The Method of Grace

by John Flavel

The blinding Policies of Satan opened, as the
cause of Unbelief, and Forerunner of Destruction

     
"But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost; in whom
the god of this world has 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. 4:3-4.      
     
    The aversions of men from Jesus Christ, their only remedy, is
as much to be admired as lamented; one would think the news of
deliverance should make the hearts of captives leap for joy, the
tidings of a Savior should transport the heart of a lost sinner. A
man would think a little rhetoric might persuade the naked soul of a
sinner to put on the rich robes of Christ's righteousness, which
will cost him nothing but acceptance; or the perishing, starving
sinner to accept the bread of God which cometh down from heaven, and
giveth life unto the world. This is the great design I have managed
in this whole discourse; the center to which all these lines are
drawn; many arguments have been used, and many ways attempted to
prevail with men to apply and put on Christ, and I am afraid, all
too little. I have but labored in vain, and spent my strength for
nothing; all these discourses are but the beating of the air, and
few, if any, will be persuaded to come unto Christ, who is clearly
opened, and freely offered in the gospel to them. For alas! while I
am reasoning, Satan is blinding their minds with false reasonings
and contrary persuasions; the God of this world turns away the ears,
and draws away the hearts of almost the whole world from Christ;
"The God of this world "has 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.* Satan is a great and jealous
prince, and is well aware, that so many of his subjects as shall be
brought to see the misery of their condition, will never endure to
abide any longer in subjection to him: it is therefore his great
policy to put out their eyes, that he may secure their souls; to
darken their understandings, that he may keep his interest firm and
entire in their wills and affections: and this makes the effectual
application of Christ so great a difficulty, that, on the contrary,
it is just matter of admiration that any soul is persuaded and
prevailed with to quit the service of Satan, and come to Christ. And
therefore in the last place, to discover the great difficulty of
conversion, and show you where it is that all our endeavors are
obstructed, so that we can move the design no further, with all our
laboring and striving, reasoning and persuading; as also to mourn
over and bewail the misery of Christless and unregenerate souls,
with whom we must part, upon the saddest terms; I have chosen this
scripture, which is of a most awakening nature, if haply the Lord,
at last, may persuade any soul to come over to Christ thereby.
    These words come into the apostle's discourse, by way of
prolepsis; he had been speaking in the former chapter, of the
transcendent excellency of the gospel above the law, and, among
other respects, he prefers it to the law in point of clearness. The
law was an obscure and cloudy dispensation; there was a veil upon
the face of Moses, and the hearts of the people, that they could not
see to the end of that which is abolished, but under the gospel we
all, with open face, behold, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord.
Against this discourse, the apostle foresaw, and obviated this
objection; If your gospel be so clear, what is the reason that many,
who live under the ministration of it, (and they none of the
meanest, neither for wisdom nor understanding) do yet see no glory,
nor excellency in it? To this he returns in the words I have read,
"If our gospel be hid, it is hid from them that are lost, whose eyes
the God of this world has blinded," &c. q. d. It is true, multitudes
there are, who see no glory in Christ or the gospel, but the fault
is not in either; but in the minds of them that believe not. The sun
shines forth in its glory, but the blind see no glory in it; the
fault is not in the sun, but in the eye. In the words themselves we
have three parts to consider:
    1. A dreadful, spiritual judgment inflicted.
    2. The wicked instrument by whom it is inflicted.
    3. The politic manner in which he does it.
    First, We have here a very dreadful, spiritual judgment
inflicted upon the souls of men, namely, the hiding of the gospel from
them: if our gospel be hid; for these words, "Ei de kai esi", are a
concession, that so it is; a very sad, but undeniable truth. Many
are there who see no beauty in Christ, nor necessity of him; though
both are so plainly and evidently revealed in our gospel, "if our
gospel be hid." It is called our gospel, not as if St. Paul and
other preachers of it, were the authors and inventors of it; but our
gospel, because we are the preachers and dispensers of it. We are
put in trust with the gospel, and though we preach it, in the
demonstration of the Spirit, and of power, using all plainness of
speech to make men understand it, yet it is hid from many under our
ministry: it is hid from their understandings, they see no glory in
it; and hid from their hearts, they see no power in it. Our gospel,
notwithstanding all our endeavors, is a hidden gospel unto some,
this is the sorest, and most dreadful judgment.
    Secondly, We have here an account of that wicked instrument by
whom this judgment is inflicted, namely, Satan, called here (by a
mimesis) the God of this world; not simply and properly, but because
he challenges to himself the honor of a God, rules over a vast
empire, and has multitudes of souls, even the greater part of the
world, in subjection and blind obedience to his government.
    Thirdly, Here, also, we have an account of the politic manner
of this government, how he maintains his dominion among men, and
keeps the world in quiet subjection to him; namely, by blinding the
minds of all them that believe not; putting out the eyes of all his
subjects, darkening that noble faculty, the mind, or understanding;
the thinking, considering, and reasoning power of the soul, which
the philosophers truly call "the leading and directing faculty;"
for it is to the soul, what eyes are to the body, and it is
therefore called, "the eyes of the understanding," Eph. 1:18.
These eyes Satan blinds, that is he darkens the mind and
understanding with ignorance and error; so that when men come to see
and consider spiritual things, "they see indeed, but perceive not,"
Isaiah 6: 9,10. They have some general, confused notions, but no
distinct, powerful, and effectual apprehensions of those things: and
this is the way, indeed, none like it, to bar men effectually from
Jesus Christ, and hinder the application of the benefit of
redemption to their souls. It is true, the righteous God permits all
this to be done by Satan, upon the souls of men; but wherever he
finally prevails thus to blind them, it is as the text speaks, "en
tois apongumenois", in them. that are lost, or appointed of God unto
perdition. The elect of God are all blinded for a time, but Christ
applies unto them his eye-salve, effectually opens the eyes of
their understandings, and recovers them thereby, out of Satan's
power and dominion; but as for those who still continue thus
blinded, the symptoms and characters of eternal death appear upon
their souls; they are a company of lost men.
     
    Doctrine. That the understandings of all unbelievers are blinded by
         Satan's policies, in order to their everlasting perdition.
     
    Four things must be opened in the doctrinal part of this point.
    First, What the blinding of the understanding, or hiding of the
gospel from the understanding, is.
    Secondly, I shall demonstrate, that the understandings of many
are thus blinded, and the gospel hidden from them.
    Thirdly, I shall show what policies Satan uses to blind the
minds of men.
    Fourthly. That this blindness is the sorest judgement, and in
order to men's everlasting perdition.
    Sixthly, And then apply the whole.
    First, We shall enquire what the blinding of the mind, or
hiding the gospel from it, is. Two sorts of men are thus blinded in
the world.
    1. Those that want the means of illumination.
    2. Those that have the means, but ace denied the blessing and
efficacy of them.
    The former is the case of the Pagan world, who are in midnight
darkness for want of the gospel. The latter is the case of the
Christian world. The greatest part of them that live within the
sound of the gospel, being blinded by the God of this world, Isaiah 7:
9, 10. "And he said, Go, and tell this people; hear you indeed, but
understand not; and, see you indeed, but perceive not: Make the heart
of this people fat, and make their ears heavy; and shut their eyes,
lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and
understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed." Thus, when
the Sun of righteousness actually arose on the world, it is said,
John 1: 5. "The light shined in darkness, but the darkness
comprehended it not." So we may say of all that light which is in
the understanding of all unbelievers, what Job speaks of the grave,
Job 10: 22. "That the light there is as darkness." But more
particularly, to open the nature of this spiritual blindness, I will
show you,
    1. What it is not opposed unto.
    2. What it is opposed unto.
    1. Let us examine what spiritual blindness, or the hiding the
gospel from the minds of men is not opposed unto: and we shall find,
    First, That it is not opposed unto natural wisdom; a man may be
of an acute and clear understanding; eagle-eyed, to discern the
mysteries of nature, and yet the gospel may be hidden from him. Who
were more sagacious and quick sighted in natural things than the
Heathen Philosophers, renowned for wisdom in their generations;
yet unto them the gospel was but foolishness, 1 Cor. 1: 20, 21.
Augustine confesses, that before his conversion he was filled with
offence and contempt of the simplicity of the gospel. Says he,
I scorned to become a child again. And that great Bradwardine,
the profound doctor, who was learned, even to a wonder, professed,
that when he first read Paul's epistles, he despised them, because
he found not in them,  those metaphysical notions which he expected.
Upon this account it was, that Christ brake forth into the pathetical
gratulation of his Father's love to the elect, Mat. 11: 25. "At that
time Jesus answered and said, I thank you, O Father, Lord of
heaven and earth; because you have hid these things from
the wise and prudent, and have revealed them unto babes.
    Secondly, It is not opposed to all light and knowledge in
spiritual truths. A man may have a true understanding of the
scriptures, give an orthodox exposition of them, and enlighten the
minds of others by them; and yet the gospel may be hidden from
himself, Mat. 7: 22. "Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord,
have we not prophesied in your name!" So Romans 2: 19. "And are
confident that you yourself are a guide of the blind, a light to
them that sit in darkness," &c. A man may show others the way to
Christ and salvation, while both are hid from himself.
    Thirdly, It is not opposed to all kind of influences upon the
affections; for, it is possible, the gospel may touch the affections
themselves, and cause some sweet motions and raptures in them;
and yet be an hidden gospel to the soul, Heb. 6: 5, 9.
    But if these three things may consist with spiritual blindness
unto what then is it opposed? To which I answer, that spiritual
blindness stands only opposed to that saving manifestation of Jesus
Christ in the gospel by the Spirit, whereby the soul is regenerated,
and effectually changed by a real conversion unto God: Where ever
the gospel thus comes in the demonstration of the Spirit, and of
power, producing such an effect as this in the soul, it is no longer
an hidden gospel to that soul, though such persons do not see
clearly all that glory which is revealed by the gospel; though they
know but in part, and see darkly as through a glass; yet the eyes of
their understandings are opened, and the things which belong to
their peace are not hidden from them.
    Secondly, But though this be the happiness of some men, yet it
is demonstrable that the eyes of many are blinded by the God of this
world, and the gospel is an hidden gospel from them; for,
    First, Many that live under the gospel are so entirely
swallowed up in the affairs of this world, that they allow
themselves no time to ponder the great concernment of their souls in
the world to come; and judge you, whatever the gifts and knowledge
of these men are, whether the God of this world has not blinded
their eyes. If it were not so, it were impossible that ever they
should thus waste the most precious opportunities of salvation upon
which their everlasting well being depends, and spend time at the
door of eternity about trifles which so little concern them. Yet
this is the case of the greatest number that go under the Christian
name. The earth has opened her mouth and swallowed up their time,
thoughts, studies, and strength, as it did the bodies of Corah and
his accomplices. The first, the freest, yes, the whole of their
time, is devoted to the service of the world, for even at that very
time when they present their bodies before the Lord, in the duties
of his worship, their hearts are wandering after vanities, and
"going after their covetousness," Ezek. 43: 31. Judge whether the
God of this world has blinded these men or no, who can see so much
beauty in the world, but none in Christ, and put an absolute
necessity upon the vanities of this world, but none upon their own
salvation. If this be not spiritual blindness, what is?
    Secondly, The great stillness and quietness of men's
consciences, under the most rousing and awakening truths of the
gospel, plainly prove that the God of this world has blinded their
eyes. For did men see and apprehend the dangerous condition they are
in as the word represents it; nothing in the world would quiet them
but Christ. As soon as men's eyes come to be opened, the next
enquiry they come to make is, "What shall we do to be saved?" It is
not impossible that a man should hang over hell, see Christ and the
hopes of salvation going, and the day of patience ending, and yet be
quiet. 1O! it cannot be, that conscience should let them be quiet in
such a case, if it were not blinded and stupified; but while the
God of this world, "that strong man armed keeps the house, all his
goods are in peace," Luke 11: 21. If once your eyes were opened by
conviction, a man may then say, be quiet if you can; sit still, and
let the hopes and seasons of salvation pass quietly away if you can.
Suppose one should come into the congregation, and whisper but such
a word as this in your ears, your child is fallen into the fire, and
is a dying, since you came from home; will it be in the power of all
friends you have to quiet you, and make you sit still after such an
information? much less when a man apprehends his own soul in
immediate danger of everlasting burnings.
    Thirdly, The strong confidences and presumptuous hopes men have
of salvation, while they remain in the state of nature and
unregeneracy, plainly show their minds to be blinded by the policy
of Satan. This presumption is one of those "paralogismoi", false
reasonings, by which Satan deludes the understanding, as the apostle
calls them, James 1: 22. It is the cunning sophistry of the devil,
fathered by self-love, Proverbs 21: 2. "Every way of a man is right in
their own eyes," and partly by self-ignorance, Rev. 3: 17. "You
said I am rich, and have need of nothing, and know not that
you are poor." You have no fears, no doubts, no ease to propound
that concerns your future state; and why so? but because you have no
sight; your consciences are quieted, because your eyes are blinded.
    Fourthly, The trifling of men with the duties of religion
plainly discovers the blinding power of Satan upon their minds and
understandings, else they would never play and dally with the
serious and solemn ordinances of God at that rate they do; if their
eyes were once opened, they would he in earnest in prayer, and apply
themselves with the closest attention of mind to hearing the gospel.
    There are two sorts of thoughts about any subject of meditation.
Some think at a distance, and others think close to the subject.
Never do thoughts of men come so close to Christ, to heaven, and to
hell, as they do immediately upon their illumination. When John's
ministry enlightened the people's minds, it is said, Matthew. 11: 12.
"from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven
suffers violence, and the violent take it by force." Surely these
men were more in good earnest who would receive no repulse, take no
denial, but even force themselves through all difficulties into
heaven; and so would it be with you. If the God of this world had
not blinded your minds you would never pray with so much
unconcernedness, nor hear with so much negligence and carelessness;
pray as if you prayed not, and hear as if you heard not. It is with
many of your hearts as it was with Aristotle, who after a quaint
oration made before him, was asked how he liked it; truly, said he,
I did not hear it; for I was thinking all the while of another
matter.
    Fifthly, This also is a plain evidence that the God of this
world has blinded many men's eyes among us, for that they fear not
to commit great sins to avoid small hazards and troubles, which all
the world could never persuade them to do, if they were not hood-
winked by the God of this world. Those that have seen sin as sin, in
the glass of God's law, "will choose as Moses did, to suffer any
affliction with the people of God, rather than enjoy the pleasures
of sin, which are but for a season," Heb. 11: 25. Those that have
seen and felt the evil of sin in the deep troubles of their spirits
for it, will account all reproaches, all losses, all sufferings from
men, to be but as nothing to the burden of sin.
    Sixthly, The pride and self-conceitedness of many thousands who
profess Christianity, plainly show their minds to be blinded by the
sophistry of Satan, and that they do not understand themselves, and
the woeful state of their own souls. Those that see God in the
clearest light, abhor themselves in the deepest humility, Isaiah 6: 5.
John 43: 5. If ever the Lord had effectually opened your eyes by a
clear discovery of your state by nature, and the course of your
life, under the efficacy and influence of continual temptations and
corruptions, how would your plumes fall? None in the world would
rate you lower than you yourselves would. By all which it appears
that multitudes are blinded by the God of this world.
    Thirdly, In the third place we are to consider what policies
Satan uses to blind the minds of them that believe not, and we
shall find there are three sorts of policies practiced by the God of
this world upon the minds and understandings of men, which he
darkens, by
    1. Hindering the reception of gospel light.
    2. Obstructing the efficacy of it when received.
    3. Making misapplication of it to other purposes.
    First, It is a great policy in Satan, to blind the
understandings of men, by hindering and preventing the reception of
gospel-light, which he does especially these five ways;
    First, By tempting the dispensers of the gospel to darken the
truths thereof, in the delivering of them, to shoot over the heads
of their hearers, in lofty language and terms of are, so that common
understandings can give no account, when the sermon is done, what
the preacher would have; but, however, commend him for a good
scholar, and an excellent orator. I make no doubt but the devil is
very busy with ministers in their studies, tempting them, by the
pride of their own hearts, to gratify his designs here in; he
teaches them how to paint the glass, that he might keep out the
light.
    I acknowledge, a proper, grave, and lovely stile, befits the
lips of Christ's ambassadors; they should not be crude and careless
in their language, or method. But this affectation of great swelling
words of vanity, is but too like the proud Gnostics, whom the
apostle is supposed to tax for this evil, Jude ver. 16. "This is to
darken counsel by words without knowledge, Job 31: 2. To amuse and
confuse poor ignorant souls, and nullify the design of preaching: for
everything is accounted so far good, as it is good to the end it is
ordained for. A sword that has an hilt of gold, set thick with
diamonds, is no good sword, if it has no edge to cut, or want a good
back to follow home the stroke. O that the ministers of Christ would
chase rather sound, than great words, such as are apt to pierce the
heart, rather than such as tickle the fancy; and let people beware
of furthering the design of Satan against their own souls, in
putting a temptation upon their ministers, by despising plain
preaching. The more popular, plain, and intelligible our discourses
are, so much the more probable they are to be successful; that is
the most excellent oratory, that persuades men to Christ.
