<< MATTHEW V: Spiritual Meaning >>
This forms the commencement of that sublime series of saving wisdom, the whole of which has ever been the theme of general admiration, as known by the name of the “sermon on the mount.” This appears to have been the first regular and continued discourse that fell from the lips of the living Word of God – of Jehovah, as incarnate for human salvation. For until he had been baptized by John, at which time the glorification of his Humanity was so far advanced as to admit of an immediate communication between his divine Essence and his external man – represented by the opening of the heavens, the descent of the Spirit as a dove, and the voice of divine acknowledgment then heard – he did not enter upon any public ministry at all. He then underwent the temptation in the wilderness, after which he returned to Galilee, “and from that time,” as we are informed in the previous chapter, “Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This is precisely the same as John the Baptist had proclaimed before, the burden of whose preaching is described in the very, same words. “Jesus,” however, it is said, “went about all Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and disease among the people.” But the first specimen that is given of his teaching, beyond the general announcement that the kingdom, of heaven was at hand, is that which is here recorded. And how admirably in accord with the character of the Divine Speaker, and with the errand of love on which he has descended into the domains of fallen humanity, are these heavenly sentences! It is to pronounce blessings that he opens his lips; and the first word which issues from them is the encouraging word “Blessed.” And how truly, how sweetly encouraging is this blessing! In the sequel he abundantly declares how high is the tone of morals and true excellence which his religion requires; but, instead of beginning with this, or putting it in a form implying reproof and condemnation, he encourages his disciples to engage with cheerfulness in the duties which he shows to be those of true religion, by pouring out blessings upon the humble, the afflicted, and the well-disposed. He begins with evincing that the human race are the objects of his tender affection; that all that is good in them he desires to foster and increase; that their miseries are regarded by him with the softest pity; and that the delight of his heart is to remove evil and sorrow, to impart good, and eternally to bless.
1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
Whole Chapter cited. The Lord also teaches good works, likewise their quality and the heavenly blessedness thence derived in Chapters V., VI., and VII. of Matthew. E. 785.
The works of charity are taught in fulness by the Lord. D. P., Page 37.
1 As he thus so characteristically begins his divine teaching by manifesting his love – by evincing that it is from the purest Divine Love that all his instructions and requirements, all his words and actions, all his communication and dealing with the human race proceed – so this was represented by the circumstances and situation in, and from which, he delivered this discourse. Seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: and he opened his mouth, and taught them. His seeing the multitudes not only signifies that he beheld them with the eyes of his natural body, but also, according to the spiritual import of the phrase, that he perceived the state or condition of the wandering objects of the children of men – how, as is said in another place, they are “scattered abroad as sheep not having a shepherd” – his discernment of all their wants and needs, and his providence over them, keeping them under his care, and providing, in the best manner that their situation would permit, for their real and eternal good. Divine sight is especially foresight and providence. The Lord’s being said, then, to see the multitude, is expressive of his exercise of this providence over the human race according to their state. For all the actions of the Lord Jesus Christ were representative, no less than his words were expressive, of divine and spiritual things – of some activity of his divine love and wisdom, either as existing within himself, or as going forth upon the human objects of his care and compassion. On account of this representative character of all his actions it was, that, when about to deliver the instructions of love composing this discourse, he went up into a mountain. This, indeed, in a natural point of view, gave him the advantage of the better seeing and being seen by the multitude that he was to address, and conveyed his words more audibly to their organs of hearing: but the action was nevertheless correspondent to the state or principle in himself from which he addressed these encouragements and instructions to the people. We have seen that, as the style of the commencement of his discourse most plainly evinces, he uttered it from the impulse of his divine love, and of this a mountain is a correspondent emblem. Frequent mention is made in the Holy Word, especially in its prophetic parts, of mountains and hills, because, in a good sense, a mountain is representative of celestial love, or love to the Lord, and a hill, of spiritual love, or the love of our neighbour. For it is from love that all spiritual elevation proceeds; and the more exalted and ardent the nature of the love in which man is principled, the more truly elevated is his internal state – the nearer to heaven and to the Lord. Thus, when the prophet declares that in the last days the mountain of the Lord’s house should he established in the top of the mountains, and be exalted above the hills, it is evidently the principle of love, as revealed in the new church, and its supremacy over every lower celestial and spiritual affection, that are signified; and when the Lord is said to go up into a mountain, preparatory to his addressing the people, the signification is, that he entered into the depths and heights of his own unfathomable love, and that from that divine and infinite love flowed his divine words – all the truths which he communicates for the edification and regeneration of the human race.
When he was set, it is added, his disciples came unto him. It was the custom with teachers in the Jewish representative church to deliver their instructions in a sitting posture, and not that of standing, which most nations have regarded as the most convenient for that purpose. The reason of the former choice was because sitting is significant of permanence and confirmation. Thus, to deliver instructions sitting, implied that the doctrines delivered were the dictates of permanent and immutable truth. How truly was this applicable to the instructions of the Lord Jesus Christ! With strict propriety and weight of meaning is it therefore recorded that he seated himself, and that in a mountain, when he delivered this divine discourse. The doctrines he then delivered were the dictates of eternal and immutable divine truth-eternal and immutable because grounded in the purposes of infinite beneficence and love.
2 Thus it was that he opened his mouth, and taught – revealed the doctrines and communicated the life-giving instructions of that infinite wisdom which is constantly directed to the promotion of the true welfare of man, the salvation of the human race.
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
3 That in these passages by spirit is meant the very life of man is quite evident, that it signifies intellectual life, or the life of truth may be manifest from this consideration, that by spirit in the natural sense is meant the life of the respiration of man, and the respiration, which is of the lungs, corresponds to the life of truth, which is the life of faith, and thence of understanding, whilst the pulse which is of the heart, corresponds to the life of the will, thus of the love. Hence it is manifest what life, in the spiritual sense, is meant by spirit. A. 9818.
There are various opinions about reception into heaven. Some think that the poor are received and the rich not, some that the rich can be received only by giving up their wealth, and becoming like the poor. Those who know anything of the spiritual sense of the Word think otherwise. They know that heaven is for all who live a life of faith and love, whether rich or poor. H. 357.
By the spirit is also signified spiritual life communicated to those who are in humiliation. L. 49
Without doctrine, it may be thought that heaven is for the poor, and not for the rich, but doctrine teaches that the poor in spirit are meant. S. 51.
By the poor and needy are chiefly understood those who are not in the knowledges of good and truth, and yet desire them, for by the rich are understood such as are possessed of the knowledges of good and truth. R. 209.
By a man’s spirit, in the concrete, nothing else is meant but his mind, for it is this which lives after death, and is then called a spirit; if good an angelic spirit, and afterwards an angel; if evil a satanic spirit, and afterwards a satan. T. 156.
Without doctrine it may be imagined that heaven is designed for the poor, and not for the rich, but doctrine teaches that the poor in spirit are meant. T. 226.
3-12. Reward means the felicity of eternal life arising from the delight and pleasantness of the love aneh affection of good and truth. R. 526.
3 et seq. By the meek or the poor, the bound and the blind, to whom the Lord is said, to preach the good tidings of good, are meant the Gentiles, who are said to be poor, blind, and bound, because of their not having the Word, and thus being in ignorance of truth.
3, 6. Throughout the Word frequent mention is made of the poor and needy, and also of the hungry and thirsty. By the poor and needy are signified those who believe that they know nothing from themselves, and also they who do not know, because they have not the Word, and by the hungry and thirsty are signified those who continually desire to possess truths, and to be perfected by them. E. 118.
5 Heaven is also simply called earth or land. A. 2658.
The earth means the Lord’s church in the heavens and on the earth. R. 285.
To inherit the earth does not mean the possession of the earth, but the possession of heaven and blessedness there. The meek signify those who are in the good of charity. E. 304.
6 There are no others who are called just in the Word, but those who from the Lord are in the good of charity towards the neighbour, for the Lord alone is just, because alone justice. A. 9263.
That famine or hunger signifies a desire to know and understand the truths and goods of the church. R. 323.
To thirst signifies to desire truths. R. 956.
To hunger after righteousness signifies to desire good, for in the Word righteousness, or justice, is predicated of good. E. 386.
3 When the Lord was thus set upon the mountain, with the disciples around and the multitude before him, he began his divine discourse by saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Before we proceed to consider the beatitudes, we may offer a few remarks on the connection that exists between them. There can be no doubt that, like all things stated in the Divine Word, there is a regular order and series in these beatitudes, and that, though each appears in the letter to stand by itself, and not to be in any wise dependent on those which follow and precede it, they nevertheless are all connected by divine principles of arrangement, whence each has relation to the others in the series, and each occupies its proper place in it, so that it could not with the same propriety stand anywhere else. What the principle of the arrangement is, however, is not so plain here as in many of the discourses, narratives, and precepts of the Holy Word; and as I have never met with anything in which this matter is illustrated, what I shall offer upon it shall be proposed with great diffidence. I cannot discern that the several blessings fall throughout into classes either of two or of three each, as is usually the case with series of subjects in the Word of God. They are commonly reckoned eight in number, because the two last, both relating to enduring persecution, are usually regarded as composing but one. In form, however, the two last are distinct, making nine in the whole: thus, the distinguishing word “Blessed” is nine times repeated. Hence they cannot be divided throughout into classes of two each. They might be divided into classes of three each, but, as appears to me, not without violence – not without separating parts that are most closely connected, and uniting others which are obviously more distinct. I incline, therefore, to conclude that the first four are connected together, forming two specific classes of two each, but each two having also a plain reference to the other two, so as to compose altogether a general class of two great portions, each again consisting of two members. Thus, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, and Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted, are plainly united, the one having respect to the good and the other to the truth of the same order or state, and composing thus that heavenly marriage, the existence of which we have often occasion to notice in the Divine Word. The one clause has reference to those who regard themselves as destitute of good, and the other to those who regard themselves as destitute of truth. But the two next clauses are connected together in the same way, and also answer respectively to the two first. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth – Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled, are clauses which relate to those who are in the desire for goodness and truth; and there appears a relation between the meek, in the first of these clauses, and the poor in spirit in the first clause of the preceding class: whilst there is a relation no less plain in the beatitude promised to each, the inheriting of the earth clearly answering to the possessing of the kingdom of heaven. So the hungering and thirsting after righteousness, in the second clause of this second class, is closely allied to the mourning mentioned in the second clause of the preceding class; and the being filled answers to the being comforted.
Thus, while each of the two classes contains a clause relating more to truth, and a clause relating more to good, the two classes have the same relation taken together. The poor in spirit and they that mourn, both have relation to the principle of truth, if viewed in connection with the meek, and with those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, which have relation, so viewed, to the principle of good; but to good more as looked to and desired than yet actually attained.
The three next clauses are closely related with each other, and so little connected with the preceding and following that they appear to me to form one general class together, and by themselves. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. All these terms – the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers – seem to belong properly to the states of the will or love, and thus to those who are in the enjoyment, respectively, of three degrees of good from the Lord, and thence are principled in pure divine truth, or gifted with its perceptions.
The two last clauses, relating, to those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, and for the Lord’s sake, evidently belong to each other, and form a class by themselves They relate to those who, by temptations, both as to good and as to truth, attain to states of good and of truth through purification from evils. Thus they relate to the means by which are effected the conjunction of the internal and the external man, and the conjunction of man himself with the Lord.
I know not whether, by this slight sketch, I have been able to convey any clear idea of the mode in which, as it appears to me, the clauses of these beatitudes are to be classified. I think, however, it will be seen that the two first clauses, relating to the poor in spirit and to them that mourn, form a pair; the second two, relating to the meek and them that hunger and thirst after righteousness, another pair, and these two pairs a compound pair together; that the three next, touching the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers, form a class by themselves; and the two last, respecting the persecuted and reviled, a class likewise. Thus the whole may be viewed as falling into three general portions: the first consisting of two compound, or of four single, members; the second of three single members, and the last of two.
However, whether this attempt at classifying the clauses be seen to be just or not, there is another principle which prevails in the Holy Word, where a general series of subjects is delivered, which cannot fail to be perceived to be applicable here. That is, that the first mentioned in order is a universal principle, which reigns through all the others, and determines their specific quality. That principle here, then, is the being poor in spirit. Evidently, to explain the phrase in one word, this denotes the principle of humility, which is the only ground in which heavenly graces can truly grow. We are therefore taught, by its being here mentioned first, that in order to the enjoyment of any of the beatitudes which follow, humility must first be established, and made a universally reigning principle in the heart and mind.
But what is this humility? If humility is the opposite of pride and arrogance. Unfortunately, in our language we cannot express the quality of being poor in spirit by any one term which does not, according to the genius of the language, convey the notion of what is abject and mean, and which therefore implies rather selfishness than self-abnegation. Yet this cannot be the character of those whom the Lord pronounces to be blest for being poor in spirit, when, in the sequel of this very discourse, he condemns all selfish views in the most decided manner, when he expressly commands his disciples to “do good and lend, hoping for nothing again.” It is true that he says to those who do act in this disinterested manner that their reward shall be great in heaven; but this does not mean an external recompense or repayment independent of the state of good, and thence of happiness in the person’s own mind, but the blessedness which is inherent in that good itself, and which becomes greater and greater in proportion to the degree in which a person is capable of doing good for its own sake, or from the pure love of goodness, irrespective of any reward or any recompence whatever.
But they who are the most capable of acting with real disinterestedness, without regard to recompense, either in the shape of a return of the same kind, or of credit, reputation, and applause in its stead, will most heartily acknowledge that they possess nothing which they have not received; that there is but one source of all real goodness, and of all real greatness; and consequently, that whatever of these may be exhibited in the conduct of a created being, only has a residence in him by gift and communication from his Creator. To separate man from God would be equally to separate him from all good, and then he could neither cherish any feelings nor do any actions but such as are altogether evil. And the only way in which man can be in the reception of pure goodness, truth, or any heavenly attribute from the Lord, is by being habitually in the acknowledgement that whatever he has of that kind is from this divine Source – thus, that nothing of it is from himself, unconnected with his Maker. And in proportion to the depth and fullness of the feeling and conviction which man has, that nothing good or true is from himself alone, will be his capacity of receiving ennobling gifts from his Creator and Redeemer. Therefore it is that the Lord pronounces the first of his beatitudes in favour of those that are poor in spirit, and affirms that theirs is the kingdom of heaven. For to be poor in spirit is to be in the heartfelt acknowledgment of our spiritual poverty and destitution in, and of, ourselves; specifically, to see and feel that nothing of true knowledge, understanding, and wisdom is of ourselves, or is self-derive. In proportion as there is this heartfelt acknowledgment, there is the capacity of receiving the corresponding gifts from the Lord, and of enjoying and exercising them by derivation from him. These, consequently, are imparted in abundance to such a mind; in other words, there is the kingdom of heaven – the reign of Divine Truth, with all the graces which it brings. And if by reason of temptations from beneath, or from the activity of the evils of man’s nature striving to engross his affections, the kingdom of heaven is not at all times felt by such a person to be his in possession, it nevertheless is, even in his darkest states, his in property, or in right, and by the best of all rights, that of gift and endowment from its Divine Originator and indefeasible Proprietor.
4 One with the promise made to the poor in spirit is that to those who mourn. For if one of these terms refers more specifically to the acknowledgment and perception, on the part of man, that he has no knowledge, understanding, or wisdom of himself, the other refers to the corresponding acknowledgment that he has no good, no charity, no heavenly love of his own; that, viewed as he is in and of himself, and separate from his connection with the Lord, he is destitute of the graces of the heavenly kingdom in regard to the furniture of his will, as well as in regard to that of his understanding. Therefore, again, man being thus emptied of self, there is room for the Lord to enter, and to fill him with his good. Wherefore, also, it is said of those who mourn, that they shall be comforted – that all their wants shall be supplied – that the destitution of which they are sensible in themselves shall be removed – and that, being well aware that they can pretend to nothing good of their own, or originating in themselves, they shall be supplied with good in all abundance, and according to the utmost of their capacity of reception, from the Lord.
It is, however, a fact, that man is not only negatively destitute of all truth and of all good in and of himself but also, that positively, in and of himself, he is nothing but evil – that, by what is called the fall of man, and the accumulation of evil which has thence gone on through innumerable generations, man brings into the world with him an immense mass of tendencies to every direful and abominable enormity, so that his selfhood is entirely made up of such evil tendencies; and that every one has, to a greater or less extent, allowed these tendencies to come into act, and so has alienated himself farther from the pure reign of the Lord and of goodness. Here is abundant ground, when a man becomes sensible that such is really his state, for mournful sensations literally; and grief on account of the privation, absence, or perversion of good, is the proper spiritual signification of mourning when mentioned in the Holy Word. No one, however, can truly mourn over the evils which he perceives in himself but from something good interiorly received from the Lord. Whenever, therefore, there is real sorrow for sin, – not merely alarm on account of its expected punishment, – there, to a certainty, a principle of good, of mercy, or of grace, is present from the Lord, operating to effect a cure. That cure, is effected when the good thus present with man from the Lord has accomplished the removal of the evil opposed to it – when it has become paramount in the soul; and not only so, but when it fills the whole heart, mind, and life, so that, being consciously loved, it is attended with a corresponding sense of delight and happiness. And this is what is strictly signified by the assurance, that he that mourneth is blessed, because he shall be comforted.
