2 Corinthians 3:12-18
Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:…
How is it that the number of those who believe the gospel is so small compared with the number of those who do not believe in it? Our nation has had the gospel in it more or less now for the space of one thousand six hundred years. Week by week the gospel has been expounded and enforced by all sorts of agencies, yet in no town is there one-half of the population found within the walls of Christian sanctuaries, and there are few congregations in which the unbelievers do not out-number the believers. How is this? We propose to look at the answer to this question as given by St. Paul. The veil is on the heart. The vision of an object may be rendered impossible in either of two ways at least. There is a mountain that rears its majestic head to the sky; you may spend weeks in its neighbourhood, and yet never see it once. It may be shrouded in mist. The veil is then on the mountain. Or, the mountain may be still unseen, for the eye may be covered with thick films. The veil is then on the eye. This latter case is the one which fitly illustrates the language of the apostle, "The veil is upon the heart, not upon Moses; he is read, but he is not understood; the veil is upon the heart." Let us look at a few of the veils which are on the hearts of men now.
I. THE VEIL OF HUMAN DEPRAVITY OR NATURAL CORRUPTION. No one surely will say that even the best man we know would reflect credit upon his Creator, had he been made exactly as he now is, with so many sinful tendencies in him. Nor do I see how any thoughtful man can maintain the theory which affirms that we all came into the world with a clean, pure soul, and which accounts for what we are, entirely upon the principle of the influence of circumstances and education. How any one who has had to deal with children can maintain such a theory passes my comprehension. It may sound a very plausible principle. "Teach men the truth, and they will believe it; teach men the right, and they will do it." But does any one seriously believe that ignorance explains all the wickedness of the world? Ignorance of what? Ignorance that it is wickedness? Is it so, then, that man is now doing wrong with the consciousness that it is wrong? To say that men would not drink" if they knew better is to trifle. They do know better. Where, then, is the veil in such a case which prevents their reformation? It is not over the consequences of their sin. It can only be upon their heart. The vice is indulged because it is loved. And what is true of this vice is true also of man's general alienation from what is good. The carnal mind is enmity against God, etc.
II. THE VEIL OF CONCEIT OR INTELLECTUAL PRIDE. This is closely connected with the one we have just considered. It is, in fact, one of its folds. There is a peril in our times arising from the almost exclusive attention which is being directed to the study of the wonders of external nature. It is obvious that the fascinations of scientific investigation may blind the mind to the claims of higher truth, which depends for its understanding on qualities of heart rather than of intellect. The mathematician may dwell so long in the region of figures and formulas that he may never dream of a world in which they play no part whatever. The chemist may so busy himself among acids, and alkalies, and crucibles, and retorts that he may deign no thought to anything which he cannot fuse or analyse. The Bible introduces the philosopher into a world which is all but entirely new. It does not require his calculus, or his crucible, or his battery, or his microscope. Its truths are different from any that can be reached by these processes of investigation. What can they tell us about sin? The Bible does not create sin, it finds it. It deals not only with sin as a fact, but guilt as a feeling. This, too, is not created by the Bible. The Bible deals with the idea of a nobler life. Even this idea it did not wholly create. It deals with death, and with death in its moral aspects, and with eternity. The Bible tells us of the incarnation, and of the Cross, and of the resurrection. Now the reason of man could tell us nothing of these things apart from the Bible. That profound mysteries are mingled up with this revelation is admitted. But it surely is not for the human intellect to proudly turn away from it on this account. How many doors of nature it has knocked at? how many subtle forces it has sought to seize, and see in their inmost essence, but in vain? Does it hear and obey the voice which nature utters, "Hitherto shalt thou go, but no further"? and does it resent such a limitation in the domain of the Divine Word? Then it becomes not the reason which is reverent, but the reason which is proud. It will not accept the truth on which the light shines full, because there is truth which lies in darkness. But where in this case is the veil? The veil is on the heart.
III. THE VEIL OF PREJUDICE AND TRADITION. There are few vices of the mind which are more common and invincible. What a fearful amount of evidence a prejudice can resist! Now prejudice often assumes the form of holding fast to a traditional faith. This was the very case with the Jews, who held fast not to the true Moses, but to the Moses as he had been represented to them by their authoritative teachers. Had they listened to the true Moses, they would have been prepared to welcome Christ. But when Moses was read in their hearing, or by themselves, he was read, not through a clear medium as when one sees objects through the pure air by the light of the sun, but he was read through a jaundiced eye and a medium which distorted him. They brought their conceptions with them, and made their own Moses in a large degree. They were like men who consult the oracle, and tell the oracle what shall be his response, or who speak in an echoing vault, and find their voice returned to them. Things are to us in great measure what we are to them. And if we bring prejudice or a traditional faith with us, a faith, I mean, which we have not ourselves tested and proved, and which does not live within us and support our life, then we need not expect to see the truth. Let us have a better reason for our faith than that we have always held it, or that our father held it. It was because the Jews had no better reason that they called Christ Beelzebub — that they crucified Him: and that even to the days of Paul, yes, and even down to our own days when Moses is read, the veil is on their eyes.
IV. THE VEIL OF LUST, SELF-INTEREST, OR ANY OTHER SIN WHICH HAS ACQUIRED A MASTERY OVER THE HEART AND LIFE. There is nothing that can so darken the eye of the soul as a sin, and hence no man who is addicted to sin can see so clearly as the man whose soul is pure whether in fact or in aspiration. Who is sanguine in his endeavours to persuade a man to relinquish a traffic, however mischievous, provided only it brings in ample gains? He sees no evil in the traffic, why should he? He compels no one to buy; and they may buy as little as they choose. Besides, if he did not sell some one else would. Thus he reasons, but those arguments did not lead him to begin the traffic, or to continue in it. They never occur to him except when he is put on his defence. The one abiding and omnipotent motive is that the trade is lucrative. This is the veil which is before his eyes, and which no amount of light will suffice to penetrate. Conclusion: Will you submit to this blinding process? Or, will you cry to the Great Healer, and say to Him, "Lord, that I may receive my sight"? The veil, you will remember, cannot remain for ever. The hand of death will tear it away; but the light which then will fall upon your eyes will not be the light of salvation, but that which discovers to you, when too late, the blessedness which you have bartered for the pleasures of a day.
(E. Mellor, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: