2 Corinthians 11:3
So your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. Some manuscripts read, "simplicity and chastity." By the term "simplicity" is first meant "singleness of affection," "single-minded devotion to Christ," and the word is used in connection with the marriage figure of vers. 1, 2. It should be remembered that, in the East, the time of espousal is regarded as sacred, and any infidelities during the time of espousal are treated as adulteries are after marriage. In St. Paul's conception the Church is the espoused bride of Christ, and he had been the means of arranging the espousal in the case of the Church at Corinth. "What the apostle now urges is that it is as natural for him to be jealous for the purity of the Church which owes its birth to him, as it is for a father to be jealous for the chastity of the daughter whom he has betrothed as to a kingly bridegroom." The older theocratic figure of idolatry as adultery, which so often appears in the books of the prophets, should be compared with this. The term "simplicity" may, however, be more full and suggestive to us, and mean singleness of devotion to Christ, entireness of service to him, unmixed love for him. F.W. Robertson says that the expression, "the simplicity of the gospel," is constantly mistaken. "People suppose simplicity means what a child or a ploughman can understand. Now, if this be simplicity, evidently the simplicity of the gospel was corrupted by St. Paul himself; for he is not simple. Who understands his deep writings? Does one in a thousand? St. Peter says there are things hard to be understood in St. Paul's Epistles. We often hear it alleged as a charge against a book, a lecture, or a sermon, that it is not simple. If we are told that what we are to preach must be on a level with the most inferior intellect, so that without attention or thought it may be plain to all, we are bound to disclaim any obligation to do this; if it is supposed that the mysteries of God, of which we are the stewards, can be made as easy of comprehension as an article in a newspaper or a novel, we say that such simplicity can only be attained by shallowness. There must be earnestness, candour, patience, and a certain degree of intelligence, as well as a sort of sympathy between the minds of the preacher and his hearers, and there must be a determination to believe that no man who endeavours to preach the gospel will deliberately and expressly say what he knows to be false or wrong. 'Simple' means, according to St. Paul, unmixed or unadulterated."

I. THE PLACE OF CHRISTIAN THE CHURCH. It is as unique as that of the husband in relation to the wife. A place that can know no rivalry. Christ is Head, Lord, Husband. "One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren." The old testimony is renewed for the Christian spheres, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one Lord." "One Lord, one faith, one baptism." No earthly teachers may push into his place. No claim of Judaic ceremonies may spoil the trust in and devotion to him. "Him first, him midst, him last, him all in all." The bride has but one Husband, even Christ.

II. THE SPIRIT OF THE CHURCH TOWARDS CHRIST. It is that full loyalty which follows upon setting our whole affection on Christ, and which finds expression in all loving submissions and obediences. It is precisely set before us by the great apostle when he says, "To me to live in Christ." "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me."

III. THE TEMPTATIONS TO WHICH THE CHURCH IS EXPOSED. Answering to the disloyalty of a wife. And such temptations may take forms of subtlety, like those presented by the serpent to Eve. In every age there are things which tend to take the mind and heart from Christ. Nowadays it is worldliness, self-indulgence, the beautiful in art, and the fascination of scientific knowledge. We want now to love and serve so many things much and Christ a little, and still the old message sounds forth, "If a man forsake not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple." St. Paul counted "all things loss for Christ," and would have nothing - Mosaic rite, human philosophy, or aught else - come between him and his one Lord. - R.T.

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

1. The heart. Many of our strongest moral propensities remain undiscovered until the force of outward circumstances brings them into action. Moses knew nothing of his impatience; Hazael of his cruelty; Hezekiah of his pride; yet from their youth each one of these had been nourishing the seeds of these evil propensities in their hearts. "Search me, O God! and know my ways," etc. "The heart is deceitful above all things," etc.

2. The moral darkness which has come over our mental and moral faculties. True, God has left us still the directive light of conscience, but even on this pure light the shadow of the Fall rests; and, there is a danger, that even the very light which is within us may become darkness. There is nothing which more helps a man to mistaken views of his own condition before God, than a corrupted conscience. And then the effect for evil is the greater, because it enables a man to sin upon a plan, to ruin his own soul upon a system. "We have got conscience and reason on our side, what can God have given these lights to us for, if it were not to direct us the way He would have us go?" The answer, God has given us two lights — a greater light to rule the conscience, and a lesser light to rule the will. There is one greater light to which conscience must do homage, the light of the Word, of the Spirit, of Christ's blessed example; and this lesser light of conscience, if it borrow not its flame from this sun of truth, will soon become corrupt and obscure. Paul's conscience taught him to do many things contrary to the religion of Jesus of Nazareth.


