10 Will and Understanding


Edward Madeley




THERE are two distinct departments of the human mind which we are taught is a finite resemblance of the Divine Mind. These are the will, or voluntary principle, which is the seat of all the feelings, affections, and desires, and the understanding, or intellectual principle, which is the repository of all the thoughts, ideas, and opinions. The former is internal, the latter external. These two faculties in man are the receptacles of a continuous flow of life from the Lord, and, in their separate and united activities are, in one way or other, constantly referred to in the sacred volume. They partake of a distinction like that of sex, and to which, indeed, the masculine and feminine principles exactly correspond, both in God and man.

They are both essential to conscious rational existence, and their union, corresponding harmony, and resulting offspring, are always represented in the Word by the union of male and female, the marriage covenant, and the parental relationship. The diverse constitution of the sexes correspond ; a man thinks more from the understanding, a woman thinks more from the heart ; the male acts more from the dictates of reason, but a woman acts more from the impulse of affection. Hence they are helps-meet for each other, and, in true heavenly marriage, ” are no. more two but one flesh.” (See p. 130.)

Because man from creation was thus endowed with these two faculties, he is said to have been formed ” in the image and likeness of God ” and to have had breathed into him ” the breath of life” (or, more correctly translated from the Hebrew, ” breath of lives “), “and man,” it is added, “became a living soul” (Gen. i. 26; ii. 7). For, when he is restored to order by regeneration, man is still an image of God, by virtue of his intellectual gifts and their reception of truth and intelligence from the Lord, through the inspired life of his divine wisdom ; and a likeness of God, by virtue of his voluntary powers and their reception of goodness from the Lord, through the inbreathings of the life of divine love. When these principles are received in heart and soul, and reproduced in the conduct and conversation, man then becomes both an image and likeness of God. And as marriage between one man and one woman is, in a good sense, the true type and representative of all kinds of internal union of love and wisdom, charity and faith, in the soul, therefore it is solemnly enjoined, ” what God has joined together, let no man put asunder ” (Mark x. 9).

There are two essential attributes of divine existence divine love and divine wisdom. The former is the very divine essence or substance and the latter is the very divine form of God, and neither could have being or existence without the other. Their infinitely perfect union, energy, and operation constitute the third essential in the threefold character of the divine nature. With man, who is, as we have already seen, created in the image of God, finite love and finite wisdom are the two corresponding and essential attributes of mind, whose united and inseparable activity, in the outward life and conduct, constitute the third essential of human existence. It is to be observed that the whole natural universe, with its indefinite contents, was created from infinite love as the divine end, by means of infinite wisdom as the instrumental cause. The objects of the visible universe are the ultimate or lowest effects of the combined operation of God’s love and wisdom, and are the corresponding finited images of all the realities of the spiritual world, which acts in and upon the natural world ; while, again, the objects of both worlds are, collectively and singly, images, more or less remote, of the innumerable faculties and principles existing in man, and of the infinite attributes and perfections existing in God. Every man, both in his mind and in the corresponding forms of his body, is, therefore, an image of his great Maker, and also a universe in its least form.

For instance, the two universal elements of primordial creation are light and heat ; the two universal attributes of nature are time and space ; the two universal characteristics of bodies are substance and form. All these correspond to the two universal faculties of the will and the understanding, and their finite properties of freedom and reason as constituent of mind, and to their two universal, though ever-varying, states of affection and thought ; and these, again, are the finite corresponding images and forms of the infinite essentials of Divine goodness and intelligence, which are the activities and out growings of the Lord s infinite will and understanding, and of his incommunicable attributes of omnipresence and eternity. In like manner the heart, with its vital motions, corresponds to the will and its activities, and the lungs, with the powers of respiration, correspond to the understanding and its operations, and these are the two universal receptacles of life in the bodily frame. Now, between the primary departments of the mind, their combined activities, and the things which they receive, there is a mutual relationship necessarily established, essential to the existence of each, like that which subsists between the chief organs of the bodily frame, the heart and the lungs. Thus the will and understanding, in agreement with man’s freedom and reason, may become receptive of goodness and truth, or their opposites, evil and falsity, which are their respective perversions ; and between goodness and truth, and also between evil and falsity, there is a mutual affinity exactly represented by a marriage. Hence, by a marriage, in the Word, is always signified, in a good sense, the internal union of some principle of heavenly love or charity in the will, with a corresponding principle of heavenly wisdom or faith in the understanding ; and, in an opposite sense, the infernal union of some principle of evil in the will, with its corresponding principle of falsity in the understanding. And since the Lord’s reciprocal conjunction with man is the effect of the previous union of goodness and truth in the soul, so it is often called a marriage covenant, in which the Lord is designated the bridegroom and husband, and the church, the bride and wife (Hos. ii. 16 ; Rev. xix. 7).

On account of this twofold constitution of the human mind, both in general and in particular, we find that all the bodily organs are likewise double, or arranged in pairs. For the same reasons, binary forms of expression, in several parts of speech, are found so frequently in the sacred Word, which, in appearance, are synonymous, as, search and try, void and empty, wilderness and desert, briers and thorns, rod and staff, babes and sucklings, nations and people, poor and needy, righteousness and faithfulness, thief and robber, sin and iniquity, joy and gladness, mourning and weeping, anger and wrath, justice and judgment; so, also, we find numerous correlatives associated, as, man and woman, husband and wife, father and mother, sons and daughters, brother and companion, kings and priests, bridegroom and bride, ploughmen and vine-dressers, flocks and herds, threshing-floor and wine-press, heart and spirit, flesh and blood, hunger and thirst, eating and drinking, bread and wine, hills and valleys, land and sea, heat and light ; or two things are joined together whose properties and uses are susceptible of union, or are mutually depend ent, as, sun and moon, fire and flame, gold and silver, brass and iron, wood and stone, Zion and Jerusalem, Judah and Israel ; two words are also associated together, as, ” take and eat,” ” strait gate and narrow way,” “wide gate and broad way,” “spirit and fire,” to labor and be heavy-laden, ploughing and feeding cattle, etc. ; and sometimes the same term is simply repeated with or without adjuncts.

Now, in all these cases, one of the terms (or the parallelism in which it occurs) refers to some principle or characteristic of the will, or to some quality or state of the affections, desires, and actions thence derived; and the other has respect to some principle of the understanding, or to some quality or state of the thoughts and memory, and the words which result therefrom, whether holy or profane. One term has reference to goodness, or some good state of mind, and, in an opposite sense, to evil, or some evil state of mind, as the context will show ; and the other term bears the same relation to truth, or, in an opposite sense, to falsity. One will be predicated more or less of some celestial truth, or of some particular love and its delights, or its opposite lust and its pleasures, and the other will be predicated more or less of some spiritual truth, or its opposite falsity, or of some specific thought or idea, either pure or unclean. For in the divine Word there can be nothing useless, nothing superfluous.

These conclusions are confirmed by that wonderful passage, among others, in the prophecy of Jeremiah, where the Lord, by the mouth of the prophet, in treating of the omnipotence of divine truth emanating from Himself in his Word, and active for the redemption and salvation of the human race, says, ” Thou art my battle-axe and weapons of war : for with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy kingdoms ; and with thee will I break in pieces the horse and his rider; and with thee will I break in pieces the chariot and his rider; and with thee also will I break in pieces man and woman ; and with thee will I break in pieces old and young; and with thee will I break in pieces the young man and the maid: I will break in pieces with thee the shepherd and his flock; and with thee will I break in pieces the husbandman and his yoke of oxen ; and with thee will I break in pieces captains and rulers” (li. 20-23). Here the various particulars described signify the diversified principles constituent of man s will and understanding, affections and thoughts, mind and life, and are associated in pairs. All kinds and degrees of evil in the will, and of falsity in the understanding, must be dispersed, or destroyed, or subdued, by the power of God’s Word ; and the union of all kinds and degrees of goodness and truth in the heart and mind, the affections and thoughts, the inward motives and the outward conduct, must be established and confirmed by the Lord, in accordance with his love and wisdom, if He is to reign over us. Then, and not till then, is the divine declaration accomplished in Christian experience, ” Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Ps. lxxxv. 10).

Again : eating and drinking are bodily acts requisite to the nourishment and support of the natural frame. There are, also, two kinds of food provided for man’s support, liquid and solid. These two operations and two sorts of aliment are constantly alluded to in the Word, and signify, in a good sense, the two distinct kinds of spiritual nourishment required and provided for the support of the soul, viz., goodness and virtue of various degrees for the will, denoted by the varieties of solid food, and wisdom and knowledge of various kinds for the understanding, denoted by the varieties of liquid food ; and the whole process of digestion is, in every particular, significative of that spiritual process by which the mind inwardly ” learns and digests,” or receives and appropriates that nourishment which recruits our spiritual strength, and more and more perfects our growth in the regenerate life ; or, on the contrary, if the will and understanding be of an infernal quality, then the food which is desired for its sustentation consists of selfish gratifications and erroneous persuasions, which are represented by unclean animals and noxious plants, by mixed bread and adulterated wine, by unwholesome fruit and bitter water, and it is said of them ” the whole head is sick and the whole heart faint” (Isa. i. 5).

