2. Having the understanding darkened - This is the second instance alleged by the apostle of the degradation of the Gentiles. Having no means of knowledge, the heart, naturally dark, became more and more so by means of habitual transgression; every thing in the Gentile system having an immediate tendency to blind the eyes and darken the whole soul.
3. Being alienated from the life of God - The original design of God was to live in man; and the life of God in the soul of man was that by which God intended to make man happy, and without which true happiness was never found by any human spirit: from this through the ignorance that was in them, δια την αγνοιαν την ουσαν, through the substantial or continually existing ignorance, which there was nothing to instruct, nothing to enlighten; for the most accurate writings of their best philosophers left them entirely ignorant of the real nature of God. And if they had no correct knowledge of the true God they could have no religion; and if no religion, no morality. Their moral state became so wretched that they are represented as abhorring every thing spiritual and pure, for this is the import of the word απηλλοτριωμενοι (which we translate alienated) in some of the best Greek writers. They abhorred every thing that had a tendency to lay any restraint on their vicious passions and inclinations.
4. Blindness of their heart - Δια την πωρωσιν· Because of the callousness of their hearts. Callous signifies a thickening of the outward skin of any particular part, especially on the hands and feet, by repeated exercise or use, through which such parts are rendered insensible. This may be metaphorically applied to the conscience of a sinner, which is rendered stupid and insensible by repeated acts of iniquity.
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 pagan 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 pagans to whom Paul preached. The missionary who goes among the pagan 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 he 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 people must consist in patient “instruction.” Hence, the necessity of schools at missionary stations.
Being alienated - see the notes on Ephesians 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 pagan everywhere, there can be no doubt; see the notes on Romans 1:20-23.
Because of the blindness of their heart - Margin, “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 I the truth. It is not that there is any I 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 truth; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 1:14. The simple reason is, “the hardness or 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 people 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 people “feel” right toward God, and they will soon “think” right; let the heart be pure, and the understanding will be clear.
(Doubtless there is a reciprocal influence between the dark mind and depraved heart. The one acts on the other. Admitting that the understanding is affected “first,” through the will or heart, and that it is a bad heart which makes a spiritually dark mind, still the fact remains the same, that “in consequence of our union with Adam, in consequence of the fall,” all our faculties, understanding, will, affections, have been corrupted. See the supplementary notes, Romans 5)
Times that will try men's souls are just before us, and those who are weak in the faith will not stand the test of those days of peril. The great truths of revelation are to be carefully studied, for we shall all want an intelligent knowledge of the word of God. By Bible study and daily communion with Jesus we shall gain clear, well-defined views of individual responsibility and strength to stand in the day of trial and temptation. He whose life is united to Christ by hidden links will be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. 5T 273.1
More thought should be given to the things of God, and less to temporal matters. The world-loving professor, if he will exercise his mind in that direction, may become as familiar with the word of God as he now is with worldly business. “Search the Scriptures,” said Christ; “for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of Me.” The Christian is required to be diligent in searching the Scriptures, to read over and over again the truths of God's word. Willful ignorance on this subject endangers the Christian life and character. It blinds the understanding and corrupts the noblest powers. It is this that brings confusion into our lives. Our people need to understand the oracles of God; they need to have a systematic knowledge of the principles of revealed truth, which will fit them for what is coming upon the earth and prevent them from being carried about by every wind of doctrine. 5T 273.2
Great changes are soon to take place in the world, and everyone will need an experimental knowledge of the things of God. It is the work of Satan to dishearten the people of God and to unsettle their faith. He tries in every way to insinuate doubts and questionings in regard to the position, the faith, the plans, of the men upon whom God has laid the burden of a special work and who are zealously doing that work. Although he may be baffled again and again, yet he renews his attacks, working through those who profess to be humble and God-fearing, and who are apparently interested in, or believers of, present truth. The advocates of truth expect fierce and cruel opposition from their open enemies, but this is far less dangerous than the secret doubts expressed by those who feel at liberty to question and find fault with what God's servants are doing. These may appear to be humble men; but they are self-deceived, and they deceive others. In their hearts are envy and evil surmisings. They unsettle the faith of the people in those in whom they should have confidence, those whom God has chosen to do His work; and when they are reproved for their course they take it as personal abuse. While professing to be doing God's work they are in reality aiding the enemy. 5T 273.3Read in context »
