And this their not-hearing and not-seeing is the very result of thinking that they see and hear. If they had a misgiving that they did not see, they might yet learn of Him Who came to give them light. God's word to the Prophet Isaiah lays great emphasis on this their supposed sight and hearing.
" Hear ye, hearing," i. e. go on hearing, "and understand ye not ; and see ye, seeing, and perceive ye not." It is pronounced upon them, as the sentence of God doubtless on their previous impenitence and on their refusal to hear God's previous calls. And so they heard, they criticised, they contradicted ; and the more they heard, the more they perverted ; and the more confidently they insisted that they under stood, the further they were from the grace of
God, which would have revealed to them the true meaning of what they heard.
It has, doubtless, been startling in early years, that minds so highly endowed with natural gifts of God, creations of His Mind, formed in such perfection of natural beauty, should have failed of the true faith, or overtly rejected God's Revelation of Himself. It would have been even perplexing, (as it must be distressing) were acute reason the way to faith, or more capable of appreciating it, or better qualified to detect any flaw in it, or to criticise its substance, or to weigh its evidence, or to unfold the meaning of the Scriptures in which it is deposited. The contrary is proclaimed at the very threshold of the Gospel. Acuteness and power of combination, inventiveness and grasp of intellect, are the fit framers and discoverers and organisers of human science and human philosophy; humility, simplicity, candour of soul, integrity of the will, are the true, because the faithful, recipients of Divine knowledge.
The Gospel was "hidden from the wise and prudent, and revealed unto babes." Man's intellect was held captive, enslaved by his will ; and his will, by his passions and his pride ; God set free the intellect, not by overpowering arguments addressed to itself, but by bursting the bonds whereby it was held, and removing the scales whereby the light which should enlighten it, was excluded. " I will destroy," God saith, " the wisdom of the wise," of those who through their natural wisdom, thought themselves, or were thought wise in Divine things, “ and I will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." Human acuteness is skilled as to human ends; it sees not one step towards the End of ends, its life in God. " Where is the wise " in this world's wisdom ? " Where is the scribe," with his human knowledge of things Divine ? " Where the disputer of this world," unequal alike to establish solidly natural truth or to impugn Divine ? " Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world ? " Working deeds which man's wisdom holds impossible, teaching truths which it regards as folly, yet by both working what human philosophy had failed to effect ! " For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe."
Man, through human wisdom and human reasoning, failed even to know God ; God substituted faith for reasoning, seeming folly for assumed wisdom, and gave not knowledge only, but salvation. On the one side were arrayed human wisdom, human nobility, human power ; on the other God arrayed " the foolish things of the world," " the weak things of the world," "base things of the world, things despised." Through " unlearned and ignorant men, " He imparted to faith, what learning helped not, and ignorance hindered not, to receive. The world through its wisdom, amid the wonders of the creation, knew not the Majesty of the Creator ; God taught to fishermen and tentmakers and publicans, the poor and the ignorant and the despised Galileans, the humility of the Incarnation, and the shame of the Cross. Such as they were who called, such were mostly those who were called, " not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble : " but through these God taught to man, man's own misery, and the boundlessness of the Divine Mercy ; He taught him humility through taking on Him the form of a servant and the humiliation of the Cross ; but so He opened his eyes to behold, as man might, the Majesty of His Own Being and the depth of His Wisdom, and the greatness of His Holiness, and the Adorableness of His Love.
He taught His own Glory through humility which human reason could not receive. He taught of that which is Highest in Himself, through the lowest ; through the lowest whom He taught, He taught whatever accounted itself the highest ; of the lowest He made the highest. The world despised, scoffed, reviled, hated, rejected, persecuted, trampled under foot, and was con quered. " The science of the fishermen overcame the science of the Philosophers ;" and Philosophers did service to God, having first bowed their necks beneath the gentle, health-giving yoke of the Crucified. The weak overcame the strong ; the unlearned taught the learned ; the foolish convinced the wise ; for in outward form, it was the weakness of God, and the foolishness of God ; but within were the might of Faith, and the attractions of Divine Love, and the Almightiness of Divine Grace.