Truly I tell you, the sons of men will be forgiven all sins and blasphemies, as many as they utter.
I. AN ACTUAL OFFENCE. It is not mentioned again in the Gospel, but the warning was called forth by the actual transgression. There is no mere theorizing about it therefore. It is an exposure and denunciation. This gives us an idea of the fearful unbelief and bitter hatred of those who opposed him. The manifestation of light and love only strengthened the antagonism of some. They consciously sinned against the light.
II. WHY IS IT UNFORGIVABLE?
1. Bemuse of the majesty of the crime. It identifies the Representative and Son of God with the devil - the best with the worst.
2. the nature of the spiritual state induced. When a man deliberately falsifies his spiritual intuitions, and corrupts his conscience so that good is considered evil, there is no hope for him. Such a condition can only be the result of long-continued opposition to God and determined hatred of his character. The means of salvation are thereby robbed of their possibility to save.
III. THE LIKELIHOOD OF ITS BEING REPEATED. As it is an extreme and final degree of sin, there is little danger of its being committed without full consciousness and many previous warnings.
1. It is therefore, a priori, improbable in any. Yet as increasing light and grace tend to throw into stronger opposition the spirit of evil, it must be regarded as:
2. A possibility of every sinner. Necessity for self-examination and continual recourse to the cleansing and illuminating power of Christ. - M.
All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men.
1. By attributing to God that which is dishonourable to Him, and unbeseeming His Majesty; e.g., to say He is unjust, cruel, or the author of sin, etc.
2. By taking from God, and denying unto Him that which belongs to Him.
3. By attributing the properties of God to creatures.
(G. Petter.)1. Consider the fearfulness of the sin. It argues great wickedness in the heart harbouring it.2. Consider how God has avenged Himself on blasphemers, even by temporal judgments.
3. Our tongues are given us to bless God and man.
4. Labour for a reverent fear of God in our hearts.
5. Take heed of using God's Name irreverently, and of common swearing.
(H. R. Haweis, M. A.)
(Joseph Parker, D. D.)
(J. H. Godwin.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
I. ITS GENERAL CHARACTER.
1. That there is such a sin which is unpardonable.
2. It is an open sin, not a sin merely of the heart. It is blasphemy. It requires to be uttered and carried out in act.
3. It is directed against the Holy Ghost, specifically. It terminates on Him. It consists in blaspheming Him, or doing despite unto Him.
II. ITS SPECIFIC CHARACTER. This includes —
1. Regarding and pronouncing the Holy Ghost to be evil; ascribing the effect which He produces to Satan or to an evil, impure spirit.
2. The rejection of His testimony as false. He testifies that Jesus is the Son of God. The man guilty of this sin declares Him to be a man only. He testifies that Jesus is holy. The other declares He is a malefactor. He testifies that His blood cleanses from all sin. The other, that it is an unclean thing, and tramples it under foot.
3. The conscious, deliberate, malicious resistance of the Holy Spirit, and the determined opposition of the soul to Him and His gospel, and a turning away from both with abhorrence.His sin supposes —
1. Knowledge of the gospel.
2. Conviction of its truth.
3. Experience of its power.It is the rejection of the whole testimony of the Spirit, and rejection of Him and His work, with malicious and outspoken blasphemy. It is by a comparison of Matthew 12:31, and the parallel passages in Mark and Luke, with Hebrews 6:6-10, and Hebrews 10:26-29 that the true idea of the unpardonable sin is to be obtained.
III. THE CONSEQUENCE OF THIS SIN is reprobation, or a reprobate mind.
IV. IMPORTANCE OF CLEAR VIEWS OF THIS SUBJECT.
1. Because erroneous views prevail, as(1) That every deliberate sin is unpardonable, as the apostle says "He who sins wilfully."(2) Any peculiarly atrocious sin, as denying Christ by the lapsed.(3) Post-baptismal sins.
2. Because people of tender conscience often are unnecessarily tormented with the fear that they have committed this sin. It is hard to deal with such persons, for they are generally in a morbid state.
3. Because as there is such a sin, every approach to it should be avoided and dreaded.
4. Because we owe specific reverence to the Holy Ghost on whom our spiritual life depends.
(C. Hedge, D. D.)I. Now, WHAT IS FORGIVENESS? It is the remission of the consequences of a violation of law, and of pains and penalties of every kind which arise from having broken a law. It may be considered as, first, organic. In other words, far away from human society the Divine will expresses itself in natural law. Thus a man, by intemperance, by gluttony, by excess of activity, by violation of physical law, may disarrange his whole structure. His head may suffer, his chest may suffer, any part of his body may suffer. Violence may fracture a limb, or some sprain may distort a tendon or a muscle; and everywhere man, as a physical organization, is in contact with God's organic law in the physical world in which we live.
II. THE PRINCIPLE OF FORGIVENESS RUNS THROUGH CREATION. That is to say, all violations of law are not fatal. They may inflict more or less pain; they may bring upon a man suffering to a certain extent; but so soon as a man finds that the derangement of his stomach has arisen from eating improper food, although the knowledge and the reformation do not take away the dyspepsia, yet, if he thoroughly turns away from the course he has been pursuing, and pursues wholesome methods, in time he will recover. Nature has forgiven him. Throughout the physical world you may cure fevers, dropsies, fractures, derangements of vital organs; you may violate all the multiplied economies that go to constitute the individual physical man, and rebound will bring forgiveness; but there is a point beyond which if you go it will not, either in youth, in middle life, or in old age. Many a young man who spends himself until he has drained the fountain of vitality dry in youth is an old man at thirty years of age; he creeps and crawls at forty, and at fifty, if he is alive, he is a wretch. Nature says, "I forgive all manner of iniquity and transgression and sin to a man who does not commit the unpardonable sin."
III. FOR THERE IS AN UNPARDONABLE SIN, PHYSICALLY SPEAKING, THAT IS POSSIBLE TO EVERY MAN. If a thousand-pound weight fall upon a man so that it grinds the bones of his leg to powder, like flour, I should like to see any surgeon that could restore it to him. He may give him a substitute in the form of wood or cork, but he cannot give him his leg again. There is an unpardonable sin that may be committed in connection with the lungs, with the heart, or with the head. They are strung with nerves as thick as beads on a string; and up to a certain point of excess or abuse of the nervous system if you rebound there will be remission, and you will be put hack, or nearly hack, where you were before you transgressed nature's laws; but beyond that point — it differs in different men, and in different parts of the same man — if you go on transgressing, and persist in transgression, you will never get over the effect of it as long as you live.
(H. W. Beecher.)I. What are the SIGNS? This I speak by way of relief to many and many a needlessly tried soul. The inevitable sign of the commission of the unpardonable sin is a condition in which men are past feeling; and if a man has come into that condition in which he is unpardonable — incurable — the sign will be that he does not care. If you find a person who is alarmed lest he is in that condition, his very alarm is a sign that he is not in it. I know not what was the particular case that led to the request that I should preach on the subject; but if there be those that are suffering because they fear that they have committed the unpardonable sin, in the first place, it is not a single act, it is a condition that men come into by education; and, in the second place, that condition is one in which there is a cessation of sensibility. It is a want of spiritual pulse. It is a want of the capacity of spiritual suffering. Therefore, if you do not suffer at all, it may be, it is quite likely, that you are in that condition. Those who are in that condition are never troubled about their spiritual state. But where persons are anxious on the subject of their spiritual state, and are in distress about it, and talk much respecting it, they are the very ones that cannot be in the unpardonable condition. What would you think of a man who should anxiously go around asking every physician if he did not think he was blind, when the reason of his anxiety was that he had such acuteness of vision that he saw everything so very plainly and continuously? Acuteness of vision is not a sign of blindness. What would you think of a man that should go to his physician to ascertain if he was not growing deaf, because his hearing was so good? The symptoms of deafness do not go that way. And how incompatible with the condition in which one has committed the unpardonable sin is fear lest one has committed it. That condition is one in which a person is past all feeling, and is given over to his wickedness.
II. This subject will lead us to make an IMPORTANT DISCRIMINATION — one which we may all of us need — whether we are in a sinful state or are beginning to lead a Christian life. There is a tendency to fear great sins, and a tendency to be indifferent to little ones. Now, there are certain great sins that, being committed, may give such a moral shock to a man's constitution as to be fatal in their effects; but these are not usually fallen into. Men are not very much in danger of great sins. They are ten thousand times more in danger of little ones. Men are not in danger of committing perjury as much as they are of telling "white lies," as they are called. Men are not so much in danger of counterfeiting as they are of putting on little minute false appearances. Men are not so much in danger of committing burglary as they are of committing the myriad infinitesimal injustices with which life is filled. Any particular act, to be sure, such as I have alluded to, which of itself is simply as a particle of dust, is not so culpable as a great sin; but what is the effect on the constitution of a series of these offences that are so small as to be almost imperceptible? It is these little sins, continued and multiplied, that by friction take off the enamel of a man's conscience. It is these numberless petty wrongs that men do not fear, persisted in, that are the most damaging. I should dread the incursion into my garden, in the night time, of rooting swine, or trampling ox, or browsing buffalo; but, after all, aphides are worse than these big brutes. I could kill anyone, or half a dozen, or a score of them, if they came in such limited numbers; but when they swarm by the billion I cannot kill one in ten thousand of them — and what can I do? Myriads of these insignificant little insects will eat faster than I can work, and they are the pest and danger of the garden, as often my poor asters and roses testify. There is many and many a flower that I would work hard to save, but the fecundity of insect life will quite match and overmatch, any man's industry. Weakness multiplied is stronger than strength. Now, that which does the mischief is these aphides, these myriad infinitesimal worms, these pestiferous little sins, every one of which is called white, and is a mere nothing, a small point — a mote, a speck of dust. Why, many a caravan has been overtaken, smothered and destroyed by clouds of dust, the separate particles of which were so minute as to be almost invisible. Many men are afraid that they will be left to some great sin — and they ought to fear that; but they have not the slightest fear of that which is a great deal more likely to bring them to condemnation — the series of petty violations of conscience, and truth, and duty, with which human experience is filled. Here is where every man should most seriously ponder his condition, and ask himself, "What is the effect of the conduct that I am day by day evolving? Am I educating myself toward moral sensibility, or away from moral sensibility?"
III. This leads me to say THAT EVERY MAN SHOULD TAKE HEED TO THE WAY IN WHICH HE TREATS HIS CONSCIENCE. If the light in him be darkness, how great is that darkness! When we put a lighthouse on the coast, that in the night mariners may explore the dark and terrible way of the sea, we not only swing glass around it to protect it, but we enclose that glass itself in a network of iron wire, that birds may not dash it in, the summer winds may not swoop it out, and that swarms of insects may not destroy themselves and the light. For if the light in the lighthouse be put out, how great a darkness falls upon the land and upon the sea. And the mariner, waiting for the light, or seeing it not, miscalculates, and perishes. Now, a man's conscience ought to be protected from those influences that would diminish its light, or that would put it out; but there are thousands of men who are every day doing their utmost to destroy this light. When they do wrong, their conscience rebukes them, and they instantly attempt to suppress it and put it down. They undertake to excuse themselves and palliate the wrong. The next day, when they do wrong, the same process goes on, and they make a deliberate war against their conscience; for it is a very painful thing for a man to do wrong and carry the hurt, and he feels that he must overcome this tormentor if he would have any peace, a great many men not only are making war against the light of God in the soul, but are beginning to feel the greatest complacency in their achievements. They come to a state in which they can lie and not feel bad. They come to a state in which they can do a great deal of injustice, and not have it strike them any mere as injustice. Men that have got along so far in this moral perversion that their conscience has ceased to trouble them, and they think of wrong-doing merely as a thing that is in the way of business, are sometimes surprised as their mind strikes back to the time when they were more sensitive to right, and they say, "I recollect that, ten or fifteen years ago, when I first began to do such things, I used to be so troubled about them that I lay awake nights; but, it is a long time since they have given me any trouble." They muse, and say, "How queer it is. I used to shrink from things that were not just right, and to be afraid to deviate in the least from the strictest rectitude; but I have got over it. Now I do not feel so. How is it? I wonder what has happened to me." Oh, yes; you wonder what has happened to you. There has been death in your house. The cradle is empty. Souls die. The moral element of your soul is dead. Why, many and many a man, who used to be sensitive to purity, whose cheek used to colour at the allusion to impurity, has got so now that the whole literature of impurity is familiar to him. Impure scenes, impure narratives, the whole morbid intercourse of impure minds, they now never feel any shrinking from. Their moral nature is seared as with a hot iron. There are men that come not only to be wicked, but to be struck through and through with wickedness, so that they love men that are, wicked, and hate men that are not. They come to have a great contempt for anything that is not wickedness, and to have a great regard, if not respect, for wickedness itself. And this they come to not at a plunge. Men never go down such a moral precipice headlong. They go down by degrees. The decline from a state of moral sensitiveness is very gradual — so gradual that it does not seem to men to be on the downward way. Flowers are round about their feet, the path is shaded and pleasant, and they go far down before they begin to have any sense of an approaching change. The way from right to wrong is a deceptive way, and a fatal way, and on it men go far along toward destruction before their suspicions are awakened.
(H. W. Beecher.)1. There is here a very full proclamation of the grace of the gospel — the efficacy of His blood.
2. A particular sin is nevertheless singled out, and placed beyond the reach of forgiveness. Warned against it rather than charged with it. It seems to belong to the gospel dispensation.
3. Its characteristics are — It is committed against the Spirit personally, against the clearest demonstration, from malice, without relenting or repentance. Repentance, being a grace of the Spirit, would show that it had not been committed.
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