Unpardonable Sin

Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
~ Matthew 12:31

Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.
~ Mark 3:28-30

And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.
~ Luke 12:10

Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
~ Acts 7:51

And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.
~ Acts 6:10

But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?
~ Acts 7:27

This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush.
~ Acts 7:35

To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt,
~ Acts 7:39

Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
~ Matthew 23:31-33

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.
~ 1 John 5:16

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
~ Hebrews 6:4-6

Various Quotations on the Subject of the Unpardonable Sin.

In 1786, Cowper entered his fourth deep depression and again tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide.

In a letter to John Newton on January 13, 1784, he wrote,

Loaded as my life is with despair, I have no such comfort as would result from a supposed probability of better things to come, were it once ended. . . . You will tell me that this cold gloom will be succeeded by a cheerful spring, and endeavour to encourage me to hope for a spiritual change resembling it—but it will be lost labour. Nature revives again; but a soul once slain lives no more. . . . My friends, I know, expect that I shall see yet again. They think it necessary to the existence of divine truth, that he who once had possession of it should never finally lose it. I admit the solidity of this reasoning in every case but my own. And why not in my own? . . . I forestall the answer: God’s ways are mysterious, and He giveth no account of His matters—an answer that would serve my purpose as well as theirs that use it. There is a mystery in my destruc- tion, and in time it shall be explained.”
— From John Piper’s The Hidden Smile of God: The Fruit of Affliction in the Lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd.

Second Wile. Another wile of Satan as a troubler, is in aggravating the saint’s sins, against which he hath a notable declamatory faculty—not that he hates sin, but the saint. Now in this, his chief subtlety is so to lay his charge, that it may seem to be the act of the Holy Spirit. He knows an arrow out of God’s quiver wounds deep; and therefore, when he accuseth, he comes in God’s name. As suppose a child were conscious to himself of displeasing his father, and one that owes him a spite, to trouble him, should counterfeit a letter from his father, and cunningly convey it into the son’s hand, who receives it as from his father. Therein he chargeth him with many heavy crimes, disowns him, and threatens he shall never come in his sight, or have penny portion from him; (and) the poor son, conscious to himself of many undutiful carriages, and not knowing the plot, takes on heavily, and can neither eat nor sleep from grief. Here is a real troublebegot from a false and imaginary ground…

…2. Satan perplexeth the tender consciences of doubting Christians, with obscure scriptures, whose sense lies too deep for their weak and distempered judgements readily to find out, and with these he hampers poor souls exceedingly. Indeed as melancholy men delight in melancholy walks, so doubting souls most frequent such places of Scripture in their musing thoughts, as increase their doubts. How many have I known that have looked so long on those difficult places, Heb. 6:6; 10:26, which pass the understanding, as a swift stream the eye, so that the sense is not perceived without great observation, till their heads have turned round, and they at last, not able to untie the difficulties, have fallen down in despairing thoughts and words of their own condition, crying out, O they have sinned against knowledge of the truth, and therefore no mercy remains for them. (Now) if they have refreshed their understandings by looking off these places, whose engraving is too curious to be long pored on by a weak eye, they might have found that in other scriptures plainly expressed, which would have enabled them, as through a glass, more safely to have viewed these. Therefore, Christian, keep the plains; thou mayest be sure it is thine enemy that gives thee such stones to break thy teeth, when thy condition calls rather for bread and wine—such scriptures, I mean, as are most apt to nourish thy faith, and cheer thy drooping spirit.
— From William Gurnall’s “The Christian in Complete Armour, A Treatise Of the Saints’ War against the Devil”.

During the whole of one summer, a young woman of respectable family and of religious education was accustomed to send for me, from time to time, for religious conversation. She had no hope, and her mind was uniformly gloomy. She appeared peculiarly dejected. Time after time, as I visited her, I endeavored as plainly as possible, to unfold the divine promises, and the fullness of Christ to meet all the possible wants of sinners who will believe in Him. Still she remained as sad and downcast as ever. Her most common topic was the magnitude of her sins; she was such a sinner that there was no mercy for her. Repeatedly I showed the error of this notion, by the clear declarations of the Bible, and by the nature of salvation obtained by the Savior; and most urgently I pressed upon her the instant duty of hearing the gospel call to repent and trust in Jesus Christ, while the Holy Spirit was striving with her. I assured her that no sinner need be lost because his sins are great since “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin;” and if a sinner perishes, he must perish because he does not repent and believe, not because the merit of Christ is insufficient to reach the extent of his guilt, and not because Christ is not freely offered to him, in the full sincerity and full friendliness of God.

One day, as I was urging this point and entreating her to be reconciled to God by yielding her heart to the persuasions of the Holy Spirit, she said to me:

“I believe I have committed the unpardonable sin!”
“What makes you think so?” said I.
“Why—I feel so,” said she hesitatingly.
“What makes you feel so?”
“The Lord would have forgiven me before this time, if there was any forgiveness for me.”
“He will forgive you now, if you will repent of sin and trust in the redemption of Christ.”
“No!” said she, “I have committed the unpardonable sin! There is no forgiveness for me!” She wept and sobbed aloud.
I said, “How long have you been thinking that you have committed the unpardonable sin?”
“I have known it a long time.”
“What is the unpardonable sin?”
“The sin against the Holy Ghost, which hath never forgiveness, never in this world, for in the world to come.”
“What is the sin against the Holy Ghost?”
After much hesitation, she replied, “It is the sin that Jesus Christ mentioned—speaking against the Holy Ghost.”
“Have you been speaking against the Holy Ghost?”
“Oh no! I have not done that!” said she.
“What then do you mean? What is your unpardonable sin?”
She gave no answer, and I continued to ask, “When did you commit this unpardonable sin?”
She said nothing.
“Tell me what it is.”
She said nothing.
“How came you to commit it?”
She said nothing.
“What makes you think you have committed it?”
“God would have forgiven me before this time, if I had not committed it.”
“Before this time? What do you mean?”
“Why, I have been a great while seeking religion.”
“And because you have been so long seeking it, you think it is no present fault of yours that you have not found it; but that God will not forgive you, because, months ago, you committed the unpardonable sin—is that what you mean?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Very well,” said I, “I suppose you want nothing more of me, if you are unpardonable. I can do nothing for you if that is the case. I may as well leave you. You may go to your closet, and tell God, as you kneel before him, that you are willing to repent; that you are willing to trust in Christ, and willing to obey God in all things; and that it is no fault of your that you are not a Christian. Tell Him that the only thing now in the way of your salvation is that old unpardonable sin, which He will not forgive. Goodbye.”
— From Ichabod Spencer’s “A Pastor’s Sketches”.

