<< Matthew VI: The Sermon on the Mount >>
This chapter, while it forms part of the series of the Lord’s discourse, forms at the same time a series which is distinct by itself; and which again consists of distinct parts, forming again other distinct series. Thus, the first eighteen verses obviously constitute one series of subjects, consisting again of three parts, intimately connected together: the first treating of the duty of almsgiving the second of that of prayer, and the third of fasting.
1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
Whole Chapter cited.
See Chapter V., whole chapter cited. E. 785.
See Chapter V., whole chapter cited. D. P., Page 37. I. See Chapter V., 45, 48. A. 8328.
See Chapter V., 11, 12. T. 440.
1—6. That to love good and truth for the sake of good and truth is itself reward is evident, inasmuch as the Lord and heaven are in that love. By alms, in a universal sense, is signified all the good which a man wills and does. By praying, in the same sense, is signified all the truth which a man thinks and speaks. They who do these things that they may be seen, that is that they may appear, do them for the sake of themselves and the world, that is for the sake of glory, which is the delight of their love, and which they receive from the world. As the reward of such persons is the delight of glory, it is said that they have their reward. But they who do good and speak truth, not for the sake of themselves and the world, but for the sake of good itself, and truth itself, are understood by those who do their alms in secret, and who pray in secret, for such act and pray from affection, thus from the Lord, and this is to love good and truth for the sake of good and truth. Concerning these, therefore, it is said, that their Father in the heavens will reward them in what is manifest. To be in goods and truths from love and affection, which is the same as to be in them from the Lord, is reward, as heaven is therein, and all the blessings and satisfaction of heaven. A. 695.
1-20. See Chapter III., 8, 9. A. 2371.
1, 2, 16. See Chapter V., n, 12. A. 8002.
1, 6, 8. See Chapter V., 16. E. 254. 2-5. Streets signify truths or falsities of doctrine. R. 501.
1 The first verse is a general introduction, not only to the subject of almsgiving but also to those of prayer and fasting. In our version the Lord is made to say, Take heed that ye do not your alms before men; but in the margin, righteousness is given instead of alms. The reason of this is, that in a great number of manuscripts, including those that are most ancient, and in some of the most ancient versions, the word properly meaning righteousness, or justice, is here found. This would appear to be the correct reading. For righteousness being a general term, denoting any kind of religious duty whatever, includes the three different duties, of which almsgiving is one, and which, therefore, comes appropriately in the next verse. The general precept, then, Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them; otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven, implies, that no kind of religious duty whatever is to be done for the sake of the applause of men or on account of any external consideration whatever; and that when so done, it ceases to be truly an act of religion, and brings no blessing upon the hypocritical performer.
2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
3 But when thou doest alms, let not th y left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
5And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
2, 5. On this signification of streets, as signifying truths, was founded a representative rite among the Jews, to teach in streets, as appears in Matthew, and Luke xiii. 26, 27. A. 2336.
Hypocritical charity is an attribute of those who in public or private worship bow themselves almost to the ground before God, pour forth long prayers with great devotion, put on a sanctified appearance, kiss crucifixes and bones of the dead, and sometimes kneel at sepulchres, and there mutter words of holy veneration toward God, and yet in their hearts nourish self-worship, and seek to be adored like so many deities. Such persons are like those whom the Lord describes. T. 452.
3, 4. By these words is signified that good ought to be done from good, and for the sake of good, and not for the sake of self and of the world in order that it may appear. By alms is understood every good work, by the right hand good from which truth is derived, and by the left hand truth from good. These act as one with those who are in the good of love and charity, but not so with those who regard themselves and the world in the good things which they do, wherefore by the left hand are here understood, to know, and to act without good. E. 600.
4, 6, 18. See Chapter V., 12. R. 526.
5 Because the streets of a city signify the truth of doctrine, according to which a man should live, therefore it was customary to teach and pray in the streets. E. 652.
2 Having taught that in the performance of religious duty in general, regard is not to be had to men, otherwise no reward attends them from our heavenly Father, the Divine Instructor draws from the general precept an inference relating to the specific duty of almsgiving. Therefore, when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Almsgiving, as one of the most obvious good deeds which spring from a principle of charity, is here mentioned to denote all good in general, – every sort of performance which has, or ought to have, charity or love as its origin, – all good which man can will or do. That almsgiving is one of the forms of such good, there can be no doubt; although, in a corrupt and artificial state of society, there is need of prudence and caution in its exercise, – lest by this means the unworthy should be supported in idleness and profligacy, and, by importunity and hypocritical pretences, should monopolize the bounty which is only well bestowed upon those whom misfortune, and not vice, has reduced to a situation to require it. But almsgiving alone is not what is here intended in the spiritual sense, but, as remarked, all good whatever that man can will and do. Nothing of the kind is to be done for the sake of outward appearance. Do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. To sound a trumpet is a figurative form of speech, denoting, when applied to divine things, revelation by truths grounded in celestial love: here, therefore, where it is applied to a subject of an opposite nature, it denotes publication and boasting, grounded in self-love, and the love to obtain the glory of men, and to desire reputation by such means among those who only behold the outward appearance, but cannot look into the heart. Thus it is to do good only for the sake of appearance, without any regard for good in itself. The synagogues and the streets, where the trumpet is blown, signify, in the good sense, doctrines and truths; and therefore point to the nature of the act as being one of intellect, and not of the heart, the result of study and contrivance with a view to self-glory. It implies also the practice of selfish benevolence under the cloak of religion. Verily, they have their reward. But what is this but the bubble reputation, which death at least must burst, leaving the miserable performer to shame and everlasting disgrace.
3 This, therefore, being not the mode of doing good which is acceptable to the Lord, or truly beneficial to the performer, the Lord says to his disciples, Therefore, when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth. This is doubtless a proverbial phrase, implying great secrecy but when employed by the Lord it becomes significant likewise. All the organs, on the right side of the body have, as we have seen (ch. v. 29, 30), relation, in the symbolic language of Scripture, to the principles of goodness; and those on the left to that of truth. These, with a good man, act in union; but not with a wicked man, or with one who does good only for the sake of appearance. The hand always signifies power or ability. To act, then, with the right hand denotes to act from a principle of truth grounded in goodness. But the left hand here denotes the power of truth separate from goodness: and to consult this, would be to act from the understanding alone, without regard to any concurrence on the part of the will – thus, to do what truth dictates, but without any motive of goodness in the doing of it; in which case self-love or evil must be the moving principle, and the good outwardly done would be for the sake of appearance and character. Not to let the left hand know what the right hand doeth is to do good from a principle of goodness itself, without any respect to any consideration not grounded in genuine goodness.
4 Good must be thus done that our alms may be in secret – that is, that our good deeds may proceed from the inmost recesses of the soul, and be kept separate from all external considerations. And for such good, Thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. By which is meant, that the delight and blessedness inherent in all genuine good, or in all good which is lived, will be communicated to us by the Lord, the only Source of all real good and of all true felicity. And when this is promised from the Lord as our Father, we are instructed that this reward will come from his fatherly love, the fountain of the purest bliss. How desirable to come into the possession of such a principle of goodness, and to be influenced by it alone in whatever we do! If we do good according to our abilities and opportunities, our heavenly Father himself will give us a reward – the reward which all pure love of good carries in its bosom, the delight and blessedness of heaven, not the heaven only which is without, but of that which is within us; for good itself is heaven, and in this our Father dwells.
5 From the subject of almsgiving the Lord passes on to that of prayer. This is a subject in which all are most deeply interested. Prayer is discourse with God. Love is the fire that burns perpetually upon the altar, and devoutness of spirit is unceasing worship. There are times and seasons, however, when the devout man pours out his soul to God in oral prayer. Nor can true piety exist without the exercise of outward devotion, any more than true holiness can exist without the practice of good works. Prayer is therefore introduced among the active virtues which the Lord enjoins in his sermon on the mount. As in the duty of almsgiving, so in the performance of devotion the Lord instructs us both negatively and positively. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are. We must not, as the word hypocrite implies, with our lips use words, or assume any outward appearance, of devotion or holiness, while our heart believes or thinks in opposition to the form of goodness assumed before the world. The Lord, it is plain, does not speak of the infirmities which may attend the performance of our acts of worship, such as accidental and unintentional wanderings of thought or distraction of mind, but of that studied simulation of a piety to which the heart is an utter stranger, and which it even abhors. The Lord explains what he means by the command to be not as the hypocrites, by proceeding to explain what such a hypocrite is: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. The Lord does not in this discourage public worship. He himself worshipped in the synagogue. Social worship is not implied here. Synagogues were made in imitation of the temple. And the Lord represents the Pharisee and the publican going up into the temple to pray, and each as praying alone. The point of our Lord’s exhortation, to avoid the example of the Pharisees, is in their praying in public places, to be seen of men. And nothing, surely, can be a more profane mockery than seeking human praise by the very act of offering homage to God. All our Lord’s description of the practice of the hypocrite is, in the spiritual sense, expressive of activity of the intellect, and, in this case, without the co-operative influence of the will. Standing is expressive of a state of the thought; the synagogue signifies doctrine; a street signifies truth or its opposite; and the corner of a street the ultimate where truth closes, and on which it rests. We thus pray when from the understanding alone we go through the forms which truth prescribes as the means of acquiring good, for the purpose of acquiring the reputation of goodness. We do it to be seen of men, that is, to deceive their understandings, which is meant by the sight, to make that seem good which in itself is evil. Of all such worshippers the Lord says, Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. Their present reward is to obtain a character for piety, and secure respect and credit with others. Their reward is of this life, and here it ends. Their reward in the other life is “shame and everlasting contempt.”
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
6 To enter into the chamber and pray, means not in outward appearance, for this was said from what is representative. A. 5694.
7, 8. Piety consists in thinking and speaking piously, in spending much time in prayer, in behaving humbly at that time, in frequenting temples, in frequently every year receiving the sacrament of the supper. But the life of charity consists in willing well and doing well to our neighbour, in acting in all our works from justice and equity, and from good and truth. He who lives the life of piety, and not that of charity at the same time, does not worship God. He thinks indeed of God, but not from God, but from himself. The life of piety separate from the life of charity is not the spiritual life which should be in Divine worship. N. 124.
Divine worship primarily consists in a life of charity, and secondarily in external piety. Essential Divine worship primarily consists in the life, and not in prayers. The Lord taught that in praying much speaking and repetition should not be used. E. 325.
6 Pharisaic worship is to be shunned by every true disciple of the Lord. He is to seek the favour of the Lord alone. No view to any merely external advantage is to be made the end of his devotions. He is to worship primarily from the internal man, and by internal worship give a spiritual and internal nature even to its outward expressions. Therefore the Lord says, But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. By the direction to enter into the closet is not meant that all worship is to be performed in solitude. The closet is here put to signify the interior recesses of the mind. We are to worship the Lord from the internal man, and thus from states of inward faith and love, and not from the external man and his natural desires. Therefore we are also commanded to shut the door, which means to exclude all the influences that arise from the body and the world – to shut out completely every suggestion and desire that arises from below, and to seek the blessing of our Father, that is, of the Lord as pure Divine Love, who is only to be approached in such states of interior affection and spiritual desire, and who has his residence in secret, in the inmost recesses of the purified soul. The blessings of which we shall be made partakers will, while here, be stored up in the interiors of the mind; but when we depart hence, we shall enter into their manifest enjoyment and full fruition. Our Father, who seeth in secret, and who notes every desire and aspiration truly directed to him, will, we may be assured, reward us openly. But even in this world we shall not be entirely without our open reward. Heavenly graces will be drawn down from the Lord in the internal man into the external by every act of true worship, and we shall be made partakers more and more fully of our heavenly Father’s love.
7, 8. Having entered into our closet, and shut the door, we must attend to the matter of the prayer we offer up to our Father in heaven. On this important point our Lord says, But when ye pray use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. As the word rendered “vain repetitions” occurs in no other passage in the New Testament, and, according to Tholuck, only once in any classical author, its precise meaning is not easily determined. The context, however, sufficiently shows its meaning. It evidently includes the idea of “much speaking,” for which the heathen “think they shall be heard;” and it probably includes also the idea of asking many particular things; since one reason for our not being like the heathen in our prayers is, that your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. In both these particulars our Lord’s own prayer, which he delivered to his disciples as an example, is instructive. Few things are asked in few words. Even in its simple literal sense it craves but one blessing for the body; all the others are for the soul. The Lord’s prayer is no doubt to be our pattern, though its use does not exclude that of other suitable forms. In itself it includes all – all that we can think or ask; but this in its spiritual sense. It certainly most emphatically teaches us that we should not approach the Divine Being with long, unmeaning, or worldly-minded prayers. But these exhortations have some deeper meaning than that which the letter expresses. It will be observed that the Lord first warns us against the practices of the hypocrites, and then against that of the heathen. The hypocrites are those who do not pray, but only pretend to pray; the heathen pray, but are mistaken in the nature and objects of prayer. The hypocrites represent those who are in truth without good; and the heathen represent those who are in good without truth. This good is what is called spurious good. It is not false and deceitful like that of the hypocrites, but it is natural, and therefore impure and misdirected. Truth is that which purifies good and makes it spiritual. And by the good we here speak of we are to understand the good of well-disposed persons, who yet have not the truth which is necessary to direct their good dispositions to their proper objects, by the use of proper means. Such persons are liable to think they shall be heard for much speaking, and who use vain repetition, and think more of the body in their prayers than of the soul. Be not ye therefore like unto them. Our prayers are not only to be sincere, but intelligent and spiritual asking always to be supplied according to the Divine will and wisdom, and not according to our own, except so far as our own are in harmony with those of our heavenly Father. The divine prayer which he himself taught us we now come to consider.
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
9 By the name of God is signified the all of worship, that is, the all of love and of faith whereby He is worshipped. A. 2724.
The name of Jehovah signifies all that by means of which He is worshipped, thus, in the supreme sense, all that proceeds from the Lord. A. 6674.
In the Lord’s prayer also by Our Father is meant the Lord as to His Divine Humanity, and also everything collectively, by which He is to be worshipped. A. 6887.
See Chapter V., 45, 48. A. 8328.
That the Lord, as to His Humanity, is the name of the Father. R. 81.
By the name of God in the Word is signified God with everything Divine which is in Him and proceeds from Him. That it ought not to be profaned is meant in the Lord’s Prayer, by Halloived be Thy name. P. 230.
In the Lord’s Prayer, according to its celestial sense, the same is signified, in this petition, Hallowed be Thy name, namely that the Divine Humanity of the Lord is meant by the name of Jehovah God. T. 299.
“Infants and angels in heaven know of no other father or mother (God and the church). The Lord teaches the same in the common prayer of all Christian churches. T. 306.
When the Lord God the Redeemer is approached, the Father is approached, and then His name is hallowed, and His kingdom comes. Ind. xvi.
The Lord, the Redeemer and Saviour, is the Father of all in heaven, and He Himself teaches that the Father and He are one, that the Father is in Him and He in the Father, that whoso seeth Him seeth the Father, that all that the Father hath are His. Ind. xvii.
It is manifest what is understood in the Lord’s Prayer by the words Hallowed be Thy name, namely that the Divine Humanity of the Lord is to be accounted Holy, and to be worshipped. E. 102.
9, 10. We in heaven use that prayer daily, as men upon earth do, and we do not then think of God the Father, because He is invisible, but we think of Him in His Divine Humanity, because in this He is visible, and in this He is called Christ by you, but Lord by us, and thus the Lord is our Father in heaven. His Divine Humanity is the name of the Father, and the Father’s kingdom comes when the Lord is immediately approached. R. 839.
All you that are here present understand these words as relating to the Father in His Divinity alone, whereas I (Swedenborg) understand them as relating to His Humanity. And this also is the Father’s name, for the Lord said, Father, glorify Thy name, that is, Thy Humanity, and when this is done, the kingdom of God comes. T. 112.
See Chapter III., 2. T. 113.
9-13. We have proved from the Word that His Divine Humanity is the name of the Father, and that the Father’s kingdom comes when the Lord is immediately approached, and by no means when God the Father is approached immediately. Therefore the Lord commanded His disciples to preach the kingdom of God, and this is the kingdom of God. R. 839.
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: OUR FATHER. What an inexpressible charm is included in this affecting and tender commencement, especially when it is borne in mind that it is the Lord himself who authorizes and prescribes the form of approaching him, and commands us to think of and address him as Our Father! What an evidence is there, and an example, in this instance alone, of the grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ – of the nearer and perceptibly kinder relation which the Infinite and Most Holy Creator assumed towards his creatures when he himself assumed humanity for their redemption! In the Old Testament there are a few instances of the Lord being spoken of as the Father of his people; but it is in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ alone, in his Divine Humanity, that the Eternal Creator can be truly known as the Father of those who call upon him. The natural idea conveyed in the title of Father is, that he is the Author of our existence. This is the most general idea which is presented when we are instructed to call upon the Divine Being as Our Father. Yet every one of any feeling perceives that there is something involved in the epithet more than this, and associates with the title the notion of paternal tenderness and care. This arises from an obscure perception which all have of the spiritual sense of the term Father, – of the spiritual reality which answers by exact correspondence to the natural relationship of a Father. The Lord is called Our Father in reference to that primary constituent of his essence, the Divine Love. Divine Love is the universal parent. It was to satisfy the yearnings of divine love, and the intense desire inherent in it to impart itself to others, and to bless them from the infinite fountain of beatitude in itself, that all creation was produced. For all the natural creation is produced for the sake of man, or that man might have the means of existence. And man was produced that heaven might exist, to be peopled with human beings, exalted to all the perfection and blessedness of which a created nature is capable, and enjoying these blessings by conjunction with the Lord and the fruition of his love. That the Divine Love is what is specifically meant when he is called our Father is thus sufficiently obvious from rational considerations and it is affirmed, almost in express terms, in the Holy Word. The psalmist says, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him;” where the word rendered “pitieth” is one which denotes the deepest tenderness and mercy, which are the feelings of the softest love. We are thus to look at him, to our inexpressible comfort, as actuated by these emotions towards us, when we are encouraged to address him in prayer as our Father.
But we are instructed to address the Object of our worship not only as our Father, but as our Father who art in the heavens. As with respect to the Lord, the inmost Divine Essence, which is the same as the Divine Love, is called the Father – the Divine Existence or manifestation which is the same as the Divine Truth, is what is called the Son; so the whole Divinity, only as existing in and manifested by the Divine Humanity of Jesus Christ, is “our Father,” and only by communications of spiritual graces thence can we be sons of God; as it is written, “To as many as received him, to them gave HE power to become the sons of God, even to as many as believed in his name.” This is expressly indicated when He whom we are to address is defined to be “our Father who art in the heavens.” For the Father in the heavens is specifically the Divine Truth, the sphere of which fills all the heavens, and is the source of all the perfection and blessedness that the heavenly inhabitants enjoy. And it is only the Divine Humanity of the Lord which is thus in the heavens which there is known, experienced, and worshipped, and which fills the inhabitants with their angelic endowments, for the Essential Divine Principle, which Jesus Christ calls his Father, is utterly inapprehensible to angelic as well as to human minds.
But who is it that we are to address as our Father? What is the NAME by which he has been manifested to us, and in what person has he revealed himself to us, and evinced that he is actuated by a Father’s tenderness? It is only when clothed with humanity that we can truly know him in this character; it was when he actually assumed humanity that he first instructed us to address him as our Father. When he is spoken of or addressed by this title in the Old Testament, it is done prophetically, and in the anticipation of his drawing near to man, by taking on him human nature and becoming a redeemer. It is true, indeed, that he was the Father of his creatures from eternity, and it is because he was so that they were called into existence. Yet he could not be fully known in all the nearness and tenderness of this relationship till he had put on the humanity for the purpose. “No man (says the Lord) knoweth the Father save the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.” So when Philip desired to see the Father, Jesus referred him to himself, and said, “Have I been so long time with thee, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou, then, Show us the Father!” Although, then, the divine principle specifically called the Son is not the same as that called the Father, yet when the union between the divinity and humanity was fully effected, that Union was so complete that they formed but one person, and the whole fulness of the Godhead dwelt in the person of Jesus Christ. It is therefore a great error to suppose that he whom we are commanded to address in the Lord’s prayer as our Father is any other than the Lord Jesus Christ. He, after his glorification, is the Father as well as the Son. Hence he speaks of himself (when he speaks without a parable) as the Father. So, when the prophet announces his expected birth, saying, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given,” he not only affirms that “the government shall be upon his shoulder,” and gives him the titles, “Wonderful, Counsellor, and the Mighty God,” but he declares him also to be, “the everlasting Father.” So when the same prophet addresses him as the Father it is when the Lord Jesus Christ is meant, because he is addressed at the same time as the Redeemer: “Thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer; thy name is from everlasting.” The NAME of the Father, which the Lord teaches his people to pray may be hallowed, is the humanity in which Jehovah appeared in the world, and in which he now dwells. The humanity is called the Divine name, because it was in it that God was manifested, or came forth to view, that in the supreme sense Jesus is meant by the NAME of Jehovah, is evident from his own words. “Jesus said, Father, glorify thy name: there came a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” In this form our Lord prayed for the glorification of his humanity, because this is truly the name of God, meaning by a name that by which God is known to angels and men. The Lord prayed that the Father’s name might be glorified, and he requires us to pray that it may be hallowed. God glorified his name when he glorified his humanity; and we hallow his name when we acknowledge the sanctity and divinity of his humanity. And this acknowledgment is to be made for the sake of worship. It is the glory of the Christian religion that it enables us to worship a visible God. The Essential Divinity itself – that divine principle which Jesus Christ calls his Father – is utterly unapproachable by angelic as well as human minds. The humanity is the name by which the otherwise incomprehensible Divinity is known and worshipped. The end of divine worship is, that we may be like the Object of our worship. For no other purpose does God require us to worship him. Our homage can add nothing to his glory it is only useful as it sheds his glory upon us. How reasonable, on this ground, is the worship of the Lord Jesus Christ! Not only is he a visible and comprehensible Object, but he is the Pattern, as he is the Fountain, of all perfection – a perfection that has been manifested in a life such as that by which we are to serve him, and by which we are to worship him; for we worship him when we live to his glory, as truly as when we bow in the profoundest humiliation before him. As all the good and blessing with which the human soul can be recreated solely proceeds from the Divine Humanity of the Lord, and can only be given to those who are in the sincere acknowledgement of its divinity, therefore the devout veneration of the Lord’s humanity must be the centre of all true and acceptable worship. It is the peculiar sentiment of the angels of the highest heavens, and to the inmost faculties of the regenerate human mind. Of every prayer that we can offer, this sentiment must form the soul, and, whether expressed in words or not, must have existence and life within, to give acceptableness and efficacy to all our petitions. Therefore the Lord’s prayer opens its petitions with the expression of this sentiment, in the words Hallowed be thy name. And who can think of the mercy of the Lord in assuming human nature even to the uttermost, or as to the lowest principles in which it exists in man in the world, for the sake of accomplishing in it a work or redemption, and of making it the medium of communicating to us the qualities of the heart and mind, as to truth and goodness, in which is salvation, which is truly the giving to its the power to become the sons of God; – who can think of such blessings, of which the Lord Jesus Christ in his Divine Humanity is the Author, without most sincerely venerating and hallowing his blessed name!
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
10 See Chapter III., 2. R. 749. The Lord’s kingdom is the church, which makes one with heaven. R. 956.
As to love is to will, so likewise it is to do, for what a man loves that he wills, and what he wills he also does. Hence by doing the will of God, or of the Father is understood to do His precepts, or to live according to them from the affection of love or charity. This is what is understood by the will of God, and of the Father.
That the kingdom of the Lord is what proceeds from Him and is received, may appear from the passages in io the Word where the kingdom of God is mentioned. By the kingdom is there understood the reception of Divine good and Divine truth which proceed from the Lord, and in which the Lord is with the angels of heaven and with men of the church. E. 683.
The Lord’s kingdom was also before the last judgment,, for the Lord always rules both heaven and earth. But the state of His kingdom after the last judgment became other than before it, as the reception of Divine truth and good became thereby more universal, more interior, more easy, and more distinct. E. 1217.
10, 13. Thy kingdom come signifies that truth may be received. Thy will be done signifies that it may be received by those who do the will of God, Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory signify Divine truth from the Lord alone. It is also said “power and glory” because to Divine truth belong all power and glory. E. 48.
10 The sentiment of devotion which follows next in order is the petition which, also, if rightly appreciated, should express the ardent desire of every feeling heart: Thy kingdom come. Every one sees that the kingdom of the Lord must denote, or at least include, his divine government. And if his government truly reigned in the hearts of all, it is no less evident that the most desirable blessings would prevail among mankind. For, looking to the natural sense of the phrase alone, is obvious to every one, the coming of his kingdom must mean the establishment of that kingdom on earth. And if it were fully established, so that no corrupt passions might rebel in the breast of any one, – much less any individuals, or whole masses of men, set themselves in opposition to the merciful government of the Lord, – what blessings must that gracious government diffuse throughout the earth! How ardently, then, viewed only in this general way, should all desire, and how sincerely should they pray, that this blessed kingdom may come. But a kingdom implies a king. And who is the king of this kingdom? The incontrovertible testimony of Scripture is, that the kingdom belongeth to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is “King of kings and Lord of lords.” His kingdom upon earth, in its peculiar sense, as spoken of in the New Testament, commenced with his assumption of humanity, and his beginning openly to manifest himself therein by his mighty works of divine love and his words of divine wisdom which his intimate union with the Divine Essence enabled him to do and to utter. The kingdom of God having commenced with the manifestation of God in the flesh, it is truly the kingdom of him who thus showed himself to mankind. His kingdom is not of this world, though intended also to be established in the hearts of men in this world. For, as is announced respecting him by the Prophet, “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”
But with respect to the petition, Thy kingdom come, as well as all other specific terms and phrases used in the Word of God, there must be a spiritual sense intended, besides that natural one which results from the common sense of the words in natural language. What then is the proper spiritual idea that belongs to the word kingdom? In what respect is the Lord spiritually denominated a king? All his Divine titles refer to some distinct attribute or essential principle in his nature; so, consequently, must the title of king. But bow is it that a king on earth exercises his authority over his subjects? or how is every kingdom maintained in order as such? Every kingdom is a society of men bound together by the circumstance of their living under the same laws. Under every kind of government, the kingly, that is the sovereign power, is administered by means of laws; in fact, the essential sovereignty resides in the law. We have only to apply this to the Divine government to see in what respect the Lord is called a king, and what is meant in the spiritual sense by his kingdom. How does he exercise his government but by his divine laws? and what are these laws but the laws of his divine order? And what are these but the dictates of his divine truth?
These laws are the immutable appointments of infinite wisdom grounded in infinite love. Love being his essence, he cannot will anything but the purest good: and wisdom being, in his essence, in perfect union with love, he cannot aim at the accomplishment of his purposes by any but the best and wisest means. And his love and wisdom being infinite, he sees from eternity to eternity what the best and the wisest means are. The consequence is, that his laws are as eternal and immutable as his own love and wisdom, or as himself to be laws of his divine truth they cannot be otherwise; for truth itself can admit of no variation. As the Author, then, of the laws of eternal truth, and as administering the government of heaven and of his church, of the human race, and of the universe, according to them, the Lord is called a King; and his government, – the order and course of such administration, and the beings who are the subjects of it, are denominated his kingdom. In praying, then, Thy kingdom come, we particularly pray that the government of the Lord’s divine truth, grounded as it is in divine goodness, may be established both in our own hearts and in the hearts of mankind at large. And as the aspiration, “Hallowed be thy Name,” is pre-eminently the sentiment of the celestial angels, and of the celestial degree of man’s mind, so the petition, Thy kingdom come, is pre-eminently the sentiment of the, spiritual angels, or of the spiritual degree of the mind. These spiritual angels are themselves called “kings while the celestial are called “priests.” The heaven in which the spiritual dwell is specifically the kingdom for whose coming we are taught to pray. To become the subjects of this kingdom every thought must be brought into obedience to the divine truth of the Lord, and he himself, by the laws of his order, which are the truths of his Word, must reign with unresisted authority throughout our souls. Not only so: his laws must be loved, and thence willingly obeyed. When obedience is thus yielded with affection, it is accompanied with delight. How devoutly, then, and with what earnestness of desire ought we to offer the petition, Thy kingdom come, making it the habitual wish of our souls!
The next petition of the Divine prayer, Thy will be done, may appear much the same in import as the one we have just considered. Wherever the Lord’s kingdom is established, there undoubtedly his will is done; wherever his will is done, there assuredly he reigns as King, and his government is established. Yet there must be a decided distinction between the purport of one petition and the other. In a divine composition there can be no real tautology.
That absence of sameness, amid the most admirable harmony, which is apparent in the works of the Creator, must be equally characteristic of his words. What has been already said about the sense of the petition, “Thy kingdom come,” will show that there is nothing approaching to a “vain repetition” in the addition of the clause, Thy will be done. The Divine Truth, which is the principle of the Lord’s government, in the true reception of which consists the establishment of his kingdom, is evidently the proper attribute of the Divine understanding whereas the will of the Lord must relate to Divine understanding, the other great essential of the Divine mind: comparatively as the mind of man who was created according to the image and likeness of God, consists of the two universal faculties of will and understanding the infinite understanding of the Lord is Divine Truth or Divine Wisdom, so his infinite will is Divine Goodness or Love. To pray that the Lord’s Divine will may be done, is to pray that the benevolent, the gracious, the merciful desires, the unbounded love of our heavenly Father may take effect in moulding the hearts of men according to its own nature, and in producing the fruits of goodness in their lives. The will of God can be nothing but pure love and mercy; and it prevails in us when we are animated by no other affections than those of love to him and charity towards our neighbour; and it properly is done by us when all our conduct is regulated in conformity with these blessed principles – when we do what they declare, and nothing but what they sanction.
But this petition is marked by the circumstance that it particularly desires that the Divine will may be done on earth as well as in heaven: Thy will be done, as in heaven so upon the earth. This is the order according to which the words follow each other in the original, and according to which what is superior comes first, and what is inferior follows after. That the Divine will is done in heaven no one can doubt that it ought to be done on earth, and that this ought to be our ardent desire, is no less obvious. But heaven also denotes not only the heaven without, but also the heaven within – the internal man – and consequently the earth denotes the external man; and it is the external man which requires to be brought into obedience, and conformed to the Lord’s will, being by natural inheritance in a, state of contrariety and rebellion. When the Lord’s will is thus done on earth as it is in heaven, the regeneration of man is complete; and without it he is not qualified for any of the mansions of heaven. This petition seems, then, to contain the peculiar sentiment of those in the heavenly kingdom who occupy the lowest of the three general mansions assigned to the blest, and through which the Lord and heaven in general, flow into the world and into men on earth. The angels of this heaven are particularly in the principle of obedience. Their especial life is in doing the Lord’s will; and through them the conformity of the external man in those who are regenerated, to the same holy determination is more especially carried on. In order that we may experience the Lord’s saving operation, and be prepared for a place in his heavenly kingdom, our prayer must most devoutly be, Thy will be done, as in heaven so upon the earth. There is a principle of our internal man of which this is the proper sentiment. We must allow it to be opened, and must thence look continually to our Father in the heavens for the conformity of our external man to the spirit of the petition. We must, to this end, join determination to goodness in life and act with our aspirations towards heaven, never ceasing till the blessed fruit is experienced, and, doing the Lord’s will on earth, we are prepared for that heaven where it is done spontaneously and unceasingly for ever.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
11 The Lord’s Divine Humanity signified celestial food, which is no other than love and charity, with the goods and truths of faith. In the heavens this food is given every moment by the Lord to the angels, consequently for ever and to eternity. This also is what is meant in the Lord’s Prayer by this petition. A. 2838.
The Lord daily provides necessaries, and thus they ought not to be solicitous about acquiring them for themselves. A. 8478.
12, 15. See Chapter III., 8, 9. A. 1017.
11 The petition of the divine prayer which we are now to consider is one that expresses our constant dependence on the bounty of our heavenly Father. Give us this day our daily bread. This forms the middle petition of the Lord’s prayer: above it, all relates to the Lord and his kingdom below it, all relates to ourselves and the world. In the first three petitions we address our Father in heaven; we pray that his name may be hallowed, that his kingdom may come, and his will be done on earth as in heaven. In the last three petitions we pray for forgiveness, for protection against or support in temptation, and for deliverance from evil. In the first three petitions we look, as it were, above us to the Lord and heaven; in the last we look below us to the world and hell. The present petition – Give us this day our daily bread – occupies the middle place, as it appears to be of an intermediate character.
Now the reason of this change of strain, so to speak, in the varying petitions of the prayer – of its passing from the contemplation of the highest good and blessedness, by a regular gradation, to the lowest evil and misery, is because it is so framed as to be adapted to the whole nature, faculties, and composition of man, from first to last. It is the production of Him who knoweth how “fearfully avid wonderfully we are made,” and in whose “book all our members are written.” It therefore expresses the sentiments both of that part of our spiritual and mental constitution by virtue of which, if duly opened, we become inhabitants of the heavenly kingdom, and also by the abuse of which, when unreformed, we find our sad home in the realms of darkness. We have mentioned that the petitions of the first class contain in an especial manner the devotional sentiments of the various orders of angelic beings, and also of the corresponding provinces and powers of the mind of man, which are those that belong to what is called in theology the internal man. In the heavenly kingdom the Lord is all in all; and so also in everything belonging to the internal man. Therefore, in the class of petitions which we have already considered, there is such a direction of thought and affection to the Lord as prevents the appearance of any other idea. So in the last class of petitions we have the devotional sentiments, not certainly of the inhabitants of the infernal kingdom -for there no such sentiments can exist – but we have in those petitions the devotional feelings of the various faculties and provinces of the external man, as regenerated or regenerating, or the feelings of the man himself when contemplating this part of his nature, and the liabilities which he derives from it. For it is that part of man’s nature, or mental frame, which is denominated, in the language of theology, the external man, which alone is subject to evils, is defiled with them, or is susceptible of them. Without it, a finite intelligent being, or accountable creature, could not have been produced; and having it, the necessity of obtaining the removal of its evils, and protection against the ruin to which it, and the man who makes it his all, is exposed, prevents us in our supplications at the throne of grace from abiding wholly in the contemplation of the Lord and, his perfections, and obliges us to have respect also to our own deficiencies, infirmities, and dangers.
Distinct, however, from these last great constituents of the frame of human beings – the external and internal man – is the rational faculty or principle; or rather, it is an intermediate which partakes of both. This is the highest seat of man’s conscious perception while he lives in the world, and it is given him, that by means of it, as a rational free agent, he may be capable of appropriating the things that belong to the internal man, and thus have his internal man opened and prepared for heaven, which takes place in proportion as the external man is taught obedience, and is made what the Scripture calls regenerate, by the removal of its evils. The rational faculty of man then, ought to be in the perpetual desire to receive and appropriate good from the Lord, with every help requisite for these objects. Here then, our constant prayer must be, Give us this day our daily bread: which clause we are now particularly to consider.
The exact literal sense of this passage has been a subject of great controversy among the learned, the word here translated daily being formed by the evangelists themselves, and existing in no other work than the gospels, and in them only in this place, and in the corresponding passage in Luke. It is only, therefore, from the etymology of the term, and from the sense required by the context, that any conclusion can be formed as to its meaning. In the Latin Vulgate it is rendered super-substantial; but this is rather a spiritual than a literal sense. Others, with our translators, have rendered it daily, not that there is any direct reference to days in the original, but because no modern language can accurately express what the original term implies. The original term, according to what appears to be its most probable etymology, denotes that which is suited to, or required for, our substance or being; thus, when joined to bread, the phrase signifies, the bread which is for our substance, being, or subsistence. This is our necessary bread; and the idea of our necessary bread is not badly, though not literally conveyed by the phrase – our daily bread.
It is plain, that in praying for our daily bread, the word bread must have, even in the literal sense, a wider signification than one article of food. It is used figuratively to denote food in general, and indeed all that is necessary to the maintenance of life. Yet after all, this is not what is truly meant by the divine words. The whole purport of the divine exhortations which follow is to withdraw us from a regard to natural things, which are promised to be given freely where superior blessings are duly regarded. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Doubtless we ought to look to the Lord as the Author of all our natural comforts, to acknowledge with gratitude his mercy in bestowing them, and to look to him for their continuance. But what he wishes us to desire with earnestness, and to ask of him as an indispensable means of obtaining, is the good, and the spiritual gifts in general which are requisite to our spiritual support – to the life and nourishment of our souls. This is the spiritual sense which the word “bread” contains throughout the whole of the Word of God. Its proper spiritual sense is good, or goodness. For as bread is that which nourishes the body, so real good from the Lord is the proper nourishment of the soul. And when, as here, bread in the natural sense signifies all food in general, and not only so, but everything necessary for the support of bodily life, it denotes in the spiritual sense not good simply, but truth also, and these in all the varieties, and under every form, suited to our spiritual state. Hence we say, “Give us this day our daily bread:” for by days are signified, in the spiritual sense, states through which we pass, or in which we are. And when the idea of succession of days is involved in the natural expression – for we are to pray every day – the idea of eternity, of cession of states without end, is also included. What then we are earnestly to desire when we say to our heavenly Father, Give us this day our daily bread, is that he would bestow upon us every spiritual good and gift necessary, as our varying states require, to the support of our spiritual life, and to our well-being in and to eternity. Among other things, the regulation of our thoughts, the supplying us with profitable subjects of thought and affection, is particularly involved in the petition; for these constitute in a particular manner the food of the mind. The Lord continually gives the angels what to think; and thus do they receive from him their daily bread. When we offer up this form of words we should desire to partake of the same privilege. But in using this petition, what do we not pray for, when the Lord himself is the bread of life, the true bread that came down from heaven, to give life unto the world? He that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. Daily should we look up to him as the source and the substance of all good for our needful supply. And knowing that he still comes down from heaven as the bread of life, that we may eat and not die, causing his love and truth to descend upon our hearts, as the manna descended upon the wilderness around the camp of Israel, let us gather it, and gather it daily, that we may go on by the strength of this angel’s food in our journey to the promised land.
