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The Unpardonable Sin

I can think of no doctrine more difficult than that of “the unpardonable sin,” but there it is, in Scripture, so it cannot be denied or ignored. It must be acknowledged, and we must attempt to understand it. David Clarkson helps.


There are many scriptures where this sin is mentioned, but I find but three where it is described: Mat. xii., Heb. vi. and x., with the other evangelists concurring. And from these scriptures we may collect this description of this sin. It is a blasphemous renouncing of Christ and his doctrine out of hatred, and against conviction by the Holy Ghost’s light and testimony. We shall take it into parcels, that you may see distinctly how every part is contained in all and every of those alleged texts. (1.) It is a renouncing or denying of Christ. (2.) With blasphemy and reproaches. (3.) Out of hatred and malice. (4.) Against light and conviction. The two former are as the matter of it; the two latter the form which constitutes this sin in its peculiar being, and distinguished! it from all other sins.

(1.) A renouncing or denying of Christ and his doctrine. You may see this in the scribes and Pharisees, Mat. xii. When Christ by a miracle had drawn the people to acknowledge that he was the [Messiah], ver. 23, nay, say the Pharisees, he is not the [Messiah] for all this, this he does by the power of Satan; he is not the king of Israel, the king of the church, but he tampers with the prince of devils. . . . This more expressly elsewhere: ‘We will not have this man to reign,’ Luke xix., and so rejected him as king. No: ‘but he deceives the people,’ John vii. 12. . . .

Doing despite to the Spirit. So the prophetical office of Christ and the doctrine which he teaches is rejected; for it is the Spirit of grace and truth by which Christ executes his prophetical office.

(2.) With blasphemies and reproaches. This sin is expressly called blasphemy, Mat. xii. 31 and 32, speaking a word, that is, a blasphemous word, such as is shameful and reproachful to him. The blaspheming of the Son is called blaspheming of the Holy Ghost, because it is against the Son as discovered and borne witness to by the Holy Ghost; against the person, offices, and doctrine of the Son, but against the light and testimony of the Holy Ghost. Their particular blasphemy is set down, ver. 24, where they do as bad as call Christ a conjuror, and the Holy Ghost, whereby he acted, an evil spirit, the prince of devils. Expressly, Mark iii. 22, 30. And this was their blasphemy, ver. 29; this sin is blaspheming too, as described Heb. vi. 6, a putting Christ to open shame, ascribing that openly to him which is shameful and reproachful. . . .

(3.) Out of hatred and malice. This is the rise, the principle, from whence this sin proceeds; it is from hatred of Christ and his truth. . . . This was the rise of it in the Pharisees, this was at the bottom. That which appeared was horrible, they broke out into blasphemies; but Christ minds not that only, but what was within, Mat. Xii. 24, 25. He takes an estimate of their sin, not by their words only, but by their thoughts, which were boiled up and set a-working by hatred and malice. And this he charges them with expressly elsewhere, John xv. 25; cited from Ps. xxxv. 19. . . .

(4.) All this must be against light and conviction. This is express, Heb. vi. 46; it is the falling away from Christ of those that have been enlightened; so Heb. x. 20, a sinning after the receipt of knowledge, a sinning wilfully, which cannot be but against knowledge.

. . . They knew that Christ wrought miracles, they acknowledge it, John xi. 47. It is strange if they were not convinced that these miracles were acts of a divine power, the finger of God. Can we think them more stupid than the Egyptian magicians? They saw and acknowledged the finger of God in Moses’s miracles, Exod. viii. 19. Were they blinder than those instruments of Satan in the midst of Egyptian darkness? There was a convincing light went along with the miracles of Christ, which shewed their original, and convinced all the people who was the author of them: John xi. 47, 48, ‘All will believe on him,’ Mat. xii. 22, 28; John vii. 31; iii. 2. ‘We,’ i. e., [Nicodemas], and those of his sect, the Pharisees, they knew it, were convinced of it; and when they spake otherwise, said they were of the devil, they had something within them that gainsaid them; they said it with some reluctancy of conscience.

They were convinced that Christ was the [Messiah]; the light of the Holy Ghost, shining in his doctrine and miracles, discovered this unto them; though they were loath to see it, unwilling to believe it. Their rebellious will rising up against their judgment, did check and oppose this light, but it could not be avoided, nor quite suppressed. Christ tells them they knew him, John vii. 28. They knew he was the heir: Mat. xxi. 37, 38, ‘This is the heir.’ They knew who he was, and they perceived that Christ intended them in that parable, ver. 45, 46.. All the three evangelists agree in it. This was that which completed this sin, so as it became unpardonable, Luke xxiii. 34. . . .

But there were some who might be forgiven, for such he prays; and who were those? Why, those who knew not what they did, acted not against knowledge and conviction. So then, those who knew what they did, are they who could not be forgiven. Their sin, acted against knowledge and conscience, was the unpardonable sin. So Peter encouraging the Jews to repent, by proposing hopes of pardon, lays down this as the ground of the encouragement, Acts iii. 17–19, as your rulers, Herod and Pilate did, implying that if they acted against knowledge, if they had known him to be the Lord of life whom they crucified, there had been no hopes or encouragement for them.

Answerably, the apostle Paul shews how it came to pass that he found mercy, after he had so blasphemously and maliciously opposed Christ: I did it ignorantly, 1 Tim. i. 13. There were all other ingredients of that unpardonable sin in Paul’s sin, but this only, he acted not against know ledge and conscience; if he had not done it ignorantly, he had found no mercy, as the expression seems to insinuate. This seems to be the reason why this sin directed against Christ is yet called the sin against the Holy Ghost. Light and conviction is the work of the Holy Ghost; his office and operation is to convey light, and thereby effect conviction. When Christ discovered convincingly by the light and testimony of the Holy Ghost is thus renounced, the Holy Ghost is blasphemed, which discovers and bears witness of him; his light and testimony is rejected and renounced.

—David Clarkson, Of Faith, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:147–150.

I don’t think there is a more shocking revelation in all of Scripture than the fact that many of the Pharisees knew Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah, the one for whom Israel had waited so long, and rather than joyfully falling at his feet, willfully rejected and killed him. It is no wonder they were beyond redemption.

Posted 2017·09·06 by David Kjos
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Posted in: David Clarkson · Works of David Clarkson

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