<< MATTHEW XI: Spiritual Meaning >>
1 And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.
2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,
3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?
4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:
5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
3—5- The blind received sight signified, that they who were in ignorance of truth should receive understanding ; the deaf received hearing, that those hearkened and obeyed who had before heard nothing respecting the Lord and respecting the Word. The dead were raisedr that they were made alive who otherwise would have perished spiritually. All the miracles recorded in the Word contain within them such things as relate to the Lord, heaven, and the church. S. 17.
4, 5. Since diseases represented the iniquities and evils of spiritual life, therefore by the diseases which the Lord healed is signified liberation from various kinds of evil and falsity which infested the church and the human race, and which would have brought spiritual death. A. 8364.
5 The poor, who do not know what is good and true, and still desire those things. A. 10227.
By the poor in the spiritual sense are signified those who have not the knowledges of good and of truth, and yet desire them. H. 365.
The kingdom of God of which the good tidings were made known, was the kingdom of the Lord and thus the kingdom of the Father. R. 839,
The foregoing statement repeated in T. 113.
See Chapter V., 3, 6. E. 118,
See Chapter V., 3, et seq. E. 612.
1 And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding (or ordaining) his twelve disciples, he departed thence, to teach, and to preach in their cities. The Lord’s operations are of two kinds – mediate and immediate. He acts mediately through his Word and through his church, in heaven and in the world, and immediately from himself His immediate operation is into the inmost of the soul, and thence as far as possible into the faculties of the mind below. But this inmost and immediate operation must, to effect its purpose in our regeneration, be seconded by outward agencies, by whom knowledge and other means are supplied for opening the way for the descent of life and light from within, thus far preparing the way of the Lord. This two-fold operation is treated of in these chapters. When the Lord disposes in heavenly order the principles of goodness and truth in the inner man – which is meant by ordaining the twelve disciples and causes them to descend into the outer man, to bring him into a corresponding heavenly order – which is meant by sending the disciples forth to gather in the lost sheep – the Lord himself operates from within to accomplish his beneficent end in our salvation; and this is meant by his departing thence to teach and to preach. The cities into which he went to preach are doctrines, these being the receptacles of his divine influx, and the ground of his operation.
2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples. Historically considered, the fact of John’s sending to inquire of Jesus if he were the Messiah, or only, like himself a forerunner of the expected Saviour, seems rather unaccountable, seeing that he had himself pointed out Jesus to the people as “the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.” Various conjectures have been made on the subject, which it would profit little to repeat. Our object is to derive from the circumstances of the history, some lesson of spiritual wisdom. John had been shut up in prison for bearing noble testimony to the truth, in reproving the reigning tyrant, Herod, for having taken his brother Phillip’s wife. This criminal connection well represented the state of the Jewish church – and John’s imprisonment as fitly represented the treatment by that church of the Word, which John represented, for its testifying against the gross and glaring sinfulness into which the Jews had fallen. But, considered in reference to the regeneration of the man of the true church, this subject has another meaning. John representing the written Word, or the truth which it teaches, the imprisonment of John represents a state of temptation, when the truth is shut in and deprived of its freedom of action by the enmity and opposition of the natural man, whose evils it condemns. In this state doubts regarding the Lord in his humanity arise in the mind, and these doubts relate to the salvation which the Incarnate Word has provided. In these states of spiritual trial the Lord appears to be absent, and it seems as if he had forgotten to be gracious, and that he comes not to give deliverance. These doubts do not indeed, originate in the Word itself, which John represented; but the truths of the Word not unfrequently, in times of temptation, are so construed by us as seemingly to favour them. But there is a time of light in the darkest states of trial, Which come when the mind seeks and is prepared to receive it. This time is when the thoughts and affections like the two disciples of John, are sent forth to the Lord himself, to see if he will remove our doubts, and give us from his lips, or by immediate influx, an assurance of the truth.
3 But the Lord himself is the subject of the doubt. Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? To understand this in relation to ourselves, we must reflect that the period to which this belongs represents a transition state in the regenerate life. John’s life and ministry, in relation to the Lord’s, represented the state of reformation, the Lord’s own life representing the state of regeneration; and the end of John’s ministry, and the beginning of the Lord’s, represented the transition state which is between them. John’s own words were now about to be fulfilled: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” The one state is the inverse of the other. As the second increases, the first decreases. The truth which leads to good, which John’s ministry represented, decreases in its influence and power, as truth derived from good, which the Lord’s ministry exemplified, increases. The office of the first is superseded by that of the second. The ministry of the letter gives way to that of the spirit; the ministry of repentance, to that of holiness; the labour of sowing, to the work of reaping. In the trial attending this change of state, the doubt of John is felt. This question then arises in the mind, – Is this the very Good itself, and the very Truth itself – the Lamb that removes the sins and sorrows of the soul? Is this the very principle and state which the soul, through her repentance and tribulation, has looked for? or is it but another stage in the preparatory state of labour which is to prepare the way of Him who is yet to come as the Prince of Peace?
