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nuity can devise to reclaim a profligate child, and suppose all these measures to have been met on the part of the child, by nothing but contempt and scorn. Might not the moral condition of this child be pronounced hopeless? In the same sense, and for the same reason, the moral condition of the stubborn and perverse Pharisee was pronounced hopeless. Every thing had been done, that could be done, to induce him to lay aside his prejudices and repent ; but without effect ; and this . proved him to be incorrigible, and of course unpardonable. When our Saviour said, that the blasphemy of the Pharisees would not be forgiven, he did not mean, that this sin, or that any sin would not be forgiven on repentance ; but only that this was a sin which, from its very nature, precluded almost entirely the hope of repentance. They had resisted the most touching and powerful appeals. The overtures themselves they had reviled and spurned. In this way they had shown themselves, in every reasonable calculation of human conduct, incorrigible; and of course, to the same extent in which they were incorrigible, forgiveness was out of the question.
Having explained as clearly and briefly, as I could, the purport of the text, I must now be permitted to say a few words of its practical applications at the present day, and to guard my readers especially against some of its popular misapplications.
Let no one torment himself with the apprehension that he has committed the unpardonable sin, unless he is conscious, at the time, of a disposition maliciously and impiously to blaspheme the divine manifestations. As I have intimated above, no sin is unpardonable any
further than it is incorrigible. If, therefore, we are sincerely penitent, no matter what may have been our past conduct, we either have not committed the unpardonable sin, or that sin has changed its character. It is still more important that we should take care how we accuse others of blasphemy against the holy Spirit. They may ascribe to God principles, dispositions and actions in the highest degree derogatory to the divine character ; still this is not blasphemy, if done, not in malice, but in ignorance and superstition. A low, unnatural, debasing worship is one thing, and blasphemy is another. The very same words, which uttered by me would be blasphemy, uttered by my neighbor would be solemn and devout prayer. . also question and deny what I regard, and perhaps rightly, as visible manifestations of the divine power, at the present day ; but neither is this blasphemy, is done in sincerity and decency. I cannot remind the reader too often that the sin of the Pharisees did not consist in their questioning or denying the evidence of miracles, but in their doing this in a spirit of insult and impiety. It is the reproach and bane of religious controversy, that it so often degenerates into a mere bandying of odious imputations. Probably there never has been, and probably there never will be, a sect in the Christian church, guilty as a sect of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
Let us guard, then, against these misapplications of our Saviour's language ; but there are also fair and legitimate applications of it, even at the present day, which we shall do well to consider. It is true, we are not surrounded, like the Pharisees with the visible manifestations of a supernatural agency, which we can reject and revile. Still we may evince in various ways the same cavilling and scoffing temper, which, had we lived in the time of the Pharisees, would probably have uttered itself in echoing their blasphemies. For the honor of human nature it is to be hoped, that very few among us actually arrive at such enormous guilt. Nevertheless it ought not to be dissembled that the habitual profanation of the name and attributes of God, by common swearing, is but too manifest an approach towards it ; for this, if it does not imply malice, implies irreverence, and the transition from one to the other is natural and easy. There are, also, two other classes of men, to be found in every commununity, at the present day, who may be thought to come still more nearly under the denunciations of the passage before us. I refer now to those who reject the Christian revelation, without having first considered its claims with diligence, candor and exactness, upon a precipitate presumption of its falsehood ; and those who refuse their assent to that degree of moral evidence, of which alone these subjects are capable, and which they themselves would think sufficiently satisfactory in other cases, and in the ordinary occurrences of life. There is but too much reason to fear that such persons are guilty in various degrees of a sin of blasphemy, in our times, similar to that charged on the Pharisees in the days of Christ. It is a sin which partakes, in some respects at least, of the same spirit ; for it implies a heart steeled against some of the most touching and affecting displays of the divine goodness. It also partakes, at least in some respects, and to a certain extent, of the same unpardonable or incorrigible nature; for it shows that the most earnest and solemn appeals have failed to move them, and therefore, that they shall probably live and die in their unbelief and impiety. May God, in his infinite mercy, save us from all tendencies to a sin, on which he has stamped the marks of his highest displeasure, as a sin hardly to be forgiven either in this world, or in the world to come.
REGENERATION EXPLAINED, AND SOME OBJECTIONS
TO THE POPULAR VIEWS OF IT STATED.
(Concluded from our last number.]
3. Our third objection to the popular doctrine of the special agency of the Spirit in regeneration is, that it discourages virtuous effort. We know that the advocates of this doctrine would shudder at such a declaration concerning it. We know they utterly disclaim any such tendency in it. But we nevertheless firmly believe, that such is its tendency and effect. Talk to the sinner, degraded and abandoned, of his danger, of the infinite loss he is risking, of judgment and immortality, of heaven and hell, and how often will you be told, in return, 'I can do nothing toward my salvation. If I am to be saved, I shall be; and if I am to be damned, nothing that I can do, will avert the doom. You tell me my heart must be changed. When God pleases, it will be, and not before. It will do no good to leave off my sins, for that will not save my soul! If we go into societies where this doctrine is preached and believed, we shall find many, very many, who reason thus from conviction. And we will add our opinion, that they make a very good plea. We can see no fallacy in it. Admitting this doctrine of special agency as it is commonly understood, to be true, we see not that all our exertions to improve our hearts, all our sacrifices and prayers, all our sabbath and sanctuary privileges can be of any avail. And we would not believe or preach this doctrine, because we think that it has a direct tendency to discourage virtue and encourage vice; and that it not only has this tendency, but has actually produced this effect.
We believe, on the contrary, that God always assists virtuous endeavors; that he calls on us to work out our own salvation, while his spirit worketh in us both to will and to do his good pleasure; that we are to make unto ourselves new hearts; that we have the power to correct whatever is evil, and to cultivate whatever is good within us; that we may be born of the spirit,' without being able to tell when or how it operated upon us. For, as the wind bloweth where it listeth, and we hear the sound thereof, but cannot tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth, so is every one that is born of the spirit.'
4. Our fourth and last objection to the common doctrine of the special agency of the Spirit in regeneration,' is, that it is unscriptural. We do not deny that there are some passages, which, at first sight, may seem to favor that doctrine. But take the New