel that we stand before God in our individuality alone. If we hear his voice, it discovers our heart to us. It shows us what we are. And not only that, but if we hear his voice there is a revelation to us of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. What says the Scripture? "If our gospel be hid it is hid to them that are lost in whom the god of this world hath blinded the eyes of them that believe not, but God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts, revealing the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." Now look back to that first scripture, "Let there be light, and light was." God, who commanded the light to shine out of the darkness, hath shined into our hearts, into the chaos and gloom and blackness of our hearts, and by that shining he has revealed to us his glory. Where? In the face of his incarnate Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.


Continuing his discourse, Jesus refers to John as a witness and he says that his witness was greater than that of John, because his works bear witness of him. He then asserts that they had never heard God’s voice nor did they have his Word abiding in them; that they were destitute of the love of God; that they sought not the glory of God; that they were convicted by the law of Moses because it testified of him and they received not its testimony. This he said was the reason that they would not believe his words. The reader will note how tactfully our Lord here treats his relation to the Father in view of the growing hatred for him on the part of the authorities at Jerusalem (see note in Harmony, p. 41).


On his way back from Jerusalem to Galilee he and his disciples were passing through the fields of grain and the disciples, growing hungry, plucked the heads of grain and rubbed them in their hands, which they were allowed to do by the Mosaic law. But the Pharisees, in their additions to and expositions of the law, had so distorted its true meaning that they thought they had ground for another charge against him. But he replies by an appeal (1) to history, the case of David, (2) to the law, the work of the priests, (3) to the prophets, and (4) to his own authority over the sabbath. This fourth issue with the Pharisees is carried over into the next incident where he heals the man with a withered hand on the sabbath day. Here he replied with an appeal to their own acts of mercy to lower animals, showing the superior value of man and the greater reason for showing mercy to him. Here again they plot to kill him.


When Jesus perceived that they had plotted to kill him, he withdrew to the sea of Galilee and a great multitude followed him, insomuch that he had to take a boat and push away from the shore because of the press of the crowd. Many were press- ing upon him because of their plagues, but he healed them all. This is cited as a fulfilment of Isaiah 42:1-4, which contains the following items of analysis: (1) The announcement of the servant of Jehovah, who was the Messiah; (2) his anointing and its purpose, i. e., to declare judgment to the Gentiles; (3) his character – lowly; (4) his tenderness with the feeble and wounded; (5) his name the hope of the Gentiles.


After the great events on the sea of Galilee our Lord stole away into the mountain and spent the whole night in prayer looking to the call and ordination of the twelve apostles. Then he chose the twelve and named them, apostles, whom both Mark and Luke here name. (For a comparison of the four lists of the twelve apostles see Broadus’ Harmony, p. 244.)

QUESTIONS

1. How did our Lord test the faith of the two blind men whom he healed?

2. What was our Lord’s request to them and why, and what was the result and why?

3. What was the result of his healing the dumb demoniac and what the culmination of the issue raised by the Pharisees?

4. What were the great events of our Lord’s visit to Jerusalem to the Passover (John 6:1)?

5. What was the occasion of his great discourse while there?

6. Describe the scene at the pool of Bethesda.

7. What was the time of this incident and the issue precipitated with the Pharisees?

8. How did Jesus defend himself?

9. What was new charge growing out of this defense and what our Lord’s defense against this charge?

10. How does Jesus here claim omniscience, omnipotence, and all authority?

11. What was the bearing of this upon the key verse (John 5:25) of this passage?

12. Give the exegesis of John 5:25-29.

13. What was the main thought running all through this passage? Illustrate by several examples.

14. What was the doctrine here expressed and how does the author illustrate it?

15. What were the evidences of the voice of the Son of God?

16. How does Jesus proceed to convict them of their gross sin and what the charges which he prefers against them?

17. Show how tactfully Jesus treated his relation to the Father and why.

18. State the case of the charge of violating the sabbath law in the cornfields and Jesus’ defense.

19. How does he reply to the same charge in the incident of the man with a withered hand and what the result?

20. Describe the scene that followed this by the sea of Galilee.

21. What prophecy is here fulfilled and what was the analysis of it?

22. What the occasion here of all-night prayer by our Lord?

23. What the order of names in the four lists of the twelve apostles as given by Mark, Luke, and Acts?

Verses 22-37

XXIX

OUR LORD’S GREAT MINISTRY IN GALILEE

Part IV The Centurion’s Servant Healed, the Widow’s Son Raised, The Sin Against the Holy Spirit

Harmony -pages 52-59 and Matthew 8:1; Matthew 8:5-13; Matthew 11:2-30; Matthew 12:22-37; Mark 3:1-30; Luke 7:1-8:3.


When Jesus, who spoke with authority, had finished the Sermon on the Mount, he returned to Capernaum where he acted with authority in performing some noted miracles. Here he was met by a deputation from a centurion, a heathen, beseeching him to heal his servant who was at the point of death. This Jewish deputation entered the plea for the centurion that he had favored the Jews greatly and had built for them a synagogue. Jesus set out at once to go to the house of the centurion, but was met by a second deputation, saying to Jesus that he not trouble himself but just speak the word and the work would be done. The centurion referred in this message to his own authority over his soldiers, reasoning that Christ’s authority was greater and therefore he could speak the word and his servant should be healed. This called forth from our Lord the highest commendation of his faith. No Jew up to this time had manifested such faith as this Roman centurion. Then our Lord draws the picture of the Gentiles coming from the east, west, north, and south to feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven while the Jews, the sons of the kingdom, were cast out. Jesus then granted the petition of the centurion according to his faith.


The second great miracle of Jesus in this region was the raising of the widow’s son at Nain, which was a great blessing to the widow and caused very much comment upon the work of our Lord, so that his fame spread over all Judea and the region roundabout. His fame as a miracle worker and "a great prophet, “ reached John the Baptist and brought forth his message of inquiry.


This inquiry of John, which reflects the state of discouragement, and also the testimony of Jesus concerning John, is discussed in John 10 of this volume (which see), but there are some points in this incident not brought out in that discussion which also need to be emphasized. First, what is the meaning of "the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence" (Matthew 11:12)? The image is not precisely that of taking a city by storm, but of an eager, invading host, each trying to be first, pressing and jostling each other, as when gold was discovered in California, or at the settlement of the Oklahoma strip. It means impassioned earnestness and indomitable resolution in the entrance upon and pursuit of a Christian life, making religion the chief concern and salvation the foremost thing as expressed in the precepts: "Seek first the kingdom, etc.," "Agonize to enter in at the strait gate." It rightly expresses the absorbing interest and enthusiasm of a revival. "Thus Christianity was born in a revival and all its mighty advances have come from revivals which are yet the hope of the world." This thought is illustrated in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, pp. 47-49. Following this is the contrast between the publicans and scribes, the one justifying God and the other rejecting for themselves the counsel of God. Then he likens them unto children in the market, playing funeral. One side piped but the other side did not dance; then they wailed but the others did not weep. So, John was an ascetic and that did not suit them; Jesus ate and drank and that did not suit them. So it has ever been with the faultfinders. But in spite of that, wisdom is justified of her works (or children), i.e., wisdom is evidenced by her children, whether in the conduct of John or Jesus. But this statement does not justify the liquor business as the defendants of it claim.


There is no evidence that Jesus either made or drank intoxicating wine


Then began Jesus to upbraid the cities wherein were done these mighty works, including Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, because they had not repented. This shows that light brings with it the obligation to repent, and that this will be the governing principle of the judgment. Men shall be judged according to the light they have. Then follows the announcement of a great principle of revelation. God makes it to babes rather than to the worldly-wise man, and that Jesus himself is the medium of the revelation from God to man, but only the humble in spirit and contrite in heart can receive it. Because he is the medium of the blessing, the God-man, his compassion here finds expression in this great, broad invitation: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for am I meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Note the two kinds of rest here: First, the given rest, which is accepted by grace, and second, the found rest, which is attained in service.


The next incident is the anointing of our Saviour’s feet by a woman who was a sinner. This incident occurred in Galilee – just where I do not know – possibly, but not probably, in Nain. It is recorded by Luke alone, who, following a custom of the historians of mentioning only one incident of a special kind, omits the narrative of a later anointing.


Two preceding things seem to be implied by the story: (a) That the host had been a beneficiary in some way of Christ’s healing power over the body; (b) That the woman had been a beneficiary" of his saving power. It is quite probable that her weary and sin-burdened soul had heard and accepted the gracious invitation: "Come unto me, etc.," just given by the Saviour. At any rate her case is an incarnate illustration of the power of that text and is a living exposition of it. It is far more beautiful and impressive in the Greek than any translation can make it. Several customs prevalent then but obsolete now, constitute the setting of the story, and must be understood in order to appreciate its full meaning.


(1) The Oriental courtesies of hospitality usually extended to an honored guest. The footwear of the times – open sandals – and the dust of travel in so dry a country, necessitated the washing of the feet of an incoming guest the first act of hospitality. See Abraham’s example (Genesis 18:4) and Lot’s (Genesis 19:2) and Laban’s (Genesis 24:32) and the old Benjaminite (Judges 19:20-21) and Abigail (1 Samuel 25:41). See as later instances (John 13) our Lord’s washing the feet of his disciples and the Christian customs (1 Timothy 5:10). This office was usually performed by servants, but was a mark of great respect and honor to a guest if performed by the host himself.


(2) The custom of saluting a guest with a kiss. See case of Moses (Exodus 18:7) and of David (2 Samuel 19:39). To observe this mode of showing affectionate respect is frequently enjoined in the New Testament epistles. As employed by Absalom for purposes of demagogy (2 Samuel 15:5), and as employed toward Amasa by Joab when murder was in his heart (2 Samuel 20:9-10), and by Judas to our Lord when treachery was in his heart, rendered their crimes the more heinous. To this Patrick Henry refers: "Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss."


(3) The custom of anointing the head at meals (Ecclesiastes 9:7-8; Psalms 23:5). Hence for the Pharisee to omit these marks of courteous hospitality was to show his light esteem for his guest. It proves that the invitation was not very hearty.


(4) The custom of reclining at meals (Amos 6:4-6). This explains "sat at meat" and "behind at his feet."


With these items of background we are prepared to understand and appreciate that wonderful story of the compassion of Jesus. His lesson on forgiveness and proportionate love as illustrated in the case of this wicked woman has been the sweet consolation of thousands. The announcement to the woman that her faith had saved her throws light on the question, "What must I do to be saved?" There are here also the usual contrasts where the work of salvation is going on. The woman was overflowing with love and praise while others were questioning in their hearts and abounding in hate and censure. This scene has been re-enacted many a time since, as Christianity has held out the hand of compassion to the outcasts and Satan has questioned and jeered at her beautiful offers of mercy.


In Section 47 (Luke 8:1-3) of the Harmony we have a further account of our Lord’s ministry in Galilee with the twelve, and certain women who had been the beneficiaries of his ministry, who also ministered to him of their substance. This is the first Ladies’ Aid Society of which we have any record and they were of the right sort.


We now take up the discussion of the sin against -the Holy Spirit found in Section 48 (Matthew 12:22-37; Mark 3:19-30). Before opening the discussion of it, allow me to group certain passages of both Testaments bearing on this question: Psalms 19:13: "Innocent of the great transgression." Mark 3:29: "Guilty of an eternal sin." Numbers 15:28-31: "If any soul sin through ignorance, the priest shall make an atonement for the soul that sinneth ignorantly, when he sinneth by ignorance before the Lord, to make an atonement for him and it shall be forgiven him. But the soul that doeth presumptuously, born in the land of a stranger, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him." Hebrews 10:26-29: "For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fierceness of fire which shall devour the adversaries. A man that hath set at naught Moses’ law, dieth without compassion on the word of two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, think ye, shall he be judged worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" Jeremiah 15:1: "Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth." 1 John 5:16: "If any man see his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he shall ask, and God will give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: not concerning this do I say that he should make request." Ezekiel 14:13-14: "Son of man, when a land sinneth against me, by committing a trespass, and I stretch out mine hand upon it, and break the staff of the bread thereof, and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast; though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God."


The scriptures just cited have excited profound interest in every age of the world since they were recorded. In all the intervening centuries they have so stirred the hearts of those affected by them as to strip life of enjoyment. They have driven many to despair. In every community there are guilty and awakened consciences as spellbound by these scriptures as was Belshazzar when with pallid lips and shaking knees he confronted the mysterious handwriting on the wall, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. In almost every community we can find some troubled soul, tortured with the apprehension that he has committed the unpardonable sin. Sympathetic and kindly-disposed expositors in every age have tried in vain to break the natural force or soften in some way the prima facie import of these divine utterances. Some have denied that there ever was, or ever could be an unpardonable sin. Others conceded that such sin might have been committed in the days of Christ’s earthly ministry, but the hazard passed away with the cessation of miracles. All the power of great scholarship has been brought to bear with microscopic inspection of words and phrases to establish one or the other of these propositions. And, indeed, if great names could avail in such cases, this slough of despond would have been safely bridged. But no such explanation ever satisfies a guilty conscience or removes from the hearts of the masses of plain people, the solemn conviction that the Bible teaches two things:


First, that in every age of the past, men were liable to commit the unpardonable sin and that as a matter of fact, some did commit it.


Second, that there is now not only the same liability, but that some do now actually commit it. There is something in man which tells him that these scriptures possess for him an awful admonition whose truth is eternal.


Whether all the scriptures just cited admit of one classification matters nothing, so far as the prevalent conviction is concerned. Where one of the group may be successfully detached by exegesis another rises up to take its place. The interest in the doctrine founded on them is a never-dying interest. Because of this interest, it is purposed now to examine somewhat carefully, the principal passages bearing on this momentous theme. Most humbly, self-distrustingly and reverently will the awful subject be approached.


It is deemed best to approach it by considering specially the case recorded by Matthew and Mark. The words are spoken by our Lord himself. The antecedent facts which occasioned their utterance may be briefly stated thus:


(1) Jesus had just delivered a miserable demoniac by casting out the demon who possessed him.


(2) It was a daylight affair, a public transaction, all the circumstances so open and visible, and the fact so incontrovertible and stupendous that many recognized the divine power and presence.


(3) But certain Pharisees who had been pursuing him with hostile intent, who had been obstructing his work in every possible way, finding themselves unable to dispute the fact of the miracle, sought to break its force by attributing its origin to Beelzebub, the prince of demons, charging Jesus with collusion with Satan.


(4) The issue raised was specific. This issue rested on three indisputable facts conceded by all parties. It is important to note these facts carefully and to impress our minds with the thought that as conceded facts, they underlie the issue. The facts are, first, that an evil and unwilling demon had been forcibly ejected from his much desired stronghold and dispossessed of his ill-gotten spoils. It was no good spirit. It was no willing spirit. It was a violent ejectment. It was a despoiling ejectment. Second, the one who so summarily ejected the demon and despoiled him was Jesus of Nazareth. Third fact, the ejectment was by supernatural miraculous power – by some spirit mightier than the outcast demon. Evidently Jesus had, by some spirit, wrought a notable miracle. He claimed that he did it by the Holy Spirit of God resting on him and dwelling in him. The Pharisees alleged that he did it by an unclean spirit, even Satan himself. The contrast is between "unclean-spirit" and "Holy Spirit." An awful sin was committed by one or the other. Somebody was guilty of blasphemy. If Jesus was in collusion with Satan – if he attributed the devil’s work by him to the Holy Spirit, he was guilty of blasphemy. If the Pharisees, on the other hand, attributed the work of the Holy Spirit to an unclean spirit, this was slandering God. They were guilty of blasphemy.


