Charles G. Finney on the Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit
by Tom Stewart
October 30, 2000
It should come as a matter of great concern to any convicted sinner
that it is possible to commit a sin which God has promised that He will never forgive--
sometimes long before physical death. That is the Sin of Blasphemy Against the Holy
Spirit. "And whosoever shall speak a word
against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against
the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven" (Luke
12:10). Stubbornness of any convicted sinner to heed the warning that
there may be no tomorrow to repent, is real.
"15 While it is
said, To day if ye will hear His Voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.
16 For some, when they
had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. 17 But with whom was He grieved forty
years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?
18 And to whom sware
He that they should not enter into His rest, but to them that believed not?" (Hebrews 3:15-18).
If we could hypothetically have the luxury of borrowing God's Omniscient Foreknowledge, we could observe the exact moment that a sinner had violated his conscience with an unpardonable act. Then could we truly understand why God could and would give "them over to a reprobate mind" (Romans 1:28). "And the LORD said, My Spirit shall NOT always strive with man" (Genesis 6:3). The critical instant in a person's life, in which a sin is committed (and it could be, by nature, ANY sin)-- but is a specific sin, in that the sinner SHALL NEVER REPENT of this sin-- signifies to the Divine One that saw it take place, that this sinner has committed the unpardonable sin of "blasphemy against the Holy Ghost" and is forever sealed in the "danger of hell fire" (Matthew 5:22). For "there is a sin unto death: I do NOT say that he [the intercessor] shall pray for it" (1John 5:16). The Holy Spirit will not lead you to pray for this person. "Pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to Me: for I will not hear thee" (Jeremiah 7:16). He knows that this person has hardened himself in this one point, and he will NEVER repent. There is "a sin which is NOT unto death" (5:16), that can be interceded for, and "he [the intercessor] shall ask, and He [the LORD] shall give him [the intercessor] life for them that sin NOT unto death" (5:16). It takes the leading of the Holy Spirit to know when your intercession should "not... pray for it" (5:16). Charles G. Finney ---New Window admonishes:
"...just in proportion as light increases, sinners are in danger of committing the unpardonable sin. It is plain from what the Bible says of this sin that only those commit it who have great light and who resist and abuse that light. Those Pharisees who blasphemed the Holy Ghost, knew full well that Christ's miracles were wrought by the finger of God, and yet they impiously ascribed them to the devil. They had great light, and they greatly abused it.
Now we may ultimately see that more persons commit the unpardonable sin in Oberlin than anywhere else in all the land, for the reason that great light is enjoyed here, and by some is greatly and impiously resisted.
This is the climax of all sin. To know enough of God to make you an angel and then resist it madly and malignantly enough to make you a devil--what can be a greater sin? What can be greater folly and shame and madness?
Yet we are not wont to estimate guilt according to these plain principles of the Bible and of reason. We see a pirate--we are shocked; we cry out--'He is a pirate! Horrible! He has murdered a hundred men! Oh, such a wretch! Surely he is not fit to live.' Indeed he is a wretch, a horrible and wicked wretch; but there perhaps, sits another impenitent sinner who could not see blood spilt without having his own blood creep in his veins, who yet is the guiltier sinner of the two. This sinner, here in Oberlin, has been brought up religiously, has heard preaching enough to have converted a thousand souls, but has heard it only to harden his own heart--this sinner may be a hundred fold more guilty than any pirate, and much more likely to have committed the unpardonable sin. Let the gospel-hardened soul take warning!" --from "The Nature of Impenitence and the Measure of Its Guilt" ---New Window by C. G. Finney, in the "The Oberlin Evangelist" ---New Window, 1846 ---New Window.
An excerpt from Charles G. Finney's "Autobiography" ---New Window (1792-1875) ("Chapter 19: Revival at Reading, Pennsylvania" ---New Window) illustrates a mistake about the Sin of Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit, during a revival:
"I said that in this place a circumstance occurred, that illustrated the influence of that old school teaching of which I have complained. Very early one morning a lawyer, belonging to one of the most respectable families in the town, called at my room, in the greatest agitation of mind. I saw he was a man of first-rate intelligence, and a gentleman; but I had nowhere seen him, to know him. He came in and introduced himself, and said he was a lost sinner--that he had made up his mind that there was no hope for him. He then informed me that when he was in Princeton College, he and two of his classmates became very anxious about their souls. They went together to Dr. Ashbel Green, who was then president of the college, and asked him what they should do to be saved. He said the doctor told them he was very glad to have them come and make the inquiry; and then told them to keep out of all bad company, to read their Bible statedly, and to pray God to give them a new heart.'Continue this,' he said, 'and press forward in duty; and the Spirit of God will convert you; or else He will leave you, and you will return back to your sins again.' 'Well, I inquired, how did it terminate?' 'Oh,' said he, 'we did just as he told us to do. We kept out of bad company, and prayed that God would make us a new heart. But after a little while our convictions wore away, and we did not care to pray any longer. We lost all interest in the subject;' and then bursting into tears he said, 'My two companions are in drunkard's graves, and if I cannot repent I shall soon be in one myself.' This remark led me to observe that he had indications of being a man that made too free use of ardent spirits. However, this was early in the morning; and he was entirely free from drink, and in terrible anxiety about his soul.
