The Method of Grace in the Gospel Redemption
by John Flavel
File 37
(... continued from file 36)

Sermon 35. 
2 Cor. 4: 3, 4. 
But if our gospel he hid, it is hid to them that are lost; in whom 
the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe 
not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the 
image of God, should shine unto them. 
The words have been opened, and this point observed:- 
    Doct. That the understandings of all unbelievers are blinded by 
         Satan's policies, in order to their everlasting perdition. 
    We have shown already what the blinding the mind, or hiding of 
the gospel from it is; it has also been demonstrated that the gospel 
is hid, and the minds of many blinded under it; you have also seen 
what policies Satan uses to blind the minds of men, even in the 
clearest light of the gospel. It remains now that I open to you the 
dreadful nature of this judgement of God upon the souls of men, and 
then make application of the whole. 
    There are many judgements of God inflicted upon the souls and 
bodies of men in this world; but none of them are so dreadful as 
those spiritual judgements are which God inflicts immediately upon 
the soul; and among spiritual judgements few or none are of a more 
dreadful nature and consequence than this of spiritual blindness; 
which will appear by considering, 
    First, The subject of this judgement, which is the soul, and 
the principal power of the soul, which is the mind and 
understandings faculty; the soul is the most precious and invaluable 
part of man, and the mind is the superior and most noble power of 
the soul; it is to the soul what the eye is to the body, the 
directive faculty. The bodily eye is a curious, tender, and most 
precious part of the body. When we would express the value of a 
thing, we say, we prize it as our eyes. The loss of the eyes is a 
sore loss, we lose a great part of the comfort of our souls by it. 
Yet such an affliction (speaking comparatively) is but a trifle to 
this. If our bodily eyes be blinded, we cannot see the sun, but if 
our spiritual eye be blinded, we cannot see God, we wander in the 
paths of sin, 1 John 2: 11. We are led blindfold to hell by Satan, 
as the Syrians were in Samaria, 2 Kings 6: 19, 20. And then our eyes 
like theirs will be opened to see our misery when it is too late. 
"The light of the body is the eye, (saith Christ). If therefore 
thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light; but if 
thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If 
therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that 
darkness?" Mat. 6: 22, 23. By the eye he means the practical 
judgement, the understanding faculty, which is the seat for 
principles, the common treasury of the rules of practice, according 
unto which a man's life is formed, and his way directed. If 
therefore that power of the soul be darkened, how great must that 
darkness be; for now the blind lead the blind, and both fall into 
the ditch. The blind judgement misguides the blind-affections, and 
both fall into hell. O what a sad thing is it, that the devil should 
lead that that leads thee! That he should sit at the helm, and steer 
thy course to damnation! The blinding of this noble faculty 
precipitates the soul into the most dangerous course; persecution, 
by this means, seems to be true zeal for God, John 16: 2. "They that 
persecute you shall think that they do God service.  Paul once 
thought verily with himself, that he ought to do many "things 
contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth," Acts 26: 9. i.e. He 
thought he had pleased God, when he was imprisoning and persecuting 
his people, as many do at this day; it will make a man to sin 
conscientiously, which is a very dangerous way of sinning, and 
difficult to be reclaimed. 
    Secondly, It is a dreadful judgement, if we consider the object 
about which the understanding is blinded, which is Jesus Christ, and 
union with him; regeneration, and the nature and necessity thereof. 
For this blindness is not universal, but respective and particular. 