(5) Jesus answers the charge against himself by three arguments: First, as the demon cast out belonged to Satan’s kingdom and was doing Satan’s work, evidently he was not cast out by Satan’s power, for a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand, and none could justly accuse Satan of the folly of undermining his own kingdom. Second, the demon could not have been despoiled and cast out unless first overpowered by some stronger spirit than himself, who, if not Satan, must be the Holy Spirit, Satan’s antagonist and master. Third, as the Pharisees themselves claimed to be exorcists of demons, it became them to consider how their argument against Jesus might be applied to their own exorcisms.


Then he in turn became the accuser. In grief and indignation he said, "Therefore I say unto you, every sin and blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him, but whosoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world nor in that which is to come."


Or as Mark expresses it, "Verily I say unto you, All their sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and their blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: but whosoever shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit hath never forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin; because they said, He hath an unclean spirit." Having the case now before us, let us next define or explain certain terms expressed or implied in the record.


Unpardonable. – Pardonable means not that which is or must be pardoned, but which may be pardoned on compliance with proper conditions – that while any sin unrepented of, leads ultimately to death, yet as long as the sinner lives, a way of escape is offered to him. But an unpardonable sin is one which from the moment of its committal is forever without a possible remedy. Though such a sinner may be permitted to live many years, yet the very door of hope is closed against him. It is an eternal sin. It hath never forgiveness. Sermons, prayers, songs, and exhortations avail nothing in his case. The next expression needing explanation is, "Neither in this world, nor in the world to come." Construed by itself this language might imply one of two things:


First, that God will pardon some sins in the next world, i.e., there may be for many, though not all, a probation after death. So Romanists teach. On such interpretation is purgatory founded.


Second, or it may imply that God puts away some sins so far as the next world is concerned, but yet does not remit chastisement for them in this world.


Where the meaning of a given passage is doubtful, then we apply the analogy of the faith. That is, we compare the doubtful with the certain. The application of this rule necessitates discarding the first possible meaning assigned. It is utterly repugnant to the tenor of the Scriptures. Men are judged and their destiny decided by the deeds done in the body, not out of it. If they die unjust they are raised unjust. There is no probation after death. It remains to inquire if the second possible implication agrees with the tenor of the Scriptures. Here we find no difficulty whatever. The general Bible teaching is in harmony with the second meaning. The Scriptures abundantly show three things:


First, some sins are remitted both for time and eternity. That is, when they are pardoned for eternity, even chastisement on earth is also remitted.


Second, much graver sins are, on repentance, put away as to eternity, but very sore chastisement is inflicted in time. As when God said to David after Nathan visited him: "The Lord hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die." The Lord also announced to him that "the sword should never depart from his house" because he had caused the death of Uriah (see 2 Samuel 12:7-14). Here is one unmistakable case out of many that could be cited where sin was forgiven as to the next world, but not as to this world.


The thought is that God, in fatherly discipline, chastises all Christians in this world. To be without chastisement in this world proves we are not God’s children. An awful token of utter alienation from God is to be deprived of correction here, when we sin. To be sinners and yet to prosper. To die sinners and yet have no "bands in our death." So that the expression "hath never forgiveness, neither in this world nor in the world to come," implies nothing about a probation after death, but refers to God’s method of withholding correction in this world, from some sinners, but never withholding punishment of this class in the next, and to his method of correcting Christians in this world, but never punishing them in the next world.


Third, the expression teaches that in the case of those who sin against the Holy Spirit, God’s method of dealing is different from both the foregoing methods. In the case of the unpardonable sin, punishment commences now and continues forever. There is no remission of either temporal or eternal penalties. They have the pleasures of neither world. To illustrate: Lazarus had the next world, but not this; Dives had this world, but not the next. But the man who commits the unpardonable sin has neither world, as Judas Iscariot, Ananias, and others.


To further illustrate, by earthly things, we might say that Benedict Arnold committed the unpardonable sin as to nations. He lost the United States and did not gain England. Hated here; despised yonder. The price of his treason could not be enjoyed. He had never forgiveness, neither on this side the ocean nor on the other side. Another term needing explanation is the word,


Blasphemy. – This is strictly a compound Greek word Anglicized. It is transferred bodily to our language. In Greek literature it is quite familiar and often used. Its meaning is thoroughly established. According to strict etymology, it is an offense of speech, i.e., of spoken words. Literally, as a verb, it means to speak ill or injuriously of any one, to revile or defame. As a noun, it means detraction or slander. I say it means to defame any one whether man or God. Even in the Bible usage of both the Septuagint and the Greek New Testament, the word is generally applied to both man and God.


When Paul says he was "slanderously reported," as saying a certain thing, and when Peter says "speak evil of no man," they both correctly employ the Greek word "blaspheme." Even this passage refers to other blasphemies than those against God, "all manner of blasphemies except the blasphemies against the Holy Spirit." In both English and American law, blasphemy has ever been an indictable offense, whether against man or God. Later usages, however, restrict the term "blasphemy" to an offense against God, while the term "slander" is applied to the same offense against men. According to strict derivation, it is an offense of spoken words. To this our Saviour refers in the context when he says, "For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." But one is quite mistaken who limits the meaning of the term to strict etymology. In both human and divine law, the offense of "blasphemy" may be committed by writing the words, or publishing them, as well as by speaking them. We may blaspheme by either printing, painting, or pantomime. Any overt, provable action which intentionally conveys a false and injurious impression against any one comes within the scope of the offense. Under the more spiritual, divine law, the offense may be committed in the mind, whether ever spoken aloud. Our context says, "Jesus knowing their thoughts." Indeed, the very essence of the offense is in the heart – the intent – the idea. Words are matters of judgment, solely because they are signs of ideas and expressions of the heart. This our context abundantly shows. Our Saviour says, "Either make the tree good and its fruit good; or make the tree corrupt, and its fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by its fruit. Ye offspring of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. The good man out of his good treasure, bringeth forth good things: and the evil man out of his evil treasure bringeth forth evil things."


From this exhibition of the meaning of the word "blasphemy," we can easily see that either Jesus or the Pharisees were guilty of the offense. Both could not be innocent. If Jesus, while claiming to act by the Holy Spirit, was but the organ of "an unclean spirit," then he blasphemed or slandered the Holy Spirit. If his work was wrought by the Holy Spirit, then the Pharisees, by attributing that work to an "unclean spirit," blasphemed the Holy Spirit.


Having clearly before us the meaning of "blasphemy," let us advance to another explanation. The character of any code or government is revealed by its capital offenses; the grade of any nation’s civilization is registered by its penal code. If capital punishment, or the extreme limit of punishment is inflicted for many and slight offenses, the government is called barbarian. If for only a few extraordinary and very heinous crimes, the government is called civilized. For instance, under the English law of long ago, a man might be legally put to death for snaring a bird or rabbit. The extreme limit of punishment was visited upon many who now would be pronounced guilty of only misdemeanors or petit larceny. It was a bloody code. The enlightened mind intuitively revolts against undue severity. Modern civilization has reduced capital offense to a minimum. Even in these few cases three things at least must always be proved:


(1) That the offender had arrived at the age of discretion, and possessed a sound mind. A mere child, a lunatic or idiot cannot commit a capital offense.


(2) Premeditation. The crime must be deliberately committed.


(3) Malice. The evil intent must be proved.


The higher benevolence of the divine law will appear from the fact that there is but one unpardonable offense, and that even more must be proved against one accused of this offense than the age of discretion, a sound mind, premeditation, and malice. Indeed, the sin against the Holy Spirit must outrank all others in intrinsic heinousness. This will abundantly appear when we reach the Bible definition and analysis of the sin against the Holy Spirit. We are not ready even yet, however, to enter upon the discussion of the sin itself. Two other preliminary explanations are needed.


Why must the one unpardonable sin be necessarily against the Holy Spirit? What is the philosophy or rationale of this necessity? This question and the answer to it cannot be understood unless we give due weight, both separately and collectively, to the following correlated proposition: There is one law giver, God. His law is the one supreme standard which defines right and wrong – prescribing the right, proscribing the wrong. God himself is the sole, authoritative interpreter of his law. The scope of its obligations cannot be limited by finite knowledge, or human conscience. Any failure whatever at conformity thereto, or any deflection therefrom, to the right or left, however slight, and from whatever cause, is unrighteousness. All unrighteousness is sin. The wages of sin is death. All men are sinners by nature and practice.


Therefore, by the deeds of the law can no man be justified in the sight of God. The law condemns every man. It also follows: First, that any possible salvation must flow from God’s free grace. Second, that not even grace can provide a way of escape for the condemned inconsistent with God’s Justice and holiness. That is, any possible scheme of salvation for sinners must both satisfy the law penalty, thereby appeasing justice, and provide for the personal holiness of the forgiven sinner.


To put it in yet other words, the plan of salvation, to be feasible, must secure for every sinner to be saved, three things at least: (a) justification, (b) regeneration, (c) sanctification, which are equivalent to deliverance from the law penalty, a new nature, and personal holiness. I say that these three things are absolutely requisite. I cite just now only three scriptural proofs, one under each head:


Romans 3:23-26 declares that a propitiation must be made for sin in order that God might be just in justifying the sinner. John 3:3-7 sets forth the absolute necessity of the new birth the imparting of a new nature.


Hebrews 12:14 declares that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord."


To admit into heaven even one unjustified man, one man in his carnal nature, one unholy man, would necessarily dethrone God, while inflicting worse than the tortures of hell on the one so admitted.


No fish out of water, no wolf or owl in the daylight, could be so unutterably wretched as such a man. He would be utterly out of harmony with his surroundings. I think he would prefer hell. The gates of the holy city stand open day and night, which means that no saint would go out, and no sinner would go in. After the judgment as well as now, the sinner loves darkness rather than light. It therefore naturally, philosophically and necessarily follows that salvation must have limitations. A careful study of these limitations will disclose to us the rationale of the unpardonable sin. What, then, are these limitations?


(1) Outside of grace, no salvation.


(2) Outside of Christ, no grace.


(3) Outside of the Spirit, no Christ.


In other words, Christ alone reveals the Father, and the Spirit alone reveals Christ; or no man can reach the Father except through Christ – Christ is the door – and no man can find that door except through the Spirit. It necessarily follows that an unpardonable sin is a sin against the Spirit. This would necessarily follow from the order of the manifestations of the Godhead: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. From the order of the dispensations: First, the Father’s dispensation of law; second, the Son’s dispensation of atonement; third, the Spirit’s dispensation of applying the atonement. The Spirit is heaven’s ultimatum – heaven’s last overture. If we sin against the Father directly, the Son remains. We may reach him through the Son. If we sin directly against the Son, the Spirit remains. We may reach him through the Spirit. If we sin against the Spirit, nothing remains. Therefore that sin is without remedy. So argues our Saviour: "Every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in that which is to come. He is guilty of an eternal sin."


Our last preliminary explanation answers this question: Are men now liable to commit this sin? If not liable, the reasons for discussing the matter at all are much reduced. If liable, the reasons for discussion are infinitely enhanced. It is of infinitely greater moment to point out to the unwary of a possible immediate danger, than to relieve the mind from the fear of an unreal danger, however great and torturing may be that fear. It is claimed by many intelligent expositors that this sin cannot be committed apart from an age of miracles, nor apart from the specific miracle of casting out demons, nor apart from attributing the supernatural, miraculous power of the Holy Spirit in said miracle to Beelzebub, the prince of demons.


Very deep love have I for the great and good men who take this position, as, I believe, led away by sentiment, sympathy, and amiability on the one hand, and horrified on the other hand with the recklessness which characterizes many sensational discussions of this grave matter by tyros, unlearned, and immature expositors. Very deep love have I for the men, but far less respect for their argument. I submit, just now, only a few out of many grave reasons for rejecting this interpretation.


(1) Such restriction of meaning is too narrow and mechanical. The Bible could not be to us a book of principles, if the exact circumstances must be duplicated in order to obtain a law. From the study of every historical incident in the Bible we deduce principles of action.


(2) The Scriptures clearly grade miracles wrought by the Spirit below other works of the Spirit. This is evident from many passages and connections. Writing the names of the saved in the book of life was greater than casting out devils (Luke 10:20). Fourth only in the gifts of the Spirit does miracle-working power rank (1 Corinthians 12:28). Far inferior are any of these gifts to the abiding graces of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 13:1-13; 1 Corinthians 14:1-33). How, then, in reason and common sense, can it be a more heinous blasphemy to attribute an inferior work of the Spirit to the devil than a superior work? Will any man seriously maintain that this is so, because a miracle is more demonstrable – its proof more vivid and cognizable by the natural senses? This would be to affirm the contrary of scriptural teaching on many points. We may know more things about spirit than we can know about matter. This knowledge is more vivid and impressive than the other. Spiritual demonstration to the inner man is always a profounder demonstration than any whatever to the outer man.


(3) Such a restriction of meaning to the days of Christ in the flesh is out of harmony with Old Testament teaching on the same subject.


(4) It fails to harmonize with many other passages in later New Testament time, which will not admit of a different classification without contradicting the text itself, since thereby more than one kind of unpardonable sins would be established.


(5) The utter failure of this exposition to convince the judgment of plain people everywhere, and its greater failure to relieve troubled consciences everywhere, is a strong presumptive argument against its soundness.


Because, therefore, I believe that the sin against the Holy Spirit may now be committed – because I believe that some men in nearly every Christian community have committed it – because I believe that the liability is imminent and the penalty, when incurred, utterly without remedy, and because I feel pressed in spirit to warn the imperiled of so great condemnation, therefore I preach on the subject – preach earnestly – preach in tears – preach with melted heart.

QUESTIONS

1. How did Jesus vindicate his authority apart from his claims and teaching?

2. What are the details in the incident of healing the centurions servant, how do you reconcile the accounts of Matthew and Luke, and what the lessons of this incident?

3. Describe the incident of the raising of the widow’s son at Nain and its lesson.

4. What inquiry from John the Baptist brought forth by this fame of Jesus and what was Jesus’ reply?

5. What is the meaning of "the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence?

6. What reproof of the Pharisees by our Lord called forth by this?

7. What cities here upbraided by our Lord and what principle enunciated in this connection?

8. What principle of revelation announced here also?

9. What great invitation here announced by our Lord and what is its great teaching?

10. Relate the story of the anointing of the feet of Jesus by the wicked woman.

11. What two things seem to be implied by the story?

12. What Oriental customs constitute the setting of this story and what is the explanation of each?

13. What are the lessons and contrasts of this incident?

14. Give an account of the first Ladies’ Aid Society.

15. What scriptures of both Testaments bearing on the sin against the Holy Spirit?

16. What can you say of the impression made by these scriptures?

17. What efforts of sympathetic expositors to soften the import of these scriptures?

18. What two solemn convictions yet remain?

19. What were the antecedent facts which occasioned the statements of our Lord in Section 48 of the Harmony?

20. What is the meaning of "unpardonable"?

21. What is the meaning of "neither in this world, nor in the world to come"?

22. What is the meaning of "blasphemy"?

23. Show that either Jesus or the Pharisees were guilty of blasphemy on this occasion.

24. How is the character of a code of laws determined? Illustrate.

25. What three things must be proved in the case of capital offenses against our laws?

26. How does the higher benevolence of the divine law appear?

27. What correlated proposition must be duly considered in order to understand the sin against the Holy Spirit?

28. What two things also follow from this?

29. What three things must the plan of salvation secure for every sinner who shall be saved, and what the proof?

30. What are the limitations which determine the rationale of the sin against the Holy Spirit? Explain.

31. What are the claims of some expositors with respect to this sin and what the reasons for rejecting them?

Verses 38-50

XXX

OUR LORD’S GREAT MINISTRY IN GALILEE

Part V THE SIN AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT (Continued)

Harmony pages 59-60, same as for the preceding chapter and Matthew 12:38-50; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21.

We are now ready to consider the unpardonable sin itself. Here, at the outset we meet a difficulty that needs to be removed. It is a question concerning the true text of the latter clause of Mark 3:29. Our common version reads: "But is in danger of eternal damnation," while the revised version reads: "But is guilty of an eternal sin." Evidently these two renderings cannot be differences in translating the same Greek words. It is unnecessary to cite all the variations of the text in the several manuscripts on this short clause. For our present purpose we need to note only one. The revised version, on the authority of older and more reliable manuscripts than were before the King James translators, recognized as the true text hamartematos instead of kriseos. The former is rendered "sin," the latter "damnation." But the difficulty is not yet entirely explained. All the texts have the same Greek word enochos, which the common version renders "in danger of." The question arises: How can there be such vast difference in rendering this one word? The difference is great and obvious since "in danger of" expresses a mere liability which may be averted, while "guilty of" expresses a positive, settled transaction. This difficulty is grammatical, and not textual so far as the word enochos is concerned, but is textual when we look at the case of the noun connected with it. If the noun in the true text is in one case, say the dative, then "in danger of," "liable to" or " exposed to" would fairly translate enochos. But if the noun with which it is connected is in a different case, say the genitive, then "guilty of" is the better translation. Well, it so happens that in the true text – that is, the one so regarded by such scholars as Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Alford, and others, and the one so accepted by both the English and American companies of the revisers of the new version – in this text the noun hamartematos,rendered "sin," is in the genitive case, hence enochos hamartematos with its modifying words is rightly translated "guilty of an eternal sin," while enochos kriseos with the same modifying words might well be rendered "in danger of eternal judgment." So that in the true text we find not only a different word meaning "sin," instead of "damnation" or "judgment," but we find that word in a case which will necessarily give color to the meaning of another word connected with it, about which there is no textual difficulty.


We accept, then, the text and rendering of the revised version. We hold it as the word of God, that whoever blasphemes the Holy Spirit is at once, not liable to, but guilty of an eternal sin." What, then, is an eternal sin? Does it mean an "eternal sinning"? That is, does the perpetuity refer to the committing? Evidently not. Doubtless one who has blasphemed the Holy Spirit will, as a matter of fact, continue to sin, but the language under consideration refers not to such fact. An eternal sin, as here intended, is an act already completed, whose guilt and judgment have already been incurred. It is called an eternal sin because its penalty can never be blotted out. Any sin would be eternal in this sense, if there were no possible way to escape its punishment. A sin becomes eternal, then, when all gracious means of forgiveness are withdrawn. For example: David committed a great sin. Its penalties, or chastisements, lasted to the border of this world. But it was not an eternal sin, because those penalties had an end. They did not continue forever. Grace stopped them with this life and blotted them out forever. What is blotted out has no existence. But the sin against the Holy Spirit is eternal, because thereby the sinner at once puts himself beyond the only means of pardon. Remember the principles already stated: Outside of grace no salvation; outside of Christ no grace; outside of the Spirit no Christ. Or without regeneration, justification, and sanctification, no salvation; and apart from the Spirit no regeneration, justification, and sanctification.


We have seen that as human governments become more civilized very few offenses are made capital, and these must be very heinous in character. Moreover, the conditions under which such crimes are possible are very stringent, to wit: discretionary age, sanity, premeditation, and malice. Not only so, but the accused is additionally hedged about by a liberal construction of all provocation and of the right of self-defense, and of the amount and character of the evidence necessary to conviction. Now since this benevolent modification of hitherto rigorous human law has been brought about by the influence of the Bible, we would naturally expect to find in that good book that the only unpardonable offense against divine law calls for a rare degree of heinousness, and such extraordinary conditions under which the sin could be possible, as would on their face vindicate the divine procedure from all appearances of harshness, with all right thinking intelligences. This high degree of heinousness and these extraordinary conditions are just what we do find.


It is not a sin to be committed by a thoughtless child – immature youth – nor by one of feeble mind, nor by the ignorant. It must be knowingly done, wilfully done, maliciously done, presumptuously done.


The whole matter may be made more forcible by stating clearly and considering separately the constituent elements or conditions of the unpardonable sin:


It is a sin of character crystallized in opposition to God.


By this is meant such a confirmed state of heart, and such fixedness of evil character, such a blunting or searing of moral perceptions as mark the incorrigibly wicked. Indeed, this reflection embodies the essence of the sin.


It is no impulsive, no hasty act, but proceeds from such a state of heart, such a character, such a servitude to evil habits, such a violent distortion or utter perversion of moral vision, such an insensibility to spiritual impressions as would indicate the hopelessness of benefit in the continuance of remedial appliances, since there is a point beyond which we cannot go without destroying individuality and moral agency.


The case in point is abundantly illustrative. Let us carefully examine each step of our way just here. Let us be sure we are right before we go ahead. Milton not inaptly represents the crystallization of Satan’s character in five words: "Evil, be thou my good." Isaiah, in rapt, prophetic vision, forecasts the very characters fitted to commit the unpardonable sin. He denounces six woes which may well be compared to the eight woes denounced by our Lord (Isaiah 5:8-23; Matthew 23:13-36). They all refer to character incorrigibly evil, such as (a) inordinate covetousness and selfishness that join house to house and field to field until there is no place for other people to have a home; (b) inveterate and confirmed drunkards that rise early and sit up late to inflame themselves with strong wines until they regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of his hands; (c) incorrigible sinners that draw iniquity with cords of vanity and defy the judgments of God; (d) moral perverts that justify the wicked and take away the righteousness of the righteous; (e) inveterate vanity and self-conceit; (f) but especially this one: "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!" Now this answers to Milton’s devil: "Evil, be thou my good." And it was this very distortion and perversion of moral vision of which the Pharisees of this passage were guilty, and which constituted the essence of their blasphemy or slander of God. They called the Holy Spirit an unclean spirit. Upon this point the testimony of Mark is explicit. They are expressly declared to be guilty of an eternal sin, "Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit." But the words were significant only because they were symptoms of expressions of a state of heart – a heart of overflowing, implacable hate and malice.


So, in the context, our Saviour declares: "How can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." It is therefore evidently out of harmony with the Bible concept of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, that thoughtless boys and girls, who sometimes in revival meetings manifest an irreverent spirit, do thereby commit the unpardonable sin.


I have myself conversed with a now genuinely good and converted mother, who, when young, once conspired with nine or ten other girls to practice on the credulity of a conceited young preacher by joining the church in a body and by being baptized, when the whole procedure was meant for a practical Joke. Some of these parties are now living and one of them is the exemplary wife of a Baptist preacher. The irreverence and impiety of the act were not realized until afterward. This was no blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. They were immature, ill taught girls, without malicious intent against God, and some others of them, as I have since learned, afterward most cordially repented of their great sin and received the gracious forgiveness of the Heavenly Father whose institutions and ordinances had been outraged by their folly. If we compare with this incident the act of Ananias and Sapphira, we may readily perceive the difference in degree of guilt.