5 As the two first beatitudes relate to those who, from a principle of good in the internal, see the disorders of the external, in which they discern there is nothing but evil and falsity, so the two next beatitudes which answer to them, relate to those in whom goodness and truth are implanted in the external also, evil and falsity being removed. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. The earth is used in Scripture to signify the church, and, in relation to man individually, his external man: here it denotes the external man in state of regeneration and order. The meek denote those who are principled in charity, and who, from charity in the internal man, are mild and forbearing in the affections of the external man, towards those who oppose or ill-treat them, instead of acting, as the unregenerate man does in such cases, with resentment, passion, and violence. Thus it is said of Moses, in reference to the causeless sedition against him of Miriam and Aaron – “Now the man Moses was very meek above all the men which were on the face of the earth,” (Num. xii 3). And the Lord takes the character himself when he says in that pathetic address to the weary and heavy laden, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me: for I am meek and lowly of heart.” They, then, who are meek are they who, from a principle of charity, are able so to direct the feelings and conduct of the external man as that no emotions of anger and bitterness shalt arise or break out on any occasion whatever – who, partaking of the long-suffering attribute of the Divine Master, are able in their patience to possess their souls. This is a state, not merely of acknowledgement of evil, and of grief on account of it, but of good, which succeeds upon its removal in consequence of such acknowledgment. And the happy ones who thus cultivate this race of meekness shall assuredly inherit the earth. This does not mean, what many have dreamed, that the saints shalt become the sole possessors of what are called the good things of the world, and that a temporal kingdom over the realms of the earth shall be conferred upon them: what it means is, that the external man which by natural birth is the seat of all evils, shall be reformed and regenerated, and all its evils be removed and so controlled by the prevalence and dominion of heavenly principles, as to be in complete subjection and quiescence.
I have observed that the meek are they who are principled in charity, and thence regulate the emotions of the external man according to the principles of charity. But it is to be remembered that charity in its essence is truth, being the affection of living according to what truth teaches. Moses also, who was said to be the meekest of men, represents the law divine, or truth divine, in its internal ground. So that strictly, the term meek describes the quality of internal truth, which is not contentious, but pacific. In this view the clause will answer very exactly to that respecting those who are poor in spirit, they being specifically such as acknowledge that nothing of knowledge, intelligence, and wisdom is from themselves, thus, that of themselves, they are destitute of truth. This acknowledgement of destitution is in due time followed by the communication of truth; or the poor in spirit, to whom belongs the kingdom of heaven, or who have the internal man opened, in due time become the meek who shalt inherit the earth – those who, being in internal truth and the good of it, come into the possession of all the graces of the regenerate external Man.
6 The next beatitude, Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled, relates to the blessedness of being in the affection of goodness and truth; which affection is sure to be gratified, according to the degree of its intensity, by the communication of all the good and of all the truth which there is a capacity for receiving. Hunger, when applied to the Lord, is the earnestness of his desire to communicate good to mankind thus, for their salvation. So hunger, when applied to man in the sense of having an appetite for food, denotes his desire to be endowed with goodness, which is the proper food of the will, and in like manner thirst, thus applied, is his desire to appropriate truth, which is the proper food of the understanding. Righteousness is evidently goodness. Thus to hunger and thirst after righteousness is to desire and look to good with all the powers of the will and the understanding.
This is a desire which in a manner fulfils itself, since truly to desire to become better is actually to become so: only we must take care not to mistake a barren wish, the result of a mere intellectual conviction of the superiority of the state regarded, for that real desire of affection which alone is true spiritual hunger and thirst. Thus desiring, we shall know what it is to be happy. The happiness promised to such states will begin its development even in this life, by inspiring an inward peace and contentment: and it will expand hereafter into the utmost fulness of delight and joy.
We have observed of the first four beatitudes that they seem to constitute two double clauses, answering in each of their members respectively to each other; agreeably to that species of heavenly marriage, or union of goodness and truth, so often observable in the structure of the Divine Word. But besides the arrangement of the clauses into pairs, and into double pairs, which are so often found in the more poetical parts of the Word of God, triple clauses also not unfrequently occur, expressive of the three degrees of divine order existing in everything that proceeds from the Lord, by reason that such a trine or trinity exists in his own nature – and thence by derivations in the nature of man, his image, and thus also in heaven and in the church, and in anything whatever that is full and complete; whence, the number three itself, also, in the divine style of writing, signifies what is full and complete. In agreement with this order the three next beatitudes appear to be arranged; all which seem to relate more especially to states of good, and thus to denote three classes of persons who are distinguished by their attainments in heavenly good and love; and also to the three degrees of those excellencies as opened in the mind which is regenerated throughout its faculties. “Blessed are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers” All these terms – merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers – certainly refer primarily to states of good; and most admirable and exalted must be the states which are properly described by such heavenly characteristics, – and they are used in reference to what our doctrines call the celestial man, through all the powers of his mind.
As the preceding beatitudes evidently describe an upward progress, it might be supposed that the ascending order would be still observed; but there are several points, not necessary to be mentioned, which indicate that this is not the order in which these three beatitudes are to be taken. We will now attempt to ascertain what is denoted by these three beatitudes respectively.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
7-48. See Chapter III., 8, 9. A. 2371.
7 43-48. See Chapter III., 8, 9. A. 1017.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Mercy, as we commonly use the word, is the affection of the mind which is exercised towards those who have been guilty towards us of some injury or offence, and whom we forgive and do good to notwithstanding. But the original term, though containing this meaning is of still more extensive import, as it includes all that we mean by compassion and pity – that is, all benevolence exercised towards those who are unhappy or distressed. If we remit to a person who has injured us the punishment he has deserved, we call it having mercy on him; if we sympathize with and relieve, where the case admits of relief, a person in distress, we call it having compassion on him. Both are included in the Scripture idea of mercy: indeed, the highest degree of tender benevolence, exercised especially towards those who are in affliction or distress, is what is called mercy in Scripture. Thus, as man of himself, is a helpless creature, exposed to great miseries and, if left to himself, to eternal ruin; therefore the Lord’s love, as exercised towards him, is properly mercy, hence we find his love so continually spoken of, especially in the Old Testament, under the name of mercy, and his mercy is what is so continually supplicated in the inspired petitions of the Psalms. And they who are most sensible of their lost and wretched condition by nature and birth, and of the utter impossibility of their attaining real happiness, or any permanent good, except it be imparted to them as a free gift by the Lord, the most truly receive all the communications of his love and bounty as being of pure mercy. His love, as received by them, and exercised towards them, is felt and acknowledged to be mercy. The inmost feeling of their hearts is expressed in that divine saying of Jeremiah (Lam. iii. 22), “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed because his compassions fail not.” They know well, that if his love, the communications of his mercy, were to be withheld from them a single moment, in that moment the evil of their selfhood would break forth and sink them into ruin. And the more profoundly man feels this, the more fully are those gifts conferred upon him; because, though the Lord never withholds them, it is only thus that room is made for their more fully flowing into him. He thus becomes most fully the recipient and the subject of the Lord’s all-embracing love. Thus they, who receive the Lord’s love in the greatest degree, and thence are most especially the objects of his love, are they who ascribe all to his mercy. This then, is eminently the characteristic of the celestial man – of the man who is most intimately principled in love to the Lord.
Now, it is an unquestionable fact, that they who thus are most replenished with the Lord’s love in their own souls will necessarily overflow most with love and compassion towards others. Such then are “the merciful” spoken of in this beatitude. They are those who feel compassion from an internal, a celestial ground, for the miseries and infirmities of others. They will be merciful towards those who have injured or offended them, ever ready to forgive and to do them good. Yet their charity in this respect will be guided by prudence, and while they look upon the misconduct, even of their bitterest enemies, with pity, and cherish no inclination to do them injury in return, they yet will not so act as to encourage them in their wickedness, or to give them the means of perpetrating it to a greater extent. They will cherish feelings of benevolence towards all, and of mercy and compassion even towards the greatest sinners; but they will exercise charity in externals to every one according to his state, – thus, in one way towards a wicked man, and in another towards a good, knowing that the Lord’s love towards mankind, to be exercised at all, necessarily takes the form of mercy; and feeling this experimentally in themselves, they will desire to act, in their finite degree, and according to their feeble ability, in a similar way towards their fellow creatures. They will view them, in some degree, as the Lord views them: they will feel compassion on beholding them wander from the paths of real good and happiness, and will thence desire above all things to contribute in some degree to reclaim men from their blindness and evil ways, and to promote in them the reception of the Lord’s love and mercy. Thus, in every respect, they will cherish towards all the feelings of compassion and tenderness – of external compassion for those who are in outward calamities, of internal for those who are in spiritual destitution; and they will desire to do good in both respects, as far as their ability extends. Thus receiving the Lord’s love, though in comparative obscurity, while in the world, and cultivating the merciful spirit which it inspires, they shall enjoy it openly and fully after death, and shall experience for ever the inestimable blessing of having obtained mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
8 Seeing God means believing in Him, or seeing Him by faith, for they who are in faith, by faith see God, for God is in faith, and in that which constitutes true faith. A. 3863.
Illustration is from the Lord alone, and is with those who love truths because they are truths, and apply them to the uses of life. These are they who are in illustration when they read the Word, and to whom the Word shines and is transparent. S. 53.
They who believe in the Lord and do good from Him, are called sons of light, and it is said that they shall see God. Life 17.
The conjunction of the Lord with a man in whom evils are removed, is understood by these words of the Lord. P. 33.
8, 48. That man may be in the Lord, He Himself teaches in John xvii. 22, 23, 26. From this it is evident, that they are perfect when the Lord is in them. These are they who are called the pure, in heart, who shall see God, and the perfect as their Father in the heavens. Life 84.
8 The blessedness of the pure in heart, though also belonging to those who are of a celestial character, yet appears to partake of an intellectual quality, and to relate rather to the understanding of those who are grounded in celestial good, while the being merciful describes the quality of their will itself. The intellectual part, however, of those who are in the celestial state, or whose ruling love is love to the Lord, is completely one with their will, so that they never can think of anything from a mere intellectual view of it, but always in connection with their love and affection: hence their very thoughts are in a manner nothing but affections, being derivations, in a conscious form, of the love which occupies their inmost will. Thus to be pure in heart denotes to have a will purified, or cleansed, by the operation of Divine Truth, because it is the character of the celestial man, when he hears any truth, not to deposit it in his memory as a matter for occasional thought or speculation, but to appropriate it immediately in the life, thus making it the means of the still further purification of the will. The heart is always mentioned in Scripture as an emblem of the will; and to be pure in heart is to have a will purified from the defilements of evil, through the continual practice of appropriating divine truths, the only effectual purifiers, in the life, and thus, by their means, continually removing all impurity and evil more and more.
That there is here a reference to the intellectual state of those who are grounded in celestial good, is obvious from the blessing promised to this state, which is, that they who thus are pure in heart shall see God. This clearly relates to the intuitive perception of Divine Truth, which they enjoy who are principled in celestial good – whose state of good is grounded in the will itself, and not in the intellectual part only. To see is always spoken in the Word of the perceptions of the understanding, and the Lord is called God more especially in regard to that essential of his nature called Divine Truth: to see God, then, spiritually means, not only to behold a manifestation of the Lord in person (though this also is a privilege which such as are here treated of frequently enjoy), but also to see or apprehend the Lord’s Divine Truth by an interior sort of sight or perception. And none really have such perception but they who are pure in heart – who apply all the truth they learn to the purification of the will and its affections, thus allowing it effectually to cleanse them from evils, by immediately incorporating it in the life and practice.
9 In the two former of these beatitudes we have a description of the state and blessedness of the celestial man, both as to his will and as to his understanding, or rather his perceptive facility, as making a perfect one with his will. It will easily be seen that the third beatitude in order – Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God – relates to the life and practice of such heavenly-minded characters. What conduct can be conceived more expressive of the outward operation of an inward principle of pure and exalted love – more appropriate to such a ground in the heart – than that of making peace! Love, it is obvious, is the great pacificator and where its operation is extended and received there will be peace. There no doubt is also a reference to the Hebrew form of speaking in which to seek the peace of any person or place, means, as we often see in the Old Testament, to promote their welfare in general. In this view the original term would be rendered in English, “peace doers,” a meaning which it bears equally with that of peacemakers: and a peace doer, or a doer of peace, would be one, all whose actions tend to good and usefulness – to promote the prosperity of all with whom he has to deal; whose actions universally tend to good: I have no doubt that both the sense of doers of peace, and that of makers of peace, are here intended; and in both of them we have a full and most characteristic representation of the life of a man who is influenced it; all he does by celestial love. All that such a man does tends to peace. If all mankind were influenced by the same heavenly love, there would be nothing but peace throughout the earth. None would do an act which tended to the injury of another; and where, by any means, such an act was done, all would hasten to repair it, and to heal the breach which had been made. To do and to make peace, their, is undoubtedly the characteristic in act of him whose life in the will is constituted by love to the Lord and mutual love; who is merciful by the reception of the Lord’s mercy; and who, by continually applying divine truths to the life, is pure in heart.
But no doubt a more interior meaning still is couched in the term peacemakers. The term relates, in the purely spiritual sense, to those who remove the contrariety which exists, by natural birth, between the natural man and the spiritual, and thus, also, between man himself and God. By inheritance and birth, as the apostle has informed us, the natural man lusteth continually against the spiritual; and the opposition can only be removed by the subjugation and regeneration of the natural man, by which it first submits, and then receives, in its degree, an affection for the same things as are loved by the internal or spiritual man; and then whatever the spiritual man dictates, the natural man executes with promptitude and delight. This making of peace, then – by which, at the same time, peace is made, or conjunction is effected, between man and the Lord – is what is meant in the purely spiritual sense, when those celestial characters who are here spoken of are called peacemakers; and the result of this internal pacification is, the performance, by the external man from the internal, of such works of good and peace as have been spoken of before. It is also to be observed, that the estimation in which love in act is held by the Lord, is indicated here, as in various other places, by this, circumstance – that the highest blessing mentioned is ascribed to these peacemakers. It is said, that “they shall be called the children of God;” and by the children of God are meant they who are born of him by regeneration; and regeneration is not complete with any, till what the internal man wills the external does, and feels in the doing of it that delight which only results when the action is free and spontaneous.
In these three beatitudes, then, we see, in a coherent series, a picture of the most exalted state that can be attained by a finite being. Its purity and holiness may perhaps, at first, have a discouraging aspect, as if it were such as no man could hope to attain. Yet, certainly, this is not the case. It is a description of a state which is open to every sincere and humble follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. The way of attaining it is that which is pointed out in the second of these three beatitudes – the becoming pure in heart by immediate application of divine truths to the life. Faithfully employing the truths which it is our privilege to know, there is no state of heavenly blessedness which we may not hope to realize; and no degree of angelic excellence which, by the mercy of the Lord, may not eventually be ours.
But while the first seven beatitudes, taken separately, form a series complete in itself; considered as part of a continuous discourse, they form only a branch of a more comprehensive whole. Regarding the Sermon on the mount under one view, the first seven beatitudes describe the formation of the graces of religion in the heart and mind, while its subsequent part, relating to the law and its duties, describes the manifestation of those graces in the virtues of a religious life. Thus the first part relates to the regeneration of the internal man, and the second to the regeneration of the external man. Now the regeneration of the external, and its union with the internal, but by means of temptation; for the external man cannot be effected is contrary to the internal, and cannot be reduced to obedience, and brought into harmony with it, without repeated and severe conflicts. This is the reason that, between the first seven beatitudes and the exposition and enforcement of the law, the Lord introduces the subject and speaks of the blessedness, of persecution, which we now come to consider.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
10 To live according to Divine order is to live according to the commandments of God, and when a man so lives and does, he procures for himself righteousness, not the righteousness of redemption, as effected by the Lord, but the Lord Himself as his righteousness. T. 96.
10-12. He who knows that by the disciples of the Lord are understood all who are in truths from good derived from the Lord, and in an abstract sense the truths themselves from good, and that by their being cast into prison by the devil, is understood the endeavour of those who are in falsity from evil to deprive them of truths, and in the abstract a detention or imprisonment of truths by falsities, may understand what is signified in the following passages. E. 122.
11-12. Good ought to be done without a view to reward. That those who do good shall have reward in heaven, is because man before he is regenerated cannot, but think of reward, but it is otherwise when he is regenerated, he is then indignant if any one thinks that he does good to his neighbour for the sake of reward, for he is sensible of delight and blessedness in doing good, but not in recompense. In the internal sense reward is the delight of the affection of charity. A. 8002.
But for men to think that they shall go to heaven, and that therefore they must do good — this is not to regard recompense as an end, and to ascribe merit to works, for even those who love their neighbours as themselves, and God above all things, think in this manner, which they do from a belief in the words of the Lord. T. 440. These things are said concerning those who fight and conquer in temptations induced by evils, and thus from hell. Temptations are signified by revilings, persecutions, and saying evil falsely for the sake of Christ, for temptations are assaults and infestations of truth and good by falses and evils. By Christ is understood Divine truth from the Lord, which is assaulted, and on account of which they are infested. E. 695.
