So I tell you this, and testify to it in the Lord: You must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.
I. THE HEATHEN WALK IN THE VANITY OF THEIR MIND. This vanity has its intellectual and its moral side.
1. Intellectually, it represents the waste of speculative power upon questions of the profoundest importance, ending usually in pantheism, atheism, or polytheism. The pagan intellect groped in vain amidst the darkness for light upon duty, upon providence, upon the future life of man. The heathen became vain in their imaginations.
2. Morally, the heathen walked in a vain show, looked for happiness in riches, honors, and power, and pursued foolish or wicked courses in the effort to attain these objects of desire. The end of such a walk must always be disappointing.
II. EXPLANATION OF THIS VAIN LIFE. It is twofold.
1. It arises out of intellectual obscuration. "Having the understanding darkened." Not that the natural genius of the heathen was obscured, for the world must always admire the classics of Greece and Rome; but there was all but utter extinction of spiritual light in the heathen mind. There was no saving knowledge. The god of this world had blinded their minds, and their growing apostasy entailed a judicial blindness which issued in utter darkness.
2. It arises out of moral estrangement from God, "being alienated from the life of God." There could be no light in the mind, because there was no life in the heart. The life of God is not his own life, but the life he lives in his people, which is manifest in their faith and holiness; but the heathen were estranged from that life, so as to have no liking for it and no inclination to it, but rather a love for the life of sin.
(1) This moral estrangement is caused by "the ignorance that is in them;" for where men are ignorant of God, they have no desire after him, no faith in him, no communion with him, no living according to his will.
(2) And this ignorance, in turn, springs out of "the hardness of their hearts." The callous heart was proof against all impression from without, and thus kept the mind uninformed or apathetic, till heart and mind were both buried in the gloom of hopeless paganism.
III. ULTIMATE RESULTS OF THIS VAIN LIFE. "Who being past feeling, have given themselves over unto lasciviousness to work all uncleanness with greediness." When the hardness of the heart has followed close upon the steps of the darkened mind, conscience loses its power; it becomes seared as with a hot iron; the sense of sin is lost; the fear of guilt dies out; and now the way is open to measureless moral disorder. The sinner plunges into all forms of impurity, with the spirit of covetousness, as if he could never be satisfied with sinning, but sought ever new enormities of lawless desire. This is, in brief, the tremendous picture of heathenism given by an inspired apostle. - T.C.
This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind.1. Ministers of the Word must both speak, and with protestation enforce, the ways of God.
2. We must do all good things in the Lord's power.
3. Our estate which we have in Christ must avail with us to leave oar old ways.
4. We must not spend our time after grace as we did before.(1) It is more to God's dishonour, and our own danger, to sin after grace, for God will be sanctified in all that come near Him, or He will by His judgments sanctify Himself in them. The times of ignorance God does not so strictly look to.(2) We should be worse servants to God and holiness, than we were to sin and the devil; for when we were in the flesh, we walked after the devil, and were free men from righteousness.(3) The time of grace itself includes a persuasion, for it is a day wherein the Sun of Righteousness shines in our hearts, as the time before our conversion was a night. Now, the day is not for works of darkness, but of light.(4) It is a great injustice to spend the time after grace in the lusts of our own hearts; for, would we not think ourselves wronged if, having hired one to work here or there, he should go loitering and wasting his time elsewhere?
5. Such as are called to faith, must not be like the world.(1) Ministers must call off the godly from conforming to the world.(2) We must not be afraid to be singular.
6. To walk after our vain minds is heathenish.
7. All the courses which the natural man can devise are vain.
(Carlyle's "French Revolution.)
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