It is an old proverb: "Nature has no leaps." Character is a result of long working forces tending to permanency of type. We have thus reached a view of the first and most important element in this awful sin – an element of character resulting from cumulative forces and habits.


It is a sin against spiritual knowledge. Far, far from us, however, be the thought that every sin against light or knowledge is unpardonable. Do allow me to make this very clear and very emphatic, because a host of good people have tortured themselves needlessly just here by misapprehension. They are conscious of having sinned, and of having sinned when they knew beforehand that what they were tempted to do and did was wrong. Misapplying the Scripture they have said to themselves: "The unpardonable sin is a sin against knowledge. I have sinned against knowledge. Have I not committed the unpardonable sin?" Here again let us step carefully. Let us be sure we are right before we go ahead. Look closely at a little catechism – mark the emphatic words: The unpardonable sin is a sin against what knowledge? Against what degree of that knowledge? Is every sin against even that particular kind of knowledge necessarily unpardonable? Note the emphasis on the discriminating word in this second constituent element of the unpardonable sin. It is a sin against spiritual knowledge. How else could it be a sin against the Holy Spirit as specially distinguished from and contrasted with a sin against the Father or the Son?


Let us illustrate by the case of Paul. (a) According to his own testimony he was, before his conversion, "a blasphemer, and a persecutor and injurious" (1 Timothy 1:13). (b) By persecution and torture he "compelled others to blaspheme" (Acts 26:11). (c) Yet he says, "I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief" (1 Timothy 1:13). What are the salient points of this case? We find here first an indisputable case of blasphemy, but it is blasphemy against the Son, which this passage declares to be pardonable. Next we find a case of ignorance which again makes the sin pardonable. This second finding is most pertinent to the matter in hand. It furnishes the clue, which properly followed leads us safely out of the maze of discussion on the unpardonable sin. What was Paul’s ignorance? We cannot deny that he had the Old Testament with all its shadows, symbols and prophecies pointing to the Messiah. We cannot deny that he had knowledge of the historical and argumentative proofs, certifying Jesus to be that Messiah. Wherein then was he ignorant? In this material point: Light from the Holy Spirit had not convinced him that Jesus was the Messiah. He had not spiritual knowledge and hence had not sinned against the Holy Spirit. In his soul he thought Jesus was an imposter. He "verily thought within himself he was doing God’s service" in warring against Jesus. His conscience was void of offense. Compare this with the demons: "We know thee, who thou art, thou Holy One of God." Paul hated Jesus from an utter misconception of him, and loved him when the misconception was removed. The demons hated him the more, that they did not misconceive his mission and character. Because they knew he was the Messiah and because they painfully felt the presence of his holiness as a wolf is shamed or an owl is pained by the light; therefore they hated him.


Just here we approach a borderland whose precise boundary line has never been fixed by theological controversy. And yet in this narrow strip lies the unpardonable sin. Where the great have stumbled let guides of less degree walk humbly, circumspectedly, and prayerfully. I trust, at least, to make myself intelligible here. Some hyper-Calvinists hold that all subjects of influence from the Holy Spirit are necessarily saved, basing their arguments on such scriptures as, "Being confident of this very thing, that he who hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). From which they argue that the Holy Spirit never really touches any man except those pre-ordained to salvation. I hold unswervingly to the doctrine that in every case of genuine conversion the good work thus commenced will be graciously completed. But, in my judgment, the Bible is very far from teaching that the lost never had any spiritual light – never were subject to any impressions made by the Holy Spirit. Indeed, it would seem impossible otherwise to commit the unpardonable sin against the Holy Spirit.


With all light comes responsibility to accept it and walk in it. With all light comes liability. As said the Saviour, "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not the sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin" (John 15:22). Unquestionable the degree of both guilt and penalty is measured by the degree of light against which one sins. This sentiment readily finds universal acceptance. It accords with our instinctive and intuitive ideas of justice. Certainly the Bible, at least, is very clear on this point. On what other principle could our Lord declare the punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah, Tyre and Sidon, more tolerable in the day of judgment than the punishment of the cities which rejected him and his servants (Matthew 10:15; Matthew 11:20-24; Mark 6:11; Luke 10:12-14) ? How else account for the difference in penalty between "a few stripes" and "many stripes" when the act of offense is precisely the same in both cases (Luke 12:47-48) ? How otherwise account for David’s distinction between "secret sins and presumptuous sins"? How otherwise could Paul represent God as "winking at" [i. e. a mercifully overlooking] "times of ignorance" (Acts 17:30) ? How else could the men of Nineveh and the Queen of Sheba condemn at the judgment the generation that rejected Jesus (Matthew 12:41-42)? Now mark the application of this argument to the matter under consideration. Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum, and Jerusalem were guiltier than Sodom and Tyre, because a greater light, in a greater person than Lot, Solomon or Jonah, was in their midst.


But our Saviour himself teaches that the light is brighter still when the Holy Spirit works. And hence a sin against the Son of man may be pardonable while a sin against the Holy Spirit is unpardonable. But as Lot, Jonah, Solomon, and Jesus, the light-bearers, were all personally present in a way to be known and felt, so it must follow that the Holy Spirit, as bearer of a brighter light, must be personally present in a way to be known and impressively felt. Therefore none can commit this unpardonable sin against the Holy Spirit unless he has known and felt his presence as a light-bearer. I say the presence of the Holy Spirit must be known and felt. The mind must be convinced of his presence, and the heart must feel it, and the inmost judgment of conscience must acknowledge it. This is precisely why the unpardonable sin is oftenest committed in great revivals. It is a sin against light – spiritual light – light known and felt, light so painfully, gloriously bright that a man must run from it, blaspheme or be converted. What miracle affecting only the physical man can equal the Spirit’s display of power over mind and soul in a great revival? When he fills a house or a whole city; when he is demonstrably convicting and converting on the right and left; when strong men are broken down; when hard hearts are melted; when long-sealed fountains of tears are opened; when hardened sinners fall as oak trees before a sweeping tempest; when all around the guilty confess their sins; when the saved rise up with love-lighted eyes and glorified faces to joyfully declare that God for Christ’s sake has forgiven their sins – ah I the power – the felt Presence! Then some sinner, seeing and knowing and feeling the truth of it all, pierced through and through with the arrows of conviction, riven to the marrow with the bolt of demonstration, trembling like Belshazzar before the mysterious, awful, but certain Presence, overwhelmed by memory of a thousand sins, yet so knowing, so feeling, clings with death-grip to some besetting sin and to justify rejection of Jesus, so witnessed by the Holy Spirit, lies unto God as to his real motives of rejection, reviles the Holy One, turns away and dies forever. Yes, a soul dies! As I have been impressed with the presence of physical death, so, only far more vividly, have I felt the presence of spiritual death. Once during a great meeting I felt it; I felt a soul had died – that I was in the presence of the hopelessly lost.


It must be a sin of malice. In the special case before us the presence of malice is most evident. One expression of our Lord sufficiently tells the whole story: "Ye offspring of vipers I" See the snake in his coil! Mark his cold, steely eye of hate! Behold the lightning play of his forked tongue! See the needle fang and the venom of secreted poison! That snake means death to his innocent victim. So Satan’s devotee, about to commit the unpardonable sin. Hear him: "I hate this light. It exposes my secret sins. It strips me of my mask of self-respect. It humiliates me. This light shows how sensual, how groveling, how beastly, how devilish I really am. It exposes my chains. It advertises my bondage to pride, lust, and money. It makes me loathesome to myself. I hate this painful light, this awful purity. O, prince of darkness, restore my self-esteem, re-establish my respectability!"


