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THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 4 - Verse 4
Verse 4. In whom. In respect to whom; among whom; or in whose hearts. The design of this verse is to account for the fact that the glory of the gospel was not seen by them. It is to be traced entirely to the agency of him whom Paul here calls "the god of this world."
The god of this world. There can be no doubt that Satan is here designated by this appellation; though some of the Fathers supposed that it means the true Gods and Clarke inclines to this opinion. In Joh 12:31, he is called "the prince of this world." In Eph 2:2, he is called "the prince of the power of the air." And in Eph 6:1,2, the same bad influence is referred to under the names of "principalities and powers," "the rulers of the darkness of this world," and "spiritual wickedness in high places." The name "god" is here given to him, not because he has any divine attributes, but because he actually has the homage of the men of this world as their god, as the being who is really worshipped, or who has the affections of their hearts in the same way as it is given to idols. By "this world" is meant the wicked world; or the mass of men. He has dominion over the world. They obey his will; they execute his plans; they further his purposes, and they are his obedient subjects. He had subdued the world to himself, and was really adored in the place of the true God. See Barnes "1 Co 10:20".
"They sacrificed to devils and not to God." Here it is meant by the declaration that Satan is the god of this world.
(1.) that the world at large was under his control and direction. He secured the apostasy, of man, and early brought him to follow his plans; and he has maintained his sceptre and dominion since. No more abject submission could be desired by him than has been rendered by the mass of men.
(2.) The idolatrous world particularly is under his control, and subject to him, 1 Co 10:20. He is worshipped there; and the religious rites and ceremonies of the heathen are in general just such as a mighty being who hated human happiness, and who sought pollution, obscenity, wretchedness, and blood, would appoint; and over all the heathen world his power is absolute. In the time of Paul, all the world, except the Jews and Christians, was sunk in heathen degradation.
(3.) He rules in the hearts and lives of all wicked men—and the world is full of wicked men. They obey him, and submit to his will in executing fraud, and rapine, and piracy, and murder, and adultery, and lewdness; in wars and fightings; in their amusements and pastimes; in dishonesty and falsehood. The dominion of Satan over this world has been, and is still, almost universal and absolute; nor has the lapse of eighteen hundred years rendered the appellation improper as descriptive of his influence, that he is the god of this world. The world pursues his plans; yields to his temptations; neglects or rejects the reign of God as he pleases; and submits to his sceptre, and is still full of abomination, cruelty, and pollution, as he desires it to be.
Hath blinded the minds of them which believe not. Of all who discern no beauty in the gospel, and who reject it. It is implied here,
The sense is, that they did not see the spiritual beauty and glory of the plan of redemption. They act in reference to that as they would in reference to this world if a bandage were over their eyes, and they saw not the light of the sun, the beauty of the landscape, the path in which they should go, or the countenance of a friend". All is dark, and obscure, and destitute of beauty to them, however much beauty may be seen in all these objects by others.
(2.) That this is done by the agency of Satan; and that his dominion is secured by keeping the world in darkness. The affirmation is direct and positive, that it is by his agency that it is done. Some of the modes in which it is done are the following:
(a.) By a direct influence on the minds of men. I do not know why it is absurd to suppose that one intellect may, in some way unknown to us, have access to another, and have power to influence it: nor can it be proved that Satan may not have power to pervert the understanding; to derange its powers; to distract its attention; and to give in view of the mind a wholly delusive relative importance to objects. In the time of the Saviour it cannot be doubted that, in the numerous cases of demoniacal possessions, Satan directly affected the minds of men; nor is there any reason to think that he has ceased to delude and destroy them.
(b.) By the false philosophy which has prevailed—a large part of which seems to have been contrived as if on purpose to deceive the world, and destroy the peace and happiness of men.
(c.) By the systems of superstition and idolatry. All these seem to be under the control of one master mind. They are so well conceived and adapted to prostrate the moral powers; to fetter the intellect; to pervert the will; to make men debased, sunken, polluted, and degraded; and they so uniformly accomplish this effect, that they have all the marks of being under the control of one mighty mind, and of having been devised to accomplish his purposes over men.
