34 Isaiah VII


Edward Madeley




From the Intellectual Repository, for Feb., 1848.

THE entire prophecy of which these words form a part, relates to the Lord when He came into the world, and which was then especially fulfilled by Him. Commentators of every age have been not a little perplexed as to the meaning of this prophecy. The relation between eating butter and honey, and refusing evil and choosing good, is the difficulty which they could not surmount. It would be curious to examine what the most learned commentators down to Hitzig and Ewald have written upon this passage, in order to make some sense which the natural mind could comprehend and approve. But as this examination would not be profitable, we shall refrain. That one of the divine names of the Lord in his Humanity is IMMANUEL or GOD-WITH-US, is, from this prophecy, abundantly evident, especially as it is quoted and confirmed by Matthew i. 23.

That the Lord in his Humanity is GOD-WITH-US, is the divine basis of Christianity. Upon this great truth, this precious corner-stone, rests the entire structure of the Christian religion. ” God manifest in the flesh,” ” God in Christ,” are declarations of the Apostle which are equivalent to the appellation IMMANUEL. And when we further see it declared that ” in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” we need no further proof that it was Jehovah God Himself, as declared by Zacharias, who visited and redeemed His people. (Luke i. 68.)

The great error of the old theology destroys the truth that Immanuel is Jehovah in the Humanity, or that God is manifest in the flesh. Instead of which, as the sole foundation of Christianity, it assumes the incarnation of a supposed second person in the Trinity, or a Son of God born from eternity; and by substituting this unscriptural and irrational idea in the place of Immanuel, or God Himself, as becoming incarnate for the redemption of mankind, the entire foundation of the church is erroneous, and every doctrine is, in consequence, darkened with error.* Build upon a false principle, and every thing you erect will partake of the falsity. Hence the great importance of a true foundation.

The Lord, as to the human nature He assumed from the virgin Mary, was laden with our infirmities, was in the ” likeness of sinful flesh,” and “was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” But He ” sanctified Himself for our sakes, and became perfect through suffering ;” that is, He glorified his Humanity. Now the first thing required in the divine process of glorification, as also in the process of regeneration, is the knowledge of evil, that we may cease to do it, and as a consequence, learn to choose and to do good. The entire process of regeneration consists in refusing evil and choosing good as a principle of life. And as the regeneration of man is an image of the Lord s glorification, it may also be said that his glorification also consisted in knowing and refusing evil and in choosing good. Not that evil, in the sense of sin, ever adhered to Him ” who was without sin,” but only as infirmity, and as hereditary tendency to evil. To supplant and utterly to reject these hereditary tendencies, is to refuse the evil, and, as a consequence, to choose what is good. But how the eat ing of butter and honey is connected with this process, remains to be seen.

And here we cannot be sufficiently thankful to the Father of mercies for the discovery, in these latter days, of the spiritual sense of the Holy Word ; for it is from this sense alone that we can, in a satisfactory manner, see the relation between eating butter and honey and refusing evil and choosing good.

It must be evident, even to the natural mind when once awakened to perception and thought concerning the nature of God s Word, that butter and honey in this passage and elsewhere in the Scriptures, unused in a symbolic or emblematic sense. Thus, when we so often read of ” a land flowing with milk and honey,” we never think that this is to be taken in a merely literal sense. We well know that there is something implied in the description, and that milk and honey denote something spiritual and heavenly. Now to eat butter, when mentioned in the Word, signifies to appropriate heavenly good from the Lord in the internal or spiritual mind ; and to eat honey signifies to delight in that good in our external or natural man ; for the sweetness of honey corresponds to delight, especially in our external man, where all delights and pleasures are sensibly enjoyed. It is a perception and taste of heavenly good from the Lord, which enables us to know and to perceive how noxious and deadly evil is, and which consequently leads us to refuse it, and to choose what is good. We may know what evil is from a perception of what is good, and we may see what is false from a knowledge of what is true; but not contrariwise. Moreover, evil can only be cast out by the power of truth from good. It is in vain to try to extirpate an affection or a motive but from a contrary principle and impulse. True it is, that evil must first be cast out before good can be received and enjoyed, but the rejection can only be effected by the power of good from the Lord.

” We must first taste and see that the Lord is good”(Psalm xxxiv. 8), before we can know truly what evil is, and refuse and reject it. Now when this important fact in spiritual development, or in the regenerate life, is expressed in the language of correspondence, it falls into the terms : ” Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil and choose the good.” Abraham brought butter and milk, and set them before the angels who appeared to him in Mamre (Gen. xviii.), to denote the means by which communication and conjunction are effected with the Lord. These means are celestial and spiritual good, to which butter and milk correspond, and which must be eaten, that is, appropriated by faith and love, as the great principles of life, before we can become spiritual and be saved. The wicked, it is said, ” shall not see the rivers, the floods, the brooks of honey and butter” (Job xx. 17); where it is evident, that butter and honey are correspondent emblems of something spiritual and heavenly which the wicked cannot see. Again, ” butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land ” ( Isaiah vii. 22), plainly denoting that those who are in the church as its real, spiritual members, shall feed on spiritual and heavenly things, which are the pure affections of good from the Lord, and their cor respondent delight and happiness in the natural man denoted by the sweetness of honey.

That honey corresponds to the delight of heavenly good as experienced in the natural mind, may be easily seen when the passages in the Word where honey is mentioned are properly considered. In 1 Samuel xiv. 27, we read that ” Jonathan put forth the end of his rod, and dipped it in a honey-comb, and put his hand to his mouth, and his eyes were enlightened ;” and again in verse 29 ” See, I pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened, because I tasted a little of this honey.” Here the tasting of honey and the enlightening of the eyes seem to be placed in a natural connection as cause and effect, but no such connection can be seen between them. When, however, it is seen that delight which is the activity of affection, opens the understanding and causes it to see and to relish truths, then the eyes (or the understanding) are enlightened by the light of truth. For the understanding receives but little light on any subject in which the will is not interested ; but so soon as the affections become delighted with the subject on which the mind meditates, the understanding,

the eyes become enlightened. (See H. H. 603.) Again, the ” honey in the carcass of the lion which Samson took and ate ” (Judges xiv. 9;, denotes the sweetness, serenity and happiness of mind which en sues when evil (the lion) or rather the falsity of evil, is slain ; that is, when by acts of self-denial and combat, ” fighting the good fight,” as the apostle says, the evils to which we are prone have been overcome and removed ; hence arise all sweetness and happiness to the soul.

We learn from this brief exposition of the prophecy, how exceedingly precious the knowledge of the internal sense of Scripture is, and how, by the science of correspondences, that sense may be interpreted and understood. It is in this way that the Word shows its “spirit and its life,” and how every verse is full of efficacy in its application to our states. For, if we desire to become regenerate and fitted for heaven, we must daily endeavor, through divine mercy, to live in the fulfilment of this prophecy, and spiritually to eat butter nd honey, that we may know to refuse evil and choose good. FlDELIS.