164. Then should I be struck into a very great trembling, insomuch thatat sometimes I could, for whole days together, feel my very body, as well as my mind, to shake and totter under the sense of this dreadful judgment of God, that should fall on those that have sinned that most fearful and unpardonable sin. I felt also such a clogging and heat at my stomach, by reason of this my terror, that I was, especially at some times, as if my breast-bone would split asunder; then I thought of that concerning Judas, who by falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. Acts i. 18.

165. I feared also that this was the mark that the Lord did set on Cain, even continual fear and trembling, under the heavy load of guilt that he had charged on him for the blood of his brother Abel. Thus did I wind, and twine, and shrink under the burthen that was upon me; which burthen also did so oppress me, that I could neither stand, nor go, nor lie, either at rest or quiet.

166. Yet that saying would sometimes come into my mind, He hath received gifts for the rebellious. Psalm lxviii. 18. The rebellious, thought I! why surely they are such as once were under subjection to their Prince; even those who after they have sworn subjection to His government, have taken up arms against Him; and this, thought I, is my very condition: I once loved Him, feared Him, served Him; but now I am a rebel; I have sold Him, I have said, Let Him go, if He will; but yet He has gifts for rebels; and then why not for me?

167. This sometimes I thought on, and should labour to take hold thereof, that some, though small refreshment, might have been conceived by me; but in this also I missed of my desire; I was driven with force beyond it; I was like a man going to execution, even by that place where he would fain creep in and hide himself, but may not.

173. Now I should find my mind to flee from God, as from the face of adreadful judge, yet this was my torment, I could not escape His hand: (It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrew x.) But, blessed be His grace, that scripture, in these flying fits, would call, as running after me, I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions; and as a cloud, thy sins: return unto Me, for I have redeemed thee.
— From John Bunyan’s “Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners Or, A Brief Relation of the Exceeding Mercy of God in Christ, to His Poor Servant”.

(2.) Mortification prunes all the graces of God, and makes room for them to grow in our hearts. The life and vigor of our spiritual lives is found in the vigor and flourishing of the plants of grace in our hearts

1. Life, strength and comfort in our spiritual life are not the necessary result of mortification.

They do not result from it as though they were necessarily tied to it. A man may follow a constant course of mortification all his life, and yet perhaps never enjoy a good day of peace and consolation. That is how it was with Heman. He lived a life of perpetual mortification, and walked with God. Yet terrors and wounds followed him all his life. God singled out Heman, a good friend, to make him an example for others who might be in distress. Can you complain if you suffer as Heman did, though he was a prominent servant of God? This will be his praise to the end of the world. It is God’s prerogative whether to speak peace and consolation to us.
— From John Owen’s “Mortification of Sin in Believers”.

If we assume that the sin unto death is the same with the sin against the Holy Ghost—then, from what has been said in a previous discourse, it will follow that we regard those people to be on a wrong track of inquiry, who, with a view to ascertain whether they have committed this sin, look back to their by-gone history; and rummage the depositories of their past remembrance; and try to find, among all the deeds they have ever committed, that one deed of particular enormity, to which the forgiveness of the gospel will not and cannot be extended. There is, in truth, no such deed within the reach of human performance. The blood of Christ can wash away the guilt of all the sins of all the individuals in the assemblage before us; and, in the hearing of every one of you, do we make this free and open announcement of the gospel remedy, in all the power and preciousness which belong to it. It is a matter of rare occurrence, but it does occur, that the imagination of this sin fills the heart of some melancholy patients with the agitations of despair ; and spreads a dark and mournful complexion over the secret history of him who is the victim of it; and keeps the comfort of the gospel far away from him; and fixes in his mind the obstinate delusion, that there is a something about him, which renders him an exception to those wide and universal calls, which are made to circulate at large among all the other sons and daughters of the species. Now this is a misapprehension. The offer is still unto all, and upon all who believe; and he is not excluded from the offer. And there is not a single iniquity of his past life that so excludes him. And if he will only come to Christ in His appointed way; and do honour to the power of His sacrifice, by resting on it; and show respect to His authority, by putting forth all the energy that is in him to act up to its requirements; and evidence his humble submission to the doctrine of the Spirit, by praying for Him in faith ; and give | proof of the general honesty which runs through all his principles on the subject of the Christian religion, by his diligent use of every revealed expedient, in the way of reading and acting and devoutly observing the appointed ordinances then do we say to him what we say to you all that you have taken such a step, and entered upon such a career, and committed yourself to such an infallible guidance, as in spite of all the manifold deformities of your past life, and under all that guilt of rebelliousness which now lies upon you, will translate you into acceptance with the God whom you have so deeply offended; and carry you forward by the ascending march of a progressive and ever-advancing sanctification, to all the glories and all the perfections of a blissfül eternity.
— From Thomas Chalmers’s Sermon XLVII, “On the Nature of the Sin unto Death, 1 John v. 16”.

The sin against the Holy Ghost is not to be regarded simply as an isolated act, but also as the external symptom of a heart so radically and finally set against God that no power which God can consistently use will ever save it. This sin, therefore, can be only the culmination of a long course of self-hardening and self-depraving. He who has committed it must be either profoundly indifferent to his own condition, or actively and bitterly hostile to God; so that anxiety or fear on account of one’s condition are evidences that it has not been committed. The sin against the Holy Ghost cannot be forgiven, simply because the soul that has committed it has ceased to be receptive of divine influences, even when those influences are exerted in the utmost strength which God has seen fit to employ in his spiritual administration.
— From Augustus Hopkins Strong’s “Systematic Theology”.

The commission of this sin is marked by a loss of spiritual sight; the blind fish of the Mammoth Cave left light for darkness, and so in time lost their eyes. It is marked by a loss of religious sensibility; the sensitive-plant loses its sensitiveness, in proportion to the frequency with which it is touched. It is marked by a loss of power to will the good; “the lava hardens after it has broken from the crater, and in that state cannot return to its source”.

(From Dogmatics, 2: 428): Herod Antipas, after earlier doubt and slavishness, reached such deadness as to be able to mock the Savior, at the mention of whose name he had not long before trembled.
— by Van Oosterzee

It is not that divine grace is absolutely refused to any one who in true penitence asks forgiveness of this sin; but he who commits it never fulfills the subjective conditions upon which forgiveness is possible, because the aggravation of sin to this ultimatum destroys in him all susceptibility of repentance. The way of return to God is closed against no one who does not close it against himself.
— From Julius Müller’s “Doctrine of Sin, 2: 425”.

A paraphrase, Verses 1, 2.—O Lord, through my manifold sins and provocations, I have brought myself into great distresses. Mine iniquities are always before me, and I am ready to be overwhelmed with them, as with a flood of waters; for they have brought me into depths, wherein I am ready to be swallowed up. But yet, although my distress be great and perplexing, I do not, I dare not, utterly despond and cast away all hopes of relief or recovery. Nor do I seek unto any other remedy, way, or means of relief; but I apply myself to thee, Jehovah, to thee alone.
— From John Owen’s “The Forgiveness of Sin, A Practical Exposition Upon Psalm 130.

That offence, it seems evident, involves some degree of knowledge and conviction of the truth. This was clearly the case with the Pharisees, who were guilty of reviling our Lord. He told them this most plainly: “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin : but now they have no cloke for their sin. He that hateth me hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin : but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.”* They professed that they did know him—that they were capable of judging him, and that they rejected him, after weighing his claims.
— From William Orme’s “The Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit, Discourse II”. 1828.

The anguish of a distressed conscience is unspeakably great, insomuch that many are, as Heman, Ps. lxxxviii. 15, ‘even distracted, while they suffer the terrors of the Almighty.’ These, though they look round about them for help, and invite all that pass by to pity them, ‘because the hand of the Lord hath touched them,’ (Job xix. 21,) yet Satan laughs at their calamity, and mocks at them under their fears, and doth all he can to augment the flame. He suggests dreadful thoughts of an incensed majesty, begets terrible apprehensions of infinite wrath and damnation, he aggravates all their sins to make them seem unpardonable. Every action he calls a sin, and every sin he represents as a wilful forsaking of God, and every deliberate transgression he tells them is ‘the sin against the Holy Ghost.’ He baffles them in their prayers and services, and then accuseth their duties for intolerable profanations of God’s name; and if they be at last affrighted from them, he then clamours that they are ‘forsaken of God’ because they have forsaken him.

(2.) He belies God further, by representing him as designing the ruin and misery of the tempted person in particular. He would make him believe that God had a particular spleen, as it were, against him above other men, and that in all his dealings with, or concerning him, he is but as a ‘bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places,’ (Lam. iii. 10,) ready to take any advantage to cut him off. And accordingly he gives no other interpretation of all the ways of God but such as make them look like tokens of final rejection of those that are concerned in them. If there be upon them outward afflictions, he tells them these are but the forerunners of hell; if they lie under inward sense of wrath, he calls that the first-fruits of everlasting vengeance; if any particular threatening be impressed upon their consciences by the Spirit of God, in order to their humiliation and repentance, he represents it as God’s final sentence and absolute determination against them. If for caution God see it fit to set before them the examples of his wrath, as it is very frequent for him to do, lest we ‘should fall after the same example of unbelief,’ 1 Pet. ii. 6; 1 Cor. x. 6, Satan perverts this to that which God never intended, for he boldly asserts that these examples prognosticate their misery, and that God signifies by them a prediction of certain unavoidable unhappiness.

This must be observed here, that these misrepresentations of God are none of Satan’s primary arguments; he useth them only as fresh reserves to second others. For where he finds any wing of his battalions ready to be beaten, he comes up with these supplies to relieve them. For indeed these considerations of God’s severity in the general, or of his special resolve against any in particular, are not of force sufficient to attack a soul that is within the trenches of present peace; they are not of themselves proper mediums to produce such a conclusion. Though we suppose God severe, except we should imagine him to be a hater of mankind universally, we cannot thence infer the final ruin of this or that individual person. And besides that these are unjustifiable falsehoods, they cannot make the final damnation of any one so much as probable till the heart be first weakened in its hopes by fears or doubtings, raised up in it upon other grounds. Then indeed men are staggered, either by the deep sense of their unworthiness, or some sad continuing calamity, and the seeming neglect of their prayers. If Satan then tell them of God’s severity, or that, all his providences considered, he hath set them up as a ‘mark for the arrows of his indignation,’ they are ready to believe his report, it being so suitable to their present sense and feeling.

(3.) Satan also fetcheth arguments from _the sins of God’s children, but his great art in this is by unjust aggravations to make them look like those offences which by special exception in Scripture are excluded from pardon_. The apostle, 1 John v. 16, tells us of a ‘sin that is unto death;’ that is, a sin which, if a man commits, he cannot escape eternal death, and therefore he would not have such a sinner prayed for. That the popish distinction of venial and mortal sins is not here intended, some of the papists themselves do confess.(357) What he means by that sin he doth not tell us, it being a thing known sufficiently from other scriptures. The note of unpardonableness is indeed affixed to sins under several denominations; the sin against the Holy Ghost Christ pronounceth unpardonable, Mat. xii. 31. Total apostasy from the truth of the gospel hath no less said of it by the apostle when he calls it ‘a drawing back to perdition,’ Heb. x. 39. Whether these be all one, or whether there is any other species of sin irremissible besides that against the Holy Ghost, it is not to our purpose to make inquiry. Whatever they are in themselves, Satan in this matter makes use of the texts that speak of them distinctly, as weshall presently see. But, besides these, the Scriptures speak of some that were ‘given up to vile affections, and to a reprobate mind,’ Rom. i. 26, 28. And of others that were given up ‘to hardness of heart,’ Mat. xiii. 14; Acts xxviii. 26. Now whosoever they are of whom these things may be justly affirmed, they are certainly miserable, hopeless wretches. Here then is Satan’s cunning, if he can make any child of God believe that he hath done any such act, or acts of sin, as may bring him within the compass of these scriptures, then he insults over them, and tells them over and over again that they are cut off for ever.

To this purpose he aggravates all their sins. And,

First_, If he find them guilty of _any great iniquity, he fixeth upon that, and labours all he can to make it look most desperately, that so he may call it the sin against the Holy Ghost_; and in this he hath a mighty advantage, that most men are in the dark about that sin, all men being not yet agreed whether it be a distinct species of sin, or a higher degree of wilfulness relating to any particular sin. Upon this score Satan can lay the charge of this sin upon those that apostatize from the truth, and through weakness have recanted it. Thus he dealt with Spira, with Bilney, with Bainham, and several others. There is so near a resemblance in these sins of denying truths to what is said of the unpardonable sin, that these men, though they were scholars and men of good abilities, yet they were not able to answer the argument that the devil urged against them, but it prevailed to distress them. Upon others also hath Satan the advantage to fix this accusation; for let the species of the sin be what it will, if they have anything of that notion, that the sin against the Holy Ghost is a presumptuous act of sin under temptation, they will call any notorious crime the sin against the Holy Ghost, because of the more remarkable aggravating circumstances that have accompanied such a fact.

Second, He aggravates the sins of God’s children from the wilfulness of their sinning. It is a thing often too true that a child of God may be carried by a violent impetus, or strong inclination of affection, to some particular iniquity, where the forwardness of desires that way, by a sudden haste, do stifle those reluctancies of mind which may be expected from one endowed with the Spirit of God, whose power upon them doth ordinarily sway them ‘to lust against the flesh.’ But it is more ordinary to find a temptation to prevail, notwithstanding that an enlightened mind doth make some resistance; which, because it is too feeble, is easily borne down by the strong importunities of Satan, working upon the inclinations of the flesh. Both these cases are improved against them over whom Satan hath got any advantage of doubting of their estate. If they have resisted but ineffectually, or not resisted at all, he chargeth them with the highest wilfulness, and will so aggravate the matter that they shall be put in fear, not only that there can be no grace—where sin hath so much power as either to control so much light and endeavours, or hath so subjected the heart to its dominion that it can command without a contradiction—but that they can have no hope; that they that sin with so high a hand should ever enter into God’s rest. And to this purpose he commonly sets before them that text of Heb. x. 26, ‘If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.’ Or that of Heb. vi. 4, ‘It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, … if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance.’ Both which places speak indeed, at least, such a difficulty as in common use of speech is called an impossibility, if not an utter absolute impossibility, of repentance and pardon. But then the sinning wilfully or falling away there mentioned, is only that of total apostasy; when men that have embraced the gospel, and by it have met with such impressions of power and delight upon their hearts, which we usually call common grace, do notwithstanding reject that gospel as false and fabulous, and so rise up against it with scorn and utmost contempt, as Julian the apostate did. If now the true intendment of those scriptures were considered by those that are distressed with them, they might presently see that they were put into fear, where no such cause of fear was. But all men have not this knowledge, nor do they so duly attend to the matter of the apostle’s discourse as to be able to put a right interpretation upon it. Upon such Satan imposeth his deceitful gloss, and tells them: Wilful sinners cannot be restored to repentance; but you have sinned wilfully; when sin was before you, you rushed into it without any consideration, as the horse into the battle; or when God stood in your way with commands and advice to the contrary, when your consciences warned you not to do so great wickedness, yet you would do it. You were as those that break the yoke and burst the bonds. Upon this supposition, that these texts speak of wilful sinning in the general, how little can be said against Satan’s argument! How many have I known that have been tortured with these texts, judging their estate fearful, because of their wilfulness in sinning! who upon the breaking of the snare of Satan’s misrepresentation, have escaped as a bird unto the hill.

Third, When either of the two former ways will not serve the turn—that is, when he meets with such against whom he hath nothing of notorious wickedness to object, or such as have a better discerning of Scripture than so to be imposed upon—he labours _to make a charge against them, from the number of their miscarriages. Here he takes up all the filth he can, and lays it upon one heap at their door.
— From Richard Gilpin’s “A Treatise of Satan’s Temptations”.

Oft it will fall out that the conscience of Gods child shall bee so exceedingly tormented in temptation, that hee shall cry out, he is forsaken of God, and shalbe damned; when as indeed he stil remains the deare child of God, as Christ our Saviour did God’s welbeloved in the deepest assaults of Satan. And therefore the relation published of Francis Spira his desperation, doth inconsiderately taxe him for a cast-away; considering that nothing befel him in the time of his desperation but that which may befall the child of God: yea our owne land can afford many examples which match Francis Spira, whether we regard the matter of his temptation, or the deepnesse of his desperation, who yet through the mercy of God have received comfort. And therefore in this case Christian charity must ever bind us to thinke and speake the best.
— From William Perkins, speaking about Francis Spira and his sufferings until death, due to self-doubt in matters of salvation.

1. Despair opposeth God in the greatest of all his commands. 2. Despair hath a way peculiar to itself of dishonouring God above other sins. 3. Despair strengthens and enrages all other sins in the soul. 4. The greatness of this sin of despair appears in this, that the least sin envenomed by it is unpardonable, and without this the greatest is pardonable.

Four considerations proving the sin of despair to exceed all others together.

Consideration 1. Despair opposeth God in the greatest of all his commands. the greatest command without all compare in the whole Bible, is to believe. When those Jews asked our Lord Jesus, ‘What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?’ mark his answer, ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent,’ John 6:28, 29. As if he had said, The most compendious way that I am able to give you, is to receive me into your hearts by faith; do this, and you do all in one. This is the work that is instar omnium—all in all. All you do is undone, and yourselves also, till this work be done, for which you shall have as much thanks at God’s hands as if you could keep the whole law. Indeed, it is accepted in lieu of it: ‘To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness,’ Rom. 4:5; where ‘he that worketh not,’ is not meant a slothful lazysinner that hath no list to work, nor a rebellious sinner whose heart riseth against the work which the holy law of God would employ him in; but the humbled sinner, who desires and endeavours to work, but is no way able to do the task the law as a covenant sets him, and therefore is said to have a law-sense not to work, because he doth not work to the law’s purpose, so as to answer its demands, which will accept nothing short of perfect obedience. This man’s faith on Christ is accepted for righteousness; that is, God reckons him so, and so he shall pass at the great day by the judge’s sentence, as if he had never trod one step awry from the path of the law. Now, if faith be the work of God above all other, then unbelief is the work of the devil, and that to which he had rather thou shouldst do than drink or drab. And despair is unbelief at the worst. Unbelief among sins is as the plague among disease, the most dangerous; but when it riseth to despair, then it is as the plague with the tokens that bring the certain message of death with them. Unbelief is despair in the bud, despair is unbelief at its full growth.

Consideration 2. Despair hath a way peculiar to itself of dishonouring God above other sins. Every sin wounds the law, and the name of God through the law’s sides. But this wound is healed when the penitent sinner by faith comes to Christ and closeth with him. God makes account, reparations now are fully made through Christ—whom the believer receives —for the wrong done to his law, and his name vindicated from the dishonour cast upon it by the creature’s former iniquities; yea, that it appears more glorious because it is illustrious, by the shining forth of one title of honour, not the least prized by God himself—his forgiving mercy—which could not have been so well known to the creature, if not drawn forth to act upon this occasion. But what would you say of such a prodigious sinner that, when he hath wounded the law, is not willing to have it healed? when he hath dishonoured God, and that in a high provoking manner, is not willing that the dirt he hath cast on God’s face should be wiped off? Methinks I see every one of your choler to rise at the reading of this, against such a wretch, and hear you asking, as once Ahasuerus did Esther, ‘Who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so?’ Est. 7:5. Would you know? Truly, the adversary and enemy is this wicked despair. The despairing soul is the person that will not let Christ make satisfaction for the wrong that by his sins he hath done to God. Suppose a man should wound another dangerously in his passion, and when he hath done, will not let any chirurgeon come near to cure the wound he hath made. Every one would say his last act of cruelty was worse than his first.O my soul, saith faith, thou didst ill, yea, very ill, in breaking the holy laws of God, and dishonouring the name of the great God of heaven and earth thereby; let thy heart ache for this. But thou dost far worse by despairing of mercy. In this act thou rejectest Christ, and keepest him off from satisfying the justice of the law that is injured by thee, and from redeeming the honour of his name from the reproach thy sins have scandalized it with. What language speaks thy despair but this? Let God come by his right and honour as he can, thou wilt never be an instrument active in the helping of him to it, by believing on Christ, in whom he may fully have them with advantage. O what shame would despair put the mercy of God to in the sight of Satan his worst enemy! He claps his hands at this, to see all the glorious attributes of God served alike and divested of their honour. This is meat and drink to him. That cursed spirit desires no better music than to hear the soul ring the promises, like bells, backward; make no other use of them than to confirm it in its own desperate thoughts of its damnation, and to tell it hell-fire is kindled in its conscience, which no mercy in God will or can quench to eternity. As the bloody Jews and Roman soldiers exercised their cruelty on every part almost of Christ’s body, crowning his head with thorns, goring his side with a spear, and fastening his hands and feet with nails; so the despairing sinner deals with the whole name of God. He doth, as it were, put a mock crown on the head of his wisdom, setting it all to naught, and charging it foolishly, as if the method of salvation was not laid with prudence by the all-wise God. He nails the hands of his almighty power, while he thinks his sins are of that nature as put him out of the reach and beyond the power of God to save him. He pierceth the tender bowls of God through his mercy, of which he cannot see enough in a God that not only hath, but is, mercy and love itself, to persuade him to hope for any favour or forgiveness at his hands. In a word, the despairing soul transfixeth his very heart and will, while he unworthily frames notions of God, as if he were unwilling to the work of mercy, and not so inclined to exercise acts of pardon and forgiveness on poor sinners as the word declares him. No, despair basely misreports him to the soul, as if he were a lame God, and had no feet—affections, I mean—to carry him to such a work as forgiving sin is. Now, what does the sum of all this amount to? If you can, without horror and amazement, stand to cast it up, and consider the weight of those circumstances which aggravate the flagitiousness of this unparalleled fact, surely it riseth to no less than the highest attempt that the creature can make for the murdering of God himself; for the infinitude of God’s wisdom, power, mercy, and all his attributes, are more intrinsical to the essence and being of God, than the heart-blood is to the life of a mortal man…

Consideration 3. Despair strengthens and enrageth all other sins in the soul. None fight so fiercely as those who look for no quarter. They think themselves dead men, and therefore they will sell their lives as dear as they can. Samson despaired of ever getting out of the Philistines’ hands—his eyes being now lost, and he unfit to make an escape. What doth he meditate, now his case is desperate, but his enemies’ ruin, though it costs him his own? He cares not though he pulls the house on his own head, so it may but fall on the Philistines’ also…If despair enters it is impossible to keep blasphemy out. Pray, therefore, and do thy utmost to repel this dart, lest it soon set thy soul on a flame with this hell-fire of blasphemy.