11 Nothing else but the delight of good and the pleasantness of truth is meant by reward. R. 526.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Persecution signifies temptation. Temptation is inward spiritual persecution. This is a kind of persecution to which the Christian disciple is liable in all ages, which exists independently of outward trials, and which he will have to endure when all outward persecution has for ever ceased. Were not this the case, the Lord’s words would have no practical meaning for most Christians of the present time, and for all Christians of the coming age. This inward persecution is that which is truly endured for righteousness’ sake and for the Lord’s sake. It is descriptive of temptation in which the conflict is for the principle of righteousness or goodness, and for the Lord’s love in the heart, as the very life and joy of the soul. Temptation is intense in the degree that it is interior. The higher the prize the severer the contest. The more precious the good which the heart loves, the deeper the anguish when its loss is threatened. But all such trials tend to make goodness more precious, and its possession more secure, to make it enter more deeply into the affections of the heart, by removing the opposite evil. The more our self-love is subdued, the more the love of God is exalted; and with its exaltation there is in increase of all true joy and happiness. It is almost unnecessary to say that this blessing is not promised to us for being tempted, but for overcoming in temptation. This is implied; for temptation is but a means to an end, and only when the end is attained is the reward experienced. Here again, the reward is the kingdom of heaven. The beatitudes end as they begin. The kingdom of heaven is the first and the last of our spiritual blessings. First heaven is opened in us, and then it is perfected.
11 But the Lord proceeds to say, Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. It is only necessary to remark on this, that the extent of the temptation is here described, its nature being indicated in the previous words of our Lord. And the temptation here covers the whole man. For to revile is expressive of opposition to good in the will; to persecute is expressive of opposition to truth in the understanding; and to say all manner of evil falsely is expressive of opposition to good in the life. The persecutor also says this falsely “for the Lord’s sake.” Those who are persecuted are the disciples, who represent all the Christian graces and virtues, or all the principles of good and truth. And these are persecuted when the principles they represent are opposed in us by evil and malignant spirits; and evil spirits hate and oppose and desire to destroy good and truth in us because the Lord is in them; for the Lord dwells in us by the graces and virtues which we receive and do from him, and the divine sphere of the Lord, as the supreme good and truth, produces the deadliest hatred in the spirits of the kingdom of evil.
12 The Lord not only promises, but he exhorts. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad – that is, when ye are persecuted. We find the same sentiment expressed by the apostles to whom these words had been “Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience” (James i. 2). Paul, too, utters the same truth. “We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope” (Rom. v. 3). To joy in tribulation and temptation is no doubt a sign of a high state of Christian perfection. Adversity in any of its forms, internal or external, is one of the sharpest trials of our faith – a stone of offence on which many stumble, and on which some fall and are broken. But what is the state of mind which enables us to rejoice in it? Many of the early martyrs displayed this state in a remarkable degree. Yet it is perhaps more difficult to rejoice in inward temptation than in outward trial. The mind may be calm when the body is tortured. In temptation it is the mind that suffers; the body meanwhile may be free from pain. This kind of affliction is therefore not joyous, but grievous at the time. Its fruits are joyful. When the storm has passed away, and the sun shines out in the heavens, cleared of the impurities with which they had been surcharged, new life and vigour animate the soul. This inward joy is the great reward in heaven promised to the tempted soul; for the heaven in which the reward is experienced is the heaven of the inner man, where into the delights of heaven descend and are felt as joy that passeth all understanding. The disciples are exhorted to “rejoice” and “be glad;” for joy is all affection of the will, and gladness is in affection of the understanding. And they are to rejoice and be glad, because the prophets had been so persecuted before them. Understood spiritually in reference to one person, this previous persecution of the prophets relates to previous temptations of a lower order and more external kind. A prophet has relation to truth, as a righteous man has to good. And temptation as to truth is spiritual temptation and temptation as to good is celestial temptation. The first prepares the way for the second; and he who has overcome in the less has the prospect of overcoming in the greater.
13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
13 In a genuine sense salt signifies the affection of truth. A. 2455.
By salt is signified the desire of the conjunction of truth and good. Salt infatuated (“lost his savour”) means desire grounded in the proprium, thus in the love of self and the world. A. 10300.
13, 14. By the salt of the earth is meant the truth of the church, which desires good, by salt which has lost its savour, is meant truth without desire to good. That such truth is profitable for nothing, is described by salt without savour being thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trod under foot. To desire good, is to desire to do good, and thereby to be conjoined to good. A. 9207.
14 This was spoken by the Lord to His disciples. By them is understood the church, which is in truths from good. That it is not truth unless it be from good, is signified by a city which is exposed upon a hill, and which cannot be hid. A city on a hill signifies truth from good. E. 405.
14, 15. By cities in the spiritual sense are meant doctrines. R. 194.
These things were said to the disciples, by whom are signified all truths and goods in the aggregate. Therefore it is said, Ye are the light of the world, for by light is signified Divine truth, and intelligence thence derived. … By a city set on a hill, is signified truth of doctrine derived from the good of love, and by a candle is signified, in general, truth from good, and thence intelligence. E. 223.
13 The four verses which immediately follow the conclusion of the beatitudes form together one connected subject. “Ye are the salt of the earth but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Salt signifies the desire that is inherent in all genuine truth for conjunction with good, and in all genuine good for conjunction with truth. They who are addressed are the professing members of the church, who are salt by virtue of their possessing the knowledge of divine truth. But if the truth, is received in their minds, is unattended by any desire for conjunction with goodness, it is compared to salt which has lost its savour, and which is fit for nothing but to be thrown away; indicating, that such unfruitful members are cast by the Lord out of his church.
The disciples personally were the means of spiritually seasoning and preserving the world in their day. All true disciples perform this service to the world in their generation. In dark and corrupt times the righteous few are the means of preserving the connection of the race with heaven, and so of preserving the mass from utter corruption. In the spiritual sense the Lord’s words to his disciples have, of course, a higher meaning. The disciples represent the truths and goods of the church, and the church itself is represented by the earth and the world. In its particular application the earth and the world represent the natural mind, the spiritual principles in which are represented by the disciples. Viewing the subject in this particular application, let us see what the language of correspondence teaches us. Salt, as symbolical of affection, was extensively used in the ceremonial worship of the Jews. It was also ordained that salt should be offered with every meat offering, and that the salt of the covenant of their God should not be lacking (Lev. ii. 13). The Lord, who showed how Christians were spiritually to fulfil the ceremonial law, pointed out its application when be said, “Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.” The way to live in peace with each other is to have affection for each other. In his words to his disciples on the mount there is an instructive signification. The natural mind, meant by the earth, is the seat of spiritual corruption. This is its hereditary state, and without some corrective, the corrupt disposition would adopt principles and induce habits conformable to itself. The correction is truth in which there is affection – salt in which there is saltness. “But if the salt have lost his savour, wherewithal shall it be salted?” If truth have lost its affection, or its goodness, wherewith shall the mind be seasoned and preserved in health and activity? What is truth, or thought, or act, or word, or even life itself, without affection? Affection is the true salt of life. Without it the relish of life would be gone. Truly, if the salt have lost its savour, it is thenceforth fit for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men. If affection, which is the essence of religion, is gone, truth, which is the form of religion, is fit only to be cast out and to be trodden under foot; and indeed it is so, if not in this world, at least in the next. For men reject truth for which they have no affection, and trample it under their feet. The feet correspond to the natural and sensual part of man’s mind; and that which is trampled under foot is that which, instead of being a power to influence the natural mind, is rejected from it as vile, and contemned, and cursed. There is a striking version of this same saying of our Lord’s in Luke xiv. 34, where the savourless salt is said to be fit neither for the land nor for the dunghill. The state here treated is the extinction of spiritual affection which has once been cherished in the heart. This constitutes profanation. As salt which has lost its savour is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but to be cast out, so profaners are neither fit for heaven nor hell but are cast out into a region separate from all others, where they exist as things, but do not live as human beings.
14 The Lord next says to the disciples, and of them, Ye are the light of the world. Light is always used in Scripture to signify truth; of which it is so plain an emblem, that every one intuitively sees the correspondence. Light makes natural objects manifest and causes them to appear in their true forms and colours; and truth does the same in regard to the objects of thought and affection. They, then, who possess a correct knowledge of divine truth, and whose minds are so formed by it, that they always think and speak in conformity with its dictates, are thereby qualified to lead the opinions and guide the practices of those who have not derived the same gift immediately from the fountain-head. Therefore the Lord says of his true disciples, “Ye are the light of the world!” What an exalted privilege does such a title describe and imply! But there can be no privilege without a corresponding duty; and assuredly it can be no mean duty which they have to perform who are to act as the lights of the world!
There certainly ought to be something about them distinguishing them from the mere people of the world. It is not in following in the common track of worldly men, nor yet by going before them in their own way, outdoing the common herd in the practices delighted in by the external man, that anyone can become what Divine Wisdom calls a light of the world. It is not by conforming in all things to the ways of the world that a person acquainted with divine truth can follow his vocation to be a light of the world. What is necessary, beyond a mere knowledge of truth, to make him such, the Divine Instructor proceeds to show.
A city (he says) that is set on an hill cannot he hid. This is a very obvious natural fact; but how it illustrates the case of those who, possessing the knowledge of divine truth, are to act as lights to the world, cannot be seen, except in a very general and indistinct manner, till the correspondence of the natural image is known, and the spiritual sense thus deciphered. A city is constantly mentioned in Scripture to denote, the doctrine of divine truth, or the church, or the mind of a member of the church, as framed according to doctrine. A hill is always used as a symbol of love or charity, or, in an opposite sense, of worldly or selfish attachment. It here obviously bears its good signification. A city set on a hill, then, is the doctrine of truth grounded in love and charity; and when it is said that a city so situated cannot be hid, the meaning is, that the church, or the member of the church with whom the doctrine of truth is grounded in love and charity, cannot but exercise an illuminating and beneficial influence on those around. Where truth is inspired by love, it must be active and useful; and benefits to the church, to society, and to the world at large, cannot but ensue according to the extent of the sphere in which such a church, or such a member of the church, has the means and opportunity of exercising an influence. Most assuredly, a city that is set upon a hill cannot be hid: neither will they be hid among mere people of the world whose faith or knowledge of truth is united with love, and thus with zeal and the desire to be useful. And as a city on a hill is visible at a less or greater distance according to the height of the hill on which it stands. So will the light of him who possesses the knowledge of divine truth the farther extend its influence according to the magnitude or degree Of tile affection with which it is united.
15 The divine Admonisher next illustrates, by a comparison of an opposite nature, what is necessary in order that a church, or its members, should be the light of the world. Neither, says he, do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light to all that are in the house. The general meaning of this illustration is as obvious is it is striking. A candle certainly is always lighted for the express purpose of giving light to those in the room where it is; and it would indeed be the height of folly, on having lighted one, to put it under it bushel measure, so as to render it quite as useless as if it had not been lighted at all. Just as useless to the person himself, as well as to all others, is the light of truth, when it has been kindled in the mind, if it is kept there as mere matter of thought and speculation, without producing any effects upon producing the conduct and life of the person himself, or any that can conduce to the advantage and edification of others. A bushel, or any other hollow measure of capacity, has reference to the receptive faculty in man; and all measures or vessels generally signify the same as what they contain, as when a cup is mentioned to signify wine. But a measure, to bold anything, must be placed with the open side upwards, when it is representative of that in the mind which receives the truths and graces of the Lord’s kingdom, and thence of those truths and graces themselves: whilst a measure, to have a candle put under it, must be turned upside down; and then it represents not that which receives the truths and graces of the Lord’s kingdom, but that which rejects and excludes them; and then, if any nevertheless find admission it is by entering from beneath, thus in inverted order, and only to be suffocated, perverted, and destroyed. In such a mind the light of truth, when it has entered, is immediately immersed in the selfhood, and rendered incapable of illuminating the mind, directing the actions, or effecting any saving and beneficial purpose. To have such efficacy it must be placed in its proper situation, raised aloft upon a candlestick so as to diffuse its rays unobstructed around The candlesticks, or rather lamp- stands, of the ancients were not the small articles which we use for the purpose, made to stand upon a table: they were lofty pillars and branches, of ornamental construction, standing on the floor, so that the lamp placed on the top shed its light on all sides, with the least possible interception; and a lamp so placed corresponds to truth in the mind in a state of elevation, by virtue of being conjoined with the affection for goodness – the desire of applying it to its proper use. So situated, as the Lord observes, “It giveth light to all that are in the house,” throwing its rays both on things and persons, and showing what and who they are – corresponding to the effect of divine truth in showing the nature and quality of all the furniture of the human mind (of which a house is the symbol), and enabling the man to arrange everything in due order, and to make the proper use of all.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
16 Divine good is understood by the Father. E. 254.
16, 19. It is manifest that it is works which save or condemn man, that is, that good works save him and that evil works condemn him, for works contain the principle of man’s will. He who wills good, does good, but he who does not do good, however he may profess to will good, still does not will it when he does not do it. In this case it is as though he should say, I will it, but I do not will it. A. 3934.
16 The Lord closes the subject with it most forcible admonitory application of the images just employed. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. What then? are we to do good works purposely to be seen of men – to obtain the good word of those who witness them? What is here meant is, not that we are to do good works purposely to be seen of men, making that our object and aim; but that we are to do them in obedience to the will of God. We are to allow the light that is in us to produce its proper operation, by manifesting itself in a life and conduct of corresponding order and purity. Such a life, indeed, though not cultivated with the view of’ gaining favour from men, cannot but be seen by them, and procure respect for the principles by which they see we are actuated; thus disposing them, seeing that we act from sincerity and not from ostentation, to give the glory to him to whom we shall most heartily give it ourselves – our Father who is in heaven – and encouraging them to go and do likewise. The main object of the sincere Christian must ever be to allow the light of truth in his own mind to become instrumental in effecting in him, and by him, the will of the Lord its Author, accomplishing his own regeneration, and bringing his life and conduct into heavenly order, making him an instrument of use to his fellow- creatures, and thus causing everything within him to give glory to his Father who is in heaven.
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
17 Moses represented the Word, which is called the law, wherefore sometimes it is said the law and the prophets, and sometimes Moses and the prophets.
17, 18. The Lord’s frequent declarations, that in Him are, and are to be fulfilled all things contained in Scripture, involve those things which are in the internal sense of the Word, for this treats solely of the Lord’s kingdom, and in the supreme sense of the Lord Himself. A. 7933.
See Chapter III., 15. A. 10239.
By the law, in a wider sense, are meant all things, that are written in the five books of Moses. L. 9.
That the Lord fulfilled all things contained in the Word, is evident from the passages where it is said that the law and the Scripture were fulfilled, and that all things were accomplished or finished by Him. See Luke iv. 16-21 : John xiii. 18. T. 262.
17, 19. It is manifest that the Lord did not take away sins by the passion of the cross, but that He takes them away, that is removes them, in such as believe in Him and live according to His commandments. Reason alone may teach everyone, if he be at all enlightened, that sins cannot be taken away from a man except by actual repentance, which consists in his seeing his sins, imploring help of the Lord, and desisting from them. L. 17,
17, 19 et seq. The Lord came into the world that He might accomplish a judgment, and thereby reduce al) things in the heavens and in the hells to order, and at the same time that He might glorify His Humanity. Hereby all were saved, and still are saved, who did and do good from Him, and not from themselves, and thus not by any imputation of His merit and justice. E. 774.
17 Having pressed upon his hearers the uselessness of unpractised knowledge, and the necessity of showing their faith in their works, the Lord now proceeds to declare the stability and show the spirituality of the law which imposes upon them the perpetual obligation of obedience. Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets.
No religious apothegm more weighty, and at the same time obviously just, was ever enunciated, than that which holds a conspicuous place among the doctrinal tenets of the New Church, and which affirms, “That all religion has relation to life, and that the life of religion is to do good,” Religion is justly defined to be the bond of connection between man and his Maker: and what can possibly connect man with his Maker, in any real and reciprocal manner, but conformity on the part of man to his Maker’s will, producing, in a finite manner, similarity of character? What is God but the Source of all good – Goodness itself, that has given origin to all things with a view to their enjoyment of the blessings suited to their nature, and to man especially, that he might be the subject of blessings of the highest order, having a capacity to reflect on his condition and his privileges, to know his God, and to be made a partaker, in his finite measure, of the perfections, and thus of the felicity, of his Creator? The Author of all good, then, himself, what call God look to, in his rational offspring, but that they should apply themselves to receive of the good that is imparted from him? But the passive reception of good from God, that is, of spiritual and moral good, is a thing impossible. Man must react to and from the good that flows into him from the Lord, or it cannot become in any respect his own – be imputed to him, or even dwell in him at all.
No revelation ever was or could be given by God of which this was not the grand burden. The Old Testament, consequently, throughout is full of precepts and admonitions, plainly testifying that, in the estimation of its Divine Author, “all religion has relation to life, and the life of religion is to do good.” When the Jewish Church, and the revelation given under it, had become wholly perverted, and He came to found the Christian Church, to accomplish the work of man’s redemption, and to give a further revelation of his will and wisdom, he did not intend to abrogate the revelation he had given before, but only to clear away the Jewish corruptions of it, and to develop more of its true nature, meaning, and design, than had ever been known in the Jewish Church at all: these things compose the substance of the declarations which the Lord commences with the words, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.”
18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
18 That the law in a wider sense is the whole Word, both historical and prophetical. A. 6752.
The law in a wider sense is the whole Word, in a less extended sense the historical Word, in a still less extended sense the Word written by Moses, and in a limited sense the precepts of the decalogue. A. 7463.
Those commandments contain within them more than what appears in the letter, namely, such things as are at the same time adapted for the heavens, and fill them. Hence it is evident on what ground the Word is holy? and what is meant by its being inspired as to every jot, and tittle, and little twirl. A. 8862.
The law is the Word, therefore also, by the Divine providence of the Lord it has been effected that the Word has been preserved, especially the Word of the Old Testament, as to every iota and apex, from the time in which it was written. It^has been shown also from heaven that in the Word not only every expression, but also every syllable, and what is incredible, every little twirl of a syllable, in the original tongue, involves what is holy, which becomes perceptible to the angels of the inmost heaven. A. 9349.
A little paper was at one time sent to me from heaven on which a few words were written in Hebrew letters, and I was told that every letter involved arcana of wisdom, and that these arcana were contained in the inflections and curvatures of the letters, and thus also in the sounds. This made clear to me what is signified by these words of the Lord. H. 260.
That in every tittle of the letter of the Word in the original language there is a certain holiness shewn from heaven. W. H. 11.
That the Lord whilst in the world fulfilled all the contents of the Word, even to its minutest particulars, is evident from these His own words. L. 11.
They (the angels) said also that they have the Word among them, written with letters curved, with little horns and apexes which have a meaning. From this it was evident what these words of the Lord signify. S. 90.
That the Lord, during His abode in the world, fulfilled all things contained in the Word, even to its most minute particulars, is evident from His own words. T. 262.
They (the angels) declared further, that they had the Word among them, written in inflected letters, with significative little bendings and apexes. T. 278.
They (the angels) also explained to me the sense of Psalm xxxii. 2, from the letters or syllables alone, saying that their meaning was, that the Lord is merciful, even to those who do evil. D. V. 14.
18, 19. From the prevailing faith of the present church, that the passion of the cross constitutes the sum and substance of redemption, have arisen legions of horrible falsities respecting God, faith, charity, and other subjects connected in a regular chain with those three, and dependent on them. As, for instance, respecting God, that He passed sentence of condemnation on all the human race, and was willing to be brought back to mercy in consequence of that condemnation being laid on His Son, or taken by the Son upon Himself, and that only those are saved who are gifted with the merit of Christ, either by Divine foreknowledge, or by predestination. This fallacy has given rise also to another principle of that faith, namely that all who are gifted with that faith are instantly regenerated, without any regard to their own co-operation, yea, that they are thus delivered from the curse of the law, being no longer under the law, but under grace, and this notwithstanding the Lord’s declaration that He would not take away one jot or tittle of the law. T. 581.
18, 26. Amen (verily), signifies Divine confirmation from the truth, thus from Himself. Amen signifies truth, and because the Lord was the truth itself, He so often said, Amen (verily) I say unto you. R. 23.
The reason why the Lord calls Himself the Amen, is, because Amen signifies verity, thus the Lord Himself, in as much as when He was in the world He was Divine verity itself or Divine truth itself, which was also the reason why he so often said Amen, or verily, and Amen, Amen or verily, verily. E. 228.
18 And yet notwithstanding the Lord’s statement, there have not been wanting among professing Christians those who have maintained a doctrine exactly opposite to what is here so explicitly delivered; and have even availed themselves of these words to confirm a sentiment directly contrary to that which the words themselves so plainly affirm, – that justification and salvation are by faith alone, and do not depend upon either charity or good works. “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” by that very circumstance, they reply, Jesus Christ came to fulfil the law, and did fulfil it in his own person, which no one had ever been able to do before: and this fulfilment of it by him is imputed to all believers as if it had been done by them: and though no actual fulfilment of it is required of any one of them, and thus, as to such actual fulfilment by them, it is completely abrogated, yet it is not to be considered as destroyed for all that; God accounting it as fulfilled by every one of them, because he imputes to them the fulfilment of it by his Son. Thus again is the Word of God made of none effect by man’s tradition or invention. And they confirm this as the true meaning of the passage by extending it to the next verse, in which the Divine Speaker says, For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Here, because it is said that “one jot or one tittle shall not pass front the law, till all be fulfilled,” they argue, that when all was fulfilled, as was done by the Lord Jesus Christ, the whole did pass away, and was of no force against believers afterwards. So far is this from being the meaning of the Lord’s words, his declaration, that nothing shall pass from the law, till all be fulfilled, is a solemn pledge of the perpetual duration and conservation of the law in every jot and tittle. The true import of these divine sayings, and that which alone is consistent with the context, is, that the moral law, delivered in the Old Testament, such as that of the Ten Commandments, and similar precepts regarding life and practice, are not abolished, but opened and enforced by the gospel of Jesus Christ. As to the spiritual sense, the law and the prophet are men for the sake of indicating that union of goodness and truth so constantly attended to in the language of the Word of God. The law is a term which has relation to good, and prophets is a term which has relation to truth; for by the law is spiritually as has more relation to the duties of life, denoted all such divine truth and by the prophets all such divine truth as has more relation to points of doctrine. Now, it must be abundantly clear that the Lord, who is the Truth itself, never could come to destroy or abrogate his own Divine Truth, either as defining the duties of life or laying down points of doctrine. What is once true, on either subject, is eternally so, and can never be done away with. Destroyed by its Author it never can be: but it may be opened; and, by new aid imparted from him, in consequence of accommodating himself to his creatures by assuming the Humanity, it may be introduced more deeply into the heart and mind of man, rendering both his inward and outward life more conformable to its heavenly dictates. In these respects, it is fulfilled in regard to man: and it is most true that the Lord fulfilled every tittle of it in his own person: and as he thus glorified his Humanity, it is thus that he enabled man to fulfil it likewise. “Heaven and earth” is a phrase that includes the whole universe; but by them is spiritually meant the Lord’s church in heaven and on earth. These never can absolutely cease; and therefore to say that till heaven and earth pass, not one jot or one tittle of the law shall fail, is the same as to say, that the Divine Law or Word can never fail; or, in other words, that the Divine Truth is eternal – and that it really is so, is obvious of itself
19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
19 They who are principled in doctrinals and not so much in life, know not otherwise than that the kingdom of heaven is similar to kingdoms on earth in this respect, that authority over others therein constitutes greatness, the delight arising from such authority being the only delight with which they are acquainted, wherefore the Lord spoke also according to this appearance. A. 3417.
20 See Chapter III., 8. Life 104.
I can assert that they who live according to the doctrine of faith alone and justification thereby, have no spiritual faith at all, and that after their life in this world they come into condemnation; but they who live according to the doctrine adduced above, have spiritual faith, and after their life in this world come into heaven. This also perfectly agrees with the faith received throughout the Christian world, which is called the Athanasian faith. That these things are in perfect agreement with the Word, is evident from the following passages. Matthew xvi. 27 : John v. 28, 29 : Revelation ii. 23, etc. E. 250.
The disagreement here meant (between doctrine and the Word) is, that they who are not willing that the understanding should enter the mysteries of faith, separate the life of love which is good works, from faith, and make the latter alone justifying and saving. They thereby take away everything of justification and salvation from the life of love and of good works, and as to love and to do are mentioned in the Word in a thousand passages, and that man is to be judged according to his deeds and works, and these things do not agree with that religious persuasion, therefore these are those signified by the deadly wound of the head of the beast (Revelation xiii. 3). Some passages shall here be given from the Word, where deeds, works, doing, and operating are mentioned, in order that every one may see the disagreement. Matthew vii. 24, 26 : Luke vi. 46-49 : John xv. 14 ; xiii. 17. E. 785.
19, 20. That religion has relation to life, and that the life of religion is to do good, every one who reads the Word sees, and while he is reading acknowledges. Life 2.
19, 24. In the whole of Chapter V. the subject treated is concerning the interior life of man which is of his soul, consequently of his will and thought thence derived, thus concerning the life of charity, which is the spiritual moral life. E. 746.
21 Those things which are of life, which are of worship, and which are of civil state are not anything with man, so, long as they are in his intellect alone, but then appertain to him when they are in the will. Therefore it is said in the Word throughout that they ought to be done, for to do is of the will, but to know, to understand, to acknowledge, and believe are of the understanding. A. 9282.
That if a man be not inwardly sincere, just, faithful, and upright, he is still insincere, unjust, unfaithful, and without uprightness, the Lord teaches in these words. By righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees is meant interior righteousness, in which the man is who is in the Lord. Life 84.
Righteousness is acquired in proportion as a man lives in the exercise of righteousness, and he lives in the exercise of righteousness in proportion as in all his conduct towaM his neighbor he acts under the influence of the love of righteousness and truth. T. 96.
19 The perpetual obligation of the law of God, and the necessity of obeying it from an internal principle, as well as in mere outward form, is further enforced in the words: Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least (or one of the least of these) commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. This does not mean that a person may habitually break some of the Divine commandments, and teach others to do the same, and yet go to heaven, though he will occupy one of the lowest places: it means that all who are in heaven will think little or meanly of such a person, so that he cannot enter into their society at all – that the low station he will occupy will not be within heaven, but out of it. The angels are not beings who will despise one another, so that the most exalted angel will never think meanly of the lowest. They who are called least, that is, who are of the quality expressed by that term, are such as are least and lowest in every characteristic of human nature – who occupy the meanest of stations among all. who belong to the class of rational and immortal creatures – who retain least of the traces of true humanity, and are not in heaven, but in hell. But observe the Divine tenderness: it is not said, as some say, that whosoever has once broken one of the least of the commandments has incurred irrevocable condemnation, but whosoever shall break one commandment, and shall teach men so, evidently meaning, who treats the commandments as of no authority or obligation, and teaches others to do the same, arguing ridiculing out of regard for divine things. The same is obvious from the use and proper signification of the word rendered “break,” which does not mean to transgress, or to infringe a commandment by a casual or passing act, which may afterwards, if not repeated, be repented of for the future; but it means the same as the word before translated “destroy,” which is the same word in a compound form. It means to dissolve, to abolish is to obligation from the authority of a thing. In the two acts mentioned by the Lord in this declaration of his, there is reference to the two faculties of man, the will and the understanding. Purpose from the will is meant by breaking the, commandment, and confirmation from the understanding is meant by teaching men so. Every such person, whether the sins he commits be little or great, is one of those who are called least in the kingdom of heaven.
The converse follows of itself: Whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. It will thus be seen that he who is of a character truly good is adapted for elevation to heavenly greatness, this solely depending on man’s state as to goodness: whence, in the spiritual sense of Scripture, great means good. Whoever keeps one of the least of the Lord’s commandments from a truly reverential regard to the will of their Author, is in the perpetual effort to do all the commandments, and to do so more and more perfectly. And in heaven, where these intentions are seen, and are what alone are regarded, such a person is called great, or is accounted good, notwithstanding the imperfections which may still adhere to him, and which he is himself in the continual endeavour to surmount. Therefore the being called great, like the being called least, is not made to depend upon conformity to the greatest of the commandments, but to the least, or those which it requires least effort, least resistance to the natural inclinations to comply with: because it is seen that he who keeps even these from a sincere regard to God in his heart, is in the life of goodness received from him, and would on no account offend him by sinning against the greater.
20 The Lord sums up his whole doctrine on the subject of the law by the solemn declaration: For I say unto you; That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. The scribes and Pharisees, indeed, were strict in requiring, and punctilious in attending to, the external observances of the divine law, even in little matters; but they often contrived to evade its obligations in things of greater importance. As the Lord says of’ them, they paid tithe of mint, and anise, and cummin but omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, and the love of God; on which the Divine Reprover says, “These things ye ought to have done, and not leave the others undone.” They generally however, evaded these weighty obligations under some specious pretence of conformity to another commandment, as when they refused to assist their friends in distress by making a fictitious, donation of their property to God, calling it corban, because it was not lawful to apply things really devoted to God, or made a sacred gift of, to any purpose whatever. Usually, however, they kept the commandment in the external form, but positively maintained that, provided this was done, the state of mind in doing it was of no consequence. Thus, David Kimchi, one of the most learned and judicious of the rabbins and commentators on Scripture, positively says, that the meaning of these words, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me,” is not, what every one sees is their real import, that the Lord can pay no regard to outward prayers while evil is intentionally cherished in the heart, but that, if evil is only cherished in the heart, and does not come into outward actions, the Lord will pay no regard to it; for it is only actions that are condemned, not thoughts. The righteousness, then, which is to exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, is that which extends to the heart and thoughts, as well as to the outward actions. This is the righteousness which the Lord regards, who looks far more at the heart and thoughts than at the words and actions. How plain is it, then, to see that the Lord did not come to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfil them, and to enable us to fulfil them also; that there is no abrogation of the Divine law by the gospel, and no contrariety, but the most perfect harmony, between them. Under the gospel we are not to abide in the mere letter of the law, but must enter into its spirit, knowing that, as the apostle observes, the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in them who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit; and that the power thus to walk is given to those who look to, and exercise true faith in, Jesus Christ.
21 Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
21, 22. Whosoever bears hatred towards his brother kills him in his heart. By these expressions are meant different degrees of hatred. Hatred is contrary to charity, and if it does not murder with the hand, yet it does so in mind, and by every possible method, being only prevented from committing the outward act by external restraints. A. 374.
To be angry here signifies to depart from chanty, consequently to be in hatred. A. 1010.
To kill a man is not only to do so in act, but also to will to do so, which is signified by being angry, and acting towards him with insult. A. 8911.
Judgment signifies Divine truth. A. 9857.
It is evident that to be reconciled to a brother is to shun enmity, hatred, and revenge, that is to shun them as sins. The Lord also teaches that even to be rashly angry with a brother, or with the neighbour, and to account him an enemy, is murder. Life 73.
In a wider natural sense murder signifies enmity, hatred, and revenge, which may be called death-breathing passions, because murder lies concealed in them, just as fire does in wood embers. T. 309.
By being angry with his brother rashly, is here also signified enmity and hatred against good and truth. They also who are in such enmity, continually kill in mind, intention and will. E. 693.
21-26. But the more remote sense of this precept Thou shalt not kill, which is called the spiritual-celestial sense, is thou shalt not take away from man the love and faith of God, and thereby his spiritual life, this being very homicide itself, for by virtue of this life man is man. E. 1012.
As hatred which consists in willing to kill, is opposite to love to the Lord, and also to love toward the neighbour, and these latter loves make heaven with man, it is manifest, that hatred, being thus opposite, makes hell with him, nor is the infernal fire anything else but hatred. By being delivered to the judge, and from the judge to the officer, and from this being cast into prison, is described the state of the man who is in hatred after death. By the prison is understood hell, and by paying the uttermost farthing is signified the punishment which is called eternal fire. E. 1015.
21-48. There was nothing internal in their religious principle (Jewish nation). If any one in this case had said to them, that such things were against the internal of the church, they would have replied that this was false. That they were merely in externals, and altogether ignorant of what an internal is, and led a life contrary to an internal, is evident from what the Lord teaches in Matthew v. 21-48. A. 4903.
21, 22 et seq. Hatred against the neighbour is meant by being angry with his brother without cause, and the degrees of its increase are described by saying to him Raca, and calling him fool. Anger signifies an aversion to charity, and is grounded in evil, thus it is hatred. A. 8902.
22 In the internal sense it teaches that he who bears hatred against his neighbour, is by that very hatred condemned to death, that is, to hell. A. 1011.
See Chapter III., 10-12. E. 504.
22-24. Brethren to each other are all they, who are principled in good, yea, all who are called neighbours.
22-26. Those who have indulged in mutual hatred toward each other in the world, meet together in the other life, and are intent upon doing much mischief to each other. A. 5061.
21 Having laid down these general principles respecting the law, the Divine Speaker proceeds to illustrate them by contrasting the genuine import of the commandments of the ancient law, and its Divine infillings as now opened by himself, with the lax and superficial, and in fact make-believe manner in which it was interpreted by the Jewish teachers and observed by the people. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill. A very singular sort of mis-translation occurs here, and in the repetition of the same phrase in subsequent parts of the chapter, in saying, Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time. All the learned agree that this ought to be, as it is given in the margin, “Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time.” And, indeed, common sense shows this must be the meaning intended: for it is one of the ten commandments which is referred to – and these were not delivered by the Israelites of old, but to them by Jehovah. Another defective translation occurs in the repeated use of the phrase, in danger of, as if the ensuing punishment were not certain to follow; whereas the original implies that the person has become subject to the penalty alluded to. Whosoever shall kill, shall be not only in danger of the judgment, but liable or subject to it: and so in other places.