(d.) By producing in the minds of men a wholly disproportionate view of the value of objects. A very small object held before the eye will shut out the light of the sun. A piece of money of the smallest value laid on the eye will make everything appear dark, and prevent all the glory of mid-day from reaching the seat of vision. And so it is with the things of this world. They are placed directly before us, and are placed directly between us and the glory of the gospel. And the trifles of wealth and of fashion, the objects of pleasure and ambition, are made to assume an importance in view of the mind which wholly excludes the glory of the gospel, and shuts out all the realities of the eternal world. And he does it
(e.) by the blinding influence of passion and vice. Before a vicious mind, all is dark and obscure. There is no beauty in truth, in chastity or honesty, or in the fear and love of God. Vice always renders the mind blind, and the heart hard, and shrouds everything in the moral world in midnight. And in order to blind the minds of men to the glory of the gospel, Satan has only to place splendid schemes of speculation before men; to tempt them to climb the steeps of ambition; to entice them to scenes of gaiety; to secure the erection of theatres, and gambling-houses, and houses of infamy and pollution; to fill the cities and towns of a land with taverns and dram-shops; and to give opportunity everywhere for the full play and unrestrained indulgence of passion—and the glory of the gospel will be as effectually unseen as the glory of the sun is in the darkest night.
Lest the light, etc. This passage states the design for which Satan blinds the minds of men. It is because he hates the gospel, and wishes to prevent its influence and spread in the world. Satan has always hated and opposed it, and all his arts have been employed to arrest its diffusion on earth. The word light here means excellence, beauty, or splendour. Light is the emblem of knowledge, purity, or innocence; and is here and elsewhere applied to the gospel, because it removes the errors, and sins, and wretchedness of men, as the light of the sun scatters the shades of night. This purpose of preventing the light of the gospel shining on men, Satan will endeavour to accomplish by all the means in his power. It is his grand object in this world, because it is by the gospel only that man can be saved; by that that God is glorified on earth more than by anything else; and because, therefore, if he can prevent sinners from embracing that, he will secure their destruction, and most effectually show his hatred of God. And it is to Satan a matter of little importance what men may be, or are, provided they are NOT Christians. They may be amiable, moral, accomplished, rich, honoured, esteemed by the world, because in the possession of all these he may be equally sure of their ruin, and because, also, these things may contribute somewhat to turn away their minds from the gospel. Satan, therefore, will not oppose plans of gain or ambition; he will not oppose purposes of fashion and amusement; he may not oppose schemes by which we desire to rise in the world; he will not oppose the theatre, the ball-room, the dance, or the song; he will not oppose thoughtless mirth; but the moment the gospel begins to shine on the benighted mind, that moment he will make resistance, and then all his power will be concentrated.
The glorious gospel. Greek, "The gospel of the glory of Christ"—a Hebraism for the glorious gospel. Mr. Locke renders it, "the glorious brightness of the light of the gospel of Christ," and supposes it means the brightness, or clearness, of the doctrine wherein Christ is manifested in the gospel. It is all light, and splendour, and beauty, compared with the dark systems of philosophy and heathenism. It is glorious, for it is full of splendour; makes known the glorious God; discloses a glorious plan of salvation; and conducts ignorant, weak, and degraded man to a world of light. No two words in our language are so full of rich and precious meaning, as the phrase "glorious gospel."
Who is the image of God. Christ is called the image of God,
(2.) in his moral attributes as Mediator, as showing forth the glory of the Father to men. He resembles God; and in him we see the Divine glory and perfections embodied, and shine forth. It is from his resemblance to God in all respects that he is called his image; and it is through him that the Divine perfections are made known to men. It is an object of especial dislike and hatred to Satan that the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on men, and fill their hearts. Satan hates that image; he hates that men should become like God; and he hates all that has a resemblance to the great and glorious Jehovah.
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