A man may have abundance of light and knowledge in things natural 
and moral; but spiritual things are hidden from his eyes. Yea, a man 
may know spiritual things in a natural way, which increaseth his 
blindness; but he cannot discern them spiritually; this is a sore 
judgement, and greatly to be bewailed. "Thou hast hid these things 
(said Christ) from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto 
babes," Mat. 11: 21. Learned and knowing men are ignorant of those 
things, which very babes in Christ understand. They are prudent in 
the management of earthly affairs; but to save their own souls they 
have no knowledge. They are able, with Berengarius, to dispute de 
omni scibili, of every thing investigable by the light of nature; 
yea, to open the scripture solidly, and defend the doctrines and 
truths of Christ against his adversaries successfully; and yet 
blinded in the great mystery of regeneration, Blindness in part, 
(saith the apostle) is happened unto Israel? and that indeed was the 
principal part of knowledge, viz. the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and 
him crucified, we see farther than they. The literal knowledge of 
Jesus Christ shines clearly in our understanding. We are only 
blinded about those things which should give us saving interest in 
him, about the effectual application of Christ to our own souls. 
    Thirdly, The dreadful nature of this spiritual blindness 
farther appears from the consideration of the season in which it 
befalls men, which is the very time of God's patience, and the only 
opportunity they have for salvation; after these opportunities are 
over, their eyes will be opened to see their misery, but alas, too 
late. Upon this account, Christ shed those tears over Jerusalem, 
Luke 19: 42. "O that thou hadst known, at least in this thy day, the 
things that belong to thy peace; but now they are hid from thine 
eyes." Now the season of grace is past and gone; opportunities are 
the golden spots of time, and there is much time in a short 
opportunity, as there are many pieces of silver in one piece of 
gold. Time signifies nothing when opportunities are gone, to be 
blinded in the very season of salvation, is the judgement of all 
judgements, the greatest misery incident to man; to have our eyes 
opened when the seasons of salvation are past, is but an aggravation 
of misery: there is a twofold opening of men's eyes to see their 
danger, viz. 
    ]. Graciously to prevent danger. 
    2. Judicially to aggravate misery. 
    They whose eves are not opened graciously in this world, to see 
their disease and remedy in Christ, shall have their eyes opened 
judicially in the world to come, to see their disease without any 
remedy. If God open them now, it is by way of prevention; if they be 
not opened till then, it will produce desperation. 
    Fourthly, The horrible nature of this judgement farther appears 
from the exceeding difficulty of curing it, especially in men of 
excellent natural endowments and accomplishments, John 9: 40, 41. 
"And some of the Pharisees which were with him, heard these words, 
and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye 
were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see: therefore 
your sin remaineth," q. d. the pride and conceitedness of your heart 
and obstinacy and incurableness to your blindness; these are "the 
blind people that have eyes;" Isa. 63: 8. In seeing they see not. 
The conviction of such men is next to an impossibility. 
    Fifthly, The design and end of this blindness under the gospel 
is most dreadful; so saith my text, "The god of this world has 
blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the 
glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine 
unto them." Answerable whereunto are those words, Isa. 6: 10. "Make 
the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut 
their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, 
and understand with their hearts, and convert, and be healed. So 
that it is plain, this blinding is a praeludium to damnation, as the 
covering of Haman's face was to his destruction. When the Lord has 
no purpose of grace and mercy to a man's soul, then, to bring about 
the damnation of that man by a righteous permission, many occasions 
of blindness befal him, which Satan improves effectually unto his 
eternal ruin; among which fatal occasions, blind guides and 
scandalous professors are none of the least; they shall be fitted 
with ministers suitably to their humours, which shall speak smooth 
things: If a man walk in the spirit and falsehood, (i. e. by an "en 
dia duoin", - the spirit of falsehood) do lie, sayings I will 
prophesy to thee of wine and strong drink, he shall even be the 
prophet of this people: and the slips and falls of professors shall 
do the devil not a little service in this his fatal design; Mat. 18: 
7. "Wo to the world because of offences." This shall blind them, and 
harden them to purpose. Thus you see what a dreadful judgement this 
is, a stroke of God upon the soul, which cuts off all the present 
comforts of Christ and religion from it, takes away the bridle of 
restrains from sin, and makes way for the final ruin of the soul. A 
far greater judgement it is than the greatest calamity or affliction 
which can befal us in this world. If our names suffer by the 
greatest reproaches, our bodies by the most painful diseases, our 
estates by the greatest losses; if God strike every comfort we have 
in this world dead by affliction; all this is nothing, compared with 
this blinding judgement of God upon the soul; for they may come from 
the tender love of God to us, Heb. 12: 6. but this is the effect of 
his wrath; they may cleanse sin, Isa. 28: 9. but this increases it; 
they often prove occasions of conversion, Job 36: 8, 9. but this is 
the great obstruction to it. In a word, they only wound the flesh, 
and that with a curable wound; but this stabs the soul, and that 
with a mortal wound. 
                     First use, of information. 
    Inference 1. If this be the case of the unbelieving world, to 
be so blinded by the god of this world; How little should we value 
the censures and slanders of the blind world! Certainly they should 
move no other affection but pity in our soul: if their eyes were 
opened, their mouths would be shut; they would never traduce 
religion, and the sincere profession of it as they do, if Satan had 
not blinded their minds: they speak evil of the things they know 
not; their reproaches, which they let fly so freely, are but so many 
arrows shot by the blind man's bow, which only stick in our clothes, 
and can do us no hurt, except we thrust them onward by our own 
discontent to the wounding of our spirits. "I could almost be proud 
upon it, said Luther, that I have got an ill name among the worst of 
men." Beware, Christians that you give them no occasion to blaspheme 
the name of your God, and then never trouble yourselves, however 
they use your names. If they tread it in the dirt now, God (as one 
speaks) will take it up, wash off all the dirt, and deliver it to 
you again clear and shining. Should such men speak well of us, we 
might justly suspect ourselves of some iniquity which administers to 
them the occasions of it. 
    Inf. 2. How absurd and dangerous must it be for Christians to 
follow the examples of the blind world? Let the blind follow the 
blind, but let not those whom God has enlightened do so. Christians, 
never let those lead you, who are led blindfold by the devil 
themselves. The holiness and heavenliness of Christians was wont to 
set the world a wondering that they would not run with them into the 
same excess of riot, 1 Pet. 4: 4. But sure, since God has opened 
your eyes, and showed you the dangerous courses they walk in, it 
would be the greatest wonder of all, if you should be the companions 
of such men, and tread in the steps of their examples. Christian, as 
humble and lowly thoughts as thou hast of thyself, yet I would have 
thee understand thyself to be too good to be the associate of such 
men. Discamus sanctam superbiam, et sciamus nos esse illis meliores. 
If they will walk with you in the way of duty and holiness, let them 
come and welcome; receive them with both arms, and be glad of their 
company; but beware you walk not in their paths, lest they be a 
snare unto you. Did they see the end of their way, they would never 
walk in it themselves; why then will you walk with them who do see 
    Inf. 3. If this be so, Let Christians be exact and circumspect 
in their walking, lest they lay a stumblingblock before the blind. 
It is a great sin to do so in a proper sense, Lev. 19: 14. "Thou 
shalt not put a stumbling-block before the blind." And a far greater 
to do it in a metaphorical sense, Rom. 14: 18. It is the express 
will of God, "that no man put a stumbling block, or an occasion to 
fall in his brother's way." It is an argument of little regard to 
the honour of Christ, or the souls of men, so to do. O professors, 
look to your steps; the devil desires to make use of you for such 
purposes. The sins of thousands of others, who make no profession of 
godliness, will never so fit his purpose for the blinding of those 
men's eyes, as the least slip or failing of yours will do. It is the 
living bird that makes the best stale to draw others into the net: 
the grossest wickedness of profane sinners passeth away in silence, 
but all the neighbourhood shall ring with your miscarriages. "A 
righteous man falling, down before the wicked, is as a troubled 
fountain and a corrupt spring," Prov. 25: 26. The scandalous falls 
of good men are like a bag of poison cast by Satan into the spring 
from whence the whole town is supplied with water. You little know 
what mischief you do, and how many blind sinners may fall into hell 
by your occasion. 
    Inf. 4. How dangerous a thing is zeal in a wicked man? It is 
like a sharp sword in a blind man's hand, or like a high mettle in a 
blind horse. How much has the church of God suffered upon this 
account, and does suffer at this day: The world has ever been full 
of such blind and blustering zeal, which, like a hurricane, 
overturns all that stands in its way: yea, as we noted before, it 
makes a man a kind of conscientious persecutor. I confess it is 
better for the persecutor himself to do it ignorantly, because 
ignorance leaves him in a capacity for mercy, and sets him a degree 
lower than the malicious, enlightened persecutor, 1 Tim. 1: 13. else 
it were the dreadful case described in Heb. 10. But yet, as it is, 
John 16: 2 these are the fierce and dreadful enemies of the church 
of God. Such a man was Paul, a devout persecutor, and such 
persecution God afterward suffered to befal himself, Acts 13: 50. 
"But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the 
chief men of that city; and raised persecution against Paul and 
Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts." An erroneous 
conscience binds, as well as an informed conscience, and wherever 
God gives such men opportunity to vent the spleen and rage of their 
hearts upon his people, they will be sure to do it to purpose. With 
other men Gamaliel's counsel may have some influence, and they may 
be afraid lest they be found fighters against God; but blind zeal 
spurs on, and saith, as Jehu did, "Come, see my zeal for the Lord of 
Hosts." O blind sinners, be sure of your mark before you discharge 
your arrows. If you shoot at a wicked man, as you suppose him, and 
God finds one of his dear children wounded or destroyed, what 
account will you give of that fact to God when you shall come before 
his judgement-seat? 
                    Second use, of exportation?. 
    This point is very improveable by way of exhortation. Both, 
    1. Unto those who are blinded by the god of this world. 
    2. To those that are enlightened in the knowledge of Christ, by 
the true God. 
    First, To those who are still blinded by the god of this world, 
to whom the Lord has not given unto this day eyes to see their 
misery in themselves, or their remedy in Christ, so as to make an 
effectual application of him to their own souls. To all such my 
counsel is, 
    1. To get a sense of your own blindness. 
    2. To seek out for a cure, whilst yet it may be had. 
    First, Labour to get a deep sense of the misery of such a 
condition; for till you be awakened by conviction, you can never be 
healed. O that you did but know the true difference betwixt common 
and saving light; the want of this keeps you in darkness: You think 
because you know the same things that the most unsanctified men 
does, that therefore there is no difference betwixt his knowledge 
and yours; and are therefore ready to say to them, as Job to his 
friends, "Lo, mine eye has seen all this, mine ear has heard and 
understood it: what ye know, the same do I know also; I am not 
inferior unto you," Job 13: 1, 2. But O that you would be convinced 
that your knowledge vastly differs from the knowledge of believers. 
Though you know the same things that they do, it is a knowledge of 
another kind and nature. You know spiritual things in another way, 
merely by the light of reason, assisted and improved by the common 
light of the gospel; they know the same things by spiritual 
illumination, and in an experimental way. 1 John 2: 20. "Ye have an 
unction from the holy One, and ye know all things." Their knowledge 
is practical, yours is idle. They are working out their salvation, 
by that light which God has given them, Psal. 111: 10. Their 
knowledge of God and Christ produces the fruits of faith, obedience, 
and mortification, and heavenly-mindedness in them: it has no such 
fruits in you; whatever light there be in your understandings, it 
makes no alteration at all upon your hearts. The light brings them 
to heaven, John 17: 3. Yours shall be blown out by death, 1 Cor. 13: 
8. and yourselves left in the mists of eternal darkness, except your 
eyes be opened seasonably by the anointing of the Holy Ghost. 
Conviction is a great part of your cure. 
    Secondly, Labour to act a remedy for this dangerous disease of 
your minds: "Awake to righteousness, and sin not, for some have not 
the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame," 1 Cor. 15: 34. 
