For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?
~ 2 Corinthians 2:15-16
But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.
~ 2 Corinthians 3:14
At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
~ Matthew 11:25
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
~ 1 Corinthians 1:18
Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
~ 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11
Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
~ Matthew 13:13-15
The Blinding Policies of Satan Opened, As the Cause of Unbelief, and Forerunner of Destruction, by John Flavel. The following contains an excerpt from his work, “The Method of Grace in the Gospel Redemption”.
The blinding Policies of Satan opened, as the cause of Unbelief, and Forerunner of Destruction.
2 Cor. 4: 3, 4.
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.
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 Saviour 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 centre 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 laboured in vain, and spent my strength for nought; 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 shew you where it is that all our endeavours are obstructed, so that we can move the design no further, with all our labouring 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 vail 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 judgement 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 judgement inflicted upon the souls of men, viz. 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 endeavours, is a hidden gospel unto some, this is the sorest, and most dreadful judgement.
Secondly, We have here an account of that wicked instrument by whom this judgement is inflicted, viz. Satan, called here (by a mimesis) the god of this world; not simply and properly, but because he challenges to himself the honour 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 no “to hegemonikon”, 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, i.e. 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,” Isa. 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 wheresoever 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 applieth 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.
Doct. 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 shew 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.
Fifthly, 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, Isa. 7: 9, 10. “And he said, Go, and tell this people; hear ye indeed, but understand not; and, see ye 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 shew 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. St. Augustin confesseth, that before his conversion he was filled with offence and contempt of the simplicity of the gospel. Dedignabur esse parvulus, saith he, I scorned to become a child again. And that great Bradwardine, the profound doctor, who was learned, usque ad stuporem, even to a wonder, professed, that when he first read Paul’s epistles, he despised them, because he found not in them, metaphysicum ingenium, 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 thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth; because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast 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 thy name!” So Rom. 2: 19. “And art confident that thou thyself art 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, whilst 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, yea, 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 whilst the god of this world, “that strong man armed keepeth 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, whilst they remain in the state of nature and unregeneracy, plainly shew 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, Prov. 21: 2. “Every way of a man is right in their own eyes,” and partly by self-ignorance, Rev. 3: 17. “Thou saidst I am rich, and have need of nothing, and knowest not that thou art 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, Matth. 11: 12. “from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth 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 chuse 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 burthen of sin.
Sixthly, The pride and self-conceitedness of many thousands who profess Christianity, plainly shew their minds to be blinded by the sophistry of Satan, and that they do not understand themselves, and the woful state of their own souls. Those that see God in the clearest light, abhor themselves in the deepest humility, Isa. 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 useth to blind the minds of them that believe not, and we shall find there are three sorts of policies practised 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 art, 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 comely stile, befits the lips of Christ’s ambassadors; they should not be rude 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 bemist poor ignorant souls, and nullify the design of preaching: for every thing 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 thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee, as my people; and they hear thy words, but they will not do them; for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And lo! thou art 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 subtilty 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 contemn 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. Psal. 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 labours 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 betimes, 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, Matth. 13: 19. When any “one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth 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 labours 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 destroyeth much good.
Secondly, No sooner does the god of this world observe the light of truth begin to operate upon the heart, but he obstructeth 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, i.e. 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. Psal. 119: 60. “I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy 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 endeavours 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 whatsoever 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 Rom. 2: 17, 18. “Thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, and knowest his will, and approves the things that are excellent; being instructed out of the law, and art confident that thou thyself art 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, Matth. 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, Isa. 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 thou seest not? Wherefore have we afflicted our souls, and thou takest 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. “Thou hast a name that thou livest, but thou art dead.” It is enough to many men that they obtain acceptation 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 judgement, against soundness of heart. An orthodox head against an orthodox heart and life; dogmatical faith, against justifying faith. This was the case of them before-mentioned, Rom. 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 blindeth the minds of them that believe not, and how the gospel is hid to them that are lost.