<< MATTHEW XIX: Spiritual Meaning >>
Two most momentous questions are settled in the present chapter one on the nature of marriage, the other on the conditions of salvation. To hear the truth on these subjects from the lips of Him who created man, and who came to redeem him, and thus to restore marriage to its primeval purity, and man to his original order and happiness, is a privilege we should greatly prize.
1 And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan;
2 And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there.
3 The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?
3-9. These and several other things relating to the internal degree and the spiritual man the Lord taught, because he alone opens the internals of human minds, and makes them spiritual, and implants these spiritual things in the natural, that these also may partake of the spiritual essence. This effect takes place if He is approached, and the life is formed according to His commandments. M. 340.
3-10. Since the covenant of marriage is for life, it follows that the appearances of love and friendship between married partners are necessary. That matrimony when contracted must continue till the decease of one of the parties is grounded in the Divine law, consequently also in rational law, and thence in civil law. In the Divine law, because it is not lawful to put away a wife and marry another except for whoredom. In rational law, because it is founded upon spiritual, for Divine law and rational are one law. From both these together, or by the latter from the former, it may be abundantly seen what enormities and destructions of societies would result from the dissolving of marriage, or the putting away of wives, at the good pleasure of the husbands, before death. M. 276.
3-11. That there exists a love truly conjugial, that this love can only exist between two, nor between two except from the Lord alone, and that into this love is inserted heaven with all its felicities. It is well known that the institution of monogamical marriage, is founded on the Word of the Lord. M. 332.
That a Christian who marries several wives commits natural adultery, is according to the Lord’s words, thus still more does he commit adultery, who does not put away his wife, but while retaining her, connects himself with another. M. 339.
3-12. Genuine marriage love cannot be given except between two consorts, that is in the marriage of one man with one wife, and by no means more than one at the same time, for the reason that marriage love is mutual .and reciprocal, and is the life of the one in the other, each in turn, so that they are as it were one. Such a union is given between two, but not more, more tear that love asunder. A. 2740.
That there are interior arcana contained in these words may appear from the Lord’s saying, that all cannot receive them, but they to whom it is given. The interior .arcanum can be but little apprehended by men, but it is apprehended by all the angels of heaven, because they perceive the words of the Lord spiritually. The arcana therein contained are spiritual, namely these that there are marriages in the heavens equally as on earth, but in the heavens marriages are oflike with their like, for man is born to act from understanding, but woman from affection. The understanding with men is the understanding of truth and good, and the affection with woman is the affection of truth and good, and whereas all understanding derives life from affection, therefore they are conjoined, as the affection which is of the will is conjoined with a correspondent thought which is of the understanding. E. 710.
The men of the Most Ancient Church who were celestial and also in perception of the union of good and truth like the angels, had only one wife. De Conj., Page 27.
1 And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judea beyond Jordan. This describes a progression of the Lord’s love or goodness in man from the external, which is Galilee, to the internal, which is Judea, through the knowledges of good and truth, which is Jordan. Yet it was only to the coasts of Judea that the Lord came, implying an elevation of the Lord’s love, not into the internal itself, but to its externals or borders.
2 Here the Lord, as was his wont, engaged in works of benevolence. Great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there. Those affections and thoughts in us that follow the Lord with a desire to be freed from their hereditary and acquired infirmities, and to be elevated by him, and into conjunction with him, are restored to soundness, and brought into heavenly order, so as to fit them for useful and happy activity.
3 But where good is present, there evil shows itself. The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? When the good affections and thoughts are attracted to the Lord for instruction and teaching, the evil are excited into opposition, seeking too often to overturn the authority of divine truth by insidious reasonings. Like Satan among the sons of God, the Pharisees, or some other enemies of the truth, are sure to appear where the good and faithful assemble. But these attempts are turned by the Lord to advantage, and are made to end in the clearer perception and fuller confirmation of the truth. And such is the result of all the doubtings and reasonings of our rebellious selfhood, if we are faithful to the Lord and to our own best interests. The questions here raised by the Pharisees, and answered by the Lord, are of great importance as general principles, and deserve our most serious attention. The question about the law of divorce has already been considered in ch. v. 31, where the Lord himself introduces the subject. It is only necessary here to notice the opinion and practice in the Jewish church which gave rise to the present question. As Moses assigned no precise cause of divorce, it came to be a question among the Jews of a later period what were the legitimate causes of divorce, or whether a man might not put away his wife for any cause whatever, The difference of opinion on this question came to be represented by two distinct schools of divinity among the Jews, one of which restricted the causes of divorce to what was scandalous and dishonourable, while the other held the husband’s displeasure to be a sufficient reason. When the Pharisees came to the Lord it was to hear which of these opinions he maintained.
4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
4-6. To join or to cleave to is an expression of love, received into use by the churches in ancient times. It is nothing else in the internal sense, than spiritual conjunction, which is charity and love. A. 3875.
Love truly conjugial is the union of two as to the interiors, which are of the thought and of the will, thus which are of truth and of good, for truth is of the thought and good is of the will. For he who is principled in love truly conjugial, loves what another thinks and what another wills, thus also he loves to think like another, consequently to be united to another, and to become as one man. This is what is meant by the Lord’s words in Matthew. A. 10169.
We have clearly seen that love truly conjugial exists only between one male and one female, and that from creation it is celestial and inmost, the soul and father of all good loves, being inspired into the first parents, and capable of being inspired into Christians. It is also of such a conjunctive nature that by it two minds may become one mind, and two men homines as it were one man homo, which is meant by becoming one flesh. That this love was inspired at creation is plain from these words (Genesis ii. 24). That it can be inspired into Christians is evident from Matthew. M. 112.
That at creation there was implanted in the man and the woman an inclination and also a faculty of conjunction as into one, and that this inclination and faculty are still in man and woman is evident from the book of creation and also from the Lord’s words. M. 156B.
The father and the mother who man is to leave, in a spiritual sense, mean the selfhood of will and the selfhood of understanding. The self hood of a man’s will is to love himself, and the selfhood of his understanding is to love his own wisdom. To cleave to his wife signifies to devote himself to the love of his wife. Those two selfhoods are deadly evils to man, if they remain with him, and the love of these two self hoods is changed into conjugial love, so far as a man cleaves to his wife, that is so far as he receives her love. M. 194.
By male and female, in the spiritual sense is signified here truth and good. These must not be two, but one, as truth does not become truth with man without the good of life, nor does good become good with any one without the truth of doctrine. F. 725.
4-9. That nothing but adultery closes and stops up this abode of conjugial love, thus its origin or fountain and its channel, is evident from the Lord’s words, that it is not lawful to put away a wife and marry another, except on account of adultery. M. 482.
4-6, 11. Good and truth conjoined in an angel or a man, are not two, but one, since then the good is of truth and the truth is of good. Hence it also is that two consorts in heaven are not called two, but one angel. H. 372.
4, 5. When the Lord answered the Pharisees he did not so much as notice their opinions and disputes, he did not even go back to Moses to point out the true meaning of the law on which their different opinions rested. Instead of referring to the temporary law of divorce, he went back to the primeval law of marriage, and showed that both creation and the law of the Creator rendered the bond of marriage indissoluble, except for one cause. Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? These divine words establish marriage on its original and true foundation. The man and the woman were created for each other, and their union was designed to be spiritual, like their nature, and eternal, like their existence. Of all God’s creatures man only was formed in his image and likeness. His image and likeness are stamped upon his whole nature and constitution. And as God in the beginning made them male and female, the Divine image has a profound reference to the characteristic difference on which their union rests. The man may be said to have been created in the image of God, and the woman in his likeness. The double resemblance in which man is said to have been formed can only be understood when it is known that God in his essence is Love itself and Wisdom itself, and that man was created to be a recipient of love and wisdom from God. God’s wisdom in man makes him God’s image; God’s love in man makes him God’s likeness. In order that male and female might be so closely united as to be “no more twain, but one flesh,” the man was created to be an image of God and the woman to be a likeness: in other words, the man was created to be a recipient and a form of God’s wisdom, and the woman to be a recipient and a form of his love. And as love and wisdom in God are perfectly united, so love in the woman and wisdom in the man were designed to become so intimately united as to be spiritually and eternally one – the image of the union of Love and Wisdom in God. The image in the man and the likeness in the woman aspire after union.
The union of love and wisdom in the Divine mind gives rise to this aspiration after union in human minds. And two whose union in marriage has been the result of this united aspiration, untainted by impure desires and unworthy motives, are those whom God may not put asunder. We have spoken of the nature of marriage, as derived from its first and highest origin in the union of love and wisdom in the Lord, but true marriage has its immediate origin in the union of love and wisdom, or of charity and faith, in the minds of the married partners themselves. Those only who are in the heavenly marriage of love and faith are capable of that union of heart and soul which is true marriage. True marriage is a spiritual union, and it is evident that none but the spiritually-minded can be united in true marriage. No wonder, then, that divorce was so common among the Jews, who were a natural-minded people; nor is it surprising that in the world there are so many unhappy matrimonial connections. Unhappy marriages do not result so much from unsuitable pairs, as from ill-conditioned individuals, who could not be happy partners in marriage under any circumstances. If the principles of true union not the elements of true happiness in themselves, how can the bond that unites them be otherwise than superficial of galling? True and happy marriage can only exist in connection with true religion. Such marriages, and such only, are spiritual and eternal: for that only which descends from heaven can ascend to heaven again and that only which comes from the Eternal can endure for ever. The remarks we have made upon marriage, as the union of male and female, of a youth and a maiden, drawn to each other by love truly conjugial, has, to some extent, anticipated our exposition of the Lord’s words according to the spiritual meaning. The subject of their spiritual sense is the union of love and wisdom, or of charity and faith, in the human mind, of which we have already spoken. This union is the marriage to which heaven is compared, and which makes heaven, for heaven is love and faith, and love and faith are heaven. Heaven as a place derives its character from heaven as a state.
5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
5, 6. That the spiritual sense is in each and all of the things of the Word, was also confirmed by certain things said by the Lord, which could not be comprehended unless they were understood spiritually, as that a husband and wife are not two, but one flesh. D. V. 15.
5 The conditions on which true marriage, both as a union of principles and of persons, exists, are stated by our Lord in the purpose which he, as our Creator, had in making them at the beginning male and female. For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh. Marriage does indeed alter a man’s condition, since it makes him the head of a new household; but more than this is involved in the Lord’s words. Father and mother, in the internal sense, means the nature which we inherit from our parents, which is comprehended in the two ruling affections of the natural mind, the loves of self and of the world. As the old nature which we inherit is meant by father and mother, the new nature which we choose is meant by the wife. The wife is the spiritual love of what is good and true, which the Lord provides for those who desire to become new creatures. It is the appointed order of our Creator and Regenerator, that we leave the old and cleave to the new. The husband and wife of this new and spiritual household are the new understanding and will which form the new mind, and thus the new man. This leaving of father and mother – this relinquishing of our corrupt selfhood – is equally necessary to our entering into spiritual and natural marriage; since, as we have seen, there is no true marriage but the union of the good and the true either in one mind or between two. In human pairs nothing is truly married but truth in the husband and good in the wife; everything opposite to these is the cause of division, not of union – of discord, not of happiness.
6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
6 In heaven two married partners are not called two, but one angel. M. 50.
Conjugial love essentially consists in the desire of two to become one, that is in their desire that two lives may become one life. This desire is the perpetual endeavour of that love, from which flow all its effects. M. 215.
6 When two are thus joined together, they are no more twain, but one flesh. The Lord’s declaration, both here and in Genesis, of the unity of husband and wife, is as striking as it is emphatic. “No more twain, but one flesh.” – what could be more expressive of two becoming one? Their duality is quite as emphatic as their unity. Man and woman; and so much the more twain, so much the more one. They are not different shades of the same colour, but are complementary colours; rather, they are the two elements of light and heat, whose union is the origin of all colour. They are two parts of one humanity, each having what the other wants to make the perfect man. Sex is of the soul as much as of the body; and every thought and affection of the man is masculine, and every thought and affection of the woman is feminine, not copies, but counterparts of each other, so diverse are they. But their diversity is the ground of their unity. It is because they are so distinctly two that they can become so completely one. And when two, created by Infinite Love and Wisdom for each other, are united in true marriage, they are no more twain, but one flesh, being one man, having one will and one way. Of such may it be truly said that God hath joined them together. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. Without dwelling on this prohibition in reference to judicial separations, let us rather advert to its more interior sense. In every sense and in every case marriage is of God, and separation is of man. God is the author of union, man is the author of division. Let us beware then of admitting anything of our own self-will into that, which is of the Divine will. What therefore God hath joined together, whether it be love and faith in our hearts, or husband and wife in our homes, let not man put asunder.
7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
7, 8. They (the Israelitic nation) were allowed to marry several wives and to give a bill of divorce for any cause whatsoever, when yet Jehovah did not command this, although it is so said, but only permitted it on account of the hardness of their hearts. A. 10612.
7-9. When the Lord had thus shown that marriage, being of God, is not to be dissolved by man, the Pharisees objected. Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement and to put her away? To which our Lord answered, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. Having already considered the subject and law of divorce (ch. v. 31), we need not enter on it here. The fact which the Lord here states, that the permissive law of divorce owed its origin to the hardness of heart of those to whom it was given, is most important. God, as we have remarked, never permits a lesser evil but to prevent a greater. To consider this subject spiritually, the dispensation of Moses represented the natural state of man as preparatory to the spiritual state. In that state there is no true marriage of goodness and truth – there is not conjunction, but adjunction, and this admits of loosing as well as binding. Yet this arises from there being as yet no spiritual will, but “hardness of heart,” which is a state at variance not only with man’s original state, but with the first principles of spiritual order, signified by “the beginning,” which spiritually means, not first in respect to time, but first in respect to state. With the spiritual man therefore, there is no putting away, except for the cause of fornication.
8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
8 Several things were permitted them (the Israelitic nation) on account of the hardness of their heart, which things are extant in the external sense of the Word, and constitute it. A. 10453.
For the sake of that nation (Israelitic) also it was permitted to marry several wives, which was a thing altogether unknown in ancient times, and likewise to put away their wives for various causes. Hence laws were enacted concerning such marriages and divorces, which otherwise would not have entered the external of the Word, on which account this external is called by the Lord—the external—of Moses, and said to be granted for the hardness of their heart. A. 10603.
The Lord says that Moses permitted it, in order that it may be known that it was not the Lord. The Israel-itic nation was permitted to marry several wives, because they had not the Christian church, and consequently love truly conjugial could not exist with them. M. 340.
There are also Divine commands which are not of the Divine will, but of leave and permission, of which several were given to the children of Israel, as that it was allowed them to take several wives, and to give them bills of divorcement, besides other things of a like nature, Those commands were of permission, given because of the hardness of their hearts. E. 423.
9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.
11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.
9 Putting away for this cause (adultery) Is a plenary separation of minds, which is called divorce, whereas all other kinds of putting away, grounded in their particular causes are separations. After these if another wife is married, adultery is committed, but not so after a divorce. M. 255.
See Chapter V., 32. M. 468.
See Chapter XIX., 4-9. M. 482.
10 But when the Lord had declared the indissoluble nature of Marriage, the disciples themselves were astonished, and their Jewish prejudices being shocked, they said, If the case of the man be so with, his wife, it is not good to marry. The disciples were as yet more Jewish than Christian in their ideas and character, and represented man in a transition state, while passing from his natural to a spiritual state. And to one in this state the pure truth relating to the heavenly marriage cannot appear as good, but seems to impose a burden that is heavy to bear – a bond that is inconsistent with true freedom. And so with the heavenly marriage of love and faith
11 To this the Lord answers, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. One would think there could be no great difficulty in admitting the rectitude of the law which the Lord had delivered. Yet the Divine law of marriage is repugnant to the natural man. The polygamy of the heathen world affords too abundant evidence of this; and the Jews themselves, who were natural men, were in the same gross and dark state in regard to marriage. Those only to whom it is given can see the true law.
12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
12 They are called eunuchs who are in the celestial marriage, so born from the womb, who are as the celestial angels ; made of men, who are as the spiritual angels ; and made by themselves, who are as angelic spirits, who live not so much from charity as from obedience. A. 394.
The eunuchs who make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake are spiritual eunuchs, who are such as in marriages abstain from the evils of whoredom. That Italian eunuchs are not meant is evident. M. 156.
12 The Lord proceeds to show who these are. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. The eunuchs, then, are they to whom it is given to receive the Lord’s saying respecting the law of marriage. Naturally, these are incapable of marriage. That the Lord intended to convey, under this imagery, some profound truth respecting those who become fit for his kingdom, is evident, not only from the declaration itself, but from the concluding remark, “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it,” and which more correctly means, “He that is able to comprehend it, let him comprehend it.” Does not this direct us to a hidden meaning? The Lord’s words yield a consistent and instructive meaning only in the spiritual sense. Otherwise, what can be meant by eunuchs born, made of men, and made of themselves? And yet in the spiritual sense all this yields a meaning as beautiful as it is edifying. By these are described the three classes of the regenerate – the celestial, the spiritual, and the natural. The celestial are meant by those who have been born eunuchs from their mother’s womb – the spiritual, by those who have been made eunuchs of men; and the natural, by those who have made themselves eunuchs. The womb signifies celestial love and innocence; and they who are eunuchs from their mother’s womb are those who are born again into a state of celestial love, which is love to the Lord. Man signifies the understanding; and those who are made eunuchs of men are those who are regenerated into a state of spiritual love, which is love to the neighbour. Those who make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake are those who acquire truth in the memory, and by a life according to it are regenerated into the good of obedience. The description of male purity which our Lord here gives is analogous to that of female purity given in the Revelation (ch. xiv. 4), where the regenerate are described as virgins, who have not been defiled with women, and who follow the Lamb whither soever he goeth. As men signify intellect, and women will, these two different descriptions of masculine and feminine chastity relate to purity of intellect and of will, or of thought and of affection – and, combined under one view, describe the regenerate mind, or full man, as consisting of the new understanding and will, or the new heart and the right spirit, which God creates in those who suffer themselves to be born again from above.
13 Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them.
13-15. By the laying on of the hand upon the boys and upon infants is here also signified the communication and reception of Divine virtue, whereby was effected the healing of the interiors,’which is salvation. A. 10023.
The reason why communications of the mind are also effected by the sense of touch is, because the hands are a man’s ultimates, and his first things are together in the ultimates, whereby also all things of the body and of the mind are kept together in an inseparable connection. Hence it is that Jesus touched infants, and that He healed the sick by the touch, and that those who touched Him were healed. Hence also it is that inaugurations into the priesthood are at this day effected by the laying on of hands. M. 396.
13 When we understand the passage as relating to spiritual purity, and the different degrees of excellence to which the regenerate attain by subduing the lusts of the flesh, we can see the connection of the subject with the incident which immediately follows the Lord’s discourse. Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray. The distinguished place which little children hold in the gospel history is one of the most beautiful of its truly human features. It is but natural that these little innocents should stand forth prominently in a history which begins with the birth of the infant Saviour as innocence itself incarnate. This bringing of little children to Jesus represented the ascription to the Lord of all the innocence we have received from him, that his blessed influence may descend through it into our hearts and minds. This is spiritually to bring little children to Jesus, and to ask him to lay his hands on them and pray. And the disciples rebuked them. Little sympathy had they with these little innocents, because, as yet they had little of that spiritual innocence of which these little ones were the types. And they exemplified in their conduct the character of that principle and state which they represented. The Lord’s love flows immediately into innocence in the will, and not into it through intellectual good or truth; and therefore the disciples, who as yet represented these intellectual principles, rebuked those who brought the little children to Jesus.
14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
15 And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.
14 See Chapter XVIII., 10, 14. A. 1059.
I have spoken much with angels about innocence and have been informed that innocence is the esse of all good, and hence that good is so far good as innocence is in it. By little children are meant the innocent. H. 281.
14, 15. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And he laid his hands on them. These gracious words, how much do they express, how much do they teach! The innocence of infancy and childhood is a remnant of that which existed in paradise – the only good, perhaps, that has survived the fall; not that this innocence has been transmitted, but that the capacity for receiving it has been preserved. In the innocence of childhood we see a faint outline of what man has been, as well as the shadow of what he may become, by being created anew, and restored to the image and likeness of God. We see in it moreover, something of that which the Lord can infuse into the human mind when the selfhood is not active, and which he does impart to the angels of that heaven with which infants are connected, and through which their innocence descends. We may learn, lastly, how much we are influenced by innocence, through a disinterested love for little children, which our Lord exhibited in such perfection. Only the disinterested love for children can have this effect. The natural, as well as the spiritual, may adopt the first half of the Lord’s address to his disciples, “Suffer little children to come unto me;” but the spiritual only can use the second, “for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” The true love of little children is for the sake of their innocence, as the gift of heaven, and for the sake of leading them to heaven by the innocence with which heaven inspires them. Their innocence is the object of all true love, and their happiness in heaven is the end of all true education. It is on the innocence of childhood that the Lord still lays the hand of his Omnipotence, to keep the little ones under his influence and protection, and lead them if possible to the kingdom of heaven. “And he laid his hands on them;” and departed thence. And this brings us to a new state, and introduces us to a new subject.
16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
16, 17. The Lord in the Word of the Old Testament is called God, where the subject treated of is truth, and Jehovah where it is good. A. 10154.
It is the part of a wise one and it is wisdom to do truths from love. The things which are from the Lord, thus which are of him, are also Himself, therefore it is said that the Lord is good itself and truth itself. That the Lord is good itself is manifest from the Lord’s words in Matthew. A. 10336.
That God is one is confirmed by these passages. L. 45.
16-22. That the Divine of the Lord be acknowledged that He is the God of heaven and the earth, and that man lives according to the precepts of the decalogue, these are the two requisites in order that the works which are done by man may be good works. All good comes from the Lord alone, and the Lord cannot enter with man and lead him,- as long as evils are not removed as sins. These things are also understood by the Lord’s words to the rich man, who questioned Him concerning eternal life. By selling all that he had is signified, that he should relinquish his religious persuasions, which were traditions, for he was a Jew, and also the things of the proprium, which consist in loving self and the world above God, thus leading himself. By following the Lord is understood to acknowledge Him alone, and to be led by Him. E. 934. 16, 17, 29. See Chapter IV., 16. A. 7494.
16, 29. Salvation is called life eternal. E. 186.
