THE Old Testament begins with “the generations of the heavens and the earth,” and the New Testament begins with “the generation” of him by whom the heavens and the earth were created. In the Incarnation the Creator took upon himself by birth that nature which had originally derived its birth from him. He by whom man was made, was himself made man. God assumed man’s nature to effect what man was designed but had failed to accomplish. As the world came from God, it was designed to return to him again, and to return through man, for whose sake it was created, and in whose spiritual and eternal happiness alone the purpose of its creation would be realized. God could have no other end in view in creating the world – the universe itself – than to form from the human race, a heaven of immortal beings, to whom, he might impart a measure of his own infinite blessedness, and in whose ever-increasing numbers and perfection he might behold a not unworthy image of his own immensity and glory. The fall of man threatened the frustration of this beneficent end. The catastrophe could only be averted and the breach repaired by God becoming man, and in the humanity he assumed, restoring what man had lost in himself In the Lord’s humanity at the ascension creation returned to him from whom it originally came. The link, in the chain of connection between the Creator and his creature was more than supplied by man’s Restorer. By his Divine Humanity God has connected his creation in this and all other worlds with himself; and by a new and living way, which he has consecrated through the veil, that is to say, his flesh, man has for ever access to him, and he to man.
The Incarnation was thus the beginning of a new creation. Jesus is therefore called the Beginning of the creation of God; the Firstborn of every creature. He is the beginning of that new and spiritual creation which is to consist of those who become “new creatures,” he is the first-begotten and the head of that new generation which is to consist of those who are “born again” of him. The Lord has become the second Adam, the Father of a new and endless race of regenerate beings. In him what was God’s imperfect image has become man’s perfect Exemplar.
It is, in fact, this spiritual creation which the Genesis of the Word describes – a creation which made primeval man a spiritual image and likeness of his Maker. This image of the Divine properly constitutes humanity, for we are truly human only so far as we are images of God as to his moral perfections. It was this image that was lost by the fall, and which the Creator came to restore by the Incarnation, – that transcendently glorious event which forms the theme of the Gospel of peace, the beginning of which announces the birth of the Saviour, – the glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
1The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
2Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;
3And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram;
4And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon;
5And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse;
6And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias;
7And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa;
8And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias;
9And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias;
10And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias;
11And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon:
12And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel;
13And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor;
14And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud;
15And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob;
16And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
17So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.
1-17. The book of the generation of Jesus Christ comprehends in it much more than all enumeration of his natural progenitors; and its purpose is much higher than to establish the historical fact that he was the son of David, the son of Abraham. It is not our purpose to enter into a consideration of its literal sense, nor to attempt to clear up its historical difficulties. These will be found treated, in many instances with care and ability, in commentaries devoted to the elucidation of the literal sense, of which we may particularize The Critical English Testament. We have no doubt of the truth and consistency of the sacred writers, and are convinced that a defective knowledge of the times and circumstances in which the genealogies of Matthew and Luke were produced, is the sole cause of their apparent discrepancies and inconsistencies. Some of these we shall have occasion to allude to in treating of their spiritual signification.
The Lord’s genealogy has far higher claims on our attention than as a record of his natural descent. It is an inspired revelation for conveying to us divine and holy truths relating to the great mystery of the Lord’s incarnation and glorification, and, in a secondary sense, to our own regeneration. In heaven, where the natural sense of the Word does not exist, but where the Word is written in purely spiritual language, and is understood in a purely spiritual sense, every name in this table must be substituted by a purely spiritual truth, conveying to the minds of angels a distinct and luminous idea. In the natural world, where our views of divine and spiritual things are necessarily much more general, and therefore much more obscure, we must rest satisfied with a few leading ideas on such subjects as the present, where a long array of names is presented before us.
In the spiritual sense of Scripture natural signify spiritual births, and natural mean spiritual generations. Between the natural and the Spiritual there is an exact analogy. There is a common perception of this. We all ascribe conception and birth to the mind as well as to the body. Affections and thoughts are as truly the offspring of the will and understanding as sons and daughters are of human pairs; and there are successive generations of the one as well as of the other. These are the births and generations to which the internal sense of the Word relates. The Lord’s genealogy treats of the successive conception and birth in him of divine affections and thoughts or, what is the same, of divine goods and truths. It was by the successive birth of the Divine in the human that the human became at length divine. This glorification of the Lord may be illustrated by the regeneration of man, in which it may be seen as in its image. The regeneration of man begins at his birth, and continues to the end of life, and indeed, goes on to eternity. The Lord’s glorification commenced at his birth, and was only completed at his resurrection and ascension. Let us endeavour to trace the greater in the less.
The earlier period of human life is employed by the Lord in effecting in the mind a spiritual work preparatory to regeneration, and without which actual regeneration in adult age would be impossible as a virtuous and intelligent manhood would be without the educational stages of infancy, childhood, and youth. This work consists in implanting the germs of principles and forming the rudiments of states that are to constitute the new life in the regenerate soul. These are spiritually meant in the Word by the remnant which is saved, and through which there is salvation (Isa. x. 20; i. 9). As a remnant of holy persons must be left in every expiring church to form the nucleus of a new one (Rom. ix. 27; xi. 5); so must a remnant of holy principles be preserved in the mind of every child of fallen man, to form the initiament of the new or regenerate state which is the church or kingdom of the Lord in him. “Remains are truths and goods stored up by the Lord in man’s interiors; by which he is prepared and initiated to receive the influx of good and truth from the Lord, and thus to become regenerated.” That man may acquire these remains, he is “from first infancy to first boyhood introduced by the Lord into heaven, and indeed amongst the celestial angels, by whom he is kept in a state of innocence. When the age of boyhood commences, he by degrees puts off the state of innocence, but still is kept in a state of mutual charity towards his like, a state which continues in some instances to youth: he is then amongst spiritual angels. But as he has not yet acquired truths, the good things of innocence and charity which he had received in those two states have not yet been qualified, for truth gives quality to good, and good gives essence to truth, on which account he is from this age imbued with truths by instruction, and especially by his own thoughts and consequent confirmations.” He is then amongst angels of the ultimate heaven. Thus “good things of a threefold kind are signified by remains, the good things of infancy, the good things of ignorance, and the good things of intelligence. The good things of infancy are insinuated into man from his first nativity to the age in which he begins to be instructed and to know something; the good things of ignorance are what are insinuated when be begins to be instructed and to know something; the good things of intelligence are what are insinuated when he is capable of reflecting on what is good and true. The good of infancy is insinuated from infancy to the tenth year; the good of ignorance from the tenth to the twentieth year; from this year man begins to become rational, and to have the faculty of reflecting on good and truth, and to procure for himself the good of intelligence.”
As the human being descends through all the heavens, he thereby acquires the faculty of “ascending up where he was before,” to become an inhabitant of that particular heaven for which he prepares himself by actual regeneration. He thereby also acquires the germs of those principals and the rudiments of those states which constitute the kingdom of the Lord in the human soul. While amongst the celestial angels he acquires the germ of the celestial principle, which is love to the Lord; while amongst the spiritual angels he acquires the germ of the spiritual principle, which is love to the neighbor; and while amongst the angels of the ultimate heaven he acquires the germ of the natural principle, which is use, as an intelligent manifestation of love and charity.
The germination of the seeds thus sown in the mind forms the commencement of regeneration, their growth its progress, and their fructification its completion. As seeds may lie for a long period in the bosom of the earth without their vitality being destroyed; so may the seeds of heavenly principles remain long undeveloped in the mind, yet preserved by divine goodness for future use. And as seeds sown in the earth begin to germinate whenever they come under the influence of the vernal sun, so do the seeds of the kingdom, whenever they come under the influence of the Sun of Righteousness, which is the case when man, like the earth in spring, turns himself to the source of his life and the author of his salvation, to receive into his heart the rays of divine love and light. Divine mercy and grace have left nothing undone which may provide for this blessed consummation. They have from the first moment of the soul’s existence been engaged in making all things ready, that man may, when he arrives at adult age, enter into the heavenly marriage.
As in all things it behoved Jesus to be made like unto his brethren – as the end for which the Lord was manifested in the flesh, required that he should be glorified by the same process as that by which man is regenerated – he had, from infancy, to pass through all the states of preparation common to his rational creatures. He had to be initiated into all human states and to make all human acquisitions; and only differed from others in having acquired and made them in greater fulness and perfection. “He increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” Even in this we see the “goods of a threefold kind” acquired, as remains, by him as by others. The remains which he acquired were, however, pure goods and truths from the Word, and were in themselves divine, – divine-celestial, divine-spiritual, and divine-natural.
To describe this representatively, the Lord’s progenitors are divided into three groups of fourteen generations each. All the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations. The generations from Abraham are celestial remains, those from David are spiritual remains and those from the carrying away into Babylon are natural remains. These are divided into three groups of fourteen generations each, to signify that the remains which they represented are most holy; for seven is a number which signifies what is holy, and fourteen, which is twice seven, signifies what is most holy. The Evangelist says all the generations of each of the three groups are fourteen generations; yet it is well known that several persons are omitted from this list, and in it David is numbered twice. Some commentators are of opinion that the compression of the Lord’s progenitors into three times fourteen generations is only a contrivance of Matthew’s for the sake of assisting the memory.
What then becomes of his inspiration, and of the divinity of the book? Is it not rather in evidence – and a very striking one – that the mere literal form of the Scriptures is determined by a higher law than literal accuracy, and that the literal sense is sometimes made to yield to it, for the purpose of embodying and expressing a spiritual truth? Although it is not literally true that all the generations in each series were fourteen, it is spiritually true that all the remains, of every class, stored in the mind of Jesus, were most holy and most perfect; and three times fourteen were required to express this important truth.
It is to be observed that in the first series of this genealogy the actual and the formal numbers are the same, from Abraham to David being actually fourteen generations; in the other two series they are different. This no doubt points to a corresponding fact in regard to the regenerate. Only in celestial things, and in the celestial man, is there an exact correspondence between the essential and the formal, or between the internal and the external. This was true even of the Lord himself before he was fully glorified, and especially during that period and in that state to which the genealogy of Matthew relates. He acquired not only real, but also apparent truths; but these, as such, could not be appropriated as remains, and were therefore passed by, as some persons were omitted in the genealogy. What was holy was extracted from the entire series, as the three times fourteen were taken out of the whole of the Lord’s progenitors. The genuine truths contained in the apparent truths were, however preserved, and were brought forth in the process of glorification, as persons, omitted by Matthew re-appear in the genealogy of Luke.
It was on account of the divine work of acquiring remains that Jesus did not enter on his public ministry till he was thirty years of age. For “by thirty is signified a full state of remains; and since man cannot be regenerated, that is, admitted into spiritual combats by which regeneration is effected, until he has received remains to the full, it was ordained that the Levite should not perform work in the sanctuary until he had completed thirty years. From these considerations it is also evident why the Lord did not manifest himself until he was thirty years of age, for he was then in the fulness of remains; but the remains which the Lord had he procured to himself, and they were divine, by which he united the human essence to the divine, and made it divine.”
Such is the momentous truth contained in the Lord’s genealogy. That it was intended to teach some higher truth than that which is assigned to it in the letter, may appear from the fact that it does not really prove Jesus to be the descendant of those whose names are given as his progenitors, since the genealogy is not traced in the line of Mary, whose son, according to the flesh, he was, but in the line of Joseph, whose son he was not. But there is a spiritual reason for his genealogy being traced in the line of the husband of Mary. Genealogies were traced in the male line because the male represents the intellect and the truth which belongs to it, while the female represents the will and the good which it contains. And all spiritual distinctions, and therefore all spiritual generations, owe their existence to the intellect and to truth. Good in itself is one and the same; truths are many and various. Discriminations and distinctions, degrees and series, thus individualities and generations, in one Word, are multiplications, are effected by truth. It is the intellectual principle of the church that produces them. Joseph, the husband of Mary, represented that principle; and therefore, though he was not actually the father of Jesus, the genealogy of the Lord is traced through his line, to express spiritually what was true of the principle he represented.
There is one particular expression which occurs in this genealogy that is deserving of attention, as hearing on the present subject. It is not said of the persons of the genealogy that they were born, but that they were begotten. Their birth of course is understood; but the language of inspiration is in itself significative, and the literal expression is often important, as forming the basis of the spiritual sense. Now the implanting of remains in the mind is rather a begetting than a birth, rather an insemination than a growth and fructification. Strictly speaking and spiritually understood, birth is the bringing of the principles previously received in the mind into the outward life. It is only then that they truly exist; for no spiritual principle has actual and permanent existence till it is “born into the world” in the actions of a holy life. The remains that are laid up in the mind are therefore goods and truths “begotten” and “conceived,” to be afterwards “brought forth” by actual regeneration.
It may not be irrelevant or uninteresting to notice here, and briefly consider in its relation to that of Matthew, the genealogy of the Lord as given by Luke. These differ on three main points. Matthew traces the Lord’s genealogy downward, while Luke traces it upward; Matthew traces it down only from Abraham to Jesus, while Luke traces it up from Jesus to Adam, and even to God: the genealogies differ from each other.
As to the first point. The glorification of the Lord, like the regeneration of man, had both a downward and an upward progression. From infancy to manhood the progression with everyone is downward. As we have seen, there is first the celestial state, then the spiritual, and lastly the natural – that is, celestial remains are implanted and the rudiment of the celestial state is formed first, and the others follow in succession. But when, in manhood, actual regeneration commences, the progression is upward, from natural to spiritual, from spiritual to celestial. By actual regeneration the previously existing rudimentary states are developed in the inverse order to that in which they were formed. This twofold order is described in the two genealogies. The genealogy of Matthew describes the downward progression from the higher to the lower: that of Luke describes the upward progression from the lower to the higher, and even to the highest. This last is especially applicable to the Lord, to whose glorification the genealogies eminently refer.
As to the second point. Matthew begin his descending series of the Lord’s progenitors with Abraham; but Luke ends his ascending series with Adam, and finally with God. There is a profound truth in this. Remains, so far at least as they come to human consciousness, are implanted in the natural mind, though in its inmost part – “in the interiors of the interior natural principle.” The implanting and laying up of remains in the natural or ultimate degree of the mind is treated of in the genealogy of Matthew.
There are reasons for this. One reason is, that the natural mind is the seat of hereditary evil, by which it is entirely possessed; and unless the remains of goodness and truth were stored up in fulness here, reformation would be impossible. Another reason is, that the natural mind is the ultimate and the common basis of the two higher degrees, the spiritual and the celestial; and it is only as the lowest degree of the mind is regenerated that the higher degrees can be opened and perfected. In order that it may be such an ultimate and basis, the natural mind itself consists of three degrees; and this is according to the law of order, that all successive degrees exist simultaneously in the lowest degree. As the natural mind consists of three degrees, so do the remains of goodness and truth, of which it is receptive. Every good and truth that comes from God to man descends through all the heavens, and consequently through all the corresponding degrees of the human mind; and in the natural mind all the successive degrees of good and truth exist simultaneously, as in the Word all the higher degrees of revealed truth are contained in and rest on its literal sense.
Now the natural mind, or degree of the mind, was represented by that dispensation of the church which commenced with Abraham. For, viewing all the dispensations of the church which have existed in this world as different manifestation of the one universal church, the most ancient was celestial, the ancient was spiritual, and the Israelitish was natural; and this dispensation commenced with the call of Abraham. But in the genealogy this dispensation is itself divided into three periods, which we have called celestial, spiritual, and natural, because the natural mind, being the ultimate and common basis of the higher degrees, consists itself of three degrees.
In the early period of life, during which remains are being stored up in the natural mind, the higher degrees of the spiritual mind are yet unopened and undeveloped. And as these higher degrees correspond to the ancient and most ancient dispensations of the church, the genealogy of Matthew, which describes the storing up of remains in the natural mind, begins with Abraham. But as in the upward and inward progress of actual regeneration, not only the natural but the spiritual and celestial degrees of the mind are opened and perfected, the genealogy of Luke, which describes this upward progression, goes up not only to Abraham, but to Noah and to Adam, and finally to God, as the origin of all. In relation to the Lord, this is most significant; for the Lord’s humanity was made not only spiritual and celestial, but divine. He came from God, and went to God. He ascended up where he was before, far above all heavens, into the light that no man can approach unto. In a word, the Lord took man’s nature upon him by birth of a human mother, and made that humanity divine.
The third point relating to the genealogies is, that they differ from each other. We have already alluded to the fact that some names are omitted in Matthew which are given in Luke. That which we here speak of is a difference of another kind. From David to Joseph, the two evangelists trace the Lord’s genealogy in two different lines; and one calls Joseph the son of Jacob, while the other calls him the son of Heli. This difference is accounted for in this way: – By the Mosaic law, when a husband died without issue, his nearest kinsman was required to marry his widow, to raise up seed to his brother. If, for instance, the mother of Joseph was in this way twice married, the first husband would be his legal father, and the second his actual father; and the name of the legal father might be given in one genealogy, and the name of the actual father in the other. This difference might therefore alter the entire line from David downwards.
Even this part of the Mosaic law was fulfilled, or ultimated, in the case of the Lord himself. He had a legal and an actual father. His legal father was Joseph, and his actual father was God. His genealogy is also traced in the line of his legal father, which is entirely consistent with the Jewish practice, and was no doubt required for the sake of the literal sense of the word, as the basis of a spiritual meaning.
The spiritual sense is that which chiefly concerns us; and the different lines in which the genealogies of the Lord are partly traced, when understood spiritually, as descriptive of regeneration and glorification, teach us that the downward differs from the upward progression. In the progress of the new life the regenerate man returns not by the way he went. This, at least, is the case in the more external part of his spiritual progress. His first obedience is from truth, his second is from good; his first is from doctrine, his second is from love. There is in the regenerate life an inversion of state; but while the second state, like the second progression, is the inverse of the first, its character is different. The circle of regeneration returns into itself; but it returns neither by precisely the same line, nor to precisely the same point. True as this is of man, it was still more true of the Lord. Although he was glorified as man is regenerated, his glorification infinitely transcended the highest degree of regeneration to which any and every finite being can attain. Between his states of humiliation and his states of glorification there was also a much greater difference than between the corresponding states of man; and in states of humiliation we include every state which is preparatory, for every such state is comparatively one of servitude or pupillage, and looks to a higher as its end. The lord, as a son, learned obedience by the things which he suffered. Made of woman under the law, in his first states he obeyed the law as one under subjection to it; but in his second and ascending states he acted by the law, and not from it, except from it as the law of eternal righteousness and order, which, as the Word, he in himself was, and which he became as to the humanity he assumed and glorified, for the redemption and salvation of the human race. This greatest of all events, the manifestation of God in the flesh, by birth of a human mother, comes now to be considered.
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.
18-25. Many at this time think of the Lord only as of an ordinary man like themselves. The reason is because they only think of His Humanity, and not at the same time of His Divinity, although His Humanity and His Divinity cannot be separated. For the Lord is God and Man; and God and Man in the Lord are not two, but one person; yea, altogether one, even as the soul and body are one man ; as is taught in the doctrine received throughout the Christian world, called the Athanasian Creed, which has been confirmed by several councils. Let me therefore entreat the reader not to separate henceforward in his thoughts the Lord’s Humanity from His Divinity. From verses 18—25, as well as from the account of the nativity given in Luke, it is evident, that Jesus, Who was conceived of Jehovah the Father, and born of the virgin Mary, is the Son of God, concerning Whom all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. L. 21.
From the words of the Athanasian Creed it clearly appears that it is an article of faith in the Christian Church that the Divinity and Humanity in the Lord are not two, but one, as the soul and body are one man, and that the Divinity in Him assumed, or took to itself, the Humanity. Hence it follows that the Divinity cannot be separated from the Humanity, nor ! the Humanity from the Divinity, for this would be like separating the soul from the body. The truth of this must also be acknowledged by every one who reads Matthew i. 18-25 and Luke i. 26-35 concerning the birth of the Lord; from which it is manifest that Jesus was conceived of Jehovah God, and born of the virgin Mary, so that the Divine was in Him, and was His soul. Since then His soul was the very Divinity of the Father, it follows that His body or Humanity must have been made Divine also; for where the one is Divine, the other must be also. Thus and not otherwise can the passages be true which say that the Father and the Son are one, the Father in the Son, and the Son in the Father, and all things belonging to the Son are the Father’s, and all things belonging to the Father are the Son’s; as the Ford Himself teaches in His Word. L. 29.
To come forth from the Father signifies to be conceived of Him; and to go to the Father signifies to be fully united to Him. That to come forth from the Father signifies the being conceived of Him, is manifest from what is said concerning the Lord’s conception in Matthew i. 18—25 and n Luke i. 34, 35. E. 815.