These things speak encouragement to you, though it be a sore 
judgement that lies upon you, and very difficult to be removed: yet 
remember Jesus Christ is commissioned by God the Father to open the 
blind eyes, Isa. 13: 6, 7. and this excellent physician be speaks 
you for his patients, Rev. 3: 18. "Anoint thine eyes, (saith he) 
with eye-salve that thou mayest see. Yea, the most enlightened 
Christians were once as dark and blind in spiritual things as you 
are, and Christ has cured them, Eph. 5: 8. "Once were you darkness, 
now are ye light in the Lord." Attend therefore upon the ordinances 
of the gospel diligently; that is God's enlightening instrument by 
which he couches those cataracts which blind the eyes of men's 
understandings, Acts 26: 28. And if ever you will have your eyes 
opened, allow yourselves time to ponder and consider what you hear. 
The duty of meditation is a very enlightening duty: above all, cry 
to the Lord Jesus Christ, as that poor man did, "Lord, that mine 
eyes may be opened, that I may receive my sight. Say, Lord, this is 
my disease and danger, that in seeing I see not. Others see natural 
things in a Spiritual way, whilst I see spiritual things only in a 
natural way. Their light is operative upon their hearts, mine is but 
an idle impractical notion of religion, which brings forth no fruit 
of holiness. Their knowledge sets their hands a work in duties of 
obedience; mine only sets my tongue a work in discourses of those 
things which my heart never felt. Lord, open mine eyes, and make me 
to see out of this obscurity: All the light that is in me is but 
darkness. O Lord, enlighten my darkness, enlighten mine eyes, lest I 
sleep the sleep of death. 
    Secondly, Let it be a word of counsel and exhortation to such 
as once were blind, but do now see. 
    First, I beseech you, bless God for the least degree of 
spiritual illumination. "Truly light is sweet, and it is a pleasant 
thing for the eyes to behold the sun," Eccles. 11: 7. But O how 
sweet is spiritual light! and what a pleasant thing to behold the 
Sun of righteousness! Blessed are your eyes, for they see God has 
brought you out of darkness into marvellous light. And marvellous 
indeed it must needs be, when you consider how many wise and prudent 
men are under the power of spiritual darkness, whilst such babes as 
you are enlightened, Mat. 11: 21;. It greatly affected the heart of 
Christ; O let it affect yours also. 
    Secondly, Labour to get a clearer sight of spiritual things 
every day. For all spiritual light is increasing light, "which 
shines more and more unto the perfect day, Prov. 4: 18. O! if a 
little spiritual light be so comfortable, what would more be? The 
wisdom of God is a manifold wisdom, Eph. 3: 10. The best of us see 
but little of it. Labour therefore to know spiritual things more 
extensively, and more experimentally, Phil. 2: 8, 9. Be still 
increasing in the knowledge of God. 
    Thirdly, Walk as men whose eyes are opened. "Once ye were in 
darkness, now are ye light in the Lord; walk as children of the 
light," Eph. 5: 8. else your light will but aggravate your sin. 
Remember how it displeased God, that Solomon's heart was turned from 
the Lord God of Israel who appeared to him twice, 1 Kings 11: 9. 
Remember how angry God was with the Heathens for abusing the dim 
common light of nature, Rom. 1: 21. How much more evil is it in you 
to abuse the most precious light that shineth in this world? and 
what mischievous effects the abuse of your light will have upon this 
blind world? It was a smart rebuke given once by an Atheist to a 
good man, who being asked by him how he could satisfy his conscience 
to live as he did? Nay rather, said the Atheist, I wonder how you 
can satisfy yourself to live as you do; for did I believe as you do, 
that there is such a Christ, and such a glory as you believe there 
are, I would pray and live at another rate than you do. 

The Method of Grace in the Gospel Redemption
(continued in file 38...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: flamt-37.txt