12 The petition which now demands our consideration is that in which we are directed to pray, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. This, in more respects than one, may be regarded as one of the most remarkable of the whole series of sacred supplications. That every human being stands in need of forgiveness at the hands of his Divine Judge; or that no one call stand up and claim the rewards of eternal life as matter of right, pleading the unforfeited title of undeviating obedience and holiness; but that all must receive a favourable decision of their final lot as matter of grace and mercy, there can be few so blinded by self-love and self-conceit as not to be disposed most humbly to acknowledge. “There is no man that sinneth not – In many things we all offend – All have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” are declarations of the, Old and New Testaments, to the truth of which every one must feelingly assent. And none can be humbled with the consciousness that he is thus a debtor – a sinner -without most earnestly desiring that his deficiencies and offences may not be brought against him, but may be covered over with the mantle of forgiveness. Without forgiveness for what we have done amiss, accorded from pure mercy, dark indeed were the prospect which we should have to look upon in eternity. Accordingly, in some form or other, supplications for forgiveness form a principal part in the devotional exercises, or religious worship, of every people, and of every individual that cherishes any feeling of religion whatever. “Forgive us our debts” is the humble supplication of all. But to this simple sentiment, however briefly or verbosely expressed, all petitions of merely human composition for the forgiveness of sins would, it may be presumed, be confined. Few persons, conscious of being sinners, would think of asking forgiveness on the ground that they had forgiven others. Forgiveness, absolute and in all respects unconditional, is what we should regard as most agreeable, and at the same time most suitable to our condition. In framing the petition for ourselves, our natural inclination would not lead us, and regard for our own interest would not suffer us, to say, “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors,” Yet this is the form in which we are directed to prefer our entreaty in this divinely communicated prayer. Here, then, is a feature in the prayer, given for use by the Lord Jesus Christ himself, which is truly remarkable, and of most weighty consideration. A form of forgiveness which, if invented by ourselves, would be presumptuous is by him enjoined as of indispensable necessity. Using it after his direction, all idea of presumption in it disappears. And how momentous is the instruction which remains in its stead. Forgiveness of our debts, upon condition of our forgiving our debtors, is still of free grace and mercy on the part of the Lord; for our disposition to forgive others is itself the fruit of divine grace. Conditional forgiveness is grace for grace. But though forgiveness of our sins is pure mercy on the Lord’s part, even where a condition is annexed to it, how truly salutary is it calculated to be to us, that we should be reminded of the condition in a way the most likely to produce its proper effect on our minds. The condition annexed to forgiveness must, in the very nature of things be an indispensable one; for how can it be possible that we can obtain forgiveness of our sins past, while we continue to make them sins present? To pray for forgiveness of our sins, without cherishing the full purpose of desisting from them and seriously endeavouring to do so, is mere mockery and vain babbling. The cherishing feelings of revenge against those who have injured us, is one of those sins which, while we continue to entertain and practise them, cannot be forgiven. But, plain as this is in itself, our self-love would here be very apt to blind us, and prevent us from making the discovery: it is, therefore, of mercy that the Lord makes the discovery, and reminds us of it continually, by connecting the acknowledgment of it with the very words of his prayer itself.
But what is the reason that our forgiveness of those who are deficient in the discharge of their duty to us, or who trespass against us, is made the condition on which alone we are encouraged to hope for forgiveness ourselves? And what is the proper meaning of the forgiveness of sins? The forgiveness of others is made, in the literal sense of the petition, the ground of our obtaining forgiveness, because no one can truly forgive those who injure him, so as to regard them with perfect complacency and kindness of heart, except in proportion as the love of self and the love of the world, which are the roots of all evil, have ceased to exercise a preponderating influence over him, and thus in proportion as evils in general are removed from his affections, and consequently from his practice. The Lord instructs us, in the beatitudes, that the merciful obtain mercy; and on the same principle we are here taught that the forgiving obtain forgiveness. This shows us what the nature of forgiveness truly is. It does not consist in the pronouncing of a pardon by the Lord. If this were sufficient to enable the sinner to enjoy the blessing intended, every child of man would receive it. Jesus Christ, who is mercy in its very essence, could refuse it to none. But how can sins be forgiven, so as to free us from their deplorable consequences, unless they are at the same time removed – removed from their seat in the affections, desisted from in the habit of our lives? The removal of evils is what we ought to think of when we pray for their forgiveness. As we, by Divine aid, desist from and remove them in desire and practice, they are truly remitted to us by the Lord, who then removes them also from our affections and thoughts. The desire for the Divine aid for this purpose is expressed when we say, “Forgive us our debts:” the acknowledgment of the necessity of our own fighting against and desisting from them is implied when we add, “as we also forgive our debtors.” If this be our prayer and our practice, we shall assuredly obtain from the Lord the blessing of complete forgiveness.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
13 Glory signifies Divine truth. In the supreme sense, it signifies the Divine Humanity, thus also the Divine truth, because the latter is from the former. A. 5922.
An age signifies what is eternal since it is said of the Lord and of His kingdom, and of heaven, and of the life there, whereof there is no end. A. 10248.
That the Lord fights for man in temptations. N. 200.
14 See Chapter V., 18, 26. R. 23. See Chapter V., 18, 26. E. 228.
13 The next petition of the Lord’s prayer, Lead us not into temptation, is not free from difficulty. Many have found in it what appears to contradict their apprehensions of the Divine nature and the economy of the Lord’s dispensations in regard to men, while leading them through the wilderness of this world to their home in heaven. In the first place, the words seem to imply that when man falls into temptation the Lord is the author of it; when yet genuine doctrine informs us that God tempts no man, but every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lusts and enticed. Another apparent difficulty is, that, as no man that is saved can avoid undergoing temptation, and as even the Saviour himself, when engaged in the work of glorifying his humanity, was “in all points tempted as we are,” it seems extraordinary that this prayer would seem to deprecate the idea of being exposed to temptations in any shape. A general and satisfactory answer will probably be given to both these difficulties when the remarkable peculiarity we have already noticed is kept in view – namely, that its various petitions have a specific reference to the various constituent principles of the human mind. Now, it is only through the medium of the lower principles of the natural man that we can be assailed with temptations strictly and properly so called. They originate from evil spirits, who delight in falsities grounded in evil lusts, and they are carried on, on their part, by the injection of false suggestions into the thoughts. But the part of the human mind which is liable to be thus influenced is that which, if separated from the higher principles, and made the chief seat of man’s affections and thoughts, gives him a quality of the same gross and evil nature, and sinks him after death to the state of those who thus delight to destroy the soul. It is, in fact, the part of man that thinks according to the apprehension of the external senses which is the inlet by which temptations approach him; and the apprehensions of this, which may be properly called the sensual part of the mind, in regard to divine and spiritual subjects, are of themselves naturally imperfect and obscure. Hence, those whose minds are not elevated above the sphere of the senses, when they acknowledge and worship God, have but gross and defective notions respecting him. They regard him, indeed, as a Being of infinite power; but not having so clear an idea of his unmixed goodness, they suppose him to be the author of everything they experience – of evil and misery, as well as of good and happiness. And this idea, though not agreeable to the genuine truth, is yet useful to such persons, as leading them to think of the necessity of rendering such an all-powerful Being propitious, by attending to his commandments. Accordingly, the idea of God as thus the Author of all things, though not the true idea, yet being one of the natural apprehensions of the human mind, and, when entertained in simplicity, adapted to produce beneficial effects, is what may be called an apparent truth, though not a genuine truth. According to such apparent truths, or according to the natural apprehensions of mankind, when their minds are not elevated above the sphere of the ideas suggested by the senses, many things are expressed in the literal sense of the word. Thus, in regard to this very subject of evil apparently coming from the Lord as well as good, we find the Lord himself saying, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things,” (Isaiah xlv. 7.) Here the Lord speaks in the letter according to the apprehensions of the simple, the genuine truth being, not that darkness and evil come from the Lord, but that they cannot take place without his permission, which is conceded, not for the promotion of evil, but for its abatement and removal, and thus for the promotion of good. In severe trials it is scarcely possible to abstain from thinking according to the appearance: and the afflicted person is oppressed with the apprehension that the Lord takes part against him, and thus that the temptation is actually induced by him. Still, this is not the real truth; and this, in states of any degree of illustration, the mind perceives. Accordingly, in all ages, from the earliest times of Christianity as is evinced by the writings of those called the fathers of the church, the true sense of this clause has been explained to be, “Suffer us not to be overcome by temptation.”
It has sometimes appeared to us, from the mode of expression in the original, that the force of the words which we translate, “lead us not into,” is nearly equivalent to that of “rescue us from.” For in the original, the term denoting not is in juxtaposition with that signifying lead, and precedes it, though the genius of our language does not permit us to put the words in the same order, and to say “Not lead us into temptation.” Now it is remarked by critics, that in the idiom both of the Old and New Testaments the particle not often coalesces with the word that follows, so as to form one idea, and as it were one word, being the contrary of that which the other word would convey by itself: only this happens more frequently with nouns than with verbs. Thus the translators in the common version have very properly given the words of the Lord to Martha in this form: “He that liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” In the original it is, “He shall not die for ever,” being equivalent in sense to “never.” If, then, we consider, in this part of the Lord’s prayer, not as coalescing with lead, the sense of not lead into must be, rescue from. But this is offered with diffidence as a, suggestion it never, so far as we are aware, having occurred to any one else. All agree that the true sense of the passage is to this effect, though they have not deduced it, in the same manner, from the very words. And if this be the true sense of the passage, whether literally expressed or not – if the idea intended by it, when viewed in the light of genuine truth, and above the veil of appearances, is, “Rescue us from temptation,” the other objection also disappears, which is, that since temptations are both unavoidable and necessary to salvation, it seems strange that we should be directed to pray not to be, exposed to them. Here again, several of the literal commentators have seen that the words cannot, in their real design, be intended to deprecate all approach of temptation, but only to entreat that we may not be immersed in it, or swallowed up by it. And this, they say, is involved in the term into – that according to the peculiar force of this expression, as here used, to enter into temptation is to be overcome and carried away by it. Thus to pray, as Augustine of old expresses the sense of the petition, “Suffer us not to be led into temptation,” is quite different from what it would be if we were to say, “Suffer us not to be assailed by temptation;” yet it is through supposing these two phrases to be exactly synonymous that all the difficulty has arisen. The Lord does not direct us to pray not to be exposed to the assaults of temptation, because this would be the same thing as to pray not to be made regenerate, since without temptation regeneration cannot be accomplished; but we are most earnestly to pray not to be suffered to be led into temptation, because if we do come into it, in the Scripture sense of the phrase, we become a one with the tempting agency, by adopting the false and evil suggestion thence presented, and so confirming them that they cannot be removed. Such, assuredly, is the genuine idea intended to be produced by this mode of expression, thought, doubtless, when suffering temptation, the mind is sufficiently ready to desire to have it removed, or to be spared the trial altogether. The only proper sense in which the prayer is authorized by the dictates of genuine truth is, “Suffer us not to be overcome in temptation,” or, “Rescue us from it by giving us the victory.”
We come now to the last petition of this divinely dictated prayer, But deliver us from evil. As the divine form of words delivered by the Lord, as a guide for the devotion of Christians, begins with the contemplation, attended with the veneration, of the supreme good, so does it, after passing through the whole series of intermediate sentiments in the most orderly progression, terminate with the contemplation, attended with the shuddering aversion, of the, principle of evil.
As in its contemplation of the supreme good it elevates the, mind to the Lord, even the Lord Jesus Christ, as being that supreme good, and excites our love for him by presenting him as the tender Father of our race, and the beneficent Author of all good to man; so, in adverting to the principle of evil, it regards it as one with the devil and with hell, and presents it as the more an object of dread and horror by identifying it with an existing being, or rather an innumerable assemblage of beings, the very principle of whose life consists in the love of destroying and doing hurt. As this prayer, in the commencement, desires that the Lord’s name may be hallowed, which is the sentiment, in its most direct form, of the pure love of the Lord, so does it close with desiring to be delivered from the opposite of this principle – from evil in its deepest ground, which is the mere love of self. For it is only as self-love is removed, or ceases to exercise its baneful influence on the heart, that the love of the Lord, which is the love of pure goodness, can come into exercise and into actual existence.
Such, in a few words, is the purport of this concluding petition of the Lord’s prayer, as placed in contrast or in parallelism with its first. We say, in contrast or parallelism; for the things prayed against in the latter clauses of the prayer are the exact opposites, respectively, of those prayed for in the clauses which precede; but the sentiments which breathe in these latter petitions themselves, and which deprecate the evil things adverted to, are the exact counterparts or parallels of those which rise towards the Lord, in direct aspirations for good in the former. Thus, as we have just seen, the evil prayed against in the last petition is the exact opposite of the good which is desired in the first aspiration; and thus the request, “Deliver us from evil,” is the proper counterpart of the aspiration, “Hallowed be thy name.” So the petition, “Lead us not into temptation,” which expresses the desire to be rescued from the influence of false principles grounded in evil, is the exact counterpart of the aspiration “Thy kingdom come,” which denotes the desire for the establishment of the empire of truth grounded in goodness; just as falsity grounded in evil and truth grounded in goodness are the perfect opposites of each other. So, again, the petition, “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors,” is the proper counterpart of the aspiration, “Thy will be done, as in heaven, so upon the earth;” since debts and defalcations in regard to the performance of the Lord’s will, or trespasses against it, are the exact opposites to the doing of it; and the sentiment which desires the forgiveness or remission of these debts is the exact counterpart of that which desires that the Lord’s will be done, or that good from him may prevail, in the external man as well as in the internal. The intermediate petition, “Give us this day our daily bread,” has not another answering to it, because it is truly intermediate, partaking of the nature of both the other classes; since bread denotes everything whatever which is necessary for the support and preservation of spiritual life, and power to resist the evil by which it would be destroyed. Thus we see, further, what has been shown in explaining the several petitions, how this prayer applies to the wants and sentiments of every faculty and principle of the human mind, internal and external, from the highest to the lowest, including everything that can possibly be required for the establishing of the soul in good, and its withdrawal from evil, and thus for the highest exaltation of human nature; and is suitable for every state which man can experience in the whole process of his regeneration.
