The Blindness of Men, and the Nearness of the Spiritual World
2 Kings 6:17
And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray you, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man…

To the eye of unbelief, and of distrust, this visible, outward world is everything. Its value is the only assignable value; its history the only true history; its dangers the only dangers to be shunned; its help the only help to be sought. There were no chariots there, nor horses; but there were spiritual hosts, who showed themselves before the imagination of the young man. Let us take up the vision presented to the young man in the text, as a rebuke to distrust, and generally to unbelief, that worldly state of mind, content with the outside of things, from which, in an hour of danger, distrust proceeds. The unbelieving man, we are taught, is a superficial man, and a blind man. There are things the most momentous in the whole world, which he cannot perceive, nor apprehend. There is a world around, him,. in him,. larger, mightier, more enduring than the earth's rocky base, with bearings on life and destiny of untold importance, a world which meets him on every hand, follows him along while he travels through this world. into the noiseless workings of which he is unable to penetrate, the existence of which, therefore, enters not into his plans, nor affects his desires. Is he not blind in such thick unbelief? Or, if he admits into his mind the existence of such a world, and is continually falling back into distrust, so that goodness seems to him to have no power on its side, is he not still but a bleary-eyed man, whose eye needs to be opened in order to see the array of spiritual forces that are under the command of God? Let us apply the text to that particular form of unbelief, namely distrust, which is especially referred to. The blindness and sinfulness of distrust will be apparent, when we take into view the plans and resources of the invisible world. It is a part of the plan that this invisible world does not manifest itself by obvious interferences in the present order of things: everything which we can touch, taste, see or hear, goes on by law and process as much as if there were no God. It is another part, that, although evil has entered into the system, and although there is an everlasting conflict between evil and good, yet no act of power is put forth by Him, who must be conceived to side with goodness and to love it with all his heart. Now the blindness of such distrust is made apparent from considerations already implied in our text.

1. God is ever active, and has an intense sympathy with what is good and true. Between this and atheism, there is no middle ground, for the distrustful man of this day will not fall into the Epicurean's belief, that God is indifferent to human things, and indisposed to interfere; or into the Manichean belief, that there is an equal contest waging between light and darkness. Such being the case, we say that God must have a plan, and that the plan may consist partly in leaving the subordinate combatants on the sides of good and evil to themselves, without Divine interference in favour of what God must love. It is as if the general of an army, whose troops were raw and needed to be inured by long discipline to military hardships and military skill, suffered them to undergo partial defeats until they were ripe for some great movements of decisive battle. Must such a general, of necessity, be hard-hearted, or devoid of love to his country and his cause? So God may suffer the conflicts of this world to go on in order to fasten the hearts of His loyal people to Himself. The power of Divine help may be nigh and ready, if an act of trust be put forth.

2. But we pass on to consider the attitude which unbelief takes in regard to spiritual power and presence. There is a more radical and deadly form of doubt than distrust. Distrust believes and disbelieves at once, or passes to and fro in its various moods of courage and apprehension, from one state of mind to its opposite, but there is an unbelief which is fixed and unbroken by any fits of belief, which recognises no spiritual agency or none affecting the conduct. Distrust catches a glimpse now and then of the horses and chariots of fire, and again loses the sight, as we lose the sight of a star or distant mountain on the horizon; but unbelief sees and hears nothing except the sights and sounds of this material world. Unbelief must in fact admit, while it denies, the existence of some kind of spiritual world. The unbeliever, though he may be a materialist and a sensualist, recognises those immaterial forces which we call the human soul.

3. In this invisible spiritual world, even if we confine it to mankind, great and most remarkable events are going forward, which the unbelieving man is too blind to perceive, or to which he fails to give their true value. Let us look at some of these events or classes of events which belong to this spiritual kingdom, in order to estimate their importance, and the blindness of him who takes no account of them. We refer first to the life of a man once obscure and unnoticed in an obscure nation, who by the force of His life and of His character has swayed more souls and done more for man's inner life than all other human beings put together. What would the external manifestations of man's nature, manners, morals, law, art, science, government, be at this day apart from Jesus Christ; and yet His peculiar province is the invisible region of the soul. Listen to the words in which a noted novelist of Germany, Jean Paul, speaks of Him: "Jesus, the purest among the mighty, the mightiest among the pure, with His pierced hand lifted kingdoms of[ their hinges, the stream of centuries out of its bed, and still rules the ages on their course. An individual once trod on the earth, who by moral omnipotence alone controlled other times and founded an eternity of His own; one, who, soft-blooming and easily drawn as a sun-flower, burning and attracting as a sun, still, in His mild form, moved and turned Himself and nations and centuries together towards the all-enlightening primal sun: it is that still Spirit, which we call Jesus Christ. If He existed, either there is a Providence, or He is that Providence. Only quiet teaching and quiet dying were the notes wherewith this higher Orpheus tamed men-beasts, and turned rocks by His music into cities." The power, then, by which this wonderful life of Jesus fed itself, was wholly of the spiritual world. And by what instruments has He worked so mightily on human hearts and characters? By spiritual ones, by the feeling of guilt, the longing for purity and peace of soul, by offering pardon and the promises of life-giving assistance to the contrite, by a life and example of united love and holiness, by unveiling God and the soul's unending life.

4. These events of the spiritual world among mankind depend on the existence and presence of a spiritual world above mankind. This is indeed obvious, and has come into view as we looked at the life of Christ and of those who followed Him in a spiritual life. If the unbeliever is on true, safe ground, there is nothing that ought to rule the life except the material earth and its laws, the desires, chiefly the animal ones, and some few of the social principles. If the spiritual man is right, there is a higher world, beyond the laws of matter, desire, and society. The exercise of his reason, conscience, and affections has introduced him among a different set of realities, which themselves involve the existence of real personalities above man. He now acknowledges the laws of a moral universe — laws made to regulate thought, and therefore emanating from a being who has planned and thought. Sin itself, felt in his conscience, conducts down upon him the justice of the universe. When once God is admitted to be a reality, there is a system centering at His throne; let him for a moment, in thought, conceive of God as not existing, and the spiritual world among men becomes darkly and inexplicably incomplete.

5. If, now, there is such a world with God for its centre, it is the height of blindness not to see it. This is obvious from a great variety of considerations. If there is such a world, it must be of infinite importance compared with the world of matter; the interests of the soul are bound lip with it, and to live as if they depended upon the earth must be self-ruin.

6. Such blindness needs to be overcome by a Divine act of opening the eyes. Men may well pray "Lord, open his eyes that he may see." And the unbeliever himself, if a glimmering of light falls on him, may well pray for help from the God of light. If there is such an entire contrast between the worlds of which we have spoken, it must needs be that old habits of thought, strengthened through an unspiritual life, must render spiritual apprehension exceedingly difficult.

(T. D. Woolsey.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

WEB: Elisha prayed, and said, "Yahweh, please open his eyes, that he may see." Yahweh opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire around Elisha.

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