1. By concealing the nature and effects of sin. His way is to bid us look at the fair side of temptation; he says nothing of the wormwood, and the gall.

2. By leaving us in ignorance of the magnetic and attractive power of sin, the way in which one sin drags another after it. No, the man is made to think that he can stop at any point he likes.

3. By teaching us to invent excuses for our own conduct. Such, e.g., as the habit of charging our fault upon others. He taught our first parents this lesson. And most of our excuses are as hollow as that of Aaron when he said, "The people gave me this gold, and I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf." Again, are we conscious that as Christians we are living a low, worldly life? We begin to excuse ourselves by saying we were not blessed with godly parents as some were, our earliest influences were unfavourable, and we find it very hard to turn our usurped affections into a new channel now. And so with regard to our religious duties and exercises. "I would be more frequent in prayer," a man will say, "more self-denying, more active in good works, but the cares of a family, and the demands of business interfere." Do not doubt that this is the voice of the arch-impostor.

4. By the speciousness of a religious profession. Christianity has now a firm footing in the world, and a man endangers his character who does not pay to it the homage of outward respect. Yet this homage has caused men to mistake profession for practice, the name for the deed, the poor skeleton of a form of godliness for the living reality of its power. Conclusion: The great lesson must be the duty of diligent trying of our own spirits, a frequent proving of our own work, a prayerful and habitual inquiry into the state of our own souls before God. The simplicity that is in Christ — the simplicity of His doctrine, of His rule of life, is the test whereby we are to try ourselves whether we belong to Christ or not.

(D. Moore, M. A.)

From the simplicity that is in Christ
The simplicity that is in Christ stands here contrasted with the subtilty of the serpent: and the instance given of the serpent's subtilty illustrates what is meant by the simplicity which is opposed to it. In that first temptation, all on the part of God was abundantly simple; the command with the warning was simplicity itself. On the other hand, the subtilty of the tempter is apparent in the complex pleading which he holds with Eve. God has but one argument against eating; Satan has many for it; and there is no surer sign of subtilty than the giving of many reasons for what a single good one would better justify and explain. The simplicity that is in Christ may be discerned in every stage and department of His great salvation.

I. IN HIS OWN FINISHED WORK OF RIGHTEOUSNESS AND ATONEMENT. There is simplicity in Christ, as the Lord our righteousness, as the servant of the Father, and the substitute, surety, and saviour of the guilty. It was in this character that He came into the world: and with entire simplicity did He sustain it.

1. That there is nothing here that transcends man's finite understanding, and baffles his restless curiosity — we are far from saying. But is there not a simplicity in it that comes home to the heart of a poor despairing sinner?

2. But it is the policy of Satan to mar it, and by his subtilty to corrupt your minds from the simplicity that is in Christ, and Him crucified. Hence the endless questions he has contrived to raise in connection with it.


1. How simple in its freeness (Isaiah 55:1; Revelation 22:17). How near does it bring Christ! (Romans 10:6-9). How very plain as well as pathetic is the Lord's pleading with sinners! (2 Corinthians 5:20; Isaiah 1:18). How explicit, how unequivocal, are His assurances! (Ezekiel 18:32; Ezekiel 33:11; John 6:37). How clear as it might seem beyond any sophistry is the declaration of the Lord's will that all men should be saved.

2. Yet, it is here especially that Satan puts forth all his subtilty to beguile. How many reasons for doubt and unbelief does he contrive to set up against God's one reason for believing. Here am I — a lost sinner. There is Christ, a living Saviour. It may be, Satan tells us, that you are not elected; that you may have committed the unpardonable sin. Or perhaps you are not convinced enough of your sin, or sorry enough for it; or perhaps you are not repenting, believing, praying aright. But it is upon no may-be that the blessed Lord invites you to commit your soul to Him. He has but one word to you. Let no subtilty of Satan corrupt your minds from the simplicity that is in the gospel offer of a free, a full, a present salvation.


1. The apostle speaks to you as espoused to Christ; and we would be jealous over you, for duplicity now on your part towards Him is nothing short of spiritual adultery, and is sadly inconsistent with His simplicity towards you. And what, the apostle adds (ver. 4), would you have? Would you have one to come to you with another Jesus, another Spirit, another gospel? Are ye so soon weary of the homely fare of the Lord's kingdom that ye would look out for new and foreign dainties?

2. The serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, causing her to be discontented with the simple profusion of Eden's blessings and the simple tenure on which she held them. And the like spirit of discontent he would fain cherish in you in regard to the simplicity that is in Christ — the simplicity of a rich and royal liberality, alike in His gifts and in His manner of giving. How simple is His treatment of you, that are His. "Ye are complete in Him." "All things are yours." All that He has is yours upon the simple footing of your abiding in Him.


1. It is a guidance —(1) According to the free spirit, and not the mere servile letter of the law.(2) Through the motive, not of a servile dread of still impending wrath, but of love to Him who has first loved us.(3) By the power of that Spirit abiding in us, who worketh in us, both to will and to do of God's good pleasure.(4) In the very steps of Him who hath left us an example. Surely there is great simplicity in such guidance as this.

2. But the subtilty of Satan, how manifold is it in this department.(1) For the rule — oh it cannot always be the strict unbending morality of the Ten Commandments. All men except recluses know that allowances must be made in social life, and regard must be had to circumstances.(2) Then the motive of all you do ought doubtless to be not servile fear, but filial love, and it is plain that this motive might prompt many a service and sacrifice. Still, practically, as things now are, it is a great matter if a Christian keep clear of what is positively forbidden, and if nothing palpably wrong can be established against him.(3) So also as to the power, it is admitted vaguely and generally, that you have a promise of Divine aid. But this, alas! does not hinder a large measure of apologetic pleading of human frailty.(4) And when we look to the pattern, how aptly does Satan teach us to evade the obligation of a full following of Christ, by suggesting that there are many things in which Christ, being Divine, must be admitted to be inimitable.


1. As to all that is essential and influential, it would seem to be simple enough. The Lord cometh as our Judge. He cometh as our exceeding great reward. Thus regarded, it is practically a most influential hope; influential for its very simplicity. It sets you upon working, watching, waiting for the Lord. How simple and how blessed an attitude!

2. Yet here Satan has been expending not a little of his subtilty throughout all the ages of the Church's history, sometimes hiding the doctrine, at other times complicating and embarrassing it with a variety of questions, scarcely, if at all, bearing on its real, vital and practical import.

(R. S. Candlish, D. D.)

I. THE SIMPLICITY. The word signifies "one-foldness." It has manifold applications. It is opposed to what is difficult, double, compound, cunning, deceitful; it is simple, easy, elementary, guileless, open. Now, in Christ we have —

1. Intellectual simplicity. The gospel is intended and adapted for the poor, and for the children.

2. Moral simplicity. The principles and duties which it enjoins are simple; and, if they appear complex, they may be reduced to simple elements. All the details of gospel morality grow from "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God," etc.

3. Spiritual simplicity. The motives and the means of holiness are simple; and, whether the individual or the community concerned be learned or ignorant, the same truths and facts supply spiritual nourishment. This simplicity appears in —

(1)The Saviour's teaching. The parables and discourses of Jesus are clear and intelligible.

(2)The way of salvation is plain.

(3)The gospel call is clear, distinct, unwavering.

(4)The life of faith to which the believer is called is composed of many stems and branches, but they all draw their nourishment from one common root. "Looking unto Jesus."


1. Scientific, philosophical, metaphysical speculations imported into the gospel tend to corrupt the mind from its simplicity.

2. The moral simplicity that is in Christ may be corrupted by casuistical questionings and scrupulosities of conscience. The single eye may become distorted; the spirit of inquiry may be hypocritical.

3. The plan of salvation may be lost sight of. Another gospel, another Jesus, may be substituted.

III. THE COMPARISON. As the serpent beguiled Eve.

1. The position of our first parents was simple, and easy to understand. "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat," etc. What could be plainer? Yet they were beguiled.

(1)Their minds were diverted from the one simple command.

(2)Doubts were started as to its meaning and purport.

(3)The Divine goodness was called in question if the command was rightly understood.

(4)Fair promises were made of something better.

(5)All this was done by gradual steps, cunningly and skilfully.

2. The same elements of temptation which beguiled them are at work to beguile us. As the law was misinterpreted, so the gospel is mystified, and souls are ruined thereby.

3. It is Satan's subtilty — cunning — that we have most to fear. His mode of attack. He works ruin in such a way as to appear to be doing the reverse. He undermines our position while professedly raising us higher, "He deceiveth the whole world" (Revelation 12:9).

4. This cunning on his part is not to be met by counter cunning on ours. We are no match for him with such weapons. We must fall back upon the simplicity that is in Christ. Gospel truths are true still. We have not followed cunningly devised fables.

(James Smith, M. A.)

This is one of the many cases in which a slight alteration makes a great difference. The Authorised Version by its reading suggests erroneously that the "simplicity" is something belonging to Christ; and we have all heard the use of the phrase as expressive of what is supposed to be a plain, simple gospel, as contrasted with man's refinements. But if we read as we ought to do, "the simplicity that is towards Christ," we see that what the apostle is thinking about is not a quality belonging to the gospel or to its Lord, but to the believer, and that it expresses no characteristic of the Redeemer or of His revelation, but something about the way in which we ought to receive and to cleave to Him.

I. THEN NOTE THE ATTITUDE REQUIRED. The English words simple and simplicity, like their Greek equivalents, embody a striking figure. Simple literally means without a fold, and the noun here formed from it means consequently, if we may coin a word after the analogy of manifoldness, singlefoldness. Hence it is used to express the two kindred ideas of perfect genuineness or, as we say, straightforwardness, and of thoroughness and out-and-outness. So that the two ideas that are conveyed here are those of genuine and out-and-out simpleminded devotion. He would have them to be, as a bride ought to be, wholly filled with the love and confidence of Him to whom he presents them. The phrase, then, as interpreted by the emblem that stands by the side of it, suggests these three things.

1. We must have simple-hearted love. A bride's love that is halved is destroyed. And the Christian man's heart that is divided is empty of all genuine love to the Master. He requires that we shall love Him all in all, or not at all; and interprets that as treason which is not out-and-out surrender and consecration to Him. The heart need not be emptied of other affections. The central diamond may have round about it a cluster of brilliants, but they must be kept in subordination, small and encompassing. And so our lives are then pure and blessed, not when the love of Christ chills our hearts to other dear ones, but warms and purifies our loves to them into some effluence and likeness of itself.

2. A single-minded submission to Him as fountain of truth, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, is another part of the simplicity that is towards Christ. Just as, in regard to single-hearted love, there is no impoverishing of the affections because He claims the first-fruits of them all, so, in regard of this single-minded discipleship, there is no limiting of the faculties, excluding of Christians from any field of thought, because He claims to be "first and last and midst and without end," the only teacher whose word is absolute truth. All our other thinking ought to be held in subordination to the truths that He reveals.

3. Single-eyed consecration of the practical life to Him is another part of this "simplicity that is towards Christ." Where the heart is single, and the mind filled with His thoughts and commandments and promises and revelations, the life will, of course, yield itself to be directed by Him.

II. THIS SINGLENESS AND THOROUGHNESS IS THE ONLY ATTITUDE THAT AT ALL CORRESPONDS TO WHAT CHRIST IS TO US, AND WHAT WE SAY WE ARE TO HIM. We are to cleave to Christ only because Christ is enough. God, the Jehovah of the Old Testament, had the right to demand all the devotion of heart, soul, mind, strength, because He had the power to satisfy and to bless all the faculties that were consecrated to Him. Jesus Christ has no right to ask me to give my whole self to Him unless He has given His whole self to me; and unless, in that gift, I can find nourishment and strength, and the supply of every craving and every need. If our mind is bowed before the incarnate truth of God we shall know neither the unrest of resultless search nor the gloom of continual doubt, but shall have the light of life to shine upon our road.

III. NOTE THE BLESSEDNESS THAT WILL ATTEND SUCH OUT-AND-OUT AND GENUINE CHRISTIAN LIFE. The true misery of men comes because they do not know their own minds nor consistently and persistently keep to one course. Distraction is misery. Unity is peace, and peace is strength, and unity and peace and strength, in the utter devotion of myself to the worthy Christ, are the blessedness of earth, the predictions and foretastes of the transports of eternity. "The simplicity that is towards Christ" is the beginning of the "rest that remaineth for the people of God."

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The gospel is supposed by many to be something very easily understood. No doubt its leading truths are comparatively few and simple, but the evil heart of unbelief, our natural blindness, and the efforts of the adversary, often bring it about that men misunderstand it, pervert it, add to it, or detract from it. Hence Paul expresses himself in the language of anxiety, "I fear." And if so the evil he deprecates must be a great evil. Note —


1. His subtilty is manifest in his availing himself of the circumstances in which Eve was placed.(1) She was alone. Had Adam been near she would surely have consulted him. Satan's success manifestly depended on his giving no opportunity for consulting one perhaps possessed of more vigour of mind and judgment than herself. Here learn that in times of temptation we should avail ourselves of the benefit of Christian counsel.(2) She was in the situation where temptation was most likely to be successful — near the forbidden fruit. She apparently had but to lift the eye, and the object of temptation was before her. Had she been obliged to travel to a distance, there might have been time for deliberation; but being upon the spot, the very sight of the forbidden fruit would bring new feelings and desires into action, and add fuel to the fire. Let us learn from this to be especially upon our guard when near the object of temptation.