To eat bread or flesh signifies, in a good sense, to receive from the Lord, to apprehend, and spiritually to incorporate celestial and vital principles of love or goodness in the will and affections ; and to drink wine or blood is to imbibe from the same divine source, to comprehend, and spiritually to appropriate heavenly and living principles of wisdom or truth in the understanding and thoughts. Bread, in a good sense, always represents divine goodness or love, and wine divine wisdom or truth ; for goodness and truth are the spiritual and everlasting substances which nourish the soul unto eternal life, precisely as bread and wine support the natural body ; hence we are taught to pray for “our daily bread” (Matt. vi. 11), “the bread of heaven” (Psalm cv. 40), and ” to buy wine without money and without price” (Isa. Iv. 1), the “wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and bread which strengtheneth man s heart” (Psalm civ. 15). In the opposite sense we read of “defiled bread” (Ezek. iv. 13), and of ” wine which is the poison of dragons ” (Deut. xxxii. 33), where it is self-evident that the corruption and profanation of goodness and truth, or, what is the same thing, the vile and impious principles of evil and falsity are described.

How plain, how interesting, and how edifying does even this short exposition make a multitude of otherwise inexplicable passages of the inspired Scriptures ! I need only refer to one or two, and even without a verbal explanation you will be surprised and delighted to see how much you may understand respecting them. In John vi. 51 the Lord said to the Jews in the synagogue at Capernaum,” I am the living bread which came down from heaven : if any man eat of this bread he shall live forever : and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” The Jews, who only understood these words sensually, asked in skeptical derision, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” to which the Lord, without further explanation, immediately replied, ” Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life ; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him” (53-56). Here the Lord s flesh signifies his divine love or goodness, and his blood, called ” the blood of the New Testament ” or covenant, can signify nothing else than divine wisdom or truth, which is ” shed for many, for the remission of sins ” (Matt. xxvi. 28).

This seems, also, to explain what the Apostle Paul means in 1 Cor.v. 7, where he says, ” For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” The original Greek word, here translated sacrifice, evidently means “slain;” for the passover was not a sacrifice, but was eaten by the people. So, by parity of reasoning, the Lord Jesus Christ was slain, or glorified his humanity, that all Christian believers, ” having their hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience” (Heb. x. 22), by the blood of the new covenant, or the divine truths of the Word of God, might partake of his flesh and blood, his divine goodness and truth, and incorporate these blessed principles into their very nature, or spiritual constitution, as the Lord said (John vi. 57), “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me”

It was to represent this internal communication of sacred gifts and virtues by the Lord, and their reception and appropriation on the part of man, that the Holy Supper was instituted as a perpetual memorial representative of the Lord’s glorification, and also of man s regeneration, and as a powerful means of advancing it. For Swedenborg distinctly and truly teaches that ” the greatest power inheres in correspondences, because in them heaven and the world, the spiritual and the natural, are conjoined, and therefore that the Word is written according to mere [or pure] correspondences; wherefore it is the conjunction of man with heaven, thus with the Lord. The Lord, by this means, is in first principles, and at the same time in lasts, where fore [church] sacraments [which are the holiest forms of all worship, and a substitute for all the representative ceremonies and rituals of former dispensations of religion] are instituted on the principles of correspondence, in which, accordingly, a divine potency resides ” (Sp. Diary, pt. vii.). The Lord made his humanity Divine, and perfectly united it to the indwelling Father, by the successive incorporation of infinite principles of goodness and truth; hence He says, “I have meat to eat that ye know not of” (John iv. 32), and this divinely mysterious process of glorification was the exact pattern of man’s regeneration, in which work man becomes, in his finite degree, freely and fully receptive of living principles of goodness and truth from the Lord, which induce upon him the divine likeness, conjoin him with the only source of all life, blessedness, and power, and open up to him a state of eternal advancement in wisdom, love, and use.

Again, in Ezekiel we read : ” Thus saith the Lord God, Speak unto every feathered fowl, and to every beast of the field, Assemble yourselves and come ; gather yourselves on every side to my sacrifice that I do sacrifice for you, even a great sacrifice upon the mountains of Israel, that ye may eat flesh and drink blood. Ye shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth, of rams, of lambs, and of goats, of bullocks, all of them fatlings of Bashan. And ye shall eat fat till ye be full, and drink blood till ye be drunken, of the sacrifice which I have sacrificed for you. Thus ye shall be filled at my table with horses and chariots, with mighty men, and with all men of war, saith the Lord God ” (xxxix. 17-20). And similar descriptions are in the Revelation, where John says, “And I saw an angel standing in the sun ; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come, and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God ; that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great”(xix. 17, 18).

Without the inward life and spirit, how can the divinity, the holiness, the reasonableness and practical tendency of these passages be comprehended ? But when that sense is perceived and acknowledged, and the signification of eating, drinking, and the elements of food is understood, they arc no longer mysterious predictions, but teem with lessons of infinite intelligence, are replete with the unfoldings of unchanging love, radiant with the beams of sacred glory, and are at once seen to be truly worthy of their omniscient Author. In a general sense we are taught by those words that the Lord has provided richest feasts of purest and holiest blessings and satisfactions in his Word and kingdom, for all who are prepared tc partake of and appropriate them by faith and love. Every thought capable of elevation into the atmosphere of heaven, signified by the feathered fowls that fly in the midst of the firmament, and every affection inspired with the life of love and charity, signified by the beasts of the field that walk upon the surface of the ground, are freely and earnestly invited and entreated, by the yearnings of infinite love and compassion, to partake of all kinds and degrees of spiritual nourishment and delight prepared for the understanding and the heart, that man may worship the Lord in ” the beauty of holiness,” and obey his commandments with a cheerful mind, and consequently be replenished, strengthened, and renovated with ” feasts of fat things and wines on the lees,” the Lord s “sacrifice on the mountains of Israel,” ” the supper of the great God !”

On account of this signification of two persons or things, when associated in the Word, the Lord sent forth the seventy disciples by ” two and two ” (Luke x. 1), to preach the glad tidings of redemption and salvation in his name. For the whole essence of the Gospel may be regarded as the love and wisdom of the Lord ; nor, unless these divine principles are unitedly received in the will and understanding of man, can the Gospel become to him ” the power of God unto salvation ” (Rom. i. 16). There must be a reciprocity of action and reaction established between the infinite will and the finite will, and between the infinite understanding and the finite understanding by the process called regeneration, if the human mind is to become a coherent one, and live forever in conjunction with its Maker. Thus both the love and wisdom emanating from the Lord must be received, and, as it were, reflected back again to their divine source. To receive and retain a given truth in the understanding only, is to combine it with erroneous persuasions and with selfish affections in the will, thus to profane and defile it, and destroy its virtue. He who does this induces upon himself a state of hypocrisy with its direful torment.

Hence such impure associations are so strictly forbidden in the Word by a variety of laws, made obligatory even in their literal acceptation in the representative economy of the Jews, and the infringement of which subjected aggressors to severest penalties. But in their inward meaning these laws and penalties are filled with instruction of the most solemn import. Without some internal significancy and capacity of application to the human mind, such laws and penalties cannot be seen in rational light to yield any wisdom worthy of the supreme Lawgiver.

For this reason, then, it is, that we are forbidden to sow with divers seed, to plow with an ox and an ass together, or to wear garments woven of mingled woollen and linen yarn (Deut. xxii. 9-11); for a truth received in the intellect must be yoked or united to its own proper and corresponding principle of goodness in the heart, if it is to be preserved from profanation, and thus to be successfully employed, not only to promote our usefulness in this world, but our preparation for a heavenly state.

In order to represent to us more significantly the above twofold characteristic of the Lord s divine proceeding, as consisting of infinite love and infinite wisdom in indissoluble union, there are, both in the Old and New Testaments, two terms or names conjoined, as, Lord God, Jehovah God, Jesus Christ, the Lord-God and the Lamb, the Father and the Son, etc., which names are not, as might be supposed from the mere appearance of the letter, appellations referable to some distinct duality and individuality of person in the Godhead, a supposition equivalent to the monstrous and intolerable idea of more gods than one; but they are designed to mark the distinction recognized by human thought in the one true God, between divine love and divine wisdom, or, what is the same thing, between divine goodness and divine truth, the two essential constituents of Godhead coexistent in the divine Mind, the ground of infinite perfection, and the abode and source of all the attributes of Deity. Reason testifies that it cannot be otherwise. The terms Lord, or Jehovah, Jesus, and Father, generally signify, in the Holy Word, some quality of the essential divine principle of love or goodness ; and the terms God, Christ, 82 and Son, for the most part signify some characteristic of the other divine principle of wisdom or truth, according to the subject or state under consideration. How immeasurably above mere reasoning and views which are dependent on the bodily senses do such enlightened conclusions and instructions as these elevate the soul, freeing it at once from all cavil, doubt, and inconsistency, directing its undivided adoration to the one true and holy God of heaven and earth the Lord Jesus Christ, in his own glorified Human ; and because He is thus infinite love or goodness itself, and infinite wisdom or truth itself, the apostle Paul bears this most explicit testimony respecting Him, that ” In HIM [the Lord Jesus] dwelleth all the fulness of the God head bodily.” The Father sends forth the Son, as heat sends forth light ; and as heat and light are one in the sun, so love and wisdom the Father and the Son are one in the glorious person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the ” Sun of righteousness.”