« ÎnapoiContinuă »
that he was dead; for he might be absent from his family at this time, as he often was, when engaged in public service, as being sent by the church, as their messenger, to enquire concerning the progress and success of the gospel in other parts; or to carry relief to those who were suffering in Christ's cause: may be, the apostle might be informed that he was then in his way to Rome, where he was himself a prisoner when he wrote this epistle; and if so, it would not have been proper to send salutations to him, whom he expected shortly to see, while, at the same time, he testified the great love he bore to him and all his family, as being a man of uncommon zeal for the interest of Christ and religion.
(2.) They are not to be prayed for who have sinned the sin unto death. This sin we read of, as what excludes persons from forgiveness, in scripture, Matt. xii. 32. in which such things are said concerning it, as should make us fear and tremble, not only lest we should be left to commit it, but give way to those sins which border upon it; and there is enough expressed therein to encourage us to hope that we have not committed it; which is the principal thing to be insisted on, when we treat on this subject in our public discourses, or any are tempted to fear, lest they are guilty of it. Here let it be observed, that though it be called the sin unto death, we are not to suppose that it is one particular act of sin, but rather a course or complication of sins, wherein there are many ingredients of the most heinous nature. And,
[1.] That it cannot be committed by any but those who have been favoured with gospel light; for it always contains in it a rejection of the gospel, which supposes the revelation or preaching thereof.
[2.] It is not merely a rejecting the gospel, though attended with sufficient objective evidence, in those who have not had an inward conviction of the truth thereof, or whose opposition to it proceeds principally from ignorance, as the apostle says concerning himself, that though he was a blasphemer, a perse cutor, and injurious; yet he obtained mercy, because he did it ignorantly, in unbelief, 1 Tim. i. 13.
[3.] It is a rejecting the gospel which we once professed to embrace, and therefore carries in it the nature of apostacy: Thus the Scribes and Pharisees, when they attended on John's ministry, professed their willingness to adhere to Christ, and afterwards, when he first appeared publicly in the world, they were convinced in their consciences, by the miracles which he wrought, that he was the Messiah; though, after this they were offended in him, and ashamed to own him, because of the humbled state and condition in which he appeared in the world;
for which reason, they, in particular, were charged with this sin in the scripture before-mentioned.
[4.] It also contains in it a rejecting of Christ and the known truth, out of envy, and this attended with reviling, persecuting, and using their utmost endeavours to extirpate and banish it out of the world, and beget in the minds of men the greatest detestation of it: Thus the Jews are said to deliver Christ out of envy, Matt. xxvii, 18. and with the same spirit they persecuted the gospel.
[5.] Such as are guilty of this sin, have no conviction in their consciences of any crime committed herein; but stop their ears against all reproof, and set themselves, with the greatest hatred and malice, against those, who, with faithfulness, admonish them to the contrary.
[6.] They go out of the way of God's ordinances, and wilfully exclude themselves from the means of grace, which they treat with the utmost contempt, and use all those endeavours that are in their power, that others may be deprived of them.
[7.] This condition they not only live but die in; so that their apostacy is not only total, but final.
However, I cannot but observe, that some are of opinion that this sin cannot be now committed, because we have not the dispensation of miracles, whereby the Christian religion was incontestibly proved, in our Saviour's and the apostles' time: And the main thing in which it consisted in the scripture before-mentioned, in Matt. xii. was, in that the Pharisees were charged with saying, that Christ cast out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils; whereby they intimate that those miracles, which they had before been convinced of the truth of, as being wrought by the finger of God, were wrought by the devil: which supposes that they were eye-witnesses to such-like miracles wrought, which we cannot be: Therefore it is concluded by some, that this sin cannot now be committed; inasmuch as the dispensation of miracles is ceased. But this method of reasoning will not appear so strong and conclusive, if we consider, that though, it is true, the gospel is not now confirmed to us by miracles; yet we have no less ground to believe that the christian religion was confirmed by this means, than if we had been present at the working of these miracles. Nevertheless, though it should be alleged, that this ingredient cannot, in every circumstance, be contained in the sin against the Holy Ghost, in our day; yet there are other things included in the description of it, before-mentioned, in which it principally consists, that bear a very great resemblance to that sin which we have been considering: As for instance, if persons have formerly believed Christ to be the Messiah, and been persuaded that this was incontestibly proved by the mi
racles which he wrought, and accordingly, were inclined to adhere to him, and embrace the gospel, wherein his person and glory are set forth; and yet have afterwards apostatized from this profession; and if this had been attended with envy and malice against Christ; and if they have treated the evidence which they once acknowledged, the Christian religion, to have been undeniably supported by, with contempt and blasphemy; and have totally rejected that faith which they once professed, arising from carnal policy, and the love of this world; and when this is attended with judicial hardness of heart, blindness of mind, and strong delusions, together with a rooted hatred of all religion, and a malicious persecution of those that embrace it; This is what we cannot but conclude to bear a very great resemblance to that which, in scripture, is called the unpardonable sin; and it is a most deplorable case, which should be so far improved by us, as that we should use the utmost caution, that we may not give way to those sins which bear the least resemblance to it: Nevertheless, doubting christians are to take heed that they do not apply this account that has been given of it to themselves, so as to lead them to despair; which is not the design of any description thereof, which we have in scripture. Now that these may be fortified against such-like objections, let it be considered,
1st, That it is one thing peremptorily to determine that it is impossible for any one to commit this sin in our day, since the dispensation of miracles is ceased, (which is, in effect, to suppose that we can have no evidence for the truth of the Christian religion, but what is founded on occular demonstration; such as they who saw Christ's miracles ;) and another thing to determine concerning particular persons, that they are guilty of this sin. It is certain that this matter might be determined with special application to particular persons in our Saviour's and the apostles' time, when there was among other extraor dinary gifts, that of discerning of spirits; and consequently it might be known, whether they who apostatized from the faith of the gospel, had before this, received a full conviction of the truth thereof; and it might then be known, by extraordinary revelation, that God would never give them repentance, and therefore their apostacy would be final; and, it is more than probable, that this was supposed by the apostle, when he speaks of some that had committed this sin, who are not to be prayed for: But these things cannot be known by us; therefore I would not advise any one to forbear to pray for the worst of sinners, who seem most to resemble those that are charged with this sin, this matter not being certainly known by us.
