The Childish Character of Those Who Are Easily Deceived

Ephesians 4:14; Colossians 2:4

Be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.

And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Christian life is not child’s play.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): Three characters you may observe among those who are most commonly seduced. One, they are called “simple” ones, Romans 16:18―such who mean well, but want wisdom to discern those who mean ill―incautious ones, that dare pledge everybody, and drink of any one’s cup, and never suspect poisoning. Two, they are called “children;” Three, they are such as are “unstable,” 2 Peter 2:14―such as are not well grounded and principled.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Children are easily imposed upon.

WILLIAM GURNALL: Children are very credulous, prone to believe every one that gives them a parcel of fair words. They think anything is good, if it be sweet. It is not hard to make them eat poison for sugar. They are not swayed by principles of their own, but by those of others. The child reads, construes, and parses his lesson as his master saith, and thinks it therefore right. Thus as poor creatures that have little knowledge of the Word themselves, they are easily persuaded this or that way, even as those of whom they have a good opinion please to lead them. Let the doctrine be but sweet, and it goes down glib. They, like Isaac, bless their opinions by feeling, not by sight. Hence many poor creatures applaud themselves so much of the joy they have found since they were of this judgement and that way. Not being able to try the comfort and sweetness they feel by the truth of their way from the Word, they are fain to believe the truth of it by their feeling, and so, poor creatures, they bless error for truth.

MATTHEW HENRY: We must take care of this, and of being tossed to and fro, like ships without ballast, and carried about, like clouds in the air, with such doctrines as have no truth nor solidity in them, but nevertheless spread themselves far and wide, and are therefore compared to wind.

WILLIAM GURNALL: They are such as are unstable―the truth they profess hath no anchor-hold in their understanding, and so they are at the mercy of the wind, soon set adrift, and carried down the stream of those opinions which are the favourites of the present time, and are most cried up—even as the dead fish with the current of the tide.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): There are some things in children in which it is reproachful for believers to be like them; as nonproficiency in knowledge, want of capacity to receive, bear, and digest strong meat; levity, fickleness, and inconstancy, unskilfulness in the Word, deficiency of knowledge, want of understanding, not of things natural, but spiritual and evangelical.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): You are commanded indeed in something to be like little children, but it is not to be understood with relation to knowledge and understanding.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men,” 1 Corinthians 14:20. Farther, lest the Corinthians should say in reply, that to be spiritually children, is elsewhere commended, as in Matthew 18:3,4, Paul anticipates this objection, and exhorts them, indeed, to be children in malice, but to beware of being children in understanding…Hence we infer how shameless a part those act, who make Christian simplicity to consist in ignorance.

WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): Ignorance is the pedestal of pride.

ROBERT HALDANE (1764-1842): Ignorance of the Scriptures is the cause of high-mindedness in Christians. They are often arrogant and contemptuous through want of knowledge. In the absence of real knowledge, they often suppose that they have a true understanding of things with which they are still unacquainted, and are thus vain and conceited.

JOHN CALVIN: It is a common fault that ignorance is closely followed by obstinacy.

GEORGE SWINNOCK (1627-1673): Ignorance and confidence are often twins.

JOHN GILL: Which is the more aggravated, since their understandings were opened and enlightened; an understanding was given them; the Spirit of God, as a spirit of understanding, was bestowed on them; they had the Scriptures, which are able to make wise unto salvation, and the man of God perfect; and also the ministers of the Gospel to explain divine truths to them; and many had been a long time in the school of Christ, and might have been teachers of others; and yet; after all, were children in understanding, and needed to be taught the first principles of the oracles of God.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is,” Ephesians 5:17. That word “unwise” does not here signify bare ignorance or lack of knowledge, otherwise the two halves of the verse would merely express the same thought in its negative and positive forms. No, the word “unwise” there means “lacking in common sense,” or as the R.V. renders it “be not ye foolish.”

JOHN GILL: In understanding be men;” or “perfect,” of ripe and full age, who have their senses exercised to discern between good and evil;  גבר“a man,” says Aben Ezra, in our language, signifies מלא דעת, “one full of knowledge,” as in Exodus 10:11. It is not perfection of justification that is meant, for babes in Christ are as perfect in this sense as grown men; nor a perfection of sanctification, for there is no such thing in this life―but of knowledge and understanding in divine things; which though it is imperfect in the best, yet in some it is in greater perfection than in others; who may, in a comparative sense, be said to be perfect, or men of full age, who are arrived to a considerable ripeness and maturity of spiritual knowledge; and this is what believers should be pressing after, and desirous of, and make use of all proper methods, such as reading, hearing, and praying, to attain unto.

VERNON J. CHARLESWORTH (1839-1915): Entering the house of one of his congregation, Rowland Hill saw a child on a rocking-horse. “Dear me,” exclaimed the aged minister, “how wondrously like some Christians! there is motion, but  no progress.” The rocking-horse type of spiritual life is still characteristic of too many Church members in the present day.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Is it not a shame to have no more understanding at eighty than at eight years of age?

ROBERT HAWKER (1753-1827): It is a melancholy consideration, how many of God’s dear children continue weak, in point of understanding, and remain but as babes in Christ the greater part of their life. I cannot call that man, any other than a child, a mere babe in grace, who never gets beyond the doubts and fears, the ups and downs, of unbelief. A maturity, and ripeness in grace, is known, by an establishment, and firmness, in the faith and hope of God’s children.


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