2 Corinthians 10:5
We tear down arguments, and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
A Militant MessageAlexander Maclaren2 Corinthians 10:5
Captivity of Thoughts for ChristR. Tuck 2 Corinthians 10:5
Christ Must be Our Absolute MonarchE. Hopkins, M. A.2 Corinthians 10:5
Christian Subjection of ThoughtJ. Brierley, B. A.2 Corinthians 10:5
Forts Demolished and Prisoners TakenC. H. Spurgeon.2 Corinthians 10:5
Government of the ThoughtsJ. Walker, D. D.2 Corinthians 10:5
StrongholdsThe Church2 Corinthians 10:5
The Captivity of the ThoughtsJ.R. Thomson 2 Corinthians 10:5
The Captivity of ThoughtW. Pulsford, D. D.2 Corinthians 10:5
The Conflict of Faith with Undue Exaltation of IntellectCanon Liddon.2 Corinthians 10:5
The Government of the Thoughts Necessary to HolinessT. Nunns, M. A.2 Corinthians 10:5
The Moral Discipline of the IntellectE. S. Keeble.2 Corinthians 10:5
The Present Struggle of ErrorCongregational Pulpit2 Corinthians 10:5
The Subjection of the Heart to ChristC. A. Vince, M. A.2 Corinthians 10:5
The Victory of Christ Over ThoughtCaleb Morris.2 Corinthians 10:5
Unreserved Surrender to ChristG. S. Barrett, B. A.2 Corinthians 10:5
Change in the Epistle; Spirit of His DefenseC. Lipscomb 2 Corinthians 10:1-7
Christianity a WarfareC. Bradley, M. A.2 Corinthians 10:3-6
Our WarfareW. Horton.2 Corinthians 10:3-6
The Distinctions Between the Good and the BadJ. W. Cunningham, A. M.2 Corinthians 10:3-6
The Spiritual Conflict, Weapons, and VictoryJ. Parsons.2 Corinthians 10:3-6

Spiritual warfare is represented as leading to spiritual victory, and this as involving spiritual captivity. As the Roman general, having vanquished his foe and taken multitudes of prisoners, reserved his captives to grace his triumph, so the apostle, commissioned by Christ, regards himself as contending with all lawless and rebellious forces, and as resolved with Divine help to bring all such forces into subjection to his great Commander and Lord.

I. THE FORCES WHICH ARE BROUGHT INTO CAPTIVITY. Christianity does not contend with physical powers, does not aim at the mere regulation of outward and bodily acts. It strikes at antagonists far more powerful than any which are dealt with by the powers of this world. Thoughts, i.e. the desires and purposes of the souls of men, - these are the foes with which the spiritual religion of the Lord Jesus contends. Disobedient thoughts, selfish thoughts, worldly thoughts, murmuring thoughts, - these it is that the religion of the Lord Jesus assails. These are the source and spring of all the outward evils that afflict and curse mankind. If these can be mastered, society may be regenerated and the world may be saved.


1. It is to the obedience of Christ, the rightful Lord of thoughts and of hearts, that the spiritual forces of humanity are to be rendered subject. A grand future is in this view opened up before humanity. The Son of man is King of man; and he will then ascend his royal throne when men's hearts bow loyally before him, acknowledge his unique spiritual authority, and offer to him their grateful and cheerful allegiance.

2. It is a willing captivity into which human thoughts will be led. In this it is utterly unlike the subjection from which the metaphor is taken. Not brute force, but the convincing authority of reason, the sweet constraint of love, the admired majesty of moral excellence, secure the submission of man's nature to the control of the Divine Lord

3. It is a lasting captivity, not temporary and brief. Whom Christ governs he governs forevermore. Time and earth cannot limit his empire. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. - T.

Casting down imaginations.
I. FORTRESSES DEMOLISHED. Many things are opposed to the knowledge of God. Some are garrisoned against it by the feeling —

1. That they do not want to know God. The masses of our fellow-countrymen are not so much opposed to the gospel as indifferent to it. "What shall we eat?" etc., are far more important questions than "What must we do to be saved?" This entrenchment has to be carried, and the gospel arouses apprehension, and so storms the stronghold of indifference.

2. That they know already. Trained from their childhood in false doctrine, they hold fast to it, and defy the gospel to reach them. How the Holy Spirit casts down this imagination when He makes men feel that they are blind by nature.

3. That if they do not know God they can find Him out without His help.

4. That they know of something better already; that the gospel is outworn.

5. That they never can know. In this despair the rebel entrenches himself as in a very Malakoff, and becomes desperate in his resistance to the gospel. Yet even this rampart is cast down by mighty grace.

II. PRISONERS ARE MADE. "Bringing into captivity every thought." The mind is like a city, and when it is captured the inhabitants which swarm its streets are the thoughts, and these are taken prisoners.

1. The gospel comes with power to the heart of a man, and he begins to fear the wrath of God and the judgment. Christ has captured his thoughts of self-security.

2. He cries, "I am guilty; I have broken God's law, and I am condemned!" The Lord has captured his thoughts of self-righteousness.

3. Now he begins to pray, "God be merciful to me a sinner," and his ideas that he could do without his God are made prisoners.

4. His thoughts of pleasure in alienation from the Great Father are now slain, for he desires to draw near to the Most High.

5. A little hope begins to dawn, he hopes that there may be salvation for him. His thoughts of rebellious despair are led captive.

6. The Spirit of God encourages him, and he comes to believe in Jesus; his self-trust is a prisoner.

7. Hear him as he sings, "I am forgiven, because I have believed in Jesus! Oh, how I love His precious name!" His inmost heart is captured.

III. THESE PRISONERS ARE TO BE LED AWAY INTO CAPTIVITY. Monarchs of old, when they subdued a country, removed the people to a distance. Now, when the Lord captivates the thoughts of our mind, He leads them to another region altogether. The offspring of the mind He guides into the spiritual realm, wherein they delight in the Lord, and bow themselves before Him.

1. He who, being made conscious of his sin, believes in Jesus Christ, submits all the thoughts of his judgment and understanding to the obedience of Christ, and this is a great point gained. His prayer is, "Lord, teach me, for else I shall never learn."

2. The same power leads captive the will. It remains a will still, but the will of God is supreme over it.

3. Human hopes also are spellbound by grace. These winged things were wont to flutter no higher than the tainted atmosphere of this poor world, but now they find stronger pinions and soar aloft to things not seen as yet, eternal in the heavens.

4. The man's fears too, now ennobled by grace, cover their faces with their wings before the throne of God, while the man fears to offend against the Father's love.

5. His joys and sorrows are now found where they never went before; he rejoices in the Lord, and he sorrows after a godly sort.

6. His memory also now retains the precious things of Divine truth, which once it rejected for the trifles of time, and his powers of meditation and consideration keep within the circle of truth and holiness, finding green pastures there.

7. This done, you shall see the same enthralment cast over the Christian man's desires and aspirations. He has flung away his old ambitions, and aspires to nobler things.

8. The same blessed servitude binds the man's plots and designings. He plans still, but it is not for his own aggrandisement; his grandest design is to bring jewels to the crown of Christ. Does this sound rather like sarcasm to you? If it does, stand convicted, for every thought is to be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

9. The renewed man's love and hate are both held captive by the power of grace. He loves Jesus truly and intensely; he hates sin with his whole soul.

10. It is a fair sight to see Christ's sacred bands worn by our tastes, which are so volatile and hard to constrain. The fancy, too, that impalpable cloud, painted as by the setting sun, that will-o'-th'-wisp of the spirit, even this is impressed into royal service, and made to wear the livery of Christ, so that men even dream eternal life.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Congregational Pulpit.
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY IMAGINATIONS? Imaginations in respect to —

1. The being and character of God. Some have imagined that there is no God (Psalm 141.). Others have degraded His character by false representations of Him (Romans 1:23, 25). There is the Pantheist — his god is identical with the universe; the Deist — his God is in the heights of heaven, wholly uninterested in the concerns of men; the narrow-minded religionist — his God is implacable and arbitrary.

2. Our own merit and excellence. The Corinthian Church was full of this, and many modern professors have no other standard than themselves, and condemn all who differ from them, however excellent they may be.

3. The performance of the duties of religion.

(1)Prayer. It is to God alone, we are to pray.

(2)The sacraments.

(3)The preaching of the gospel. A poetic style is all very well, but many "darken counsel by words without knowledge."


1. With the whole tenor of the Scriptures; as regards —

(1)The character of God. "God is a Spirit." "God is light." "God is love."

(2)The character of man (Job 15:14; Psalm 8:4; Romans 3:10-13).

(3)The various duties of religion.

(a)Prayer must be offered to God from the heart, and in the name of Christ (Psalm 65:2; Hebrews 11:6; John 14:14).

(b)The ordinances. Compare the commandments of Christ with the false teachings of men (Matthew 28:19, 20; 1 Corinthians 11:24-26).

(c)Preaching (2 Corinthians 4:5; 1 Corinthians 9:27).

2. With true philosophy. All sciences point to God.

3. With the experiences of the wise and good in all ages of the world.

III. THE TENDENCY OF THE GOSPEL IN REGARD TO THESE IMAGINATIONS. The weapons by which they are to be demolished are —

1. The circulation of the Scriptures.

2. The preaching of the gospel in its purity.

3. The influences of the Spirit. Conclusion: We see —

(1)The certain destiny of error. It must perish.

(2)The future felicity of the world. Free from all error.

(3)Our duty in the present. Oppose error, and serve truth.

(Congregational Pulpit.)

The Church.
1. Ignorance is one of these strongholds. Nothing but their ignorance of Christianity makes two-thirds of the world heathen to-day.

2. Indolence may also be mentioned as a stronghold of Satan. Souls may be lazy as well as bodies.

3. Appetite is a formidable stronghold. Some persons, from natural propensity or habits of life are much more under this tyranny than others. With some it has been a point which absolutely commanded the soul, and when Satan succeeds in intrenching himself there, he can usually shell out most of a man's religion from his heart. Fort Drunkenness, Fort Licentiousness, and Castle Gluttony are masters of one-half the world. Many a soul has played the role of Esau, and sold its eternal birthright for a mess of toothsome pottage.

4. Pride is a lofty height which commands many a soul, and which Satan is very sure to get possession of. It is hard for pride to own itself an abject criminal at the bar of God, and to beg for mercy.

5. I need not say that Satan has no more powerful stronghold than the love of money. He prefers gold-plated defences to iron, and if he can succeed in sheathing a soul with sovereigns, he will pretty surely hold it against all assaults. This is par excellence his stronghold in the heart.

6. The power of habit. It is not merely that an old sinner is more depraved than a younger one, which makes us less hopeful of his conversion, but because he has formed a habit of sinning, which, like all other habits, becomes more and more difficult to break. Every time a godless act is repeated is like casting a new spadeful upon the breastworks and fortifications by which we are shutting ourselves off from God, till, finally, the stronghold of Satan rises about us frowning and impregnable as the very ramparts of hell.

(The Church.)

And bringing into captivity every thought
Men live more lives than one. There is the life of thought as well as the life of action, and the one must be moralised as well as the other. We must practise mental morality. Let us then consider in detail this moral culture of the mind —


1. Avoid a wrong self-estimate. Neither overestimate nor underestimate. Beware of pride, vanity, conceit, and kindred vices.

2. Cultivate humility — mental modesty. Live in the presence of God, of His holiness and greatness, and keep a fresh and high ideal — pride cannot then exist.


1. In relation to nature. Let us in our interpretation of it preserve a deep love of truth.

2. In relation to man. Cultivate sobriety in judgment and reflection.(1) In matters personal. Do justice to distasteful individuals. Be charitable.(2) In matters political. Beware of blind and bitter partisanship. Argue for truth, not victory.(3) In matters social. On such questions as capital and labour, allow for the "personal equation" — for class prejudice and self-interest. Beware of rash theorising.


1. Practically.(1). Beware of an unscrupulous conscience.(2) Beware of an over-scrupulous conscience — weak, narrow, morbid, unenlightened.(3) Let conduct increase in efficiency, with knowledge.

2. Speculatively. Beware of wanton doubt-dabbling.

(E. S. Keeble.)

The recent history of Cilicia may have well suggested this language, it having been the scene of some very fierce struggles in the wars against Mithridates. The dismantled ruins of 120 strongholds may have impressed the boyish imagination of Saul with the destructive energy of Rome; but the apostle only remembers these earlier impressions to give them a spiritual application.


1. With intellect itself religion can have no quarrel. It were a libel on the All-wise Creator to suppose that between thought and faith there could be any original relations other than those of perfect harmony.

2. Here, as elsewhere in human nature, we are met with unmistakable traces of the Fall. A range of granite mountains, which towers proudly above the plain, speaks to the geologist of a subterranean fire that has upheaved the primal crust. And the arrogant pretensions of human thought speak no less truly of an ancient convulsion. The Fall so disturbed the original structure of our nature as to make reason generally the slave of desire instead of its master. And therefore the intellect which exalts itself against revelation is often in reality not free intellect, but intellect working at the secret bidding of an irritated passion. Yet intellect never vaunts its freedom so much as when it is in conflict with revelation. We do not pose as champions of free thought in mathematics. We solve an equation as dispassionately as if we were ourselves pure reason. But revelation challenges the activity of will and conscience; and the passions sound an alarm at the first signs of the coming of the Son of Man. Then natural intellect feels it necessary to be upon its guard, and to maintain an attitude of suspicion.

3. Take note of the varieties of intellect which enter into this conflict. There is —(1) Mercenary intellect. Necessity, it is said, knows no law; and that poverty cannot afford to have a conscience. And sometimes this hired intellect passionately asserts its monopoly of freedom. It even tells the ministers of Christ, who have freely entered His service, that we are not free. Under the circumstances, conflict with religion is natural.(2) Self-advertising intellect, which is bent on achieving a reputation, no matter how. It will write something startling, "original." When it asserts that Scripture is a collection of foolish legends, it takes pleasure in thinking of the trouble which its irritating productions will occasion. But its object is notoriety.(3) Sensualised intellect, whose purpose is to rouse in the imagination and veins of man those fiery passions which are his worst enemy.(4) Self-reliant or cynical intellect, that slave of a sublime egotism; but its cold, clear, incisive energy passes for perfect intellectual freedom. 4.We must not forget that among earnest opponents are souls which glow with a love of truth. They have not yet found the road to Damascus; but we may safely leave them to the love and providence of God.

II. It is implied in the language of the apostle, that INTELLECTUAL OPPOSITION TO REVELATION, except on great occasions, and under the leadership of distinguished captains, DOES NOT USUALLY SEEK US IN THE OPEN FIELD. Its customary instinct is to take refuge on some heights, or behind some earthworks. It screens its advance under the cover of some disputed principle, or of some unproved assumption.

1. A primary characteristic of sceptical intellect is its unwillingness to make room for faith; it assumes to command the whole field of truth. It feels itself humiliated if debarred from the the sight of any spiritual fact.(1) But we find no such sensitiveness respecting the power and range of the organ of sight. Ask the astronomer whether the stars and suns that reveal themselves to his telescopes are the only ones which exist. Ask the entomologist whether his microscope has discovered the most minute embodiment of the principle of life. It is no discredit to the organs of sense that they are thus limited. Nor should reason complain if, as we ascend the mountain of thought, she reaches a region at which she must leave us.(2) Reason, indeed, can do much, even beyond the province in which she confessedly reigns. She can prove to man that he possesses a soul and a conscience, and that his will is really free. She can even attain to a certain shadowy knowledge of the First Cause of all. But she can do no more. Her highest conquests but suggest problems she cannot solve, afford glimpses of a world on which she may not presume to enter. What knows she of the inner life of God? What can she tell us concerning sin, or its removal? etc. Reason must accept her providential place as faith's handmaid, not as faith's substitute; or her pride will surely prepare for her a terrible chastisement.

2. But when the possibility, need, and even the fact of a revelation has been admitted, the rebellious intellect stipulates that revelation must not include mysteries. Whatever may be revealed, it must be submitted to the verifying faculty.(1) But surely it is unreasonable to determine beforehand what a revelation ought or ought not to contain; we are in no position to speculate on such a subject. But let me ask, what is a mystery? Not a confused statement, a contradiction, an impossibility, an unintelligible process, a reverie of the heated religious imagination. A mystery is simply a truth hidden, in whatever degree. We see some truths directly, just as in the open air we gaze upon the sun. We know other truths indirectly, just as we know the sun is shining, from the ray of sunlight which streams in at the window. Now a mystery is a truth of the latter kind. It can only be known from the evidence or symptoms of its presence. Yet the evidence proves to us that the truth is there; and the truth is not the less a truth because it is itself shrouded from our direct gaze. Thus St. Paul speaks of the mystery of the Incarnation, and of the calling of the Gentiles, and even of marriage.(2) Now the world we live in is a very temple of mysteries. In spring everywhere around you are evidences of the existence of a mysterious power which you can neither see, nor touch, nor define, nor measure, nor understand. What do you really know about the forces you term attraction and gravitation? And you yourselves, what are you but living embodiments, alike in your lower and your higher natures, and in the law of their union, of this all-pervading principle of mystery?(3) To object to mystery as a feature of a Divine Revelation is therefore irrational. Surely, as we mount in the scale of being, we must expect an increase both in the number and magnitude of these hidden truths.