4 How significant was the Lord’s answer to John’s disciples “Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see. This was saying in effect, “If you are looking for one whose coming is not in word but in power, judge whether I am the Christ or no.” And if we interpret aright what our affections hear and what our thoughts see, allowing experience to be the interpreter, no other evidence will be required to convince us that He whom we look for has indeed come for what more convincing evidence can we receive of the Lord having come to us, than his beneficent works being wrought in us. But the lesson which it teaches is most consoling and encouraging to those who are passing through states of temptation, represented by John in prison. It tells them that even while their external man is bound in affliction and iron, and is darkened by doubt and oppressed with the worst apprehensions, tempted even to doubt if the Lord is a Saviour or no, that Lord is at the very time present with them, working deliverance for them by his miracles of goodness, healing all their diseases, and restoring their souls. Let us see what those beneficent works are.
5 The blind receive their sight – the understanding, blind from ignorance or error, is restored to the power of perceiving truth – and the lame walk – the life, distorted with the evil of ignorance and error is restored to rectitude; the lepers are cleansed – the truths that were known, but falsified and profaned by perverse interpretation so as to countenance sin, are purified from defilement; and the deaf hear; the will, deaf to the voice of truth and love, is brought to hearken and obey – the dead are raised up- natural love, which is death, gives place to spiritual love, which is life; and the poor have the gospel preached to them – poverty of spirit becomes the ground of a new and higher reception and love of the truth, while the gospel becomes to the soul truly the glad tidings of salvation. This brief enumeration of the Lord’s works, which the disciples of John beheld, includes almost all the kinds of miracles He performed, and are such as prophecy had declared the Messiah would perform. To John, therefore, if he had doubts, these wonders must have been sufficient testimony that Jesus was the Christ. To those who, like John, are in prison, tempted with doubts as to the Saviour, in relation to themselves as the objects of his saving mercy, the testimony here given is that which is to be seen in themselves, in the removal of the very evils in which temptations originate, or with which they are connected.
6 When the Lord had shown John all these things, he pronounced the words, and blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. While prophecy had foretold the Lord’s works of mercy and power, it had also declared that he would be a stumbling-stone and rock of offence. The time in which our Lord came was one when trial and decision were necessary. He was the stone on which men were to fall, the Truth by which they were to he tried. To the evil, or those confirmed in sin, he was a, stone of offence, to the repentant he was a rock of safety. Blessed are they who are not offended in him. This blessing is ours when, having cast out all things that offend, and brought our minds into a state of holy submission to the laws of divine order, the Lord’s love and truth rule in our hearts and understandings, and thence govern the life and conversation. The Lord had given testimony to John respecting himself as the Eternal Word in human nature, and he now turns to the multitude to give his testimony to them respecting him who represented the written Word in its literal sense. This will he seen to he appropriate when we reflect that the outward coverings with which divine truth, in descending from God out of heaven to men on earth, had clothed itself, was analogous to the humanity which Jesus, as the Word itself, had put on to come into the world. What went ye out into the wilderness to see? This question is addressed to us as truly as it was to the Jews. For, as John was a type of the revealed Word-which is still the subject of numerous opinions, all which are comprehended in the Lord’s descriptions of the different notions and expectations of those who went out to see John in the wilderness – so we may each find a revelation of our own state of mind in relation to the Word of truth. The wilderness – which describes the desolate state of the Jewish church, where the revealed Word was described also the state of the human mind when in a corresponding state of spiritual desolation or temptation. We go out to see and examine the Divine Word with different expectations of what it is and teaches, – too often with preconceived opinions; not content, as we should be, to see and hear in simplicity what the Lord communicates through that sacred medium concerning himself and his kingdom. These different views, the false as well as the true, are accurately expressed by the Divine Speaker, who had a perfect knowledge of the state of the church, as he has of the human heart. We should therefore listen to his words of wisdom, that we may learn of him respecting ourselves.
7 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
7-15- How these things are to be understood no one can know, unless he knows that John represented the Lord as to the Word, or the Word representatively. By the wilderness of Judea, in which John was, is represented the state in which the Word was at that time when the Lord came into the world, namely that it was in the wilderness, that is, in such obscurity that the Lord was not at all acknowledged, neither was anything known concerning His heavenly kingdom, when yet all the prophets prophesied concerning Him, and concerning His kingdom, that it was to endure for ever. The Word therefore is compared to a reed shaken by the wind, when it is explained at pleasure, for a reed in the internal sense is truth in the ultimate, such as the Word is in the letter. That the Word in the ultimate, or in the letter, before the view of men is like something rude and obscure, but in the internal sense is soft and shining, is signified by their not seeing a man in soft raiment, behold they who wear soft things are in king’s houses. The houses of kings stand for the abodes where angels are, and, in a universal sense, the heavens. A. 9372.