16, 17. And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what God thing shall I do. That I may have eternal life? The subject of this inquiry is, like that of the Pharisee on marriage, so important as a plain and practical truth, that we propose to view it first and principally in this aspect. We have first to consider the young man’s salutation of the Lord – “Good Master;” and what has been considered the Lord’s refusal of the title in his answer – Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. These words are capable of two literal interpretations compatibly with the divinity of the Lord. Either the Lord speaks with reference to the intelligence of his questioner (who probably had no idea of the relation that Jesus had to God), and wishes to remind him that, if such a teacher be called good, it can only be from his having and exhibiting any of the goodness of him who alone is good; and then the words (so far from denying that the Lord was good) tacitly assert that his goodness must be from God, and might lead the questioner to suspect a higher character in the Lord than he presupposed. Or, the Lord speaks under the human consciousness of his not yet complete oneness with the Father that is, realizes at the time the view that the Essential Divinity is alone goodness, and that it is not yet, or then, conscious of being one with the Father. In any case it does not follow, because the Lord asked him why he called him good, that the Lord refused to be so called by any one. Suppose an emphasis on the thou, and the question would not in the least imply a refusal to be so called. We only mention this last as an argument, for there is no emphatic thou in the Greek. Or place the emphasis on why, then the sentence need not imply any refusal. If the questioner were one whose heart, as known to the Lord, did not love keeping the commandments, to ask him why he called the Lord good might be due wholly to the character of the questioner. It has been well observed that the Lord calls himself (John x. 11) “the Good Shepherd,” which is itself sufficient to convince us that be could not intend to refuse, as too exalted for him, the title of “Good Master.” The design of the Lord was rather to excite in the mind of the young man who uttered the salutation, and in the mind of every one who reads it, an inquiry as to the real import of the term in reference to Jesus. As if the Lord had said, “Thou callest me good: there is none good but one, that is, God. Dost thou acknowledge me to be that one to be that God who alone is good. Such Jesus was, and such the acknowledgment of him as the Good legitimately implies. He is the supreme, the only Good, and as such the Giver as well as the Teacher of eternal life. The Lord’s words, more literally rendered, are “Why askest thou me concerning good? there is one good, God.” This does not, however, materially affect the sense, or the ground of the opinion or argument we have noticed. The Lord, we know, questioned men to excite them to reflection, and the demand which he here makes is one which it is most necessary every one who proposes to be a disciple of Jesus should answer for himself.
But the Lord, without waiting for a reply to a question which every one will answer according to his state, proceeded to give an answer to this momentous inquiry; and that answer contains one of the most momentous truths which the Lord ever uttered or revealed. If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. It is most worthy of our consideration that this question should have been providentially put to our Lord, who, as the Saviour, was best able and entitled to give the full and final answer. And his answer, stating the condition of salvation, is in harmony with the often-repeated declaration, that he will judge every one according to his works. It is true that faith is also given as a condition of salvation: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts xvi. 31); and some supposing that faith and works are opposed to each other, have, to reconcile these two apparently opposite statements, assumed that the Lord, in answering the inquiry of a Jew, stated the legal, but not the gospel conditions of salvation. It is true that Judaism, as the dispensation of the law, is entirely different from Christianity, as the dispensation of the gospel – but the works of the moral law are not opposed to the faith of Jesus Christ. The conditions of salvation are the same under both covenants. The keeping of the commandments is as much a Christian as it was a Jewish condition of life. The difference is, that the Jew was to live according to the letter of the law; the Christian is to live according to its spirit. The old covenant was the law as written upon tables of stone – the new covenant is the same law as written upon the table of the heart. “This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people,” (Jer. xxxi. 33; Heb. viii. 8, &c.) This is the covenant under which we live, as expressed by our Lord when he said., “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”
17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
17 Here heaven is called eternal life, elsewhere simply life. A. 2658.
Entering into life means into heaven. A. 5890,
That the Divine is good itself is manifest in Matthew, It is the Lord who alone is good, thus good itself. That He is truth itself, see John xiv. 6. A. 10619.
Salvation is called life eternal. E. 186.
There is none good except the one God. E. 254.
18-21. When the young man had been told that he must keep the commandments, he inquired, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself. This was a singular question, since the Lord’s answer included the whole, and no partial obedience can be considered as the fulfillment of the law. Our Lord points out some which, however, may be considered as representing the whole; in the spiritual sense this is the case. To kill is to extinguish in one’s self the love of good, which is life, and to commit adultery is to profane it – to steal is to alienate truth, and to bear false witness is to falsify it; to honour father and mother is to love the Lord as the supreme good and truth – and to love his neighbour as himself is to love good in another, and another’s good as he loves his own. In the supreme sense, all these acts that are forbidden and required have immediate reference to our relation to the Lord – as for example, to steal is to claim for ourselves the merit of doing good and believing truth, which belongs to God only. And this is just one of the evils, as we shall see, of which the young man had been guilty. He had lived up to the standard of the law according to the letter. He could respond to the Lord’s enumeration of the commandments, All these things have I kept from my youth up. He answered in sincerity, and according to truth, so far as he knew it. Our Lord did not dispute his claim to having lived a righteous life. Indeed, we are told (Mark x. 21) that the Lord regarded him with love, as he loves all sincere obedience, however imperfect it may be. But that the righteousness of this man wanted the inward spiritual life which makes obedience perfect, is evident from its being unable to bear the test which Jesus applied to it, and by which all righteousness is to be tried. When he had declared that he had done all the things which the law demanded, he asked, What lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. Those who believe that the law is no longer a condition of salvation have supposed that the one thing this man lacked was faith. But from the requirement of our Lord it would seem as if he rather lacked charity; for the Lord did not ask him to believe, but to do – to sell his possessions and give to the poor. He had obedience, but he lacked charity or love this he required to make his obedience perfect; and this was what the Lord demanded of him. He required him to give up the inordinate love of the world, and love his neighbour as himself. It is possible to fulfil with exemplary fidelity the whole law in the letter, without having the love of self and of the world removed from the heart. Obedience to the commandments comprehends two things – self- denial and active virtue, which is ceasing from evil and doing good. Nor is it necessary only to put away evil before the eyes of man, but to put away the evil of our doings from before the eyes of God (Isa. i. 16). And this evil is that which enters into our good deeds, and defiles them with the hidden impurity of our unregenerated nature. The young man, while scrupulous in his observance of the law, had never, perhaps, thought that he was still under the dominion of the love of the world. Our Lord, who knew his heart, touched this tender part, and immediately it shrunk as a punctured fibre, or as the apple of the eye when covered with a flood of light. Here was something to be undone and to do which he had never dreamt of as coming within the requirement of the law. To become poor on earth that he might be rich in heaven had not occurred to him as a duty. And, indeed, this is the difference between legal and Christian righteousness, and between the religion of the natural and of the spiritual man. Poverty of spirit is, however, that which the spirit of our Lord’s teaching inculcates. For a man may even part with all his wealth, and yet not be poor in spirit. And on the other hand, he may be poor in spirit without parting with all his wealth, except it be the possessions which minister to his spiritual pride – the possessions that constitute his selfhood, which leaves the stamp of self on everything he does. Only those who sell this can follow the Lord; for he was meek and lowly of heart, and those who follow him must take up their cross, and walk, with him in patient self-denial, and in loving beneficence.