3. Granting this, the wayward reason falls back upon the demand that revelation shall not be dogmatic. Christianity must abandon the pretension to offer a defined body of truth, and is bidden to accommodate herself to the changed circumstances and imperious necessities of the time.(1) But this is only a disguised form of opposition to the truth which dogmatic statements embody. A theist, e.g., has no objection to saying explicitly that there is one God. It does not occur to him, that in making that statement he is guilty of an intellectual narrowness or of bad taste. Nor does he hold it necessary presently to balance his profession by some other statement which shall reduce it to the level of an uncertainty. Yet to say that there is one God is to make an essentially dogmatic statement. If, then, he presently hesitates to say that Jesus Christ is truly God, or that His death was a propitiatory offering for human sin this, we must suppose, is because he does not believe the truths which are thus stated in human language. If he urges that a dogmatic statement is more or less unsatisfactory in that, owing to the imperfection of human speech, it leaves unanswered, or rather it suggests, many concomitant questions; it may be rejoined that this is no less true when you assert the unity of God, than when you assert the Godhead or the satisfaction of Jesus Christ. If he dislikes dogma because, forsooth, dogma is the "stagnation," or the "imprisonment," or the "paralysis" of thought, his objection applies to his statement that there is one God, just as much as to any other proposition in the creeds.(2) The fact is, faith discerns in dogma the regulation of its thought, just as the mathematician finds in the axioms which are the base of his science, the fixed principles which guide his onward progress, not the tyrannical obstacle which enthrals and checks him.(3) This prejudice against dogma is the last stronghold of the enemy; it is a position from which he must be dislodged at any cost, or all previous victories may soon be forfeited. Surely it is of little avail to grant that a revelation has been given, and even that it is replete with mystery, if no one revealed truth may be stated in terms as absolutely certain. If religion is to be a practical thing, it must depend, not upon beautiful thoughts, but upon clearly-defined certainties. When tempted we need something solid to fall back upon; not a picture, not a mist, not a view, not an hypothesis, but a fact.

(Canon Liddon.)

A sceptic once said to me, "Why, Christianity actually wants the control of your very thoughts. Who could really conform to a system like that"? My rejoinder was, that a man's thoughts were his very life, and that a religion which is going to do anything for a man must work upon his thoughts and endeavour to lift them, by giving him both a law and an ideal of thinking. This is one of the glories of Christianity. In paganism you have religious observances divorced from morality — a cult which panders to a man's lowest passions. And even in Christendom, amongst communions which have more or less lost touch of the Bible and Christ, the problem is how to satisfy the religious instincts of men without troubling them to move out of their present level of thought and practice. The purpose of New Testament religion is the subjection of every thought to the obedience of Christ. Is that too great a programme? It is a difficult one, certainly. Study the development of character in a man who, from practical paganism, has been brought under the power of gospel like Bunyan. First, there was the outward act of submitting himself to Christ. Next follows a reformation of outward conduct. But the greatest conquest comes later. For a long time the trouble was that the thoughts, the grooves of which had been cut in the old dissolute days, could break loose and revel like devils in the chambers of his brain. And it required many a period of wrestling and much powerful work of the Divine Spirit before that great realm of life was fully in the Master's hands.

I. "EVERY THOUGHT" IS A PHRASE WHICH COVERS PRETTY NEARLY THE WHOLE INNER LIFE OF MAN. Philosophical analyses of man's mind usually divide it into thought, feeling, volition; but, as a matter of fact, these are all mixed up and act together. You love a person; but the feeling is full of thought. On the other hand, thought is full of feeling. The feeling of gladness or hope produces thoughts of one sort, the feeling of gloom those of an opposite. And when you come to volition or will, you find thought and feeling combined in its every act. And Christ will aim at nothing less than that the whole inner life be subjected to Him. Now what is meant here is simply that all our thinkings be after the pattern of God's own mind. The ultimate triumph of the gospel is that we shall love to find out what His thoughts are, to interpret them, to enjoy them, to obey them.


1. What is a true musician, e.g.? Surely one who in that department is obedient to the thought of God. He is simply an interpreter of God's laws of harmony. True, some of the great musicians have not been noted as religious men; but inasmuch as they were great in music, it was so by the strictness of their obedience to God's mind in that one department of it.

2. What of the interests of truth, of scientific investigation? Will the world be shut up to narrow ideas? Why, do we not see that everything that can be found out by investigation, in the heavens above or on the earth beneath, is already true in the mind of God? Every new advance here is simply getting at another of God's thoughts. Obedience stopping inquiry? Why, it is a call to inquiry. For we need to know more that we may more perfectly obey.

III. THIS NEEDS PUSHING HOME TO EACH ONE OF US. We can never get the best out of life till we have all our thoughts brought into obedience to the Christ of God. Imagine a man regulated by this principle. All his thinkings are, as it were, coloured by the consciousness of God's presence. Each thought floats in this as in an atmosphere.

1. It is only so that a man comes to understand what faith is and what it can do for him. The secret of the business is in realising that you have not to strain to get yourself into a state of higher exaltation of spirit to find Him, but to feel that He is just here where you are, working in and through your life each moment. When you lift anything and then let it fall, there is gravitation, you say. Yes; it is God at work. When you look at a tree coming into bud, the charm of it is in seeing God, your Great Companion, at work in it. No one else could do this. Yes. He is here as much as anywhere in the universe — here in all His wisdom, power, and love.

2. I have spoken of our thoughts as floating in an atmosphere, and as coloured by that. Just as in a landscape the rocks, woods, water, which yesterday looked black, frowning, almost repulsive, to-day, by their sunny brightness woo and fascinate you, and that simply by a change in the atmospheric conditions; so with persons and your thoughts about them. Now, when the mind is won to the obedience of Christ, the atmosphere in which our thoughts float is the atmosphere of His love. Ah, how differently do our fellow-men present themselves to us when seen through that light! Here, e.g., is one person looked at by three different pairs of eyes. It is that poor fallen woman who crouches at the feet of Christ. Yonder is a man, brutal and sensual, and his thoughts are only of the animal, of sensuous gratification. There is another looking on, a hard, flinty Pharisee, who sniffs here nothing but human carrion, and who goes away thinking how virtuous he is, and how wicked some people are. But there is Christ. We know something of what His thoughts were. Now if I come into obedience to the mind of Christ, I shall have just such thoughts as His about such an one. I should see her and pray to God for her salvation.

(J. Brierley, B. A.)

I suppose there are few prerogatives which men would be less inclined to part with than the absolute secrecy and independence of their thoughts. Each one should take care to keep himself inwardly as well as outwardly pure, "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." Here, however, an objection is sometimes raised. Our thoughts, it is said, succeed each other according to fixed and unalterable laws, one thought bringing up neither in a constant current, over which the will has no more power than over the current of blood in our veins. Unquestionably it is not for our will directly to determine what we shall think of at the moment; neither can we, merely by willing it, stop thinking altogether. Thus much is true; but it does not follow that we have no control whatever over our trains of thought. Suppose, for example, that I am thinking of a sinful indulgence; I am free to think of that side of it which invites, or of that side of it which repels; I can think of it as an indulgence merely, or as a sinful indulgence; and the train of thought to which the whole will give rise will vary accordingly. We are competent at any moment freely and deliberately to select out of a train of thoughts that one to which we will attend. But we will suppose this selection made, not freely and deliberately, but spontaneously, or from the impulse of the moment, as is probably the fact in most cases; still what we do from the impulse of the moment, depends on the state of our minds, and this again depends, for the most part, on what we have chosen to make it, or allow it to become. Accordingly it will not do to disown all responsibility respecting the government of our thoughts, on the plea that they are not subject to our control. Thus far, the aim of my reasoning has been to prove that no object is likely to suggest bad thoughts, except through the concurrence of a weakened or depraved mind. But, in a practical view of the subject, this is taking higher ground than is necessary, or perhaps judicious. Let us admit, then, that, in the present condition of humanity, there are some things so adapted of themselves to excite bad thoughts that they will have this effect on the best minds. Still this does not hinder us from being able to govern our thoughts, for it by no means follows that we are obliged to put ourselves in the way of such things. Let me add, that the control which every man has, or might have, over his thoughts does not consist in prevention alone. Bad single thoughts may flit, from time to time, through the minds of good men; but it is bad men only who encourage their stay. If we would expel bad thoughts, it must be by the preference we give to good thoughts, that is, by introducing good thoughts into their place. Away, then, with that subtle but most inconsistent form of fatalism, which teaches that we can help our actions, but not our thoughts. What is to choose but to think; and without freedom of choice what freedom of actions could there be? All freedom, therefore, begins and ends with freedom of thought. Within certain limits, therefore, and as far as morality goes, we have as real a control over our thoughts as over our actions or our limbs. This being conceded, nothing remains but to consider some of the reasons and motives which should induce us to exert this power wisely and effectually, "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."

I. Consider HOW MUCH THE THOUGHT'S HAVE TO DO IN FORGING AND DETERMINING THE WHOLE CHARACTER. "Thought," says an eloquent writer, "is the rudder of human action. As the thought is wise or foolish, good or bad, vicious or moral, the cause of action is noxious or salutary. When, therefore, I am told it is but a thought, I am told that it is the most important of all things." Tell me what are a man's thoughts, and you do not tell me what he will actually do, but you tell me what he would like to do. Tell me what are a man's thoughts, and you do not tell me what he is in the judgment of the world, for the world judges by the outward appearance. Thoughts have been called "the seeds of conduct"; but they are more than this. They are seeds which have already begun to germinate under ground; they have begun to develop their natural and essential properties. In this way the whole character may be covertly undermined. Melancholy instances of this description occur, from time to time, in what is regarded as the sudden fall of men who have hitherto enjoyed the entire confidence of the community. These men have been falling for years in the slow decay of all upright purpose and thought.

II. It will help us to understand how this can be, and at the same time strengthen our general conviction as to the necessity of controlling our thoughts, if we consider THAT EVERY SIN BEGINS IN A SIN OF THOUGHT; that is to say, in some vicious purpose or intention, and often in meditating, over and over again, when at length we are emboldened to do. As a general rule, it is only after frequently revolving crime in their minds that men find the resolution, or rather the hardihood, to commit it. Take, for example, the crimes of envy, jealousy, and malice; who does not know how often a man will wish evil to another, and imagine ways in which he would like to do him evil, before he arrives at the point of putting any one of his fancied schemes in practice? The same is also true of acts of fraud and dishonesty. Actual transgression, when first proposed, is never in itself agreeable to our nature, but always more or less revolting. A strong instinctive aversion must be overcome before we can go on. Our sense of repugnance to the crime has been blunted by familiarity. And here it is that the demoralising influence of ill-regulated thought appears.

