2 Corinthians 3:12-18
Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:…
1. In this passage the intellectual blindness of the Jews is traced up to the wrong state of their hearts. Indeed, even without this statement we could have gathered as much. The miracles of our Lord, and the close agreement of His career with prophecy, must have carried the convictions of the Jews by force, had there not been a predisposition in the heart not to believe. As soon, therefore, as this predisposition shall be removed, they shall forthwith be convinced, and "the veil shall be taken away."
2. Men are well aware that the understanding is liable to be prejudiced by the heart. "Love," they say, "is blind." We should exclude from the trial of a man's cause both his friends and his foes, because we account strong sympathies or antipathies prejudicial to the judgment. But the proverb extends to our judgment of things. The mind of man — the faculty by which he discerns truth — may be compared to an eye placed above a fuming caldron, which can see nothing clearly, because the vapours intercept the vision. The heart is the caldron, and sends up the vapours which distort the view. Now in seeking to reform human nature, the philosophers of antiquity either did not notice this fact, or did not see how the difficulty which it presents could be surmounted. At all events, by way of persuading men to virtue, they made their appeal to the understanding, and sought to carry their point to convincing the mind. As far as the understanding went, nothing could be more effective than such a method. But what if men do not, as notoriously they do not, conclude moral questions affecting themselves, on the mere verdict of the understanding? What if they set the will on the judgment-seat? Unless you can rectify the will and its prepossessions, you only argue before a corrupted judge, and in the sentence the argument goes for nothing.
3. Christianity, in seeking to reform mankind, makes its first appeal to the affections, which are the springs of the will, and through them clears and rectifies the understanding. What may be said to have been the main scope of our Lord's teaching? This — "God so loved the world," dee. Was not the apostolic exhortation only a prolonging of the echoes of the Saviour's voice: "We pray you... be ye reconciled to God"? Now the facts of the life and sufferings and teaching of Christ are the implements with which Christianity works. Let any one read the gospel records with thorough simplicity, and he cannot fail to be touched by them in a salutary way, especially by the concluding part of the great story.
4. But not only did Christianity commence with an appeal to the hearts of men; but this is the order which grace observes in its work on each individual soul. The Scripture says, "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness." Justifying faith is not a mere intellectual conviction of the truth; but an operation of the heart, and by consequence of the will, involving a movement of the affections towards Christ in trust or love. And every forward step in Christian life must be made on the same principle as the first. It is quite as true to say, "with the heart man is edified," as it is to say, "with the heart man believeth." Now let us develop this truth, that edification is through the heart, and not through the mind.
I. TESTIMONY IS BORNE TO IT BY THE UNIVERSAL EXPERIENCE OF CHRISTIANS. What is that impalpable something, which if an inferior sermon has, it succeeds in doing good, but if a superior sermon lacks, it fails of doing good? We call it "unction" — a fervent way of throwing out Divine truth, corresponding with the fervent character of that truth. Unction would be no merit at all, but the reverse, if the gospel were to be received by the intellect rather than the affections. But men know that the gospel is designed to meet their sympathies; and if it should be presented to them in such a manner as not to do this, they feel that it is wronged and misrepresented.
II. OWING TO OUR NOT PERCEIVING THIS TRUTH, RELIGIOUS EXERCISES ABE SOMETIMES TAKEN TO BE EDIFYING WHICH ARE NOT SO. Shall I say that much of our ordinary reading of Holy Scripture comes under this head? that it often resolves itself into a mental exercitation, and that not of a very high order? What a misuse of terms is there in the phraseology so often applied to things got by rote, of which we say that they are "learned by heart"! So far from being learned by heart, such things are often not even learned by mind, for sometimes they are most deficiently understood; and the very utmost that can be said in favour of such learning is that it lodges truth in the memory, which may expand and serve a good purpose at some future time. Has our study of Scripture given any bias to the will in the path of holiness? Has it at all stimulated the affections to the love of God, or of our neighbour? Has it nerved us against temptation? supported us under trial? prompted a prayer? or stirred in us a holy ambition? By these and the like questions must its influence upon the heart be tested; and unless it has had some influence upon the heart, there has been no edification in it.
III. LET OUR STUDIES TURN MORE AND MORE ON THAT WHICH IS THE CORE AND CENTRE OF THE BIBLE. The Bible is a revelation of God; and the core and centre of God's revelation is Christ crucified.
Parallel VersesKJV: Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: