THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1846 paragraph 255 209 Lecture IV. On the Lord's Supper ...

Another danger of most fearful sort awaits those who abuse this ordinance. It is reprobation. They are in the greatest peril of being given up of God. When the best means which the Lord can use to melt the heart prove unavailing, it only remains to give over the helpless reprobate to his fit doom. If the view of his crucified Lord, dying for his sins fails to move and melt his soul, there is little if any hope of his ever being brought to repentance. In the judgment day we shall find a great many professors at the left hand of the Judge--because of their hypocrisy at the table of their Lord, and of the judicial blindness and hardness of heart thus produced. Hence followed reprobation, and their place on the left hand. They may plead--"We have eaten and drunk in Thy presence and Thou hast taught in our streets;" but He shall say, I know you not whence ye are; depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity.




Lecture XI. Judicial Blindness



THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1849 paragraph 499 499 Lecture XI. Judicial Blindness ...

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THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1849 paragraph 500 499 Lecture XI. Judicial Blindness ...

Judicial Blindness
Lecture XI
August 1, 1849



THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1849 paragraph 508 499 Lecture XI. Judicial Blindness ...

In this as in other respects its teachings are most entirely accordant with the convictions of our own minds. Every unsophisticated mind affirms that these principles are righteous and that nothing else could be.

II. I am to point out some principles of the divine government which are revealed in these words.

1. God does not require of us natural impossibilities. If He did He might require us to do duty although we do not understand either what the requirement is, or the authority of Him who requires it. Right over against this Christ says, "If ye were blind ye should have no sin." What principle is implied in this language? Beyond all question, this; that if we have no knowledge of duty, we can incur no guilt by neglect. Indeed, neglect always implies something known, which is neglected. As also transgression implies some known rule or law which is wickedly passed over.

Where no knowledge of law exists, it is impossible that there should be either culpable neglect or transgression. And God never requires such impossibilities. He never demands the making of brick without straw. As it is impossible for men physically blind to see physical objects; so is it impossible for men utterly ignorant of duty to act morally; therefore God never requires them to do it.

2. God really does require of us according to the blessings we have received. He holds us responsible for the light He has given us. As Christ said to the Jews, "But now ye say, "we see;" therefore your sin remaineth." You profess to be enlightened; grant that you are; then your sin is not only actual but great.

You will observe that the Pharisees scornfully repelled the idea that they were morally blind. "What!" they would say; "do you mean to insinuate that we have not the true knowledge of God? Indeed we have it, before any people on earth." "Very well," said our Lord; "then on your own ground you have the greater sin." Now this shows most plainly that Christ assumed the principle of guilt according to light, and neither holds the morally dark-minded responsible, nor exempts the enlightened from responsibility.

3. God will visit with judicial blindness those who have light, but abuse it. "For judgment," said Christ, "have I come into this world, that those who see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind." What is this "judgment?" Christ Himself explains it. It is awarding retribution according to deeds -- especially those deeds of mind which respect the use or abuse of moral light. He comes to try with the presentation of light those who have not hitherto enjoyed it, (the dark-minded heathen) and to doom to judicial blindness those (the Jews) who have had light to see by, but have neglected to improve and use it. Christ comes to smite them with blindness for their great sin.

Since the sin lies in rejecting light, it is plain that the greater the light is which God gives to a people or to an individual, the more certainly and speedily will He visit them with judicial blindness, if they reject this light. All this seems plainly implied in what Christ says here.

III. Illustrations of these principles.

1. We have one in the case of these Scribes and Pharisees. They had long enjoyed much light respecting God and their duty. In their hands they held many clear and precious prophecies of the coming Messiah, prophecies which unfolded His spiritual character, and which might have shown them that Jesus of Nazareth is the personage of whom Moses and the prophets spake.

But they did not relish the spiritual views of the Messiah; they preferred a different character; the wish became father to corresponding thoughts, and they formed an ideal mainly from their own hearts' imagination. To this ideal the man of Nazareth did not correspond; so they rejected Him; and God by consequence rejected them. Christ's actual coming added nothing to their light, but only confounded them in greater, deeper darkness. They had been enlightened above any other people on earth; but their worldly, sensual views, begotten in a worldly, sensual heart, led them to reject Him who came as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and the result was that they speedily sunk into darkness more dense and dreadful than that of any people on earth. The clearest exhibitions of truth only blinded them the more. Their wicked hearts seemed to react against the truth only the more violently by how much the brighter it shone.

2. The same was true of the nation as a whole although there were many individual exceptions. Among the more illiterate portions of the people were many who had never heartily sympathized in the great movements against Jesus of Nazareth; who had been the led and not the leaders; and who not unnaturally embraced the true light when it came distinctly before them. It is a most remarkable fact that Christ was obliged to choose His disciples from among the illiterate and unenlightened classes -- inasmuch as those who had been educated after the Jewish mode had almost to a man become so hardened by long resistance of the light they had, as to render their reception of more, quite hopeless. To those who had enjoyed most light, and abused it, the teachings of Jesus Christ were only darkness. They might have seen before Christ came, but having made themselves voluntarily blind, they were precisely in a state to be cursed and not blessed by His teaching.



THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1849 paragraph 509 499 Lecture XI. Judicial Blindness ...

3. We often see the same principle illustrated in the case of children brought up in highly religious families. Such are in danger of experiencing the greatest moral blindness. Unless they embrace the truths made known to them, they must experience the terribly hardening influence of knowing yet not doing their duty.

Few men have lived under stronger light than Aaron Burr. A grandson of the elder President Edwards, son of an eminently pious mother, his parents and friends holding forth before him the best forms of gospel light then known, who could be more favored than he? Pierpont Edwards was another man of perhaps equally favorable early training -- yet how dreadful the depth of hardness and crime to which he sank! If you had searched the whole world you might not have found two children brought up under stronger light and clearer instruction than they. Yet what sons were they of such pious parents! Aaron Burr, and Pierpont Edwards, stood among the highest class of gifted intellects; but O, how did they fall like Lucifer, son of the morning! The very name of Aaron Burr became a hissing and a bye-word. Few men have better earned a deep and lasting infamy. He trod the pearls of divine knowledge under his feet, and what other result could follow than judicial blindness and the most utter moral desolation!



THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1849 paragraph 511 499 Lecture XI. Judicial Blindness ...

As usual, where many are greatly blessed, others too are greatly cursed, and sometimes, for an awful warning to the latter class, God lets the swelling waves of moral desolation roll over a place, and almost utterly extinguish the light of the candlestick which shone on so many eyes in vain.

5. Another illustration may be seen in the astonishing blindness of many who embrace all forms of error and religious delusion. I can recollect several whom I knew in my early childhood. They were brought up under the prayers and instructions of very pious parents and teachers. Yet they were the first to embrace Mormonism. Others seemed to be foremost in yielding a ready assent to Universalism. Others have embraced Davisism, running after every foolish and absurd thing, discarding all they used to believe, as if they would have their revenge on those blessed truths for the unwelcome restraints and annoyances which themselves had experienced from such enemies. It seemed to be a delight to them to explode all they had ever believed. Why? Let their history only be known and you will see why. They were visited with judicial blindness. Christ comes to them as to the ancient Jews, that they which see might be made blind. Can there be a more terrific doom!

Go and visit those places which have been blessed with great revivals. You will find that those who have been blessed with the greatest light, but have rejected it, are fearfully blinded and hardened. You will find Universalism and all the other ridiculous forms of error springing right up where the brightest light has shone, and where the greatest revivals have prevailed. Right here, among that very people where God has done so much to enlighten men's minds, there, among those who resisted that light, you will find more errors, and errors more pernicious springing up than anywhere else. There you will find men ready to swallow down greedily the most ridiculous and disgusting forms of error.



THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1849 paragraph 512 499 Lecture XI. Judicial Blindness ...

When men have been deeply convicted of sin and have resisted their convictions, they will almost inevitably fall into the most profound moral darkness. They will get entirely bewildered; will seem to lose their delicate perception of nice moral distinctions, and readily call good, evil; and evil, good. In this state of mind they are ready to embrace all forms of fatal and delusive error. Nothing is too gross and revolting for them to receive and love. How often have I been surprised to hear what men would say who had run this career -- things which it would seem impossible for any man in his senses to believe. Indeed you cannot account for their believing such things, except on the supposition that God has given them up to judicial blindness. This blindness is far greater in their case than ever occurs among those who have never been so highly instructed. The violence done to their moral nature is more terrible, and consequently the shock it receives is the greater. In this state of fearful blindness, all means for their salvation are nearly or quite hopeless. Others under the same means may be enlightened and saved; but they will be only the more benighted, by how much the clearer and stronger the light you pour upon their sightless moral eye-balls. Their hearts seem to be set upon resisting the light, and their reaction against it will be the greater according as the action to be resisted is the more annoying. They "hate the light, and will not come to it lest their deeds should be reproved."



THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1849 paragraph 515 499 Lecture XI. Judicial Blindness ...

On the same principle many of the most enlightened sinners become infidels. Rejecting what light they have, God gives them over to judicial blindness, and they are then ripe for the grossest delusions. Commonly you will find the most bitter infidels among those who have known most of the gospel -- who have been most pressed with its claims, and whose minds have consequently become most sore and restive under its galling demands. They have done most violence to their moral natures, and God has righteously given them over to the most deep and damning delusions.




THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1849 paragraph 524 499 Lecture XI. Judicial Blindness ...

6. The revivals of the last thirty years have resulted in the judicial blindness of multitudes of modern Scribes and Pharisees. It is to be feared that many ministers even have fallen into a most alarming state of declension, as the result of failing to act up to the light God gave them. Many churches too have gone backward with a fearful and perpetual backsliding. They should have pressed onward and upward; but they did not embrace all the truth which God revealed to them; they shrunk from bearing the cross; they held parley with the spirit of the world; and a dreadful blindness has come over them. Although in many churches there are many pious members, yet in not a few it would seem that the majority are given up to believe a lie, and to lapse into a most horrible state of carnality and declension. In fact they are often opposed to any effort to promote revivals of religion! What can this mean? What does it indicate? After having experienced such great blessings from revivals, why do they now oppose revivals? Why is this? Go back and trace the history of those who were only nominally in them, and you will get the answer. They never loved revivals. They had more light in those revivals than they chose to admit or obey; hence their eyes were blinded and their hearts hardened. They do not want to be annoyed again with such appeals to their consciences. They dread to be brought again into such burning contact with convicting truth. Consider these things, and you will see reason enough for all the facts now present in the history of the churches.



THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1849 paragraph 528 499 Lecture XI. Judicial Blindness ...

Contemplating the state of things here, my mind has been greatly impressed with the fear that we should get into a state in which God's honor would demand that He should blot us out and leave us to moral ruin. We may say -- "We have Abraham to our father" -- yet it may avail us as little as it did the Jews. We may have said it too long already, and may have relied upon it too much. None the less reason for our relation to father Abraham is there to fear that God will give us up. On the contrary, just in proportion as we have been favored with light may we expect that God will send on us judicial blindness. We may think we are doing well; but God will surely carry out the changeless principles of His moral government just as He always has done in all ages and in all other places.



THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1854 paragraph 167 148 Lecture IV. On Quenching The Spirit ...

Again, men often quench the Spirit thus. A great public object comes before them, demanding pecuniary aid -- as for example, raising the salary of a minister and some people dodge away and grieve the Spirit of God.

