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Note: This Verse is too large for one note: Continued at 2 Co 5:1

Verse 18. While we look, etc. Or, rather, we not looking at the things which are seen. The design of this is to show in what way the afflictions which they endured became in their view light and momentary. It was by looking to the glories of the future world, and thus turning away the attention from the trials and sorrows of this life. If we look directly at our trials—if the mind is fixed wholly on them, and we think of nothing else—they often appear heavy and long. Even comparatively light and brief sufferings will appear to be exceedingly difficult to bear. But if we can turn away the mind from them, and contemplate future glory; if we can compare them with eternal blessedness, and feel that they will introduce us to perfect and everlasting happiness, they will appear to be transitory, and will be easily borne. And Paul here has stated the true secret of bearing trials with patience. It is to look at the things which are unseen. To anticipate the glories of the heavenly world. To fix the eye on the eternal happiness which is beyond the grave; and to reflect how short these trials are, compared with the eternal glories of heaven; and how short they will seem to be when we are there.

The things which are seen. The things here below; the things of this life—poverty, want, care, persecution, trial, etc.

The things which are not seen. The glories of heaven. Comp. Heb 11:1.

The things which are seen are temporal. This refers particularly to the things which they suffered. But it is as true of all things here below. Wealth, pleasure, fame, the three idols which the people of this world adore, are all to endure but for a little time. They will all soon vanish away. So it is with pain, and sorrow, and tears. All that we enjoy, and all that we suffer here, must soon vanish and disappear. The most splendid palace will decay; the most costly pile will moulder to dust; the most magnificent city will fall to ruins; the most exquisite earthly pleasures will soon come to an end; and the most extended possessions can be enjoyed but a little time. So the acutest pain will soon be over; the most lingering disease will soon cease; the evils of the deepest poverty, want, and suffering will soon be passed. There is nothing on which the eye can fix, nothing that the heart can desire here, which will not soon fade away; or, if it survives, it is temporary in regard to us. We must soon leave it to others; and if enjoyed, it will be enjoyed while our bodies are slumbering in the grave, and our souls engaged in the deep solemnities of eternity. How foolish, then, to make these our portion, and to fix our affections supremely on the things of this life! How foolish also to be very deeply affected by the trials of this life, which at the furthest CAN be endured but a little longer before we shall be for ever beyond their reach!

The things which are not seen are eternal. Everything which pertains to that state beyond the grave.

(1.) God is eternal; not to leave us as our earthly friends do.

(2.) The Saviour is eternal—to be our ever-lasting Friend.

(3.) The companions and friends there are eternal. The angels who are to be our associates, and the spirits of the just with whom we shall live, are to exist for ever. The angels never die; and the pious dead shall die no more. There shall be then no separation, no death-bed, no grave, no sad vacancy and loss caused by the removal of a much-loved friend.

(4.) The joys of heaven are eternal. There shall be no interruption, no night; no cessation; no end. Heaven and all its joys shall be everlasting; and he s who enters there shall have the assurance that those joys shall endure and increase while eternal ages shall roll away.

(5.) It may be added, also, that the woes of hell shall be eternal. They are now among the things which to us "are not seen;" and they, as well as the joys of heaven, shall have no end. Sorrow there shall never cease; the soul shall there never die; the body that shall be raised up "to the resurrection of damnation" shall never again expire. And when all these things are contemplated, well might Paul say of the things of this life—the sorrows, trials, privations, and persecutions which he endured—that they were "light" and were "for a moment." How soon will they pass away! How soon shall we all be engaged amidst the unchanging and eternal realities of the things which are not seen!

{a} "not seen" Heb 11:1


REMARKS on 2nd Corinthians Chapter 4

(1.) Ministers of the gospel have no cause to faint or to be discouraged, 2 Co 4:1. Whatever may be the reception of their message, and whatever the trials to which they may be subjected, yet there are abundant sources of consolation and support in the gospel which they preach. They have the consciousness that they preach a system of truth; that they are proclaiming that which God has revealed; and, if they are faithful, that they have his smiles and approbation. Even, therefore, if men reject and despise their message, and if they are called to endure many privations and trims, they should not faint. It is enough for them that they proclaim the truth which God loves, and that they meet with his approbation and smiles. Trials will come in the ministry as everywhere else, but there are also peculiar consolations. There may be much opposition and resistance to the message, but we should not faint or be discouraged. We should do our duty, and commit the result to God.

(2.) The gospel should be embraced by those to whom it comes, 2 Co 4:2. If it has their reason and conscience in its favour, then they should embrace it without delay. They are under the most sacred obligation to receive it, and to become decided Christians. Every man is bound, and may be urged to pursue, that course which his conscience approves; and the gospel may thus be pressed on the attention of all to whom it comes.

(3.) If men wish peace of conscience, they should embrace the gospel, 2 Co 4:2. They can never find it elsewhere. No man's conscience is at peace from the fact that he does not repent, and love God and obey his gospel. His heart may love sin; but his conscience cannot approve it. That is at peace only in doing the work of God; and that can find self-approbation only when it submits to him, and embraces the gospel of his Son. Then the conscience is at ease. No man ever yet had a troubled conscience from the fact that he had embraced the gospel, and was an humble and decided Christian. Thousands and millions have had a troubled conscience from the fact that they have neglected it. No man on a death-bed ever had a troubled conscience because he embraced religion too early in life. Thousands and millions have been troubled when they came to die, because they neglected it so long, or rejected it altogether. No man when death approaches has a troubled conscience because he has lived too much devoted to God the Saviour, and been too active as a Christian. But oh, how many have been troubled then because they have been worldly-minded, and selfish, and vain, and proud! The conscience gives peace just in proportion as we serve God faithfully; nor can all the art of man or Satan give peace to one conscience in the ways of sin, and in the neglect of the soul.

(4.) Ministers should preach the truth—the simple truth—and nothing but the truth, 2 Co 4:2. They should make use of no false art, no deception, no trick, no disguise. They should be open, sincere, plain, pure in all their preaching, and in their manner of life. Such was the course of the Saviour; such the course of Paul; and such a course only will God approve and bless.

(5.) This is a deluded world, 2 Co 4:4. It is blinded and deceived by him who is here called the "god of this world." Satan rules in in the hearts of men; and he rules by deceiving them, and in order to deceive them. Everything which operates to prevent men from embracing the gospel has a tendency to blind the mind. The man who is seeking wealth as his only portion, is blinded and deceived in regard to its value. The man who is purding the objects of ambition as his main portion, is deceived in regard to the true value. of things. And he, or she, who pursues pleasure as the main business of life, is deceived in regard to the proper value of objects. It is impossible to conceive of a world more deluded than this. We can conceive of a world more sinful, and more miserable—and such is hell; but there is no delusion and deception there. Things are seen as they are; and no one is deceived in regard to his character or prospects there. But here, every impenitent man is deceived and blinded. He is deceived about his own character; about the relative value of objects; about his prospects for eternity; about death, judgment, heaven, hell. On none of these points has he any right apprehension; and on none is it possible for any human power to break the deep delusion, and to penetrate the darkness of his mind.

(6.) Men are in danger, 2 Co 4:4. They are under deep delusion, and they tread unconcerned near to ruin. They walk in darkness —blinded by the god of this world—and are very near a precipice, and nothing will rouse them from their condition. It is like children gathering flowers near a deep gulf, when the pursuit of one more flower may carry them too far, and they will fall to rise no more. The delusion rests on every unsanctified mind; and it needs to remain but a little longer, and the soul will be lost. That danger deepens every day and every hour. If it is continued but a little longer it will be broken in upon by the sad realities of death, judgment, and hell. But then it will be too late. The soul will be lost —deluded in the world of probation; sensible of the truth only in the world of despair.

