<< MATTHEW XII: Spiritual Meaning >>
1 At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat.
2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.
3 But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him;
4 How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?
5 Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?
6 But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.
1-9. The reason why the Sabbath was accounted most holy was, that in the supreme sense it represented the union of the Divine and the Divine Human in the Lord, and in a relative sense the conjunction of the Divine Human of the Lord with the human race. And because it represented those things, it also represented heaven as to the conjunction of good and truth, which conjunction is called the heavenly marriage. By not doing any work on the Sabbath-day was represented that they should not act at all from self, but from the Lord. It is plain that the Lord is the Lord of the Sabbath, according to His words in Matthew, and it may be seen why very many cures were performed by the Lord on the Sabbath-days, for the diseases of which they were healed by the Lord, involved spiritual diseases, which are from evil. A. 8495.
Sabbath in the original tongue signifies rest. The Sabbath among the children of Israel was the sanctity of sanctities, because it represented the Lord, the six days represented His labours and combats with the hells, and the seventh His victory over them, and therefore rest. But when the Lord came into the world, and the representations of Him therefore ceased, that day became a day of instruction in Divine things, and thus also a day of rest from labours. T. 301.
In the previous chapter we find our Lord severely censuring some of the cities of Judah for remaining unmoved by the mighty works he had done in them; and in the very beginning of this chapter we find the same people exhibiting their zeal for a traditional observance of the Sabbath, condemning the Lord for an assumed breach of its requirements. At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. It is the mark of a fallen church that it is zealous for external observances, and careless about internal principles, or, as our Lord expresses it, that its members pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, but neglect the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and truth. This the Pharisees so completely did, that they found great fault with the Lord for doing works of mercy on the Sabbath day, as well as for walking through the cornfields. Our Lord did not, however, violate the Jewish sabbath, as established by the Jewish law. He observed all the duties connected with its rightful observance, but he did not conform to the ceremonial additions that the church had made to them. But our Lord’s conduct, while consistent with the law, had a deeper cause and purpose than the Pharisees dreamt of. The Sabbath was a representative institution as well as a day of rest. The day is said to have been instituted to commemorate God’s having rested on the seventh day, after the six days of creation. This assigned reason involves an important spiritual idea. The account of the creation in Genesis is a symbolical description of the spiritual creation or regeneration of man, while in the highest sense it describes the glorification of the Lord, which is regeneration in its divine degree. The six days’ work are expressive of the states of spiritual labour which precede and are preparatory to the state of spiritual rest. In the case of the Lord, to whom the subject eminently relates, the six days’ work signifies his states of temptation in his conflicts with the powers of darkness; while the sabbath signifies his state of glorification, which is rest itself, and the origin of rest to heaven and to those who follow him in the regeneration. All that the Lord did on the Sabbath day, including his going through the corn, had therefore special reference to the two works of glorification and regeneration. The Lord’s glorification was the union of divinity and humanity in his own person; but this is a result of the union of goodness and truth in his humanity. The image of this in man is the conjunction of goodness and truth, or of charity and faith, in his external man, and the consequent conjunction of the external with the internal, which completes his regeneration. The corn-field is an emblem of the church, and consequently of the human mind, in an advanced stage of the regenerate life, the corn being a symbol of the spiritual good which the church provides for the support of her children, and a type of that harvest which the Lord had just before sent his disciples forth to gather in. And while we see in the corn a representative of the provision which Jesus, as the Lord of the harvest as well as of the Sabbath, had made for the members of his church, the hunger of his disciples is expressive of the desire or spiritual appetite which the Lord’s true disciples have for the “corn of heaven.” Standing or growing corn signifies good as conceived and increasing in the mind, but not yet fully brought forth into the life, and gathered into the garner of the inner memory. The ears of corn signify the knowledge of what is good; while eating the corn is expressive of the actual reception and appropriation of the principles of goodness thus acquired, so as to incorporate them with the inner life.
2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. The Pharisees represent those persons whose religion consists in mere formality and profession, and therefore also signify such thoughts and feelings themselves in the natural mind. These offer opposition to the spiritual principles there; but this opposition only serves to bring out the true spiritual ground of the orderly operation which they oppose. All such opposition to what is good and true acts by means of some perversion and misapplication of the truth, as was in fact the case in the present instance. There was no violation of the law in going through the corn on the Sabbath day; while the act of the disciples, when there, is expressly authorized: “When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbour, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hands” (Deut. xxiii. 25)
3, 4. The Lord justified the conduct of his disciples by what David did when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests. The Lord introduces this reference by asking the Pharisees if they had not read what David did; and it is presented in this form for the purpose of teaching that the Lord desires to excite inquiry in the minds of those with whom such suggestions arise. That which the Lord cited was a very apposite case, for it was representative and therefore prophetic, of himself. David’s entering into the house of God, and there receiving sacred bread from the officiating priest, represented the union of good and truth in the Lord’s humanity. For the priest represented the principle of divine love or goodness, and the king represented the principle of divine wisdom or truth in the Lord’s humanity the humanity itself being represented by the house of God, in which the priest and the king were together present. The union of divine good and truth in the Lord’s humanity is described by the priest giving David the sacred bread – the bread representing the principle of good; the priest giving this bread to David signifying giving the communication of divine good to divine truth, by which union is effected between them. This does not, however, represent complete and final union, for the Lord’s humanity was perfected successively, or by distinct degrees, and one of those degrees is represented in this historical fact. Besides receiving the hallowed bread, David on that occasion received from Abimelech the priest the sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom he had slain. As David represented the Lord as divine truth, he represented him also as the Redeemer, and in this character he engaged in conflict with the powers of darkness. Therefore David received from the priest, and in the Lord’s house, both the hallowed bread and approved sword – the bread representing good and the sword truth – one for supporting, the other for combating.
5 The Lord gives another case. Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? What the Lord calls profaning the Sabbath, consisted in preparing the sacrifices that were offered on that day, this being servile work, like that of which the Pharisees accused Jesus. This, like the previous case, is not to be regarded as being adduced merely to justify what the Lord did, but also to describe representatively his own divine work. For as the priest represented the Lord as to divine good, so the priestly office represented the Lord’s work of salvation. As the case of David and the priest, which the Lord had previously mentioned, is descriptive of the union of good and truth in the Lord’s humanity, the present case describes the succeeding state, which is that of the Lord as divine good, in the temple of his humanity, engaged in the work of salvation – the priests representing the Lord in his priestly character, and the temple in which they officiated representing the divine humanity. The Lord speaks of their work on the Sabbath, because, as we have seen, the Sabbath was the most sacred representative of the union of the divinity and the humanity in the person of the Lord, and the consequent divine rest into which the Lord entered after his temptation conflicts. But this rest into which the Lord entered is not inaction, but the most perfect activity. It is not labour, indeed, but work, and is the great work of salvation, for the sake of which the; Lord laboured in effecting the work of redemption. The work of the priests, in the temple on the Sabbath eminently represented this work of salvation, as did the Lord’s own work on the Sabbath, he having on that sacred day performed many of his beneficent miracles and on that day walked through the cornfields, his disciples plucking the ears of corn, that they might eat, and thus enter into the enjoyment of that abundant provision which the Lord of the harvest and of the Sabbath had made for them.
6 The Lord, however, justifies himself not only by parallel instances, but by asserting his authority. But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. This assertion must have greatly offended Jewish prejudice. One of the charges brought against the Lord, and that on which he was condemned, was, that he had declared he would destroy the temple and rear it up in three days; on hearing which the high priest rent his clothes, and pronounced the words to be blasphemy when the whole Sanhedrim at once condemned him to be guilty of death (Mark xiv. 58-64). The Lord spake of the temple of his body (John ii. 21). In the Lord we are indeed to behold one greater than the temple. How grand is the truth declared in the Lord’s words! The temple, the glory of the Jewish church, when seen to be a type of him who was to come, discloses the wonderful truth, that the whole of the elaborate and splendid ceremonial revealed from heaven was but the shadow of good things to come, whose substance Christ was. But the Lord is greater than the temple in a higher sense. When he declared, “The Father is greater than I” (John xiv. 28), he taught that the divinity was then greater than the humanity, and that in heaven and the church divine good is greater than divine truth. But when the Lord speaks of himself as greater than the temple, his words, spiritually understood, are assertive of his being the Father as well as the Son – the divine is well as the human, the essential Divine Good as well as the essential Divine Truth. He is greater than the temple, as his habitation in its, when in our estimation and experience his love is greater than his truth, or when charity is greater than faith.
7 But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.
8 For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.
9And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue:
7, 8. The Lord, when He was in the world called Himself the Lord of the Sabbath. Therefore when He was in the world and united His Human to the Divine itself He abrogated the Sabbath as to representative worship, or as to the worship which prevailed among the Israelit-ish people, and made the Sabbath-day a day of instruction in the doctrine of faith and love. A. 10360.
8 Since peace signifies the union of the Divine itself and the Divine Human in the Lord, and the conjunction of the Lord with heaven and with the church, and with all in heaven and also in the church who receive Him, the Sabbath was instituted for a remembrance of these things, and named from rest or peace, and was the most holy representative of the church. For that reason also the Lord called Himself the Lord of the Sabbath. H. 287.
The Lord is called the Son of Man where redemption, salvation, reformation, and regeneration are treated of. He is Lord of the Sabbath because He is the Son of Man. L. 27.
Because the Lord said that He is Lord also of the Sabbath, it follows that that day was representative of Him. T. 301.
7 The Lord proceeds to point out to the Pharisees the real origin of their having condemned the guiltless, which they would not have done if they had known what this meaneth, I will have merry, and not sacrifice. This we have already considered (ch. ix. 13). This passage occurs in Hosea vi. 6: “I desired mercy, and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” Sacrifice, we have seen, is here put for worship or piety which the Pharisees regarded as religion. This divine declaration shows that, even under the Jewish dispensation, the superiority of mercy to sacrifice, or of charity to piety, was distinctly taught. To do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God, is really all that God requires. Other things are included in human duty, but they are the means, of which these are the end; for without these there is no religion. If the Pharisees had cultivated the grace of mercy, as that which God requires both in worship and in life, they would not have condemned the guiltless; nor will those condemn the guiltless who render mercy to God in their conduct towards their fellow-creatures.
8 But how much less would they have been disposed to censure the act of the Lord’s disciples on the Sabbath if they had known that the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day! The Lord’s claim to this character is a claim to divinity: for no one can be Lord of the Sabbath but he by whom the Sabbath was instituted. Spiritually, he is Lord of the Sabbath, as being he whom the Sabbath represented, and as being through his divine work in the flesh, the Author of that state of spiritual rest which the Sabbath signified. He is also the Lord of the Sabbath as the Author and Pattern of the conjunction of goodness and truth in the minds of his regenerate children. When this, the sabbatical state, is formed in us, and the Lord’s love is the ruling principle in our hearts and lives, then is Jesus practically to us Lord of the Sabbath. This state of spiritual rest and peace is not attained except by the overthrow of the kingdom of darkness within us, and the submission of our natural thoughts and affections to the laws of eternal order, the effecting of which is our six days’ work of regeneration. The state of rest which succeeds is meant by the Sabbath day, of which Jesus says he is the Lord; for day signifies state.
The miracle and the circumstances connected with it, which come now to be considered, afford a further exemplification of the difference between the Lord’s doctrine and that of the Pharisees respecting the Sabbath. When he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue. This was on a Sabbath, though not the same day as that on which he and his disciples walked through the corn (Luke vi. 6). A change of place is a change of state. A synagogue being the symbol of doctrine, the Lord’s entering into it signifies the influx of his divine truth into the doctrine of the church, as it is in the minds of her members.
10 And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him.
11 And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?
12 How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.
13 Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.
14 Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.
15 But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all;
16 And charged them that they should not make him known:
17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,
18 Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles.
19 He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets.
20 A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.
21 And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.
10-12. See Chapter VII., 15. E. 1154.
10-13. See Chapter XII., 1-9. A. 8495.
That that day (the Sabbath-day) became also a day of love toward the neighbour, is evident from what the Lord did and taught on the Sabbath-day. T. 301.
10 This influx is productive of different effects upon those who are in the same doctrine, but in opposite states of life – the evil, like the Pharisees, being excited to opposition, the good, like the infirm man, brought into submission. Behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. Palsied frames and withered members signify, as we have seen, a state of the external man in which it refuses to obey the behests of the internal. The hand is withered when any infirmity of temper, or other evil that has become habitual, prevents the concordant action of the internal and of the external man, of the will and the life. But the peculiar circumstance in this case was the tempting of Jesus by the Pharisees. Before, it would appear, either the man had asked or Jesus had spoken of a cure, the Pharisees proposed the question whether it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath days. According to Luke vi. 8, the Pharisees did not utter this question; but Jesus read it in their thoughts, and addressed them accordingly – a singular instance showing that in the Lord’s sight speech and thought are one. The question of the Pharisees proceeded from the evil intention of drawing from the Lord a declaration that might injure him in the estimation of the people. But every evil intention endeavours to effect its purpose by ingenious reasonings, and some of these may even be urged in the name of religion and virtue. So did the Pharisees when they condemned the Lord’s merciful works of healing on the Sabbath day. The insidiousness of such reasonings is marked by the Pharisees attempting to carry out their opposition even to the Lord’s destruction; for false reasonings may proceed even to the destruction of truth. These enemies of truth and goodness, as these principles were incarnated in the person of Jesus, asked him, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath days? that they might accuse him. Although Jesus had as yet performed no miracle on the Sabbath day, the Pharisees, who had seen him walk through the corn-fields, supposed he would not be more scrupulous about performing cures on that day, and therefore resolved to try to draw from him a declaration that might be used against him.
11, 12. One of the remarkable features in our Lord’s history is the marvellous facility with which he defeats the attempts of the most cunningly devised schemes of his many and skilful enemies to entrap him in his words; and he defeats them generally, as he did the tempter when he came to him, by means of that very Word in whose laws they trusted, and by which they sought to betray him. When asked, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day?” he answered by demanding of them, What man shall there be among you that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the Sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? This answer was sufficient not only to silence them, but to put them to shame. In the law to which the Lord refers (Deut. xxii. 4), there is nothing said about the Sabbath day, but only about the duty of helping a brother’s beast out of the pit into which it had fallen; yet the Jews did not scruple to do this on the Sabbath day, How much more might the Lord on the Sabbath day deliver from a more painful and helpless condition a much more precious object! But let us look at this as it applies to ourselves. The sheep and the man are the symbols of two different affections – a natural affection being meant by the sheep, and a rational or spiritual affection, by the man. Thus understood, How much is a man better than a sheep? Of how much greater value are the affections that have spiritual and eternal things for their objects, than those that are fixed upon the things of sense and time? Of how much more importance is it also to attend to the spiritual than to the natural, both in others and in ourselves? The natural man, even when from motives of benevolence he seeks the improvement of his neighbour or himself, seeks only to elevate the natural affections, and place them on higher natural objects. But the spiritual man, while he does not neglect the natural affections in himself or others, makes the spiritual the object of his chief regard. Thus he esteems the man is better than the sheep, and seeks to deliver those whom disease has disabled or whom Satan has bound (Luke xiii. 14). Like his Lord, he is ever ready to do this on the Sabbath day. For while the Sabbath of the Pharisee is but an outward sanctity, that of the true Christian is a spiritual state, in which he works the works of God.
The conclusion which our Lord established from his address to the Pharisees was, that it was lawful to do well, or rather to do good, on the Sabbath day. Looking at the subject only in its literal sense, this is a principle that it were happy for us faithfully to act upon. The Sabbath is a day for religious instruction and for the exercise of charity. This is the description of the Christian Sabbath, and it accords with our Lord’s declaration and with his practice. And his words are applicable to the Sabbath as a heavenly state of life, and to heaven itself as well; for doing good is the essential of spiritual life both on earth and in heaven.
13 When Jesus had ended his address to the Pharisees, who seem to have made no attempt to gainsay his heavenly doctrine, Then, saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. How was he to stretch forth that withered hand? Faith in him who gave the command induced him to make the effort to obey, and in the effort he received the power to do as he was commanded. Thus it ever is with the willing and faithful. The power to do the Lord’s will is always given. The power comes in the attempt to use it. But why attempt to use what we seem not to possess? The impotent man did not reason thus. He knew his hand to be powerless; he had often essayed to use it, and had often essayed to use it, and had as often failed. So do we fail when our attempts originate in our own strength; but so soon as we make the effort in obedience to the Lord’s command, his strength is imparted to us, and the successful result follows in due course. In the effort and the act, the withered hand was restored; nor is it simply said to have been restored, but restored whole like as the other. The two hands, like the two feet, correspond to the power of the two faculties of will and understanding – the hands to the power of these facilities in the internal man the feet to their power in the external man. When one of these two members is diseased or powerless, it represents the want of correspondence between the state and activity of the two faculties, which injures or destroys their harmony and their use. When the will refuses to act concordantly with the understanding, or the understanding with the will, there we see a withered hand; and when divine mercy effects the removal of the obstructing cause, the hand is restored whole “like as the other.”
14 The Pharisees, so far from being convinced by this exhibition of the Lords power, or conciliated by the benevolence of his act, become more stubborn in their unbelief and more exasperated in their opposition.
Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him. Evil shuns the presence of goodness, falsehood the presence of truth. It is thus that the evil, inwardly in this life, and outwardly also in the other, go out from the presence of the Lord. It is thus, too, that the malignant thoughts of the unregenerate mind shun the true light and retire into their own darkness to plot against the truth, how to destroy it. Falsity is the opposite of truth; but its destructive tendency is proportioned to the evil by which it is actuated. As error may be redeemed by purity of intention, so falsity is rendered more destructive in proportion to the mind’s hatred of goodness. And then this hatred takes possession of the heart, the intellect becomes inventive of means for accomplishing its purposes. Yet, however cunningly devised the schemes of the unrighteous may be, there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel. How much less against in Him who Jacob and Israel represented, and who is the Author of all that makes the church, both in its external and internal principles!
15 The action of our Lord in reference to the proceedings of the Pharisees is deserving of our attention in its literal as well as in its spiritual sense. When Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence. This is not the only instance of the Lord withdrawing from a place of threatened danger. He had at his command divine power; yet, although he was God, he acted as a man, both because it behooved him to do so, and because in all things he was to be a pattern to men.
He instructs us in this practical way that we are to act with prudence, and not leave ourselves to the machinations of our enemies, Even when we may have the power to defend ourselves, it is not always wise to use it. It is often better both for ourselves and our enemies to imitate the example of Him who was as wise as he was good, and as merciful as he was powerful, – to avoid rather than to resist evil. In the spiritual sense, as this circumstance applies to individual man, Jesus withdraws himself from the sphere of evil, by drawing his truth inward towards the interiors of the mind, when evil in the external is excited into active opposition to good, in order to draw after him man’s better thoughts and affections, and there to carry on his divine work of restoring them to a state of healthy activity. These are the great multitudes that followed him, and of whom it is said, he healed them all. May these believing multitudes be found in us, and be ready to follow the Lord, when evil influences compel him, so to speak, to withdraw himself from the more open and ordinary scene of his saving operations; and may they be delivered by him from the evils and disorder that still adhere to them!
16, 17. Those whom the Lord cured he charged that they should not make him known. This charge differs from that given to the leper (viii. 4), which we have already considered. The leper was desired to “tell no man” that Jesus had cured him: here the multitudes that he cured are charged not to make him known. It cannot be supposed that the Lord was literally afraid of the Pharisees, yet it is not inconsistent to suppose that the Lord’s reason for withdrawing himself from them might also dictate the command that he should not be made known. The Lord’s charge not to make him known was no doubt grounded in the same benevolent cause that led him to thank the Father that he had hid these things from the wise and prudent, and had revealed them unto babes. To the well-disposed, knowledge is a power for good; to the ill-disposed, it is a power for evil – and therefore to the one it is a means of salvation, to the other, of condemnation The same mercy that grants it to the good withholds it from the evil. That this is the distinction the Lord had in view would seem to be indicated by the prophecy quoted from Isaiah; for the Gentiles art there the only ones mentioned to whom the Lord had come to show judgment, and the Gentiles signify those who are in simple good, and thence in the desire and capacity of receiving truth; while the Jews, as they then were, have a contrary representation, and may be said to have almost destroyed that capacity in themselves.
18 The prophecy relating to the Lord, as quoted by Matthew, says, – Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased. The Lord is called a servant – the servant of Jehovah – with respect to his divine humanity, because he served his Father by doing his will, as he frequently declared; by which is meant that he brought all things in the spiritual world into order, and at the same time taught men the way to heaven. It is, therefore, the Divine Humanity which is meant by “my servant, whom I have chosen,” or on whom I have laid hold, and by “My beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased.” The Lord is called a servant in respect to the Divine truth by which these effects were produced, and beloved, with respect to the Divine good from which they were produced. From this being the case, the Lord is called chosen of the Father, and his beloved in whom his soul is well pleased. To see the true meaning and force of these words, we must reflect that all these expressions of relationship and endearment between the Father and the Son are descriptive of the relationship, and the infinite sympathy and infinitely perfect union, that exist between the Divine and Human of the Lord, by which the salvation of the human race is provided for. And when Jehovah speaks of Jesus, those principles in the human which had been received from the Divine, and by which union was effected between them, are to be understood. Thus the Divine truth in the Son was the servant, and the Divine good from the Father in the Son was the beloved. It is therefore said of the servant that the Father had chosen, or taken hold of him; for it was by the Divine truth in the humanity that the Divine love took hold of man, both in the person of the Saviour, and through him of the saved; and therefore, also, is it said of the beloved that the soul of the Father was well pleased in him, because the “soul” is the Divine wisdom, and good pleasure is the Divine love. The soul of Jehovah is the Divine truth, which the Lord was as to his humanity in the world, and in this was the Divine love. The same great truth is expressed in these words of the prophet as in those of the Father, “This is my beloved Son,” or the Son of my love, “in whom I am well pleased.” The Son of the Father’s love is the Divine wisdom from the Divine love, which was and is the Son. The prophet proceeds to say, I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall show judgment to the Gentiles. The Spirit of Jehovah is the Divine proceeding, – which, it is said (John iii. 34), the Father gave without measure to the Son; for the humanity received the Spirit of Jehovah, or all the divine attributes, infinitely, and so became divine. But the Spirit of God is, distinctively, the Divine truth; and in reference to the Lord having this put upon him, it is said that he would bring forth “Judgement to the Gentiles” – meaning that the Lord would impart of his saving truth to all who are in good, or who have in them the good ground of an honest heart; and would thereby effect in them that work of individual saving judgment which consists in separating their good from their evil – gathering their good as wheat into the garner, and dispersing the chaff, which “the wind driveth away.”
19 As a further effect of the Lord’s being the servant and beloved of the Father, and receiving his Spirit, it is declared, He shall not strive nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. This does not mean that the Lord would not teach in the streets; for the unfaithful are represented as to him in the judgment, “Thou hast taught in our streets.” It only means, literally, that he would not teach with noise and vehemence, but with gentleness and meekness. The streets of a city are the truths of doctrine, or, personally considered, the thoughts of the understanding. In these the Lord teaches: they are the avenues to the will, which it is the great purpose of his labours to reach. But while the Lord teaches, he does not strive nor cry, – he does not strive with or force the will, nor does he cry to or overbear the understanding; neither does any one hear his voice in the streets, – he does not act compulsorily on the affections of truth, so as to compel assent.
20 Therefore it proceeds to say, A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench. The reed, as we have seen (xi. 7), is a symbol of truth such as it is in the letter of the Word. A bruised reed is such truth, as apprehended by the Gentiles and by the young and the simple, who see it through the fallacies of the senses, and therefore apprehend it sensuously. Flax is also a symbol of truth, but of a higher order; and the slumbering fire, whose existence is faintly indicated by the smoke, signifies some small degree of love in truth, feebly burning and struggling for existence. That the Lord will not break the bruised reed nor quench the smoking flax, is a promise that in acting on the young and the Gentile mind, he does not break down their simple faith, though not in agreement with the genuine truths of his Word, nor will be extinguish their feeble love, though it be more natural than spiritual. On the contrary, the Lord in his goodness leads his creatures by whatever in their hearts is not opposed to his love, and by whatever in their understandings is not hostile to his truth. Were it not for this stooping to our infirmities, and taking hold of us by our imperfect thoughts and feelings, we never could be brought to know and love God as he is. The Lord thus leads us till he send forth judgment unto victory – that is, until genuine truth can be implanted in the mind, and its power can be exerted so as to overcome our errors and evils.
21 Then in his name shall the Gentiles trust.
The Gentiles trust in the Lord’s name when good, at first natural, is made spiritual by the reception of truth; for truth spiritualizes good by directing it to true objects and guiding it to right ends.
22 Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw.
23 And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David?
22 See Chapter IX., 32—33, A. 6988.
See Chapter IX., 27-31. A. 6990.
See Chapter VIII., 16, 28. R. 458.
See Chapter IX., 27-31. E. 239.
See Chapter VIII., 16, 28. E. 586.
See Chapter IV., 24. E. 1001.
22-32. It is such contumely as that which is meant on the part of the Jews by the Lord’s words to them, when they said that Christ did miracles by other power than Divine. T. 137.