The petition now under consideration is not, like that which immediately precedes it, attended with any sort of difficulty, or liable to misapprehension yet the particulars it involves may be set in a clearer light by explanation. First, if viewed in connection with the petition which precedes, and with which its connection is very close, “Lead us not into temptation,” it tends powerfully to remove the obscurity with which this is attended, and to establish the view of its meaning which we have taken. For it is well known that it is customary in many parts of the Holy Word, particularly in those which consist of prayers or praises, to connect two clauses together in such a manner as to appear in the letter to be perfectly synonymous with each other, only expressing the same thing in other words; although such passages are in reality not synonymous, but one of them always expresses something that has relation to the principle of good, and the other to something relating to the principle of truth. To take one of a multitude – the Psalmist, addressing the Lord, says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps. cxix. 105). Though this sort of parallelism is not so observable in the Lord’s prayer, the clauses of which do not run in pairs, yet it exists most perfectly in the, clauses, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Lead us not into, in the one clause, being exactly equivalent to deliver us from, in the other whence we may conclude that the former phrase is more positive in its sense than the words as they stand in English might induce us to imagine, and that they amount in signification to Rescue us from temptation. So temptation in the one clause answers to evil in the other; whence, again, we may conclude that it is not temptation, considered as a mere trial, that is the thing represented as so dreadful, but the consequence of falling in it, or being overcome by it. The temptation which we are to pray against coming into must be something equivalent to the evil which we pray to be delivered from; which would not be the case if entering into temptation, in Scripture phrase, meant no more than being assaulted by it. We must be assaulted by it, otherwise we can never overcome evil and falsity; and without overcoming them we can never be delivered from them. Without having our evils excited by temptation we should be ignorant that we had any in our nature, and that which is not known cannot be removed.
But that which we specifically pray against in the petition, “Lead us not into temptation,” is the power, dominion, and influence of falsity grounded in evil; but when we add, but deliver us from evil, we pray against the power, dominion, and influence of evil itself. This is going to the root of the tree. Evil is properly the delight and concupiscence of thinking and acting contrary to Divine order, the laws of which are summarily expressed in the precepts of the Decalogue. The seeds of all evils are inherent with every one in his natural or external man, so that the delight of them is natural to him; and if not withheld from acquiring the habit of yielding to them, he is in danger of confirming them, and becoming enslaved to their power. How ardently, then, should we pray, “Deliver its from evil!”
But, as already remarked, there is reason to believe that the idea of evil is here meant to be united with that of an evil being, or rather an assemblage of evil beings, whose very life is the love of destroying and doing hurt. The word here rendered evil is in a form which may equally mean the evil one. In the parable of the sower it is said of one class of recipients, “Then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart;” where the word rendered wicked one is the same as in the last petition of the Lord’s prayer is simply rendered evil. The same occurs in the parable of the tares. In this petition, therefore, we pray also, “Deliver us front the evil one.” In the spiritual idea evil and the devil, or what is the same thing, evil and hell, are a one; or, evil and the whole mass of evil spirits are a one, and they act as one for the destruction of the human soul. Such being the case, nothing but the divine power of the Lord can effect our deliverance. Yet we are not to suppose it is unnecessary or useless for us to attempt to use any resistance. The law of divine order is, that we resist evil or the devil, altogether as if we were able to do so of ourselves, yet heartily acknowledging that all the power of resistance is given us from the Lord, and is the Lord in us. He who does this will not pray to be delivered from evil, or the evil one, in vain.
But, finally, evil in its deepest ground consists in self-love, which is the proper principle of man’s selfhood, from which all other forms of evil have their rise and manifestation. Self-love consists essentially in the desire to rule over others – to make others subservient to ourselves; and it burns with revenge and hatred against all who do not submit. This is, in fact, the principle which reigns in the lowest hell, into which all descend who make it the ruling principle of their life here, and yield to it without check. Specifically this is the root of all evil which we pray against when we say, “Deliver us from evil.” And he who completely overcomes it, and becomes regenerate even to this part of his external man, in which it has its seat, becomes after death a celestial angel, whose ruling love is the love of the Lord, and the predominant sentiment of whose heart, rising towards him, is expressed in the aspiration, “Hallowed be thy name.” Such is the state of perfection and bliss which is consequent on the complete accomplishment of the prayer which entreats, “Deliver us from evil.” Complete deliverance from evil, and the rejection of evil in its deepest ground, make one with exaltation into the highest angelic good and felicity.
As a close to the whole prayer are added, in the common Bible, the words, For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory, for ever Amen. But it is now the general opinion of those who have examined the subject, that this formed no part of the prayer as delivered by the Lord himself; but that it was added as a suitable expression of devotion in the liturgies of the early Christians, and was from thence taken into the text by some of the transcribers. Certain it is that the chief of the most ancient manuscripts and versions are without it; whence it was never generally received till after the Reformation. It is not contained in the Bibles used by the Roman Catholics to this day. But although the words are not, we may conclude, properly a part of the sacred formulary, the sentiment intended to be expressed by them ought to be that of every heart. All ought to acknowledge both that everything true, and everything good, and every blessing that we enjoy, come from the Lord above, and to ascribe them to him in devout veneration and heartfelt gratitude.
14, 15. After delivering that divine prayer which has now been considered, the Lord returns to the subject of one of the petitions he had taught his disciples to address to the throne of mercy. The subject of that one is forgiveness. He had taught them to pray to their Father in heaven to forgive them, as they forgave one another. He now assures them, If ye forgive men their trespasses your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Forgiveness is the only thing we are instructed to pray for conditionally. Our Lord tells us that unless we comply with the condition, our prayer will not be answered. How impressive is this lesson! There is perhaps no passion more powerful than revenge; no vice so common as unforgiveness. How quick are we to take offence – how ready to resent an injury. Yet this is the very evil our Lord singles out for reprobation, and forgiveness is the very virtue which he insists upon as the necessary channel of receiving forgiveness. “How often shall my brother offend me, and I forgive him? till seven times? I say not unto thee until seven times, but until seventy times seven.” We must cultivate a forgiving spirit. Forgiveness must not be an act merely, but it state – an abiding disposition to give to others that which we seek for ourselves.
16 Alms-giving and prayer are succeeded by fasting. Moreover, when ye fast. The Lord does not in his sermon teach his disciples to give alms, to pray, and to fast: he teaches them how to perform these necessary duties. Fasting was an institution of the Israelitish church; but no specific directions were given how to fast. We learn how they fasted. They rent their garments, and sprinkled ashes on their heads, and otherwise mortified their flesh. Yet even through their own prophets they are reproved for the manner in which they fasted, and are taught a better way. “Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day unto the Lord? Is not this the fast that I have chosen to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every Yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?” (Isaiah lviii. 5-7.) Even in the, Old Testament we often see the spirit of the New. The Spirit looks at times through the cloud of ceremonies, and utters the broad and noble truth. The Lord’s fast is here declared to be indeed a divine institution. Not empty forms, but deeds full of charity, were the duties the Lord required of Israel in their fasts. And this is the character of fasting even, under the sense of mortification. For what is the mortification which fasting implies? It is mortification of the mind, not of the body; the abstaining from the delights of sin – from the gratification of selfish and worldly loves – from the lusts of the flesh and the pride of life. And the true sign of mortifying ourselves is in doing disinterested service to others. The mortification and the deeds of charity are indeed distinct, but they cannot be separated. We cannot do disinterested good to others without denying ourselves, and we cannot deny ourselves without doing good to others. For what is self-denial but the effort to be unselfish? Abstinence from evil in mind and practice, and thus the mortification of self and all its corrupt lusts, is what is, spiritually meant by the fasting of which our Lord here speaks; and as this is always accompanied by a sense of our deficiency in ourselves, in regard to everything that is good, and by mourning and humiliation on that account, this also is included in the signification of fasting. Such fasting we are commanded not to perform as the hypocrites do. Indeed, such fasting cannot be performed by hypocrites at all, who only substitute something in its place for the sake of appearance. They are of a sad countenance for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. They assume an outward appearance of mortification and austerity, being loud in the acknowledgement that they are sinners, and exhibiting such other features of external penitence as appear before the world. In the spiritual sense, the countenance and the face are the affections and thoughts of the mind, for these are expressed in them. Sadness is a state of the affections; disfigurement, of the thoughts. Assumed, not real states are here understood. Under the appearance of godly sorrow and self-abandonment they concealed callous hearts and contemptuous thoughts.
17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
17 The truth which the man himself believes to be truth, and which he makes the truth of his faith, constitutes with man the head. A. 9166.
It was a received custom to testify joy and benevolence of mind by anointing themselves and others with oil, but with common or some precious oil, not with the holy oil. R. 779.
17, 18. It was received in common use to anoint themselves and others, to testify gladness of mind and benevolence. To fast is to be in mourning. A. 9954.
17, 18. To fast signifies to mourn, because in mourning they fasted, and because they then desisted from all expressions of gladness, therefore they did not, as was usual, anoint themselves with oil. E. 375.
17 The true Christian is not to be like unto these hypocrites. He is to anoint his head and wash his face. He is to perform the duty of spiritual fasting with cheerfulness. The practice of anointing the head, common in ancient times, was representative of cheerful goodwill and social benevolence, because the oil with which it was done was a representative of all good, kindness, and love in general. And to wash the face was representative of interior purification, producing effects in a life of comeliness and order. The import of the direction is, that while practising abstinence from evils, and maintaining a constant guard against their influence, we are not to do this as a grievous requisition, rendering the mind melancholy from the opposition of the duty to its most cherished desires. We are to do it cheerfully and willingly, not with regret that we are obliged to surrender our darling evils, but only with sorrow that there should be anything in us that would plead for their retention.
18 We are not to appear unto men to fast, but unto our Father which, is in secret. As already explained (v. 5, 6), we are not to act from truth in the external man, but from good in the internal; thus, not from self, but from the Lord. And while the hypocrite, who acts from and for the sake of self, has the poor and transient reward of a reputation for being what he is not, the true penitent will receive a reward of divine approval, and of inward peace and satisfaction. His heavenly Father, who sees what is within, will bless him with his grace. His sorrow for his evils will be within; and this cannot exist there at all in sincerity without producing a state capable of the reception of good from the Lord. The good thus appropriated, through the rejection of evil, will, after the trial is over, be productive of delight, which will be consummated in heaven, when the joy inherent in all good from the Lord will ever be communicated to him, together with the good itself from him. Thus again his happy experience will be, that his Father, who seeth, in secret, will reward him openly.
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
19, 20. Riches and wealth, in the spiritual sense, are the knowledges of good and truth, in general all those things which relate to faith and charity, that is to man’s spiritual life, wherefore to take those things away from any one signifies, in the spiritual sense, to steal. A. 8906.
Since good and truth are taken away from those who are in dead worship, as if it were done by a thief in the dark, therefore in the Word this is sometimes likened to a thief. R. 164.
Priests who do the work of their ministry from no higher motives than those of gain and worldly honour, and who teach such doctrines as they see, or may see . from the Word not to be true, are spiritual thieves, for they rob the people of the means of salvation, which are the truths of faith. T. 318.
Treasures are knowledges of truth and good, to lay them up in heaven, is in the spiritual man, for the spiritual man is in heaven. E. 193.
Coming as a thief when predicated of the Lord, signifies His advent and the last judgment. E. 1005.
19-21. By faculties, riches, wealth, silver, and gold are signified those things which are of intelligence and wisdom, therefore also the kingdom of heaven is compared by the Lord to treasure hid in a field. A. 10227.
Persons, indeed, who are in dignity in heaven, are in magnificence and glory, like that of kings upon earth, but yet they do not regard the dignity itself as anything, but the uses, in the exercise and administration of which they are engaged. They receive every one the honours of his dignity, but they do not attribute them to themselves, but to the uses, and as all uses are from the Lord, they attribute them to the Lord, from whom they are derived. Such therefore are spiritual dignities and riches, which are eternal. But it is otherwise with those to whom dignities and riches in this world were curses. These, since they attributed them to themselves and not to uses, and since they did not desire that uses should govern them, but that they should govern’uses, which they only regarded as such in so far as they were subservient to their own honour and glory, are therefore in hell, where they are vile drudges despised and in misery, for which reason as their dignities and riches perish, they are called temporary and perishing. P. 217.
19-21. The subject to which our Lord now directs the attention of his hearers is one that comes home to us in our every-day life, and enters into our habitual thoughts and feelings. Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. Every one has a general perception of what this language means, and of the lesson which the exhortation was intended to convey. The Lord teaches us that not temporal but eternal things should be the chief objects of our pursuit and affections. Those who have any real belief in their own immortality, and any sincere concern for their eternal state, must be aware of the importance of acting in conformity with this principle. The wealth of this world and the riches of heaven are to each other as the body is to the soul, and as time is to eternity. They have nothing in common. There is no proportion between them. They are connected only by correspondence. The lower was designed to be subservient to the higher. The treasures of this world are to be sought after and esteemed as things whose final cause is not on earth, but in heaven. It is true that natural things have a natural use; but this is not their only nor their principal use. Nothing that we love and pursue affects the body only, or terminates in this world. Our ends are in heaven or in hell; and there, where they begin, our works terminate, for everything returns to its origin. Nothing is better calculated than such reflections to regulate the desire and sanctify the use of temporal things, and at the same time to lead us to devote our best thoughts to the acquirement of heavenly things, and make them the objects of our best affections. In themselves earthly treasures are corruptible and precarious. In some way the moth and the rust are ever at work upon them; and if some turn in the wheel of fortune do not rob us of them, yet death, when he comes as a thief in the night, will sweep them all away. Heavenly treasures are incorruptible and certain; and if we possess these, death, who at last deprives us of the temporal will open the gate which introduces us into the full enjoyment of the true riches.
But there is a spiritual sense in the Lord’s words. In the language of the correspondence between natural and spiritual things, riches is a term denoting the knowledge of goodness and truth, or all points of knowledge respecting spiritual subjects. The earth, in the same expressive language, denotes the external or natural man, and heaven, the internal or spiritual. Here, then, we are told how we are to proceed in regard to the knowledge of divine things with which we are brought acquainted from the Word, and from preaching, and other mediums of instruction derived from that source. We are not to lay such precious treasures up among ordinary matters accumulated in the memory of the external man, or merely to speculate upon them with the natural understanding. If we make no better use of our acquisitions than this, they are sure to be corrupted and perish, and to leave the mind as destitute of any advantage from their seeming possession as if they had never been known at all. Moth and rust will corrupt, and thieves will break through and steal. These denote the evil lusts and false persuasions which belong to the natural man separate from the spiritual; the tendency of which is to prevent, destroy, and render useless every acquisition of a spiritual nature which the mind may externally have obtained, to check its influence, to change or pervert its tendency, and at last completely to take it away. For whatever is merely deposited in the memory, and is not made matter of life and practice, never enters the spirit, or the man himself’ that lives after death. In this state the proper and natural state of the person, which is one of evil and falsity, is continually endeavouring to break through from without, as thieves are said to do, and to remove and abolish the knowledges respecting heaven and divine things, and every spiritual appearance which the mind had externally taken up, and had not truly appropriated by love and life. Nothing of the kind can be permanent, or can accompany man into eternity, which has thus been admitted into the outer chambers or the threshold of the mind. Every appearance, every possession, every apparent intellectual attainment, will then be abolished, and the man will remain in eternity the mere subject of those unholy and purely earthly attachments, which he had here supremely cherished. These treasures, therefore – those sacred and as they are intended to be, saving knowledges – are to be laid up in heaven, – to be made truly the possessions of the internal man, or to be established in man’s spirit, where no evil influence can come to hurt them, and where he will retain the enjoyment of them for ever. This is done by the good to which they point and lead being made the supreme object of regard. The heart being in them, or the will being conformed to them, will be elevated with them; and the life of heaven being established in the soul, man will live in heaven for ever. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. How true is this! That only is a treasure in which the ruling affections of the heart are interested. How important is it to make spiritual things the chief objects of our affections which we do when we lay them up in our inner man, and make them the delight and end of our life!
22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
22 The three universal loves are the love of heaven, the love of the world, and the love of self. Where those three loves are in just and right subordination, spiritual sight in the mind, united with natural sight in the body, flows in through heaven from the Lord. It may be compared to an apple growing in Africa, which is transparent even to its centre, where its seeds are stored. Something similar is meant by these words of the Lord. T. 403.
22, 23. See Chapter V., 29, R. 48.
The reason why the eye signifies understanding is, because the bodily sight corresponds with the sight of the spirit in the body, which is understanding. In consequence of such understanding, by eye in the Word, in almost all passages where it occurs, is signified understanding. A. 2701.
By eye is signified the intellect which belongs to the soul, but the case is still worse with those whose interiors are darkness, and whose exteriors appear as it were light. These are such as outwardly have a semblance of angels of light, but inwardly are devils, and they are called Babel. A. 2973.
In this passage also the eye does not mean the eye, but the understanding of the truth of faith, hence the eye is called the lamp of the body, and it is said, If the light which is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness, for darkness, in the spiritual sense, means a false faith. A. 9051.
By eye is here meant faith and consequent intelligence. A. 9548.
By the eye is understood the understanding, by a single eye the understanding of truth, by an evil eye the understanding of what is false. Darkness means falsities, the whole body means the whole spirit, for it is wholly of such a quality as the will, and the understanding thence derived. E. 152.
The eye is here called a light, because it signifies the understanding of truth, and hence also the truth of faith, and this because the understanding derives its all from the will, for the quality of the former is according to that of the latter, as the truth of faith derives its all from the good of love. When, therefore, the understanding of truth is from the good of the will, then the whole man is spiritual, which is signified by Matthew vi. 22, 23. E. 274.
By the eye is signified the understanding of man, which, if good, that is, if it be from- truths which are from good, then the whole man is such, which is meant by the whole body in such case being full of light; but, on the other hand, if the understanding be from falsities of evil, then the whole man is such, which is signified by the whole body being full of darkness. It is said, if thine eye be single, but in the original it is said if the eye be simple and simple signifies that it is one, and it is one when truth is from good, or when the understanding is from the will. By the right eye also is signified the understanding of good, and by the left eye the understanding of truth. If they make a one, the eye is then single, thus a single or good eye. E. 313.
By the eye is here signified the understanding, and by the pure or single eye, the understanding of truth from good, but by the evil eye, the understanding of falsity from evil. By the body, which is said to be either full of light or of darkness, is meant the whole man. E. 526.
By the eye is understood the understanding and faith of truth which is called a lamp from the light of truth, which man has from understanding and faith. To be in light is to be wise. … If the light be darkness signifies, if the truth be false or falsified. Because truth falsified is worse than every other false, it is said, If the light be darkness, how great is the darkness. E. 1081.
Uses do not become uses of charity with anyone else but him who fights against evils which are from hell. Those which are done under a show of charity are here described. Wis. xi. 6.
22, 23. From the heart the Lord comes to the eye. The light of the body is the eye. More properly, The lamp of the body is the eye. What a lamp is to a room, the eye is to the body. The eye is not itself luminous it is only a recipient of light. Or it may, like the lamp be considered as an instrument that may be the means of lighting up the body. But its power of lighting the body depends on the state of the organ. If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. The term single, or simple, unmixed or uncompounded, as the word properly signifies, applied to the eye, means clear, pure, or perfect – free from anything that obstructs or distorts the vision. When the eye is thus adapted to the proper discharge of its functions, small as the organ is, it is all that is requisite to give the perfect enjoyment of light to the whole man: it is as if the body were all eye, so completely is he blessed with the perception of light and all the beauties and glories that it reveals. But if the eye be evil, the whole body shall be full of darkness. If the eye be afflicted with any malady or malformation that deprives it of its functions, the whole body is plunged into darkness. And if the light (and here the word for light itself is used) that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness? that is, naturally, if that in us which should be the perception of light be only a perception of darkness, great indeed is that darkness, for the whole body is full of darkness.
23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!
23 By eye in the spiritual sense of the Word is meant the understanding. P. 264.
See Chapter IV., 16. R. 413.
See Chapter IV., 16. A. 1839.
In the other life the light in which are those who are in falsity becomes thick darkness at the presence of the light of heaven, and still thicker darkness with those who have been of the church, because they were in falsity opposed to the truth of faith. A. 7688.
But what is its application? – what the true lesson conveyed by it to the soul? The sense of the whole depends upon the spiritual signification of the eye. And of this there is a common perception. The eye is an obvious and natural symbol of the understanding. There is an exact correspondence between them. Sight is in a lower sphere what understanding is in a higher. As the eye is the lamp of the body, the understanding is the lamp of the mind because, by another obvious correspondence, light, or anything that gives light, is to the natural world what truth is to the intellectual and moral world. Here then we see that the manner in which a person will enjoy the perception of truth will be according to the state of his facility of understanding; just as a man’s perception of light depends on the state of his eye. His understanding must be sound, or must be in the state which is most accurately described by singleness of eye. The understanding is single when, in all that it meditates, it has good as its end, and thus when the truth it knows and thinks is grounded in goodness in the will. According to this beautiful, plain, and obviously true meaning of the Lord’s words, we are taught that the only way to have the mind filled with perceptions of divine truth, and to live in the cheering radiance of its heavenly light, is to maintain in the understanding in all we think, and thence in all we say or do, a constant regard to the principle of goodness, of charity and love, instead of allowing our faith to be defiled by the containing influence of selfish and worldly love. Then our whole body will be full of light – the body here denoting the whole mind or the whole man. But if the eye be evil, if the understanding be perverted or disordered by the mixture of evil ends, there can be no true perception of divine things, no genuine enjoyment of the light of pure truth, but the mind will be occupied with false persuasions, regarded as true, and the truths that are known will be falsified and perverted, which is the worst darkness of all. This is the sort of darkness which is here alluded to, which is the reason of the solemn exclamation at the close, “If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” In these divine words of our Lord we are presented with the reason of all the darkness in respect to the things of his Word and kingdom which prevails among mankind; and the true ground is opened to us of all determined opposition to divine truth. When men truly love darkness rather than light, it is because their deeds are evil. On the other hand, the love of truth has its true ground in goodness. “A good understanding have all they that do his commandments.”
24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
24 Dominion derived from evil and falsity, is altogether contrary to dominion derived from goodness and truth. A. 1749.
Here loving signifies the celestial love, and adhering spiritual love. Each is mentioned as being distinct from the other, otherwise it would have been sufficient to mention one. A. 3875.
The Lord, with a view to render anyone blessed and happy, requires a total submission, that is, that he should not be partly his own, and partly the Lord’s, for in that case there are two lords, whom man cannot serve at the same time. A. 6138.
The two lords are good and evil, for man must either be in good, or in evil, he cannot be in both together. He may be in several truths, but they are arranged in order under one good, for good makes heaven with man, but evil, hell. He must be either in heaven or in hell, not in both, nor between both. A. 9167.
There are those who serve both, but they are they who are called lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, who are spued out. A. 9210.
To be led of self and to be led of the Lord are two opposites, for he who is led of himself is led of his own loves, thus of hell, for the proper loves of man are from that source, and he who is led of the Lord, is led of the loves of heaven, which are love to the Lord and love toward the neighbour. A. 10362.
The liberty of doing good and the liberty of doing evil, though they appear alike in the external form, are as different and as distant from each other as heaven and hell are. … So far as a man is in the one, he is not in the other, for no man can serve two lords. N. 144.
The Word teaches that no man can be in good, and at the same time in evil, or what is the same, that no one, as to his soul, can be in heaven, and at the same time in hell. Life 28.
Every one after death must either be in good and at the same time in truth, or in evil and at the same time in falsity, because good and evil cannot be joined . . . for they are opposites, and opposites combat each other, until one destroys the other. They who are in evil and at the same time in good are understood by the words of the Lord to the church of Laodicea in Revelation iiL 15, 16. P. 18.
Two opposites cannot exist together in one substance or form, without its being torn asunder and perishing. P. 233.
Evil is of hell, and faith is of heaven. Those two principles cannot dwell together in one subject or man, for in case they were together, the man would be torn asunder, as if he were tied across the body with two ropes, by one of which he was pulled upward, and by the other downward. T. 383.
It is not there said (Matthew xxv. 41, etc.) that they did what is evil, but they did not do what is good, and those who do not do good from a religious motive do evil, since no man can serve two masters. T. 536.
There is in every man either the love of evil, and thence of what is false, or the love of good, and thence of truth. Those two loves are opposed to each other,. wherefore he who is in the one cannot be in the other. E. 193.
Man must be either in goods or in evils, he cannot be in both together, hence it is that from a faith which removes good works, which are goods of life, follow all evils in the complex. E. 847.
In proportion therefore as he accedes to the one, in the same proportion he recedes from the other. Hence it is, that as a man flees frpm evils, and hates them, in the same proportion he wills and loves goods, and their derivative truths. E. 902.
Verse quoted. C. Page 14.
24, 25. A state of innocence is also described by the Lord in Matthew vi. 24, 25 ; but by correspondences only. H. 281.
25 Here the soul (life) signifies the truths of faith, to eat and to drink, to be instructed in the good and truth of faith, for the subject here treated of in the internal sense is the spiritual life and its nourishment. A. 9050. These words although they are spoken of the life of the body, yet signify such things as are of the life of the spirit. By eating, and by drinking, and by meat is signified spiritual nourishment, which is the nourishment of faith, and therewith of the understanding, whence comes intelligence in things spiritual. By clothing the body and by raiment is signified truth investing the good of love and of the will, raiment meaning that truth, and the body the good of love, which is the good of the will. E. 750.
25-34. The subject treated of in verses 25-34 in the internal sense, is care for the morrow, which care is not only prohibited, but is also condemned. It does not mean the care of procuring for oneself food and clothing, and also wealth for the time to come, for it is not contrary to order for anyone to look forward in providing for himself and his dependents, but those have care for the morrow, who are not content with their lot, who do not trust to the Divine, but to themselves, and who look only to worldly and earthly, and not to heavenly things. A. 8478.
