Blinding the Mind

2 Cor. 4:3,4.---' But and if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled in them that are perishing: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them'[R.V.].

It does not require very much skill in reading between the lines of this letter to see that even the great Apostle's preaching was not always followed by success. But he reinforces his drooping courage in the face of failure with the remembrance of his own conversion. If the long-suffering mercy of God waited for him, while a persecutor and injurious, then, he argues, there is no reason why he should despair of others, even though they were guilty of protracted delay. This victorious hopefulness is finely expressed in the verse with which the chapter opens: 'Therefore, seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy we faint not.' The emphatic word in this verse is 'we.' it is the editorial 'we,' and the implication is that it became the writer, whose own conversion had seemed so hopeless, never to despair of his fellow-men.

At the same time, however, it was incumbent on him to ascertain the causes which were making against the success of his preaching, so that, if possible, they might be removed. Now, there were only three places where the cause could lie: first, in the message itself; secondly, in the messenger; thirdly, in its recipients. That it could not lie in the gospel message itself the apostle is at great pains to show. he points out the progressive character of Divine revelation and the advance of the gospel dispensation upon that of the Mosaic age; so that we see revelation succeeding revelation with gradual increasing clearness, till at last men beheld the 'light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.' That the cause of failure does not lie in the messenger, Paul is no less confident. He claims to be a plain straightforward preacher, not using words for the purpose of sophisticating his message, not diluting his doctrine to meet the clamor of the hour, or sacrificing effectiveness to effect; but, as he declares, 'by manifestation of the truth commending himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God.' Indeed, so confident is the Apostle that the cause of failure does not lie in himself or his message, that he definitely states where it does lie: 'If our gospel be veiled, it is veiled to them that are perishing; in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving.'

We are all of us apt, especially those who stand at a distance from the truth of Christ, in various degrees of indifference or hostility to it, to allow ourselves to suppose that in some way, which we do not trouble to define clearly to ourselves, we are not solely responsible for our condition. We can easily fall into a kind of reasoning something like this: we may say, 'I am not opposed to Christ; I am not opposed to religion, and if religion does not make a greater demand upon me than it is doing, either it must be the fault of those whose business it is to expand religion, or it may be that I have in various ways got beyond the need and call of religion.' Once we begin to make excuses for any condition of our own which gives us moments of unhappiness, it is easy to become quite fertile and eloquent. We may say that the offices of religion are dull; that they make inconvenient demands upon one's leisure or general mode of life. We may say that if religion were brighter, happier, less interfering, more in line with those other things in the world which make a claim upon us, we should of course be far readier to respond.

It is in veiw of the tendency which we all have to excuse ourselves and to put the blame elsewhere for deficiencies in our own behavior, that it is good for us to consider this great principle of St. Paul's. If Christ is not having that influence with us which He has had in other ages, which He had with our fathers, it may be because the general atmosphere of our life, the general temper of mind which we habitually practice, the regular run of our interests and ambitions may all abide in a world whose whole nature and principles are opposed to that Kingdom of God which Christ came to found.

If our gospel is veiled, said the Apostle, it is veiled to them who are drifting away from the serious view of life: in whom the god of this passing age has blinded their minds, so that the sunshine of the Good news of Christ, who is the image of God, does not dawn upon them. They are thinking of something else. They are making a noise of their own; and, therefore, it is not to be wondered at that they do not hear the faint knocking at the door of their heart, of this whispering, pleading thing which makes no noise in the world.

It is a great thing for us all, even the best of us, to realize that the holy, urgent Presence of Christ, which we have acknowledged in some great hour of our life, was there hard by us, offering itself to us, pressing in upon us, all the other days and hours, all through the flat days and the dull days and the passionately hostile days and the frankly sinful days. The reason why we heard it only in one beautiful hour was that only in that hour were we attent unto the voice of its supplication. As for the other hours, we were not free, we were not, as we say, 'At Home,' to God. Some keen, hot interest was in possession of us, so that we knew nothing and felt nothing of that deeper and holier appeal.

That is a very startling phrase in the text which speaks about the god of this world blinding people's minds. We know something about blindness: how it may come on gradually as the result of a steady coarsening of fiber and tissue, which slowly creeps like a web over the eyeball, diminishing our field of vision, until one day the net of coarsened tissue is completed and we are blind. The world is still there in all its beauty. The sun still rises and still sets. The flowers still appear in the earth. The stars come out. But we see none of these things; for we are blind.

St. Paul, in this swift, pregnant metaphor, suggests that a process of the same kind, but with far sadder consequences, may set it in our own mental and spiritual life. The delicate mechanism of the soul by which we apprehend the world of the Unseen and communicate with God may, through neglect or misuse, lose its power, so that the whole world of the Unseen, to which our souls at one time lay open, may go on shrinking and retreating until, it ceases to exist.

Any strong feeling may bind the mind---anger, envy, hatred. And so long as our soul is under the thaldrom of an unworthy thing, it is not possible for any higher aspect of life, such as comes with Christ, to find an entrance. How passion of any kind can lock and bar the door of our heart, pull down the blinds, close and bolt the shutters, so that for a time there is no world, either of the seen or of the unseen, except this intense world of our own purpose! Passion may blind a mind so that the sunshine of the gospel of Christ, who is the Image of God, cannot come to us.

Nothing could be more beautiful, more serious, than St. Paul's description of the consequence of this mental blindness which comes with absorption in the spirit of the world. The sunshine of the gospel of the Glory of Christ, who is the Image of God, does not shine upon them. They don't see certain things. That is their penalty. Life has lost for them that sense of something beyond itself which sings like a nightingale in the souls of the faithful. For in this world and beyond it we see what we want to see. We believe along the line of our own deep necessities. 'Where your treasure is,' said Jesus, 'there will your heart be also.'

It is this that accounts for the timid and frightened outlook that worldly people often have with regard to even the secular future of society. Worshipping the god of this present age, all their happiness is bound up with things as they are. But they know that this is a world of movement; and because all movement threatens the order of things which secures them in their pleasures, any prospect of change they regard with irritation and foreboding. It is all so different when we believe in Christ, when we believe that there is a Holy and Redeeming Spirit contending for a fuller expression in the lives of men. Far from being afraid of movement, we rather rejoice in it, not as a thing in itself, but as a thing which may provide an opening and opportunity for a new manifestation of God, for a new and holier establishment of things.

But it is a simple thing that St. Paul is saying here. Truth may fail with us, may fail to have access to us, not at all because truth itself has ceased to be less urgent than it ever was, and not altogether because those who proclaim the truth to us may proclaim it defectively and illustrate it obscurely. Truth may fail with us, life may fail with us, God may fail with us, says the Apostle, because, meanwhile our heart is filled with other and contrary things, our conscience is blinded with the false approvals of the world. There may, says the Apostle, be set up within us a process which gradually spreads a veil, a veil of coarsened tissue, over the eyes of our soul. In consequence, the great world which God inhabits, which Christ brought near to man, may cease even to exist for us. And so wise men, who know themselves and the dangers of the way, will see to it that their lives are brought habitually within the holy and disturbing atmosphere of serious things, that that veil which is always threatening may continually be rent asunder, and their window kept open towards Jerusalem.

In Christ, timothy.