Ver. 31,32. Mark repeateth the same, Mar_3:28,29, with no alteration as to the sense, and instead of neither in this world, neither in the world to come, he saith, but is in danger ofeternal damnation. Luke hath something of it, Luk_12:10, And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shallbe forgive him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the HolyGhost it shall not be forgiven. It is a text (which) hath very much exercised great divines, and much more perplexed poor Christians in their fits of melancholy and under temptations. There is in it something asserted, that is, that all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven, Mat_12:32.
Whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall beforgiven; that is, upon the terms other sins are forgiven, repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. By the Son of man here some would understand any ordinary man; but;
1. Christ never spake of any under the notion but himself.
2. It had been no great news for Christ to have told them, that ordinary evil speaking against men should be forgiven.
Doubtless by the Son of man here Christ meaneth himself. He declareth that sins of ignorance should be forgiven; though a man should blaspheme Christ, yet if he did it ignorantly, verily thinking he was no more than the son of man, it should, upon his repentance and faith in him, be forgiven: a text yielding exceeding great relief to souls labouring under the burden of their sins, and reflecting upon their aggravation.
But the difficulty lieth in the latter part of the text, which denieth forgiveness to any who blaspheme the Holy Ghost. Upon this arise several questions. First, What the sin against the Holy Ghost here specified was.
Answer: It is not hard to gather this from the context, and what Mark addeth, Mar_3:30, Because they said, He hath an uncleanspirit. Christ was come amongst these persons to whom he speaketh; he had not only preached, but he had wrought many miraculous operations sufficient to convince them that he acted by the power and Spirit of God. They were not only convinced of it, so far as to acknowledge it, but they attributed these operations to the devil, and said he had a devil, and that he did what he did by the power of the devil. This, out of doubt, was their sin against the Holy Ghost, maliciously speaking to the highest reproach of the Holy Spirit, contrary to the rational conviction of their own consciences.
Hence ariseth a second question, Whether any such sin can be now committed.
Answer: If there were no other texts that seem to conclude, there may be such as those, Heb_6:4-6 10:26,27 1Jo_5:16, where he speaketh of a sin unto death, for the forgiveness of which he would not have Christians pray. I should conclude that there is no such sin now to be committed, for we cannot have such means of conviction as the Pharisees had, Christ not being on the earth now working miracles; but it is plain from the texts before mentioned, that there is such a sin, that men and women may yet incur the guilt of. But now what that sin is hath exercised the judgment of the greatest divines to describe. I shall not repeat the various opinions about it, many of which are easily confuted; but shall determine from the guidance of the scriptures that mention it, so far as they will direct in the finding of it out.
1. It cannot be any sin that is committed ignorantly. Paul was a blasphemer, but forgiven, because he did it ignorantly.
2. It must be a sin knowingly committed against the operations of the Holy Ghost. So was this sin of the Pharisees.
3. Apostasy must be an ingredient in it: If they fall away, saiththe apostle, Heb_6:6. It is a sinning wilfully after the receiving the knowledge of the truth, Heb_10:26.
4. It should seem by this text persecution is an ingredient in it: the Pharisees did not only say this, but they spake it out of malice, designing to destroy Christ.
5. Most certainly it is, that though impenitency cannot be called that sin, yet it must be an ingredient in it, for what sins we truly repent of shall be forgiven, 1Jo_1:9; and therefore the apostle saith of such sinners, It is impossible they should be renewed by repentance.
Upon the whole then, if any person hath been instructed in the things of God, and hath made a profession of religion and godliness, and afterwards falleth off from his profession, and becomes a bitter enemy to it; saying that those things are the effects of the devil in men, which his heart telleth him are the operations of the Holy Spirit, and be so hardy as to persecute and seek to destroy such persons for such profession: the interpretation be to those that hate us and to the enemies of our God: if they have not committed this unpardonable sin, they have done what is very like it; and I know no way they have, but by a timely and hearty repentance to satisfy the world, or their own consciences, that they are not under this dreadful guilt. And that which confirms me in this opinion is, that we rarely hear of such persons renewed by repentance (if any instances of that nature at all can be produced). I know some have thought that this sin might be committed by words, without other overt acts, and indeed blaspheming (properly taken) can signify nothing else but evil or reproachful speaking. But these words must proceed from a malicious heart, full of rancour and revenge; for it is not every word, nor every blasphemy, that is here meant, it is (as Augustine saith) quoddam dictum, quaedam blasphemia, a certain word, a certain blasphemy; not words spoken ignorantly or hastily, or according to our real judgment and opinion; but words spoken maliciously, in order to destroy God or Christ, if it were possible, after sufficient means of light and conviction, that the things which we speak evil of are not from the evil, but, probably at least, from the Holy Spirit of God, and yet we will impute them to the devil, in order to the defaming or destruction of those servants of God who do them, or in whom they are found. We can define nothing certain in the case, but this cometh nearest to the sin here mentioned, that shall never be forgiven in this world, or the world to come; that is, as Mark expounds it, the persons guilty shall be in danger of eternal damnation, by which he hath spoiled the papists’ argument from this text for their purgatory.