25, 31. This is significative of spiritual things, meaning that the all of faith as to good and truth is given of the Lord. A. 3069.
24 The two preceding subjects, combined with the present, may be said to teach singleness of heart, singleness of eye, and singleness of choice and action. No man can serve two masters. Naturally it may be possible, but this must be when the service required by one is not incompatible with that demanded by the other. In the present case the masters are two whom the metaphor regards as being opposite in their wills, and therefore in their commands. The two masters are the figures for God and mammon, who are opposite as light and darkness, as good and evil. These two no one man can serve at the same time. For either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. There can be no compromise between the service required by the one and that demanded by the other. Some, indeed, are disposed to make the attempt; but it can only be intended to please men. There can be no true knowledge of the service that each requires where there is any idea or attempt to combine them. What we require to love in the one we require to hate in the other. The love of God and the love of the world are opposite and discordant. But the opposition and discordance are in these loves as ruling loves or ends of life. We cannot serve any spiritual master without loving him. But how can we serve God from the love of God, and at the same time serve mammon from the love of mammon? God and mammon are not indeed incompatible if we make mammon our servant instead of our master. Our Lord in another place instructs us to make unto ourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness. And this we do when we serve God, and make wealth subservient to the end which the service of God implies. All lingering between two objects and halting between two opinions is dangerous. If we attempt to unite two things, so destructive of each other, in our own minds, we attempt to unite light and darkness, heaven and hell; and the consequence must be the destruction of all true life in ourselves. Let us be warned, therefore, to serve that God who deserves as well as requires our service – and who will richly reward us for our singleness of life, flowing from singleness of will and understanding.
25 The exhortation with which our Lord follows up these instructive lessons, and with which he closes what may be called this branch of his discourse, is one of the most important, and one of the most beautiful and persuasive, to be found in the whole of revelation. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? It is impossible to expose in more striking and affecting terms than the Lord does in the exhortation of which these words are a part, the futility of those cares under the influence of which people rush into self-love and the love of the world, and make external things the primary objects of their attachment it is impossible, by more touching and beautiful considerations, to urge to a reliance on Divine Providence. But we are not hence to suppose that all thought about our future well-being in this world, and all provident foresight in the disposal of our temporal affairs, are hereby prohibited. To imagine so, and to act accordingly would be to fall into fanaticism, and to go the directest way to incapacitate ourselves for the performance of uses in the world. All we are prohibited from doing is, to set our hearts upon worldly and external things, to give in to such anxieties as are incompatible with reliance on the Lord, and so to depend upon our own prudence is to disown and disregard the Divine Providence. It is not all thought and care whatever about things future that is forbidden, but all undue solicitude, all such anxiety as unavoidably arises when natural and worldly things are loved in the first place, and are made the primary objects of pursuit. And this, indeed, the Lord’s exhortation literally expresses; for the word “thought,” at the time our translation was made, meant “anxiety,” which correctly expresses the sense of the original.
But the mind has, and needs, its provision as well as the body; and in the spiritual sense it is in regard to this provision that the Lord here speaks. For here, also, man may look too much to himself, and too little to the Lord, and may seek to obtain that by his own self-derived power and self-derived intelligence which is only to be received by gift from his all-provident Father. Every spiritual endowment and communication that man can have or enjoy, conducive to the life, and well-being of his soul, and thus to his welfare in eternity, is a free gift to him from the Lord and is by no means self-derived. All desire, then, to procure such things by one’s own power, and all anxiety on that account, are here condemned in the spiritual sense of the natural images made use of. In this point of view we proceed to consider the subject.
Is not, the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? The life and the body are to be the chief objects of our concern, not the food by which the former is nourished, and the dress by which the latter is clothed. Yet obviously the life cannot be sustained without nourishment, nor the body without clothing. These, however, are to be given us from the Lord; whatever, for this purpose, we should take from self, would be destructive of the true life and well-being of both – yea, would deprive both, properly considered, of their very existence. The life is the life of the soul, as to its intellectual faculties, which can only be sustained by principles of good affections and true faith and intelligence, which are the gifts of the Lord; and anything self-derived cannot be really either good or true. By the body is here specifically meant the good of love and of the will; and the clothing of the body is truth investing such good, or the sentiments as to spiritual subjects which spring out of and harmonize with it: these again are derived from the Lord alone; for if from man himself, they are founded in and compose the clothing of his own self-love, not of any love of goodness. These are provided and given freely to us by the Lord when we regard the life of the understanding itself, and the love of goodness, as the things to be chiefly cultivated and pursued, and when we look to the Lord for that purpose, applying ourselves to the use of the means which the Lord has provided – that is, to the practice of the commandments. This is all that we have to do – and it cannot be too often repeated – to look to the Lord and to keep his commandments. Doing this, we may safely leave all the rest to him, assured that our minds will be continually replenished with every affection of goodness, and every perception of truth suited to our states, while we abstain from the desire to draw anything of this sort from a self-derived origin, but live perpetually in the conviction that the life is more than meat and the body than raiment, and that he who has given the greater will also give the less, provided we thus depend upon him.
26 The Lord confirms the truth of this doctrine, and encourages us to rely upon him, by an argument (and a most affecting one it is) drawn from the case of the bird. Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns: yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Considered only, is a natural image and comparison, this is truly beautiful, and most appropriate to the subject which it is introduced to illustrate; but when the spiritual import of it is seen, it becomes more beautiful still. Fowls, or birds, throughout the Word of God, are mentioned to describe things intellectual, such as the thoughts upon whatever subject – to which they answer by a beautiful and obvious analogy. They have the power of raising themselves towards heaven, and soaring aloft in the sky, as our thoughts have the power of rising above earthly and external things, and soaring into most exalted contemplations. They are affected in a wonderful manner by the light, so as to be in a state of life and activity, or of torpor and sleep, according to its presence or absence. And light, we have seen (v. 22), is the natural emblem of truth, which in some form or degree is what gives activity to the thoughts. Now, nothing is so irrepressible as the thoughts. So long as we are alive and awake, our thoughts are incessantly in exercise. It is always something of love or affection, connected with the object of the thoughts at any particular time, that puts them into activity, and sustains them in their powers of flight. And this is never absent. We cannot, if we wished it, cease to think, because the love which animates us, whatever be its nature, cannot be withdrawn without death; and to suppress it is entirely beyond the reach of our power. The reason is, because the Lord, as being Love itself, is also Life itself; and, he imparts life to us by imparting to us love; and by giving us love he continually supplies us with the food of thought. Thus our thoughts are entirely kept alive, without their doing anything themselves to cause it, by the fire of love with which they are nurtured by the Lord, as our heavenly Father feedeth the fowls of the air. It is true, indeed, that we are often influenced by love of an evil nature which calls forth evil thoughts; and nothing of evil can have its origin in the Lord. But that love which flows forth from the Lord as the love of goodness and truth is perverted by man himself, when wicked, into its opposite: thus the love, considered abstractedly from its evil quality, is from the Lord; the evil from which it assumes is by perversion in the man. Thus it is from the Lord that every man derives the faculty of thought, and that this faculty is nourished and kept alive; the evil use that he makes of it alone is from himself. But the wonderful provision by which it is ordered that thought call never cease but with consciousness of existence, is purely from the Lord, who thus alone spiritually feedeth the fowls of the air, and maintains them in life and being. The fowls, therefore, as denoting the thoughts, are said not to sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns: by which images is meant, to provide for their own support by the acquisition of knowledge, the insemination of these in the mind, and the storing of them in the memory. These operations are necessary to afford materials for thinking, but not for the existence of thought itself; for thought, as already remarked, is in existence and activity from the first dawn of consciousness, purely by virtue of the principle of love which exists in every human being; and the matters of knowledge which the mind acquires in early life, first by the medium of the, senses, and afterwards by instruction from others, are things on which thought are exercised, and are provided for the purpose, but are not the products of the thoughts themselves. If, then, the Lord provides for the constant existence of thought will he not as of still more importance provide for his rational creatures, that look to him, everything necessary to their support and well-being as spiritual and immortal existences? As such are not men much superior to fowls? Are not the spiritual gifts, the endowments of spiritual love and wisdom, by which we properly are human creatures, better than the mere thoughts which we enjoy in a natural manner, independently of our character as to spiritual advantages? Should we not then rely that he who has so wonderfully provided that we should ever think, whether our thoughts be true or false, or good or evil, will equally provide for us all that can be necessary to the perfection of the higher endowments of our nature, and every good, both spiritual and natural, that we ever can stand in need of, if we place our life and good in the first place, and look to him for its support and preservation? And can it be supposed that since, by our own power alone, we can neither cause ourselves to think nor cease from thinking, we can derive from self anything that is truly good for us, and especially what is necessary for our spiritual welfare?
27 Such is the argument which the Lord urges, by his appeal to the case of the fowls of the air, when spiritually understood: with which he connects another strong appeal, expressed in the words, Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature. By the stature is more spiritually meant our spiritual stature, or our state as to the things of love and wisdom of a heavenly nature, which every one sees is not to be increased in improvement by anxieties – by seeking any resources in ourselves, instead of drawing all from the care, mercy, and providence of the Lord, from whom alone all good can flow. As our spiritual stature is altogether according to the measure of excellent graces which we have received from the Lord, to think to add to it by any other means and especially by such means as involve a casting away of all reliance on the Lord, from whom alone the growth can come, were absurdity indeed. The thing is manifestly impossible: so, if we are sincerely desirous to maintain a state of spiritual life, of heavenly intelligence, and of the will of goodness, we must look to the Lord for the proper nutriment, and rely on his providence to supply it to us.
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
29 Such is the case with the good which is from a man, and with that which is from the Lord. That those kinds of good differ so much one from another cannot be known to men, because they judge from externals, but the angels clearly perceive whence the good appertaining to a man is derived, and hence what is its quality. A. 8480.
28, 29. The Divine Instructor now takes up the subject respecting care and anxiety about raiment. And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. This passage owes its exquisite beauty, unparalleled in the whole circle of human composition, to the images used being correspondences of spiritual things, and communicating with heaven. According to this correspondence of natural with spiritual things, raiment or garments, throughout the Word of God are mentioned to denote, specifically, such principles of truth in the mind as flow from the state of good in which a man is principled, and which occasion such language and conduct as are the natural and spontaneous manifestations of the good within. This is the signification of raiment, or garments, in a genuine sense; for truth is that in which goodness manifests its existence and presence, as the affections of the will first come clearly to light to the man himself in the perceptions and thoughts of the understanding. Sometimes, however, garments are mentioned to denote the mere faith or profession of truth, separate from all proper connection with the will or affections of the wearer; and sometimes, like most other natural images employed in the Word, they are mentioned in an opposite sense, to denote principles of falsity grounded in evil. In their genuine sense they are attributed to the Lord himself: as when it is said that he covereth himself with light as with a garment. Here, because light is the most obvious symbol of truth, it is said to compose the garment of the Lord, as flowing forth from the body of his divine love, and truth being in him truth itself. From the same cause, when the Lord Jesus Christ was transfigured, not only did his face “shine as the sun,” to express the ardour of his divine love, but his raiment became “white as the light,” to represent the inexpressible beauty of his divine truth. It is impossible to desire more conclusive evidence to evince that garments, or raiment, in their most proper and genuine sense, denote truth flowing from and investing the principle of good, as garments invest the body.
If this be the case – if all truth, to be genuine, or, to belong properly to the man himself who makes profession of it, be grounded in a principle of good, must flow from the feelings of love and charity incorporated in his own mind – we see how truly the Lord says that the body, as denoting such a principle of good, must be more than raiment; as truly so, though in a case of immensely more importance, as the natural body is of more dignity and importance than the clothes that cover it. We see, also, how justly we are warned not to be anxious about raiment, since no spiritual raiment that we could procure by any anxiety of our own could be of that genuine kind which forms the proper investiture of the principle of goodness. Let this only be diligently attended to, and the other will follow of course, as a free gift from our heavenly Father. Therefore the Lord illustrates the doctrine by the case of the lillies of the field, which neither toil nor spin, because by these are represented such perceptions of truth as are of a celestial origin, or such as spring spontaneously in the mind of him who has attained what may be called the degree in the regenerative process, so as to have his mind continually recreated with beautiful perceptions of truth and wisdom springing forth from the ever-varying play of celestial affections. To be able thus to see truth intuitively – to have its sweetest and most beautiful perceptions spontaneously opening in the mind – is a very different state from that of those who arrive at it first by the accumulation of facts as matters of knowledge and faith, and by the inferences of reason deduced from the facts. To express this difference, it is said of these lilies that they toil not, neither do they spin, because by toiling is spiritually meant the accumulation of truths merely as facts, or things known by study and learning; and by spinning is meant the composing of coherent systems of doctrine or opinion by reasonings from such facts. In this process there is much of man himself mixed up with the acquisitions be may have made; in the other, all is from the Lord. They differ also in intrinsic excellence and in genuine beauty, just as the works of man and the works of God. The works of man possess no other beauty than that which is exhibited on the surface. The most exquisite painting is inwardly nothing but a rude assemblage of earthy matters, having no correspondence to the beauty of form and colour which the artist’s skill has portrayed upon the surface. The most perfect statue still has no beauty but that which is artificial, there being, again, no correspondence between the particles of stone or metal which compose its substance, and the exterior shape which, by the sculptor’s genius, they have been made to assume. Not so the works of the Almighty hand. Here, from its inmost principles, there is a determination, towards the form the plant or the animal exhibits to the eye, and there is nothing in it but what harmoniously conspires to the production of the form, and of no other; while even the utmost beauty that appears upon the surface is impressed by the wonderful adaptation of the interior parts by which its texture is composed. What an immense difference is there between the flower itself and the imitation of it by the artist, though to the eye and at a sufficient distance, the resemblance may be perfect! But touch the leaf of a rose or any other flower – let the exquisite delicacy and softness of its texture be felt, and then let it be observed that these are produced by the harmonious arrangement of myriads of myriads of fibres and of threads of feathery pile, to which those of the finest velvet bears no comparison for delicacy – and the exquisite Perfection of the works of the Divine, hand is seen to be admirable indeed. So it is, correspondently, with the perceptions which spontaneously arise in the minds of those who are in such a state of life as to enjoy what may be properly denominated perception indeed, as being, in a manner, immediate revelations from the Lord himself, and of which the lilies of the field, which in the East flourish in extraordinary splendour, where the lily is esteemed the queen of flowers, are here mentioned as the appropriate natural symbols.
Therefore it is said, that even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these. That no splendour of clothing manufactured by human skill can equal in intrinsic beauty and loveliness the delightful flowery products of the hand of Omnipotence, follows from the remarks just made upon the difference between the works of man and the works of God, so that it literally is true that neither Solomon nor the most powerful earthly prince that ever existed could boast of robes that equalled the clothing of the lily. But the comparison is made to express an important truth. Solomon, as king of Judah and Israel, represented, as all kings do, the spiritual principle properly so called, which is especially the principle of truth; and the clothing of this principle are all truths of intelligence and knowledge, or truths seen and understood. But this principle is separated by a discrete degree from the celestial principle, which is essentially the principle of love, the clothing of which are perceptions of wisdom, or truths felt and perceived. The spiritual truths belong to the understanding, considered as distinct by itself; the celestial belong to the will, even when they enter the understanding. Now, the highest degree of spiritual intelligence, though very beautiful and excellent, is inferior to the lowest degree of celestial wisdom, which is truly simple and altogether lovely; and these are what are signified respectively by the raiment of Solomon and of the lily. The difference is precisely as that between the gorgeous robes of a king and the delicate simplicity of a flower.
30 But the Lord immediately changes his terms in speaking of the flower: From naming the lily he adverts to the grass; and speaks of it as of little account. If God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven. He here calls it the grass of the field, to intimate that he is speaking of the lowest perceptions of celestial wisdom, but still of such as are truly celestial in their nature, or the immediate products of love. But where love or goodness is accounted as everything, nothing of truth, not even the highest perceptions of the most exalted mysteries, are regarded in themselves as anything, except so far as they tend to fan the flame of love, and promote the perception and appropriation of those celestial affections which the man of this character feels as constituting his life, his all. Therefore the use of the grass of celestial perception is described to be,” cast into the oven “- that is, to feed the heat by which the support of man’s life, the good, of which the products of the oven is the symbol, is prepared. By him who truly loves the Lord above all things, nothing of truth, even the most delightful perceptions with which his mind can be recreated, are at all prized for their own sake, but only for the sake of the good which is seen to be in them, and which they are adapted to nourish and keep alive. To this use he constantly applies them. Thus never abiding in truth by itself, but always applying it immediately to the purposes of life, and the exaltation of the flame of love, or of his affection for goodness, he is continually supplied with new stores of it from its Divine Author. His lilies toil not, neither do they spin: as the grass of the field, they are cast into the oven but he knows that they will continually grow again in still more luxuriant abundance, being watered with the dew of heaven. As these perceptions of truth, communicated solely for the sake of good, are thus continually provided and taken care of by the Lord’s bountiful hand, should not the man himself who lives continually intent upon the good which is thus essential, be effectually provided for with every perception of truth that the welfare of his state may require at the hands of his heavenly Father? This is what the Lord teaches when he says, Shall he not much more clothe you, 0 ye of little faith? Assuredly we may rely upon his Word.
31, 32. Having, by the exquisitely beautiful and tenderly affecting comparisons and appeals which have now been considered, placed the subject of his admonition in the most striking and engaging manner before his hearers, the Divine Speaker repeats the proposition with which he set out, though now as a conclusion from the premises advanced, and in a somewhat different, form, affirming the needlessness of the conduct condemned: Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, wherewithal shall we be clothed? (for after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. A double reason is assigned by the Lord why this conduct should not be pursued. First, a negative and deterring one: for after all these things do the Gentiles seek. A powerful reason certainly it ought to be to the spiritually minded, not to seek after those things which are sought by the natural minded, meant by the Gentiles, especially the positively wicked, which the nations more particularly denote. This is the deterring reason. But a more affecting and convincing one is added: for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. What tenderness is implied in this mode of stating the providential care of our heavenly Father! The Lord does not directly say that whatsoever we have need of shall be given us; but he conveys this delightful assurance in a way that makes it tenfold more affecting. He assumes this as a fact universally known, and which we cannot be so ignorant or so credulous as to doubt; and thence he argues, we may be assured, as the greater includes the less, or the whole the part, that he will supply to us freely, and without any anxiety on our part, those things which the natural man prizes so highly is to make them the objects of his exclusive regard, It is sufficient to assure us that he knows we have need of them, to assure us that we shall not be left without them.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
33 The truths of the church by whomsoever they are possessed, without conjunction by good with the interior man, regard nothing for an end but gain ; but when they are conjoined by good with the interior man, they then regard for an end essential good and truth, thus the church, the Lord’s kingdom, and the Lord Himself, arid when they regard these things for an end, then also a sufficiency of gain is allotted them. A. 5449.
It is a known thing that means have no life from any other source but from the end, and no life without the end. Thus the delights of gain and of honours, when they are made means have life derived, in that case from the life out of heaven, that is through heaven from the Lord, for the Lord is the end in which they centre. When man is in such an order of life, then gains and honours are blessings to him, but if he be in inverted order, gains and honours are curses to him. A. 9184.
To seek His righteousness means to seek His good. H. 64.
The reason why the Lord’s kingdom is our neighbour, that ought to be loved in the highest degree, is because it includes the church dispersed throughout the whole earth, called the communion of saints, and also heaven. He then who loves the Lord’s kingdom, loves all those throughout the whole world who acknowledge the Lord, and live in faith toward Him, and in charity toward their neighbour, and he also loves all who are in heaven. T. 416.
By the kingdom of heaven is understood, in the spiritual sense, the Divine truth, and by justice the Divine good, wherefore it is said, seek first the kingdom of the heavens and the justice thereof. In the supreme sense, by the kingdom of the heavens is understood the Lord, as He is the all of His kingdom. By justice, in the same sense, is signified the merit of the Lord. E. 683.
When man in the first place loves uses by doing them, and in the second place loves the world and himself, then the former is his spiritual, and the latter his natural, and the spiritual has dominion and the natural serves. The kingdom of the heavens is the Lord and His church. Justice is spiritual, moral and civil good, which is done from the love of those goods in use. The reason why, in this case, all things are added, is because then use is in the first place and has rule, and gives whatever is conducive to eternal life and happiness. The all things which shall be added, are there spoken of as food and raiment, because by food is also meant everything internal that nourishes the soul, and by raiment everything external which, like a body, clothes it. Everything internal has reference to love and wisdom, and everything external to opulence and eminence. E. 1193.
This verse is quoted in every volume of the “Arcana Coelestia” as a Motto. Motto.
33 But now he tells us, in direct terms, how we are to proceed to secure the attainment of all things that can be necessary for our real welfare, even of those which the natural man makes his exclusive goods. Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. The kingdom of God, as we have seen, is a phrase which denotes the government of the Lord’s divine truth both in heaven and on earth; and his righteousness is a term expressive of his divine goodness, or of such goodness as owns him for its Author. Applied to ourselves individually, the kingdom of God which we are to seek is the government of the Lord’s truth in our understanding; and his righteousness, which we are also to seek, is the presence of his love or goodness in our wills. But how are we to seek these two great elements of all blessing? Not simply by asking God to bestow them upon us. We must indeed seek them by prayer, but we must also seek them by the still more practical means of self-denial and active virtue. To obtain the kingdom we must apply the divine truth to the government of our thoughts, with the view of bringing every thought under obedience to Christ; and to obtain the Lord’s righteousness, we must cultivate the divine good in our affections and in the duties of a righteous life. But we are not only to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, but we are to seek them first. It is easily seen that the expression first refers to what is chief and primary. And nothing is chief and primary with us but what is regarded with overruling or governing love. To seek effectually the kingdom of God and his righteousness, we must seek them with the ruling determination of soul – to make them the objects of the ruling or governing love and desire. To seek them first is to put them in the first place; to exalt the Lord’s truth above all other kinds of truth, and the Lord’s goodness above all other kinds of goodness; to give them the first place in our understandings and hearts, in our minds and lives. Then, will all other things be added to us. Every kind and degree of truth and good will then be added to the supreme good and truth; because according to right order, every other good descends and is derived from the First. So far from having to give up anything orderly that is inferior to the First, everything will come to be possessed in greater abundance, and enjoyed with greater zest. The spiritual does not abolish, but sanctifies the natural: and spiritual men glorify the Lord with their souls and with their bodies, which are his.
34 We come now to the closing words of this beautiful discourse, against indulging in anxious thoughts about meat, and drink, and clothing. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Looking at these words even in the most general manner, when the truth on which they are founded – the perpetual care of the Lord’s divine providence, rendering human care respectively needless – is believed, how admirably adapted is the injunction conveyed in them to soothe the human breast. Man’s proneness to torment himself with unavailing cares for futurity has always afforded a copious theme for the declamations or reasonings of the moralist and philosopher. No considerations can be of any real avail for its cure but those which rest on the doctrine of a Divine Providence; and these, again, cannot come with any power of conviction but when they proceed authoritatively from a divine source. It argues the knowledge of Omniscience as to the inmost wants of human nature, together with the benevolence of Infinite Goodness desiring to remove them, when the Lord Jesus Christ so positively declares, and so plainly demonstrates through the whole of this discourse, the existence of a Divine Providence over all human affairs – yea, over the whole creation, providing for the real necessities of all.
But they who have rightly learned the lesson inculcated in the words under consideration, and, in reliance on the Lord’s Providence, have banished that care for the morrow which is here condemned, do not make this renunciation in the fanatical manner which a literal adherence to the Lord’s words, as given in the common version, might seem to recommend. They know that to provide things necessary for the morrow, both for themselves and their families, is not contrary to the order of the Lord’s providence and will, provided such things are not made the primary objects of regard, are not pursued with anxiety, or with reliance on selfish prudence, nor in any way that would foster in the bosom the love of the world, a disposition to avarice or self-seeking. As a reason for not being anxious for the morrow, the Lord says, for the morrow will take thought for the things of itself. And he adds, as a further reason, Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Considered as to the literal expression, these sentences contain truth which all experience of human life confirms. As mere matter of prudence, it is undoubtedly unwise to load the present moment with anxious cares about futurity, when every future day, when it comes, will bring cares of its own. And the evils or troubles which may be pressing upon us at the present moment are enough to bear of themselves, without being aggravated by the anticipation of ills to come. But spiritually, as well as naturally, the sentiments are most true, and the lesson they involve is most important. In every new state on which we may enter, spiritually signified by the morrow, there will be new trials or temptations, arising from the opposition made by the corrupt part of our nature, excited from an infernal source. From that part of us which is the seat of all anxiety and distrust of the Divine Providence, or from the influence of which it is that all such anxiety arises, there will be trials and temptations, thus occasioned, to be encountered. But we are not to fall into despondency by anticipating these. Sufficient for our present state is the evil which is therein to be experienced – the opposition which selfish and worldly desires and appetites present to the establishment of the kingdom of God and his righteousness within us. It is enough for us to be steadily engaged in resisting evil which is present, and requires to be overcome at the present moment and in the present state, through the whole course of our pilgrimage. If we do this, we need not be anxious about what is to come upon us hereafter. Resisting evil whenever it is present, we may rely that the Lord will never suffer it to prevail against us. Just as we rely on him, and combat in his strength we shall prevail. But if we fall into doubts and anxieties, which always arise from the influence of our own selfhood, and yield to them, we shall not overcome. And the same renunciation of care for the morrow which will make all the occurrences of life acceptable to us, and prosperous for our real good, will have the same influence on our spiritual states. When we discover in ourselves what is evil and wrong, we shall not fight to retain it, and so either sink downward with it, or bring upon ourselves a severer course of discipline to force it from us; but we shall let it go at once: putting ourselves herein in the stream of providence, willingly going where that leads. Thus all things will truly concur for our well-being in time and in eternity. Setting, as we know the Lord does, eternal ends in view, we shall willingly part with what is incompatible with them, gladly complying with whatever will advance them, and so finally realize them to our inexpressible beatitude.
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