That the Divine itself, which is called Jehovah and the Father, which is Divine love, was in the Lord from conception is evident in the evangelists Matthew and Luke. Matthew i. 18-25 and Luke i. 30-35. Because He was conceived of Jehovah, therefore in the Word He is so often called the Son of God, and Jehovah is called His Father; and Jehovah as to His Esse is Divine love, and as to His Existere Divine good united with Divine truth. E. 1069.
It is evident from the Word that God is one; or Beside me there is no God. The Lord was conceived of the Divine itself, which is named Jehovah and the Father. Let Matthew i. 18-25 and Luke i. 31-35 be introduced. De Dom. Latin Edition page 8.
18, 20, 25. That the Divine is in the Human of the Lord, as the soul in the body, the Word teaches and testifies in Matthew i. 18, 20, 25 and in Luke i. 31, 32, 34, 35, from which words it is evident, that the Divine was in the Lord from conception, and that it was His life from the Father, which life is soul. E. 1104.
19 This is altogether in harmony, if there is only the acknowledgment of one God, so that there is no thought of three persons; and then if the Creed of Athanasius is read in accordance therewith, and no other idea is suffered to enter, full harmony is effected. No one denies that the Divine which took upon itself the Human was His Divine, thus that the Lord Himself suffered Himself to be born. Hence it follows that this is the Divine of which He was conceived, concerning which we read in Matthew and Luke, and that this is the very Divine, and no other besides it, which He called His Father; nor was there any other, according to what is said in Matthew that Joseph touched her not, and in Luke when Mary said that she knew not a man, and when Joseph found that she was with child and on that account was minded to put her away. Ath. Page 16.
19 But the living principle begotten in the heart is not at first acknowledged by the understanding, nor is it intellectually accepted till after doubt and temptation. These are the trials of Joseph. Mary’s conception was Joseph’s temptation. When he became aware that his betrothed was with child, he resolved to put her away, and the only favour he intended to show to his supposed unfaithful bride was to do it privily. How wonderful are the ways of the Most High! She who carried in her womb the future Messiah, the Holy Thing, the Saviour of the world, is exposed to the suspicion, even by her betrothed husband, of being an adulteress, and is in danger of being sent forth into the world with the brand upon her forehead of the deepest infamy that can fall to the lot of woman! But such are the ways of God’s dealing with his children whom he loves he rebukes and chastens. His truth begotten in them exposes them to chastisement. It brings into manifestation their deep hereditary corruptions, from which suspicion springs, and conflict is the only means by which they can be overcome.
20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
20-25. And the angel standing by the table on which the Word lay, read before them these words in Luke i. 30-35. He also read aloud what is written in Matthew i. 20-25 and particularly the 25th verse. He read also several passages from the evangelists, in which the Lord, as to His Humanity, is called the Son of God, and in which He from His Humanity calls Jehovah His Father, also from the prophets, where it is told that Jehovah Himself should come into the world. See Isaiah xxv. 9. R. 962.
20, 25. That the Divinity, which is called the Father, and the Divine Humanity, which is the Son, are one like soul and body, and consequently that the Lord as to His Divine Humanity is to be approached, and that thus and not otherwise the Divinity which is called the Father is approached, appears from so many passages in the Word, that if adduced they would fill many pages. Of these a few shall here be quoted. See also Matthew xxviii. 18. Luke i. 30— 35. John i. i, 2, 14. R. 613.
That Jehovah Himself descended and assumed the Humanity is very evident from the passages in Luke i. 34, 35 and Matthew i. 20, 25. T. 82.
The Holy Spirit mentioned is the Divine truth proceeding from Jehovah the Father, and this proceeding is the power of the Highest which then overshadowed the mother, which coincides therefore with what is said in John i. 14. T. 140.
See Verses 20-25. R- 962 repeated in T. 188.
See Verses 20-25. R- 962 repeated in B. 120.
When as many of the clergy had assembled as there were seats, the council commenced, and the doctrine of the Lord being the subject for deliberation, the first proposition was: Who assumed the Humanity in the virgin Mary? An angel standing at the table read before them the words addressed to Mary by the angel Gabriel … to the effect that Jehovah should come into the world, and that Jehovah Himself is called the Saviour, Redeemer and Righteousness, from which it, was concluded that Jehovah assumed the Humanity Himself. Ind. 29.
That the Lord when He mentioned the Father meant the Divine in Himself, and thus Himself, may appear from many passages in the Word of both Testaments, but here we shall only add a few from the Word of the evangelists, from which it may be seen that the Lord by the Father meant the Divinity in Himself, which is in Him as the soul is in the body, and that when He named the Father and Himself as two, He meant Himself by both, for the soul and body are one, the soul appertaining to its body and the body to its soul. That the Divinity, which is called the Father, was the Essential Divinity of the Lord, from which His Humanity existed and by virtue whereof the Humanity also was made Divine, is manifest from His conception from the Essential Divinity. From Matthew i. 20, 25 and Luke i. 31, 34, 35, it is evident that the Lord from conception is Jehovah God . . . which means life itself, which is called the soul from the Father. From it the life of the body is derived, hence it also manifestly appears that the Humanity of the Lord is what is called the Son of God, for it is said that the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. E. 852.
20 But he who permits the trial opens a door of escape. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. Human wisdom may suggest that this message might have been sent, and this assurance given, before the dark suspicion had clouded the mind of the just and seemingly injured Joseph, and saved him all the perplexity and mental agony he endured. But here we have another instance of God’s way of dealing with his creatures. He sees not as man sees, and therefore acts not always as man would act. He knows the times and the seasons when suffering should be permitted and when relief should come. He suffers us to be tempted, because he knows the necessity and use of temptation; but he suffers us not to be tempted above that we are able to bear, and with the trial he provides a way of escape. The door – not of hope, but of assurance – was opened to Joseph, and will be opened in the heaviest trials to every “just man.”
The assurance came to him in sleep – was embodied in a dream; and that dream was inspired by an angel, who appeared to him in it, and conveyed to him a message of peace from the God of consolation. That which comes in a dream is spiritually that which enters the mind not in the clear light of direct perception, but in the dim twilight of indirect apprehension an obscure state. The angel salutes him as a son of David. David represented the Lord as to divine truth, and a son of David is one who is born of the Lord’s truth – that is, one who is born of the good of truth, by doing what truth teaches him to do. And this did Joseph. The angel tells him to fear not to take unto him Mary his wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. This is just what the understanding, from its natural side, when the world acts upon it, rebels against; but when the Lord enters the mind by an internal way, through heaven, and acts upon it, then, from its spiritual side, it sees and acknowledges that which the Spirit of God produces in the heart.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
21 Verse quoted D. P. Page 46.
The Lord liberated and liberates from hell all who are in truths from good, and thus those who receive Him thereby, thus He subjugated the hells and glorified His Human. Ath. Page 20.
The kingship of the Lord is also signified by His name Christ, Anointed, Messiah, and His priesthood by His name Jesus, for Jesus signifies Saviour or salvation, concerning which it is written in Matthew i. 21. A. 9809.
21 The angel further instructs Joseph that Mary, who had thus conceived, shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save, his people from their sins. Conception is the reception of a principle in the mind, and birth is the bringing forth of that principle into the life. When brought forth into the life it first exists actually. When Mary brought forth her first-born son, Joseph was to name him. The function of the understanding is to know and acknowledge, and also to give a quality to that which belongs to the will – and all this is implied in giving a name. Adam gave names to all creatures, spiritually to teach us that man in his primeval state knew, as man in a regenerate state knows, the quality of all his own affections. The church gives the Lord his name when she sees and acknowledges him in his true character, and embodies the truth as it is in Jesus, not only in true doctrine, but in a holy life. Yet the name, as well as the instructions on whom be was to bestow it, came from heaven. That name was JESUS – the highest, the holiest, the most beloved name that angels can pronounce or men can utter. And the reason for calling the child by this name, as it was proclaimed in heaven, is worthy of being echoed upon earth – “for he shall save his people from their sins.” The name expresses the purpose and the work on the part of God, and the deliverance to be experienced on the part of man. Sin is the curse, the root of all disorder and misery both in this world and in the next. What deliverance can compare with this? Deliverance from sin, not merely from the guilt or the punishment of sin, but from sin itself, is that which is promised. And, indeed, what else could be promised? How is it possible that guilt and suffering can be severed from sin? The supposed possibility arises from the notion that sin is from ourselves, and its punishment is from God, and that if God will but remit the punishment, the sinner will be safe. But God is not the author of punishment. The punishment of sin is in the sin itself, and flows from it as an effect from its cause, as bitter waters from a bitter fountain. There is no salvation, therefore, but salvation from sin. If the remission of punishment had been all that was required, there would have been no need for the Lord to have come into the world, for he is infinite in mercy, and desires the happiness of all his creatures, even of those who are in hell. Nor is there any obstacle arising from his attribute of justice. The theological scheme of God finding out a way of reconciling his mercy and his justice, by laying the guilt and the punishment of sin on Jesus as a substitute for sinners, is merely an ingenious device of school logic for solving a difficulty of man’s own creating. The divine attributes, of mercy and justice can never be at variance. And if they were, they never could be reconciled by any such artificial means as that which human wisdom has proposed. How can God satisfy his justice by that which is in itself unjust? But supposing the demands of justice were set aside, infinite mercy could not save sinners from misery without saving them from sin. This salvation was the purpose of God’s coming into the world, and the incarnation was the only means by which he could effect it.
The angel limits this salvation to the people of the Lord. In one sense, all people are included in this promise, in accordance with the words of the angels to the shepherds, who proclaimed tidings of great joy which should be to all people. But the Lord’s people, in a restricted, or in the internal sense, are the spiritual, as distinguished from the celestial, who are meant by nations. And the Lord came to save the spiritual, or those who had fallen from the celestial state, in which man was created. We become the Lord’s saved people when we receive him as the Truth and Good of spiritual life; or, he is Jesus, our Saviour, and we are his people, saved from our sins, when we receive his love in his truth. For Jesus is the Lord’s name as Love itself, as Christ is his name as the Truth itself; and his people are those who receive his love by his truth. Truth itself does not save, but the reception of the Lord’s love in his truth saves. In brief, those who are in the knowledge of his truth are his people, and when these receive his love they are saved from their sins.
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
22, 23 That the Word is from the Lord appears from many passages, as from this in Matthew. A. 1925.
To the above passages shall here be added some others which speak more openly of the coming of the Lord. Isaiah vii. 14, ix. 65 7, xi. i, 2, 5, 10, Zechariah ix. 9, 10, Malachi iii. i, 2, etc. L. 6.
That the Humanity of the Lord conceived of Jehovah the Father, and born of the virgin Mary, is the Son of God, clearly appears from the following passages. Luke i. 26-35, Isaiah vii. 14, Psalms ii. 7, 12, etc. L. 19.
That Jehovah God Himself descended, and was made man is evident in Luke i. 34, 35 and in Matthew i. 20, 25. T. 82. 23.
That He is called the Father from eternity, and also God, is manifest in Isaiah ix. 6 and vii. 14. A. 10154.
As the Father is in the Lord, and the Father and the Lord are one, and as He ought to be believed iny and who believes in Him has eternal life, it is evident that the Lord is God. This is taught throughout the Word. A. 10819.
As therefore the Father is in the Lord, and the Lord and the Father are one, the Lord must be believed in, and he who believes in Him has eternal life. It clearly follows that the Lord is God. This the Word also teaches. N. 284.
That the words in Isaiah vii. 14, 15 are spoken of the Lord, may be seen confirmed in Matthew i. 23. E. 619.
22, 23 We are told that all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. This famous prophecy received its accomplishment in the Lord’s being born of a virgin mother. There is nothing said in the prophecy of the virgin being overshadowed by the power of the Highest, but the divine agency is implied in the fact of a virgin conceiving and giving birth to a son. The fact itself is all-important. Without it there could have been no redemption. A mere man could not have redeemed the world. And it is to be considered that Jesus, even as to his humanity, was, by conception, entirely different from any other man. He was not different, as some suppose, by being without hereditary evil, but by inheriting a divine principle from the Divinity, by whom the humanity was begotten. It was by virtue of the humanity being, as to the internal man derived from God, and being divine, that God could be actually and personally manifested in the person of Jesus Christ, and be truly and savingly therein Emmanuel, God with us.
By assuming our nature God came near to us, and so became our Redeemer and Saviour. This nearness is not of space, for in this respect God’s presence is ever the same. By incarnation came savingly near to us as fallen human beings, near to our thoughts and affections. This is not identical with the Lord’s sensible presence, as in the days of his flesh. His nearness to us was increased, instead of being diminished, by his resurrection and ascension. For by his glorification the Lord became more, instead of less, human; and the human his humanity became, the more perfectly his humanity became, the more intimately present was he, and is he, with his creatures. In his divine humanity he is, intimately and savingly, God with us. Jesus was not actually named Emmanuel, but in Scripture names were given to express the character of those who bore them; and therefore, when prophecy says that Jesus was to be called Emmanuel, it means that he was to be Emmanuel, or God with us. It is a matter of no consequence to us that Jesus was not called by this name, but it is a matter of the greatest consequence to us, and to all men, that he was what the name expresses. The peculiar importance and blessedness of the incarnation consists in it making Jehovah GOD WITH US – not simply God on our side, as some interpret the name, but God present with us in his divine humanity. The name may be understood to express both these meanings.
Literally fulfilled as this prophecy was in the birth of the Lord, it is capable of being spiritually accomplished in every one of us. The virgin is the emblem of the pure affection, in the minds of the faithful, through which the Lord’s divine truth can descend and be manifested as their Emmanuel. Love in the heart is that by which the truth is conceived and brought forth. But what in our individual experience are the promise and the fulfilment? Knowledge is promise, life is fulfilment; the states formed in us in early life are prophetic of states to be accomplished in us by regeneration. Hope is promise; possession is fulfilment. In us, indeed, the promise may fail. Many who give early promise of a virtuous and religious manhood never fulfil it. Failure is the result of our own faithlessness. The Lord cannot fail. If we trust in him, and work together with him, he will bring it to pass
24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, &c. Sleep is a natural state, waking is a spiritual state; sleep is a state of the external man, waking is a state of the internal man. The reason of this signification of sleep is, that when the external man is active, the internal, which is the real man, is as if asleep. When eagerly engaged in the business or pleasures of the world, sensuous affections and thoughts are awake, but the spiritual are asleep. These alternations of state are necessary and useful. Even in our state of spiritual sleep the angel of the Lord is with us, telling us what we should do and we fulfil his commands if, when we are raised from sleep, we do as the instructing angel bids us.
The expression, to rise from sleep, is significative; for to pass from all external to an internal, or from a natural to a spiritual state, is to experience an actual elevation of the thoughts and affections above the things of time and sense, and thus to become awake to the concerns of eternity and the requirements of the spiritual life. Being raised from sleep, Joseph did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him; dismissing his suspicions, he took unto him Mary his wife. In states of temptation, such as Joseph had experienced, truth is as if separate from good; but when the temptation is ended, truth, which has been tempted, and tempted to suspect and reject good, takes that good to itself as its true partner in the heavenly marriage, but enters, not into full conjunction with it till the first-born comes into the world. It is important to consider what, in relation to the Lord, is meant by the first-born. In Jesus as the first-born was realized all that had been represented by the first-born in the representative church of the Israelites. A peculiar sanctity and importance attached to the firstborn, both of man and animals, and even to the first-fruits of the earth. Every first-born son was to be holy unto the Lord, every beast that opened the womb was to be sacrificed to him, and the first-fruits were to be presented to him. All these represented the Lord as the, first-born. But this cannot be merely in reference to Jesus as the son of Mary for he is called the first, as well as the only, begotten of God: “I will make him my first-born (or begotten), higher than the kings of the earth;” and he is “the first-begotten from the dead.” We have already indicated that Jesus was the first-born of every creature, as being the first of every creature spiritually born, and the first-fruits of the resurrection from the death which the fall had brought upon the human race. It is similar with him as the first-born son of Mary and of God. In the supreme sense the first-born among the Israelites represented the Lord as to divine love, or essential goodness; the Lord was therefore the first-born in the divine sense when his humanity was fully glorified, and made divine goodness itself. In respect to man, his first-born in the regeneration is the principle of goodness, which, indeed, is first both in the order of time and of rank. “With infants the Lord first infuses the good of innocence, by virtue of which man is man. Innocence is the first-born quality in man; the Lord was the first-born as innocence itself. The innocence of infancy, which is the first, is also the last; for by regeneration man returns into the innocence of his infancy, perfected by knowledge and experience, by which the innocence of ignorance becomes the innocence of wisdom. The good of innocence is therefore twice born; and this was the case with the Lord as well as with man. He was the firstborn of Mary by nativity, and the first-born of God by glorification; in him innocence was the first and the last.
