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UNBELIEVING MEN BLINDED:
JOHN ADAM, D.D.,
" In whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”—2 Cor. iv. 4.
THE Apostle and his fellow-labourers preached the Gospel openly and faithfully; they unfolded its blessings and urged its claims with the greatest plainness and publicity; they set it forth in a way which seemed powerfully fitted to enlighten the minds, and win the hearts of all classes of hearers. But still, to not a few it remained hidden-hidden as regards its true nature and heavenly origin, its excellence, its glory. It did so among the lost, in the case of the perishing. And here we have the explanation of the want of perception and appreciation on the part of this large class,—their imperviousness to the Divine light which shines out, to the high and holy influences which issue, from the Gospel. A counteracting power was at work within these persons—a power which darkened the soul, yea, shut and sealed its very eyes; so that, as it avails not the blind that the sun is pouring a flood of light over the earth and sky, it did not advantage them spiritually that the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ was before and around thern, so far as they were brought into contact with apostolic teaching and doctrine. In these words we have Satan's formidable title, fatal work, and malignant purpose.
I. His formidable title—“The god of this world.”
In like manner he is elsewhere once and again called “the prince of this world.” He and his allies are denominated “the rulers of the darkness of this world.” There can be no doubt that the designation of the text belongs to a personal being. The devil is no mere power or principle of evil. He is a real, distinct, living agent; he is an intelligent, active, agile spirit, the head of a horrible confederacy, the leader of the rebel hosts of hell. The Divine Word uniformly represents him under such an aspect; and if its language has any propriety, any truth, any meaning, we are shut up to this conclusion. · When he is named here "god,” it is not in the strict sense of the term, for there is only one God, the Creator and Lord of the Universe, the infinite, ineffable Jehovah. We are to understand that he is so called figuratively. Satan is here spoken of in such a way, because of the place he holds, and the power he exercises. He possesses a god-like authority, and receives a god-like submission. The theatre of his operations, the sphere of his dominion is “this world.” There it is that he reigns and ravages. There he has erected his throne, and waged the stoutest war with high heaven. Two things, however, must always be remembered if we would not draw erroneous conclusions from such descriptions as the present.
First, his power is not supreme. He is not in the highest sense the world's god. There is a Lord above Satan. The Maker of the world is its real Monarch. He has never abdicated His sovereignty, never laid aside His sceptre. He ruleth over all, alike by right and in fact. He is the Governor among the nations. The devil is under Him, is subject to Him, is chained by Him, and cannot, any more than the sea, advance a single step beyond the bounds marked out by His decree_"Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further.” There are not two eternal principles, one of good and one of evil, as the oriental philosophy supposed. No, the Lord God omnipotent reigneth, and mighty, terrific as is the sway of the prince of darkness, he is under the control, and is made to subserve the purposes, of Him whose first promise to fallen man was that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent.
Secondly, his power is not legitimate. It has its origin in usurpation. It is founded on fraud, conspiracy, rebellion. It is not merely limited, it is lawless. True, as sinners we have laid ourselves open to his incursions, we have even given ourselves into his hands and become his willing vassals. In righteous judgment, too, we have been left in his grasp, delivered up to him as a kind of executioner of Heaven's vengeance. But still he has no proper right or title to the world, -to any part of it, however small, to any being in it, however wicked. This was not quite understood by some of old, who spoke of Christ's redeeming work as if it had fully as much to do with reference to the demands of Satan, as in meeting the claims of divine justice. No doubt the one had to be dealt with not less than the other, if the captives were to be delivered, but what was required in the one case was the arm of power, and in the other the blood of atonement. Jesus had not to satisfy but to vanquish the devil, and this he did throughout his whole career, but specially and pre-eminently at its close upon the cross.
. Still, with all possible explanations and limitations, the name before us in the text conveys an awful idea of the extent, the magnitude of his dominion. It is world-wide, and, alas! the fact is all too evident. The title, too, manifestly accords with the actual, indisputable state of matters. After all that has been done for centuries in the way of invading and curtailing the kingdom of darkness, how wide, how gigantic is it at the present moment ! Take a missionary map, coloured according to the religious condition of the earth's inhabitants, and what does it reveal? Heathenism, Mohammedanism, and Romanism are found covering immense regions, while Protestantism is represented by a few comparative patches; and even within these limits, how much power does Satan still exercise! He is the great worldruler.
II. His fatal work—“Hath blinded the minds of them that believe not.”
He has blinded the minds of all natural men by the sin into which he seduced the race at first, that is, by the fall of our great parent and representative, Adam. We are born into the world guilty and corrupt. The whole moral framework of our being is deranged. The depravity is deep, total, all-pervading,-darkening the mind as well as hardening the heart, shutting the eyes as well as deadening the sensibilities of the soul. But Satan is not satisfied with that old and and far-reaching achievement of his, with that decisive, enduring, fatal victory. He carries on a constant, present process of blinding in the case of all thus brought under his terrible power. By the errors into which he leads them, by the sins to the commission of which he tempts them, by ten thousand devices suited to the characters and circumstances of his victims, he withdraws them ever farther from
the perception and appreciation of spiritual truths and objects. He rears up vast systems of darkness and delusion, under the influence of which the minds and hearts of millions are brought into a state of the most absolute and abject bondage. And his efforts are very specially directed against those who are surrounded by the light and plied with the overtures of the Gospel. All his craft and power are called into exercise in dealing with those who have thus made known to them Him who is the bruiser of the serpent's head,--Him who can enter the strong man's house and spoil him of his goods,--Him who came for the very purpose of destroying the works of the devil. They are held by a less secure tenure than others. There is greater danger of their escaping from his fatal dominion. Unless his grasp of them is thoroughly firm, unless he has recourse to every means of fortifying his kingdom within them, unless the whole apparatus and appliances at his disposal are brought to bear upon them, they may be snatched from him by the Captain of Salvation, and transferred to the ranks of His illuminated and emancipated host. There is reason to fear that the light may break in, revealing their real condition, and leading on to their deliverance. The snare of the fowler may be broken, and they may escape. Hence he blinds them by every method he can devise, and often in ways the direct opposite of each other.
Thus he does it alternately by ignorance and knowledge. He tries and often prevails by ignorance. He shuts men out, if he possibly can, from all acquaintance with the Gospel. He is well aware that although the mind may be instructed without the heart being affected, it is through the one that the other is to be reached, and that truth lodged in the one is fitted to produce an impression and assert its claims on the other. Hence he keeps from as many as he can, the benefits of a Christian education,--all religious teaching; and what he cannot prevent he labours to modify, weaken, neutralise. He leaves no lights burning which he can extinguish ; and when he is unable to put them out, he is an adept at dimming their brightness. The less people read and understand the Divine Word, the less they hear about the things which belong to their everlasting peace, the more heathenish and brutish the ignorance in which they can be sunk,—the better pleased, the more successful, is the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience. But, failing this, he often has recourse to the very opposite—to knowlege. When he cannot exclude it, he skilfully turns it into an instrument of accomplishing his own purposes. How many does he bewilder, blind, and destroy by means of a boasted science and philosophy! Their talents and attainments, their discoveries and speculations, render them proud, self-sufficient, and exacting. They have no eyes for the simplicity, purity, glory of the Gospel. The masterpiece of heaven's wisdom, it is yet foolishness to them; and they turn away from mysteries which baffle those intellectual powers by which they are elated, and from truths which they are called not to demonstrate but believe, and receive with child-like docility, not as capable of human proof, but as given by inspiration of God. Frequently, the higher persons rise in mere mental gifts, the lower do they sink in spiritual capacities and tastes. Instead of the former helping the latter, they not seldom have exactly the opposite effect. The present day furnishes hosts of examples.
He does it alternately by worldliness and godliness. How does worldliness often put out any eyes the poor soul ever had! The eager pursuit of business or pleasure, the toiling on amidst dust and defilement, the chaining down of mind and heart to what is material, earthly, if not impure,—this has a strongly carnalising, corrupting influence; it obscures the perceptions and deadens the sensibilities of the spirit. Thus, a covering, which ever grows thicker and thicker, spreads itself over the inner man, and the light of life is shut out by a more and more impenetrable obstruction. The scales harden and multiply until every ray from above is excluded, and nothing is realised or thought of but what is seen and temporal. The heavenly, the Divine, the sphere and objects of the invisible world, seem to be blotted out of existence. And, stranger far, he does the same by godliness—that is, godliness in its profession and forms, not, of course, in its power. The shadow is put for the substance, the appearance for the reality; and by such means the devil's purpose is effectually served. Membership in the visible Church, the observance of religious ordinances, and the performance of religious duties—these, and such like things, are employed to render people satisfied with themselves, to make them imagine that all is well so far as they are concerned, that they are good Christians; and thus they see no need for, and no suitableness, attractiveness, preciousness in, the Gospel.
This blinding is here attributed to Satan, the God of this world, but the subjects of it are not mere helpless victims, they are active co-operators. They are to be pitied, but they are also to be blamed. They have a direct reponsibility connected with