What went ye out to see? A reed shaken with the wind? This describes with great exactness and force the state of a large class as to their ideas regarding the Divine Word. The Divine Word is “a reed shaken with the wind” to those who regard it merely in its literal sense, and who are dependent for their views of its teaching on the opinions of others. The hollow reed is an exact emblem of the Word when its outward literal sense is considered to he all that constitutes it. As the literal sense of the Word consists for the most part of apparent truths, it is capable of every different interpretation which human expositors may he disposed to give it, and may he made apparently to teach not only different but opposite doctrines, as we know is actually the case. To all such the Word is as “a reed shaken with the wind,” a revelation, in its origin Divine, made to yield to the breath of human opinion. This character of the Word in the letter adapts it to the states of all, and by admitting of different interpretations, serves as a protection to its internal sense, being in this respect the flaming sword that turns every way to guard the way of the tree of life. But even if the Word in the letter is interpreted erroneously, yet, if this is done sincerely, it is not seriously injurious to or destructive of faith, for even “the bruised reed will he not break.” If, on the other hand, it is subjected to a sinister interpretation, it becomes “the staff” of a broken reed, whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand and pierce him” (Isa. xxxvi. 6). If men wilfully pervert it, so as to make it oppose its own essential principles, then do they, like the blaspheming Jews, put a reed in the right hand of the Son of man, and take a reed and smite him on the head, and spit upon him, and mock him (ch.xxvii. 29, 30). When, however, the letter is honestly interpreted, it he comes like the reed on which the sponge with the vinegar was raised to the lips of the Lord upon the cross, by which men minister to interior truth, when suffering at the hands of its enemies.
8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.
9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.
10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
8 Meaning that they were not in externals of doctrine and worship, but in internals. A. 2576.
9 A prophet stands for the externals of doctrine and worship. A. 2576.
9, 10, 14. It is plainly declared by the Lord Himself that John was the Elias here spoken of, not that he was Elias, but that he represented the same as Elias, namely the Word, and as the Word teaches that the Lord would come into the world, and in all its particulars, even the most minute, treats concerning Him in the inmost sense, therefore John was sent before Him to teach concerning His advent. E. 624.
8 Another class who go out into the wilderness are those who go to see a man clothed in soft raiment. This class consists of those who think that, to be worthy of God and attractive to men, the Word should he clothed in more than the graces of the most perfect human composition, and who are therefore offended with its hairy garment. But our Lord teaches us that they who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. The kings’ houses are the mansions of heaven, which is the house of the King of kings – and consequently not in its literal, but in its spiritual sense, is the Word to be found in the soft and gorgeous attire in which some unwisely desire to see it in this lower world. In this world, indeed, it is possible to behold the Word in something of this soft and flowing apparel. To those who are in heavenly states of mind, Divine Truth will disclose some of its heavenly beauties. Those who are in kings’ houses are spiritually those who are in the good of spiritual truth; for houses signify the affections of the will, and kings the spiritual truths of the understanding and those truths which reside in these affections are soft and beautiful. They have cast off the rough garment of the prophet, when, as a preacher of repentance, he reproves, and prohibits, and threatens the sinner with divine wrath and judgment, and have put on the soft raiment of those in kings’ houses, where, the reign of order being established, God is felt as well as seen to be love, and his kingdom to be the rule of righteousness and peace.
9 Besides these two classes who form a wrong estimate of the essential character of the Word, by judging of it from their own disordered states, there is a third class who regard it with a juster appreciation of its nature, and who are meant by those of whom the Lord says – But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. It is difficult to see what can be meant by its being said that John was not only a prophet but more than a prophet; unless it be allowed that the term prophet has some spiritual meaning, and that John was not merely a man entrusted with a divine commission, but a man who was invested with a representative character. A prophet, whose office it was to teach the doctrines of the Word, signifies doctrine derived from the Word. We regard the Word of God in its true character when we look to it as the source of all true doctrine, and seek earnestly and honestly to learn its doctrines from it. But the Lord said of John, not only that he was a prophet, but that he was more than a prophet. Although the Word contains all doctrine, the Word itself is more than all doctrine; it is, even in the letter, Divine Wisdom itself revealed for the use of men, to serve for their instruction and edification in all states of the regenerate life, and through all generations.
10 In consequence of the Word being more than all doctrine, and thus more than a prophet, it is the Lord’s forerunner as well as messenger to the church, and to every member of the church. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The Word, we have seen (iii. 3), which John represented, is the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.” The truths of the Divine Word, by whoever preached, are alone capable of preparing the Lord’s way into the human heart. The Lord speaks in the passage before us as if another sent the messenger to prepare his way, as if Jehovah had sent John to prepare the way of Jesus. But Jehovah and Jesus are the same Being yet distinct as the Divinity and the Humanity of the one Lord and Saviour, and as the Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom. Jehovah may here he said to send his messenger before the face of Jesus, since it is the Divinity that is the sender or the origin of the Word, while the whole Word has reference to Jesus as God manifest in the flesh, the Redeemer and Saviour of men. It is said that John came before the face of Jesus; for the Lord’s face is the internal of the Word, which Jesus was, and the letter of the Word, and true doctrine as its interpreter, go before the internal truths of its spiritual sense, to prepare the mind for its reception.
11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
14And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.
11 See Chapter III., 2. R. 553.
By the kingdom of God are meant both heaven and the church, for the church is God’s kingdom on earth. So in other places where the kingdom of God is mentioned. T. 572. 13. See Chapter V., 17. A. 4859.
See Chapter V., 18. A. 6752.
See Chapter V., 18. A. 7463.
See Chapter V., 17, 18. L. 9.
11 But not only is the Baptist more than a prophet, but Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist. Those who are born of women are opposed to and distinguished from those who are born of God. The letter of the Word is formed of images taken from nature, and is thus adapted to the natural apprehensions of men. Its literal truths are therefore meant by those born of women. As the truths revealed to us in the Word, even in its literal sense, are greater than those to he found in the writings of men, it is said of the Word even in the letter, that a greater hath not risen than John the Baptist. Yet immeasurably greater as the Word is than all human compositions, its literal sense is far less glorious than its spiritual sense. The highest apprehension of divine truth by men can bear no comparison to the lowest apprehension of divine truth by angels. Therefore, although “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist;” notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
12 The Lord proceeds to say, And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. Assuming as we think we justly may, that the authorized version expresses the true meaning of the passage, the question is, What does it mean? The common interpretation is, that the violence used and the force exerted are such as holy men can employ. This interpretation may he considered as on the whole correct. But it may he understood that the violence and force here spoken of, though such as indeed are consistent with the nature of the heavenly kingdom and of the heavenly life, are yet of a character as belongs to the church, and to the member of the church, in that stage of their progression meant by the days of John the Baptist, which is a state of initiation. In the beginning of the Christian dispensation, as in that of every other, its truths were received intellectually rather than morally, or men endeavoured by the power of intellect alone to enter into the mysteries of faith. Some seized on the truth with avidity, but did not, as they ought to have done, unite to it the good which makes it truly useful, except, indeed, that many whose first reception this describes might come to accept the good as they advanced in the knowledge of what the gospel required. According to Luke, the first reception of the gospel was the same with all. “The law and the prophets were until John; since that time every one presseth into it,” or enters into it by violence. This does not mean that all men entered it, but that those who did so, entered by force. The language seems also to imply, in the spiritual sense, that entrance was not effected without severe trial, and that temptation, of an external but violent kind, is a means by which every one, in the days of John, enters into the kingdom of God.
13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. It is the time of the prophets with us when we are yet only learning of the Lord; it is the time of John when the Lord has indeed been born in the inner man, but has not yet been fully manifested in the outer man, in which, however, a way is being prepared by repentance and obedience for his coming into it and passing through it into the life.
14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. Why was it promised (Mal. iv. 5) that Elijah should come to prepare the way of the Lord? It may he admitted that Elijah was a type of John; but the reason he was selected from among the prophets to be so was, because, like John, he was in eminent representative of the written Word. It is the Word itself that prepares the Lord’s way both into the church and into the human mind. It is, moreover, the function of the prophet, and not the prophet himself, that represents what is divine and holy; and therefore the personal question is one of no moment.
15 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
16 But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows,
17 And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil.
19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.
20 Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:
15 Ears in the internal sense of the Word signify obedience, by reason of the correspondence which there is between hearing and obeying, the origin of which correspondence is from the other life, where they who are willing and obedient belong to the province’of the ear, and indeed correspond to the hearing itself. A. 2542.
To hear a voice, signifies to be instructed concerning the precepts of faith, and to receive them with faith and obedience. A. 9311.
Ear and hearing, signify the reception and perception of truth and obedience to it, thus the first and the last of faith. A. 9397.
By hearing is signified both to perceive and to obey. R. 87.
Everyone who is of the church may know, that to “know and understand the truths and goods of faith, or doctrinals, and also the Word, does not constitute the church, but to hearken, that is, to understand and to do constitutes the church. E. 108.
15 When the Lord had finished his address to the people respecting John, he added these words, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. This was to call their attention to what he had said to them, and also to remind them that his words demanded a willing and attentive hearing. The ear, as being the sense through which the sound as well as the meaning of articulate language is conveyed, is the organ that more especially communicates with the, will, as the eye is the organ that communicates more especially with the understanding. He that hath ears to hear is one whose will is inclined to hearken to the lessons of divine wisdom, and who has a disposition to obey. This submission of the will to the Lord’s teaching is better than any offering we can make for “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”
16, 17. Few, it would appear, were ready to incline their ear to either the Lord’s teaching or to John’s, which the Lord proceeds to point out in a parable. But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. The Jews had refused to mourn with John or to rejoice with Jesus. John had appeared as an ascetic, living in retirement, clothed in his hairy garment, and feeding on locusts and wild honey, and teaching the hard lesson of self-denial. He mourned unto men, but they refused to lament. The Lord came without any sign of austerity and mingled with the people in the ordinary concerns and even the pleasures of life. He piped to them, but they refused to dance. Besides this meaning, as applicable to the Jews, this beautiful parable has a meaning still more instructive for us. The little boys here spoken of, sitting in the markets, are manifest figures of the truths of love and innocence contained in the holy Word; and their calling to their companions is a figure equally plain of the application of those truths for reception with man. “We have piped unto you; denotes the celestial affection with which they are replenished, and which they are calculated to inspire, for pipers and piping signify such affection. “Ye have not danced” denotes that that affection had not been admitted, so as to produce a corresponding joy in the natural mind, for dancing denotes such joy and delight. “We have mourned unto you,” denotes truth without affection. Ye have not lamented,” denotes that they had not acted in conformity with such truth, by obeying it as they ought to have done. A still more personal application of it may bring its lesson nearer to our common spiritual states and experience. The want of sympathy between the children and their juvenile companions, expresses a want of harmony between the internal and external affections of our own minds. The children that piped and mourned are the affections of the spiritual mind which call to their companions, the affections of the natural mind, to reciprocate their joys and their sorrows; for the joys of the spiritual mind should be reciprocated by pure delights of good and truth in the natural mind, and its sorrows should be reciprocated by contrition and humility. It is the Lord’s purpose in his divine operation to produce harmony between the spiritual and the natural affections and thoughts in our minds, to bring the natural mind to respond to and co-operate with the spiritual. The slowness of our natural disposition to yield a ready and hearty compliance with the calls of the spiritual affections is a matter which most of us must have learnt by abundant experience. The Lord’s parable may remind us of our natural want of sympathy with what is spiritual, and should lead us to listen to the calls and pleadings of the conscience, which has been formed within us by the good of truth.