The Lord now proceeds to show the difference between the mere letter and the spirit of’ the Divine law. The Jews had received the Divine command, “Thou shalt not kill,” and had understood it prohibited only the act of murder. The Lord teaches his disciples that this law was in reality designed to prohibit not only the criminal act, but every disposition which tends to produce it. To represent, as the scribes and Pharisees did, all sorts of malignant and revengeful feelings as lawful, while they were restrained solely by the fear of punishment from proceeding into the most atrocious of outward acts, is to break or destroy the authority of the Divine requirements in a very awful way indeed. The Lord therefore proceeds to show that states of mind partaking of what is opposite to love, which is the fulfilling of the law, such as hatred and malice, and actions thence proceeding though not including the commission of murder in the external form, may nevertheless bring upon the person, as to his spirit, and as to his external state hereafter, consequences as awful as can result from the outward commission of murder itself. He further shows that there are three degrees of such states, the slightest of which involves eternal condemnation equally with external murder. In other words, that there are three degrees of spiritual murder, involving all the eternal consequences from the mildest to the most grievous, that can follow the commission. of natural murder, whether the external crime be committed or not. – (1.) The first of these is causeless anger. He that is angry with his brother without a cause shall be liable to the judgment. It is plain that this must be with regard to the sinner’s state hereafter; for none but the Divine Judge can know whether anger includes the principle of murder or not. But by the eye of infinite Wisdom it is seen that such anger as is here alluded to is a crime of the same nature, and if left unchecked would terminate in the same end, and therefore brings the person into the same state, and cannot but draw upon him the same eternal punishment. But the words must be looked at a little more interiorly, in order that their purport may be truly seen. All evils are either milder or more malignant in proportion as they include, in a greater or less degree, the confirmed and intentional rejection of the opposite good. Thus all offences against others are milder or more malignant in proportion as they include less or more of a deliberate rejection of charity, and disregard for the Divine law, which enjoins charity, and forbids all violation of it. The term brother is always used in the Divine Word when understood as to its spiritual sense, to denote charity, because charity, or mutual love, is the principle of brotherly union. To be angry with a brother means, therefore, to be in a state contrary to charity, either absolutely so, or only in appearance. Therefore the state of condemnation here treated of is mercifully limited by the being angry with a brother without a cause, anger without a cause being a sure mark of a state contrary to charity. It is true that opposition to charity must always be without a cause; but there may be cause for being angry with persons who are nevertheless our brethren, either more nearly or more remotely, and who are to be regarded with charity. There are few persons in this world who are such perfect forms of charity as never to say or do anything calculated to give offence or provocation to others; and there are equally few so highly graduated in charity as never to feel offended or provoked at inconsiderate conduct or language in others, much less at what is said or done with a view to offend or provoke them. Self-preservation is an indelible instinct in every being that has conscious life: hence every animated being instinctively repels aggression, and, when suddenly assaulted, feels resentment or anger. Such resentment or anger, which passes away with the occasion that momentarily excited it, is not incompatible with charity; it only becomes so when it is cherished afterwards, and is suffered to degenerate into revenge. There is also a, feeling of anger which is without malignity, being directed rather against evil, than against the person who commits it. This is more properly zeal than anger, for the love of good, and even the love of the evil-doer, lies at the foundation of the emotion. This feeling is attributed to the Lord himself. Jesus looked round on the Jews with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts (Mark iii. 5). So when grief is the origin of anger, it is the warmth of love and not the fire of hatred, and therefore incurs no condemnation. When, on the contrary, the heart feels and cherishes the anger of uncharitableness, the state which is induced upon the mind exposes the soul to the same judgment or condemnation that the Divine Truth has decreed against murder. (2) The second degree of opposition to charity is expressed by one saying to his brother, Raca. This was a name of reproach and contempt, equivalent to calling a person a worthless fellow. Here again, it is evident that it is not according to the literal sense that the words are to be understood. For though it may easily be true that one man may call another a worthless fellow in a spirit of hatred, that would bring him under condemnation here treated of, yet it is evident that such condemnation cannot be the result of the mere utterance of the word. But we are to remember that the brother thus reviled is the principle of charity: thus, spiritually understood, to say, Raca, means to hold charity in bitter contempt; to consider a regard to charity as a thing too ridiculous for attention, as conduct only fit for a weak or silly person. Thus, a rejection of charity, and total opposition to it, from a deeper ground than was signified by the first example, is here implied. On this account it is said, that he who acts thus shall be in danger of the council. This is an allusion to the supreme court of judicature among the Jews, which for great crimes awarded the punishment of stoning to death. This is referred to, to indicate the loss of all spiritual life incurred by those who spiritually say to a brother, Raca. It expresses the present and eternal state of those who confirm themselves intellectually in opposition to charity, and thence act against it without any concern or remorse. (3.) The Lord adds, But whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. The term fool is constantly applied in Scripture, not to the weak- minded, but to the most obstinately and desperately wicked. To call a brother a fool, then, means to be in such direct opposition or contrariety to everything of charity and goodness as to regard good as evil, and to act against it with the utmost malignity and determination of purpose. It implies opposition against it from the deepest ground of the will; not merely contempt for it, but the utmost aversion and hatred against it. Therefore, also, the punishment of it is declared to be hell fire, or the fire of Gehenna, which means the most direful raging and tormenting lusts of evil, with the distracting anguish that ever attends their presence. We see, then, of what immense importance it is that we should ever be careful to guard against the admission into our bosoms of any feelings contrary to those of charity, especially how all-important it is that we should never allow the tendencies of that kind which exist in us by nature to obtain indulgence and confirmation. On the contrary, we should resist everything in our hearts and conduct that is opposite to charity, and assiduously cultivate the heavenly grace of charity itself, till love to the Lord and mutual love become the animating principle of our lives. Thus, not only shall we escape the judgment, and the council, and hell fire, but become prepared for the society of those happy beings who never experience any opposite emotion, and who dwell around the throne of divine love in the interchange of kind offices and affections for ever.
23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
26Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
23, 24. See Chapter II., 11. A. 9293.
The altar represented and thence signifies the worship of the Lord. R. 392.
By offering a gift upon the altar is signified all Divine worship, for this reason, that Divine worship with that nation (Jewish) consisted principally in offering burnt-offerings and sacrifices, by which were therefore signified all things of worship. E. 325.
By offering a gift upon the altar, in the spiritual sense, is understood to worship God, and by worshipping God is understood the worship which is both internal and external, namely, which is of love and faith, and thence of life. E. 391.
See Chapter II., 11. E. 661.
23-26. See Chapter V., 21, 22. Life 73.
25, 43, 44. That the Lord is the source from whom the love of uses or charity is and exists, is evident, that the neighbour is the object to whom it tends, is because the neighbour is the object toward whom chanty ought to be cherished, and toward whom charity ought to be performed. The reason why he loves those uses is, because the love of uses and the love of the neighbour cannot be separated. Man may indeed, from the love of uses or from charity, do good to an enemy and to a wicked person, but to them he performs the uses of repentance, or reconciliation, which uses are various, and are effected by various methods. D. Wis. xi. 2.
23, 24. Having shown the direful nature of all lusts of evil that partake of enmity or hatred, or anything that opposes or makes no account of the principle of charity, the Divine Instructor now admonishes his disciples of the need of looking into their own hearts, to see if anything inconsistent with the most genuine charity lies lurking there; of the indispensable necessity of making such investigation, in order that any of our exercises of external worship may be acceptable to the Lord; and of the importance, therefore, of practising self-examination, especially connecting it with the most solemn acts of our devotion. “Therefore,” he says, – seeing, that is, that the indulgence of bad feelings in the heart, and the allowing them to appear in what are usually regarded as deeds of little importance, have eternal consequences as fatal as the actual commission of the greatest external crimes, – on this account, if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. To bring our gift to the altar is to offer to the Lord the homage of prayer and praise, which ought to proceed from affections of love to him and charity towards our neighbour: all die good and blessing of which, in any form, we may be partakers is, in all sincere worship, ascribed to the Lord as his gift. There to remember that our brother hath ought against us, is on such occasions to be made sensible that we cannot worship the Lord in an acceptable manner, or from such love and charity as alone can give to worship a quality that he can approve, through the cherishing of some affection inconsistent with charity in our bosom. A brother, as already observed, is always named in the Word as a type of that charity which ought to reign in the breasts of all mankind, and especially in the hearts of the members of the Lord’s church, towards each other. In reality, all mankind are brethren, being all the children of the Almighty Father, and all creatures of the same nature, designed for the same eternal end; but most especially are all they brethren who have been born again of their heavenly Father, through the reception of his divine truth and the formation thereby of a principle of spiritual life in their souls. A brother, therefore, in the true sense of the name, is one who feels as a brother – who cherishes the affection which brethren, both natural and spiritual, ought to feel and show for each other. Abstract, then, in idea, the affection itself from the person in whom it exists, and you see that a brother is a proper term in the Holy Word to express the grace of charity itself, which only can be given from the Lord, since it is quite obvious that He who formed mankind to exist, both in families and in large communities, in the relation of brotherhood, is, together with the relation, the Author of the affection which is its distinguishing characteristic. To remember, then, at the altar, that our brother hath ought against us, is to be made conscious, when before the Lord, and reviewing our state by the light of heaven, that something contrary to charity both possesses our minds and influences our practice. We cannot be in a state to offer acceptable worship to the Lord so long as we cherish any malignant feeling towards any one, however much he may have injured us. We cannot indeed be in a state capable of presenting with acceptance our offering at the Lord’s altar, or coming before him in worship, till we have removed the offending principle from our minds, and can feel a consciousness that we entertain no affection or emotion incompatible with charity in regard to anything that exists. The course, then, of this state of the mind, in regard to the principle of charity, is what is directed by the Lord when he says, “Leave there thy gift before the altar and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” It is remarkable that the Lord does not direct the gift to be taken away again. He is addressing a sincere, though erring disciple, who comes to worship him from some degree of good received from him, but which, the mind being in other respects not sufficiently purified from evils, is defiled by their presence, and cannot be in such good as the Lord can be acceptably worshipped from, till the evils that render it not genuine are put away. Thus no one is ever to think, because, as we hear people sometimes say, he is not yet good enough for any particular service, that he may as well disregard it altogether. He still must bring his gift before the altar – must engage in acts of divine worship – and must perform the preliminaries necessary to prepare him for doing it with saving benefit to his soul. He must meditate, for instance, on the Divine will and Word; he must explore his own state in the light which will thence open his mind; he must allow the beams of divine truth to discover him to himself; and leaving his gift before the altar, – that is, still having his mind directed, with devotional feelings, to the Lord, and looking to him for help, – he must go his way, and be reconciled to his brother – he must set earnestly upon the work of removing from his affections every principle, feeling, or sentiment which is inconsistent with genuine charity, he will find the brother eager to be reconciled, for the brother is the principle of charity itself.
25 The next duty which our Lord enforces on his disciples forms a counterpart to that which we have just considered, although this does not clearly appear from the literal sense. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him. The adversary here is expressed in the original by a word which properly and strictly means the opposite party in a question of right, or in a suit at law. It is evidently supposed in the present case that the claim is a just one, and that, if brought into court, the judgment would be against us. We are advised, therefore, not to let it come to this, but to settle with the claimant in time, either by satisfying the whole demand at once, or coming to such an agreement or compromise with him as he will accept; otherwise, the decision of the judge will be given against us. We have said that this passage is the counterpart of the preceding one. As we are to be reconciled to our brother by removing the cause of offence, we are to agree with our adversary by settling his equitable demand. The brother, spiritually, is the principle of charity, the legal antagonist is the principle of truth. Divine truth – the precepts of which compose the Divine law – demands attention and obedience to all its requirements; and so long as we neglect to pay regard to them, it stands to us in the relation of an adversary at law. We must agree with this adversary quickly, while time yet remains; we must be well-minded towards him, acknowledging his claim to be just, and satisfying it to the best of our ability. And who can dispute the justice of the demand, or the perfect reasonableness of all that it includes? Who can imagine that the divine truth of the Lord can require anything of man which the Lord does not at the same time enable him to perform? The Divine law does not utter requirements of truth alone, but of truth in union with goodness and love; and when truth, if alone, would irreversibly condemn, love steps in, and offers pardon and peace on faith and repentance. Accordingly we find, that even while divine truth stands to us in the character of a legal adversary, in consequence of our not paying due regard to its requirements, it still is presented under the aspect of a peaceable one, who is willing to come to an agreement with us, accepting what, on acknowledging the justice of its demands, we may be enabled to do towards discharging them, without rigorously exacting the penalties that might otherwise be levied. We are exhorted to agree with our adversary while we are in the way with him. Naturally, this means while the suit is pending, and has not gone beyond the preliminary steps. But spiritually, to be in the way with our adversary means to be in a state capable of’ receiving instruction from divine truth, which is meant by the way, of listening to its claims and admonitions, and applying ourselves to attend to them, and so profit by them.
Divine goodness has provided that every debtor to the law may come to an agreement with his legal adversary while he is in the way with him. This may be done, because divine truth is ever so tempered by its union with divine love as to remit all its claims for the past as soon as their justice is heartily acknowledged, repentance is sincerely felt and made operative in amendment, and such a change is effected as will regard its requirements for the future. Unless this state of agreement with divine truth, regarded as our legal adversary, is in some good measure attained, it will change the character of a legal opponent into a much more formidable one. The Lord not only says; Agree with thine adversary quickly, but he adds, lest at any time the adversary deliver thee, to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. This means, that unless divine truth be reconciled to us, or rather we to it, as our adversary, we shall hereafter meet it as our judge – that is, as the word here implies, as passing on us sentence of condemnation. Then, in the further character of the officer, to whom it belongs to carry the sentence into execution, it will transfer us to some one of the dungeons of the prison-house below.
26 A nd verily, the Divine Truth incarnate adds; Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing – which is only a figurative way of saying that we shall remain in the infernal prison for ever. If we pay no share of our debt of obedience here, while in the way of probation, how can we do so when our evils are confirmed by continued impenitence, and the life of them is become the unalterable life of our souls – the very principle of our existence? To say, then, that we should by no means come out thence till we have paid the uttermost farthing, when we are in a state and place where we can procure nothing to pay with, is the same as to say that we must abide in it for ever. How solemn an appeal is this to us to use all diligence to agree with the truth while we have the opportunity which life constantly affords, and escape the consequences of disregarding or resisting its just demands.
27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
27, 28. To covet, or lust after, here means to will, and unless prevented by fears, which are external restraints, to do. A. 8910.
To be judged according to the will is the same as to be judged according to the love, and also to be judged according to the ends of life, and the very life itself. A. 8911.
That to commit adultery means also to do obscene acts, to speak lascivious words, and to think unclean thoughts, is evident from the Lord’s words. Life 78.
To commit adultery in the heart, is to commit it in the will. M. 494.
In the natural sense the commandment signifies not only the committing of adultery, but also the cherishing of filthy and obscene desires, and giving them vent in wanton thoughts, words, and actions. T. 313.
The external man is never rendered internal, or reduced to a conformity of action with the internal, until lusts are removed. T. 326.
28 The internal cannot be purified from the lusts of evil so long as evils in the external man are not removed, because they obstruct. P. in.
That to think from intention is to will and to do, is evident. P. 152.
Many believe that the mere abstaining from adulteries in the body is chastity, yet this is not chastity, unless, at the same time, there is an abstaining in spirit. M. 153.
Adultery is indicating lust of the will. M. 340.
27 From the law against killing, the Divine Teacher proceeds to speak of the law against another evil that may well be associated with it. Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery. Although among Christian nations this evil is not punished as a criminal offence, it is yet one of the worst crimes, as well as one of the deepest sins of which a Christian can be guilty. Unlike other evils, it can rarely be committed without involving another in its guilt, as well as in the ruin which it brings.
It is the enemy and destroyer at once of domestic and social, of moral and religious virtue and happiness. Justly, therefore, did the prohibition against it find a place in the decalogue, as the most holy portion of the law revealed by Jehovah amidst the thunders of Sinai. Marriage is a divine institution, and was designed to be, not a natural and temporary, but a spiritual and eternal union. He, therefore, who commits adultery violates that which is holy, and cuts himself off from all communication with heaven.
28 The Jew regarded this commandment, as he did most others, only as a rule for the regulation of his outward conduct; but the Christian is to esteem it as a law for the government of his inward life. Therefore the Lord says to his disciples; But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. If hatred is murder, lust is adultery. Civil laws or outward considerations may prevent the desire from becoming an act; but if it is secretly cherished , the evil has already been committed in the heart. And as God looks upon the heart, and judges men by their intentions as well as by their acts, sins intended are as condemnatory as sins committed. Christianity, which goes to the root of ever evil, requires men to judge themselves by the desires by which they are inflamed, as much as by the actions they commit. Whatever is wilfully and deliberately cherished is an act of the mind, and would become an act of the body also, if outward circumstances were favourable. There is, however, a wide difference between the evil that is cherished and the evil that is only excited. Every heart has its concupiscence; but every heart does not approve or cherish it. Instead of encouraging the lust, the mind may condemn and strive against it, in which case the evil will not become sin, even although there may be the opportunity and enticement to commit it.