(7.) Satan will practise every device and art possible to prevent the gospel from shining upon the hearts of men. That light is painful and hateful to his eyes, and he will do all that can be done to prevent its being diffused. Every art which long-tried ingenuity and skill can devise, will be resorted to; every power which he can put forth will be exerted. If he can blind the minds of men, he will do it. If men can be hoodwinked, and gulled, it will be done. If error can be made to spread, and be embraced—error smooth, plausible, cunning—it will be diffused. Ministers will be raised up to preach it; and the press will be employed to accomplish it. If sinners can be deceived, and made to remain at ease in their sins, by novels and seductive poetry—by books false in sentiments, and perverse in morals—the press will be made to groan under the works of fiction. If theatres are necessary to cheat and beguile men, they will be reared; and the song and the dance, the ball and the splendid party, will alike contribute to divert the attention from the cross of Christ, the worth of the soul, and the importance of a pre- preparation to die. No art has been spared, or will be spared, to deceive men; and the world is full of the devices of Satan to hoodwink and blind the perishing, and lead them down to hell.

(8.) Yet, Satan is not alone to blame for this. He does all he can, and he has consummate skill and art. Yet, let not the deluded sinner take comfort to himself because Satan is the tempter, and because he is deluded. The bitterness of death is not made sweet to a young man because he has been deluded by the arts of the veteran in temptation; and the fires of hell will not burn amy the less fiercely because the sinner suffered himself to be deluded, and chose to go there through the ball-room or the theatre. The sinner is, after all, voluntary in his delusions. He does, or he might, know the truth. He goes voluntarily to the place of amusement; voluntarily forms the plans of gain and ambition which deceive and ruin the soul; goes voluntarily to the theatre, and to the haunts of vice; and chooses this course in the face of many warnings and remonstrances. Who is to blame if he is lost? Who but himself?

(9.) Sinners should be entreated to rouse from this delusive and false security. They are now blinded, and deceived. Life is too short and too uncertain to be playing such a game as the sinner does. There are too many realities here to make it proper to pass life amidst deceptions and delusions. Sin is real, and danger is real, and death is real, and eternity is real; and man should rouse his delusions, and look upon things as they are. Soon he will be on a bed of death, and then he will look over the follies of his life. Soon he will be at the judgment bar, and from that high and awful place look on the past and the future, and see things as they are. But, alas! it will be too late then to repair the errors of a life; and amidst the realities of those scenes, all that he may be able to do, will be to sigh unavailingly that he suffered himself to be deluded, deceived, and destroyed in the only world of probation, by the trifles and baubles which the great deceiver placed before him to beguile him of heaven, and to lead him down to hell!

(10.) The great purpose of the ministry is to make known in any and every way the Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Co 4:5. To this the ministers of the gospel are to devote themselves. It is not to cultivate farms; to engage in traffic; to shine in the social circle; to be distinguished for learning; to become fine scholars; to be profoundly versed in science; or to be distinguished as authors, that they are set apart; but it is in every way possible to make known the Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever other men do, or not do—however the world may choose to be employed—their work is simple and plain, and it is not to cease or be intermitted till death shall close their toils. Neither by the love of ease, of wealth, or pleasure, are they to turn aside from their work, or to forsake the vocation to which God has called them.

(11.) We see the responsibility of the ministry, 2 Co 4:5. On the ministry devolves the work of making the Saviour known to a dying world. If they will not do it, the world will remain in ignorance of the Redeemer, and will perish. If there is one soul to whom they might make known the Saviour, and to whom they do not make him known, that soul will perish, and the responsibility will rest on the minister of the Lord Jesus. And, oh! how great is this responsibility! And who is sufficient for these things?

(12.) Ministers of the gospel should submit to any self-denial in order that they may do good. Their Master did; and Paul and the other apostles did. It is sufficient for the disciple that he be as the Master; and the ministers of the gospel should regard themselves as set apart to a work of self-denial, and called to a life of toil, like their Lord. Their rest is in heaven, not on the earth. Their days of leisure and repose are to be found in the skies when their work is done, and not in a world perishing in sin.

(13.) The ministry is a glorious work, 2 Co 4:5. What higher honour is there on earth than to make known a Redeemer? What pleasure more exquisite can there be than to speak of pardon to the guilty?. What greater comfort than to go to the afflicted and bind up their hearts; to pour the balm of peace into the wounded spirit, and to sustain and cheer the dying? The ministry has its own consolations amidst all its trials; its own honour amidst the contempt and scorn with which it is often viewed by the world.

(14.) The situation of man would have been dreadful and awful had it not been for the light which is imparted by revelation, and by the Holy Spirit, 2 Co 4:6. Man would have ever remained like the dark night, before God said "Let there be light;" and his condition would have been thick darkness, where not a ray of light would have beamed on his benighted way. Some idea of what this was, and would have continued to be, we have now in the heathen world, where thick darkness reigns over nations, though it has been somewhat broken in upon by the dim light which tradition has diffused there.

(15.) God has power to impart light to the most dark and benighted mind. There is no one to whom he cannot reveal himself and make his truth known, 2 Co 4:6. With as much ease as he commanded light to shine out of darkness at first can he command the pure light of truth to shine on the minds of men; and on minds most beclouded by sin he can cause the Sun of Righteousness to shine with healing in his beams.

(16.) We should implore the enlightening influence of the Spirit of truth, 2 Co 4:6. If God is the source of light, we should seek it at his hands. Nothing to man is so valuable as the light of truth; nothing of so much worth as the knowledge of the true God; and with the deepest solicitude, and the most fervent prayer, should we seek the enlightening influences of his Spirit, and the guidance of his grace.

(17.) There is no true knowledge of God except that which shines in the face of Jesus Christ, 2 Co 4:6. He came to make known the true God. He is the exact image of God. He resembles him in all things. And he who does not love the character of Jesus Christ, therefore, does not love the character of God. He who does not seek to be like Jesus Christ, does not desire to be like God. He who does not bear the image of the Redeemer, does not bear the image of God. To be a moral man merely, therefore, is not to be like God. To be amiable and honest, merely, is not to be like God. Jesus Christ, the image of God, was more than this. He was religious. He was holy. He was, as a man, a man of prayer, and filled with the love of God, and was always submissive to his holy will. He sought his honour and glory; and he made it the great purpose of his life and death to make known his existence, perfections, and name. To imitate him in this, is to have the knowledge of the glory of God; and no man is like God who does not bear the image of the Redeemer. No man is like God, therefore, who is not a Christian. Of course, no man can be prepared for heaven who is not a friend and follower of Jesus Christ.

(18.) God designs to secure the promotion of his own glory in the manner in which religion is spread in the world, 2 Co 4:7. For this purpose, and with this view, he did not commit it to angels, nor has he employed men of rank, or wealth, or profound scientific attainments to be the chief instruments in its propagation. He has committed it to frail, mortal men; and often to men of humble rank, and even humble attainments—except attainments in piety. In fitting them for their work his grace is manifest; and in all the success which attends their labours it is apparent that it is by the mere grace and mercy of God that it is done.

(19.) We see what our religion has cost, 2 Co 4:8,9. Its extension in the world has been everywhere connected with sufferings, and toil, and tears. It began in the labours, sorrows, self-denials, persecutions, and dying agonies of the Son of God; and to introduce it to the world cost his life. It was spread by the toils, and sacrifices, and sufferings of the apostles. It was kept up by the dying groans of martyrs. It has been preserved and extended on earth by the labours and prayers of the Reformers, and amidst scenes of persecution everywhere; and it is now extending through the earth by the sacrifices of those who are willing to leave country and home, to cross oceans and deserts, and to encounter the perils of barbarous climes, that they may make it known to distant lands. If estimated by what it has cost, assuredly no religion, no blessing is so valuable as Christianity. It is above all human valuation; and it should be a matter of unfeigned thankfulness to us that God has been pleased to raise up men who have been willing to suffer so much that it might be perpetuated and extended on the earth; and we should be willing also to imitate their example, and deny ourselves, that we may make its inestimable blessings known to those who are now destitute. To us, it is worth all it has cost—all the blood of apostles and martyrs; to others, also, it would be worth all that it would cost to send it to them. How can we better express our sense of its worth, and our gratitude to the dying Redeemer, and our veneration for the memory of self-denying apostles and martyrs, than by endeavouring to diffuse the religion for which they died all over the world? See Continuation at 2 Co 5:1

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