25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
25 The Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of the Most High God, and is not the Son of Joseph. See Luke i. 32, 35, John i. 18, iii. 16, i John v. 20, etc. T. 683.
That the Divinity is in the Humanity of the Lord, as the soul is in the body, the Word teaches and testifies in Matthew and in Luke. Ath. Page 15. No. 12.
25 The historical fact respecting Joseph and Mary, that he knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son, contains the spiritual truth, that complete union of the will and understanding is effected, not by the conception, but by the birth of the living principle. They are united in their fruits. Charity and faith are united in good works. Their union is indeed necessary to produce them; but only in good works, and especially in that work meant by the first born is their union complete and permanent.
The infant Saviour born into the world, Joseph called his name Jesus. Luke, in relating this circumstance, adds, “which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”
The record of in act previously commanded or announced is intended to express effect, and in this all previous ends and efforts are comprehended. Hence, in the naming of the holy child, God and the church in heaven and the church on earth were acting in unison; as the purpose of the Lord’s becoming what the name Jesus implied, the Saviour, was to bring all things in heaven and earth into harmonious action with himself.
The Lord’s advent into the world, which we have now considered, is one of the loftiest and holiest themes that can engage the attention of man. The birth into the world of one who is to repair the ruin brought upon mankind by the fall, must be regarded as an event of unspeakable importance and transcendent glory. The promise of the Most High, repeated by the prophets in a thousand forms, heightened by the brightest imagery and most glowing descriptions, and the hopes of the faithful cherished through a thousand generations, are at last to be realized. The seed of the woman, who is to bruise the head of the serpent, is now born into the world.
The peculiar condition of the infant Saviour is marvellous in itself, and wonderfully adapted to the purpose for which the Lord is manifested. Man had fallen, and his sins had separated between him and his God. The separation of man from the Supreme Good and Truth had produced darkness, disorder and misery in the world. In the Saviour, begotten of a Divine Father and born of a human mother, the divine and human natures, so long and so completely estranged, are again brought together, and in him they are to be reconciled and united into one, by the divine becoming human and the human divine. The union of the divine and the human in the person of the Lord is the grand central truth of Christianity. The reconciliation of man to God is the purpose of the incarnation, and the aim of Christianity. The reconciliation of the human to the divine is first to be effected in the person of Christ, and this constitutes the great work of At-one-ment. This work of atonement, first accomplished in the person of the Saviour, is the means by which we receive the atonement, and become reconciled to God; for the reconciliation, effected once for all in the person of the Lord himself, may now be effected in us. But this great work of reconciliation or atonement is yet before the infant Saviour. In the first-born son of Mary the union of the divine and human exists only potentially, or in its germ. They are now, indeed, one person, but they have not yet become one essence. Jesus is even now God and man, but he has yet to become God-man. He is divine and human, but he has to become divine-human. He is the first-born of Mary, but he has yet to become the first-born of God. In one word, his humanity, now natural and finite, has to be glorified, and made divine and infinite. The painful process by which this glorification is to be effected is yet to come. The infant, so feeble, is to become a man of war; so peaceful, is to become a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. The wilderness, and Gethsemane, and the cross are still before him. He is to be tempted in all points as we are, yet, unlike us in our temptations, he is to be without sin; he is to pour out his soul unto death, that he may overcome him that has the power of death, and make death the gate of life, not only to himself, but to all who will follow him in the regeneration. Born in human weakness of a frail human mother, he is yet to be declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead. Such is the child born, such is his great work, and such its glorious end. To reconcile us unto himself is the beneficent purpose of his incarnation, the end of his labours, his sufferings, his triumphs. He was born into the world that he might be born in us; he was tempted that he might succour us in our temptations – he died that we might become dead indeed unto sin; he rose that we might rise from the dead, become new creatures, and walk with him in newness of life; and he ascended into heaven that he might elevate us into the mansions he has prepared for us, that where he is, there we may be also. Well may we hail his Coming in the words of the angels’ song, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
AUTHOR: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (COMPILED BY ROBERT S. FISCHER AND LOUIS G. HOECK 1906)
COMMENTARY AUTHOR: WILLIAM BRUCE (1866)
PICTURES: JAMES TISSOT Courtesy of Brooklyn Museum