Hear, O you souls smitten for sin, that spend your life in sighs, sobs, and tears for your horrid crimes past, would you again be seen fighting against God as fierce as ever? As you would not, take heed of despair. If thou once thinkest that God’s heart is hardened against thee, thy heart will not be long hardening against him. And this, by the way, may administer comfort to the thoughts of some gracious but troubled souls, who can find no faith that they have, yea, who are oft reckoning themselves among despairers. Let me ask thee who art in this sad condition, this one thing, Canst thou find any love breathing in thy heart towards God, though thou canst find no breath of love coming at present from him to thee? And art thou tender and fearful of sinning against him, even while thou seemest to thy own thoughts to hope for no mercy from him? If so, be of good comfort; thy faith may be weak, but thou art far from being under the power of despair. Desperate souls do not use to reserve any love for God, or care for the pleasing of him. There is some faith surely in thy soul which is the cause of these motions, though, like the spring in a watch, it be itself unseen, when the other graces moved by it are visible.

Consideration 4. The greatness of this sin of despair appears in this, that the least sin envenomed by it is unpardonable, and without this the greatest is pardonable. That must needs of all sins be most abominable which makes the creature incapable of mercy. Judas was not damned merely for his treason and murder; for others that had their hands deep in the same horrid fact, obtained a pardon by faith in that blood which through cruelty they shed; but they were these heightened into the greatest malignity possible, from the putrid stuff of despair and final impenitency with which his wretched heart was filled, that he died so miserably of, and now is infinitely more miserably damned for. Such being despair, then, oh, let us shrink from the woful gulf!

…[Satan’s third affrighting temptation —The Fiery Dart of Despair.

Third Dart of affrighting temptations. The third fiery dart which Satan lets fly at the Christian is his temptation to despair. This cursed fiend thinks he can neither revenge himself further on God, nor engrave his own image deeper on the creature, than by this sin; which at once casteth the greatest scorn upon God, and brings the creature nearest the complexion of devils and damned souls, who, by lying continually under the scorching wrath of God, in hell’s horrid zone, are blacked all over with despair. This is the sin that of all Satan chiefly aims at. Other sins are but as previous dispositions to introduce that, and make the creature more receptive for such a temptation.
— From William Gurnall’s “The Christian in Complete Armour, A Treatise Of the Saints’ War against the Devil”.

Tim. But, Sir, I have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, which the Saviour of mankind pronounceth unpardonable, and therefore all your counsels and comforts unto me are in vain.

Phil. The devil, the father of lies, hath added this lie to those which he hath told before, in persuading thee thou hast committed the sin against the Holy Ghost. For that sin is ever attended with these two symptoms. First, the party guilty thereof never grieves for it, nor conceives the least sorrow in his heart for the sin he hath committed. The second, which followeth on the former, he never wishes or desires any pardon, but is delighted and pleased with his present condition. Now, if thou canst truly say that thy sins are a burden unto thee, that thou dost desire forgiveness, and wouldest give any thing to compass and obtain it, be of good comfort, thou hast not as yet, and, by God’s grace, never shalt commit that unpardonable offence. I will not define how near thou hast been unto it. As David said to Jonathan, there is not a hair’s breadth betwixt death and me: so it may be thou hast missed it very narrowly, but assure thyself thou art not as yet guilty thereof.
— From Thomas Fuller’s “The Cause and Cure of a Wounded Conscience”.

V.–The sin against the Holy Ghost alleged

Object. I suspect I am guilty of the ‘sin against the Holy Ghost,’ and so am incapable of pardon; and therefore I need not think of believing on Christ Jesus for the saving of my soul. Ans. Although none should charge this sin on themselves, or on others, unless they can prove and establish the charge according to Christ’s example ‘And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come’ (Matt. 12: 5, 26, 32): yet for satisfying of the doubt, I shall, 1. Show what is not the sin against the Holy Ghost, properly so called, because there be some gross sins which people do unwarrantable judge to be this unpardonable sin. 2. I shall show what is the sin against the Holy Ghost. 3. I shall draw some conclusions in answer directly to the objection.

I.–What it is not

As for the first, There be many gross sins, which although, as all other sins, they be sins against the Holy Ghost, who is God equal and one with the Father and the Son, and are done against some of His operations and motions; yet are they not that sin against the Holy Ghost which is the unpardonable sin. As,

1. Blaspheming of God under bodily tortures is not that sin; for some saints fell into this sin–‘And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme’ (Acts 26: 11); much less blaspheming of God in a fit of distraction or frenzy; for a man is not a free rational agent at that time; and ‘He that spareth His people, as a father does the son that serveth him, and pitieth them that fear Him, as a father pitieth his children’ (Mal. 3: 17; Psa. 103: 13); so does He spare and pity in these rovings; for so would our fathers according to the flesh do, if we blasphemed them in a fit of distraction. Much less are horrid blasphemies against God darted in upon the soul, and not allowed there, this unpardonable sin; for such things were offered to Christ, and are often cast in upon the saints. (Matt. 4: 1-11.)

2. The hating of good in others, whilst I am not convinced that it is good, but according to my light, judge it to be evil; yea, the speaking against it, yea, the persecuting of it in that case, is not the sin against the Holy Ghost; for all these will be found in Paul before he was converted; and he obtained mercy because he did these things ignorantly.

3. Heart-rising at the thriving of others the work and way of God, whilst I love it myself; yea, the rising of the heart against Providence, which often expresses itself against the creatures nearest our hand; yea, this rising of heart entertained and maintained (although they be horrid things leading towards that unpardonable sin, yet) are not that sin; for these may be in the saints proceeding from self-love, which cannot endure to be darkened by another, and proceeding from some cross in their idol under a fit of temptation: the most part of all this was in Jonah, chap. 4.

4. Not only are not decays in what once was in the man, and falling into gross sins against light after the receiving of the truth, this unpardonable sin; for then many of the saints in Scripture were undone; but further, apostasy from much of the truth is not that sin; for that was in Solomon, and in the church of Corinth and Galatia; yea, denying, yea, forswearing of the most fundamental truth, under a great temptation, is not this sin: for then Peter had been undone.

5. As resisting, quenching, grieving, and vexing of the Spirit of God by many sinful ways, are not this unpardonable sin; for they are charged with these who are called to repentance in Scripture, and not shut out as guilty of this sin: so neither reiterated sin against light is the sin against the Holy Ghost, although it leads towards it, for such was Peter’s sin in denying Christ; so was Jehoshaphat’s sin in joining with Ahab and Jehoram.

6. Purposes and attempts of self-murder, and even purposes of murdering godly men, the party being under a sad fit of temptation; yea, actual self-murder (although probably it is often joined in the issue with this unpardonable sin, which ought to make every soul look upon the very temptation to it with horror and abhorrence, yet) is not the sin against the Holy Ghost. The jailer intended to kill himself upon a worse account than many poor people do, in the sight and sense of God’s wrath, and of their own sin and corruption; yet that jailer obtained pardon (Acts 16: 27, 34); and Paul, before his effectual calling, was accessory unto the murder of many saints, and intended to kill more, as himself granteth–‘I verily thought with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme: and, being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.’ (Acts 26: 9- 12.) Although all these are dreadful sins, each of them deserving wrath everlasting, and, not being repented of, bringing endless vengeance; especially the last cuts off hope of relief, for anything that can be expected in an ordinary way; yet none of these is the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost: and so under any of these there is hope to him that has an ear to hear the joyful sound of the covenant. All manner of such sin and blasphemy may be forgiven, as is clear in the Scripture, where these things are mentioned.

II.–What the sin against the Holy Ghost is

As for the second thing: Let us see what the sin against the Holy Ghost is. It is not a simple act of transgression, but a combination of many mischievous things, involving soul and body ordinarily in guilt. We thus describe it–‘It is a rejecting and opposing of the chief gospel truth, and way of salvation, made out particularly to a man by the Spirit of God, in the truth and good thereof; and that avowedly, freely, wilfully, maliciously, and despitefully, working hopeless fear.’ There be three places of Scripture which do speak most of this sin, and thence we will prove every part of this description, in so far as may be useful to our present purpose; by which it will appear, that none who have a mind for Christ need stumble at what is spoken of this sin in Scripture– ‘Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.’ ‘For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance: seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.’ ‘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 has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant wherewith He was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done despite unto the Spirit of grace?’ (Matt. 12: 23-32; Heb. 6: 4-6; 10: 25-29.)

1. Then let us consider the object about which this sin, or sinful acting of the man guilty thereof, is conversant, and that is the chief gospel-truth and way of salvation; both which come to one thing. It is the way which God has contrived for saving of sinners by Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah and Saviour, by whose death and righteousness men are to be saved, as He has held Him forth in the ordinances, confirming the same by many mighty works in Scripture tending thereto. This way of salvation is the object. The Pharisees oppose this that Christ was the Messiah–‘And all the people said, Is not this the son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow does not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils’ (Matt. 12: 23, 24.) The wrong is done against the Son of God–‘It is impossible to renew them again unto repentance, seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame’ (Heb. 6: 6); and against the blood of the covenant, and the Spirit graciously offering to apply these things–‘Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done despite unto the Spirit of grace?’ (Heb. 10: 29.)

2. In the description, consider the qualifications of this object. It is singularly made out to the party by the Spirit of God, both in the truth and good thereof. This faith, 1. That there must be knowledge of the truth and way of salvation. The Pharisees knew that Christ was the heir–‘But when they saw the Son, they said among themselves, This is the heir, come let us kill Him.’ (Matt. 21: 38.) The party hath knowledge– ‘But if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins’ (Heb. 10: 26.) 2. That knowledge of the thing must not swim only in the head, but there must be some half-heart persuasion of it: Christ knew the Pharisees’ thoughts (Matt. 12: 25); and so did judge them, and that the contrary of what they spoke was made out upon their heart. There is a tasting, which is beyond simple enlightening–‘For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and have tasted of the good word of God, and of the powers of the world to come,’ etc. (Heb. 6: 4, 5.) Y ea, there is such a persuasion ordinarily as leadeth to a deal of outward sanctification–‘Who has counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing.’ (Heb. 10: 29.)

3. This persuasion must not only be of the verity of the thing, but of the good of it: the party ‘tasteth the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come’ (Heb. 6: 5); and he apprehendeth the thing as eligible.

4. This persuasion is not made out only by strength of argument, but also by an enlightening work of God’s Spirit, shining on the truth, and making it conspicuous; therefore is that sin called, ‘The sin against the Holy Ghost.’ (Matt. 12: 31; Mark 3: 29.) The persons are said ‘to have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost’ (Heb. 6: 4); and ‘to do despite unto the Spirit of grace,’ who was in the nearest step of a gracious operation with them. (Heb. 10: 29.) 3. In this description, consider the acting of the party against the object so qualified. It is a rejecting and opposing of it; which importeth,

1. That men have once, some way at least, been in hands with it, or had the offer of it, as is true of the Pharisees. 2. That they do reject, even with contempt, what they had of it, or in their offer. The Pharisees deny it, and speak disdainfully of Christ–‘This fellow does not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.’ (Matt. 12: 24.) They fall away, intending to put Christ to ‘an open shame.’ (Heb. 6: 6.)

3. The men set themselves against it by the spirit of persecution, as the Pharisees did still. They rail against it; therefore it is called ‘blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.’ (Matt. 12: 24, 31.) They would ‘crucify Christ again’ if they could. (Heb. 6: 6.) They are adversaries. (Heb. 10: 17.) 4. Consider the properties of this acting. 1. It is avowed, that is, not seeking to shelter or to hide itself. The Pharisees speak against Christ publicly–‘But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow does not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.’ (Matt. 12: 24.) They would have ‘Christ brought to an open shame.’ (Heb. 6: 6.) They forsake the ordinances which savour that way–‘Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is’–and despise the danger; for, looking for indignation, they trample that blood still. (Heb. 10: 25, 27, 29.) 2. The party acteth freely. It is not from unadvisedness, nor from force or constraint, but an acting of free choice; nothing does force the Pharisees to speak against and persecute Christ. They ‘crucify to themselves,’ they redact the murder of their own free accord, and in their own bosom, none constraining them. They sin of free choice, or, as the word may be rendered, spontaneously–‘For if we sin wilfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.’ (Heb. 6: 6; 10: 26.) 3. It is acted wilfully. They are so resolute, they will not be dissuaded by any offer, or take most precious means, as is clear in the aforesaid scriptures.

