“Wherefore I say unto you, all manner of 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, nor in the world to come.” – Matthew 12:31,32
We might say, first of all, this expression “Holy Ghost” is rather a crude expression. It is an expression which has not done justice to the language. We are probably all aware that the Lord and his Apostles never spoke English, nor was it used in the days of the Bible; the old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek, and the Bible has been translated from those tongues. The Lord and the apostles never said “Holy Ghost.” The two Greek words that are rendered by this expression are of very frequent occurrence; usually they are translated Holy Spirit, and we think they ought to have been so translated here. The word “ghost” is rather an irreverent word and does not properly convey the thought of “God’s gracious spirit.” The Revised Version translates it “Holy Spirit.” “Wherefore I say unto you, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven unto men.”
We find two great ideas of sin, man’s idea and God’s idea. If I were to ask you what your conception of sin was, a great many would reply, Sin is anything contrary to the laws of our land, murder, robbery, anything dishonest, anything in the nature of law-breaking. But when we come to the word of God we find a much stronger definition of sin. The Apostle in 1 John 5:17 says, “All unrighteousness is sin.”
Everything not right is sin and everything wrong is sin. From the Lord’s standpoint, a great many things are considered sin that the laws of our land do not consider sin. Our Savior said in Matthew, 5th chapter: “Thou shalt not kill,” and then he went on further to say, “He that is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” Here are two men, they both hate a fellowman to such an extent that they would almost be glad to see him deprived of his life. The one man commits murder, takes the life of his neighbor. The other man would like to kill his fellow-man, but he is fearful of the consequences, realizing that the law would take hold of him and the penalty would be death. What was the difference between those two men? In the eyes of the law, the first man was a murderer, the second was not; but in the sight of God they both were because they both had the spirit of hatred in their hearts. From God’s standpoint it is not the committing of a sin, but the spirit that may lead to the commission of an act. We thus see, dear friends, that from God’s standpoint any man or woman who entertain in their heart motives and principles that are not right commit sin. Just think how many murderers there must be in our world from God’s standpoint, though they would not be counted so from the standpoint of the laws of our land.
In Proverbs 21:4 we read that “An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked is sin.” Is plowing sin? It was not the act of plowing which was sin, but the man who plowed his field with the wrong spirit, thinking wrong thoughts, with an angry disposition, selfishness, wanting to earn money, etc., committed sin. He might really have done better plowing than his neighbor who plowed with a spirit which was more that of holiness. It was not the act but the spirit that prompted him as he went about that plowing, which made it sin. The Lord wanted to inform us that an act may be religious, may be pious, etc., and yet if the wrong motive is behind it, then it is sin.
In Isaiah 66:3 we hear the prophet speaking as the mouthpiece of the Lord, “He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man.” Is that really the case? How can we make that out? We recall that God commanded men to offer oxen and now the man that obeys that command in the offering of oxen, would that man commit a sinful act, as bad as if he had murdered a man? I answer that in the days when Isaiah spoke those words, the children of Israel had wandered off and they carried out God’s commandments in pride of heart and offered an ox to display their religion to their neighbors. The Lord wanted them to know that if they offered oxen from any other motive than in the spirit of God’s commandments, it would be sin. In the killing of a man that would be sin. So the killing of an ox in pride would be sin, because pride is sin. No matter how good an act is, if the wrong motive is behind it, it is sin.
If a man offering prayer thinks how it impresses the audience, etc., that man’s prayer was sin. It may be that every word of his prayer was truthful and thoroughly in harmony with the word of God, it may have been that that prayer was more in harmony with God’s plan than many others, but in God’s sight it was sin, because it was the spirit of vanity and pride that prompted the offering of it. We may perform a charitable deed, but no matter how much it may help our fellow-men, if it was to attract attention to us and have our name in the paper, etc., it was not charity in God’s sight. We find this thought emphasized further still when the Word of God informs us that the failure to perform some good deed was sin. Note James 4:17: “He that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” You remember Samuel, when he spoke to Israel’s God, saying, “Forbid that I should sin against God by refusing to pray for you.” Therefore, if you know of some brother in Christ who is being tested and you do not pray for him, you have committed sin. It was not merely your failure to pray for such an one, but that you did not have the spirit of sympathy for him. Well, if that is the way, some one may say, then we are all sinners, without exception. I answer, Yes, that is so. I do not know that in any way I could be considered a sinner according to the state laws of New York, but while I am not a sinner from the standpoint of the laws of this state, I am from the standard of perfect love if God requires me to come up to that perfect standard.
In Galatians 3:22 the Scriptures have concluded all under sin. There may be a difference in respect to the character of the sin and the greatness of the sin that you and I commit, but at the same time there is no difference in respect to all being sinners, and so we all need a savior, one mighty to save.
Now, dear friends, we want to know something about why it is that sin today is so universal; why the great and small, the good and bad, the learned and ignorant, are all more or less involved in sin. We want to know the outcome of it as well. How does God look at it? What is our hope and prospect as respects the future? We may say that the Bible is the book which might be called the history of sin, showing the beginning of sin to the great consummation, and when we go to the word of God we find that sin is divided into three great periods.
First, beginning way back in the ages of eternity the first act of sin had not taken place. God’s Universe was pure and holy and just as he originally made it. We call that the “theoretical stage of sin.” It was merely an inactive principle, merely a possibility, which had not taken place. But at last the day arrived when the first sin took place, the first rebellion against God, and there the theoretical stage ceased.
It was now a fact, a reality, an experience; and therefore, we term the time since that the “experimental stage,” in which sin has been an experience; but we find from the Word of God that sin is not always to be an active principle, a living reality, but the day is coming when the last sin will be committed and there the experimental stage of sin will be finished and the Universe will again be holy and there shall be no more curse. There could not fail to be a curse if sin were there. If the curse is absent it is because no sin is present. That is the time the Apostle speaks of in 1 Cor. 15:50: “O death, where is thy sting; O grave, where is thy victory?” He tells us what he means when he speaks about the sting of death–it is sin. The time will come when they will say, O death, where is your sting! as it will be of the past. Sin will no longer be a theory or fact, but an awful memory, a terrible memory, a horrible memory. The Bible shows us very clearly the origin of sin, how and when, and where, and why the first sin took place. It shows us how sin originated with a being we call today the devil. Why did God ever make a devil? We answer, God never did make a devil. All God’s work is good, as we read in Deut. 32:4: “He is a rock; his work is perfect.” When created, the devil was not a devil, but a holy being, one of the highest of the angelic host. We find, dear friends, that in Ezekiel 28:15 the statement is brought to our attention. In that chapter the world is compared to Tyre, and there we are shown the great similarity between the world of mankind and Tyre. We are also shown that there is a great similarity between the king of Tyre and Satan, “Seeing thou hast been in Eden.” The king of Tyre never was in Eden, but Satan was. “Thou wert a covering cherub.” They were a class of angels among the highest of those who were created angels.
The devil was not merely an angel, but one of the highest of the angels. Speaking further we read, “Thou wast perfect in all thy ways, from the day thou wast created till iniquity was found in thee.” We are here informed that, when created, he was not a devil, but was perfect, holy and good, and through his disobedience he was transformed into the devil that he is today. Time will not permit us tonight to speak of his original sin, what it was, and how he came to be the Satanic being he has been ever since. But the Lord shows us that he had a special reason for permitting the devil to fall into sin, and lead into sin the whole human race. A great many, as they look around us in the world and see the sorrow and sin and trouble, and behold the fact that sin is responsible directly or indirectly for every tear that has been shed, for every death that has occurred, for all the sorrow and distress; and is at the bottom of every catastrophe and every calamity, wonder why it is that God permitted the devil to introduce sin, and to work such havoc amongst the inhabitants of this globe. It is not because God could not have prevented it, because in his infinite wisdom he could have stopped it. Why did he not? I answer, Because he has a glorious purpose; he saw what could be accomplished by allowing the devil to have his way for a time, and to permit the human race to have their way in the matter also. Our heavenly Father not only wanted to have a Universe pure and holy, but a Universe in which there would be no sin, in which there never would be any danger of sin.
How could that be brought about? Well, he might have accomplished it in several ways. First, by making every member of the human race and all the hosts of angels mere machines. He could have made mechanical beings who could not do wrong if they wanted to. God would not have been pleased to have such beings as that, and you and I would not have been pleased to be such creatures in the Universe.
You remember how it was when God created Father Adam in the garden of Eden; he said, “Let us make man in our own image.” We are not to suppose that man was made with the same shaped form and body that God was. His must be a wonderful body and glorious, but not like ours because we have a dependent body, while God has an independent body. We have teeth and a stomach, but God does not have to eat to live, and God would not require them; he is not dependent upon food. In our body we have lungs, but God does not have to breathe to live; so his body must be entirely different from ours. What it is like we do not know. This expression, “In his own image,” has reference to a number of things, and prominent amongst them is that God is morally free and God made man morally free; and he made angels also, and the being that we call the devil, morally free; and they all had the liberty to do whatever they chose. We know God could have arranged the matter differently, as is sometimes illustrated with this: A good many of you have children of your own and you may send your boy to the store to get some sugar, and on the way he will stop and play with other boys, and it will take him a long time to get back. But suppose you had a boy, and instead of having lungs and a stomach and all the other organs in him he was full of wheels and springs, etc., and when you wanted him to go for sugar you just wound him up in a certain way and started him off; he would go direct to the store, get your sugar and come back without playing with any of the other boys. No one would want such a boy. God did not want such children either. God could have made the angels and the members of the human race like that, but they would not have satisfied him. God could not have enjoyed the human race if they did not sin just because they could not sin. God knew that, sooner or later, thoughts of rebellion would come to his creatures. God determined to warn them and to show them the inadvisability of sin, and then determined to leave it to their moral freedom; and in his wisdom he foresaw what the result would be. He foresaw the fall of Satan, he foresaw the rebellion of the human race, but God did not cause or predestinate it; he allowed it because of their having moral freedom to choose their course, and the result was sin, and so it has resulted in trouble and death for six thousand years. The result will be to give God’s creatures in all the Universe such a great lesson that it will never be forgotten. Paul says in Corinthians, “We are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels and to men.” The word “spectacle” translated means theater. The world is a great theater; the angels in heaven, looking down upon this awful tragedy of sin and death, have seen something that gives them such a conception of the awfulness of sin, that those angels who are pure and holy will remain so forever–not simply because they have been told that they should not sin, but they have seen something that gives them a conception of the horribleness of sin, which could not be learned in any other way. This statement is also true of the human race, and as they look back upon this condition they likewise will realize the awfulness of sin. When God’s Universe is made pure, it will remain that way throughout all eternity. There never will be the least danger or prospect that the spark will ever break out again. Now we see why God did not interfere, but did allow sin to occur. We have found something else. Sin likewise has been inherited largely and man has been in a position to transfer sin to his children and children’s children, generation after generation, until the present time, so that there is none righteous, because we are all descendants of a sinner, father Adam. That is why the Scriptures say that we are by nature the children of wrath. The little child, the new-born babe, is a sinner when it is born. All are children of wrath. Can that be possible? Why, that little new-born babe cannot commit sin. But, you must remember, that little child has inherited sinful traits from its parents; its father may have been very quick-tempered, etc.; and suppose the father dies when the child was only a few months old and the child would not remember its father, but when the child grew up, you would say, You can see the father in that child’s temper. Where did it get it? Not from the example of the father, but it was latent in the child when it was born, and by and by you would see it spring forth and see the child manifest something of the sinful quality, and develop that which it had received from its father. Thus we see the universality of sin.
Now something of the remedy for sin and God’s method of dealing with it. Eighteen hundred years ago the Lord Jesus came to the earth. The object of his coming was to die for sin, “taste death for every man.” We find, dear friends, the Bible reminds us that he came to die for our sins and also how we are to get the benefit, by believing that he died for our sins, and saying that all are freely justified who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. What does this do when we believe and accept him as our redeemer? Does that take all our sin actually away? No. I have accepted Jesus Christ, and yet I sin. You accept him and yet you sin. The fact is, dear friends, that until we are raised to a state of absolute perfection, a life of perfection will be an impossibility. To illustrate: A perfect being surely is not untruthful. You might ask me, When were you at Pittsburgh? I might have said, I was there the 3rd of July, but it was really the 4th of July. That was merely a mistake, you might say.
It was a mistake, but it was a lie. Why, no, you did not mean to be untruthful. But the fact was I was not there. Why did I say that? Because I was not perfect, I made a mistake. Again, I might say, I see such a person, but my eyesight deceives me, or I might say I heard this or that, but it was a mistake, for my hearing deceived me. It is because we are imperfect and we will not get the perfect bodies until the resurrection. So the acceptance of Christ does not take away all my sins actually, but it has enabled me to have a standing in the sight of God, as though I was a perfect man and has enabled the heavenly Father to cover my sins, and look no longer on me in my own righteousness, but through the robe of Christ’s righteousness. So in Isaiah 1:15 we read, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow.” To illustrate: In a field is a considerable pile of rubbish and old lumber. That night there is a snowstorm, and the next morning the field is beautiful and you cannot see the rubbish. Has the rubbish and old lumber been taken away? No, it is there, but the snow conceals it. That is what the blood of Christ is to do. It makes white, and, just like the snow, conceals the sins from view. So we still make mistakes, and sin, but God does not see them, for the merit of the Redeemer covers them like the snow, and we look clean. Well, says one, does he mean by this that, having accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, we can do whatever we want to, that we can commit murder, robbery or anything else and the Lord will say, Oh, he has no sin, I have covered him with the blood of my Son? No, because the text shows us that there are some sins that the blood of Christ does not reach. Notice how it puts it there, “But he that sinneth against the Holy Spirit hath never forgiveness, neither in this world nor in the world to come.” Then the blood of Christ does not cover all sin; if it did we surely would have been perfect. But what are they? It must be some terrible crime that would constitute this unpardonable sin? Every sin is a sin against “holiness,” but is not against the “spirit of holiness.” To illustrate it: Imagine a man who had a dry-goods store and had some cloth for sale, and a man came in to buy some of the goods and looked at it, and asked, Is this all wool? Imagine it was not, but half cotton, but the merchant was ignorant of it and thought it was all wool, and so, when he was asked the question, Is this all wool, he replied, Yes, all wool, no cotton in it at all. He did not tell the truth and committed a sin, but it was not a sin against the spirit of holiness. He did not realize that he was not telling the truth. Well now, dear friends, suppose here is a man that has a store and cloth to sell and he has some that is half cotton and the merchant knows it, and suppose here is a customer comes in and looks over the goods and says, Is this all wool? And the merchant, knowing that it is not, but for fear that he will lose the sale, answers, Yes, it is all wool. That is a sin against the spirit of holiness. He deliberately told a lie, and that is an unpardonable sin against God’s Holy Spirit. Well now, you say, do you then contend that that man was lost because he said that cloth was wool when it was not? No. But the Scripture says he hath never forgiveness. He will never be forgiven for that untruthful statement.
Well, if never forgiven, how is it he will not be lost? Dear friends, here is where the confusion comes in. People confuse the unforgivable sin with the sin unto death. There is a vast difference. Take, for an illustration, the laws of our land. Here is a man who stole ten dollars. He will never be forgiven for that. Does that mean that he will be hung? Certainly not. He will have to bear the result and pay the penalty; it may be six months or a year in jail, and when that time has been spent in jail he will have paid the penalty. If he had been forgiven, he might have been let out three or six months sooner. At the same time he was not hung. His offense did not deserve that. Every time you and I commit a sin that we know is wrong we have committed an unforgivable sin, and it means that we are going to be punished for that sin, but we will not be lost because of it. However, that may lead us to the place where we will be lost. God will see that there will be stripes for it. Another word, put it this way: Every time anybody does wrong, knowing that it is wrong, he is not lost because of it, but it means that he has committed a sin that has no forgiveness and is in greater danger of being lost than if he had not sinned.
To illustrate: Suppose that on this platform is a long line drawn with a point in the middle; one side of that leads toward the right, and the other side leads in the wrong direction. We will imagine that the world of mankind is on this line either on one side or the other of this central figure. Whichever course we pursue indicates the character we are forming. If we go toward the right, we are forming good character; but if in the other direction, we are forming bad character. When we get to the end of this line on the right our character is perfect, but we are not perfect as human beings. But we have hatred for sin and love for righteousness, and we will have reached the place where we will have been thoroughly tried and tested, and through all eternity we would not do anything that would mar God’s perfect Universe, which indicates that we would be fit for eternal life. You are not perfect, but you have a character which means you will be perfect when you get your perfect body. On the contrary, every time you do any thing wrong that you know is wrong you are forming a character, which, if continued in, there will be no possibility or likelihood that you would change or alter in the direction of holiness, but on the contrary you would go toward the left of this central mark, going further down the line. Now illustrate it like this: Suppose here is a man commits this unforgivable sin. He realized that cloth was only half wool and said it was all wool; he told an untruth and he committed the unpardonable sin and went in the wrong direction, and was a step nearer to the end than he was before.
He was responsible and did wrong. Now, then, the Lord will permit that man to have stripes, chastisements. He may allow the death of some loved one, may permit affliction, etc. So far as other people may be concerned, they may never think they were stripes, but he knew it. By and by that may bring him to his senses, and he will say, I am sorry and will do better, and will retrace his steps, and by and by get to the goal of a perfect heart. But it may be the reverse, and it would harden his heart, and he goes from that to something else. The Lord tried to turn him with stripes, etc., but he will not turn, so finally, he gets clear to the end and his case is a hopeless one, and there is no use to pray for such an one. Every one of these sins helped to get him there; it was not only the first sin, but that first sin brought him into danger; as we read in Mark 3:29, “But he that shall sin against the Holy Spirit hath never forgiveness, and is in danger of eternal condemnation.” He is in danger, but not lost. It puts him in greater danger, until by and by he is lost. Now then, dear friends, we can see that from this standpoint every little thing is having some influence, helping us in either one or the other direction. Well, you might say, I will never get down to such a bad place. Dear friends, do not lose sight of the fact that nobody gets there in one step, but step by step they get there. So, in the right direction, we cannot get there in one step, but by faithfulness in this matter and in that matter we will finally get there. The part of our sin not willful the blood of Christ covers, but the part that is willful we receive stripes for. In the mixed sin, if there is more willfulness and only partial weakness, we get stripes, and if we do not try to do better when we get these stripes we may get to the place where it is entirely willful, so that there remains no more forgiveness for our sin. Every human being at his death must be either at one place or the other; must have formed either a good character or a bad character. There are two ways. One class, when it starts in a Christian course, may commit certain sins and take the lessons to heart, and thus try to be more faithful. Now they persevere and follow the right course and press toward the mark for the prize. Another class starts, but they hold back, and the Lord whips them, and they make such slow progress and hold back and do this more and more, and at last it gets them to the place where the Lord says, I see I must permit great tribulations in their case, afflictions of a very severe character. We believe in many cases it will be the great tribulation through which this class must pass, and at the same time the world is passing through its great tribulation. We understand that they will be the great multitude that stand before the throne; they come up out of great tribulation, having washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb. Thus we see that the distinction between those who compose the little flock and the great multitude is, that the first class will have committed so few sins against the Holy Spirit and those more particularly at the beginning of their Christian course, but the Great Company class will require great tribulation to get them there. You and I cannot get to the place in this life where we will not sin, but we can get to where we will not sin against the Holy Spirit, where we will not commit any sin knowingly, with a measure of willfulness. That is what the Lord expects of us, if we are going to be in that class. I have had my doubts as to whether there have been any but Jesus who have not committed some sin against the Holy Spirit in the beginning of their Christian course, because he scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. We must get to the place where we will be faithful and obedient to God without his rod.
Another question: But do you think that anybody will commit the unforgivable sin except the consecrated Christian? Yes, anybody except the baby and the idiot. They could not because they have not mind or reason enough to do wrong knowingly. While any intelligent man or woman can commit the sin against the Holy Spirit, they cannot commit the sin unto death. Those of the world can commit the sin against the Holy Spirit, but they could not go all the way and commit the sin unto death, because they have not light and knowledge enough to get all the way down. Those not consecrated to Christ can develop character to a certain extent, but have not light and knowledge sufficient to enable them to get all the way up. They can get part of the way. Here is a man who has half an opportunity and responsibility that a consecrated Christian has, and he uses it to the best of his ability, doing the very best he can. When he dies he is half way there. He has a character half formed and he is half fit for eternal life. On the other hand, if instead of doing right he did wrong, that half an opportunity would give him the ability to go half way down, and go just as far down as his lack of knowledge would permit him to go. If on the other hand he had 99 hundredths of an opportunity and had followed the wrong course, he got 99 hundredths of the way down. According to the Bible testimony, the hosts of the earth are to be brought back just as they went into the grave. Those who are half way down the scale in character development will come forth half way down, and those who were half way up, will be half way up to perfection and will start from there when they come forth from the grave. It will be a very quick matter for a man to finish his course if he is half way up, but a different matter for the man half way down. The man who dies a drunkard and had an appetite for strong drink, that was part of him and he will have it when he comes back. What will he find? The state of things in the world then will be different. The first thing he will want will be a drink. The law, however, at that time will be strictly enforced and there will be no place where he can escape the law. Justice will be laid to the line and righteousness to the plummet. Think what he will suffer because of the inability to gratify that habit. He will there suffer for that bad habit; then he will get his stripes. The man further down will be worse off still and it will be harder for him to get up to perfection. The further along the line of that character he has formed, the harder it will be for him. But the man half way up and with a character partly formed along the right lines will quickly reach full perfection of character and be fit for eternal life. Amen.