We should not look in the face of duty and delay meeting its demands. Such delay gives time for doubts; unbelief creeps in, the judgment is perverted, the understanding darkened. At length the reproofs of God's Spirit do not reach the heart of the deluded person, who has become so blinded as to think that they cannot possibly be intended for him or apply to his case. 4T 147.1
The precious time of probation is passing, and few realize that it is given them for the purpose of preparing for eternity. The golden hours are squandered in worldly pursuits, in pleasure, in absolute sin. God's law is slighted and forgotten, yet every statute is nonetheless binding. Every transgression will bring its punishment. Love of worldly gain leads to desecration of the Sabbath, yet the claims of that holy day are not abrogated or lessened. God's command is clear and unquestionable on this point; He has peremptorily forbidden us to labor upon the seventh day. He has set it apart as a day sanctified to Himself. 4T 147.2
Many are the hindrances that lie in the path of those who would walk in obedience to the commandments of God. There are strong and subtle influences that bind them to the ways of the world, but the power of the Lord can break these chains. He will remove every obstacle from before the feet of His faithful ones or give them strength and courage to conquer every difficulty, if they earnestly beseech His help. All hindrances will vanish before an earnest desire and persistent effort to do the will of God at any cost to self, even if life itself is sacrificed. Light from heaven will illuminate the darkness of those, who, in trial and perplexity, go forward, looking unto Jesus as the Author and Finisher of their faith. 4T 147.3
In ancient times God spoke to men by the mouth of prophets and apostles. In these days He speaks to them by the testimonies of His Spirit. There was never a time when God instructed His people more earnestly than He instructs them now concerning His will and the course that He would have them pursue. But will they profit by His teachings? will they receive His reproofs and heed His warnings? God will accept of no partial obedience; He will sanction no compromise with self. 4T 147.4Read in context »
There were others who did not seem to possess anxiety in regard to the amusement question. They felt such confidence that God would make all right that their peace of mind was not disturbed. They decided that a prescription for invalids was not for them, therefore they would not be troubled. Whatever others in the church or in the world might do was nothing to them; for, said they, whom have we to follow but Christ? He has left us a command to walk even as He walked. We must live as seeing Him who is invisible, and do what we do heartily, as to the Lord and not unto men. 2T 138.1
When such things arise, character is developed. Moral worth can then be truly estimated. It is not difficult to ascertain where those are to be found who profess godliness, yet have their pleasure and happiness in this world. Their affections are not upon things above, but upon things on the earth, where Satan reigns. They walk in darkness, and cannot love and enjoy heavenly things because they cannot discern them. They are alienated from the life of Christ, having their understanding darkened. The things of the Spirit are foolishness unto them. Their pursuits are according to the course of this world, and their interests and prospects are joined with the world and with earthly things. If such can pass along bearing the name of Christians, yet serving both God and mammon, they are satisfied. But things will occur to reveal the hearts of these, who are only a burden and a curse to the church. 2T 138.2
The spirit existing in the church is such as to lead away from God and the path of holiness. Many of the church have ascribed their state of spiritual blindness to the influence growing out of the principles taught at the Institute. This is not entirely correct. Had the church stood in the counsel of God, the Institute would have been controlled. The light of the church would have been diffused to that branch of the work, and the errors would not have existed there that did. It was the moral darkness of the church that had the greatest influence to create the moral darkness and spiritual death in the Institute. Had the church been in a healthy condition, she could have sent a vitalizing, healthful current to this arm of the body. But the church was sickly and did not enjoy the favor of God nor the light of His countenance. A sickly, deathly influence was circulated all through the living body until the disease was apparent everywhere. 2T 138.3Read in context »
The promised Holy Spirit, whom He would send after He ascended to His Father, is constantly at work to draw the attention to the great official sacrifice upon the cross of Calvary, and to unfold to the world the love of God to man, and to open to the convicted soul the precious things in the Scriptures, and to open to darkened minds the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness, the truths that make their hearts burn within them with the awakened intelligence of the truths of eternity. 3SM 137.3Read in context »