Blinded by Satan
“The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not.”— 2 Corinthians iv. 4.
THE practice of blinding men is a horrible process, too horrible for us to say another word about it; but there is also a spiritual blindness which comes upon some men. These are, to begin with, unbelievers. The god of this world does not blind believers; but ho blinds the minds of them which believe not. It is, therefore, a very dangerous thing not to believe on the Son of God. The penalty of unbelief is death and condemnation; and that penalty begins to fall on men when, in consequence of their unbelief, their foolish heart is darkened, their intellect loses the power to perceive spiritual objects, and the god of this world blinds their mental vision. Ah, my hearers, how anxious Satan is to secure your destruction, since, rather than that you should see the saving light, he takes the trouble to blind your eyes! God grant that no man here may die under this dreadful deprivation of light, which is caused by Satanic influence upon the minds of men who have not believed in Jesus!
Remember that this blindness to spiritual things is quite consistent with much sharpness as to natural things. A man may be a very keen politician; he may be a first-rate man of business; he may be an eminent scientist, a profound thinker, and yet he may be blinded as to spiritual truths. How often is it true, “Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes”! As an old writer says, “Poor, ignorant men often find the door to heaven, and enter in, while the learned are looking for the latch.” Yes, a man may have clear eyes for worldly things; he may be very keen as to his insight into the problems of life; and yet the God of this world may have blinded his eyes.
What is more remarkable still, a man may have much Scriptural knowledge; he may understand, in the letter, the things of the kingdom of God; he may be very orthodox in his beliefs, and may be able to give an answer to those who ask him what he believes, and why he believes; but still he may have no spiritual perception of the reality of these things. A person may know something of botany from books, and he may even understand the Linnaean system of classifying plants; but he may never, after all, have seen the primrose by the river’s brim, nor have gathered a single flower out of the garden. He is a poor botanist, is he not? He who has studied natural history in his own chamber, but has never seen a living animal, knows very little about the subject after all. We have many round about us, who can talk of heaven and hell, and sin and salvation, and Christ and the Holy Spirit, who nevertheless have never had one true perception of the meaning of any of these words. They see, but perceive not; they hear, but do not understand; they are unbelievers, and the god of this world has blinded their minds.
Now, I am going to say to-night, first, that this blindness is very common; secondly, that it is wrought by the evil one upon men in different ways; and, thirdly, I shall speak upon the kind of treatment that this blindness requires.
I. First, then, THIS BLINDNESS IS VERY COMMON.
It is manifested in some by occupation with this world. Here is a man, who has lived in this world for a good many years; and all that while he has been thinking, working, proposing, projecting, but what about? Why, about this world! He has generally been concerned with a trinity of questions— “What shall I eat? What shall I drink? Wherewithal shall I be clothed?” This man believes that he is to live for ever in another world, that this present life is only like the porch of a house, but that the state to come is the house itself. All these years, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy— may I say eighty years?— this man has never thought about the eternal world, but only about the temporary world; he has never thought about where he is to dwell for ever, but has spent all his power and strength upon the passage to it. This is so unreasonable that I am sure he must be blind; I cannot account for his folly anyhow else. Surely, the soul is more important than the body. We think more of the body than we do of the garment it wears; but the body, after all, is only the garment of the soul; the true ego, the I, myself, is my soul. Am I never to think of that, but only to be thinking of my earthly house, my food, my garments, my daily work? That is the kind of thing that a brute would think of; oxen and asses think of what they shall eat, and what they shall drink, and where they shall lie down, if they think at all; and is this all of which you and I think? Surely, that occupation of the mind upon what must be of secondary consideration is a proof that the god of this world hath blinded the mind.
I will give you another token, from a different quarter, and that is, the extreme easiness of conscience which we see in many men and women. They can commit a great sin, wash their hands, and then have done with it, as if the very washing of the hand or the wiping of the mouth was quite enough to put away all thought of the wrong. Many will sit here to-night, who have, through a long life, committed a hundred sins of which they would be ashamed to be reminded, and yet they are not ashamed of them. They would only be ashamed to be found out; they are not ashamed of the sin itself. A man truly awakened by the Spirit of God feels the remembrance of his sin to sting him as with scorpions. He cannot bear it. But the great mass of people do a thousand wrong things, and yet they are not troubled, but feel quite at their ease. Some of you are probably within a very short time of death and judgment, and yet you can make sport of sin. How often does it happen that people come to the place of worship, and go their way, having rejected solemn appeals: and they will never hear any more! They have had their last warning. Oh, if they could but know that, during the week, they will fall down dead, or be laid aside by sickness, never to leave the bed again! Yet they trifle, on the brink of fate, on the very verge of everlasting woe. If you saw a man going straight on to the very brink of some dreadful precipice, and you saw him about to take another step, you would say, “That man is blind. I am sure that he is, or else he would not act like that.” People do not go into terrible danger with their eyes open; yet there are many of our fellow-men, perhaps many of ourselves, going right on, carelessly and heedlessly, to the very brink of the awful abyss without a thought of danger. They must be blind. This horrible peace of conscience, this quenching of the Spirit whenever conscience does stir itself, this playing and trifling with death and judgment, prove that they are blind.
To give you another specimen, there are many who have presumptuous hopes about the future; at any rate, they do not trouble themselves. I do not know why they are so easy; but there are different forms of presumption which enable them to look into the future without fear. One says, “Well, you see, I was christened when I was a child, and I was confirmed as a youth.” Another says, “I have always attended the meeting-house. I am never absent from any of the services. I have subscribed my guinea to the hospital. I am kind to everybody. I think that most people would give me a good name.” Their dependence is on that sort of thing; and they have never looked at what is really wanting. They will not stay to hear that word, “Ye must be born again.” They will not listen to Christ when he says, “He that believeth not shall be damned,” whatever his profession or moral character may be. No; but they go on dancing to destruction with a light and merry heart. Surely these people are blinded by Satan.
Then see another sort of people, and note their readiness to sin. They yield to the tempter, they yield at the first request; there is no need for Satan to importune them to evil. They seem always ready for it, especially if they think that they can escape from trouble by doing wrong. Why, are there not many persons who would tell a lie to save a sixpence? Ah! to save a penny? The shop was open this morning; the profit made did not amount to twopence, but still the Sabbath was broken for that paltry sum. How many are selling their souls, not to gain the whole world, nay, not to gain a fourpenny piece! They think so little of their souls, and their eternal destiny, that, for the sake of a drop of beer, for the sake of an evening’s amusement for the sake of pleasing a foolish companion, they will fling their souls away, as if they were only pebble stones not worth the keeping. Ah, sirs, such people must be blind! People who have had their eyes opened spiritually have been known to die sooner than do the least thing that was wrong. Remember the man who was told that, if he would give one farthing to be spent in incense to the heathen gods, his life should be spared; but the man knew the Lord, and therefore he would sooner die than give a single mite towards the worship of idols. Men of God have cheerfully laid down their lives to defend even a slight point of God’s eternal truth; but these men who think nothing of such holy heroism, and are willing to lose their souls for a paltry pleasure, why, they must be blind!
I need not stay to say more except this one thing. This blindness shows itself in trifling with eternal things. There is a person here who, not long ago, was very greatly aroused and awakened, even resolved to seek the Saviour there and then; but when in the enquiry-room he put off the final decision. There was no reason why he should put it off, except the reluctance of his mind to accept Christ. That was not the first time that he had procrastinated, and postponed; yet he is still putting off his reception of Christ. He is not sure that he will live to get home to-night; he is not certain that, should he fall asleep to-night on his bed, he will wake up in this world in the morning; yet he leaves his soul in jeopardy, as if it were a matter of very small concern. A person camo here, not long ago, who had taken off a diamond ring when he washed his hands; and all the while he was sitting here, he kept wondering what would become of that ring, whether, when they emptied the water out of the basin, it would be thrown away. He was so anxious about his ring, that he hurried home as quickly as ever he could after the service; he did not wait a week to see about it; yet there are here men who have waited weeks, months, years, ah, many years, procrastinating, and procrastinating! They would not leave their worldly business like that; but they leave the eternal business of salvation or damnation as though it were but as a sere leaf that might be blown whichever way the wind might please. Such people must be blind; I am sure they must be blind. Oh, that they were wise enough to cry, in the language of Charles Wesley’s hymn,—
“O God, my inmost soul convert,
And deeply on my thoughtful heart
Eternal things impress;
Give me to feel their solemn weight,
And trembling on the brink of fate,
Wake me to righteousness!”
I could heap up many proofs that this blindness is very common; but I have not the time to do so, for we must pass on to consider the next point.
II. Secondly, I want to prove to you, very earnestly and very pointedly, that THIS BLINDNESS IS WROUGHT BY THE EVIL ONE IN DIFFERENT WAYS.
In some, it comes by utter worldliness. There are some people who say, “We cannot attend to that matter; we have enough to do to earn our living.” Others say, “Well, thank God, we have not to earn our living by the sweat of our brow; but really we have plenty of other things to think of besides turning our attention to that Methodistic stuff.” One says, “I—, I—,” yes, you may speak it out if you like, you think that God and heaven and eternal things are trifles unworthy of your thoughts. Your house, your horse, your wife, your money, these, of course, are not trifles; these must come first. The world, the world, the world, this is in your heart, and occupies it all. Said the captain of a whaler, one day, to a man of God, who spoke to him about his soul, “Mr. Bertram, it is of no use for you to speak to me about my soul, or ask me to come to the service to-night. You see, I am out here after whales; and all the while that I was sitting, and you were talking, I should be thinking about whales; and when you gave out a hymn, I should just be thinking of whether there was a whale anywhere about. If I were to pray, I should be praying about whales. I have whales in my heart, sir; and there is no room for anything else.” It is so with many, many people. They have their business, they have set up a loom, they have an invention, they have all the materials of a building inside their hearts; and there is no room for God. Their hearts are blinded by utter worldliness.
Some, again, are blinded by the devil in a very desperate way, by love of some favourite sin. I do not hesitate to say it is a general fact that, when men kick against true religion, and when they get offended by being spoken to about it, if you could track them home, you would find in their conduct some very good reason for their opposition. I recollect that, in preaching on one occasion, I happened to allude to the pleasure it gave me to see the gleaners picking up the wheat in the harvest-time, as Ruth did, and I said, “I verily believe that there are some farmers who would rake their fields with a small tooth comb, if they could, to get every grain of the wheat up.” I noticed a respectable-looking gentleman, in the front of the gallery, get up, and go out. Somebody at the door said, “Why are you going out, Mr.______?” He replied, “I won’t stop to listen to such a fellow as that. I always rake my fields three times.” Yes, you see, it was the truth that made him angry; it is usually so. There is a reason for men being wroth with the gospel, and turning away from it, when it strikes at some of their favourite sins. Such and such a man says that he does not believe in Jesus Christ. It is not likely that he should; I will not tell you why, but his wife knows. There is another man who keeps a shop. He says that he does not want to be converted. No; if he were, he could not keep that shop; or if he did, he would have to alter the line of business in which he is engaged. Ah, the god of this world blinds men’s eyes with sin! I cannot go into all the particulars; but if there is any man here who has a pet sin that he cherishes, do not let him wonder that he cannot see the beauties of Christ, or the glories of salvation; and let him not think that we would do anything to win his approbation while he remains in love with that sin. It is with us very much as it was with Martin Luther when he said, “I could be proud to think how badly some people speak of me; for them to speak badly of me, is the highest honour that such as they are can confer upon me.” When you who are living in unchastity and dishonesty speak badly of Christ and of Christians, you only speak after your own manner; and we cannot wish you to alter your tone till God has changed your heart.
Many are blinded as to the things of God by following a party. “Well,” you say, “I could not begin to study these matters of religion, because I am linked in with such a set. I know how they would treat me; they would laugh at me first, and they would give me the cold shoulder next. No, really, my dear sir, if you knew how I am connected, you would not expect me ever to give any consideration to these doctrines that are preached, whether they be true or not.” It is a pity, it is a solemn pity, that a man should ruin his soul to keep in with his party. I rejoiced to read of the praise that was passed, in the House of Commons, the other night, upon John Bright, who deserved much more than was said, especially upon this one point, that, whenever his conscience came in conflict with his party, he followed his conscience, and let his party go where it might. Public approbation and applause were nothing to him so long as he could keep clear in the sight of God by doing what he believed to be right. Now, when he dies, every party has a word of honour for him. There is nothing lost, after all, by sticking to what you believe to be right; and if it be so in politics, how much more should it be so in the matter of religion! Cut your sinful connections, quit your evil companions. It were better to do that than to go with them, applauded and approved, and find yourself wrong at last. Oh, that men had but a grain of grit in them, so that they would never make the things of God, and heaven, and eternal realities, to hang upon the breath of men’s nostrils, or the smiles or frowns of their fellowmen! But I am afraid that a great many will never come to know Christ, because they will continue to follow their party, or the prejudice of their early education still clings to them.