22 Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind and dumb. This double calamity, we ought thankfully to acknowledge, is one of rare occurrence. Two cases only are known to have occurred in recent times, of which that of Laura Bridgman, in America, is the most interesting. In her case we see how much can be done by intelligent Christian philanthropy to mitigate the worst states of physical imperfection, and reach the mind through the densest covering which Providence has permitted to be cast over it. Such rare instances are sufficient to show us how great a blessing we possess in sight and hearing, as the two great avenues to the heart and intellect, and how much we should be disposed to do to aid others in whom they are closed. The one whom our Lord cured had not, however, been blind and dumb from birth; but, like other of the maladies then prevalent, this was the result of demoniacal possession. There is nothing directly stated in the narrative to authorize this conclusion; but in Luke xi. 14, where the same case is recorded, we read that “when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake.” We read of evil spirits taking possession of the organs of the human body, but here we find that they can not only use them for their own ends, but, when it suits their purpose, can entirely suspend their functions. Great as such a calamity as this is, that which it represents is far greater. For that which this singular case represents is nothing less than the suspension of the functions of the understanding and will in everything relating to spiritual life. A mind whose affections and perceptions of the good and truth of heaven are dead, rendered of none effect by the overpowering influence of some demoniacal principle, combining in itself both falsity and evil, is the spiritual state represented by the blind and dumb. The afflicted person does not represent one whose heart and intellect are wilfully closed against the voice of love and the light of truth, but one who is labouring under some strong temptation, or under the pressure of circumstances that lay him open to the seductive power of evil and deceitful spirits, by whom he is held for the time in spiritual thraldom. Jesus healing this afflicted man teaches us again, that he who came to destroy the works of the devil is able to deliver from the power of evil spirits, and, curing the most dreadful and hopeless of spiritual disorders, to restore the powers of the soul to the freest exercise of their functions, insomuch that even the blind and dumb both speak and see.
23 So extraordinary was this miracle felt to be, that the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? Amazement is the effect of beholding some extraordinary and unexplained phenomenon, and may be produced by beholding or contemplating the exhibition of some extraordinary instance of moral excellence, as well as of physical power. Amazement at our Lord’s works must have combined these two – for his goodness was as great as his power. His beneficent works could not fail to produce in the well-disposed of the beholders reverence and admiration as well as amazement. We therefore find that this miracle forced upon the minds of the multitude a conviction of the true character of Jesus, as expressed in the affirmative question, “Is this not the son of David?” This is equivalent to saying that he was the Messiah. But the form in which it was expressed involves a particular meaning. David was a type of the Lord as a king, or as the Divine Truth, conquering and governing – conquering his enemies, the powers of darkness, and governing his church – and, individually considered, overcoming men’s evils and ruling in their hearts. The Lord is called the son of David, the offspring of David, the branch or germ that grows out of the roots of Jesse; and this idea of derivation directs us to the Lord as divine truth in us, which subdues our evils and enmity, and makes us his willing and obedient subjects, – branches that grow out of and live in him as the true vine.
24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.
25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:
26 And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?
27 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges.
28 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.
29 Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.
30 He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.
24-30. Dominion from evil and falsity is altogether different from dominion from good and truth. Dominion from evil and falsity is to make all slaves, dominion from good and truth is to wish to make all free. Dominion from evil and falsity is to destroy all, but dominion from good and truth is to save all. From this it is evident that dominion from evil and falsity is of the devil, but that dominion from good and truth is the Lord’s. That the two kinds of dominion are altogether contrary may be evident from the Lord’s words. A. 1749.
24-26, 28. The reason why it is here said Satan and not the devil, is because by Beelzebub, who was the god of Ekron, is understood the god of all falses, for Beelzebub, being interpreted is the god of flies, and flies signify the falses of the sensual man, thus falses of every kind. E. 740.
25 In this passage by city in the spiritual sense is meant doctrines. R. 194.
By kingdom in the spiritual sense is signified the church, by city and house the truth and good of its doctrine, which do not stand but fall, if they do not unanimously agree. E.223.
25, 30. There is inherent in all evil a hatred of good, and there is inherent in all good a love of protecting itself against evil and of removing it from itself. Hence it follows that one cannot be together with the other, and if they were together, there would arise first conflict and combat, and then destruction, as the Lord teaches. P. 233.
27, 28. By the Spirit of God is meant the Divine. De Dom., Page 11.
26 Heaven and the church are called His kingdom. L. 42.
See Chapter III., 2. R. 553.
See Chapter XII., 28 under L. 42. Statement repeated in R. 664.
See Chapter XI., n. T. 572.
See Chapter III., 2. E. 376.
28-32. The sin against the Holy Spirit is to deny the Divine of the Lord. De Dom.5 Page 10.
27 See Chapter XII., 22-32. T. 137. Verse quoted D. P., Page 47.
24 But if the people or multitude are thus led by his wonderful works to acknowledge and receive him, not so the Pharisees. A negative state is only made more negative by that which brings conviction or confirmation to the willing mind. And even the greatest and most beneficent miracles, which some suppose so powerful to convince, can do nothing to create belief. The Pharisees could not deny the miracle which our Lord performed. They did not even attempt to evade its force, or explain it away; but they showed that what men cannot deny they will pervert. When the Pharisees heard it they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils but by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils. By Beelzebub, who was the god of Ekron, is understood the god of all falses, for the name of this Beelzebub literally means the god flies, and flies signify the falses of the sensual mind – thus all falses. This is further evident from the Lord substituting Satan for Beelzebub, “If Satan cast out Satan” (v. 26), and opposing to this the real power which he cast out demons, the Spirit of God (v. 28,); for Satan means all falsities, and the Spirit of God all truth. And here, indeed, in the conduct of the Pharisees was both exemplified and represented the sum and the essence of all falsehood, not simply the denial of the Lord’s power to work miracles but the ascription of his miracles, and of this as one of the most marvellous and benevolent, to the demoniac power itself. Can so great a wickedness be the symbol of anything in us, or in any who confess the name of Jesus? This crime is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and its nature and possibility will come to be considered under verses 31, 32.
25 And Jesus knew their thoughts. This is one of those instances that bring to view the divinity of the Saviour. “Thou knowest my thoughts afar off,” is one of the characteristics of Deity. From this knowledge of their thoughts the Lord proceeds to show the fallacy of their explanation, and then the wickedness of their charge. He answered their explanation by saying, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand. The argument here is plain and conclusive. It is only surprising that the hatred of the Pharisees should so blind them as to lead them to propose the idea that Satan should overturn his own kingdom. Leaving the literal sense, which carries its own weight with it, both as a refutation of the Pharisees and an instance of the extraordinary wisdom of Jesus, we turn to the spiritual sense, which is more profitable for our spiritual instruction. The kingdom signifies the church, and a city and house signify the truth and good of its doctrine, which do not stand, but fall to pieces, if they are not in unanimous agreement. This is to be understood of the church in its least form in the mind, as well as of the church in its largest form in the world. This, too, must be in harmony within itself, in order that it may stand; but if it be divided against itself it must come to desolation. In this particular sense, the house is a correspondent of the will, the city, of the understanding, and the kingdom of both together in the life. Each must be harmonious in itself and with the others, that there may be stability; but if each and all are divided, there must be dissolution.
26 And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? Although the kingdom of darkness is one of discord, yet it is not divided against itself as a power that is opposed to its own principles, and one that desires and labours to effect their destruction. In the practical application of the Lord’s declaration we see its absolute truth. Falsehood and evil cannot, and if they could they would not, deliver us from their own power and dominion. Truth only can cast out what is false, good only can cast out what is evil. Therefore, in casting out demons the Lord manifested his trite character as the enemy of Satan, and of all hell and evil, and the only Deliverer of the world and of the soul from their dominion.
27 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? This is one of those touching appeals which the Lord in his wisdom and goodness sometimes makes to the heart and conscience of man for the truth of his doctrine and the beneficence of his acts. Therefore they shall be your judges. How can men condemn in another what they justify in their own? But let us see what is the spiritual sense of these words. Whether the sons or disciples of the Pharisees really were able, or only professed to be able, to cast out evil spirits is of no consequence. If they were able to do it, it was as the Egyptian magicians were able to perform wonders imitative of the miracles of Moses, – by means of the truth which they possessed, and perverted to their own ends. But if truth in the hands of a human and even insincere instrument was able to cast out devils, how much more the Truth itself! How much more unreasonable and wicked, therefore, was the imputation of sorcery against him who was the Truth in person! The sons in this case are their judges; for the truths that the evil possess are the witnesses that convict and the judges that condemn them.
28 But how different the case when it is acknowledged that devils are, and can only be, cast out by the Spirit of God – that is, by the power of divine truth proceeding from the Lords divine humanity. This is the truth; for none can really cast out evil spirits, and the evils and falsities in which they reside, but the Spirit of God, that leads into all truth, and makes us free from the slavery of sin. And when this is experienced and acknowledged, then is the kingdom of God come nigh unto us; for the government of the Lord’s truth and love can only be established in the mind when the government of what is evil and false is destroyed.
29 The Lord gives another illustration of the same general truth. Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. Without recurring to the literal meaning, which is sufficiently obvious and striking, we turn at once to the spiritual sense. And as falsity as opposed to truth, and truth as opposed to falsity, is the subject of the verses immediately preceding, evil as opposed to good, and good as opposed to evil is the subject of the present verse, The house here mentioned is the mind, especially the will, the strong man is self-love, and his goods are evils, which are the objects of that love. But how can love to God enter into the will as its habitation, and remove the evils that are there, unless self-love be brought under subjection, bound by those truths which are the laws of order, and thus deprived of the dominion which it has hitherto exercised?
30 When the Lord had delivered these momentous truths, he laid down this principle as a conclusion, – He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. In Mark ix. 40 we have the inverse of this: “He that is not against us is on our part.” He that is not with me in principle is against me, and he that is not against us in principle is on our part. The end determines the state of every one. This end is evil or good, and essentially determines whether we are with the Lord as the essential good and truth. This end has its seat in the will. And such as is the state of the will, such is the state of the understanding And as the will is either with or against the Lord, the understanding either gathereth with him or scattereth abroad. If the will is in good, the understanding gathers truths which are in favour of the Lord, and gives the intellect harmonious and united action with the Divine wisdom; but if the will is not in good, the understanding scatters truths – disperses and dissipates them, leaving that faculty a prey to falsities.
31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.
33 Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.
31 Truth and good is extinguished when the Lord’s Divine is denied, and also when the Word is denied, for this is Divine truth from the Lord, and concerning the Lord. To deny this when it has been before acknowledged and received by faith, and thereby to extinguish it, is the sin against the Holy Spirit, which is not remitted. A. 9264.
31, 32. By these words is described the profanation of truth from the Lord by the unclean spirit. A. 8882.
To say a word against the Son of Man is against truth Divine not yet implanted nor inscribed on the life of man, but to speak against the Holy Spirit is against the Divine truth implanted or inscribed on the life of man, especially against the Divine truth concerning the Lord Himself. To speak against it, or deny it when it has once been acknowledged, is profanation, and profanation is of such a quality that it altogether destroys the interiors of man. Hence it is said that that sin cannot be remitted. A. 9818.
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is blasphemy against the Lord’s Divine, that against the Son of Man is to contradict the Word, by interpreting the sense of it wrongly, for the Son of Man is the Lord, as to the Word. L. 50.
Liberty and rationality cannot be given to those in the Christian world who wholly deny the Lord’s Divinity and the holiness of the Word, and have maintained this denial confirmed within themselves to the end of life, for it is meant by the sin against the Holy Spirit, which is not forgiven in this world, nor in the world to come. P. 98.
By blasphemy is meant to deny the Lord’s Divine, as the Socinians do, and to deny the Word, for they who thus deny the Divine of the Lord cannot enter heaven. The Lord’s Divine is the all in all of heaven, and he who denies the Word, denies all things of religion. R. 571.
Many of the church who in the world believed that the Holy Spirit spoke through them, terrify others by the words in Matthew, that to speak against those things with which the Holy Spirit inspired them is the unpardonable sin. T. 138.
By blasphemy of the Spirit is meant blasphemy against the Divinity of the Lord’s Human, and against the holiness of the Wrord. Since blasphemy of the Spirit is not remitted unto man, and this is meant in the heavenly sense, there is therefore added to the commandment, For Jehovah will not hold him guiltless who taketh His name in vain. T. 299.
By the Holy Spirit is understood the Lord as to Divine truth, such as it is in the heavens, thus the Word such as it is in the spiritual sense, for this is Divine truth in heaven. By the Son of Man is understood Divine truth such as it is in the earths, consequently the Word such as it is in the natural sense, for this is the Divine truth in the earths. Sin and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is to deny the Word, likewise to adulterate the real goods and falsify the real truths thereof, but a word against the Son of Man is to interpret the natural sense of the Word, which is the sense of the letter, according to appearances. The reason why to deny the Word is a sin which cannot be remitted in this life nor in that which is to come, or to eternity, and why he who does it is exposed to eternal judgment is, because they who deny the Wordr deny God, deny the Lord, deny heaven and hell, and deny the church and all things thereof. E. 778.
31-34. By speaking a word against the Holy Spirit is meant to speak well and think evil, and to do well and will evil respecting those things which are of the Lord and of His church, also respecting those which are of the Word, for thus falsity lies concealed inwardly in the truth which they speak, and evil, which is hidden poison,, in the goods which they do, wherefore they are called the offspring of vipers. A. 9013.
32 A sixth kind of profanation is committed by those who acknowledge the Word and still deny the Divinity of the Lord. P. 231,
33 See Chapter III., 10. A. 794.
See Chapter III., 8, 9. A. 1017.
See Chapter III., 8, 9. A. 2371.
See Chapter III., 8, 9. A. 7690,
See Chapter VII., 17-20. A. 9258.
See Chapter III., 8. Life 104.
See Chapter III., 10. R. 400.
See Chapter III., 10. R. 934.
See Chapter III., 10. T. 468.
See Chapter III., 8. T. 483.
See Chapter III., 10. E. 109.
31, 32. The Lord comes now, after refuting the Pharisees’ explanation, to set forth the spiritual character of their accusation. Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. The sin against the Holy Spirit, especially as distinguished from a word against the Son of man, with the unpardonable nature of the one and the pardonable nature of the other, has been felt to present some difficulties. The sin of the Pharisees was directed against the Lord himself, and yet it is treated as a sin against the Holy Spirit. It is trite that their charge against him – that he performed his miracles by Beelzebub involved the denial that he did them by the Spirit of God, but in this charge Jesus himself was implicated. The truth is, that the accusation which the Pharisees brought against the Lord involves both these sins, since Jesus was and is at once the Holy Spirit and the Son of man. The subject can only be understood by a knowledge of the distinction between the Spirit and the Son of man, not as divine persons, but as divine principles. In relation to the Lord himself, the Holy Spirit is his Divine spiritual principle, and the Son of man is his Divine natural principle. But this distinction may be best seen by considering the subject in relation to the Word; for whatever relates to the Lord relates to his Word also. Thus considered, the Holy Spirit is the spiritual sense of the Word, and the Son of man is its literal sense. To violate the sanctity and pervert the meaning of the Word in its spiritual sense is to be guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit; but wrongly to interpret the literal sense is to speak a word against the Son of man. The former sin cannot be forgiven, but the latter may. The reason is this, – The spiritual sense of the Word consists of naked and genuine truths, or of divine truths as they are seen in the light of heaven; but the literal sense consists of truths clothed with appearances – truths is as seen in the light of the world. The obscure and apparent truths of the literal sense of the Word may be misunderstood, and may therefore be misinterpreted without a sinful intention, and without producing errors of doctrine destructive of spiritual life. The numerous sects among Christians are a standing evidence of how various interpretations may be given of the letter of the Word, and the history of the church is no less prolific in examples. In many of the systems of Christian doctrine there is a word, in some of them a cruel word, against the Son of man. Yet this can be forgiven; for in every doctrine and sect men may be saved – because in every one the heart may be sincere, though the understanding may be in error. The case is different with those who receive and acknowledge the spiritual sense. The truths of this sense being real and not apparent, naked and not clothed, they cannot be misunderstood, and therefore cannot be misinterpreted. He therefore, who would evade their meaning or their force has no alternative but to deny or pervert them. This was the sin of which the Pharisees were guilty. The work which the Lord performed by the Spirit of God was so plainly supernatural, if not divine, that they could not deny it to be miraculous; but in order to evade its force, they impiously ascribed it to diabolical powers, and thus perverted the truth, even to a denial of the Lord, to believe in whom is life eternal. The Lord provides, as far as can be done consistently with man’s free-will, against this greatest of all sins; and that men may not presumptuously enter into the spiritual sense, and profane its pure and holy truths, he has covered it with a veil of apparent truths, as a protection and guard. This special providence is the cherubim that stand at the late of Paradise; and the flaming sword that turns every way to guard the way to the tree of life, is the Word in its literal sense. This serves as a protection to the internal sense, because it is capable of being variously interpreted without being destroyed; and is thus a means in the hand of the Lord for guarding the way to the living truth of its spiritual sense, lest the hand of the profane should be put forth to take of the fruit of the tree of life, to eat of which would bring upon the evil a never-ending living death. It has been a question whether the unpardonable nature of this sin is to be understood as implying that one who commits it is placed beyond the reach of possible forgiveness. The language of the Lord is certainly peculiar, – Neither in this world, neither in the world to come. Yet there is nothing inconsistent in it. It is literally true in the contrasted cases; for a wrong interpretation of the letter, if not corrected in this life, can be corrected in the next; but not so a violation of the spirit of the Word. In the spiritual sense, by “this world” is understood the natural mind, and by the next world, the spiritual mind. This sense teaches us that “a word against the Son of man” may be confined to the natural mind, but that the sin against the Holy Ghost extends to both the spiritual and natural. That which is only of the natural mind can be removed in the other world, but that which is engraven on both the natural and the spiritual parts of the mind cannot, but remains to eternity. It is possible, however, that the greater sin may be repented of in the present world, and therefore forgiven.
