Blasphemy against the Spirit is committed when a man maliciously and proudly reviles and scorns the truth of the Gospel and Word of God, of which he has become acquainted. It is called the blasphemy against the Spirit because it is against the knowledge with which a man is enlightened by the Spirit of God (Matthew 12:31).
It is called the sin against the Holy Spirit not because it is only against the third Person of the Trinity—the three Persons make but one divine essence—but because it involves direct opposition and resistance to the light of knowledge with which the Holy Spirit enlightens. It is called the sin against the Holy Spirit not in respect to the essence but rather the office of the Holy Spirit. This sin involves all malice and is committed purposefully, without any infirmity.
Thomas Bedford, identifying it as synonymous with the sin leading to death (1 John 5:16), describes it as a general apostasy and revolt of a man willfully fallen from the truth known, even to a malicious persecuting and blaspheming of it:
"It is a willful, malicious and obstinate denying of the foundation of the Christian faith—that Jesus is the Mediator and Redeemer of the world. It is a total apostasy from the faith, when the whole man revolts from the whole Christian Religion wholly, with an obstinate resolution never to return to it anymore." — Thomas Bedford
"It is a general apostasy from God with willful malice, and an unrepentant heart to persecute His truth to the end." — Edward Dering (1540–1576), Lectures on Hebrews, Hebrews 6:4-6
"It is a willful, malicious opposing, persecuting and blaspheming the truths of God, against knowledge and conscience, without ever repenting and grieving for so doing, but rather fretting and vexing that one can do no more." — Mr. White, in his treatise of this sin
"It is a total falling away from the Gospel of Christ Jesus formerly acknowledged and professed, into a verbal calumniating and a real persecuting of that Gospel with a deliberate purpose to continue so to the end, and actually to do so—to persevere until then—and so to pass away in that disposition." — Dr. Donne
"It is a spiteful rejecting of the Gospel, after that the Spirit has supernaturally persuaded a man's heart of the truth and benefit thereof." — Dr. Gouge
A Prerequisite of Certain Knowledge of the Faith
This sin necessarily supposes the knowledge of the Mediator; whenever there is any mention of it in the New Testament, there comes with it some intimation of the works of the Mediator. In Matthew 12, the opposition against Christ in His miracles; in Hebrews 6, the crucifying again of Christ; in Hebrews 10, the trampling underfoot the Son of God. The demons sinned against light and with revenge, but not against the light of the second Covenant—this sin is purely against the Gospel (Hebrews 4; 10:27-29).
Thus, it is a sin committed against clear convincing, tasting knowledge, yet with disdain and revenge (Hebrews 10:29).
It must be a clear knowledge; an ignorant man cannot commit it.
Such a knowledge as lets in a taste of the goodness as well as discovers the truth of the Gospel (Hebrews 6:3), yet disdains this knowledge and opposes the motions of God's Spirit with rage—this puts a man into the devil's condition.
It is a voluntary way of sinning after one has received not only the knowledge but the acknowledgment of the truth, so much knowledge as subdues the understanding (compare Hebrews 6:4-5 with 10:26-27). The will is chiefly in this sin—he sins willfully, tramples under his feet the blood of the Son of God; sins maliciously and with revenge. The Jews put Christ to death with the greatest malice.
Conditions of this Sin
- Hatred of the truth
- A settled malice
- An obstinate will
- An accusing conscience
This sin is distinguished from other sins by three degrees; those who commit it all fall:
Entirely – They fall from God and His gifts, not out of infirmity or ignorance, but out of knowledge, will, and certain purpose.
Wholly – They cast away and oppose the whole doctrine, His authority being contemned.
Totally – They are so obdurate in their defection that they voluntarily oppose and seek to reproach the Majesty of God.
But the specific difference of this sin is that they reproach those things which the Holy Spirit has revealed to them as truth, and of whose truth they are convinced in their mind.
This Sin is Unpardonable
Matthew 12:32 …whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.
This sin is unpardonable because:
- It is never repented of
- The means of pardon—Christ Jesus offered in the Gospel—are rejected (Hebrews 10:29)
- God is utterly renounced
He who commits this sin shall neither be pardoned in this world, before the tribunal of conscience, nor in the world to come, before the judgment; neither in this world, by the ministry of the Word, nor in the world to come, by the approval of Christ.
When once the means of recovery by the Gospel are neglected, disdained, and despised, then there is no place for remission (Hebrews 10:26). The sacrifices in the Old Covenant were effectual in their time to the expiation of sin, if joined with faith. The sacrifice of Christ's death was always effectual, but if this also be despised (this being the last), then there is no more sacrifice for sin—and therefore no remission (Hebrews 9:22).
This Sin Leads to Death
1 John 5:16 If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.
It is called the sin leading to death, not because it may kill—for any sin not repented of may kill—but because it must kill.
Divines observe two types of people who are subject to this sin:
Those who have both known the truth and also professed it, such as Saul, Judas, and Alexander the Coppersmith—all of whom made profession of the Gospel before they fell away.
Those who have certain knowledge of the truth, yet without professing it, who proceed to hate, persecute, and blaspheme it—such were the Pharisees.
Therefore, anyone who falls into this sin has first attained to a certain and assured knowledge of the truth, whether or not they have professed it. Paul, before his conversion, walked on the brink of the sin against the Holy Spirit, yet it was because he sinned ignorantly that he was pardoned (1 Timothy 1:13).
Determining who has Committed this Sin
To absolutely determine of such a one is very difficult, neither is there any sufficient mark but the event—final impenitence. But the grounds of suspicion are such as these:
- Doubting of every saving truth and impugning it
- Envying the grace and happiness of another
- Lack of holy affections
Many Christians are ready to suspect that they have sinned against the Holy Spirit. Some divines give this as a rule: if the Lord has given you a heart to fear that you have sinned against the Holy Spirit, then you have not.
Taken and edited from Body of Divinity (London: William Lee, 1654), book 4, chapter 15, pp. 345-346.