11. In their public relations, men often quench the Spirit by political dishonesty. It is striking to observe how much room there is for this since the great social and moral reforms have come up to throw their influence and their demands into political life. Truly may it be said, these reforms are "set for the fall and rise of many in Israel." How searchingly do they put to the test the consciences of political men! And how fearfully do they harden many consciences -- presenting moral claims which selfish men find it convenient to resist! You, young men, might go and preach to such seared consciences till you die, and never bring the first man of them to repentance. If from similar motives they do what they know is wrong; if for party purposes they give way to political dishonesty -- where are they?

Persons may commit themselves to the wrong side and thus throw themselves under an influence which is utterly adverse to their being led by the Spirit of God. Men associate themselves together into parties, and by and by, their party takes a morally wrong position; then the whole strength of the party bond goes to bind them to wrong-doing and to harden their conscience against all appeals to do right. Suppose a minister should preach on political duties before such a body of men, and any one of them should see his own dreadful error and should begin to think seriously of turning from his evil way. Some one accosts him, saying -- Will you be influenced in politics by the preacher? At once his pride is up; the party ties draw; he returns again to his iniquities.

12. Some men are influenced by what they call prudence, which is real unbelief. The amount of it is they judge merely after men and according to human views, and as if there were no God, or at least no reliance to be placed on what He has said. Must not such a course quench the Spirit?
13. Sometimes men trample down their religious feelings and put an extinguisher upon their emotions, and thus put out the light of God in their souls. If it be true, as I have said, that the Spirit gives heat as well as light; quickens the emotions as well as enlightens the understanding, then most clearly those who resolutely repress all religious emotions must quench the Spirit.
14. Yet again, men will quench the Spirit when they resist conviction of any question of duty. No matter how these impressions of duty may be made, whether immediately by the Spirit, or mediately by external providences, yet if they are resisted, the Spirit is driven away.
15. And finally some quench the Spirit by resenting reproof when they really need and deserve it.

In such ways as these men quench God's Spirit.

III. We must now consider some of the consequences.

1. Judicial blindness of the intellect is a natural result. The intellect becomes more dark and blind than ever before, even doubting and perhaps denying things which were clear before. It is most remarkable that truths, never before doubted are doubted now. Such persons lose confidence in the Bible and even in the very existence of God; declare that they have no confidence in anybody's piety, and even deny that there is anything as sincere benevolence. Such a state proves itself to be a judgment from God -- for no mind in its normal, rational state can take such views as these. It is a dark atheistic state. God has given such men up to strong delusion that they may believe a lie. The reason why He has done so is that they would not receive the truth in love that they might be saved. They resisted and quenched the Spirit. They set at naught all the agencies God could wisely employ to save them -- distorted all the truth He revealed to bless them; and now it only remains that their example of dark delusion and full damnation should be a lesson of warning to save other souls from that way of death.

It is only right and just that God should send strong delusion on such as will not obey the truth, and such as will neither honor nor cherish the work of His Spirit in their hearts. He has an unquestionable right to deliver them up as He did Ahab. Ahab, you recollect, would have his own way, although God told him he must not go and would lose his life if he did. Still he wanted to go -- would go -- went and was killed. You may recollect the circumstances. Ahab had years before been at war with Syria; there had now been a three years' suspension of hostilities. A certain city, called Ramoth Gilead, belonging of right to Ahab, had been during this armistice, in possession of Syria. Jehoshaphat of Judah makes Ahab a friendly visit. While there, it occurs to Ahab to propose to him to go up with him to help him recapture Ramoth Gilead, and he replies favorably. But in those days no king went to war without consulting his gods. Hence Jehoshaphat inquires if there are not some prophets of the Lord by whom they may consult the true God. Ahab replies -- I have a host of prophets of Baal and of the groves; let them all be convened and questioned on this great matter. But, says Jehoshaphat, have you not some prophet of the Lord whom we may consult? "There is one," says Ahab, "but I hate him, for he never prophesies good for me, but only evil." Nay, says Jehoshaphat, but let him come also, and let us hear what he shall say from the Lord.



THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1854 paragraph 169 148 Lecture IV. On Quenching The Spirit ...

In our days, the methods of delusion are slightly modified as compared with those which obtained in the days of Ahab. Yet you may distinctly trace the same law of the Divine administration -- the same dark ocean of doubts and absurdities. Now, mesmerism, biology, the most foolish things that can be gotten up, will seem to them more like truth than the teachings of God's Spirit. They will even believe the revelations of Andrew Jackson Davis more than those of Isaiah, and will give up all belief in the Bible if some rapping spirit tells them to do so. From all I can learn, I regard these delusions as the legitimate result of the manner in which the Holy Ghost was treated in those revivals which have overspread the land since my remembrance. The dread results are before us -- delusions deep, dark and damning, hastening on the righteous doom of those who knew their duty but who did it not; who were visited with the light of God's Spirit, but having quenched that light, are left to judicial blindness and strong delusion.

2. Again, let me say, if persons quench the Holy Ghost they will wax worse and worse. By no methods of their own will they deliver their own souls. Abandoned of God, their own intelligence strangely perverted by deep depravity of heart, there is no redeeming power to save them. The most palpable lies they seem to have lost all power to discriminate from the truth, or to deliver their souls from the power thereof. If they attempt to pray, they cannot realize that they are praying to God at all. Nothing to support, nothing to guide them; no Holy Ghost to enlighten them, no power from above to warm their souls into life; oh, how languid are their efforts at self-recovery; how feeble and how futile! If at any time one of this class becomes a little alarmed, and feeling some sensibility on religious subjects, falls on his knees to pray, almost before he begins, his mind wanders, he thinks of something else, and this is the end of his prayer.

Are any of you in this state? If any one should listen at your closet door, would he hear a feeble whisper and be impressed that your spiritual efforts are only of the very feeblest sort? What are your prayers? Is all earnestness dropped out? Is everything dark and dead round about your soul and within it, when you essay to draw near to God? Do you go and lie on your knees, almost ashamed of yourself that you think of praying at all? What is your state? Are you honestly afraid that the light of heaven has gone out? One of the most talented young men I ever knew came under the powerful influences of the Spirit, but resisted them finally and fatally. He had so much worldly political ambition, he could not possibly have God. His death-bed scene hastened on apace after he had fatally repelled the Spirit of God. Why should God spare him to live longer? The death scene came on. Darkness gathered thick upon his soul, so thick that it seemed to him the very room was all dark as the pit of despair. Lifting up his voice to its highest note, he cried, "Bring in a light, bring in a light!" Alas, how could he see light, after he had quenched all the light of God! How affecting the contrast between his case and that of the dying saint who melts away into the light of heaven!



THE OBERLIN EVANGELIST 1858 paragraph 462 441 Lecture XII. God's Wrath Against Those Who Withstand His Truth ...

6. God's wrath is revealed moreover in the judicial blindness to which God gives up sinners when they have abused His truth too long; in the gloomy death-bed; in the dark dispair under which they die. Alas for him! everywhere along his dark way to hell God flashes terror and wrath! Behind all these displays of love and mercy, you may hear the mutterings of offended justice. The flashes of His sword gleam out, revealing His wrath against all unrighteousness.

V. Our text says -- "God's wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness." What is meant by "ungodliness"?

1. The absence of piety towards God. The original word is compounded of two, one of which gives us the idea of worship, reverence for God, and the other indicates the utter absence and want of this. The entire word therefore means no worship -- no regard for God -- no recognition of His goodness or greatness. God comes before the sinner, a glorious object of love and worship, but the sinner refuses to regard Him. Ah indeed, he has no family alter, no closet! Mark this terrible text! God reveals His wrath against all this withholding of love and worship, praise and adoration. See our men of morality who never worship God, never love Him -- never acknowledge Him in any of their ways! Mark, do you hear what God says? Ah, back of all this sweet flowing of mercy, you may hear the mutterings of Jehovah's thunder, His wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness!