Certain Rules to be observed in relation to the Sin against the Holy Ghost.

The sin against the Holy Ghost is not found in every wicked person; but only in those who have been enlightened by the Holy Ghost, and who have been fully convinced of the truth, as Saul, Judas, &c.

Every sin which is against the Holy Ghost is reigning sin, and a sin against conscience, but not the reverse. For it may occur that some one may, either ignorantly, or even knowingly and willingly, hold certain errors, or violate some of the commandments of God, from weakness, or torture, or from fear of danger, and yet not purposely and maliciously impugn the truth, or totally fall from holiness, and continue in sensuality and a contempt of all that is sacred; but he may return unto God and repent of his sin. These forms of sin differ, therefore, as genus and species.

The sin against the Holy Ghost is not committed by the elect, or those who are truly converted. They can never perish; for Christ safely preserves and saves them. "They shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hands. (John 10:28. Also, 2 Tim. 2:19. 1 Pet. 1:5. 1 John 5:15.) Hence those who sin against the Holy Ghost were never truly converted and called. They went out from us, because they were not of us.

No one should decide hastily or rashly concerning the sin against the Holy Ghost; yea, judgment should in no case be passed upon any one, unless it be a posteriori, for the reason that we do not know what is in the heart of man. Many things which are controverted in relation to this subject, may be found in Ursini vol. 1, page 213, &c.
Sin that is pardonable, or not against the Holy Ghost, is any sin of which men may repent, and obtain forgiveness.

The fifth division of sin. There is that which is sin per se, and that which becomes sin by accident. Those things which are sins of themselves, and in their own nature, are those inclinations, desires and actions which are contrary to, and forbidden by, the law of God. Yet they are not sins, in as far as they are mere activities, or in respect to God, who moves all things (for motions, in as far as they are such, are good in themselves, and from God, in whom we live, move, and have our being); but in respect to us they are sins, in as far as they are committed by us contrary to the law of God; in which sense they are all in, and according to their own nature sins.

Those things which are sins by accident, are the actions of hypocrites, and such as have not been regenerated, which, although they have been prescribed and commanded by God, are nevertheless displeasing to him, inasmuch as they do not proceed from faith, and a desire to glorify God. The same thing may be said of indifferent actions, which are performed and attended with shame. "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin." "Unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure." "Without faith it is impossible to please God." (Rom. 14:23. Tit. 1:15. Heb. 11:6.)

All the virtues, therefore, of the unregenerate, such as the chastity of Scipio, the bravery of Julius Caesar, the fidelity of Romulus, the justice of Aristides, &c., although they are in themselves good, and commanded by God, yet they are nevertheless sins by accident, and hateful to God, both because the persons by whom they are done do not please him, not being in a state of reconciliation, and also because they are not done in the manner, nor with the design which God requires; that is, they do not proceed from faith, and are not done for the glory of God. These conditions are so necessary in every good work, that without them our best actions are sinful; as the prayers, the alms, the sacrifices, &c., of hypocrites and the wicked are sins; because they do not spring from faith, and are not done out of regard to the glory of God. "hypocrites give their alms in the synagogues, and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward." "He that killeth an ox, is as if he slew a man," &c. (Matt. 6:2. Is. 66:3.)

There is, therefore, a great difference between the virtues of the regenerate and the unregenerate. For,

1. The good works of the regenerate proceed from faith, and are pleasing to God; but it is different with the works of the unregenerate.

2. The regenerate do all things to the glory of God; the unregenerate and hypocrites act with reference to their own glory.

3. The actions of the regenerate are connected with a sincere desire to obey God; the unregenerate and hypocrites exhibit only an outward profession, without inward obedience. Their virtues are, therefore, not such in reality; they are nothing more than shadows, and faint resemblances of that which is truly good.

4. The imperfection of the works of the regenerate is covered by the satisfaction of Christ, and the corruption which is still inherent in them is not imputed unto thep, nor is it objected to them that they defile the gifts of God by their sins; but the virtues of the unregenerate which are good in themselves, are and remain sins by accident, and are defiled by many other crimes.

5. The good works of the unregenerate are honored merely with temporal rewards, and that not because they are pleasing to God, but that he may thus invite and encourage them, and others to such honesty and external deportment as is necessary for the well-being of the human race; but God accepts the works of the righteous for the sake of Christ, and graciously crowns them with temporal and eternal rewards, as it is said: "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." (1 Tim. 4:8.) Finally, the unregenerate, by performing works commanded by God, obtain a mitigation of punishment, that they may not with other wicked persons suffer more grievously in this life; but the righteous do these things, not only that their sufferings may be alleviated, but also that they may be entirely freed there from.

Obj. Those things which are sins ought not to be done. The works of the unregenerate, although they are good in the estimation of men and the civil law, are nevertheless sins. Therefore they ought not to be done.

Ans. There is here a fallacy of accident. The major proposition is true of those things which are sins in themselves; the minor of those which are sins by accident. Those things now which are sins in themselves ought to be strictly avoided; but those which are sins by accident ought' not to be omitted, but amended and performed in the manner and for the end for which God has commanded.

But this external discipline and conformity to the law is necessary even on the part of those who have not been regenerated.

1. On account of the command of God.

2. That they may escape the punishment which follows the violation of outward propriety.

3. That the peace and well-being of society at large may be preserved. Lastly, that the way to repentance may not be shut up by perseverance in a course of open transgression.

There is likewise a great difference between the sins of the regenerate and the unregenerate. For, as we have already shown, especially under the second division of this subject, there are many remains of sin still found in those who have been renewed by the Holy Spirit; such as original sin, and many actual sins of ignorance, of omission, and infirmity, which they nevertheless acknowledge, lament, and strive against, so that they do not lose a good conscience, nor a sense of the divine forgiveness. There are also some who fall into errors which oppose the very foundation of their faith, or who sin against conscience, on account of which they lose the consciousness of their acceptance with God, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, who, were they to continue therein to the end of their lives, would be condemned, and rejected of God; but they do not perish, for the reason that they are led to see the error of their ways, and thus brought to repentance.

There is, however, a threefold distinction between the righteous and the wicked when they sin.

God has an eternal purpose to save all those whom he calls into his service.

When the righteous sin they are brought to repentance at some time or other before the end of life.

When those who have been regenerated fall into sin the seed of their regeneration always remains, which is sometimes so strong and vigorous as to resist sin to such an extent that they neither fall into errors that subvert the foundation of their hope, nor into reigning sin; at other times it is less vigorous and active, so that it may for a time be suppressed by temptations, yet it will at length authenticate its divine character, so that none of those who have been truly converted to God will finally fall away and perish; as we may see in the case of David, of Peter, &c. But when the unregenerate sin the case is wholly different, for none of these things have respect to them.