2. Satan's subtilty is manifest in the way in which he assailed her, viz., by the serpent. The very fact of the serpent's speaking must have awakened no ordinary surprise and curiosity. Her mind could not be in a calm state. And the remarkable occurrence might only the better prepare her for giving credit to his subsequent statement. And does not this teach us that Satan is ever more to be dreaded when he speaks to us through the instrumentality of others. Peter, no doubt, thought he was but giving utterance to his own feelings when he said, "Far be it from Thee, Lord." But Christ's words are, "Get thee behind Me, Satan," etc.

3. The subtilty of Satan is more especially manifest in the nature of the temptation, and the manner in which it is conducted.(1) The first step of the temptation is laid in the remark, "Yea, hath God said ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"(a) Here Satan's effort seems to be to awaken doubts of God's goodness and truth. "Is it so? Can it be that God hath made this restriction? Can He have created the fruit; given you appetites and desires, and forbidden you to indulge them? He must either be a hard master, or you must be labouring under some strange delusion." This is the way in which he still works. Sometimes he will work through the burden of sin pressing upon the conscience; sometimes through present suffering, or our natural craving after things forbidden; and if he can but awaken doubt or suspicion, a separation is made between the creature and the Creator. The creature stands helpless and alone, and the after steps are comparatively easy.(b) Look now to the results. These are brought before us in the answer of Eve. From the extensive nature of the grant, so illustrative of His goodness, her attention is turned away. A separation is made between Eve and God.(2) Satan has her now at a great advantage. "And the serpent said unto the woman, ye shall not surely die." Emboldened by success, Satan daringly sets up his word in opposition to the word of the God of truth. But a few moments before he would not have ventured thus to accost his victim.

II. THE EVIL WHICH THE APOSTLE FEARS AND DEPRECATES. "Lest your minds should be corrupted."

1. From the simple, poor gospel, that is in Christ. Free in Christ are held forth all spiritual blessings. The gospel — simple, intelligible, and plainly revealed. And yet, how few understand it, believe it! The apostle had preached it at Corinth, and yet he speaks of Christ crucified being to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness. Well aware of the importance of clear and realising views of the gospel, Satan is ever active in his efforts to mislead, to blind, or to obscure (2 Corinthians 4:3, 4). Ah! be then upon your guard. Bear in mind that you have such an adversary, not the less to be dreaded because unseen.

2. From the simple, direct, confiding reliance upon Christ. This is our duty, and it is our interest. But obligatory and blessed as it is our minds, through the subtilty of Satan, are very apt to be corrupted or turned away from it. He will suggest that your sins have been too many and that the sacrifices that you will have to make are too many or too great.

3. From the simple, ruling aim, of glorifying God in Christ.

(J. Thomson.)

(R.V.): —

1. Simplicity, here, has been supposed to describe a quality belonging to Christ or the gospel. Hence "Give us the simple gospel" has been the cry, and preachers have been expected to reiterate commonplaces, which have made both them and their hearers listless. The gospel is simple, but it is also deep, and they will best appreciate its simplicity who have most honestly endeavoured to fathom its depth. When we let our little sounding lines out, and find that they do not reach the bottom, we begin to wonder even more at the transparency of the clear abyss.

2. It is not simplicity "in" but "towards" Christ of which the apostle is speaking. Note —


1. The word has had a touch of contempt associated with it. It is a somewhat doubtful compliment to say of a man that he is "simple minded." All noble words, as indeed all good things tend to deteriorate by time and use. It means to be "without a fold," which is, in one aspect, to be transparently honest and true, and in another to be out and out of a piece. There is no underside of the cloth, doubled up beneath, running in the opposite direction; but all tends in one way. A man with no under-currents, no by-ends, who is down to the very roots what he looks, and all whose being is knit together and hurled in one direction, that is the "simple" man whom the apostle means.

2. The attitude which corresponds to our relation to Christ as bride and Bridegroom (ver. 2), is that of —(1) A faith which looks to Him exclusively as —(a) The source of salvation. Paul feared that the Judaising teachers would find their way into this church and teach them that obedience to the Jewish law was a condition of salvation, along with trust in Christ. And because they thus shared out the work of salvation between Jesus and something else, Paul regarded them as preaching another Jesus, another spirit, and another gospel (ver. 4). That particular error is long dead and buried. But has this old foe not got a new face, and does not it live amongst us as really as it lived then? I think it does; in the grosser kind of ecclesiasticism which sticks sacraments and a church in front of the Cross, and in the definite denial that Christ's death is the one means of salvation, and in the coarse, common wish to have a finger in the pie and a share in the work of saving myself, as a drowning man will sometimes half drown his rescuer by trying to use his own limbs. These tendencies that Paul fought are perennial in human nature. And we have to be on our guard for ever against them. It is not Christ and anything else. Men are not saved by a syndicate. "Beside Him there is no Saviour." You go into a Turkish mosque and the roof is held up by a forest of slim pillars. You go into a cathedral chapter-house, and there is one strong support in the centre. The one is an emblem of the Christless multiplicity of vain supports, the other of the eternal sufficiency of the one pillar on which the whole weight of a world's salvation rests.(b) The sole light and teacher of men as to God, themselves, their duty, their destinies and prospects. In this day of confusions let us listen for the voice of Christ and accept all which comes from Him. "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou only hast the words of eternal life."(2) An exclusive love which He demands or rather permits or privileges. It is the joy of the betrothed that her duty is to keep her heart clear from all competing affections. But it is none the less her duty because it is her joy. Not that we are to love nothing but Him, but we are to love all things else in Him. Love to one who has done what He has done for us is in its very nature exclusive. The centre diamond makes the little stones set round it all the more lustrous. Divided love incurs the condemnation that falls heavily upon the head of the faithless bride.(3) Absolute obedience. In all matters His command is my law, and, as surely as I make His command my law, will He make my desire His motive. "If ye love Me keep My commandments." "If ye ask anything in My name I will do it."


1. Think of what threatens it. 1 say nothing about the ferment of opinion in this day, for one man that is swept away from a whole-hearted faith by intellectual considerations, there are a dozen from whom it is filched without their knowing it.(1) By the world. Who can hear the low voice that speaks peace and wisdom when Niagara is roaring past his ears? But it is possible that we may so carry into all the whirl the central peace, as that we shall not be disturbed by it; and possible that "whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do, we may do all to His glory," so that we can, even in the midst of our daily pressing avocations and cares be keeping our hearts in the Heavens, and our souls in touch with our Lord.(2) By our own weaknesses, waywardnesses, senses, passions, desires. All these have a counteracting force, which needs continual watchfulness in order to be neutralised. No man can grasp a stay, which alone keeps him from being immersed in the waves with uniform tenacity, unless every now and then he tightens his muscles. And no man can keep himself firmly grasping Christ unless by conscious effort directed to bettering his hold.

2. If there be dangers around and within us, the discipline which we have to pursue to secure this uniform single-hearted devotion is plain enough. Let us be vividly conscious of the peril; let us take stock of ourselves lest creeping evil may be encroaching upon us, while we are all unaware; let us clearly contemplate the possibility of an indefinite increase in the closeness and thoroughness of our surrender to Him; let us find time or make time for the patient, habitual contemplation of the great facts which kindle our devotion; let us, too, wait with prayerful patience for that Divine Spirit who will knit more closely to our Lord. Alas, how remiss we are in all this.

3. Half and half religion will bring no praise to Christ or profit to ourselves. A half-and-half Christian has religion enough to prick and sting him, and not enough to impel him to forsake the evil which yet he cannot comfortably do. If we are to be Christian men at all, let us be it out and out. Half-and-half religion is no religion. "One foot on land, and one on sea. To one thing constant never!" That is the type of thousands of professing Christians. "I fear lest by any means your minds be corrupted from the simplicity that is towards Christ."

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light

1. By moving, stirring, and sometimes altering the humours and disposition of the body. He knows that there is no grace but has its counterfeit in some passion; and no passion of the mind, but moves upon the wheel of some humour of the body. So that it is easy for him to refine the fire of a choleric humour into zeal, and raise the operations of melancholy to the semblance of humiliation.

2. By suggesting the ideas and spiritual pictures of things to the imagination. From whence it is, that poor deluded women talk much of sudden joys and raptures, etc. Again, some perhaps have had a text cast into their fancy, e.g., Jeremiah 48:10, whereupon they presently thought themselves commissioned, by an extraordinary call from heaven, to cut and slay.

3. By an actual ingress into the man like a vicarious soul. And now how easy must it be for this spirit to cast any person possessed by him into an ecstasy. And the person possessed (Acts 19:16) could never have prevailed over so many men, had he not had something in him stronger than man. But what needs there any further arguing when we read how often our Saviour cast him out of men?

II. THE GRAND INSTANCES IN WHICH THE DEVIL, UNDER THIS MASK OF LIGHT, HAS IMPOSED UPON THE CHRISTIAN WORLD. It has been his constant method to accommodate his impostures to the prevailing notions of each particular age.

1. The ruling principle of the first ages of the church was zealous devotion, and concern for the worship of one only God, having been so newly converted from the worship of many. Accordingly, the devil sets up Arianism, and with a bold stroke strikes at the Godhead of the Son of God.

2. As the Arian ages had chiefly set themselves to take away our Saviour's divinity, so the following ages, by a kind of contrary stretch, were no less intent upon paying an exorbitant devotion to every thing belonging to His humanity. For from hence men came to give that inordinate veneration to the sacrament of Christ's body and blood. After which, with great industry, they got together and kept all relics, which any way represented His memory, till at length they even adored them. This superstition extended itself to Christ's martyrs; the memory of whom they celebrated with solemn invocations at their sepulchres. And thus by degrees paganism came to be christened into a new form and name. Then mortification was (in show at least) advanced, and Satan began to play the white devil, by prohibiting, upon pretence of higher sacerdotal purity, the marriage of the clergy, forbidding also certain sorts of meat, and enjoining others: as likewise imposing many corporal severities, for the recommending of all which to men's use, they taught them that these practices were satisfactory for sin, and meritorious of heaven.

3. When the mist of ignorance began to clear up, men began to smell out the cheat. But then again, lest so sudden and mighty a light might baffle all his projects, he began wisely to light up his candle, too, in the new sect of Ignatius Loyola, a sect composed of the best wits and ablest heads. And by this course he quickly fought the protestants at their own weapons. For he saw well enough that it was learning which must do his business, when ignorance was grown out of fashion. So having long imposed upon Christendom by popery, and at length finding a new light sprung in upon a great part of it, he thought it his interest to trump up a new scene of things, and so correspondently to the two main parts of religion, speculative and practical, he fell upon two contrary but equally destructive extremes, Socinianism and enthusiasm.


1. The stating of the doctrine of faith and free grace so as to make them undermine the necessity of a good life.

2. The opposing the power of godliness irreconcileably to all forms. And what is this but in another instance to confront subordinates, and to destroy the body because the soul can subsist without it?

3. The ascribing such a kingdom to Christ, as shall oppose and interfere with the kingdoms and governments of the world.

(R. South, D. D.)

Satan was once, in deed and in truth, an angel of light. He became an angel of darkness, and he is now transformed into an angel of light again; not into the reality, but into the form and semblance.

I. SATAN APPEARS IN THE GUISE OF AN ANGEL OF LIGHT. In such a guise it was that he presented himself to our first mother, Eve, in Paradise (Genesis 3:4, 5). In such a guise it was that he assaulted the Son of Man in the wilderness. To this encounter he brought with him the Word of God. Fancy not that every one who has a Bible in his hand, and a text in his mouth, is therefore taught of God. The devil will quote scripture with any one of you. Satan transforms himself into an angel of light and becomes a great preacher of —

1. Philosophy. And so contrives to mysticise the Word of God. He can so confound principle with speculation, and argument with assumption, as to leave you in doubt between the simplest elements of fact or truth, and the wildest theories of imagination.

2. Morality. And so he labours to degrade the Scriptures: to take away the spirit, and leave nothing but the letter; a formal code of decency, without life.

3. Expediency. This is his grand bulwark of defiance against the efficacy of the Word of God. Here the world can find a reply to any appeal, however urgent; an evasion of any duty, however solemn. There is always something to be urged, in answer to the commands of God; some plea of necessity, convenience, etc.

4. Rites and ceremonies. The world is always pleased to rest in outward observances, and to substitute the form of godliness for the spirit. The devil knows that and gives them, in his gospel, a full supply.

5. Austerities. This, however, is one of those refinements in the gospel of Satan which he promulgates not to the world at large, but reserves, as a special boon, for those of a more morbid temperament.

6. Superstitions. To make the services of religion irksome is one of his devices; to make them ludicrous is another.


1. He hesitates not to declare the whole counsel of God. There may be much he cannot understand, much he cannot reconcile; still he believes all, proclaims all.

2. Beyond all things and above all things, he manifests a concern for souls (2 Timothy 4:2).

3. In the midst of all his labours he casts off the confidence of the flesh. He knows that Paul may plant, and Apollos water, but God must give the increase.Conclusion:

1. It is when false apostles are transformed into angels of light that they most effectually promote the kingdom of darkness.

2. There is a transformation, and that, too, from darkness to light, which leaves a man but a devil at the last. This is the transformation of the head and not of the heart, and gives men a devil's faith, without works; a devil's zeal, without knowledge. How careful should we be, not only to attain a transformation, but the right and true conversion, which none but God can impart.

(R. Hall, M. A.)

