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THE DEVICES WHEREBY THE GOD OF THIS WORLD PREVENTS THE EFFICACY OF THE GOSPEL.
But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ-should shine unto them.....2 Cor. iv. 3, 4.
1. IN a former discourse on this important passage of holy writ, I endeavoured to show the Nature and Design of the gospel of Christ, and the dreadful consequences which attend our rejecting it. And, undoubtedly, it is of so excellent a nature, and proposes a design so benevolent and glorious, that all, to whom it is offered, ought in reason and duty, to embrace it heartily and without delay; even supposing they might neglect so to do without suffering any inconvenience. But when it is furthe. considered, to what extreme and endless misery they certainly expose themselves who reject this gospel, one would suppose no child of man who reflects at all upon the subject, could hesitate one moment about it: one would imagine that motives of self-interest, at least, would prevail, where duty and gratitude had no influence; and that a fear of punishment would compel those, whom redeeming Love did not constrain, nor promises of happiness allure.
2. And, blessed be God, one or other of these considerations do, through the influence of divine grace, (absolutely needful in this weak and disordered state of human nature,) persuade many to comply with the design of this glorious gospel. But alas! this is by no means the case in general, (I speak not of Jews, Turks, and Heathens, but of professing Christians:) The generality even of these do, most certainly, reject the gospel of Christ, and neglect the
great salvation offered by it. Into the reason of this conduct it is worth our while to inquire, especially as this may be a mean of preserving us from an imitation of it, which, I am sure, is no way desirable. This I shall take occasion to do from the words of our text, where the apostle has given us a key to unlock this mystery; "The god of this world (says he) hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine unto them."
3. The inspired penman (it seems) still alludes to the case of Moses, who put a veil over his face, so that the glory of it could not be discerned by the Israelites. Thus, as he has intimated in the preceding chapter, a veil of obscurity was cast over that dispensation, (through which the Jews (whose minds also were blinded) could not discover the end and design of it. Hence they were not savingly benefited by it; it did not lead them to Christ, as was intended. Now, although the gospel be not veiled, but suffered to chine out in full lustre; yet the god of this world, industrious to prevent the salvation of mankind, by blinding the minds of then that believe not, hinders them from discerning the light of this glorious gospel, or from being enlightened by it.
Three particulars offer themselves to our consideration on this subject.
1st. Who is meant by the god of this world, and why he is so called?
2dly. Whom we are to understand by those that believe not? 3dly. How the god of this word blinds their minds?
1. With regard to the first of these, "Who is meant by the god of this world, and why he is so called;" I should have thought it unnecessary to say any thing by way of explication, had I not occasionally met with some who interpret this of Jehovah, the God of Love, the Saviour of all men, whose tender mercies are over all his works; as if he, in order to prevent the salvation of his creatures, whom he hath redeemed with his Son's most precious blood, acted the part of the grand adversary of mankind, and blinded their minds, by sin and unbelief, lest they should be enlightened by that very gospel which he has provided, in his infinite goodness, for their illumination. The bare mention of so wild a notion as this, is, with men of understanding and piety, sufficient to confute it. By the god of this world, the apostle undoubtedly means, Satan, who is elsewhere called "the prince of this world," and "the ruler of the darkness of this world," and "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that worketh in the children of dis
obedience." This apostate spirit, this enemy of God and man, (and not the GoD and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,) is doubtless concerned to hinder the success of the gospel, which is designed for the overthrow of his kingdom, and with this view exerts, to the utmost, all his power and policy from day to day, continually lying in wait to deceive, like a subtle serpent, and like a roaring lion going about seeking whom he may devour.
2. Some (wise above what is written,) would account for this expression, whereby Satan is called the god of this world, by supposing that this world was originally under the dominion of the fallen angels before their rebellion, and was the seat of their kingdom; and that upon their fall, as a punishment for their crime, it was reduced into that chaotic state, described Genesis i. 1. where we read, The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. Hence it was, they further suppose, that when the earth was put into its paradisiacal state, and man was placed in it, who they think was created to supply the place of the fallen angels,) God did not entirely banish them this world, but still permitted them to wander to and fro in it, and not only to tempt the human race, for their trial, but also to exercise some authority over the elements and other creatures; though under certain restrictions, beyond which they cannot pass. But it is certain all this is mere conjecture, without any countenance from any part of Scripture. And it is plain, Satan may be called the god of this world, with sufficient propriety, without supposing any thing of this kind, even on the same principles on which he is termed "the prince of this world," and "the ruler of the darkness of this world," and "the prince of the power of the air," and that is, because of the influence he has over mankind in general, and the use he makes of the dazzling vanities and allurements of this world, to attain and preserve that influence.