2dly, That which is principally to be considered for the en couragement of those who are afraid that they have committed
this sin, is, that persons certainly know that they have not committed it, though they are in an unregenerate state; as,
1st, When they have not had opportunity, or those means that are necessary to attain the knowledge of the truth, and so remain ignorant thereof; or if they have had sufficient means to know it, they have not committed this sin, if they desire and resolve to wait on God in his ordinances, in order to their receiving good thereby.
2dly, They who are under conviction of sin, disapprove of, and have some degree of sorrow and shame for it, may certainly conclude that they have not committed the sin against the Holy Ghost.
3dly, If persons have reason to think that their hearts are hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, and that they are greatly backslidden from God; yet they ought not to conclude that they have committed this sin, if they are afraid lest they should be given up to a perpetual backsliding, or dread nothing more than a total and a final apostacy; upon which account they are induced to pray against it, and to desire a broken heart, and that faith, which, at present, they do not experience. In this case, though their state be dangerous, yet they ought not to determine against themselves, that they have committed the sin unto death.
The use which we ought to make of this awful doctrine, and the hope that there is that we have not committed this sin is,
1. That we should take heed that we do not give way to wilful impenitency, and a contempt of the means of grace, lest we should provoke God to give us up to judicial hardness of heart, so as to make sad advances towards the commission thereof: Let us take heed that we do not sin against the light and conviction of our own consciences, and wilfully neglect and oppose the means of grace, which, whether it be the sm unto death or no, is certainly a crime of the most heinous and dangerous tendency.
2. Let doubting christians take heed that they do not give way to Satan's suggestions, tempting them to conclude that they have committed this sin; which they are sometimes afraid that they have, though they might determine that they have not, did they duly weigh what has been but now observed concerning this matter.
3. Let us bless God, that yet there is a door of hope, and resolve by his grace, that we will always wait on him in the ordinances which he has appointed, till he shall be pleased to give us ground to conclude better things concerning ourselves, even things that accompany salvation. This leads us to consider, III. What we are to pray for; particularly,
1. For those things which concern the glory of God. And that we may know what they are, we are to enquire; whether, if God should give us what we ask for, it would have a tendency to set forth any of his divine perfections, and thereby render him amiable and adorable in the eyes of his creatures, so that in answering our prayers, he would act becoming himself? We are also to take an estimate of this matter, from the intimation he has given us hereof in his word, in which we may observe, not only whether he has given us leave, but commands and encourages us to ask for it; more especially, whether he has promised to give it to us; and, whether our receiving the blessing we ask for, has a tendency to fit us for his service, that hereby praise that waits for him, may be ascribed to him.
2. We are to pray for those things which concern our own good, or the good of others. These are particularly insisted on in the Lord's prayer, which is explained in the following answers; therefore it is sufficient for us, at present, to consider the good we are to pray for in general, namely, temporal blessings, which are the effects of divine bounty, concerning which, our Saviour says, Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of these things, Mat. vi. 32. We are also to pray for spiritual blessings, such as forgiveness of sin, strength against it, and the sanctifying influences of the Spirit, to produce in us holiness of heart and life; as also, for deliverance from, and victory over our spiritual enemies. We are also to pray for the consolations of the holy Ghost, arising from assurance of the love of God, whereby we may have peace and joy in believing; and for all those blessings which may make us happy in a better world.
3. We are to pray for those things which are lawful to be asked of God; and accordingly,
(1.) The things we pray for, must be such as it is possible for us to receive, and particularly such as God has determined to bestow, or given us ground to expect, in this present world: Therefore we are not to pray for those blessings to be applied here, which he has reserved for the heavenly state; such as a perfect freedom from sin, tribulation or temptation, or our enjoying the immediate views of the glory of God: These things are to be desired in that time and order, in which God has determined to bestow them; therefore we are to wait for them till we come to heaven, and, at present, we are to desire only to be made partakers of those privileges which he gives to his children in their way thither.
(2.) We are not to pray that God would inflict evils on others, to satisfy our private revenge for injuries done us; since this is, in itself, unlawful, and unbecoming a Christian frame of spirit, and contrary to that duty which was before