19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
19 See Chapter III., 8, 9. A. 1017.
See Chapter III., 8, 9. A. 2371.
21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
21, 28. See Chapter XVI., 24. E. 864.
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. How natural is such an answer to one who had never dreamt that the love of the world as a ruling passion should be incompatible with the kingdom of heaven! Yet we are to observe that the young man did not, like some of those who questioned the Lord, depart impenitent and scoffing. He went sorrowful. He was desirous of entering into the kingdom of heaven, but was not yet prepared to make the necessary sacrifice. His great possessions he was not yet prepared to relinquish. These possessions included wealth of knowledge, but that knowledge was grounded in natural love; and it was this love which he was required to sell, that he might become poor in spirit.
23. When the young man had gone away sorrowful, unable as yet, because unwilling, to part with his great possessions, the Lord turned to his disciples, and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. It is almost self-evident that the Lord intended to convey a higher than the natural truth in these declarations. In regard to wealth, he himself so far expounded his own statement by saying, that it was not possessing but trusting in wealth that excluded men from heaven. It is not, then, riches themselves, but the selfish or sordid love of them, that is condemned and is condemnatory. But this judgment not only applies to natural but to spiritual riches. Spiritual riches are the knowledges of spiritual things; for knowledge is mental wealth, and religious knowledge is but a higher kind, intended to minister to the purposes of spiritual life. But spiritual knowledge, like natural and material wealth, may be employed for noble purposes or used for unworthy ends. It may be treasured up, too, for its own sake, without a view to any useful end; or, what is more akin to the present subject, it may be considered sufficient of itself to secure a place in the kingdom of heaven. Those who thus regard knowledge are the rich, against whom the Word pronounces such severe judgments, and against whom heaven is closed; and their knowledges are the great possessions in which they trust, but which they must sell and give to the poor if they would have treasure in heaven. Knowledge, even of divine and spiritual things, is earthly treasure when laid up in the natural mind; and it prevents Man from acquiring treasure in heaven or in the spiritual mind, till it is severed from all connection with his own self-love. He sells that which he hath, also, when he ceases to claim the ownership both of temporal and spiritual riches, and ascribes them to God, and employs them in his service. He who thus parts with his possessions, to become poor in spirit, exchanges empty knowledge for substantial goodness, and is raised by it from spiritual poverty to eternal wealth.
24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
26But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
24 By the rich man are meant the rich in both senses,. as well natural as spiritual. The rich in the natural sense are those who abound in riches and set their heart upon them, but in the spiritual sense those who abound in knowledges and learning, which are spiritual riches, and: by them wish to introduce themselves from their own-intelligence into the things of heaven and of the church. And because this is contrary to Divine order, it is said that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, for in the spiritual sense by a camel is signified the faculty of learning and knowing in general, and by the eye of a needle spiritual truth. H. 365.
24 But trust in knowledge is vain. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. They who think to enter heaven by their riches are they who think to perceive the truth of heaven by intellectual penetration alone, – differently from the apostle, who asserts that spiritual things must be spiritually discerned. This is trying to make the camel go through the eye of the needle; for a camel signifies knowledge and science, and the eye of a needle spiritual truth. The natural cannot enter into the spiritual. No wealth or perfection of science can ever enable man to discover the things which are above nature. Spirit and matter are separated by a discrete degree, and are united by correspondence, and therefore have nothing in common. So is it with all natural and spiritual things. Those who attempt to enter into spiritual truth by merely natural means “carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures upon the hunches of camels, to a people that shall not profit them. For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to stand still” (Isa. xxx. 6, 7). To enter into spiritual truth from oneself is to enter from without; to enter from God is to enter from within. In the one case, it is to endeavour to see spiritual things from natural light; in the other, it is to see them from the light of heaven. If men will but still their self-intelligence, and listen reverentially to the voice of God as it speaks to them through his Word, they will find themselves strong, and their efforts successful, when before they were weak, and were baffled in all their attempts. They will not need to give up science and silence reason – their scope will be increased instead of being diminished. For although reason, by means of science, cannot find out God, or discover the soul, or discern spiritual things, it can find in nature abundant means of confirming the truth on these subjects, when accepted from revelation. When spiritual truth is once admitted, science, which seemed only fertile in negations, is found to be boundless in means of confirmation. When “the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee: the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee; the multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah: all they from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and incense: they shall show forth the praises of the Lord” (Isa. lx. 1, 5, 6). When a man has admitted spiritual wisdom into his mind, all the wealth of science will be added to him for glory and praise.
25 When the disciples heard the Lord’s declaration, that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? It appeared to them as if the Lord had made entrance into his kingdom almost an impossibility. And this at first sight appears to every disciple to be the consequence of the law of order which our Lord declared. But this arises from their not understanding what the truth teaches on the subject. Our Lord therefore proceeds to explain it.
26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. That which in its own nature is contrary to order is still more impossible with God than it is with men. But the opposition to order in this case consists in man attempting to do in his own way, and by his own power, what can only be done in God’s way and by his power. Man fails because he begins from himself; to succeed, he must begin from God.
27 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?
28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
27, 28. See Chapter XIV., 26-31. E. 820.
28 Here apostles are not meant by apostles, nor thrones by thrones, nor tribes by tribes, but all things that are of faith. A. 3272.
For then the disciples did not know that heavenly enjoyment is not enjoyment of greatness and pre-eminence, but the enjoyment of humiliation and of affection for serving others, thus desiring to be the least, and not the greatest. A. 3417.
If they had been told that by disciples were not meant themselves, but all who are in the good of love and faith, also that in the Lord’s kingdom there are neither thrones, nor sovereignties, nor rule, as in the world, and that they could not even judge the least thing in a single man, they would have rejected the saying, and leaving the Lord, would have returned every one to his own occupation. The reason that the Lord so spoke was, that they might receive external truths, and thereby be introduced to internal ones. A. 3857.
All things of truth from which and according to which judgment is effected, are what is meant in the internal sense by the twelve thrones on which the twelve apostles were to sit. A. 5313.
See Chapter XVI., 27. A. 5922.
In this passage not twelve apostles are meant, but all truths and goods in general. No man, not even an angel, can judge any one. A. 6397.
But when the apostles heard from the Lord Himself, that His kingdom was not to be on earth but in heaven, then they could not think otherwise than that His kingdom in heaven was to be altogether like a kingdom on the earth. And as such an idea was natural to them and could not be rooted out, the Lord indeed said to them that they should sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. But they did not then know what the Lord meant by the twelve thrones, and by the twelve tribes, and by judgment. A. 8705.
See Chapter XVI., 27. A. 9807.
See Chapter XVI., 27. L. 25.
From these words it may be concluded that the Lord’s disciples also are to judge, when yet they are not able to judge any one. Doctrine therefore will reveal this arcanum, by teaching that the Lord alone, Who is omniscient and knows the hearts of all, is to judge and is able to judge ; and that by His twelve disciples is meant the church, as to all truths and goods, which it has from the Lord, through the Word. S. 51.
By apostles are meant all who teach the goods and truths of the church, and in the abstract sense the goods and truths themselves of its doctrine. R. 79.
By twelve is signified all, and it is predicated of the truths and goods of heaven and the church. R. 233.
The “Son of Man” is the Lord as to His Divine Human. R. 273.
The Lord alone judges and reigns, for He judges and reigns from the Divine good through the Divine truth, which is also from Him in them (the apostles). R. 284.
The twelve apostles together represented the church as to all its elements. It is clearly manifest that they represented them from the Lord’s words to them in Matthew. R. 798.
That He that sat upon the throne is the Lord, is manifest. R. 808.
Statement under S. 51 repeated in T. 226.
By the apostles in this passage are understood all truths from good which are from the Lord, so that by those words is signified that the Lord alone will judge all from truths which are from good, thus that everyone will be judged according to those truths. E. 9.
By twelve tribes all truths and goods in the aggregate are understood. The Lord alone will judge every one by truth derived from good. E. 39^.
These things are said to the disciples because they represent all the truths and goods which are from the Lord, in the aggregate. E. 206.
By thrones are here understood Divine truths, according to, and from which, all are to be judged. E. 253.
The thrones signify judgment. See Revelation xx. 4.. He who believes that by elders and apostles in the Word are understood elders and apostles is much deceived. In the spiritual sense of the Word no persons are perceived, but things abstractly from persons, for what is spiritual has nothing in common with persons. E. 270.
The angels indeed possess great power, but still they have no power from themselves ; nay if anyone in heaven believes that he has power from himself, he is instantly deprived thereof, and then he is altogether impotent. In the spiritual sense everything of person is put off, and thence everything of dominion belonging to it, and is left to the Lord alone. E. 333.
Twelve signify all things. It is not meant that the apostles should sit upon twelve thrones, and judge the twelve tribes of Israel, but that the Lord alone should judge all by Divine truth from Divine good. E. 430.
Every man is judged according to his life, and the lives of all can be known to none, but the Lord alone, and not even the life of one to the apostles, but in the spiritual sense by the twelve apostles are signified all-truths derived from good, by sitting upon the thrones is signified judgment, and by the twelve tribes of Israel all who are of the church, wherefore the signification of the whole is, that the Lord will judge all from Divine truth, according to the reception thereof in good. E. 431.
By the twelve apostles and also by the twelve tribes of Israel, are signified all the truths of the church, and in a supreme sense the Divine truth. Therefore by sitting upon thrones is not understood, that they themselves will so sit, but the Lord as to Divine truth, from which if judgment. By judging the twelve tribes of Israel is meant, to judge all according to the truth of their church. Hence it is evident that by sitting upon a throne, when predicated of the Lord, is signified to be judging, consequently to judge. It is said the throne of glory, because glory signifies the Divine truth. E. 687.
The Lord will judge all according to truths from good which are from Him, for by the twelve disciples are signified all who are of the church, and in the abstract sense, all things of the church, which are truths from good. E. 851.
By the apostles equally as by the angels are signified Divine truths, as by them are signified all things appertaining to the church. E. 910.
That the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory. D. P., Page 8.
Jesus said to the disciples, you who have followed me in the regeneration. D. P., Page 76.
27 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? This is a question which faith may ask when it is able to make so honourable a declaration, – one that contrasts so favourably with the conduct of the young man. In those days, when spiritual states and truths were to be embodied in representative acts, those who became the Lord’s disciples were sometimes required to leave all their temporal goods and homes, and follow him in his pilgrimages. We all have to forsake self and the world, of which these are the symbols, and to follow the Lord’s divine example in a life, of holiness. Can we, in the Lord’s presence, say in truth, “We have left all, and followed thee”? It would be well for us were we able to profess truly that we had earnestly desired and faithfully endeavoured to do the disciple’s duty. Then we might ask with humility, “What shall we have therefore?” Let us listen to the gracious reply.
28 Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye, which have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. This is an instance of the Lord addressing his disciples according to their own notions of things. They were yet in the belief that the Lord had come to restore Israel, and set up a kingdom upon earth; and the Lord here answers their question according to their views and desires, by promising to make them judges in Israel. And thus it ever is that the truth of the Word falls into men’s ideas. But, as in the present instance, that which they apprehend naturally when they themselves are natural, they apprehend spiritually when they become spiritual. The Lord’s promise to the disciples speaks for itself, as to its containing a spiritual meaning, and being intended to have only a spiritual fulfilment. As the Lord’s glorification was the pattern of’ human regeneration, those who follow him in the regeneration are those who become like him, by doing as he did. The life of regeneration is a life of humiliation, including suffering and the death of the old man. This humiliation leads to glory. And the Son of man sits on the throne of his glory when his holy truth, glorified in us is throned on the highest affections of our hearts. The disciples, who represented all the goods and truths of the Word, derived from the Lord and ruling under him, sit on twelve thrones when these principles enter into and govern all our states of life. The Lord’s throne is in the inner man; the thrones of the apostles are in the outer man. The twelve tribes of Israel are spiritual truths in the natural mind, which are arranged by and under the general truths, meant by the apostles, and which arrangement is meant by judging. For the idea here presented is not that of a single act of judgment, at the time of the end, but continual judgment, like that of the judges of Israel. The Lord and his apostles are always judging, and keeping in order the thoughts and affections of the regenerate mind.
29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
29 That the Lord is understood by Him that sat upon a throne. E. 297.
A hundred stands for what is full, or ugood measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over. A. 2636.
Here heaven is called eternal life. A. 2658.
By name is meant everything of love and faith from which is worship. A. 2724.
See Chapter X., 21, 22, 35-37. A. 3703.
See Chapter X., 22. A. 6674.
See Chapter XVIII., 19, 20. A. 9310.
See Chapter VII., 22. P. 230.
See Chapter XVIII,, 8, 9. P. 324.
See Chapter X., 22. R. 81.
See Chapter VII., 22. R. 618.
See Chapter VII., 22. R. 839.
By inheriting all things is signified to come into heaven, and then into possession of the goods which are there from the Lord and are the Lord’s, as a son and heir. Hence heaven is called an inheritance. R. 890.
They who receive the Lord, that is who have faith in Him and are not in evils of life are also called heirs. T. 729.
See Chapter X., 22. E. 102.
Who cannot see that a father, a mother, a wife, children, brethren, and sisters, also houses and lands are not here understood, but such things as are of the man himself, and are called the things of his proprium ? for these things man is to relinquish and hate, if he desires to worship the Lord, and to be His disciple, and to receive a hundredfold, and to attain an inheritance of life eternal. The things which are a man’s own, or of his proprium, are those whith are of his love, and thence of his life into which he is born, consequently they are evils and falses of every kind, and as those things are of his love and life, therefore it is said, that he ought also to hate his own soul. E. 724.
29 If the promise to the apostles to sit on thrones has an evidently spiritual meaning, that which follows it is still more evidently remote from a literal fulfilment. For the Lord continues: And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold and shall inherit everlasting life. By these are not, of course, meant a man’s natural possessions and relations. He who requires us to love our enemies cannot command us to hate our friends. And, indeed, if anything like a literal compliance with such a requirement were meant, why should it be demanded of the man, or husband, and not of the woman, or wife? But the truth is, the whole relates to the spiritual, and not to the natural life of the disciple. These members of his house are the principles of the old man, the hereditary and acquired qualities of his unregenerate nature. It begins with houses and ends with lands, and by these are meant the mind itself as to its inmost and outermost recipient faculties. These faculties in our unregenerate state are perverted and corrupt, and their perversions and corruptions are to be rejected. The members of the household are merely natural affections of our unregenerate nature. Father and mother are the loves of self and the world, and brethren and sisters are the thoughts and affections derived from these. The wife is the ruling love which the understanding has chosen for and united to itself, and the children derived from this marriage are the worldly affections and thoughts that spring from this union. To forsake these is a positive duty; to forsake our natural relations would be a positive crime. But the promise is, that every one that forsakes them shall receive an hundredfold of the same. An hundredfold is the symbol of completeness and perfection. And the promise implies, that he who puts off the old man with the lusts thereof, and puts on the new man with his pure and holy affections, will find himself rewarded an hundredfold for the sacrifice he has made. But to receive this reward he must forsake these enemies of his own household for the Lord’s sake. To forsake evil for his own sake – that is, for the sake of his own reputation or interest – is not truly to forsake it, but only to desist from it; but to forsake evil because it is sin against God, is truly to forsake and hate it. With the promise of an hundredfold is given also that of life everlasting. For this implies not only eternal life in heaven, which is the ultimate reward of the righteous, but new life and delight, its the result of new principles.
30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.
30 They who place merit in the acts of their lives have not the faith of charity, thus they wish to be saved, not because of the Lord’s justice, but because of their own. That there is no faith of charity in them, that is no charity, is evident from this, that they prefer themselves to others, and thus regard themselves and not others, except so far as they are of service to them, and they either despise or hate those who are not willing to render them service. These are of those who wish to be first but become last. A. 2027.
The Lord teaches what greatness and pre-eminence in heaven is. A. 3417.
In the Lord’s kingdom or heaven, they who are the greatest there, that is they who are inmost, are servants more than others, because they are in the greatest obedience, and in deeper humiliation than the rest, for these are they who are meant by the least, that shall be greatest, and by the last that shall be first. A. 5164.
30 Our Lord concludes by saying, But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first. Many that occupy the first rank in worldly, and even in religious estimation, shall be in the last place in the other life; while many of those who are in the lowest place here will occupy the highest hereafter. In the spiritual sense it teaches that regeneration inverts the state of man. It puts in the last place those things that were first, and in the first place those that were last. In his unregenerate state the world is first and heaven is last in his thoughts and affections; in his regenerate state heaven, which was last, becomes first, and the world, which was first, becomes last. And so with body and soul, nature and spirit, time and eternity. These, as ends, change places with man’s change of state. In another respect, also, things that were first become last, and the last first. In the regeneration, states and principles change places, those first acquired becoming last, and those last acquired becoming first. Thus is it with truth and goodness, faith and charity, obedience and love. In the early stage of the new life, truth is before goodness, faith before charity, obedience before love; in the later stage the first of these becomes last, and the last first. Then are they in their right order, as they were in the beginning. And he who came to restore the order which man inverted by the fall has, in these words, pronounced and given the promise of paradise restored, when all things that are first in intrinsic worth shall be first in man’s esteem, and those that are in themselves of least value will occupy the lowest place in his affections.
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