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EPHESIANS - Chapter 4 - Verse 18

Verse 18. Having the understanding darkened. That is, because they were alienated from the true God, and particularly because of "the blindness of their hearts." The apostle does not say that this was a "judicial" darkening of the understanding; or that they might not have perceived the truth; or that they had no ability to understand it. He speaks of a simple and well-known fact—a fact that is seen now as well as then—that the understanding becomes darkened by indulgence in sin. A man who is intemperate has no just views of the government of the appetites. A man who is unchaste has no perception of the loveliness of purity. A man who is avaricious or covetous has no just views of the beauty of benevolence. A man who indulges in low vices will weaken his mental powers, and render himself incapable of intellectual effort. Indulgence in vice destroys the intellect as well as the body, and unfits a man to appreciate the truth of a proposition in morals, or in mathematics, or the beauty of a poem, as well as the truth and beauty of religion. Nothing is more obvious than that indulgence in sin weakens the mental powers, and renders them unfit for high intellectual effort. This is seen all over the heathen world now— in the stolid, stupid mind; the perverted moral sense; the incapacity for profound or protracted mental effort, as really as it was among the heathens to whom Paul preached. The missionary who goes among the heathen has almost to create an intellect as well as a conscience, before the gospel will make an impression. It is seen, too, in all the intellect of the bar, the senate, the pulpit, and the medical profession, that is ruined by intemperance, and in the intellect of multitudes of young men wasted by licentiousness and drunkenness. I know that under the influence of ambition and stimulating drinks the intellect may seem to put forth unnatural efforts, and to glow with an intensity nowhere else seen; but it soon burns out—and the wastes of such an intellect become soon like the hardened scoriae of the volcano, or the cinders of the over-heated furnace. Learn hence, that if a man wishes to be blessed with a clear understanding, he should be a good man; he who wishes a mind well balanced and clear, should fear and love God; and had Christianity done no other good on earth than to elevate the intellect of mankind, it would have been the richest blessing which has ever been vouchsafed to the race. It follows, too, that as man has debased his understanding by sin, it is needful to make an exertion to elevate it again; and hence a large part of the efforts to save men must consist in patient instruction. Hence the necessity of schools at missionary stations.

Being alienated. See Barnes "Eph 2:12".


From the life of God. From a life like that of God, or a life of which he is the source and author. The meaning is, that they lived a life which was unlike God, or which he' could not approve. Of the truth of this, in regard to the heathen every- where, there can be no doubt. See Barnes "Ro 1:20"; and Ro 1:21-23.

Through the ignorance that is in them. The ignorance of the true God, and of what constituted virtue. See Barnes "Ro 1:20"; and Ro 1:21-23.

Because of the blindness of their heart. Marg., hardness. Hardness is a better word. It is a better translation of the Greek; and it better accords with the design of the apostle. Here the reason is stated why they lived and acted as they did, and why the understanding was blinded. It is not that God has enfeebled the human intellect by a judicial sentence on account of the sin of Adam, and made it incapable of perceiving the truth; it is not that there is any deficiency or incapacity of natural powers; it is not that the truths of religion are so exalted that man has no natural ability to understand them, for they may be as well understood as any other truths, See Barnes "1 Co 2:14".

The simple reason is, "the hardness of THE HEART." That is the solution given by an inspired apostle, and that is enough. A man who has a blind and hard heart sees no beauty in truth, and feels not its force, and is insensible to all its appeals. Learn then,

(1.) that men are to blame for the blindness of their understanding. Whatever proceeds from a wicked heart they are responsible for. But for mere inferiority of intellect they would not be to blame.

(2.) They are under obligation to repent and love God. If it was required of them to enlarge their intellects, or create additional faculties of mind, they could not be bound to do it. But where the whole thing required is to have a better heart, they may be held responsible.

(3.) The way to elevate the understandings of mankind is to purify the heart. The approach must be made through the affections. Let the man feel right towards God, and they will soon think right; let the heart be pure, and the understanding will be clear.

{a} "darkened" Ac 26:18 {1} "blindness" "hardness"

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