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Others, as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders, serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God.

How to paraphrase this sentence?

  1. Does "without intending it" mean "without thinking of it" and what does "it" refer to?

    I found a sentence from the Bible "For they intended evil against thee: they imagined a mischievous device, which they are not able to perform", I'm not sure if "it" refers to evil/devil.

  2. "serve the state with...",does it mean "use...to serve the state"?

  • It means they don't intend to serve the devil, but wind up doing so. – Robusto May 28 '17 at 18:42
  • @Robusto If they serve the devil, they didn't realize it's devil? – Leon Zero May 28 '17 at 18:51
  • No. It means that by serving the state "chiefly with their heads," and not making any moral distinctions, they may serve the devil (i.e., perform evil) without that being their intention. – Robusto May 28 '17 at 22:28
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Your quote comes from the King James version of Psalm 21:11

For they intended evil against thee: they imagined a mischievous device, which they are not able to perform.

It might be clearer if you used another translation

New International Verion - Though they plot evil against you and devise wicked schemes, they cannot succeed

English Standard Version - Though they plan evil against you, though they devise mischief, they will not succeed.

In your selection

they are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God.

It refers to "their likeliness to serve the devil", that "they will serve the devil without meaning to serve the devil", the reason why is because " they rarely make any moral distinctions".

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