4. Accordingly, the expression here used is more properly translated, the god of this age, i. e. of the people of this world, or of mankind, while the period of this world lasts. And surely, in order to justify the apostle's manner of speaking, it is not necessary
to suppose that the people of this world build temples to Satan, or pay him a solemn and formal worship, although even that, in effect, was done by the heathen. But as Jehovah is called the GoD of his people, because they are his subjects, obedient to his will, and devoted to his service; so, for the same reason, is Satan called the god of this world. Mankind, in general, obey and serve him, and he reigns in and over them with all authority. They willingly commit sin, and therefore they are of the devil: his servants they are, because they obey him, and from him they must expect to receive their wages. They lie in wickedness (ev τω πονήρω, in the wicked one) and shall have their portion with him.
5. And this is the case of all who believe not, who have not that faith in this gospel whereof cometh salvation. For the apostle tells us in our text, that Sutan hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, and elsewhere,* that he worketh Evegyvos (worketh with energy, with mighty power) in the children of disobedience, or, as the word may be properly rendered, of unbelief. This brings me to the next particular, viz. To show,
II. Whom we are to understand by those that believe not.
And, 1st. That all infidels who do not acknowledge Jesus of Nazareth to be the Son of GOD and the Saviour of the world, nor admit the Christian revelation to be of GoD, are of the num ber of those that believe not, will not be denied by any, who know any thing even of the theory of religion. That the devil (how little soever they may think they have to do with him, though they may utterly deny his very existence, and be confident there is no such being in nature;) yet, I say, that Satan hath blinded their minds, and works in them with mighty power, with uncontrolled authority, we are well assured. It is something amazing, and what excites one's compassion rather than provokes one's indignation, to hear these creatures boast of their superior knowledge, and to see them value themselves upon their free thinking, unbiassed, they suppose, by popular prejudices; while they are in reality blinded by the god of this world, and led captive by the devil at his will, the very bond-siaves of Satan, and the dupes of a vain and deluded Surely one must pity the infatuation of these
"Pompous sons of reason idoliz'd
And vilified at once; of reason dead,
Who, as a punishment for their pride and self-conceit, and because they receive not the love of the truth that they may be saved, are given up to strong delusion to believe a lie, that they may all be damned who do not obey the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness." They pretend indeed a regard for truth, and plead strongly their right to think for themselves, a right which nobody will wish to deny them; but alas! as Dr. Young justly observes,
"While love of truth thro' all their camp resounds,
Of philosophic wit, call'd argument;
And then, exulting in their taper, cry,
Light is come into the world, but they love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.
2. But not only those who reject the Christian revelation altogether, come under the character of them that believe not: those also must be considered as included under the same denomination, who, though they admit the gospel to be of divine authority, yet neglect or renounce some of its principal privileges, and perhaps ridicule and reproach those who profess to receive them, as enthusiasts and fanatics. For instance: If the gospel indeed offer pardon of sin and acceptance with GoD, through the mediation of Christ, together with the Holy Spirit to seal these blessings upon our hearts, and to enable us to walk worthy of them; then all who deny or neglect the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of sins, do in effect deny and neglect the gospel itself, and are therefore undoubtedly blinded by the god of this world, and to be ranked among those that believe not. Yea, and,
3dly. We must give the same appellation to all who rest without saving faith: the faith which is not only an assent to, and a conviction of, the truths of the gospel; but also a dependence on its promises, and a hearty acceptance of its privileges: the faith which, besides a persuasion of what the gospel reveals in general, implies further, an entire approbation of, and hearty acquiescence in, the plan of salvation by Christ in particular: the faith which is both the evidence of things not seen, and the substance of things hoped for; whereby we are both assured of things spiritual and eternal, and anticipate the enjoyment of things heavenly and divine, alrea