Hear Satan’s rejoinder: "You must away from that light. You cannot put it out. It is the unquenchable shining of immaculate holiness. Here is your only expedient: Lock all the doors of your soul. Close the blinds of every window. Pull down every curtain. Now call that light ’& superstition.’ Call your rejection of it ’superior intelligence,’ or ’science,’ or ’higher criticism,’ or ’progress,’ or ’broadmindedness,’ or whatever you will. Put evil for good and good for evil. Blaspheme. And that light will never disturb you any more."


Ah, no! Never more. "The die is cast. The Rubicon is crossed – that soul is free no more." In his case is fulfilled the scripture: "My Spirit shall not always strive with man." He has joined that outlawed host to whom this scripture applies: "Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit." Here is genuine striving and genuine resisting. The Spirit strives – the man resists. The gnashing upon Stephen with their teeth expresses desperate malice. It was malice proceeding from deep conviction that Stephen was right and they were wrong. It followed "being cut to the heart."


The sin must be wilful. This involves the double idea of premeditation and decision. The mind has not only deliberated – it has chosen. The love of pleasure, or of money, or of power, is deliberately preferred to the love of God. The "will" settles the matter. However long the time, complex the forces, or inscrutable the processes which determine the resultant character which makes the decision, that decision itself is one definite act of the will. The preparation of mind and heart which fitted the man to make such awful choice may indeed have extended over a period of years, the man meanwhile waxing worse and worse, the heart indurating, the soul petrifying. Yet, in one moment, at last, the border of possible salvation is crossed over forever. The "will" steps across the line. "I will not to do the will of God." "I will not go to Jesus. I will not have this Man to reign over me."


It is a sin of presumption. It is not difficult to get a clear idea of the meaning of this word. An irreverent, overweening, daring confidence for which there are no just grounds. Presumption draws false conclusions from God’s forbearance. Because sentence against an evil deed is not speedily executed the presumptuous heart is fully set to do evil. God suspended judgment that the man might repent. The sinner concludes that God does not mark iniquity. So many times has he trifled with the overtures of mercy) he presumes that he may continue to trifle with impunity. God’s patience, erroneously construed, has made him irreverent and daring. He can recall, and despise as he recalls, the number of times he has been touched somewhat in other meetings. He presumes that what has been will be again, in case it becomes necessary to revise his decision. Time enough for that if one chooses to turn back later on. Nothing tells him that this is the last time. He presumes as if he had a lease on life and as if the sovereign and eternal Spirit of God must come to his call.


Just here I desire to quote a scripture which some high human authorities affirm to be applicable to the subject under consideration. I very greatly respect them and very readily concede my own fallibility of judgment. But where my convictions are strong I speak. Here is the scripture: "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins. But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses. Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace" (Hebrews 10:26-29). My present brief comment on the passage is:


There appears to be a manifest reference, in some sort, to apostasy. I mean by apostasy the final loss of all that is accomplished by regeneration and justification.


It clearly teaches, and for obvious reasons, that in case of such a loss, renewal would be impossible. The remedial resources of grace in such case being completely exhausted, there would be nothing more to draw upon for recovery.


But the reference is not to such calamity as objectively possible. The context and all the letter to the Hebrews as unequivocally teach the final perseverance of all the saints as does the letter to the Romans, or any other scripture. And to my mind the Bible teaches no doctrine more clearly than the ultimate salvation of all the elect. The reference then is to apostasy as hypothetically and even, perhaps, subjectively possible.


If then the reference is to apostasy, though not hypothetically and not really possible, how can it be applicable to the sin under discussion? This pertinent question I will now answer. While only a hypothesis concerning one thing, it yet contains an argument fairly applicable to another thing. It discusses wilful sin after enlightenment. The greater the enlightenment, the greater the sin. In the hypothetical, but actually impossible case of apostasy, there would be no more sacrifice for sin. The blood of Christ, and the Spirit power, beyond which grace has nothing to offer, would have been found inefficacious after fair trial. Now apply this same principle of argument to an unregenerate man. To him the Father’s love is offered and rejected. To him Christ as the highest expression of that love is offered and rejected. To him, the Spirit’s testimony to Christ is offered in such a way that he knows and feels that Spirit’s presence and power, and in such a way that his conscience recognizes and confesses the truth of the testimony. But from love of sin and hatred of known truth he blasphemes that Holy Spirit. Then in his case it would be true that "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin," not because he had experimentally tried its efficacy and used up all its power to save, but that from his rejection of such sacrifice in the blaze of spiritual light demonstrating its efficacy, such efficacy is no longer available to him. On this passage Dr. Kendrick says: "If others fall away who have reached a very high grade of spiritual enlightenment, who have experienced all of the divine influence but regeneration, their recovery is morally impossible. God will not bless the efforts for their renewal but, like the field that has answered the rains and sunshine only with thorns and thistles, will give them over to the burning." (See American Commentary – Hebrews.)


Now our theory of the unpardonable sin necessarily supposes spiritual light to make it a sin against the Spirit, and a very high degree of spiritual light to make it so heinous as to constitute it the only unpardonable sin. That there is shed forth such spiritual light, that there is put forth such spiritual influence – light which may be seen and influence which may be felt, and yet light and influence which, through the sinner’s fault, do not eventuate in salvation – is the clear and abundant teaching of the Bible. I know of no great theologian in the Baptist ranks who denies it. I refer to such acknowledged teachers of systematic theology as Gill, Boyce, Strong, Dagg, Hovey, Pendleton, and Robinson, and among the Presbyterians such authors as Calvin, Hodge, and Shedd – all of whose books I have studied on this specific point.


We may here, I think, conclude the analysis of this sin. Its conditions are clearly before us: The age of discretion, a sound mind, a high degree of spiritual light, a character fixed in opposition to God, a life under the dominion of confirmed evil habits. Its constituent elements are: Premeditation, or deliberation, a decisive choice, presumption and malice. We come now to consider the state of one guilty of this eternal sin. This is an important phase of the subject. Such a state surely evidences itself in some way. The marks which distinguish it from other states ought, one would naturally suppose, to be sufficiently visible for recognition. As an introduction to my discussion of these marks it is thought appropriate to give the most remarkable poem on the subject in all literature. It is Alexander’s hymn:


There is a time, we know not when, A point, we know not where, That marks the destiny of men, To glory or despair.


There is a line by un unseen, That crosses every path, The hidden boundary between God’s patience and His wrath.


To pass that limit is to die – To die as if by stealth; It does not quench the beaming eye, Nor pale the glow of health.


The conscience may be still at ease, The spirit light and gay; That which is pleasing still may please, And care be thrust away.


But on that forehead God hath set Indelibly a mark, Unseen by man, for man as yet Is blind and in the dark.


And yet the doomed man’s path below, Like Eden may have bloomed; He did not, does not, will not know Or feel that he is doomed.


He knows, be feels that all is well, And every fear is calmed; He lives, he dies, he wakes in hell, Not only doomed, but damned.


Oh I where is this mysterious bourne, By which our path is crossed? Beyond which God himself hath sworn, That he who goes is lost?


How far may we go on in sin? How long will God forbear? Where does hope end, and where begin The confines of despair?


An answer from the skies is sent; Ye that from God depart, While it is called to-day, repent, And harden not your heart.


Confining my own diagnosis strictly to the Scriptures I would say that the state of one who has committed the unpardonable sin is one of awful deprivation. We say "Darkness is deprivation of light; death deprivation of life." The deprivation in this case is:


Of the Holy Spirit whom he has reviled and despised. To that Spirit God has said, "Let him alone; he is wedded to his idols." This insures his death. This makes his sin eternal. He cannot now ever find Christ, the door. Without the Spirit he can never repent, believe, be regenerated, be justified, or sanctified. "There remaineth no more sacrifice for sin," that is, to him there is no Christ. I think that there are such men today, from whom the Holy Spirit has taken his everlasting flight.