4. It is done maliciously, so that it proceeds not so much, if at all, from a temptation to pleasure, profit, or honour. It proceedeth not from fear, or force, or from any good end proposed, but out of heart-malice against God and Christ, and the advancement of His glory and kingdom: so that it is of the very nature of Satan’s sin, who has an irreconcilable hatred against God, and the remedy of sin, because His glory is thereby advanced. This is a special ingredient in this sin. The Pharisees are found guilty of heart-malice against Christ, since they spake so against Him, and not against their own children’s casting out devils: and this is the force of Christ’s argument–‘If I, by Beelzebub, cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out?’ (Matt. 12: 27.) They do their utmost ‘to crucify Christ again, and to bring Him to an open shame.’ (Heb. 6: 6.) They are adversaries, like the devil. 5. It is done despitefully: the malice must betray itself. The Pharisees must proclaim that Christ has correspondence with devils: He must ‘be put to open shame, and crucified again:’ they must ‘tread under foot that blood, and do despite to the Spirit:’ so that the party had rather perish a thousand times than be in Christ’s debt for salvation.

5. The last thing in the description is, the ordinary attendant or consequence of this sin; it induceth desperate and hopeless fear. They fear Him, whom they hate with a slavish, hopeless fear, such as devils have–‘A certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.’ (Heb. 10: 27.) They know that God will put out His power against them; they tremble in the remembrance of it; and if they could be above Him, and destroy Him, they would: and since they cannot reach that, they hate with the utmost of heart-malice, and do persecute Him, and all that is His, with despite.

III.–Conclusions bearing on the objections

As for the third thing proposed, viz., the conclusions to be drawn from what is said, whereby we will speak directly to the objection.

1. As I hinted before, since the sin against the Holy Ghost is so remarkable, and may be well known where it is, none should charge themselves with it, unless they can prove and establish the charge; for it is a great wrong done unto God to labour to persuade my soul that He will never pardon me: it is the very way to make me desperate, and to lead me into the unpardonable sin; therefore, unless thou can’t and dare say that thou dost hate the way which God has devised for the saving of sinners, and dost resolve to oppose the thriving of His kingdom, both with Himself and others, out of malice and despite against God, thou oughtest not to suspect thyself guilty of this sin.

2. Whatsoever thou hast done against God, if thou dost repent of it, and wish it were undone, thou can’t not be guilty of this sin; for in it heart-malice and despite against God do still prevail.

3. If thou art content to be His debtor for pardon, and world be infinitely obliged unto Him for it, then thou can’t not, in this case, be guilty of the sin against the Holy Ghost; for, as we showed before, they who are guilty of it do so despite God that they would not be His debtors for salvation.

4. Whatsoever thou hast done, if thou hast a desire after Jesus Christ, and dost look with a sore heart after Him, and cannot think of parting with His blessed company forever, or, if they must part with Him, yet dost wish well to Him, and all His, thou needs not suspect thyself to be guilty of this unpardonable sin; for there can be no such hatred of Him in thy bosom as is necessarily required to make up that sin. 5. If thou would be above the reach of that sin, and secure against it forever, then go work up thy heart to approve of salvation by Christ Jesus, and so close with God in Him, acquiescing in Him as the sufficient ransom and rest, as we have been pressing before, and yield to Him to be saved in His way. Do this in good earnest, and thou shalt for ever be put out of the reach of that awful thing wherewith Satan does affright so many poor seekers of God.
— From William Guthrie’s “The Christian’s Great Interest”— “The Sin Against the Holy Ghost Alleged”.

The sin against the Holy Ghost is not some obscure and useless doctrine, which occupies its hidden corner in the field of revelation ; and forms a legitimate topic of speculation only to those who have attained some rare and monstrous distinction by a daring feat of impiety. It carries a lesson along with it which applies to you all at this very moment. If there some old among you, upon the obduracy Of whose hackneyed consciences, the call we have now lifted in your hearing makes no practical impression—then, look not for the sin against the Holy Ghost in any guilty act by which some passage of your former history is deformed. It consists in that repeated act, by which you have turned the every call of the gospel away from you ; and the evidence of it does not lie in anything that memory can furnish you with out of the materials of the history that is past. The evidence of it lies in the present condition of your soul, as to its moral and religious sensibility; and if that sensibility is so far deranged as to beget in you at this moment no impulse towards your turning unto God, in that way of appointed mediatorship that is made known to us in the New Testament—this is a fell and an alarming symptom as to you, and well have you reason to suspect and to anticipate and to tremble. Again, if there be some old among you who, after a sleep so long and so profound that it bore a resemblance to the irrecoverable sleep of death, are now visited with a movement and a desire and a concern after these things ; and feel a readiness in you to be all that Christ would have you to be; and are looking earnestly towards the way of His salvation ; and long to be established upon it— then we have no power of divination into the way or the mind of the unsearchable Spirit. All that we can do is to put a fair interpretation upon the facts that are before us. And the fact of an arrested conscience even on the eleventh hour of an indolent and a rebellious day, speaks for itself, and tells you that He has not yet left you. And we feel not that we are exceeding our warrant by a single inch, when we try to cheer you ou by the language of encouragement ; and call upon you not to quench the Spirit—not to let this movement in your heart pass unproductive away from you—not to make of it but one transitory glimpse previous to an everlasting departure. But do follow out the impulse that you have gotten ; and drink in al) the comfort that the free grace of the gospel is fitted to inspire; and aspire after all the strictness of walk and conversation, which becomes the profession of it; and let not the imploring cry for the clean heart and the right spirit cease to ascend to the throne of God through the channel of His Son, till the answer come down upon you in all its fulness, and your repentance be perfected.
— From Thomas Chalmers’s Sermon XLVII, “On the Nature of the Sin unto Death, 1 John v. 16”.