    Secondly, Satan hinders the access of light to the
understandings of men, by employing their minds about impertinent
things, while they are attending upon the ordinances of God; thus he
tempted them, in Ezek. 33: 31, 32. "And they come unto you as the
people comes, and they sit before you, as my people; and they hear
your words, but they will not do them; for with their mouth they show
much love, but their heart goes after their covetousness. And lo!
you are unto them as a very lovely song of one that has a pleasant
voice." The modulation of the prophet's voice was very pleasing to
their ears, but meanwhile their fancies and thoughts were wandering
after their lusts; their hearts were full of earthly projects.
    Thirdly, Satan hinders the access of light to the
understandings of men, by raising objections, and picking quarrels
with the word, on purpose to shake its authority, and hinder the
assent of the understanding to it, and so the word makes no more
impression than a fable, or a romance would do. And never did this
design of Satan obtain more than in this atheistical age, wherein
the main pillars and foundation of religion are shaken in the minds
of multitudes. The devil has persuaded many, that the gospel is but
a cunningly-devised fable; fabula Christi, as that blaspheming pope
called it; that ministers must say something to get a living. That
heaven and hell are but fancies, or at most things of great
uncertainty, and doubtful credit. This being once obtained, the door
of the soul is shut against truth. And this design of Satan has
prospered the more in this generation, by the corrupt doctrines of
seducing spirits, "Which have overthrown the faith of some," 2 Tim.
2: 18. And partly from the scandalous lives of loose and vain
professors, the gospel has been brought into contempt; but
especially by Satan's artificial improvement of the corrupt natures
of men in an age wherein conscience has been so much debauched,
and Atheism thereby spread as a gangrene in the body politic.
    Fourthly, Satan hinders the access of light, by helping
erroneous minds to draw false conclusions and perverse inferences
from the great and precious truths of the gospel; and thereby
bringing them under prejudice and contempt: Thus he assists the
errors of men's minds about the doctrine of election: when he either
persuades them, that it is an unreasonable doctrine, and not worthy
of credit, that God should chose some, and refuse others every way
as good as those he has chosen; or, if there be any certainty in
that doctrine, then men may throw the reins upon the neck of their
lusts, and live at what rate they list; nor if God has chosen them
to salvation, their wickedness shall not hinder it, and if he have
appointed them unto wrath, their diligence and self-denial cannot
prevent it.
    Thus the doctrine of free grace is by the like sophistry of
Satan turned into lasciviousness. If grace abound, men may sin the
more freely; and the shortness of our time upon earth, which in its
own nature awakens all men to diligence, is, by the subtlety of
Satan, turned to a quite contrary purpose, "Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die."
    Fifthly, Satan darkens the minds of men, and shuts them up
against the light, by blowing them up with pride and self-
conceitedness, persuading them that they know all these things
already, and causing them to despise the most weighty and precious
truths of God, as trite and vulgar notions. The word cannot be
received without meekness and humility of mind, James 1: 21. Psalm.
25: 8, 9. and pride is the nurse of ignorance, 1 Tim. 6: 4. 1 Cor.
8: 7. The devil is aware of this, and therefore blows up the pride
and conceitedness of men's hearts all that he can: And this
temptation of his generally prevails wherever it meets with a
knowing head, matched with a graceless and unsanctified heart. And
thus we see by what wiles and policies Satan keeps out the light,
and prevents the access of it to the minds of men.
    But if he miss his design here, and truth gets into the mind,
Then
    Secondly, He labors to obstruct the efficacy and operation of
the light; and though it do shine into the understanding, yet it
shall be imprisoned there, and send down no converting influences
upon the will and affections: And this design he promotes and
manages divers ways.
    First, By hastening to quench convictions early, and nip them
in the bud. Satan knows how dangerous a thing it is, and destructive
to his interest, to suffer convictions to continue long; and
therefore it is said of him, Matthew. 13: 19. When any "one hears
the word of the kingdom, and understands it not, then comes the
wicked one, and caches away that which was sown in his heart."
Satan is compared in this scripture to the fowls in the air, which
pick up the seed before it take any root in the earth. The devil is
very jealous of this, and therefore labors all he can to destroy
the word before it comes to operate upon the heart; which he does
sometimes by the cares of the world, and sometimes by vain
companions, who prove mere quench coals unto the beginning
convictions. One sinner destroys much good.
    Secondly, No sooner does the God of this world observe the
light of truth begin to operate upon the heart, but he obstructs
that design by procrastinations and delays, which delude and baffle
convinced souls; he persuades them if they will alter their course,
it will be time enough hereafter, when such encumbrances and
troubles in the world are over; if he prevail here, it is a thousand
to one but the work miscarries. James 1: 13, 14. If the hearer of
the word be not a doer, that is a present doer, while the impressions
of it are fresh upon the soul, he does but deceive himself: For it
is with the heart, as it is with melted wax; if the seal be clapped
to it presently, it will receive a fair impression; but if it be let
alone, but for a little while, you can make none at all; it was
therefore David's great care and wisdom to set about the work of
religion under the first impetus, or vigorous motion of his heart
and affections. Psalm. 119: 60. "I made haste, and delayed not to
keep your commandments." Multitudes of souls have perished by these
delays. It is a temptation incident to all that are under beginning
convictions, especially young persons, whom the devil persuades that
it were no better them madness in them to abridge and deny
themselves so much delight and pleasure, and steep their youthful
thoughts in such a melancholy subject as religion is.
    Thirdly, If all this will not do, but convictions still
continue to get ground in the conscience, then he endeavors to
scare and fright them out of their convictions, by representing to
them the inward terrors, troubles, and despairs into which they are
about to plunge themselves, and that henceforth they must never
expect a pleasant day, or comfortable hour. Thus does the God of
this world blind the minds of them that believe not, both by
hindering the access of light to the mind, and the influence of it
upon the heart.
    Thirdly, There is yet one policy of Satan to keep souls in
darkness, and that is, by the misapplication of truth; persuading
them, that whatever they read or hear of the misery and danger of
christless and unregenerate persons, does not in the least touch or
concern them, but the more notorious and profane part of the world;
and by this policy he blinds the minds of all civil and moral
persons. Thus the "Pharisees trusted in themselves that they were
righteous, and despised others. And so the Laodiceans thought
themselves rich, and increased with goods; that is, in a very safe
and good condition. Now there are divers things notably improved by
Satan's policy, in order to these misapplications of truth. As,
    First, The freedom of their lives from the most gross
pollutions of the world, Mat. 19: 20. "All these things have I kept
from my youth up." A civil, sober course of life is a must effectual
blind before the eyes of many n man's conscience.
    Secondly, It is the policy of Satan to prevent convictions by
conviction; I mean effectual convictions, by convictions that have
been ineffectual, and are now vanished away. Thus the troubles that
some persons have been under, must pass for their conversion, though
the temper of their heart be the same it was: Their ineffectual
troubles are made use of by the devil to blind them in the true
knowledge and apprehension of their condition. For these men and
women can speak of the troubles they have had for sin, and the many
tears they have shed for it; whereby thorough conviction is
effectually prevented.
    Thirdly, Gifts and knowledge are improved by the policy of
Satan against the true knowledge of Jesus Christ, and our own estate
by nature. As conviction is improved by Satan's policy against
conviction, so is knowledge against knowledge. This was the case of
them in Romans 2: 17, 18. "You are called a Jew, and rest in the
law, and make your boast of God, and know his will, and approves
the things that are excellent; being instructed out of the law, and
are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind," &c. And
this is the temptation and delusion of knowing persons, who are so
far from being blind in their own account, that they account
themselves the guides of the blind: Yet who blinder than such men?
    Fourthly, External reformation is improved by the policy of
Satan against true spiritual reformation, and passes current up and
down the world for conversion; though it serve only to strengthen
Satan's interest in the soul, Matthew. 12: 44. and for want of a real
change of heart, does but increase their sin and misery, 2 Pet. 2:
20. This is the generation that is pure in their own eyes, and yet
are not washed from their filthiness. The cleanness of their hands
blinds them in discovering the foulness of their hearts.
    Fifthly, The policy of Satan improves diligence in some duties,
against the convictions of neglect in other duties. The external
duties of religion, as hearing, praying, fasting, against the great
duties of repenting and believing. This was their case, Isaiah 58: 2,
3. "Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation
that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinances of their God.
They ask of me the ordinances of justice, they take delight in
approaching to God. Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and you
see not? Wherefore have we afflicted our souls, and you take no
knowledge?" Thus duty is improved against duty, the externals
against the internals of religion, and multitudes are blinded this
way.
    Sixthly, The policy of Satan improves zeal against zeal; and
thereby blinds a great part of the world: he allows men to be
zealous against a false religion, if thereby he may prevent them
from being zealous in the true religion. He diverts their zeal
against their own sins, by spending it against other men's. Thus
Paul was once blinded by his own zeal for the law, Acts 22: 3. And
many men, at this day, satisfy themselves in their own zeal against
the corruptions of God's worship, and the superstitions of others,
who never felt the power of true religion upon their own hearts; a
dangerous blind of Satan.
    Seventhly, The policy of Satan improves the esteem and respect
men have for the people of God against their great duty and interest
to become such themselves, Rev. 3: 1. "You have a name that you
live, but you are dead." It is enough to many men that they
obtain acceptance among the saints, though they be none of that
number; the good opinion of others begets and confirms their good
opinion of themselves.
    Eighthly, The policy of Satan improves soundness of judgment,
against soundness of heart. An orthodox head against an orthodox
heart and life; dogmatic faith, against justifying faith. This was
the case of them before-mentioned, Romans 2: 18, 19. Men satisfy
themselves, that they have a sound understanding, though, at the
same time, they have a very rotten heart. It is enough for them that
their heads are regular, though their hearts and lives be very
irregular.
    Ninthly, The policy of Satan improves the blessings of God
against the blessings of God, blinding us by the blessings of
providence, so as not to discern the want of spiritual blessings:
persuading men that the smiles of providence in their prosperity,
success, and thriving designs in the world, are good evidences of
the love of God to their souls, not at all discerning how the
prosperity of fools deceives them, and that riches are given often
to the hurt of the owners thereof.
    Tenthly, The policy of Satan improves comfort against comfort,
false and ungrounded comforts under the word, against the real
grounds of comfort lying in the soul's interest in Christ. Thus many
men finding a great deal of comfort in the promises, are so blinded
thereby, as never to look after union with Christ, the only solid
ground of all true comfort, Heb. 6: 6, 9.
    And thus you see how the god of this world blinds the minds
of them that believe not, and how the gospel is hid to those who
are lost.
    
    We have shown already what the blinding the mind, or hiding of
the gospel from it is; it has also been demonstrated that the gospel
is hid, and the minds of many blinded under it; you have also seen
what policies Satan uses to blind the minds of men, even in the
clearest light of the gospel. It remains now that I open to you the
dreadful nature of this judgment of God upon the souls of men, and
then make application of the whole.
    There are many judgments of God inflicted upon the souls and
bodies of men in this world; but none of them are so dreadful as
those spiritual judgments are which God inflicts immediately upon
the soul; and among spiritual judgments few or none are of a more
dreadful nature and consequence than this of spiritual blindness;
which will appear by considering,
    First, The subject of this judgment, which is the soul, and
the principal power of the soul, which is the mind and
understandings faculty; the soul is the most precious and invaluable
part of man, and the mind is the superior and most noble power of
the soul; it is to the soul what the eye is to the body, the
directive faculty. The bodily eye is a curious, tender, and most
precious part of the body. When we would express the value of a
thing, we say, we prize it as our eyes. The loss of the eyes is a
sore loss, we lose a great part of the comfort of our souls by it.
Yet such an affliction (speaking comparatively) is but a trifle to
this. If our bodily eyes be blinded, we cannot see the sun, but if
our spiritual eye be blinded, we cannot see God, we wander in the
paths of sin, 1 John 2: 11. We are led blindfold to hell by Satan,
as the Syrians were in Samaria, 2 Kings 6: 19, 20. And then our eyes
like theirs will be opened to see our misery when it is too late.
"The light of the body is the eye, (says Christ). If therefore
your eye be single, your whole body shall be full of light; but if
your eye be evil, your whole body shall be full of darkness. If
therefore the light that is in you be darkness, how great is that
darkness?" Mat. 6: 22, 23. By the eye he means the practical
judgment, the understanding faculty, which is the seat for
principles, the common treasury of the rules of practice, according
unto which a man's life is formed, and his way directed. If
therefore that power of the soul be darkened, how great must that
darkness be; for now the blind lead the blind, and both fall into
the ditch. The blind judgment misguides the blind-affections, and
both fall into hell. O what a sad thing is it, that the devil should
lead that that leads you! That he should sit at the helm, and steer
your course to damnation! The blinding of this noble faculty
precipitates the soul into the most dangerous course; persecution,
by this means, seems to be true zeal for God, John 16: 2. "They that
persecute you shall think that they do God service.  Paul once
thought truly with himself, that he ought to do many "things
contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth," Acts 26: 9. that is He
thought he had pleased God, when he was imprisoning and persecuting
his people, as many do at this day; it will make a man to sin
conscientiously, which is a very dangerous way of sinning, and
difficult to be reclaimed.
    Secondly, It is a dreadful judgment, if we consider the object
about which the understanding is blinded, which is Jesus Christ, and
union with him; regeneration, and the nature and necessity thereof.
For this blindness is not universal, but respective and particular.
A man may have abundance of light and knowledge in things natural
and moral; but spiritual things are hidden from his eyes. Yes, a man
may know spiritual things in a natural way, which increases his
blindness; but he cannot discern them spiritually; this is a sore
judgement, and greatly to be bewailed. "You have hid these things
(said Christ) from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them unto
babes," Mat. 11: 21. Learned and knowing men are ignorant of those
things, which very babes in Christ understand. They are prudent in
the management of earthly affairs; but to save their own souls they
have no knowledge. They are able, with Berengarius, to dispute
of everything investigable by the light of nature; yes, to open
the scripture solidly, and defend the doctrines and truths of
Christ against his adversaries successfully; and yet blinded
in the great mystery of regeneration, Blindness in part, (says the
apostle) is happened unto Israel? and that indeed was the principal
part of knowledge, namely, the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and
him crucified, we see farther than they. The literal knowledge of
Jesus Christ shines clearly in our understanding. We are only
blinded about those things which should give us saving interest in
him, about the effectual application of Christ to our own souls.
    Thirdly, The dreadful nature of this spiritual blindness
farther appears from the consideration of the season in which it
befalls men, which is the very time of God's patience, and the only
opportunity they have for salvation; after these opportunities are
over, their eyes will be opened to see their misery, but alas, too
late. Upon this account, Christ shed those tears over Jerusalem,
Luke 19: 42. "O that you had known, at least in this your day, the
things that belong to your peace; but now they are hid from your
eyes." Now the season of grace is past and gone; opportunities are
the golden spots of time, and there is much time in a short
opportunity, as there are many pieces of silver in one piece of
gold. Time signifies nothing when opportunities are gone, to be
blinded in the very season of salvation, is the judgment of all
judgments, the greatest misery incident to man; to have our eyes
opened when the seasons of salvation are past, is but an aggravation
of misery: there is a twofold opening of men's eyes to see their
danger, namely,
    ]. Graciously to prevent danger.
    2. Judicially to aggravate misery.
    They whose eves are not opened graciously in this world, to see
their disease and remedy in Christ, shall have their eyes opened
judicially in the world to come, to see their disease without any
remedy. If God open them now, it is by way of prevention; if they be
not opened until then, it will produce desperation.
    Fourthly, The horrible nature of this judgement farther appears
from the exceeding difficulty of curing it, especially in men of
excellent natural endowments and accomplishments, John 9: 40, 41.
"And some of the Pharisees which were with him, heard these words,
and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If you
were blind, you should have no sin: but now you say, We see: therefore
your sin remains," q. d. the pride and conceitedness of your heart
and obstinacy and incurableness to your blindness; these are "the
blind people that have eyes;" Isaiah 63: 8. In seeing they see not.
The conviction of such men is next to an impossibility.
    Fifthly, The design and end of this blindness under the gospel
is most dreadful; so says my text, "The God of this world has
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." Answerable whereunto are those words, Isaiah 6: 10.
"Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and
shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their
ears, and understand with their hearts, and convert, and be healed.
So that it is plain, this blinding is a prelude to damnation, as the
covering of Haman's face was to his destruction. When the Lord has
no purpose of grace and mercy to a man's soul, then, to bring about
the damnation of that man by a righteous permission, many occasions
of blindness befall him, which Satan improves effectually unto his
eternal ruin; among which fatal occasions, blind guides and
scandalous professors are none of the least; they shall be fitted
with ministers suitably to their humours, which shall speak smooth
things: If a man walk in the spirit and falsehood, (I. e. by an "en
dia duoin", - the spirit of falsehood) do lie, sayings I will
prophesy to you of wine and strong drink, he shall even be the
prophet of this people: and the slips and falls of professors shall
do the devil not a little service in this his fatal design; Mat. 18:
7. "Woe to the world because of offences." This shall blind them, and
harden them to purpose. Thus you see what a dreadful judgment this
is, a stroke of God upon the soul, which cuts off all the present
comforts of Christ and religion from it, takes away the bridle of
restrains from sin, and makes way for the final ruin of the soul. A
far greater judgment it is than the greatest calamity or affliction
which can befall us in this world. If our names suffer by the
greatest reproaches, our bodies by the most painful diseases, our
estates by the greatest losses; if God strike every comfort we have
in this world dead by affliction; all this is nothing, compared with
this blinding judgment of God upon the soul; for they may come from
the tender love of God to us, Heb. 12: 6. but this is the effect of
his wrath; they may cleanse sin, Isaiah 28: 9. but this increases it;
they often prove occasions of conversion, Job 36: 8, 9. but this is
the great obstruction to it. In a word, they only wound the flesh,
and that with a curable wound; but this stabs the soul, and that
with a mortal wound.
     
                     First use, of information.
     
    Inference 1. If this be the case of the unbelieving world, to
be so blinded by the God of this world; How little should we value
the censures and slanders of the blind world! Certainly they should
move no other affection but pity in our soul: if their eyes were
opened, their mouths would be shut; they would never traduce
religion, and the sincere profession of it as they do, if Satan had
not blinded their minds: they speak evil of the things they know
not; their reproaches, which they let fly so freely, are but so many
arrows shot by the blind man's bow, which only stick in our clothes,
and can do us no hurt, except we thrust them onward by our own
discontent to the wounding of our spirits. "I could almost be proud
upon it, said Luther, that I have got an ill name among the worst of
men." Beware, Christians that you give them no occasion to blaspheme
the name of your God, and then never trouble yourselves, however
they use your names. If they tread it in the dirt now, God (as one
speaks) will take it up, wash off all the dirt, and deliver it to
you again clear and shining. Should such men speak well of us, we
might justly suspect ourselves of some iniquity which administers to
them the occasions of it.
    Inference. 2. How absurd and dangerous must it be for Christians to
follow the examples of the blind world? Let the blind follow the
blind, but let not those whom God has enlightened do so. Christians,
never let those lead you, who are led blindfold by the devil themselves.
The holiness and heavenliness of Christians was accustomed to set the
world a wondering that they would not run with them into the
same excess of riot, 1 Pet. 4: 4. But sure, since God has opened
your eyes, and showed you the dangerous courses they walk in, it
would be the greatest wonder of all, if you should be the companions
of such men, and tread in the steps of their examples. Christian, as
humble and lowly thoughts as you have of yourself, yet I would have
you understand yourself to be too good to be the associate of such
men. If they will walk with you in the way of duty and holiness, let them
come and welcome; receive them with both arms, and be glad of their
company; but beware you walk not in their paths, lest they be a
snare unto you. Did they see the end of their way, they would never
walk in it themselves; why then will you walk with them who do see
it?
    Inference. 3. If this be so, Let Christians be exact and circumspect
in their walking, lest they lay a stumbling block before the blind.
It is a great sin to do so in a proper sense, Lev. 19: 14. "You
shall not put a stumbling-block before the blind." And a far greater
to do it in a metaphorical sense, Romans 14: 18. It is the express
will of God, "that no man put a stumbling block, or an occasion to
fall in his brother's way." It is an argument of little regard to
the honor of Christ, or the souls of men, so to do. O professors,
look to your steps; the devil desires to make use of you for such
purposes. The sins of thousands of others, who make no profession of
godliness, will never so fit his purpose for the blinding of those
men's eyes, as the least slip or failing of yours will do. It is the
living bird that makes the best stale to draw others into the net:
the grossest wickedness of profane sinners passes away in silence,
but all the neighborhood shall ring with your miscarriages. "A
righteous man falling, down before the wicked, is as a troubled
fountain and a corrupt spring," Proverbs 25: 26. The scandalous falls
of good men are like a bag of poison cast by Satan into the spring
from whence the whole town is supplied with water. You little know
what mischief you do, and how many blind sinners may fall into hell
by your occasion.
    Inference. 4. How dangerous a thing is zeal in a wicked man? It is
like a sharp sword in a blind man's hand, or like a high mettle in a
blind horse. How much has the church of God suffered upon this
account, and does suffer at this day: The world has ever been full
of such blind and blustering zeal, which, like a hurricane,
overturns all that stands in its way: yes, as we noted before, it
makes a man a kind of conscientious persecutor. I confess it is
better for the persecutor himself to do it ignorantly, because
ignorance leaves him in a capacity for mercy, and sets him a degree
lower than the malicious, enlightened persecutor, 1 Tim. 1: 13. else
it were the dreadful case described in Heb. 10. But yet, as it is,
John 16: 2 these are the fierce and dreadful enemies of the church
of God. Such a man was Paul, a devout persecutor, and such
persecution God afterward suffered to befall himself, Acts 13: 50.
"But the Jews stirred up the devout and honorable women, and the
chief men of that city; and raised persecution against Paul and
Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts." An erroneous
conscience binds, as well as an informed conscience, and wherever
God gives such men opportunity to vent the spleen and rage of their
hearts upon his people, they will be sure to do it to purpose. With
other men Gamaliel's counsel may have some influence, and they may
be afraid lest they be found fighters against God; but blind zeal
spurs on, and says, as Jehu did, "Come, see my zeal for the Lord of
Hosts." O blind sinners, be sure of your mark before you discharge
your arrows. If you shoot at a wicked man, as you suppose him, and
God finds one of his dear children wounded or destroyed, what
account will you give of that fact to God when you shall come before
his judgment-seat?
     
                    Second use, of exortation.
     
    This point is very improveable by way of exhortation. Both,
    1. Unto those who are blinded by the God of this world.
    2. To those that are enlightened in the knowledge of Christ, by
the true God.
    First, To those who are still blinded by the God of this world,
to whom the Lord has not given unto this day eyes to see their
misery in themselves, or their remedy in Christ, so as to make an
effectual application of him to their own souls. To all such my
counsel is,
    1. To get a sense of your own blindness.
    2. To seek out for a cure, while yet it may be had.
    First, Labor to get a deep sense of the misery of such a
condition; for until you be awakened by conviction, you can never be
healed. O that you did but know the true difference between common
and saving light; the want of this keeps you in darkness: You think
because you know the same things that the most unsanctified men
does, that therefore there is no difference between his knowledge
and yours; and are therefore ready to say to them, as Job to his
friends, "Lo, mine eye has seen all this, mine ear has heard and
understood it: what you know, the same do I know also; I am not
inferior unto you," Job 13: 1, 2. But O that you would be convinced
that your knowledge vastly differs from the knowledge of believers.
Though you know the same things that they do, it is a knowledge of
another kind and nature. You know spiritual things in another way,
merely by the light of reason, assisted and improved by the common
light of the gospel; they know the same things by spiritual
illumination, and in an experimental way. 1 John 2: 20. "You have an
unction from the holy One, and you know all things." Their knowledge
is practical, yours is idle. They are working out their salvation,
by that light which God has given them, Psalm. 111: 10. Their
knowledge of God and Christ produces the fruits of faith, obedience,
and mortification, and heavenly-mindedness in them: it has no such
fruits in you; whatever light there be in your understandings, it
makes no alteration at all upon your hearts. The light brings them
to heaven, John 17: 3. Yours shall be blown out by death, 1 Cor. 13:
8. and yourselves left in the mists of eternal darkness, except your
eyes be opened seasonably by the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
Conviction is a great part of your cure.
    Secondly, Labor to act a remedy for this dangerous disease of
your minds: "Awake to righteousness, and sin not, for some have not
the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame," 1 Cor. 15: 34.
These things speak encouragement to you, though it be a sore
judgement that lies upon you, and very difficult to be removed: yet
remember Jesus Christ is commissioned by God the Father to open the
blind eyes, Isaiah 13: 6, 7. and this excellent physician be speaks
you for his patients, Rev. 3: 18. "Anoint your eyes, (says he)
with eye-salve that you may see. Yes, the most enlightened
Christians were once as dark and blind in spiritual things as you
are, and Christ has cured them, Eph. 5: 8. "Once were you darkness,
now are you light in the Lord." Attend therefore upon the ordinances
of the gospel diligently; that is God's enlightening instrument by
which he couches those cataracts which blind the eyes of men's
understandings, Acts 26: 28. And if ever you will have your eyes
opened, allow yourselves time to ponder and consider what you hear.
The duty of meditation is a very enlightening duty: above all, cry
to the Lord Jesus Christ, as that poor man did, "Lord, that mine
eyes may be opened, that I may receive my sight. Say, Lord, this is
my disease and danger, that in seeing I see not. Others see natural
things in a Spiritual way, while I see spiritual things only in a
natural way. Their light is operative upon their hearts, mine is but
an idle impractical notion of religion, which brings forth no fruit
of holiness. Their knowledge sets their hands a work in duties of
obedience; mine only sets my tongue a work in discourses of those
things which my heart never felt. Lord, open mine eyes, and make me
to see out of this obscurity: All the light that is in me is but
darkness. O Lord, enlighten my darkness, enlighten mine eyes, lest I
sleep the sleep of death.
    Secondly, Let it be a word of counsel and exhortation to such
as once were blind, but do now see.
    First, I beseech you, bless God for the least degree of
spiritual illumination. "Truly light is sweet, and it is a pleasant
thing for the eyes to behold the sun," Eccles. 11: 7. But O how
sweet is spiritual light! and what a pleasant thing to behold the
Sun of righteousness! Blessed are your eyes, for they see God has
brought you out of darkness into marvelous light. And marvelous
indeed it must needs be, when you consider how many wise and prudent
men are under the power of spiritual darkness, while such babes as
you are enlightened, Mat. 11: 21;. It greatly affected the heart of
Christ; O let it affect yours also.
    Secondly, Labor to get a clearer sight of spiritual things
every day. For all spiritual light is increasing light, "which
shines more and more unto the perfect day, Proverbs 4: 18. O! if a
little spiritual light be so comfortable, what would more be? The
wisdom of God is a manifold wisdom, Eph. 3: 10. The best of us see
but little of it. Labor therefore to know spiritual things more
extensively, and more experimentally, Phil. 2: 8, 9. Be still
increasing in the knowledge of God.
    Thirdly, Walk as men whose eyes are opened. "Once you were in
darkness, now are you light in the Lord; walk as children of the
light," Eph. 5: 8. else your light will but aggravate your sin.
Remember how it displeased God, that Solomon's heart was turned from
the Lord God of Israel who appeared to him twice, 1 Kings 11: 9.
Remember how angry God was with the Heathens for abusing the dim
common light of nature, Romans 1: 21. How much more evil is it in you
to abuse the most precious light that shines in this world? and
what mischievous effects the abuse of your light will have upon this
blind world? It was a smart rebuke given once by an Atheist to a
good man, who being asked by him how he could satisfy his conscience
to live as he did? Nay rather, said the Atheist, I wonder how you
can satisfy yourself to live as you do; for did I believe as you do,
that there is such a Christ, and such a glory as you believe there
are, I would pray and live at another rate than you do.