If evil were as frightful in its aspect as in its essence we should be in little danger from it. We shrink from a tiger, rattlesnake, vulture, etc. But just as the Oriental invests destructive beasts with a certain glamour, so vice attains a certain glamour in our eyes. Note —

I. THE TRANSFIGURATION OF EVIL. It is transfigured —

1. By imagination. A naturalist writes concerning "The beautiful methods of killing the delicate inhabitants of the sea." What beautiful methods there are for killing the delicate inhabitants of the land. The bard robes corruption in cloth of gold. In fiction immoral characters are often made heroic and charming. How artfully has intemperance been metamorphosed into delightful shapes. Bacchus marches accompanied by choicest songs. It is the same with war. In a certain village we saw a slaughter-house cleverly concealed by evergreens; and the slaughter-house of nations has been similarly hidden by flowers of rhetoric. Libertinism is often made to glow with delusive lustre. In nature we see sometimes the dirtiest puddles tinged with bits of rainbow: oftener still in literature. On the banks of the Amazon there is a brilliant spider that spreads itself out as a flower, and the insects lighting upon it find death. So in human life.

2. By philosophy which may mislead us.(1) In matters of faith and worship. There is a philosophy which explains the gospel —(a) In the sense of worldliness. It regards Christianity as favourable to health, temperance, economy, etc., and ignores all its heavenliness.(b) In the sense of anti-nomianism. Under the pretence of honouring Christ it transgresses the law of righteousness which He came to maintain.(c) In the sense of unbelief. False apostles urge their theories as doctrines of Christ whilst the essentials of faith are lacking in those theories. In the name of reason, independence, progress, we are exhorted to conclusions which make the Cross of Christ of none effect.Many have philosophised about the gospel until they have embraced despair. Eastern travellers are mocked by splendid mirages until they will not believe in the real oases when they see them. And we may philosophise about the church until we find ourselves embracing superstition. The church itself may become a siren alluring us away from Him who is the sinners' peace and hope.(2) In matters of conduct. What unsophisticated men regard with simple abhorrence clever reasoners can show has a good side to it. Take e.g. —(a) Improvidence. Mr. Nisbet says, "Indirectly the poor man who brings forth children he cannot feed is a public benefactor; he renders the struggle for life more acute, and by that means stimulates the energies of his race." The simple-minded feel that he is a shameless wretch.(b) Intemperance. Mr. Matthieu Williams says "That all human beings who are fit to survive as members of a civilised community will avoid intemperance, whilst those who are incapable of self-restraint are provided with a happy despatch by natural alcoholic selection, provided nobody interferes with their desire for a short life and a merry one." So the sot is an unconscious philosopher!(c) Impurity. Mr. Sinclair says, "Prostitutes are not the worst, but generally the best of the lower classes; people of fine physique, who cannot get their true match in the sphere where born, but must, by the holiest of all instincts, that of truth, seek upward by any means."(d) War. Powerful writers assure us that war is a sacrifice to the cause of progress, as wholesome as a lightning storm, a school of virtue.(e) And not content with affirming that certain evils are necessary evils, philosophy declares boldly that there is no evil at all. Good and evil are only different degrees of the same thing.

3. By society. The practical world is a great transformation scene where the imp often appears a fairy, and the beast, beauty. Acts of revenge are vindicated when they are called "affairs of honour"; debt is innocency itself when known as "pecuniary obligation"; libertinism is purged of all taint when characterised as "gay life"; the most brutal gladiatorship has suffered a change into something rich when it becomes "the noble art of self-defence." But by whatever alias evil may be known its action is equally ruinous. The arrow is not the less fatal because shot from ambush or winged with an eagle's feather.


1. Let us not forget that the chief danger of life lies in this moral illusion. It is often hard to persuade us that there is any such danger of deception. But the scientist while he believes his eyes takes great pains so that he may be sure he sees truly. The connoisseur is equally careful, and the businessman, knowing the trickery in his province, acts warily. And caution is particularly needed in the moral world. Satan conceals his fell purposes as the Greek assassins did their swords in myrtle branches.

2. Let us be sincere in soul. Much depends on integrity of purpose in life. Under all deception is self-deception — a secret willingness to be deceived because we have pleasure in unrighteousness and purpose to follow it. An adventurer persuades you that a few shares at a trifling cost will make you a millionaire; but you find ere long that you have been cruelly deceived. Will the public pity you? No. You were easily blinded because of your inordinate desires.

3. Let us respect the written law. The Bible is a wonderful book for destroying the glamour of sin. It makes palpable —(1) Its sophistry. It exposes the deceitfulness of the heart, and pierces the maxims by which society excuses its folly and vices.(2) Its horror. It compels the transformed devil to return to his true shape.(3) Its fruits. Once our Master encountered Satan in his uttermost transfiguration. With the words "It is written," our Lord pricked one gorgeous bubble after another, and we must follow His example.

4. Let us constantly see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and bring to Him whatever theory or thing may solicit us. In His light we shall know exactly what is true.

(W. L. Watkinson.)

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