33 One kind or degree of profanation is hypocrisy, which consists in speaking and acting well and thinking and willing ill. This was one of the sins of which the Pharisees were guilty. It is in reference to this that our Lord said, Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt for the tree is known by his fruit. The tree itself is the man and the fruit is his works. Our Lord teaches in these words that it is less sinful to be openly evil than hypocritically good. It is not to be inferred from this that the evil should be allowed freely to practise wickedness. The Lord’s words only mean that, spiritually, an evil heart is hardened in evil by the outward pretence of holiness. In the other world the universal law is, that the tree and the fruit must be alike, both good or both evil: the external and the internal make one; the mind can no longer be divided. In the more precise spiritual sense the tree is the will, the leaves are the understanding, and the fruit is the outward life. As we are not to judge of a tree by its leaves, but by its fruit, so we are not to judge a man by his faith, but by his works. In this world, indeed, even works may deceive; but it is enough for us that we judge so far as we can see. No doubt, on the large scale, principles are known by their results, though individually we may not always be able to discover the trite character of a man by his actions. This, however, is a truth by which we are to judge ourselves more than others, and by which we shall all be judged in the other life.
34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
34 The character of that nation (posterity of Jacob) the Lord openly declares in Matthew xxiii. 13-39 and John viii. 33-44. Because they were such, they are also called an’evil and adulterous generation, and the offspring of vipers. A. 4314.
See Chapter III., 7, add : Hence they are called a depraved and adulterous generation, also an offspring of vipers. A. 9320.
34, 35. See Chapter VI., 24. Life 28.
Who does not know that a lamb can only act as a lamb, and a sheep as a sheep? On the other hand that a wolf can only act as a wolf, and a tiger as a tiger? That a good tree cannot yield evil fruit, that a vine cannot prick like a thorn, a lily cause burning like a brier, or a hyacinth repel with its sting like a thistle? or the reverse. Those evil plants are therefore uprooted from vineyards and gardens, and being gathered into heaps are cast into the fire. So it is done with the wicked flocking into the spiritual world, according to the Lord’s words. T. 653.
35 By the heart in the Word is meant a man’s will. Life 51.
By the rich and by riches are here meant those who possessed the knowledges of truth and good, because they had the Word, who were the Jews. R. 206.
34. Our Lord now addresses the Pharisees in their trite characters. O generation of vipers. The cunning and malignant, who deceive by fair appearances, are spiritual serpents and vipers. The serpent is an emblem of the sensual part of man’s nature; and in this have originated all the fallacies that have ever presented evil under the guise of good, or error under the name of truth, since man was first persuaded by it to eat of the tree of knowledge, that he might be as God, knowing good and evil. To ascribe the Lord’s beneficent works to the prince of the devils, was truly to put evil for good and darkness for light. Error may be unintentional, but falsehood has its root in cherished evil. How can ye, being evil, speak good things? In the sight of God nothing that evil men speak or that they do can be good – an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit. The word and the work are essentially such as the will and intention are. Truth that is spoken to deceive is falsehood; good that is done from dissimulation is wickedness. This was not, however, the case in the present instance with the Pharisees: they spake the, falsehood which their hearts prompted and their thoughts conceived. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh, was trite of them. And it is true of all, though not always discerned by all, nor fully, except by Him who discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart.
35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. The heart is the treasury whence issue the good or evil that the lips utter or the hands perform; and as our words and works are effects from the good or evil intentions of the will, and of the trite or false thoughts of the understanding, so do they contain them. Our words and works are reproductive of the good or evil that produces them; they, like fruit, have the seed within themselves that produce trees of the same quality as that by which they were produced. The tree which exists from a seed, exists again in the seed that it produces. In the small seed treasured up in the heart of the fruit the whole tree is comprehended; its whole history is written its whole experience is expressed. So in our words and works our whole being is embodied But to read our entire life and character in what we say and do, is the prerogative of Him only who is to judge every man according to his works. Men and angels may see something of one’s true character in his works, but these are only gleams of light from Him who is the light itself.
36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
36 When spirits are in this second state after death, they appear just such as they had been in themselves in the world, and what they had done and spoken in concealment is made manifest. They are also then brought into many states of their evils, that their nature may appear to angels and good spirits. H. 507.
36, 41, 42. See Chapter XL, 22, 24. A. 9857.
37 To justify also signifies to declare guiltless and to absolve. A. 9264.
36. The Lord therefore proceeds to say, But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. These words are spoken with immediate reference to the sin of which the Pharisees had been guilty. They are designed to teach us how carefully we should guard the door of our lips. Not only blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and a word against the Son of man, but every idle word that men speak shall be brought into judgment. We are not to include in these idle words everything we say that is not solemn or important. Words may be trivial and yet innocent. We are to make a distinction, too, between the lighter conversation that serves as an intellectual recreation, and the idle talk that forms the business and delight of life. One of the most pernicious and sinful kinds of idle words is that of using the language of Holy Scripture to garnish idle talk. When seriously and judiciously introduced, the language of Scripture serves both to adorn and invigorate human composition; but nothing is so indicative of bad taste and the absence of true religious sentiment, and, above all, of the want of reverence for the most sacred things, as to drag in the language of Scripture to give a quaint or ludicrous turn of expression. One great evil arising out of this is, that sacred language becomes so connected with profane ideas, that their Separation is a matter of difficulty even in the other life.
37 The Lord continues; For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. That is but a part of the doctrine that we shall be judged according to our works. Words are acts, and come forth from the will as much as deeds. Whatever any one wills from the love principle, he wills to do, to think, to understand, and to speak. Words are verbal acts, and they reflect the character as faithfully and completely as the deeds which the hand performs. Every word we utter, as well as every act we do, is inscribed on the memory as distinctly and much more indelibly than if written in a book, and will be read aloud on the day of our judgement, as if it came from the hands instead of the lips. How much good and how much evil, how much sweetness and how much bitterness, flow from the tongue! How much may the tongue do to enlighten and comfort, to promote harmony and peace; and how much may it do to darken counsel and disturb peace, to create discord and contention! In the words which our Lord addressed to the Pharisees there is something deserving of our particular attention. In nothing is Christianity more distinguished from Judaism than in considering words and actions as deriving their character from the motive which gives them birth – the end they are intended to serve. The motive is not measured by the act, but the act by the motive. Yet motive is not the only thing taken into account. The will, as the motive power of the mind, does not of itself determine the character of an action. The understanding, as the directing power, has its share in every act performed. It is to include both these faculties, which are united in everything we say or do, that both words and works are spoken of as certain to be brought into judgment. Good and evil are not of the will alone, nor are truth and falsity of the understanding alone, although we ascribe them distinctively to these faculties. Good and evil are produced by the will acting through the understanding, and truth and falsity are produced by the understanding acting from the will. Both faculties are concerned in producing every word we speak and every action we do, and both are included in every word and action when produced. Whether, therefore, we are judged by our words or works, or by both, we are judged as to our whole mind and life.
38 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.
39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
42 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
38-40. Testifications that a thing is true are signified by signs. R. 598.
By a sign is here understood testification, that they might believe and might be persuaded that the Lord was the Messiah, and the Son of God who was to come. This is evident, for the miracles which the Lord performed in great abundance were no signs to them, because miracles are signs only to the good. The reason why Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, and that this was taken for a sign was, because it signified the burial and resurrection of the Lord, thus the plenary glorification of His Human. E. 706,
39 See Chapter XII., 34. A. 4314.
See Chapter XII., 34. A. 9320.
The Word is not understood without doctrine. S. 51.
In the spiritual sense to commit adultery means to adulterate the good of the Word and falsify its truth. On account of this signification, also, the Jewish nation was called by the Lord an adulterous nation. Life 79.
To adulterate the goods and to falsify the truths of the Word are signified by committing whoredom. Since the Jewish church was of such a character, the Jewish nation was therefore called by the Lord an adulterous generation. R. 134.
They are said (the diabolical kingdom, which is the love of ruling from the love of self) to be an adulterous generation. R. 350.
Since the Jewish nation had falsified the Word, it was therefore called by the Lord an adulterous generation. T. 314.
By whoredoms and adulteries where they are mentioned in the Word are meant the falsifications of truth, and the adulterations of good. E. 433.
39, 40. By Jonah being in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, was represented that the Lord would so be in the heart of the earth. E. 538.
40 That Jonah was three days and three nights in the bowels of the fish, manifestly represented the burial and resurrection of the Lord on the third day. A. 901.
It is to be known that in the internal sense of the Word, three days and the third day signify the same. Day in the Word signifies state. The third day stands for the Lord’s coming and resurrection. A. 2788.
The third day means continuous even to the end. 4495.
The number three signified what is complete even to the end. E. 532.
38, 39. As if to show how little impression these solemn words had made upon them, Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. They had seen the Lord perform a great miracle, yet they ask him to give them a sign. There would be no real meaning in this demand, nor in the Lord’s answer to it, if there was no difference between a sign and a miracle. By a miracle is meant that which excites, strikes, and occasions amazement; but by a sign is meant that which declares, testifies and persuades concerning what is inquired after. Thus, a sign moves the understanding and its faith, and a miracle moves the will and its affections; for the will and its affection are excited, struck, and amazed, and the understanding and its faith are persuaded, and to them declaration and testification are applied. The Lord’s miracles were works of benevolence; and their spiritual purpose, with regard to those who beheld them, was to affect their hearts with a sense of the Divine goodness, and incline them to listen to the teaching of his truth. A sign, on the other hand, is a work of power, having nothing in its character to affect the hearts of the spectators, but is a direct appeal to their understandings, so as to produce conviction. The Lord refused to give a sign, because it is no part of his providential economy to compel men to believe, or even persuade them to believe with the understanding only. This it would be easy for Omnipotence to do: if it pleased the Lord, he could exhibit every truth so clearly before men’s minds that unbelief would be impossible. Their intellects could be raised into such clear light as would enable them to see the truth. This would be giving them a sign. But what would it avail? It would not produce true or lasting faith, but it would render unbelief or error more inexcusable, and only increase their condemnation. True faith is not produced by signs, but by reasons – the truth being rationally apprehended and spiritually discerned. Nor does saving faith come from without, but from within, nor by truth alone, but by truth and love united. Truth must, indeed enter the understanding from without, but unless love comes into the will from within, there can be no true faith. The Scriptures give the knowledge of the truth, and without revelation there would be nothing to believe, no means of belief in God and in spiritual and eternal things; but faith itself comes from the Spirit of the Lord acting upon the heart, and inspiring it with the love of the truth which has been acquired from the Word. If the Holy Scriptures themselves cannot give faith, how much less any outward sign that neither informs the understanding nor improves the heart! An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign. This is the case individually as well as generally. It is only those in whose minds unbelief has been generated by evil and impure affections that seek faith through other means than the Word and the Spirit of the Lord, Such a demand is, in fact, nothing else than asking God to convince us of the truth by suspending the functions of that very faculty which he has given to enable us to understand it.
40 The demand which the unbelieving make for a sign cannot even for their own sake be granted. But there is one sign, and one only, which the Lord grants. There shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. That which completed and for ever scaled the Lord’s great work of redemption is the historical evidence of the truth of the gospel; and those who refuse to receive this are not in a state to accept any other sign, even if it were given them from heaven. Yet this is a sign which natural men are unwilling to receive. But the Lord’s death and resurrection were themselves but the outward sign of in inward glorious work. The Lord’s resurrection was the effect and the sign of his glorification. The Lord’s glorification is eminently the sign of the prophet Jonas. The three days and nights during which the Lord was in the tomb represented, because they completed, the glorification of his humanity. The glorification of the Lord’s human nature is in the highest sense the sign which is given to all men, in all ages, in testimony of the truth. Through that divine work the means and the power of faith were provided; and the Lord in his humanity, as he is the only true Object, so is he the only Author of saving faith. But this pre-eminent sign produces another, which is its reflected image. This other sign is regeneration. The prophet Jonas was therefore, the sign, not only of the Lord’s glorification, but of man’s regeneration, which is its effect and image. The new birth is to us and all men the practical sign, the inward and living witness, of the truth. If we would believe the truth, we must both receive and live it. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God.” The evil heart of unbelief must be removed before any sign can avail to produce faith, for faith is of the heart as well as of the understanding. The sign of the prophet Jonas is, therefore, the only sign that can be given unto men; but it is one that cannot fail to produce conviction of the truth, if they only admit it as the foundation and evidence of their faith.
41, 42. The Lord now contrasts the men of that generation with some of earlier times, who, without their advantages, manifested religions qualities of which they were destitute. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with, this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth, to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. In this and some other instances the Lord cites the case of Gentiles, to show that they were more ready to receive the truth than the Jews, who possessed the Word, and had even the presence and teaching of Him who was the Word itself. The singular circumstance of a Jewish prophet being sent to preach to a heathen nation, and the Ninevites repenting at his preaching, typified the calling of the Gentiles at the time of the Lord’s advent, and the successful preaching of the gospel after his resurrection, the Christian apostles having at first shown no less reluctance than the Jewish prophet to carry the great tidings to the heathen The Queen of Sheba, here called the, queen of the south, coming to Solomon at Jerusalem, with exceeding great riches, with camels carrying spices, gold, and precious stones, like the wise men who came from the east to present their gifts to the infant Saviour, represented the wiser Gentiles coming to the Lord to offer him the precious gifts of their best affections, and to receive from him in return the riches of his wisdom. The Queen of Sheba also represented the celestial affection by which the Lord acquired all wisdom and intelligence meant by the queen’s precious gifts, the camels denoting the knowledges of the natural man by which they were introduced. Wherefore, when he whom they represented is come, truly may we say, Here is one greater than Jonah, Solomon, and the temple itself. Yet the change from the representation to the actual in ourselves is not effected without opposition and conflict. Considered in reference to ourselves, the Ninevites and the queen of the south, Jonah and Solomon, are representative of different affections and principles, as they exist in our own minds in early life, before the commencement of regeneration. As actual regeneration commences with the Lords birth in the soul, corresponding to his birth into the world, the religious element which exists in the mind before this, is rather representative of the kingdom of heaven than the kingdom itself. Like the persons and events of the Old Testament, they are the shadow of good things to come, whose substance Christ is, when he makes his advent into the little world of the human mind. The old man with his affections and lusts, of which the Pharisee and the Sadducee, and the priest and the scribe, are the fit representatives, offer a determined resistance to the new man, with his heavenly affections through whom the Lord shows his power by casting out demons and healing all manner of sickness and disease, and his wisdom by teaching and reproving. What, then, is specifically to be understood by the men of Nineveh and the queen of the south rising up in the judgment against this generation and condemning it? The judgment in which they rise up with the men of this generation is the judgment which takes place in the mind of every one who becomes regenerate, by which a separation is effected in his mind between good and evil. In the process of this judgment all states return, and the early states of life rise up in judgment against the later, and condemn them. Our contrition for the errors we committed in our youth, when, like so many among the Ninevites, we could not distinguish between our right hand and our left, rises up and condemns our impenitence for the evils we have committed since we had the guiding power of a clearer light; and the simple affections of childhood, innocent though natural, rise up, as experience often testifies, and condemn the loves of our after-life. And what are the grounds of this condemnation?
The men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonas, but those of a later age could not be moved to penitence by the preaching of Jesus. And so it is still. Not only were the sins of our youth more venial than those of our manhood, but, when reproved by the Word, our repentance was more ready and earnest. The queen of the South came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, but the men of a later age turned away from the wisdom of Jesus. And so it is still. The affections of our childhood drew us to the Word, and made us listen with delight to its lessons of wisdom, as conveyed in its charming narratives and simple precepts; and even when, like the Queen of Sheba, we tried it with hard questions, we received from the lips of parents solutions, of all our difficulties, while its higher wisdom is neglected or contemned by its in our riper years. When those rudimentary states of penitence and affection are made to “rise up” in the judgment with the impenitence and deadness of our after-life, they cannot but condemn them; and it is for condemnation that they are brought into the judgment against them, that they may bring to light, in order that we may condemn, our errors and evils, and so lead us to a true and loving acknowledgment of the Lord as the supreme good and truth, of whom all inferior goods and truths are the types and foregleams.
43 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.
44 Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished.
45 Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.
43-45. Sweeping the house, in the opposite sense, is also said of the man who deprives himself of all goods and truths, and thus is filled with evils and falsities. A. 3142.
The unclean spirit stands for uncleanness of life in man, and also for the unclean spirits within him, for unclean spirits dwell in the uncleanness of man’s life. Dry places, or where there is no water, signify where there are no truths, the empty house the interiors of man again filled with uncleanness, that is with falsities from evil. ” A. 4744.
After man has explored himself and acknowledged his sins and done the work of repentance he must remain constant in good even to the end of his life. But if he afterwards relapses into the former life of evil and embraces it, he is then guilty of profanation, for he then conjoins evil to good, and thus his latter state becomes worse than his former, according to the Lord’s words.
They who are healed and return again to falsities and evils are guilty of profanation. A. 9048.
Seven signifies all things, even to the full. A. 9228.
See Chapter XII., 43-45, under A. 8394 repeated in N. 169.
Verses quoted. N. 172.
By spirit is here understood infernal life, also the infernal spirits themselves, by whom men have been troubled. L. 48.
He who after worship returns to his evils, profanes the goods and truths of worship, and the lot after death of those who commit profanation, is the worst of alL These are they who are meant by the Lord’s words, that their last state becomes worse than the first. P. 133.
Man’s conversion is here described by the unclean spirits going out of him. His turning again to-former evils, goods and truths being cast out, is described by the return of the unclean spirit with seven others worse than himself, into the house furnished for him. The profanation of what is holy by a profane person, is described by later things with that man becoming worse than the first. P. 231.
This passage describes the conversion of a man by the departure of the unclean spirit from him, and his return to evils and consequent profanation is meant by the unclean spirit returning with seven spirits worse than himself. E. 1160.
44 In the Word the man is called empty in whom there are nothing but falsities and evils. R. 160.
45 All indeed, as far as they permit it, begin to be reformed by instruction in the truths and goods of spiritual life, but as soon as they reach the age of early manhood they suffer themselves to be led away by the world, and thus they go over to the side of the infernal spirits, by whom they are gradually so estranged from heaven that they scarcely believe any longer that there is a heaven. Thus they cannot be led into any spiritual temptation, for if they were they would at once yield, and then their latter state would be worse than the first. A. 5280.
Profanation is here described, and by the seven spirits with which he is to return is signified all the falsity of evil, and thus a total extinction of good and truth. R. 10.
The Lord here speaks concerning profanation, and by the seven other spirits with which the unclean spirit is said to return are signified all the falsities of evil, thus a plenary destruction of good and truth. E. 257.
See Chapter XII., 43-45. E. 1160.
43 The Pharisees, we have seen (v. 38), demanded a sign, and the Lord declared that no sign should be given them. He now returns to the subject, and describes what the state of an impenitent man would be, supposing he were brought by a sign to a conviction of the truth. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. By the power of a sign, the spirit of unbelief would indeed be driven out for a time, but it would eventually return with seven-fold greater force than before. The spirit is here to be identified with the man, for a man’s hearts belief or unbelief is himself, and in going out of this, unless from a sincere conviction, he goes out of himself. The spirit wandering in “dry places, seeking rest, and finding none,” aptly describes the mental condition of one in whom the singular contradiction exists of having obtained faith without having received the truth – truth being meant by water, of which there is none. The outcast spirit seeks rest, but finds none, in the waste places of the soul. The mind can find no rest in a faith which is forced upon it from without. The knowledge and the evidences of truth come from without; but faith, as a living principle, comes from within, and is produced by the Spirit of the Lord operating upon the heart. Faith which is impressed upon the understanding, without changing the heart, passes away with the force which produced it, and leaves the mind more hardened in its infidelity.
44, 45. As the effect of the sign begins to pass away, as it must do, or life would cease, the spirit begins to say, I will return into my house from whence I came out. And what a picture does the house present of the faculty on which the sign had taken effect! The spirit finds it empty, swept, and garnished – empty of everything true, swept of everything good, and garnished or disposed, brought into conformity of state with evil and falsity, which the absence of everything good and true implies. The spirit is represented as first returning to the house alone, and then, when he found it empty, going and taking with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself and they enter in and dwell there. By the former spirit returning, is signified the return of the original spirit of unbelief; but his going out and returning with seven others, indicates that circle of life which every principle makes before it is confirmed. It is like the blood that flows from the heart and returns to the heart again, and may return either pure or defiled. The mind thus empty becomes the prey of greater infidelity and wickedness than before; for the seven other spirits more wicked than the former one signify a complete and confirmed state of unbelief and profanation. And this greatest of all sins makes the last state worse indeed than the first. Our Lord concludes with the terrible declaration, – Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation. The generation to which these descriptions apply is the whole congregated mass of evil and falsity, which not only deny the Lord’s love and wisdom in the salvation of man, but pervert them to the destruction of spiritual life and to the everlasting misery of the soul.
46 While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.
47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.
48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?
49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
46-49. He (the Lord) entirely put off the nature from the mother, so that He was no longer her son. And when He put off this human, He put on the Divine Human, from which He called Himself the Son of Man. A. 2159.
The Lord cast off by degrees the human which was from the mother, till at length He was no longer her son. That He did not acknowledge her as His mother is manifest. A. 2574.
He (the Lord) once declined to acknowledge her (the mother). L. 35.
Thus the Lord did not call her mother but woman, and gave her to John as a mother. In other places she is called His mother, but not by His own mouth. T. 102.
He (the Lord) was not the son of David in the same sense as He was not the son of Mary, whom therefore He did not call His mother, but woman. E. 205.
47-49. Now follows the separation of the first human which the Lord had from the mother, and at length the full removal of it; it is to be known that the Lord gradually and continually, even to the last of His life when He was glorified, separated from Himself and put off that which was merely human, namely that which He derived from the mother, until at length He was no longer her son, but the Son of God, not only as to conception, but as to birth, and thus was one with the Father, and was Jehovah Himself. A. 2649.
47-50. By brother in the Word is signified the good of love. E. 46.
48, 49. The internal and the external of the church are brothers. The Lord Himself so calls those who are in truths and in good therefrom. A. 5409.
The Lord did not acknowledge Mary as a mother, but the church, therefore He calls her woman, and the disciple’s mother. M. 119.
The church is meant by mother in the spiritual sense, because as a mother on earth feeds her children with natural food, so the church feeds them with spiritual food, for this reason the church is called mother in the Word, throughout. T. 306.
49 By father and mother in the internal sense are understood good and truth, and in the supreme sense the Lord as to Divine good and Divine truth — as the Lord Himself teaches in Matthew. A. 3703.
As spiritual brotherhood is from love, namely, that one may be another’s, and they who are in good are in the Lord, and the Lord in them, therefore they are called brethren by the Lord. A. 6756.
The Lord also calls those brethren who are in the good of charity, or in good of life. R. 32.
The Lord also calls those who are of His church brethren and sisters. M. 120.
See Chapter V., 16. E. 254.
49, 50. By the disciples over whom the Lord stretched out His hands, are signified all who are of His church, and by His brethren those who are in the good of charity from Him, by sisters those who are in truth from that good, and by mother is signified the church from them. E. 746.
46-49. As if to relieve this dark picture by shedding upon it a ray of divine light, we read that: While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Yet here too, there is a claim put in – not, it is true, by the evil and the false, represented by the Pharisees, but by the naturally good and true, represented by the mother and brethren of the Lord. Therefore, when one told him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee, the Lord did not comply with their desire, but continued his discourse to the multitude, and changing the natural into a spiritual idea, showed who were truly his mother and who were his brethren. It is well known that the Lord never addressed Mary by the name of mother. The name “woman,” by which he addressed her at the marriage in Cana, was expressive of respect. The Lord’s avoiding the use of “mother” in relation to Mary had a deep spiritual ground. Jesus was indeed the son of Mary according to the flesh, but he was the Son of God according to the Spirit. The humanity he derived from his human mother was but a natural and temporary covering to the humanity he derived from his Divine Father; and it was eventually put off, and so entirely, that not the least vestige of it remained; so that when his glorification was completed, at the time of his resurrection, the Lord, as to his humanity, was purely the Son of God – born, as he had been begotten, of the Essential Divinity. Even at the time when he addressed Mary, as we first read of it in the gospel the Lord’s consciousness was so far in the paternal humanity, and he so far spake immediately from it, that to have called Mary his mother would have been to express an idea and a feeling that did not at the time exist. But whatever the Lord spake was not to express natural and temporary, but spiritual and eternal truth. One great purpose the Lord had in never calling Mary by the name of mother was to teach the church, in all ages, that the Lord’s humanity is purely divine, and no longer the son of Mary. Another purpose was to teach the important spiritual lesson which he delivered to the multitude on this occasion, when he said, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! There is no real relationship between the Lord and men but a spiritual relationship. He has no saving relationship with men according to the flesh. That which is born of the flesh is flesh. To come into saving relationship with him, men must be born of the Spirit, for that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. And in this new birth Jesus is not our God only, but our Father. Whatever other degrees of relationship may exist between the Lord and mankind, they are all derived from this, and comprehended in it. On our part, sonship lies at the foundation of brotherhood, and of every other degree of relationship with Him who is all in all to us. The disciples to whom the Lord stretched forth his hand are all the true members of the church. His brethren are those who are in the good of charity from him; his sisters are those who are in truths derived from that good; and mother signifies the church derived and formed from those principles.
50 The question the Lord asked of the one who told and the many who heard him he still asks of us, “Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?” And it behooves us to prepare ourselves to learn from him the true answer. And the answer is, – Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. To do his Father’s will is to keep his commandments from love – from his own love in us. His Father’s will is his own divine love. This closing declaration of the Lord’s discourse is an answer to all demands made of him, as recorded in this chapter. Those who do the Lord’s will require no sign, for it will enable them to know the truth; and they who do the Lord’s will, will be recognized by him as his true relations, and will not only be permitted to speak with him, but to dwell with him in the mansions of heaven – the home which he has prepared for his family, consisting of the faithful, the loving, and the obedient. There will the blessed truth which these words contain be truly and fully realized. In heaven, where all is spiritual, natural relationship is not even known. Those who were related to each other on earth may indeed dwell together in heaven; but it must be on the basis of spiritual, not of natural affinity. In heaven there is but one Father, and all existing degrees of nearness to each other in him.
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