[This post first appeared at GospelEncounter.wordpress.com]
“… In the Gospels, it is the state of the heart hardened against Divine grace, blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, and therefore of necessity hopeless…”
– William Burt Pope, Compendium Vol. 2 (1889)
I’ve been reading Matt Ayars, The Holy Spirit: An Introduction (2023), and in chapter 6, “The Holy Spirit and Salvation”, Dr. Ayars includes a section on “Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit: Resisting the Spirit of Truth”, which reminded me of the below portion of William Burt Pope’s Compendium.
Pope shows the consistency of the blasphemy texts with our Arminian understanding of the pre-regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. That is, if natural man is hardened to God and only the Holy Spirit Himself can soften our hard hearts, then of course it makes sense that one who resists the Holy Spirit cannot be saved—he has rejected the only remedy available for his condition.
Here is Pope (1889):
But thrice the Scripture declares that there is the possibility of deadly and unpardonable sin in this world. Our Lord speaks of such a sin AGAINST THE HOLY GHOST, and that in three Evangelists: Matt. 12:31; Luke 12:10; Mark 3:29; the Epistle to the Hebrews adds another, and St. John gives his final testimony in his First Epistle.
In the Gospels, it is the state of the heart hardened against Divine grace, blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, and therefore of necessity hopeless: in this world it refuses forgiveness, and in the world to come its eternal condemnation follows. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, it is the sin against the Atonement, the absolute rejection of which by equal necessity shuts out all hope, “seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh” (Heb. 6:6). In St. John’s words this last sin is simply against God who provided the rejected Atonement, and sent the despised Spirit: it is a sin for which intercession may be vain: “I do not say that he shall pray for it” (1 John 5:16).
The stages by which actual and wilful transgression reaches this unpardonable height may be profitably marked. There is a condition in which the soul thwarts the influence of Divine grace, referred to throughout the Scripture as being constantly in opposition to the Spirit: “ye do always resist the Holy Ghost” (Acts vii:51). This is perhaps the most universal characteristic of active sin, as the monitions of the Supreme Convincer are bound up with all the activities of conscience and the Word of God. Successful opposition to His influence produces two opposite effects, conspiring however to one result. The soul’s sensibility declines, and that state follows which is described in Scripture as the sleep of indifference or carnal security: having “their conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Tim. 4:2), entangled in “the snare of the devil” and “taken captive by him at his will” (2 Tim. 2:26), and willing and able to “turn away their ears from the truth” (2 Tim. 4:4). St. Paul shows that this condition is consistent with a pretence to religion: “speaking lies in hypocrisy” (1 Tim. 4:2).
The Saviour’s denunciations of the hypocrites for whom His sternest woes were reserved, teach us what a fearful connection there may be between utter insensibility to Divine grace and devotion to the semblance of godliness. But the obverse of this self-engendered deadness to the Spirit’s influence is the direct hardening of the soul through the judicial withdrawal of that influence. Upon this follows the secret of utter antagonism to truth that decisive reprobation which overtakes those who in a special sense have “turned aside after Satan” (1 Tim. 5:15), and learned like him to call evil good. But this specific sin against the Spirit can have been committed by none who have grace enough to dread its commission, or who have the slightest true desire of return.
You can read the full section online here, pages 69-70: Compendium, Volume II