40.He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart. The passage is taken from Isa_6:9, where the Lord forewarns the prophet, that the labor which he spends in instructing will lead to no other result than to make the people worse. First then he says, Go, and tell this people, Hearing, hear and do not hear; as if he had said, “ send thee to speak to the deaf.” He afterwards adds, Harden the heart of this people, &c. By these words he means, that he intends to make his word a punishment to the reprobate, that it may render them more thoroughly blind, and that their blindness may be plunged in deeper darkness. It is indeed a dreadful judgment of God, when He overwhelms men by the light of doctrine, in such a manner as to deprive them of all understanding; and when, even by means of that which is their only light, he brings darkness upon them.
But it ought to be observed, that it is accidental to the word of God, that it blinds men; for nothing can be more inconsistent than that there should be no difference between truth and falsehood, that the bread of life should become a deadly poison, and that medicine should aggravate a disease. But this must be ascribed to the wickedness of men, which turns life into death. It ought also to be observed, that sometimes the Lord, by himself, blinds the minds of men, by depriving them of judgment and understanding; sometimes by Satan and false prophets, when he maddens them by their impostures; sometimes. too by his ministers, when the doctrine of salvation is injurious and deadly to them. But provided that prophets labor faithfully in the work of instruction, and commit to the Lord the result of their labor, though they may not succeed to their wish, they ought not to give way or despond. Let them rather be satisfied with knowing that God approves of their labor, though it be useless to men’ and that even the savor of doctrine, which wicked men render deadly to themselves elves, is good and pleasant to God, as Paul testifies, (2Co_2:15.)
The heart is sometimes in Scripture put for the seat of the affections; but here, as in many other passages, it denotes what is called the intellectual part of the soul. To the same purpose Moses speaks:
God hath not given you a heart to understand,
Lest they should see with their eyes. Let us remember that the prophet speaks of unbelievers who had already rejected the grace of God. It is certain that all would continue to be such by nature, if The Lord did not form to obedience to him those whom he has elected. At first, therefore, the condition of men is equal and alike, but when reprobate men have, of their own accord, and by their own wickedness, rebelled against God, they subject themselves to this vengeance, by which, being given up to a reprobate mind, they continually rush forward more and more to their own destruction. It is their own fault, therefore, if God does not choose to convert them, because they were the cause of their own despair. We are briefly instructed also, by these words of the prophet, what is the beginning of our conversion to God. It is when he enlightens the hearts, which must have been turned away from him, so long as they were held by the darkness of Satan; but, on the contrary, such is the power of Divine light, that it attracts us to itself, and forms us to the image of God.
And I should heal them. He next adds the fruit of conversion, that is, healing. By this word the prophet means the blessing of God and a prosperous condition, and likewise deliverance from all the miseries which spring from the wrath of God. Now, if this happens to the reprobate, contrary to the nature of the word, we ought to attend to the contrast implied in the, opposite use of it; namely, that the purpose for which the word of God is preached is, to enlighten us in the true knowledge of God, to turn us to God, and reconcile us to him, that we may be happy and blessed.