III. Hence a third consideration which should impress us with the necessity of governing our thoughts is, THAT UNLESS THE RESTRAINT IS LAID THERE IT IS NOT LIKELY TO BE EFFECTUAL. Because we maintain the sinfulness of bad thoughts, it does not follow that we must push this doctrine to the extent of asserting that the thought of sin is as bad as the deed. Unquestionably it is not. The actual perpetrator of a crime is guilty of a double offence, that of desiring to do it, and that of not restraining the desire. Nay, more; if the evil thought is suggested from without, and immediately disowned and rejected from within, it will depart and leave no stain. The guilt of evil thoughts does not consist in our having them, but in our indulging them. Let the check be put upon the thought, and we not only prevent the sin from coming to maturity, but we take the character of sin from its first beginnings; that is to say, we turn what would otherwise have been a temptation yielded to, which is sin, into a temptation overcome, which is virtue. Those, on the contrary, who indulge the thought, and yet rely on their power and resolution to prevent it from passing into act, do miserably miscalculate their strength. As has been said, "There can be no doubt with any reflecting mind but that the propensities of our nature must be subject to regulation; but the question is, where the check ought to be placed — upon the thought, or only upon the action?" After all, the weightiest consideration which should lead us to govern our thoughts is that which religion suggests; they are known unto God, who will call them into judgment at the last day. Something, doubtless, would be gained, as regards the duty in question, if we would merely give heed to that apothegm of Pagan wisdom, "Reverence thyself." For he who knowingly tolerates in himself what he would be ashamed to have others know, shows that he has less respect for his own good opinion than for that of the world. The mind, the soul, will go on thinking still, even in its disembodied state, and thinking as it did here, and takes its place according to the spirit and tendency of its thoughts. Is not this what the Scriptures mean when they say, "Therefore, judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and then shall every man have praise of God"?

(J. Walker, D. D.)

I. THE POWER OF THOUGHT. The greatest on earth is man, the greatest in man is mind, the great function of mind is to think.

1. The ability to think is man's great distinction. By this, man seems to be distanced from every other creature by an impassable gulf; for, if other creatures have built the way which leads up to man, it is one they have not been able to follow.

2. Thought is the instrument of all man's work. Within creaturely limits it is a power of creation. Consider what it has already accomplished, what is still being done by it, and what prophecies of work continue ceaselessly to proceed from man's busy brain.

3. Thought is also the great material with which we work. All work is the working out and working up of thought. We sometimes hear men talk of being used-up. He only can be used-up who has not learned to use himself.

4. Thought gives value to everything.(1) Works of skill are costly. Skilled labour commands the highest market price. And as the world completes its history thought will be more and more in demand. In all great crises the man of thought will come to the front.(2) The value of thought, too, is seen in its power — when wisely directed — of control over the inferior powers. A man of rightly-directed thought cannot well be a low, bad man. Earnest and well-chosen engagement of mind disengages the body from every excess, and disqualifies it for low pursuits.


1. Thought unled, like an unbroken animal, will be drawn hither and thither by the allurements of the senses; or left, passively subject to external influences and circumstances, to vegetate but not to bear fruit; for there is no order in the thought of an undisciplined mind, consequently no harvest — no accumulation of thought and its results.

2. If a man does not lead his thoughts, some other power will, the world, the flesh, or the devil, or all these powers combined. Now, the central character of the power of our thoughts makes it a first necessity that we should lead them, if we are to remain in possession of ourselves. Thought determines the man. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." It arrests the attention, awakens feeling, inflames the passions, subdues the will, and commands action. Thoughts, therefore, unled will be to a man what winds and waves are to a ship under canvas but without a rudder, or what steam is to an engine without the guiding rail — a driving and destructive power.

3. What is so important, then, as that we should have power over our thoughts, that we should be able to choose them, to select those we wish to retain, and to dismiss those we would banish; that we should be able to hold and fix arrested thoughts, infuse them with our will, and work in and by them our good pleasure.

III. IF WE WOULD LEAD OUR THOUGHTS, WE MUST KNOW HOW TO MAKE THEM INTERESTING. The mind readily places itself at the service of the heart. To master the details of any subject in which we are not truly interested is an irksome task. But when we take to a subject, with what eagerness we pursue it! The mind readily labours for what interests the heart. The heart lives with its treasure, and surrounds it with habitual thought. These thoughts repeat themselves so frequently that they soon become established. We should mark those thoughts which come unbidden, and ascertain their right to the place they seek to occupy. And we cannot do this too soon, for thoughts which occupy the heart become impassioned, and are difficult to dismiss, though they may be such as it ill becomes us to cherish; and, if not at once dismissed, become habitual.

IV. HOW MAY WE LEAD OUR THOUGHTS INTO CAPTIVITY? Thought cannot be forced. To lead it we must observe the nature of the mind, which is susceptible of influence, but not of force. Our leading, therefore, must not be arbitrary, but in accordance with law and order — truth and justice. There is nothing more repugnant to the mind than the tyranny of wilfulness; but the appeal of law and order accords with its nature, and awakens their own deep-laid echoes in answering assent. To lead our thoughts, then, we must simply ask for obedience to an authority which, though it speaks without, appeals to its own "Amen" within us. But to what authority?

1. To that of conscience. Paul only sought to enforce that which "commended itself to the conscience in the sight of God." Man's conscience is endowed with that power of judgment which makes him responsible for an obedience according to the light. Our thoughts must be led by our consciences.

2. The Divine Word. This has its correspondence in the conscience, as the light has its corresponding faculty in the eye which witnesses of the designed agreement between them. The Word of God, by awakening the conscience, awakens a power to whose judgment it submits the claims of its authority. But it is a higher authority than conscience. Conscience is corruptible, and has been corrupted. The Word is "incorruptible," and "liveth and abideth for ever." It faithfully represents the judgment of God, and enables the spirit, which is given to every man, when once awakened, to see things in His light — even the deep things of God. The spirit in the child has an ear which knows the Father's voice, and an eye which discerns His light, and is the child's capacity for being taught of God. Under the inherited corruption that is in the flesh, and the influence of the vain pageantry of "the course of this world," the conscience is dead, and needs to be quickened and enlightened by "the Word, which is quick and powerful," etc.

3. He who speaks in the Word. He is the last authority because, without the Word which addresses the conscience through the ear, we should be ignorant of Him. With light everywhere, men know not God. "How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?" whose minds "the god of this world hath blinded" lest "the light of God should shine unto them." It is through "the foolishness of preaching" that He is revealed to us as a God of attractive goodness and mercy. In Jesus Christ "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory," etc. In Him we have, though last, our highest authority for the obedience of our thoughts. And when He is once seen, like the risen sun, He accounts for and claims as His all the light that preceded Him. He is the centre and source of every attraction. With His reign set up in the heart, submission becomes a devotion, obedience a worship, and the whole life moves in charmed circles of rectitude and peace. The powers of His life, His light, His love are, therefore, "the weapons of a warfare" which are "mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strongholds," etc. How blessed it is to know that there is a way for our thoughts, a way having all the authority of law, the satisfaction of truth, the charm of goodness, the promise of stability, and the certainty of perpetual progress! A right, royal, central way, which conducts to the centre of all blessedness! How blessed it is to know that this way is His, whose "counsel standeth for ever, the thoughts of His heart to all generations," who can cleanse the thoughts of our heart by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and who has undertaken to do so as "the Captain of our salvation." Admit Him to our hearts, and He will lead our thoughts captive, not by force, but by the love He inspires. But, in order thus to lead our thoughts, He draws us not merely "with cords of love" but also by "the bands of a man" — by influences in harmony with the laws of our nature. He knows we are amenable to reason, that we carry an echo truth can awaken, that we respond to goodness and yield to mercy. By appealing, therefore, to our several powers in accordance with their own freedom of action, we are made willing in the day of His power, and yield ourselves up to His sway.

(W. Pulsford, D. D.)

Christianity is sometimes spoken of as the revelation of a plan by which the guilty may be pardoned, and sinners be saved. Thank God this is gloriously true. A truer designation of Christianity is, that it is the divinely offered means for exalting the debased character of fallen man to a fitness for the enjoyment of God and the blessedness of His presence in eternity. Again, Christianity is sometimes treated of as a scheme for improving the character and elevating the morals of mankind. It is certainly not a difficult matter for persons well brought up to be moral in their conduct and honest in their dealings. The light of conscience is abundantly sufficient for withholding us from the commission of numberless vices, and impelling us to the cultivation of some of the most exalted virtues. It is obvious, therefore, that if Christianity aimed at nothing higher than to excite our belief in certain truths, and to elevate our conduct to a certain standard, a very unnecessary expenditure of suffering has been endured for a purpose that might have been attained had Jesus Christ never suffered and His apostles never preached. But God never does employ any means but for an end fully worthy of them. That end is the one expressed in the text. "Bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." Yes, the gospel goes as no other teaching does, or can, to the hidden man of the heart. It came from God, and it has to do with that in us which constitutes our resemblance to God — the soul. What a work is this! Who that knows anything of his own heart, knows not the difficulty of restraining, controlling, governing, fixing, directing his thoughts and feelings? and our thoughts and feelings are ourselves — the actions, the movements of our souls. We are not so much what our actions are (for ten thousand motives may prompt our actions), but what our thoughts are, what our intentions, purposes, feelings, wishes, aims are. This, then, is true religion, to have every thought brought into captivity "to the obedience of Christ." All below it may be amiable, but is not Christianity. "Our thoughts are heard in heaven." Our thoughts are God's rule, God's standard for judging of our character, and fixing of our destiny; our words are but the expression of our thoughts, and our actions but embodied thoughts. Then only do we know what true Christianity is when we acknowledge its supremacy over the movements of our inmost souls. I exhort you to give to the gospel its righteous demands. Religion must have its proper place within us — or none. To give it a subordinate authority is even to pour contempt upon its author, assuredly to deprive ourselves of its promised bliss.

I. THE NATURE OF TRUE RELIGION IS WELL EXPRESSED. To bring "into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." Not that it is meant that every thought of our minds is to be about religion, or that the will of Christ is always to be had directly in view, or the presence of Christ always perceptibly felt. Nothing so impracticable. This is a blessedness reserved for the faithful above. Yet an approach to it is implied and may be made. I speak of the really godly; Christ is enthroned in their affections. Just as gain holds in captivity every thought of the covetous man, or ambition of the worldly man, or pleasure of the man of fashion, or lust of the sensualist; just as music, or painting, or literature of the man of taste, even though ten thousand thoughts, independent of his predominating passion, pass through his mind, and direct his walk — so is it with the man of God. Christ holds in captivity every thought of the Christian. "To him to live is Christ." His ruling passion, his prevailing taste, his one great work, is religion. He may have many worldly duties to discharge, but he has not in any a thought or a feeling at variance with the will of Christ. For him to be reconciled to sin, nay not to abhor it in all its phases and disguises, would be as contrary to his new nature as for a musician to be insensible to the charms of harmony or the jarring of discords. Religion with him is not only an appointed work, but a ruling passion, a Divine, a heaven-born taste. Like every other passion or taste (call it which you will), it may require many a strong effort of the mind, demand many a sacrifice, impose much self-denial. Seasons indeed there are in a true believer's experience when the influence of grace is as powerfully felt as among the redeemed above. Then is the triumph of religion, and then too is the believer's enjoyment complete. But not only then is it that every thought of his breast is in "captivity to the obedience of Christ," even his most worldly occupations are under the blessed influence of His loving spirit. Pride, selfishness, anger, jealousy, malice, lust, are prohibited from entering the holy habitation of his heart. Such is true religion, and these are its fruits.

II. THE MEANS FOR MAKING THIS ATTAINMENT. Mighty as the change from our natural condition is to that implied by the word of the text, one thing, and but one thing can effect it, can reduce our souls to obedience, can reconcile us to God, and bring "every thought into captivity" — the Cross, the Cross of Christ, seen, approached, embraced. The life that flows from that death alone can quicken us to submit to His authority who endured it on our behalf. But the difficulty is to bring our souls within the influence of the Cross, within the range of its transforming energy. This can only be done by —

1. Devout meditation on your own soul's worth, its powers, capabilities, and eternal duration; the present degradation of living without God in the world, and the unutterable misery of being separated from His presence in eternity. Meditate on the holiness of God, the heinousness of sin, and the fearfulness of that curse which its commission provokes. Then look up to the Cross and meditate on the love of Christ as exhibited in the atoning death.

2. Be much in prayer for grace to give you so lively an impression, to set and keep before you so vivid a perception of the love and power of Christ crucified, as may subdue your soul into obedience and love, and unite all its powers into one great and lasting effort to glorify His name.

3. Be diligent in good works. These, as we abound in them liberally, affectionately, self-denyingly, have a wonderful power in clarifying our spiritual vision; yes, and in perfecting our whole moral nature.

4. Be constant in the means of grace. These are instruments of even almighty power for saving and perfecting our souls in righteousness.

III. THE BLESSEDNESS OF "BRINGING INTO CAPTIVITY EVERY THOUGHT TO THE OBEDIENCE OF CHRIST." Verily, their "peace" shall be "as a river," and "their righteousness as the waves of the sea." They shall be safe from evil and from the fear of evil. "His faithfulness and truth," whose captives they are, shall be their "shield and buckler." Unmoved by trying providences, unfermented by earthly passions, unharassed by worldly cares, unsubdued by Satan's temptations, they shall pass on their way heavenward in peaceful hope. The pleasures of sense and the promises of sin shall lose their power even to tempt and allure, by reason of the increasing fascinations which those of holiness are felt to impart.

(T. Nunns, M. A.)

The kingdom of heaven is in your hearts. But your hearts, too, are not like a single citadel, but rather a wide, diversified country. Does the kingdom occupy only a narrow space of hardly won ground, or does the royal standard float over every stronghold, and do the King's writs run through all the wide region peopled by your purposes? Not until then, not till the sway of Christ commands every motion of our wills, not till He has imprisoned every rebellious desire and exiled every turbulent intention, not till He has conquered every ambition that threatens His throne with rivalry, not till our whole nature is a loyal realm, obedient to His sceptre, dare we cease with all earnestness of supplication to uplift the prayer, "Thy kingdom come."

(C. A. Vince, M. A.)

I remember reading — I think it was in the Indian Mutiny — of a siege which the British army conducted, how they captured, after long fighting, the walls of the city they had besieged; but the native garrison within only slowly retreated, fighting their way step by step, until at last they entrenched themselves in the citadel, and there defied the British troops. So it is with us. Self may be beaten by Christ in the outworks of life; it may retreat from Christ, until all the soul is open to Christ save one little room. Hold one thing back, you hold all; yield one thing you yield all. Yes, a man's cross is just that which he finds it most difficult to yield.

(G. S. Barrett, B. A.)

When we are in the right condition Christ and not self occupies the centre of our being. Then it is that He reigns with unhindered sway as King within. The writer not long since heard one who had been a Christian many years describe the nature of the blessing he had recently received in the following words: "I had heard of Christ being King. Well, He had reigned in me, but it was only as a constitutional sovereign. I was Prime Minister, and I did a good deal of the work myself. Then I found that He must be absolute Monarch. And so now He is."

(E. Hopkins, M. A.)

I. THIS GOSPEL IS TO BRING THE THOUGHTS OF MEN INTO SUBJECTION TO CHRIST. Christianity recognises man as a thinking being, "bringing into captivity every thought." The thought of man may be regarded —

1. As the distinguishing attribute of his nature. It distinguishes man from the brute creation and assimilates him to God and fits him to enjoy Him for ever. Now —

2. As the great parent of his character. Man is what his thoughts are. If his thoughts be false, his character is false; if his thoughts be in harmony with the everlasting laws of God, his character will be so too. If a man thinks feebly, his character will be feeble; if he thinks vigorously, independently and progressively, his character will be the same.

3. As the chief instrument of his influence. Every other influence is utterly insignificant when compared with this. The corrupting influences of the world are only to be removed by the action of free and loving thought upon them. The death of mind is its departure from God. You cannot point to a country where some of the ideas of Jesus are not. Sometimes we take discouraging views of the progress of Christianity, but we should remember that the thoughts of Christ are mixed with the literature, the philosophy, the legislation, the commerce of the world. Is it not a glorious office of Christianity to bring these thoughts into captivity?


1. By arousing them into life and action. A man's religion is valuable just in proportion as it engages his intense, solemn, and prayerful thought. The first action of Christ on the mind is to make us think.

2. By removing obstacles. "Strongholds" must be pulled down; "imaginations" or false reasonings must be cast down. What is the great hindrance to the subjection of mind to Christ? Human depravity — sin. But in what form does it manifest itself?(1) Sensuousness — materialism. Sensuousness took Adam away from his allegiance, deluged the old population, broke up the Jewish nation, first degraded and then destroyed virtue in Greece, and overthrew Rome. Sensuousness is the dominion of the flesh over the spirit; the despotism of matter over mind. This is the most gross form of opposition to Christianity, the most common, and probably the most fatal. There is hope of men while they think, but there is no hope for men if they have sunk into sensuousness.(2) False philosophy — the spirit of all wrong systems, which generally develops itself in scepticism.(3) Religious superstition which substitutes mechanical action for mental activity.(4) Secular authority.Conclusion:

1. Have you given your thoughts to Christ?

2. What are we to do to bring other minds to Christ?

(Caleb Morris.)

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