18, 19. The Lord openly applies and explains the parable in reference to himself and John the Baptist. John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. We see this disposition to magnify and distort, so as even to turn virtues into vices in those we are disposed to condemn. Its spiritual meaning is our principle object. John came neither eating nor drinking, because the work of reformation, which John’s ministry represented, consists essentially in the removal of evil by self-denial. The Son of man came eating and drinking because the work of regeneration, which the ministry of Jesus, as distinguished from that of John, represented, consists essentially in the doing of good. Self-denial, or desisting from evil, is Spiritual fasting, and doing good is spiritual eating and drinking. The Jews said of John that he had a devil, for the natural man regards self-denial as an evil, and as destructive of all true life and enjoyment, and they said of the Son of man that he was gluttonous and a winebibber, for the natural man has so little relish for the good and truth of religion that the very idea of them is surfeiting to his spirit. But this objection to the Lord was no doubt made chiefly by the Pharisees, who affected great sanctity and who regarded the Lord’s life as that of a man of the world, because he refused and condemned nothing of the world but its evil and hypocrisy. They therefore coupled with this accusation that of his being a friend of publicans and sinners. He was indeed their friend, for his object, in his intercourse with them, as with all others, was to do them good. In this feature of his character, our Lord was the pattern of the perfect man. He did not shun sinners as many do, either because they contemn them or fear contempt. His love for their souls was so great as to draw him towards them, and so pure as to prevent his being contaminated by contact with them. The Lord concludes by saying, But Wisdom is justified of her children. In the literal sense, the children of wisdom are the wise; and of all these, but of these only, is wisdom justified. He who is Wisdom itself is justified only of those who have become wise from him; for who but the wise can appreciate wisdom? In the spiritual sense, the children of wisdom are the truths and goods of wisdom. In Scripture usage, wisdom is not so much an intellectual as a moral quality. As folly means depravity, so wisdom means; goodness grounded in intelligence. Wisdom is justified of her children when the fruits of wisdom bear testimony before men of the excellence of the principles that produce them.
21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
21 That putting on of sackcloth was a token of humiliation and repentance. Being clothed in sackcloth and rolling in ashes represented mourning over evil and falsities, for the primary thing of humiliation is to acknowledge that of himself one is nothing but evil and falsity. A. 4779.
By being clothed in sackcloth is signified mourning on account of the vastated truth in the church, for garments signify truths. Therefore to be clothed in sackcloth, which is not a garment, signifies mourning that there is no truth, and where there is no truth, there is no church. R. 492.
See Chapter X., 14. R. 788,
Bethsaida signifies condemnation, on account of non-reception of the Lord. E. 239.
To repent in sack and ashes is to grieve and mourn-on account of the non-reception of Divine truth, and on account of the falses and evil which hindered. E. 637.
22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.
23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
24But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.
22, 24. Salvation or condemnation is also signified by judgment, where mention is made of the day or hour of judgment. A. 9857.
23, 24. See Chapter X., 14, 15. R. 502.
They who are instructed by the Lord concerning the truths and goods of the church, and yet reject and deny them, do worse than those of Sodom. E. 653.
20-24. The Lord now turns to those cities in which most of his mighty works had been done, and upbraids them because they did not repent. Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgement than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which, art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall he more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee. These cities afforded solemn examples of the truth he had just delivered in his parable. How striking and solemn an answer is this to those who demand signs and wonders that they may believe. The mighty and beneficent works of the Saviour did not produce conviction or conversion generally in the cities in which they were done. Men could witness the greatest and most beneficent miracles ever performed, and yet remain in unbelief and sin. External evidence cannot produce internal conviction; there must be an internal witness before there can be internal belief. There is only one way in which the Lord’s miracles can produce saving faith – by being spiritually wrought in our own souls. The Lord’s miracles represented the saving works which are the means of restoring the soul to a sound state; and these are the only works that carry their own evidence with them, since they give us an experimental knowledge of the Lord as our Saviour. Those who do not thus witness the works of the Lord are the Chorazin, Bethesaida, and Capernaum, on which rests the woe of unbelief and unrepented sin.
In the literal sense of this passage some find a difficulty. If those works would have led Tyre and Sidon to repent, why were they not done in them? The answer to this is, had the Lord saved Tyre and Sidon, he could not have saved Chorazin and Bethsaida. Had he come into the world at an earlier period, he could not have provided for the salvation of those who lived after his coming. Iniquity had to be consummated or full before the remedy for it could be applied, that the remedy might he a complete one. Yet the Lord’s mercy provides, as far as possible, against any disadvantage to those who lived before his coming. It was to be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for the cities who rejected the Saviour. “To whom much is given, of them much is required.” “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light.” The spiritual sense teaches a still more solemn and important lesson. It appears evident that the intellectual principle of the natural man in general is represented in this passage, by Tyre and Sidon, and the false persuasions in that principle by Chorazin and Bethsaida. In like manner, the will principle of the natural man in general seems to be signified by Sodom, and the evils inherent in it by Capernaum. According to this view, we find that the intellectual principle itself of the natural man, represented by Tyre and Sidon, is capable of being saved by the “mighty works” or redeeming mercy of the Lord; whilst the false persuasions of it, represented by Chorazin and Bethsaida, being diametrically opposed to the divine truth of the Lord, must be rejected and condemned. A woe is pronounced against them, and we can only escape being subject to it by separating ourselves from them, and concurring in the judgment by which they are anathematized. So also we find that the mighty works of the Lord’s redemption extend even to the saving of the will principle of the natural man, represented by Sodom; but the evils of it, represented by Capernaum, being diametrically opposite to the divine love of the Lord, must he extirpated and removed. A woe is here also pronounced, and we can only avoid being included in it by leaving every evil, especially that of self-love, to sink into hell; whilst, by appropriating principles from heaven which have an opposite gravitation, we are borne up and saved from sinking into perdition with them.
25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
26 Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.
25 The learning of this day scarce goes beyond these limits, namely whether a thing is and whether it is so wherefore also men stand excluded from the understanding of truth. For example, he who merely disputes-whether there is an internal sense of the Word, can never see the innumerable, yea, infinite things, which are in the internal sense. Again, he who disputes whether charity is anything in the church, and whether all things-of it are not of faith, cannot possibly know the innumerable, yea, indefinite things which are in charity,, but remains altogether in ignorance of what charity is.. What is surprising, such men believe themselves to be wise in comparison to others, and the wiser, the better they can debate whether a thing be so, and the more they can confirm themselves that it is not so ; when yet the simple who are in good, and whom they despise, can perceive in a moment and without any dispute much more without learned controversy, that the thing is and what is its quality. The Lord speaks both of the former and of the latter, when He says that things are hidden from the wise and the intelligent, and revealed unto babes. A. 3428.
Innocence, which is signified by babes, is wisdom itself, since genuine innocence dwells in wisdom. A. 5608.
The learned have less belief in a life after death than the simple minded, and because they do not believe in it, neither can they believe in the things which pertain to that life, which are the heavenly and spiritual things of faith and love. A. 6053.
The insanity of those who are in falses is sometimes called in the Word wisdom and intelligence. E. 844.
In the Christian world there is no idea of God as a man. That there is no such idea, yea, that there is a repugnance to it, you may know from examining yourself, and thinking of the Divine Human, when yet the Human of the Lord is Divine. Nevertheless, such ideas about God do not appertain so much to the simple, as to the intelligent, for many of the latter are blinded by the conceit of their own intelligence, and are hence infatuated by science, according to the Lord’s words. E. 1114.
25, 26. Darkness is induced by human learning with those who trust to their own intelligence, and on that account exalt themselves above others. A. 8783.
False intelligence and wisdom is all that which is without acknowledgment of the Divine, for all those who do not acknowledge the Divine, but nature instead of the Divine, think from the corporeal sensual plane, and are merely sensual, however educated and learned they are believed to be in the world. Still however, sensual men can reason, and some of them more cunningly and acutely than others, but from the fallacies of their senses confirmed by their science, and because they can thus reason, they also believe themselves wiser than others. These are they who are in false intelligence and wisdom, and who are meant by the Lord. H. 353.
25, 26. At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. The subject we have been considering has another side, a divine and heavenly one. Whilst men reject the overtures of divine mercy, that mercy is employed in tempering both the malignity and the consequences of their rejection, by hiding from them, as far as may be, the knowledge that would aggravate their state and criminality. When Omniscience sees that the impenitent will not accept the good that would make them happy, mercy withholds from them the truth that would but increase their sin and misery. It is a part of God’s providential operation that man shall not he admitted into the interior acknowledgment of truth further than that he can be preserved in it to the end of his life. Such being the case, God’s goodness hides the things of salvation from the wise and prudent. But it reveals them unto babes – to those who have innocence of heart and simplicity of spirit sufficient to enable them to receive it. How can God at once conceal and reveal the truths of life? One way is this. The letter of the Word conceals its spiritual truths from the wise, and reveals them to the simple. It is like the cloudy pillar that came between the camps of the Egyptians and of Israel – it was light to the one and darkness to the other. This thanksgiving is addressed to the Father, and the concealing and revealing is said to have seemed good in his sight. As the Father signifies the Lord as to his divine love, we are instructed that this providential dealing is one of pure love, which is further indicated by its being good in his sight; for all good is of love. Yet the Lord’s love acts by wisdom, which is meant by his sight, in which it seemed good.
27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
27 That the kingdom in the heavens and on earth was given to the Lord, is evident in various passages of the Word. A. 1607.
That the things in the heavens and on the earth are the Lord’s is evident. A. 2026.
The Divine itself cannot flow into heaven, except through the Lord’s Divine Human, which also the Lord showed plainly in Matthew. A. 3038.
That the Lord rules the universe is evident in Matthew, A. 3704.
Not even the angels in the inmost heaven can apprehend that which immediately proceeds from the Divine itself, for the reason that it is infinite, and so transcends all apprehension, even that of the angels. But that which proceeds from the Divine Human they can apprehend, since it treats of God as a Divine man, concerning Whom some idea can be formed from the Human. This is what is meant by the Lord’s words. (Compare John L 18, v. 37.) A. 5321.
No one can be conjoined by faith and love to the Divine itself without the Divine Human, for the Divine itself which is called the Father cannot be thought of, because it is incomprehensible. A. 10067.
The reason why it is also said, that no one knoweth the Son but the Father, is because by the Son is meant the Divine truth, and by the Father the Divine good, each in the Lord, and the one cannot be known but from the other, wherefore the Lord first says that all things are delivered to Him from the Father, and afterwards that he knoweth the Father, to whom the Son is willing to reveal Him. A. 10067.
That the Lord has all power, the Word teaches in many passages, and the Lord Himself in Matthew. A. 10089.
That the Lord from the Divine Human subdued the hells and reduced ail things therein and in the heavens into order, and then at the same time glorified His Human, that is, made it Divine, and the Divine itself,, which is called the Father, effected this by the Divine Human. A. 10152.
That the incomprehensible Divine, which is called the Father, is together worshipped when the Lord as to the Divine Human is worshipped, is also manifest from the words of the Lord Himself. A. 10267.
That no one has seen at any time Jehovah the Father, is manifest from the words of the Lord Himself. A. 10579.
No one can be conjoined with God, but from the Lord. A. 10818.
As in the Lord everything is Divine, therefore He has-all power in the heavens and in the earths. A. 10827.
That the Lord is the God of heaven, they who are in the church cannot doubt, for He Himself taught that all’ things of the Father are His. H. 5.
The reason why no one can be conjoined to God but in the Lord, is because the Father is in Him, and they are one. N. 283.
As all the Divine is in the Lord, therefore He has all power in the heavens and in the earths. N. 291.
Christ not only as to His Divine, but also as to His Human, is the God of heaven and earth. R. 294.
See Chapter XL, 5. . 839.
Christ is the God of heaven and earth, both as to His Divine and as to His Human. T. in.
We instructed them from the Word, that the Lord came into the world not only to redeem angels and men,, but also that they might be united to God the Father by Him and in Him, for He taught that He is in them who believe in Him, and that they are in Him. T. 113.
God the Father can never be approached, nor can He come to any man, because He is Infinite, and in His Jesse, which is Jehovah. T. 135.
Conjunction with God the Father is not possible, but with the Lord, and through Him with God the Father. This the Scripture teaches and reason sees. T. 370.
The Divine Human of the Lord falls into the idea of the thought, and thus into faith, and thence into the affections of the will, or into the love. Hence it is evident that there is no conjunction with the Father unless from the Lord and in the Lord. E. 114.
That the Lord called the Divine His Father, appears manifest from this circumstance, that He taught that He Himself was one with the Father. E. 200.
That the Lord is the God of heaven He Himself made manifest whilst he was in the world, and when He departed out of the world. E. 678.
God is one, the Lord is God of heaven and earth. E. 803.
It is never granted to any man of the church to approach God the Father immediately, and to entreat Him for the sake of the Son, for it is the Lord who is to be approached and entreated, inasmuch as no one comes to the Father except by the Lord and in the Lord. The Lord equally as the Father is God, infinite, eternal, uncreate, omnipotent, and neither of them is first or last, but they are altogether equal. That no one comes to the Father except by the Lord, the Lord Himself teaches. The Lord is God of heaven and earth. E. 805.
The idea of God as a man is engrafted from heaven in every nation throughout the universal terrestrial globe, but, what I lament, is destroyed in Christendom. E. 1097.
I advise seafarers henceforth to pray to the Lord, because He is the God of the heaven, of the land, and of the sea, and there is none beside Him. C. 95.
27, 28. All things are delivered to me of my Father, therefore all come to me. D. P., Page 46.
27 From addressing the Father as one distinct from and superior to himself, the Lord turns to the multitude and instructs them respecting the true nature of the relation existing between them. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. If his thanksgiving seems to acknowledge his inferiority to the Father, his address claims equality with him. “All things” include “all that the Father hath”- all the attributes and prerogatives of Deity. These the Father delivered to the Son. It is almost needless to say that it was impossible for one divine person to impart these personal attributes and rights to another.
When we know that the Father is the Lord’s indwelling divinity, and that the Son is the humanity in which his divinity dwells, we can see the possibility and reasonableness of “all things” belonging to the divinity being delivered to the humanity. We see an image of this in the soul delivering all things that it hath to the body. The soul does not by this act divest itself of any of its attributes or authority but only invests the body with them – at once giving them to another and retaining them in itself. The Lord’s delivering the attributes of his divine to his human nature made the human itself divine – a fitting divine body for the habitation of a divine soul. The human thus became the very form and manifestation of the divine. In Jesus the Divine is human, and the Human is divine. Both are alike infinite. Hence, “No one knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any one the Father, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.” If no one knows the Son, but the Father, and no one knows the Father, but the Son, their knowledge of each other must be infinite. But the Son is the only source of our knowledge of the Father. We cannot know the Divine but in and through the Human. How appropriate therefore, is the invitation which now follows!
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest
28 That the Divine Human of the Lord is the All in All of heaven and that it is the Holy itself there. The Lord alone is holy and everything holy is from Him. A. 10267.
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. This blessed invitation and assurance brings Jesus before us as the Divine Man, who himself has passed through all states of spiritual labour, laden with the burden of all human infirmity and sorrow, and who is therefore able to comfort poor sinful creatures in their afflictions, and sustain them under their heaviest trials. Evil and error are the two oppressive burdens which depraved humanity bears, and under which it groans. But it is only those who have come to feel these as a hindrance to their entrance on the spiritual life who will answer the Lord’s call, for they only can be disposed to exchange their own burden, oppressive as it is, for the easy yoke of the meek and lowly Jesus. We must see evil to be sin before we will listen to the Lord’s exhortation – before we will seek that rest which he promises to the weary souls that come to him. “I will give you rest.” There is none but the Saviour can give that which the sinner needs, and he needs rest. “There is no rest for the wicked.” Rest is only to be obtained in righteousness, and righteousness can be found only in him who is Righteousness itself. To obtain his rest we must “come unto” him by forsaking the way of sin, and bringing forth fruits meet for repentance. But we must advance beyond this, by doing his commandments from love; for it is love that draws us to him as the Author of rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
29, 30. That the yoke of the Lord is easy and His burden light, is, because as far as man resists the evils springing from the love of self and of the world, he is led by the Lord and not by himself, and because the Lord then resists those evils in man and removes them. H. 359.
29 He who invites men to seek from him rest from their burden, invites them likewise to take his yoke upon them, and learn of him. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. When we throw off the yoke of Satan, we must take upon us the yoke of Christ. The yoke of sin must be exchanged for the yoke of righteousness. To take the Lord’s yoke is to accept his love as the guiding principle of our wills, and to learn of him is to accept his truth as the directing principle of our understandings. The Lord himself is meek and lowly of heart. He is meekness and lowliness itself. He who is greatest is least; he who is the highest is also the lowest: “I am among you as him that doth serve.” Those who imitate his blessed example will find rest to their souls; for there is rest only in him who has conquered all the powers and cast out from his humanity all principles of discord, and has made peace in his reconciled humanity, now the Fountain of peace to all who seek it.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
30 The influx of hell through evil spirits is with force and violent effort to rule man, their sole desire being to subjugate him so far, that he may be nothing and they be all; and when they are all, the man is one of them. When therefore the Lord is liberating man from their yoke and dominion, there arises combat, and when he is liberated, that is regenerated, then he is led so gently through angels by the Lord that it is anything but yoke or dominion. He is led through enjoyments and delights, and is loved and esteemed. H. 905.
That it is not so difficult to live the life of heaven as is believed, is evident now from this, that it is only necessary for a man to think, when anything presents itself to him which he knows to be insincere and unjust and to which he is inclined, that it ought not to be done, because it is contrary to the Divine precepts. But when he has made a beginning then the Lord quickens in him all that is good, and causes him not only to see evils as evils, but also not to will them, and finally to be averse to them. It is however to be known that the difficulty of so thinking, and likewise of resisting evils increases in so far as man from the will commits them. H. 533.
30 My yoke is easy, and my burden is light. If the Lord’s yoke is the yoke of love, it cannot but be easy; if his burden is the burden of truth, it cannot but be light. Truth makes us free, and love is perfect liberty. Where these are there can be no sense of oppression or weariness, but a feeling of happiness and freshness, the service which the state of our hearts prompts us to render being a delight. Such must be the experience of all who take upon them the yoke of Jesus. It is not so difficult to live for heaven as many suppose. The Lord came into the world that he might make the way to heaven more easy, and our entrance into it more certain. He did this by first making the burden and the yoke of the law his own, and then enabling us to bear it. He did not fulfil the law in our stead, but on our behalf, not as one who relieves us of the duty, but as one who, by doing the duty, makes it more easy for us to do it. We are to take his yoke upon us; and it is easy because it is his. He has done all that he requires us to do, and he gives us strength to do it, because he is with us as our Sustainer, as well as our Example. The exhortation of the Psalmist is truly applicable to the Christian and his Saviour: “Cast thy burden on the Lord, and he will sustain thee.” He does not say that the Lord will bear our burden for us, but that he will sustain us under it. Such is the Lord to us – a Friend and Helper, who will go with us in all our journey, and will succour us, and hold us up in our goings, till he introduce us into his own kingdom of joy and peace.
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