I tried to instruct him, and to show him the error that he had fallen into, under such instructions as he had received, and that he had resisted and grieved the Spirit, by waiting for God to do what He had commanded him to do. I tried to show him that, in the very nature of the case, God could not do for him what He required him to do. God required him to repent, and God could not repent for him; required him to believe, but God could not believe for him; God required him to submit, but could not submit for him. I then tried to make him understand the agency that the Spirit of God has in giving the sinner repentance and a new heart; that it is a divine persuasion; that the Spirit leads him to see his sins, urges him to give them up and to flee from the wrath to come. He presents to him the Savior, the atonement, the plan of salvation, and urges him to accept it.
I asked him if he did not feel this urgency upon himself, in these truths revealed in his own mind; and a call, now to submit, to believe, to make himself a new heart. 'Oh yes!' he said, 'Oh yes! I see and feel all this. But am I not given up of God? Is not my day of grace past?' I said to him, 'No! It is plain the Spirit of God is still calling you, still urging you to repentance; you acknowledge that you feel this urgency in your own mind.' He inquired, 'Is this, then, what the Spirit of God is doing, to show me all this?' I assured him that it was; and that he was to understand this as a divine call, and as evidence conclusive that he was not abandoned, and had not sinned away the day of grace, but that God was striving to save him still. I then asked him if he would respond to the call, if he would come to Jesus, if he would lay hold upon eternal life then and there.
He was an intelligent man, and the Spirit of God was upon and teaching him, and making him understand every word that I said. When I saw that the way was fully prepared, I called on him to kneel down and submit; and he did so, and to all human appearance, became a thorough convert right upon the spot. 'Oh!' he afterwards said, 'if Dr. Green had only told us this that you have told me, we should all have been converted immediately. But my friends and companions are lost; and what a wonder of mercy it is that I am saved!"
And finally, one last excerpt from Charles G. Finney's "Autobiography" ("Chapter 3: Beginning of His Work" ---New Window) which demonstrates the reality of the Sin of Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit, early in Finney's Christian life:
"Soon after I was converted, the man with whom I had been boarding for some time, who was a magistrate, and one of the principal men in the place, was deeply convicted of sin. He had been elected a member of the legislature of the state. I was praying daily for him, and urging him to give his heart to God. His conviction became very deep; but still, from day to day, he deferred submission, and did not obtain a hope. My solicitude for him increased.
One afternoon several of his political friends had a protracted interview with him. On the evening of the same day I attempted again to carry his case to God; as the urgency in my mind for his conversion had become very great. In my prayer I had drawn very near to God. I do not remember ever to have been in more intimate communion with the Lord Jesus Christ than I was at that time. Indeed His presence was so real that I was bathed in tears of joy, and gratitude, and love; and in this state of mind I attempted to pray for this friend. But the moment I did so, my mouth was shut. I found it impossible to pray a word for him. The Lord seemed to say to me, 'No; I will not hear.' An anguish seized upon me; I thought at first it was a temptation. But the door was shut in my face. It seemed as if the Lord said to me, 'Speak no more to me of that matter.' It pained me beyond expression. I did not know what to make of it.
The next morning I saw him; and as soon as I brought up the question of submission to God, he said to me, 'Mr. Finney, I shall have nothing more to
do with it until I return from the legislature. I stand committed to my political friends to carry out certain measures in the legislature, that are incompatible with my first becoming a Christian; and I have promised that I will not attend to the subject until after I have returned from Albany.'
From the moment of that exercise the evening before, I had no spirit of prayer for him at all. As soon as he told me what he had done, I understood it. I could see that his convictions were all gone, and that the Spirit of God had left him. From that time he grew more careless and hardened than ever.
When the time arrived he went to the legislature; and in the Spring he returned an almost insane Universalist. I say almost insane, because, instead of having formed his opinions from any evidence or course of argument, he told me this: He said, 'I have come to that conclusion, not because I have found it taught in the Bible, but because such a doctrine is so opposed to the carnal mind. It is a doctrine so generally rejected and spoken against, as to prove that it is distasteful to the carnal, or unconverted mind.' This was astonishing to me. But everything else that I could get out of him was as wild and absurd as this. He remained in his sins, finally fell into decay, and died at last, as I have been told, a dilapidated man, and in the full faith of his Universalism."
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