It is a deprivation of the prayers of God’s people. God who said to his Spirit, "Let him alone," now says to his people who would pray for such a man, "Let me alone." Awful words: Let him alone – let me alone!


The friends of Job had sinned, but not beyond the reach of prayer (Job 42:7-10). Paul had sinned by persecution and blasphemy of Jesus, but not beyond the reach of Stephen’s dying prayer: "Lord Jesus, lay not this sin to their charge" (Acts 7:60). The crucifiers of Jesus had sinned, but not all of them beyond the reach of his dying prayer: "Father forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). But God’s people cannot pray acceptably without the Spirit’s prompting (Romans 8:26-27). The Spirit never prompts one to pray against the will of God. Hear the word of God (1 John 5:16): "If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it." (Jeremiah 15:1): "Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people; cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth."


It is a deprivation of the protection usually afforded to the wicked by the presence of the righteous. The presence of ten righteous men would have protected Sodom and Gomorrah from overthrow (Genesis 18:23-32). The righteous are the salt of the earth. Their presence preserves it from immediate destruction. Paul and Christ taught that when the righteous are garnered off the earth then comes the deluge of fire. But one who has committed the unpardonable sin, at once is deprived of all protection arising from the contiguity of the righteous. To repeat a scripture: "Though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in the city, as I live saith the Lord they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness" (Ezekiel 14:20). No Spirit, no prayers) no protection.


It is a deprivation of spiritual sensations. What is meant here? Speaking naturally, our sensations are from our five senses. One who is blind loses the sensations that come from sight; one who is deaf, those from hearing. So with taste, and smell, and touch or feeling. A body that cannot see, hear, feel, taste or smell is dead to the world around it. So with the senses of the inner man. When the spiritual or moral perceptive faculties are so paralyzed that they cannot take hold of God, that soul is dead to God, however much it may be alive to the devil. Having eyes it sees not. Having ears it hears not. Having a heart it feels not. The conscience is seared as with a hot iron. They are past feeling (Ephesians 4:18-19) : "Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: who being past feeling having given themselves over to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness." Old soldiers recall that when mortification took place in a wounded limb there was no longer any pain. The wounded man felt unusually well. It was the prelude of death.


In his book, Over the Teacups, Oliver Wendell Holmes says: "Our old doctors used to give an opiate which they called ’the black drop.’ It was stronger than laudanum, and, in fact, a dangerously powerful narcotic. Something like this is that potent drug in Nature’s pharmacopeia which she reserves for the time of need, the later stages of life. She commonly begins administering it at about the time of the ’grand climacteric,’ the ninth septennial period, the sixty-third year. More and more freely she gives it, as the years go on, to her gray-haired children, until, if they last long enough, every faculty is benumbed, and they drop off quietly into sleep under its benign influence. Time, the inexorable, does not threaten them with the scythe so often as with the sandbag. He does not cut, but he stuns and stupefies."


But the "black drop" administered by Satan, when, at any age, the unpardonable sin is committed, has no such kindly intent. It puts one past feeling as to heaven, but full of sensation as to hell. There are no kindlings to repentance, however keen may be the biting and sting of remorse. It is quite possible that one who is past feeling to spiritual impressions may dream as Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Richard III, or Scott’s "Glossin" in Guy Mannering. And so to such a one there may remain nothing "but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries." What time these apprehensions last they are the foretaste of hell.


It is not only a state of deprivation, but of positive infliction. When "the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him" (1 Samuel 16:14). To the man who closes his eyes to the Spirit’s testimony, God sends judicial blindness and hardness of heart. Not only so, when the Lord refused to answer Saul, "neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets," he allowed him to return to spiritualism and "inquire of one who had a familiar spirit" (1 Samuel 2:5-7). God chooses the delusions of the hopelessly lost. He sends them a strong delusion that they may believe a lie and be damned (Isaiah 66:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:11). This delusion may be spiritualism, or science, or philosophy, or anything else. Whatever it is, for the time being it fills the vision and the heart. It points out a path "whose steps take hold on death and hell," and though the end thereof is death, it seems right to him.


Such, I think, is the Bible teaching concerning the unpardonable sin. It is a sin of today as well as yesterday. The liability of its commission is greatly increased during revivals of religion.


That hazard is unspeakably awful when men know and feel God’s presence and power, and though convicted and trembling, turn away with a lie on their lips and hatred of holiness in their hearts.


To younger people would I urgently say:


Beware of those insidious beginnings which tend to the formation of an evil character. Cultivate most assiduously such tenderness of heart, such susceptibility to religious impressions as you now have. Follow every prompting toward heaven. Transmute every spiritual emotion to action. Beware of becoming hardened. Beware of dominant passions, such as the love of pleasure, the pride of opinion, the pride of life, the love of money. Distrust as an enemy, anything or anybody, whose influence keeps you apart from the use of the means of salvation. Shun, as you would a tiger’s Jungle, all associations that corrupt good manners. Beware of all people who make a mock at sin and speak irreverently of holy things.


Oh, the beginnings! The beginnings I These are the battlegrounds of hope. Hear today, turn today, escape for thy life today. For when once under the dominion of pleasure, or lust, or wine, or pride, or especially the love of money, that root of all kinds of evil, then – O then – how easily, how unconsciously you may commit the unpardonable sin.


And then, though the world were full of Bibles to the stars, and Christians more numerous than the sands and forest leaves, and every church ablaze with revivals – for you there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin. You are now and forever lost.


In response to this discussion of our Lord upon the sin against the Holy Spirit the Pharisees demanded of him a sign, to which he replied that no sign should be given them except the sign of Jonah, i. e., his burial and resurrection. This test of his messiahship he submitted time and again both to his enemies and to his disciples. Here he again announces a principle of the judgment, viz: that men will be judged according to the light they have here. The Ninevites and the queen of the south will stand up in the judgment and condemn the Jews of his day because with less light than these Jews had they responded to God’s call while that generation rejected their light. Then he closes that discussion with a comparison of the Jewish nation to a man whom the evil spirit volunteered to leave and re-enter at pleasure with the assurance that every time he returned, after a leave of absence, the last state was worse than the first.


It is necessary to add a word of comment on Section 50 (Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21) of the Harmony. Here on the same day and on this same occasion the mother of Jesus and his brothers come to him for an interview, ostensibly to arrest him from so great a zeal. Perhaps they thought he ought to stop and eat, but he, knowing their purpose toward him, announced the principle of spiritual relation above the earthly relation – that whosoever would do the will of God was nearer to him than earthly relations. What a lesson for us!

QUESTIONS

1. What is the difficulty of Mark 3:29 and what is its solution?

2. What is the meaning of "eternal sin"?

3. By whom and how must this sin be committed?

4. What is the first constituent element, or condition, of the unpardonable sin? Give biblical illustrations and proof.

5. What is the second constituent element? Explain and illustrate by the case of Paul.

6. What theological controversy here and what is the author’s position?

7. What principle of judgment here involved and what is the biblical proof?

8. Describe the spiritual conditions under which a soul may commit the unpardonable sin.

9. What is the third element and what is the proof? Recite the struggle of a soul on the verge of this awful sin and Satan’s rejoinder.

10. What is the fourth element and what is involved in it?

11. What is the fifth element and what its meaning? Illustrate.

12. What passage of Scripture here introduced, what is the author’s points of interpretation, and how does this passage apply to the subject under discussion?

13. What is the state of one who is guilty of the unpardonable sin and what poem quoted on this point? Quote it.

14. What are the items of deprivation which constitute the state of such a soul? Explain each.

15. In response to our Lord’s discussion of this sin against the Holy Spirit what demand did the Pharisees make, what was our Lord s reply and what does he mean?

16. How does our Lord here characterize these Jewish people?

17. What was the incident of Section 50 of the Harmony and what is its lesson for us?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 12". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/matthew-12.html.
 
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