As, in the spiritual sense, to kill is to destroy the principles of spiritual life in ourselves or others, to commit adultery is to pervert and profane them. The principles which constitute spiritual life in the soul are goodness and truth, or love and faith. These are the partners of the spiritual and heavenly marriage, of which truth is the husband, and good is the wife; and from whose union are produced all the virtue and blessedness of human and angelic beings. The opposite of this heavenly marriage is the union of falsity and evil, from which spring all the sin and misery that prevail in the world and in the kingdom of darkness. But spiritual adultery consists, not simply in the union of evil and falsity, but in the union of truth and evil, or of falsity and goodness, which is as the union of heaven and hell. Th first is the profanation of truth, the second is the profanation of goodness. The natural evil corresponds to and results from the spiritual; and they are ever united as cause and effect. He therefore, who looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath, in his heart, committed both the spiritual and the natural sin.
29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:
32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
29 The left eye is the intellectual principle, but the right eye is its affection, by the right eye therefore being plucked out is meant, that the affection, if it causes stumbling, is to be subdued. A. 2701.
The eye, in the spiritual sense, signifies the understanding, and also faith, because faith constitutes the life of the interior understanding. Every one knows that the eye is not to be plucked out, although it offend, and that no one enters into the kingdom of God with one eye, but the right eye signifies a false faith concerning the Lord, and it is this which is to be plucked out. A. 9051.
The eye in these places does not mean the eye, but the understanding of truth. R. 48.
By the eye is not understood the natural eye, but intellectual thought, by the right eye offending, the understanding thinking evil. To pluck it out, and cast it away, signifies not to admit such evil, but to reject it. Having one eye, means the understanding not thinking evil. The reason why the right eye is mentioned, is, because it signifies the understanding of good, and the left eye the understanding of truth. E. 152.
29, 30. The lust of evil is meant by the right eye offending, and the lust of falsity by the right hand offending. A. 8910.
The right eye means the understanding and faith of what is false derived from evil, and the right hand the false itself derived from evil. A. 10061.
In heaven the right eye is the good of vision, and the left the truth thereof; the right ear is the good of hearing, and the left the truth thereof, and likewise, the right hand is the good of a man’s ability, and the left the truth thereof. … If the good becomes evil, the.evil must be cast out. M. 316.
That by the right eye and the right hand the Lord did not here mean the right eye and the right hand, must be obvious to everyone from the consideration, that the eye was to be plucked out, and the hand cut off, if they offended. But. as the eye, in the spiritual sense, signifies everything pertaining to the understanding and the thought thence derived, and the right hand whatever pertains to the will and the affection thence derived, it is obvious, that if evil is thought, it ought to be rejected from the thought, and if evil be willed, it is to be shaken off from the will. E. 600.
The only one cause of this total separation or divorce is adultery, according to the Lord’s precept in Matthew xix. 9. To the same cause are to be referred manifest obscenities which bid defiance to the restraints of modesty . . . and malicious desertion, which involves adultery, and causes a wife to commit whoredom, and thereby to be divorced. M. 468.
29, 30. The Lord follows up his remarks on this subject by saying, And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out; if thy right hand offend thee, cut it of. The eye is the symbol, as it is more especially the organ, of the intellect, as the hand is of the will. And as thought is an act of the intellect, and desire is an act of the will, these are included in the signification of the eye and the hand. It is the offending thought and desire, therefore, that are to be removed. The eye that looks upon, and the desire that lusts after, prohibited objects and pleasures, are the causes of offence; and these must be rejected, that we may be guiltless of the offence, by its being no longer in the intention. If these, as the causes of offence, are not rejected, we are guilty of the sin, although we may never commit the act. – But the offending members that are removed are the right eye and the right hand. Of the members of the body, those on the right side correspond to faculties and powers of the will, and those on the left side, to faculties and powers of the understanding. The right eye and hand offend us, or rather cause us to offend, when impure thoughts and desires are grounded in the will – are not simply the offspring of the natural weakness and corruption of the flesh, but proceed from evil, known to be such, and wilfully cherished in the heart.
The Lord tells us what we are to do with the offending member. We are to pluck out the eye, and cut off the hand, and cast them from us. If impure thoughts arise in our minds, we are to check and reject them, so that they may form no part of our intellectual life; and if impure desires are excited in our hearts, we are to condemn and resist them, so that they may form no part of our voluntary life. The two distinct acts of cutting them off and casting them from us are expressive of two distinct operations of the mind, which are necessary to effect the full rejection of evil. The separation of evil cannot be complete unless it be the joint operation of the understanding and will. Evil may be said to be plucked out and cut off when the understanding first sees and opposes it as evil; but it is not cast out from the mind until the will or love is also against it, and thus unites with the understanding to effect its full rejection.
The Lord concludes his exhortation to pluck out the eye and cut of the hand that offend by saying, For it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. According to the literal sense it would seem as if the excision of these members was to leave, the body mutilated, which, indeed, is plainly stated in another place, where the Lord says, “It is better for you to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands and two feet to be cast into hell.” It does not, however, follow that those who enter into life halt or maimed remain for ever so. The body of which all this is said is not the natural but the spiritual body, the external man, where all evils reside. It is the eye, and the hand, and the foot of this body that offend or scandalize us, that obstruct and prevent the operations of the internal man, and which therefore have to be maimed by self-denial, that we may enter into the life of love and faith, and finally into heaven. Self-denial consists in resisting evil in its active states, either in acts of the mind or of the body; and therefore we are required to pluck out the eye and cut off the hand, and so, by losing one of our members, save the whole body from being cast into hell, or becoming a confirmed form of evil. But in the spiritual life there is a process of renewal as well as of excision. Self-denial plucks out and cuts off, active goodness restores and renews. He who lays down his life by crucifying the lusts of the flesh, takes it up again by walking in the newness of the Spirit. The old members are removed by ceasing to do evil, the new are acquired by learning to do well. Halt and maimed are conditions of the spiritual body when goodness and truth, or charity and faith, are unequal and divided. As these twain graces become one, the body acquires its true symmetry and beauty, becoming the perfect organ and instrument of the new life into which the cross-bearing Christian has entered.
31, 32. The Lord extends his remarks on the law against adultery, as understood by the Jews, to the law of divorce. Under the Mosaic law men were permitted to put away their wives, which they sometimes did for very trivial causes. This law, be it remembered, did not originate the practice, which was in its very nature hateful to the Divine mind (Mal. ii. 16). Why, then, did not the law prohibit it? Our Lord gives the answer “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, suffered you to put away your wives, but from the beginning it was not so” (ch.xix. 8). It is important to distinguish, in the Scriptures, between laws of command and laws of permission. God, by his very nature, can command nothing but what is good but it is consistent with a wise and beneficent providence to permit a less evil to prevent a greater. Permission, therefore, forms a necessary part of the laws of God’s moral government. A prohibition of divorce among the Jews would have been unavailing, or would have produced a greater evil than it prevented. What the law could not prevent, and therefore did not forbid, it moderated, by subjecting divorce to prudent and stringent regulations. This was the state of the case when our Lord explained and enforced the Christian law of divorce, which was to supersede that of Moses. It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: but I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. In this law the Lord lays down the important principle, that adultery is the one only legitimate cause of divorce. There may be other just causes of separation, but there is no other legitimate cause for the absolute dissolution of the marriage tie. True, there is no real marriage without a union of heart and soul; but to make the want of such a union a ground of divorce, would be to introduce into the church and society disorders that would inevitably work their ruin. It is of the utmost consequence, therefore, that the Lord’s teaching on this point should be a fundamental principle in all ecclesiastical and civil law.
The purely spiritual sense of this law relates not to persons, but to principles in one person – the principles of goodness and truth, or love and faith, the union of which constitutes the spiritual and heavenly marriage. The spiritual law which is the origin of the law of marriage consists in this, that every truth has its own good, and every good has its own truth. A good and a truth may be pure, and yet unsuited to each other – in which case their tendency is to separate. This is the case even in heaven, where the blest are distinguished into societies according to the differences or distinctions of goodness and truth; but these distinctions are not discords, but harmonies. Divorce, which is complete opposition and separation, cannot take place between pure good and truth, but between pure truth and adulterated good, or between pure good and falsified truth, which is as the separation which exists between heaven and hell. If separation were to take place for any other cause, good, deprived of the instruction and protection which it should find in truth, might unite itself with some false principle, and so be profaned.
33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:
33-37- Men ought not in any wise to swear by Jehovah, nor by anything appertaining to Jehovah or the Lord. A. 2842.
These words involve, that truths Divine are to be confirmed from the Lord, and not from man. This is effected when they are internal men and not external, for external men confirm them by oaths, but internal men by reasons. To swear by heaven is by Divine truth, thus by the Lord there, but to swear by the earth is by the church, thus by the Divine truth there. As heaven is the Lord as to Divine truth, therefore it is said, Thou shalt not swear by heaven, because it is the throne of God. The throne of God is the Divine truth which proceeds from the Lord. As earth signifies the church where the Divine of the Lord below heaven is, therefore it is said, Thou shalt not swear by the earth, because it is God’s footstool. Footstool is the Divine truth beneath heaven, such as is the Word in the literal sense, for upon this the Divine truth in heaven, which is the Word in the internal sense, leans, and as it were, stands. To swear by Jerusalem is by the doctrine of truth from the Word. A. 9166.
As a covenant was representative of the conjunction of the Lord with the church, and reciprocally of the church with the Lord, and as an oath had relation to the covenant, and one was to swear from the truth therein, thus also by it, therefore the children of Israel were permitted to swear by Jehovah, and thus by Divine truth. But after the representative rites of the church were abolished, the Lord also abolished oaths as used in covenants. R. 474.
In this passage the holy things which shall not be called upon in oaths are particularly mentioned, namely, heaven, the earth, Jerusalem, and the head. By heaven is understood the angelic heaven, wherefore it is called the throne of God, by the earth the church, wherefore it is called the footstool of God, by Jerusalem the doctrine of the church, wherefore it is called the city of the great king, and by the head intelligence thence derived. E. 608.
33 Another subject is brought before us by the divine Teacher. Again, ye have heard that it hath been said to them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shall perform unto the Lord thine oaths: but I say unto you, Swear not at all. It has been thought by some that the giving testimony upon oath is here prohibited. There is however, nothing profane, and therefore nothing sinful, in judicial swearing. It would appear, from the forms of oath which the Lord adduces, that his object was to prohibit those which the Jews had added to the law, and not to affirmation upon oath in questions at law.
Spiritually to swear is to confirm Divine truth. Jehovah sware by himself, to teach us that as he only is the author of the truth, so he only is the witness of the truth. This is a character which Jehovah incarnate likewise sustains. “Jesus is the faithful and true witness,” and as such is the author and finisher of our faith. He who reveals the truth by his Word convinces us of the truth by his Spirit. We cannot convince ourselves from ourselves. We are indeed condemned for unbelief, because if the Lord does not convince us, it is because we reject his Spirit, which is always ready to give us the spirit of belief. While we reject his Spirit, we may yet labour to confirm what we regard as the truth. Some vain or selfish motive may prompt us to confirm the truth; but such confirmation is superficial, and does not enter into the inner life of our spirit.
34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne:
35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.
36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.
34 By the heavens are signified the angelic heavens, and as the heaven of the Lord on the earths is the church, by heaven is also signified the church. A. 9408.
34, 35. The reason why a throne signifies what is of the Divine truth, is because a king in the Word signifies truth, and so does a kingdom. A. 5313.
Because the Lord’s church on earth is beneath heaven, it is called His footstool. R. 470.
34-37, 40. The subject treated of is concerning the state of good and of truth with those who are in the Lord’s celestial kingdom, with whom every truth is impressed on their hearts. They know all truth from the good of love to the Lord, so that they never reason about it, as in the spiritual kingdom. Wherefore when truths are treated of, they only say, Yea, yea, or Nay, nay, neither do they there mention the name of faith. Hence it is evident, what is meant by the requirement not to swear at all, for by swearing is signified to confirm truths, which is effected by the rational, and byscientifics from the Word in the spiritual kingdom. By suing at law and being willing to take away a coat is signified, to debate about truths, and to be willing to persuade that it is not true. A coat signifies truths derived from what is celestial, for they leave to every one his own truth, without further reasoning. A. 9942.
35 Jerusalem was called the city of God, because by God in the Old Testament is understood the Divine truth proceeding from the Lord. It was called the city of a great king, because by king, when predicated of the Lord, is likewise signified Divine truth proceeding from the Lord. E. 223.
By the Lord’s footstool is signified the church in the earths. E. 606.
36 By a hair in the Word is signified the least of all things. P. 159.
34 The first thing by which men are commanded not to swear is heaven:-Swear not at all: neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne. To swear by heaven is equivalent to swearing by the Lord himself, because heaven is and can be heaven only because of the presence in it of the Lord. The Lord himself is indeed above heaven, in the centre of the Divine glory, which constitutes the sun of heaven, and which is the first emanation of his divine love; but, nevertheless, if he were not present in heaven, heaven would have no existence. The angels have nothing of their own that can constitute heaven: they are angels – human beings in a state of the most exalted finite glory and happiness – purely because they are recipients of the Lord’s divine love and wisdom, by the proceeding emanation of which he is present with them, and is actually in them; and this it is which constitutes heaven. The Lord’s divine love and wisdom, as existing in himself, are the divine good; and the same principles emanating from him, and abiding in the angels, or in heaven, are called the divine truth. The divine truth is the Lord in heaven: and this is one with the sun of heaven, being the divine proceeding thence of spiritual heat and light adapted to the capacity of the angels for receiving it. Thus in heaven the Lord is all, and the angels respectively are nothing; of which they have an inmost conviction and sense, though it is given them to feel the gifts of the Lord’s love and wisdom in them as if they were their own, whilst they know most assuredly, and acknowledge most heartily, that nothing of them is truly their own, but all of the Lord, as present with and in them. Thus they perfectly know, and are delighted to have it so, and to acknowledge, that the Lord is the all in all of heaven. Most evidently it follows from all this that to swear by heaven is to swear by the Lord himself, and must, as to the literal act, be unlawful in the same manner and in the same circumstances. In the purely spiritual sense, to swear by heaven is to confirm any sentiment by the Lord’s divine truth in heaven. This can only be done from the Lord, and not from man himself. For, as before explained, none but they whose internal man is opened can see genuine truths in the Word, and confirm them by the truth of any sentiment which may be presented to their minds; and such persons know and acknowledge, as we have seen the angels of heaven do, that all they thus perceive, and are enabled to confirm, is from the Lord, and thus that the confirmation itself is from him, and not from themselves, or from man. In this sense, therefore, of prohibiting man from confirming truths, or any notions which he regards as truths, from himself (and if they are not truths they can only be confirmed from himself), every such person dreads to offend against the Lord’s command, “Swear not by heaven; for it is God’s throne.” Heaven is called God’s throne because by that expression is spiritually signified the divine truth which proceeds from the Lord, and which is what fills heaven, with all the angels, and makes the angels to be angels, and heaven to be heaven.
35 In the same manner, to swear by the earth means by the church, and thus by the divine truth which proceeds from it, and in its essence is the Lord himself – as it dwells in and constitutes the church. For if heaven is not heaven by virtue of anything belonging to the angels, which is truly their own, but solely from the presence and residence of the Lord with them and in them, most certainly the church on earth is not the Lord’s church by virtue of anything belonging to the professing members as their own, but altogether from the presence and residence of the Lord by his divine truth or divine proceeding with and among them. To swear, then, by the earth, in the purely spiritual sense, is to swear by the church – that is, to confirm truths received as truths divine by the divine truths as known and understood in the church. This, again, to be truly done, can only be done from the Lord, and not from man, as explained already. The earth, or church, is said to be God’s footstool, as being below heaven, which is called his throne; and the divine truth by which it is constituted appears in the form of the Holy Word in its literal or natural sense, upon which rests divine truth such as it exists in heaven in its purely spiritual sense. The foot, also, from which a footstool takes its name, always signifies, in the Holy Word, the natural principle of man, upon which all interior things rest, and by which they are sustained. For although the church, while in a state of order, is enlightened to understand the letter of the Word, so as to distinguish the genuine truths which it presents from the mere appearances of truth, and to draw from it pure doctrine, and although its members may in some measure apprehend its spiritual senses, which are what are perceived, and are alone perceived by the angels, – still the ideas of spiritual things capable of being perceived by man while in the world are not purely spiritual ideas, as are those of the angels, but are spiritual ideas conceived in a natural manner, according to the unavoidable condition of the spirit of man while an inhabitant of the natural world. Thus the church on earth, however pure and elevated the dispensation under which it exists, can never be in any other state than that which is spiritually denominated God’s footstool, – can never acquire the character which belongs to heaven itself, which constitutes God’s throne. If, however, while here, we truly belong to the church, in the sense in which it is God’s footstool – however humble a part of the footstool we may constitute, – when we go hence we shall have a place in his throne – shall constitute some portion or atom of that glorious seat, and have the Lord himself, in his pure divine truth, perceived by us, not as now in a natural manner, but in a purely spiritual one, eternally present with us, in us, and over us.
It is further enjoined that we swear not by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king.
To swear by Jerusalem is to confirm divine truth, or what ought to be such, by the doctrine of truth existing in the church, and drawn from the Holy Word. It may easily be concluded that when mention is first made of the earth, to signify the church, and then of Jerusalem, called the city of the Great King, and considered, therefore, as the capital city of the earth, then Jerusalem must denote the doctrine of the church, according to which everything belonging to the church is regulated and determined. Here, then, again truths can only be really confirmed by the doctrine of the church from the Lord: and therefore man is prohibited so to confirm them from himself, by the command not to swear by Jerusalem. As heaven, the abode of angels, is denominated God’s throne, and the earth, or the church, his footstool, so Jerusalem, as the doctrine of the church, is called the city of the Great King. The Lord is called a King, and the Great King, because he is the governor of all things, by his divine truth proceeding from his divine good; and Jerusalem, as denoting the doctrine of the church, is called the city of the Great King, because, as just remarked, it is by its doctrines that all things of the church are regulated or governed, as the Lord himself is the universal Governor by his divine truth. The doctrine of the church cannot be separated from the Lord as the Divine Truth itself: and as to swear by Jerusalem involves swearing by the Great King, whose royal city it is, so to confirm anything by the doctrine of the church is the same, in effect, as confirming it by the Lord’s divine truth, which cannot possibly be done by man from himself – to attempt which is therefore prohibited by the command, Swear not by Jerusalem.
36 The last oath specifically prohibited is, swearing by one’s own head. The head is often mentioned to signify intelligence; and also what is chief and primary. Thus, for a man to swear by his own head, is to confirm anything by the truth which he accounts is the chief point of intelligence, and which he makes the truth of his faith. But man has no intelligence and believes no truth of faith from himself, but only from the Lord: consequently, no truth can thus be confirmed by man from himself, but only from the Lord. The folly of thinking to confirm any truth from self-intelligence is expressed by the observation, that man cannot make one hair of his own head either white or black. The hair signifies the truth of the external or natural man such as is possessed by those who hold a true faith, not because they see it to be true by light in their own minds, but because the doctrine of the church so teaches. Because they believe it, not because they see it, but only because they have been taught it, they are commanded not to swear by it, or confirm by it from themselves anything as true, because they cannot make one hair white or black; for to make one hair white signifies to say and to see that truth is truth from themselves; and to make a hair black is to say and to see, from themselves, that falsity is falsity. As this can only be done from the Lord, man is forbidden to swear by his head, because this signifies to confirm truth from himself, or from self-derived intelligence. It will thus be seen that the prohibition against swearing extends to all things, from the greatest and highest to the least and lowest – from heaven to the very hairs of our heads. And as all these are under the immediate care of the Most High – who numbers the stars of heaven and the very hairs of our heads – the command not to swear by any of them, is a command not to confirm or uphold, by our own wisdom, the authority of the divine wisdom, and not to obtrude ourselves, or our own wisdom, into the domain of the eternal government, where the wisdom of God is all.
37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
37 The more interiorly celestial angels do not even allow faith to be named, nor anything whatever which has a merely spiritual origin. Still less can they endure listening to any reasonings about faith, and least of all, to any mere scientific about it, for, by means of love they have a perception of what is good and true from the Lord. From this perception they know instantly whether it be so or not, wherefore when anything is said about faith, they answer simply that it is so, or that it is not so, because they perceive from the Lord how it is. A. 202.
The celestial are principled in essential truth, concerning which the spiritual dispute. Hence the celestial can see unlimited things appertaining to that truth. Thus by virtue of the light thereof they can see as if it were the whole heaven, but the spiritual, by reason of their disputing about truth cannot approach after all to the first boundary of the light of the celestial, much less can they view anything by virtue of that light. A. 2715.
The celestial in nowise inquire what is true, but perceive it by virtue of good, nor in their discourse concerning truth do they say anything further than that it is so, according to what the Lord teaches in Matthew. A. 3246.
They who are in the Lord’s celestial kingdom have not at any time any dispute concerning truths, they say it is so, or not so, nor do they go further, for if further it is not from good. A. 9818.
To reason about truths whether they be so, is not from good. A. 10124.
They who are of the Lord’s celestial kingdom, when the discourse is concerning truths, say no more than so so, or no no, and in no case reason concerning them, whether it be so, or be not so. A. 10786.
Those who are in celestial love have wisdom written on their life, and not on memory, which is the reason why they do not talk of Divine truths, but do them. But those who are in spiritual love have wisdom written on their memory, wherefore they talk of Divine truths, and do them out of principles in the memory. Because those who are in celestial love have wisdom written on their life, therefore they at once perceive whether what they hear is true, or not, and when they are asked if it is true, they answer only that it is, or that it is not. These are they who are meant by these words of the Lord. W. 427.
Such is the communication of all in the third heaven, for they never reason concerning things Divine, whether they be so or not, but see in themselves from the Lord, that they are so, or not so. Reasoning concerning things Divine, whether they be so, or not, arises from the reasoner’s not seeing them from the Lord, but desiring to see them from himself, and that which man sees from himself is evil. P. 219.
The celestial angels receive all their wisdom by hearing, not by sight. Whatsoever they hear of Divine things, they receive in the will from veneration and love, and make it a principle of their life, and because they receive it immediately into the life, and not first in the memory, therefore they do not discourse about matters of faith, but when they are told of them by others, they only answer Yea, yea, or Nay, nay. E. 14.
Celestial angels do not think and speak from truths like spiritual angels, for they are in perception of all things which are of truth from the Lord. Note, H. 214.
Celestial angels say of truths Yea, yea, or Nay, nay, while spiritual angels dispute concerning them, whether it be so, or not be so. Note, H. 214.
That of the truths of faith celestial angels only say Yea, yea, or Nay, nay, while spiritual angels dispute whether it be so. Note, H. 270.
What is more than these is from evil, because it is not from the Lord. H. 271.
Verse quoted. N. 121. N. 140.
They who are of the celestial kingdom never reason about truths, whether they be so, or not, but when the discourse is about truths, can say no more than Yea, yea, or Nay, nay. U. 169.
37 Having prohibited swearing, the Lord concludes by saying, But let your communication be Yea, yea; nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. This is a description of the state of the highest celestial angels, whose perception of truth is so clear that there is no room to doubt about it whatever. It is like seeing an object before our eyes in the clearest daylight, respecting which no one enters into any reasonings as to whether such an object is before him, or attempts to convince others of it by any asseverations, since he knows that they see it as well as himself. All reasoning, or any sort of mode of confirming any truth, arises from there being some degree of obscurity respecting it in our own minds, or in the minds of others whom we wish to convince of it; and all obscurity of the understanding in regard to truths originates in a defect of the will in regard to good. If we loved good with our whole heart, and always followed it; if we hated evil in every form, and constantly shunned it, we would possess such light in our minds that we should recognize every truth to be truth as soon as we heard it, and should have no need to be convinced of it, or to be confirmed in it, by any reasons, or by any corroborating considerations whatever. Thus the cause of every degree of obscurity in regard to truths is the existence of evil in the will: consequently, every help we have need of to assist us in our understanding of truth, and to obtain a thorough conviction respecting it, is needed, and is exercised from that cause. No legitimate means that can be employed whether reasoning or asseveration, are themselves evil: on the contrary, everything that tends to assist us in the understanding of truth is good, and is granted by the Lord’s mercy; but that which makes any such assistance necessary is the darkening influence of evil, so that, thus considered, it is most true that whatsoever is more than the simple affirmation, which is the result of so clear a perception as requires no argument to assist it, cometh of evil. No mathematical truth, however clearly demonstrated, is so clear as its axioms; and were the human mind in genuine order, all spiritual truths would be in it as axioms perceived by intuition, and only capable of being made less clear, and not more so, by any mode of reasoning and demonstration.
38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
38-42. As evil carries punishment along with it, therefore the Lord said that evil ought not to be resisted, and at the same time He explained how the case is respecting that law in the spiritual world with those who are in good in comparison to those who are in evil. The right cheek bone – the affection of truth from good, smiting signifies the act of hurting it. A coat and a cloak -the external truth, to sue at law an attempt to destroy, a mile that which leads to truth, to lend to instruct. Give to all that ask signifies to confess all things relating to a man’s faith in the Lord. The reason why evil is not to be resisted is, because evil does not at all hurt those who are in truth and good, for they are protected by the Lord. A. 9049.
That these words are not to be understood according to the letter, must be obvious to every one, for who considers himself held by Christian love, to turn the left cheek to him who smites the right, and to give the cloak also to him who would take away the coat? In a word, who is there to whom it is not allowable to resist evil? But all things which the Lord spake were in themselves Divine celestial, and contain a celestial sense. The reason why such a law was given to the children of Israel, that they should give an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, was, because they were external men, and thence were only in the representatives of things celestial, and not in celestial things themselves. Hence neither were they in charity, in mercy, in patience, or in any spiritual good, and therefore they were in the law of retaliation. The celestial law, and consequently the Christian law which the Lord taught in the evangelists is (Matthew vii. 12 and Luke vi. 31). . . . An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth signifies, that so far as anyone takes away from another the understanding of truth, and the sense of truth, so far they are taken away from himself. . . . The precept not to resist evil signifies, that it is not to be fought against in return, for the angels do not fight with the evil, much less do they return evil for evil, but they permit them to do it, because they are defended by the Lord, and hence no evil from hell can possibly hurt them. E. 556.
38, 39, 43-45. It very frequently happens in the other life, that the wicked when they wish to occasion evil to the good are grievously punished, and that the evil which they intend for others returns upon themselves. This appears at the time as if it were revenge from the good, but it is not revenge, neither is it from the good, but from the wicked, to whom in such a case opportunity is given from the law of order. Yea, the good do not will evil to them, but still they cannot take away the evil of punishment, because at such times they are kept in the intention of good, just as a judge when he sees a malefactor punished. From these considerations it may be manifest what is meant by the Lord’s words concerning the love of an enemy, and concerning the law of retaliation, which was not repealed by the Lord, but explained, namely, that those who are in heavenly love ought not to delight in retaliation or revenge, but in doing good, and that the very law of order which protects good, does it of itself, by means of the wicked. A. 8223.
38, 39. The law of retaliation is that to which our Lord next directs the attention of his hearers. Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil. The law of retaliation delivered to the children of Israel was derived from the universal law of order – “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them.” This being “the law and the prophets,” it is the law of heaven, and thence of the church. But in descending into the Israelitish Church, it assumed a form in accordance with the character of the people. Yet the lex taliones is substantially the law of Christian nations. Punishment must be awarded to crime, and with some relation to its nature and extent. The spirit of our Lord’s teaching in respect to this law is nevertheless observed when crime is punished solely with a view to the protection of society, and to the amendment, as far as possible, of the offender. But in all the laws of the Word of God there is a spiritual element and an eternal object. The laws of retaliation were not intended only for evil men in the natural world, but for evil spirits in the spiritual world. The law of heaven, “Do to others as ye would that others should do to you,” becomes in hell, “As ye do to others, it shall be done to you.” In heaven all are actuated by benevolence, in hell by malevolence. And as every principle carries within it its own reward, happiness is the result of the one and misery of the other. Every evil has along with it a corresponding punishment. That punishment is not a divine retribution it is not inflicted to satisfy any divine attribute; but is a permission for the purpose of restraint and correction – we do not say of amendment, because this can have no existence in the regions of darkness. The law of retaliation acts in the spiritual world precisely as it acted among the Israelites in the natural world, The punishment is demanded and inflicted by the blood avenger – the Lord, as the universal Judge, like his prototype, only doing what the judge of Israel did, regulating and moderating the punishment, that it exceed not the limits assigned by the law of retaliation. There also the retribution of evil takes place according to the law of contraries, as opposite to the reward of good in heaven. Good willed or done by any one in heaven opens the heart to receive an influx of good, with its delight, from every side, so that the delight of all is imparted to each. Evil done by any one in hell draws upon him the wrath of the whole society, just as among the Israelites the claimant for vengeance was tracked by the congregation, who only waited for the avenger to throw the first stone, to rush simultaneously upon the offender.
And it is in relation to the spiritual life of man, and not to his outward natural life that he lives in the world, that the Lord delivers these precepts, when understood in their spiritual meaning, which is the only meaning in which they are to be strictly observed. An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, signifies that it is a law of divine origin, that so far as any one takes away, or desires to take away, from another the understanding of truth, or the sense of truth, so far they shall be taken away from him; and this is an effect which is seen to follow the effort or intention. The eye signifies the understanding of truth, and a tooth what may be called the sense of truth; for tooth signifies what is true or false as it appertains to the sensual man, or as it is perceived by the ultimate region of the human mind, called its sensual principle. That the evil, or the doer of evil, is not to be resisted, signifies that the good, upon whom such spiritual assault is made, are not to fight in return, and recompense evil with evil. Angels, we may be sure, do not fight with the evil, still less do they recompense evil for evil; but they permit evil spirits to hurt them if they can, because it is impossible for them to do it, on account of the protection which surrounds the angels from the Lord, which is such that no evil from hell can hurt them. So when the Lord proceeds to say, in illustration of the precept not to resist evil, whosoever shall smite thee on the right check, turn to him the other also, it is because the cheek signifies the perception and understanding of interior truth (as the tooth does of exterior truth), the right cheek signifying the affection, and thence perception of it; to smite the right cheek is to endeavour to injure such affection and perception; and the command to turn the other implies that the attempt is to be permitted, because it is impossible, as just remarked, that the evil can do real injury to the perception and understanding of interior truth in those who, being grounded in such perception and understanding from genuine good, are encompassed with the sphere of the Lord’s divine protection. In the original, the word used properly signifies the cheek – bone, or the upper jaw, of which the cheek is the covering, consisting of the muscles by which it acts. The jaws form the opening of the mouth; and the mouth and all the parts connected with it, as the threat, the lips, the cheeks and jaws, and the teeth, signify such things as relate to the perception and understanding of truth, because these principles in the mind correspond, or answer by correspondence, to these organs of the body, on which account they are named to express those mental faculties in the literal sense of the word, which is entirely written by such correspondences. So when the Lord says farther, And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also, the meaning is, that if any endeavour to take away the internal truth of which we are in possession, he may be allowed to take the external truth likewise; for the coat, or inner garment, signifies interior truth, and the cloak, or outer garment, signifies exterior truth. We are informed that the angels do this with the evil,- for the evil cannot take away anything of truth and goodness from those who are really principled in them, as the angels are, but they can take away from those who, in resentment of the attempt, burn with enmity hatred, and revenge, because those evils avert from him who cherishes them the Divine protection of the Lord. So, again, when the Lord further says, And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain, the spiritual and only true signification is, that he who wishes to draw away from truth to falsity is not to be resisted, because he cannot do it – a mile being the measure of a road or way, which signifies that which leads to truth, or from it. When the Lord says, finally, Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away, the meaning is, that whatever we possess or know of goodness and truth is to be communicated to all who wish for it; and this whether he desires it in sincerity or only to pervert it, and deprive others of the truth by such perversion. This, however, they are not able to do; and all who derive instruction of us, whether for a good or a bad end or object, of which we can seldom judge with certainty, are to receive it. Even also when the object at the time may be a bad one, we cannot tell what benefit the inquirer may derive from the information imparted: it may possibly be the means eventually of his reformation.
It is quite evident that all these injunctions may be carried out spiritually without our losing anything of good or truth, or any mental or spiritual endowment, by doing so. We may freely let a man take our spiritual coat and cloak without losing them ourselves; and we may give to him who would ask or borrow of us without being in any respect the poorer. We ought ever to be willing to do good in all ways, even to the evil; and most assuredly the greatest good that can be done to the evil is to communicate to them that instruction, imparted with compassionate kindness, which may be instrumental to their reformation.
42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
42 In the Word, where mention is made of borrowing and lending, it signifies to be instructed and to instruct from the affection of charity. A. 9174.
42-43 et seq. It is one thing to love our neighbour for the goodness or usefulness that is in him to ourselves, and another thing to love our neighbour from the goodness or usefulness that is in ourselves to him. To love our neighbour from his goodness or usefulness to ourselves, is what a bad man can do as well as a good man, but to love our neighbour from our own goodness or usefulness to him, is what none but a good man can do. . . . The one is in charity, but the other is only in friendship, which is not charity. F. 21.
43, 44. It is a precept of the Lord’s, that no one is to be hated, not even an enemy. A. 10490.
43-45. The Jewish and the Israelitic people above all others were of such a nature and quality, that as soon as they observed anything unfriendly, even among those to whom they were allied, they believed it lawful to treat them cruelly, and not only to kill them, but also to expose them to beasts and birds. Thus, because the inflowing mercy of the Lord was changed with them into such hatred, not only against their enemies, but also against those with whom they were allied, they could not believe otherwise but that Jehovah also entertained hatred, was angry, wrathful, and furious. This is the reason why in the Word it is so expressed according to appearance, for such as man’s quality is, such the Lord appears to him. But what the quality of hatred is with those who are principled in love and charity, that is, who are principled in good, appears from the Lord’s words in Matthew. A. 3605.
That we are bound by charity to do good to an adversary, and an enemy is taught by the Lord. T. 409.
43-48. Here is described the good which is from the Lord, as being void of any regard to recompense, wherefore they who are principled in that good, are called the sons of the Father who is in the heavens, and sons of the Highest, and as the Lord is in that good, there is also reward in it. A. 2371. There are a great number of passages in the Word where love and loving are mentioned. By loving is meant the same as by doing, for he who loves also does, for to love is to will, as everyone wills what he inwardly loves, and to will is to do. . . . Deed or doing is nothing else than the will in act. Love is taught by the Lord in many passages. See Matthew vii. 12 : Luke x. 27, 28 : Deuteronomy vi. 5, etc. E. 785.
43, 44, 46, 47. That good is to be done to those who are out of the church, is also meant by the Lord’s words. By adversaries, and by them that hate, in the spiritual sense, are meant those who disagree as to the goods and truths of faith, in general those who are out of the church, as the Jewish nation considered them as enemies, whom it was allowed to put to death and murder with impunity. A. 9256.
44, 45. From the Lord as a sun proceed light and heat. The light which proceeds, as it is spiritual light, is the Divine truth ; and the heat, as it is spiritual heat, the Divine good. This latter, namely the Divine good, is understood by the Father in heaven. E. 254.
Neighbourly love or charity is first described, which is to will good and to do good, even to our enemies, by loving them, blessing them, and praying for them, for genuine charity regards only the good of another.
To love here signifies charity, to bless instruction, and to pray intercession. The reason is, because inwardly in charity there is the end of doing good. This, the Divine itself with man, as it is with regenerate man, is signified by, That ye may be the sons of your Father in the Heavens. The Father in the heavens is the Divine proceeding, for all who receive this are called the sons of the Father, that is, the Lord. By the sun which He maketh to rise upon the evil, and the good, is signified the Divine good flowing in, and by the rain which He sendeth upon the just and unjust, is signified the Divine truth flowing in. E. 644.
43 The previous sections of this Divine discourse begin with quotations either from the ten commandments or from other precepts of the Mosaic Law; but this passage continues with a citation from the law, a precept which nowhere occurs in the sacred writings. The Divine Speaker says, Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. The first clause is certainly a Divine command. It is found in Lev. xix. 18, where it is written, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself;” and in conjunction with the command to love the Lord with all the heart and soul, it is repeatedly quoted by the Lord Jesus Christ, who declares that “on these two commandments hang all the, law and the prophets.” But nowhere is to be found in any part of the Old Testament – of the law and the prophets – any more than in the New, any precept which says, “Thou shalt hate thine enemy.” In the margin of our Bibles we are referred to Deut. xxiii. 6, where the children of Israel are enjoined not to seek the peace nor the prosperity of the Ammonites and Moabites all their days for ever. But this is a special case; and the very fact that it was an exception proves the rule that they were to love, or at least not to hate their enemies. But even this does not enjoin hatred. It does not come within the spirit of the Christian precept to love their enemies: it only excludes these enemies from, the benefit of the active seeking of their peace and prosperity by Israel.
Another passage referred to, in illustration of the Lord’s statement, is the 10th verse of the 41st Psalm, “O Lord, be merciful unto me, and raise me up, that I may requite them.” This is indeed a prayer of David in relation to his enemies. But this is no precept commanding hatred. It is in the spirit of other Old Testament utterances, but it expresses the mind of man and not of God; nor is anything to be found, even in the Scriptures addressed to the Israelitish people, that can be construed into a Divine command to hate their enemies. When, therefore, the Lord says, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy,” it is plain that he must mean, as to the latter clause, that it has been said by the Jewish doctors – the scribes and Pharisees – who, it is well known, have always repeated this as a doctrine of the law of Moses, though, in reality, the law of Moses never says any such thing. It is true they were commanded to drive out or exterminate the previous inhabitants of Canaan; but in this they were to act as the executors of Divine judgments, called down by the extreme wickedness of those nations, which, it is expressly stated, had grown to such a height that the land itself could bear them no longer, but absolutely, in the strong symbolic language of the Word of God, vomited out its inhabitants. The Israelites were to hold no communion with such a people, because this could not be held without contamination and as communication could not be avoided if they lived together with them they were, as just remarked, commanded to exterminate and drive them out, as executors of the Divine judgments on their wickedness; but this is very different from being commanded personally to hate them, and to execute the awful commission assigned them in a spirit of malignity It is true that the Jews were not content to live separate from the nations, but cherished hatred towards them; yet this was due to their own character, and not to ally recommendation of, or authority for, such a principle from the Word, which comprises many precepts whose tendency is directly the contrary. Thus, not only was the commandment given (Lev. xix. 18), “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” which the Jews consider includes none but their own nation; but in verse 34 of the same chapter it is added, The stranger (that is, the foreigner) that sojourneth with you shall be as one home-born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. So in Deut. x. 18, “God loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Evidently, then, the Mosaic Law teaches no such principle as hatred of enemies, but directly the contrary. Yet it is certain this was a grand precept of the Jewish doctors, and heartily received by the whole nation.
44 In correction, then, of this feature of the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, the Divine Author of the Christian religion says to his disciples, But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which, despitefully use you, and persecute you. It may be asked, Why should a Divine teacher, who know that his church would not be formed of Jews, few of whom were capable of receiving pure Christianity, address so much of his instructions to the correction of Jewish errors and principles of conduct? The answer is, because those Jewish errors and principles – if not the very same doctrinal errors, corresponding sins, and the very same principles of affection, life, and practice – are deeply rooted in the heart and mind of the natural man, and constitute his principles of thought and action in all ages. Therefore the Lord says, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies.”
The command, “Love your enemies,” certainly appears as a hard saying to the natural man. How we can actually love those who, we know, hate us, and would, if they had the power, destroy us, is certainly a problem of which mere nature cannot suggest the solution. It is true that duty does not require us to love them, as to that principle and state in them from which they are our enemies, and would, if they could, injure or destroy us; for no one is an enemy to another, and wishes to injure or destroy him, but from, some principle of evil – some overweening impulse of self-love or the love of the world, which are the basis of all evil, and evil in no one is to be the object of our love, but always of our aversion. But duty requires us to remember that there is no one who is altogether evil. If all have evil inherent in them from self, and present with them from will, all likewise have good present with them from the Lord and from heaven. All are human beings our fellow-creatures, possess the human endowments of rationality and liberty, and thus retain somewhat, however disfigured, of the image and likeness of God. The desire and the will of the Lord is, that the good which is present in every one front him should be brought forward and increased, and appropriated by the person, and acted from as his own, and exalted to the supremacy in his affections; and that the evil which is in him from himself and from hell should be subdued and removed before it. And what is the will of the Lord respecting any or every individual of the human race must be also the will, or must be made the will, of every one who would truly be the Lord’s disciple or his servant, his friend or his son. How then can we act – even in the lowest of these capacities – as the Lord’s servant or disciple, if, in regard to any one of whom we know that such is the will of the Lord – that is, any one of the human race, any fellow creature we allow the petty consideration, that the evil which is in him, and which he shares with ourselves and with every one, happens to be specially directed against us, and induces him, mistaking us, to act as our enemy – if, I say, we allow this feeling, this merely selfish consideration, to prevent us from complying with the will of the Lord, and from acting as his children or disciples, by constituting ourselves enemies of that individual in return, and hating him because he has fallen into the error, and is injuring himself by appropriating the evil of hating and wishing to do injury to us? The grand thing we have to attend to, and never to forget, is, to distinguish between a man’s evils and his person, because he is a human being – by creation our brother – capable of becoming an angel, equally with ourselves the offspring of our Creator, and the object of his paternal tenderness; while we regret and lament his evil conduct or principles, we should on no account do anything to confirm him in them, but should gladly do everything in our power to promote their removal. In fact, the true definition of what is meant by loving our enemies is to feel and act towards them under the influence of charity. However truly a person may be an enemy to us, we are never to suffer feelings of enmity against him in return to establish themselves in our hearts; and though we may do whatever is necessary to defeat his endeavours to do us injury, we must never admit the wish to do him injury in return. Everything is comprised in the direction, that we are ever to regard him with the feelings of true charity, and to act towards him with such feelings alone.
That it is in this manner that we are to love our enemies is evident from the additions with which the Divine Speaker accompanies that precept. After saying, “Love your enemies,” he continues his precepts on the subject by saying further, Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you. These are all marks and manifestations of charity. The end which all charity has in view is to promote the good of those towards whom it is cherished, and to do them good in whatever way we are able, so as to contribute really to their benefit. One way of doing such good is to bless them that curse us. To bless implies desiring blessing from the Lord; and it includes, where there is opportunity of doing so with effect, the imparting such advice and instruction as may tend to bring them into a state admissive of the Divine blessing. To do good to them that hate us is evidently to return good for evil, and thus to convince them how little reason they have to hate us, and to bring them to feel the evil of doing so. To pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us cannot, in the spiritual sense, mean anything very different from what the letter expresses. When so ill treated by an enemy as to have no means of doing anything directly good to him, we can only elevate our souls in devout desire for his true welfare to the Lord, and intercede at the throne of mercy on his behalf; and, little as human reason may be able to discern the probable use of such a course, we may be sure that it would not be enjoined by Infinite Goodness and Wisdom, did not that Wisdom see how it may be beneficial, and were not that Goodness disposed to make it so. Doubtless, in many cases, no human intercession on behalf of others can be of any avail; but if the Word of God is to be believed, there certainly are cases as numerous, whatever philosophy may argue to the contrary, in which it may. And as it is impossible for us to know what cases may belong to this class, and what to the other, it is doubtless our duty in all, from special emotions of charity, to comply with the Lord’s command, and to pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us. The Lord himself prayed for his enemies on the cross. His prayer could neither be formal nor unavailing; and if we are true disciples we shall follow his example, believing sincerely in the blessedness of the result.
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
45 By sun is meant here, as elsewhere in the Word, in its spiritual sense, the Divine good of the Divine love, and by rain the Divine truth of the Divine wisdom. These are given to the evil and to the good, to the just and to the unjust, for if they were not, no one would have perception and thought. P. 173.
By the sun in the supreme spiritual sense, is meant the Divine love, and by rain the Divine wisdom. P. 292.
The Divine love is in every man, the wicked as well as the good, consequently the Lord, who is Divine love, cannot act otherwise with them than as a father upon earth does with his children, only with infinitely more tenderness, because the Divine love is infinite, also He cannot recede from anyone, because the life of everyone is from Him. P. 330.
Those who are in wisdom from the Lord are called king’s sons and also kings, and those who are in love from Him are called ministers and priests. They are also called, born of Him, sons of the kingdom, sons of the Father, and heirs. R. 20.
The love of God reaches and extends itself, not only to good persons and things, but also to evil persons and things, consequently not only to those persons and things which are in heaven, but also to such as are in hell. T. 43.
Divine love as heat, and Divine wisdom as light enter by influx into human minds, as the heat and light of this world enter into bodies, and impart life to them, according to the quality of the recipient forms, each takes as much as it needs from the common influx. T. 364.
The case is similar with men, with each of whom the Lord enters by influx with spiritual heat, which in its essence is the good of love, and with spiritual light, which in its essence is the truth of wisdom, but he receives such influx according to the direction in which he is turned, whether it be toward God or toward himself, therefore the Lord says, when He is teaching the duty of loving our neighbour, Matthew v. 45. T. 491.
The subject here treated of is neighbourly love, or charity, specifically concerning the Jews, who accounted the Gentiles as enemies, and their own people only as friends. That the former were beloved equally as the latter, is illustrated by the Lord by this comparison. The evil and the unjust signify, in the internal sense, those who were of the Jewish Church, as they did not receive. The good and the just signify those who were without that church and did receive. E. 401.
That the evil have not anything of life from themselves, and that they are still led of the Lord whilst they are ignorant of it, and unwilling to be led, may be seen in the passages where the life of those who are in hell is treated of. D. Wis. xii. 4.
45, 48. The Divine considered in Himself is above the heavens, but the Divine in the heavens is the good which is in the truth which proceeds from the Divine, this is meant by the Father in the heavens. A. 8328.
See Chapter V., 44, 45. E. 254.
45 But the Divine Speaker does not confine himself to simply commanding us to love our enemies: he adds to the command the strongest motives, reasons, and inducements to the love of enemies: That ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. The not regarding of injuries, so as to seek to requite them; the not hating, but the loving of our enemies, so as to regard them with entire charity, and to desire nothing but their good, is, beyond everything else, that which makes man, in his finite measure, like God, insomuch that God regards such a man as his son, and gives him this title. The reason of this is, because such genuine, disinterested charity – charity thus free from all contamination by the love of self – is the very Divine principle as received by and dwelling in man; and though man can never have anything divine in him as his own, so as to be himself a god, yet in the form of such charity it is imparted to him, as if it were his own and though it cannot make him a god, it unites him, in his finite manner, with God, and effects a real conjunction of life for him with the Lord himself. With it he receives power to be, and is accounted as, a son of God. He has an intimate conjunction with the Lord Jesus Christ as to his Divine humanity, and in the humanity with the essential divinity – the inmost divine essence and nature.
For the Lord, in his unfailing bounty, maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. Not only does he do this literally, communicating all needful benefits to all, but spiritually likewise, by communicating to all the means of salvation, together with ability to make saving use of them. The rising of his sun is the communication of the influences of his love, conveying all spiritual good; the rain that he sends is the influence of his truth, making the mind receptive of the knowledge conveyed through his Word; and both are the gifts of his Holy Spirit, which are constantly present with every one, and when received and appropriated, replenish the soul with spiritual life, and prepare the man for the blessed enjoyment of life everlasting.
Other reasons are offered by the Divine Speaker and Benefactor, to convince man how readily he should comply with the Divine desires on his behalf, by acquiring that charity which can love its enemies, and thus become an inheritor of all heavenly excellences and joy.
46 And, first, he shows that religious men have no advantage over the men of the world unless they show a better example of unworldly love. For if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? As natural men hate, so do they love. As they hate those that hate them, they love those who love them. In thus loving others they only love themselves. They love others so far and so long as others minister to their self-love or self-interest. Christian love is entirely different from this. A Christian loves his neighbour for his neighbour’s sake. And this he does whether his neighbour loves him or not in return. His principles prompt him to desire the welfare and happiness of others, and to do what he can to promote them. Not self-love, but the love of God, is the principle from which he loves and acts. And as God loves all, and dispenses his bounty to all, he who loves God must love as God loves. There is another duty inculcated – that of saluting others besides our brethren.
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? The distinction is that which exists between loving and doing, and, spiritually, is one that so often occurs to mark the distinction and the union of the will and the understanding in all our intercourse with our fellow-creatures that heavenly marriage of the good and the true from which all spiritual virtue springs. Unless the Christian acts from these heavenly principles, what reward has he? The publicans have selfish gratification, and sometimes worldly advantage, as the reward of loving and saluting those who love and salute them. The reward to which the Christian looks is inward satisfaction and advantage; but it is the satisfaction of doing good, and the advantage of increasing his own capacity for usefulness and happiness.
48 As the Lord pointed to the Father in heaven as the pattern for men in their love for and conduct to each other, he concludes by exhorting his disciples to imitate him even in his perfection. Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. This must seem to many an impracticable lesson. The Lord cannot, of course, mean to teach us that we can be perfect in the degree that God is perfect; but he certainly intended to teach us that there is a perfection to which the Christian can attain which is an image of the Divine perfection. What is it that, apart from his infinity, constitutes the perfection of God’s nature? It is the perfect union in him of love and wisdom. The same union constitutes human perfection; the only difference being, that while the perfection of God is infinite, that of man is finite. Love from God in man’s will, and wisdom from God in man’s understanding, make man an image of God; and man is a perfect image so far as these principles are united in his mind and in his life. According to this idea of perfection, the humblest member of the Lord’s body can be as perfect in degree as the most exalted. For he who has little of love and of wisdom may have that little in as perfect a state of union as the greatest. The union of love and wisdom, or of good and truth, of charity and faith, of will and understanding, of doctrine and life – this is perfection; and to this perfection all can attain.
What a beautiful conclusion do these verses form to the series of Divine lessons which this portion of the Lord’s sermon conveys! How excellent and amiable does the religion of Jesus Christ appear, according to its nature, as here described and insisted on by himself! How far surpassing anything ever imagined is here presented, as the character of the true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, when, as necessary to distinguish him from men of the world, and to evince that he is a true disciple of his Divine Master, we are told that he must love even his enemies, and return blessings and prayers for curses and injuries and when, after a picture of our heavenly Father as the Author of good to all, we are instructed that, in this respect, we are to take him for our pattern, and strive after a perfection imitative of his! In practice how few of us appear to think that such precepts are given in earnest, as intended to be obeyed, and that unless we are at heart in the sincere effort to obey them, and to govern our affections and habits of life in conformity with their directions, we have no claim to be accounted as Christians, or to assume the name, and expect the consequent blessing, of him as the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
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