A fourth way in which Satan blinds a great many, and he does it very commonly, is by raising objections to the truth. There is nothing in this world to which you cannot object. I venture to say that there is no fact, however palpable to all the senses, but what you can, if you like, find reasons for not believing it to be a fact. If somebody wore to assert that I am not here, and that I am not speaking, I have no doubt that, with proper pay, a lawyer could be found to prove it; and what a lawyer could do, a great many, who are not learned in the law, could do as well. To answer objections, is an endless task; it is like trying to empty a flowing fountain with bottomless buckets. Men do not object to the religion of Jesus Christ really and truly. It is not this to which they object; but they invent objections, they go abroad searching after objections that they may then have an excuse for rejecting Christ. In this way many prove that they are blind; they have a difficulty they cannot get over, and do not mean to get over either; and so they see not Christ.
With others, blindness is wrought by wrong inferences. It is astonishing how many eyes are blinded by wrong inferences drawn from truth. We have known one say, “Well, the mercy of God is very great; it is universal: therefore, I am sure that God will not cast us into hell.” This is a wicked lie derived from a great truth. Another says, “I read that God has an elect people.” That is most surely true; but not the inference that is drawn from it; “Therefore, if I am to be saved, I shall be saved; and if I am to be lost, I shall be lost; so that I need not trouble my head about the subject.” That is another false inference deduced from a great truth. When a man moans to commit suicide, any rope will do; and when a sinner is resolved to perish, he can always find an argument, fetched even from the truth of God itself, as the means of his own destruction. I am not going to answer any of these lies; but only to say that, by these false inferences, many a man has been blinded to his own eternal ruin.
Then there is another way of being blinded, and a very common one, too; that is, by general conceit of knowledge. I know a man stone blind of it. When I met him last, he looked at me, condescended to ask how I was, and he as much as intimated that ho was prepared for a little conversation with an inferior person occasionally, and therefore he did not mind speaking about religion with me, he himself being a very superior person indeed, knowing everything, and, if possible, a few things besides. This man called himself an agnostic; and when a man says that he is an agnostic, he is an ignoramus, that is, a person who knows nothing; yet such a man usually talks as if he knew everything, and the appendix at the end of that. He mentions Calvinism, and he says, in a tone of contempt, that his grandmother was a Calvinist! He says that he remembers the Evangelical school, but that they have nearly died out now. You have not talked long with him before you discover that the Lord Jesus Christ and he could never get on together, because the Saviour has said, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven;” and this man will never become a little child, not he! If you want the antipodes of a little child, there you have the gentleman; and he wishes you “Good afternoon,” when you begin to quote Scripture. He is not at all the person to receive any instruction of that sort. The “superior” person will always be lost, take my word for it. The more superior he is, the more sure he is to be lost; I mean not that he is superior, but that he thinks himself so, superior to all teaching. He is not prepared to be a learner, he is ready to set up as a teacher, and a master of anything you like. He is not the kind of man to enter the gates of heaven; he carries his head too high for that. He is a man of broad thought; and, of course, he goes the broad way. Narrow-minded people go in the narrow way; but then it leadeth unto life eternal, and therefore I commend it unto you.
“Broad is the road that leads to death,
And thousands walk together there;
But wisdom shows a narrower path,
With here and there a traveller.”
We have another set of people who are blinded by some special conceit of false grace. Here is a man who has attended to many duties. Some, of course, he does not care about; but he compounds for duties he does not like by attending to others that are to his taste. He does not pray; but then he sings in the choir! Communion with God— he does not know anything about that; but ho takes the sacrament! He has never repented of sin; but then he has found fault with other people for their sins, and he regards that as almost as good! He does not help the poor and needy; but then he has a capital plan for lowering the poor-rates! He is always doing some good thing or other, of a sort; but not of the sort that Scripture prescribes. As to believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, that is, by a living faith trusting him, that is beyond his range. As to seeking a new heart and a right spirit, and being converted, and turned from darkness to light, he does not know anything about that; but there has been, after all, a very great improvement in him. He has given up some very questionable practices; and, on the whole, he has done a good deal which ought to be spoken of with considerable commendation. This is the kind of gentleman who is blinded by the god of this world.
But it is idle for me to talk about people being blinded except to those who can see; for the blindest man is the man who says that he is not blind, who will not have it that he does not see everything aright, even though he has never had his eyes opened by the Lord. He says that he always could see; it is an insult to suppose that he is blind. He is like the Pharisees, who said to Jesus, “Are we blind also?” to whom Jesus answered, “If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.” This is sinning against the light; this is sinning with a vengeance. May God preserve all of us from such a sin!
III. Now I come to the most practical point, that is, THE KIND OF TREATMENT THAT THIS BLINDNESS REQUIRES. I pray God to bless to you what I have to say upon this matter.
I should say, first, clear friends, beware lest this blindness be sent as a punishment. Although our blind friends have our loving sympathy, and God blesses them, yet it must be a great calamity to be without their eyesight. Now, blindness of heart is not only a sin, but it is the punishment of sin; and it comes to many as the result of violating conscience, resisting the Holy Spirit, trifling with solemn things, and being desperately set on mischief. Oh, you who have a tender conscience, mind that you do not lose it! You who have the power to sit and hear a sermon, and to feel it, do not trifle with that holy sensitiveness. Once lost, so that you can read the Book of books, and hear the most earnest talk, and yet feel nothing, you have lost one of the greatest privileges that you ever had. May God help the man who is going on towards this fatal blindness, and stop him before he gets any further!
I would say, also, to you who are in any way blind, beware lest that blindness becomes the herald of your doom. Before Haman was hanged, the first thing that the servants did was to cover his face; and when a man is about to be lost for ever, the first thing that the devil does is to blind his eyes so that he cannot see. Now the poor blind Samson will make sport for the Philistines; now they hope that they can kill him whenever they please. Beware of a blinded conscience; it is the prelude of eternal destruction. God save you from it!
Next, if you have even a little light, value it greatly. If any one of us should be gradually losing his eyesight, I know that he would greatly prize the little sight that he had. How often have I spoken to a friend who has said, “This eye is quite gone, sir; there is just a little light left in this one, and the doctor says that I must wear a shade, and be very careful, or I may lose that.” Oh, take care of the little light you have! If you can feel a little be very tender of that feeling. If you can see a little of the beauty of Christ, be very jealous over that sight. Have I not often said that he who has starlight, if he thanks God for starlight, and uses it, will get moonlight; and he who has moonlight, and thanks God for it, and uses it, will get sunlight; and he who has the sunlight shall yet come to that light which is as of seven days in the glorious presence of God? Take care, then, of any light that you have.
And then, the next thing is, if you are at all conscious of your blindness, but do not see the full evil of sin, do not see the glory of Christ, and do not perceive the way of salvation, confess your blindness. Go home to-night; and, in your chamber, alone, acknowledge that you do not see what you ought to see, and do not feel what you ought to feel. Show your sightless eyeballs to the Saviour, who gives sight to the blind. Do not cloak your sin; confess it. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” Say with David, “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord;” so shall you also be able to say with him, “and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.”
When you have confessed your blindness, do one thing more, trust to the Lord Jesus to open your blind eyes. Put yourself consciously into the presence of the divine Saviour, and say to him, “I believe that thou art able to work this miracle of mercy. I believe that thou canst make me see the truth, and feel the truth. I believe that thou canst make me see thyself, and trust thyself. Here are my eyes. Lord, I would receive my sight! I believe that thou canst give it; give it to me now!” Ah, perhaps while I speak these words, the flash of the divine light is coming into some dark heart! Salvation does not take hours; it is in one single instant that we pass from death unto life. The moment that we believe in Jesus, we are saved. The moment that we look to him hanging on the cross, our iniquity is pardoned. God grant us that blessed look of faith to-night, each one, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.
It may help some to look to Christ if we sing a verse of that well-known hymn,—
“There is life for a look at the Crucified One;
There is life at this moment for thee;
Then look, sinner— look unto him, and be saved—
Unto him who was nail’d to the tree.’