<< Matthew VIII: Spiritual Meaning >>
1 When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him.
2 And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
3 And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
3 By touching is signified communication, translation and reception. A. 10130.
To touch with the hand signifies to communicate and to transfer to another, because all the power of man is transferred from the body into the hands, wherefore what the mind wills for the body to do, the arms and hands perform accordingly. This power, however, is natural power, and communication thereby is the exertion of the strength of the body, but spiritual power is to will the good of another, and, as much as possible, to be willing to transfer to another what belongs to one’s self. E. 79.
1 Having finished his sermon on the mount, Jesus now comes down to exemplify in works of mercy and benevolence the spiritual principles he had enunciated as those of the kingdom he had come to establish upon earth. His coming down from the mountain does not mean descent from a more to a less perfect state, but the bringing down of his holy principles into beneficent acts, and enforcing by example what he had taught by precept. This also is the order of individual experience. The Lord first implants the principles of righteousness in the mind, and then causes them to come down into the actions of a holy life, that the external may be an image of the internal, and both together form the regenerate or new man. No wonder that when the Lord came down, great multitudes followed him. The multitudes that gathered about the Lord – the common people who heard him gladly – are types of the common affections and thoughts of our nature that give us a sense and perception of natural justice and truth, and which, when unbiassed by interest or unawed by authority, can see and admire religious truth when presented to them in its own light and power. Those who had been astonished at his doctrine could not now be less astonished at his works. And as the works which the Lord performed, beneficent and marvellous as they were, are to be regarded as but the natural types of spiritual operations, which he is ever performing in the souls of the penitent and believing, we have a deeper interest in them than those who beheld them with their eyes and experienced them in the restoration to health and strength of their diseased and enfeebled frames.
2 When Jesus came down from the mountain, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him. Leprosy was one of the most dreadful and loathsome diseases with which the Jews were afflicted. Under that representative dispensation evils in the mind produced corresponding diseases in the body. The disposition of the people to depart from the worship of the Lord and the ordinances of the law, to worship false gods and observe their unholy rites, led them into acts of profanation, which brought upon them the disease of leprosy. Leprosy therefore represents profanation – the mixing of the holy and the impure. Of this greatest of sins there are two kinds – the profanation of truth and profanation of good. These are expressed in the New Testament by a word against the Son of Man and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. We are guilty of the first sin when we profane or pervert the letter of the Word. We are guilty of the second when we violate its Spirit. The first is pardonable, like the leprosy which could be cured; the second is unpardonable, like the leprosy which cleaved to its victim for ever. The leper who came to Jesus represented one who has been guilty of the milder degree of profanation. He came to him with the prayer to be made clean. This, spiritually, is the confession of sin, and an active desire for its removal. Every such prayer implies a knowledge and sense of sin, and the acknowledgment that the Divine power alone can remove it. That is true penitence and true worship which produces the prostration of self, the exaltation of the Lord, and the submission of the human to the divine will. The new creature is born, not of the will of man, but of the will of God. So the leper says to Jesus, “If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” Blessed is the state when the suppliant for divine aid confides solely in the Lord’s will.
3 In answer to the leper’s prayer, Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. The Lord’s hand is the symbol of his power, especially as it now operates upon men from or through the Divine humanity; and the Lord’s will is his love in union with his Kingdom. The will and the power of the Lord are one. Whatever the Lord wills he can do. Yet there are some things that He wills that are not done. He wills that all men should be saved, yet all are not saved. He wills that all should be saved; but he wills that they should be saved by their own consent, and cannot will that they should be forced – therefore cannot exert his power to force them. For the Lord to force men to accept salvation would be to contradict himself, which is impossible. He bestowed freewill upon man, and preserves him in possession of it every moment of his life; how, then, can he at once preserve freedom and employ force? The Lord is both willing and able to save to the uttermost, but he must save in accordance with the laws of his divine order, which are the laws his wisdom inscribes upon his love, and according to which his love ever acts. If all are not saved, it is because all do not desire and will not accept salvation. To those only whose will accords with his own can the Lord’s hand be extended to cure them of their spiritual maladies. His hand is put forth when his power, ever present in the inmost of their souls, above the seat of their consciousness, is allowed to come forth into the thoughts and affections of their minds, And thence into the actions of their lives. It is then that the divine hand “touches,” that is, affects them, communicating to them the power and virtue of his humanity, in which his love and truth are brought near to save them. When the Lord’s will and his power are thus unitedly active within the soul their action must be effective. When Jesus can at once put forth his hand and touch the leper, and say, “I will, be thou clean,” the effect follows – immediately his leprosy was cleansed. To show the miraculous nature of the Lord’s cures it was necessary that they should be instantaneous. Had they been gradual, those who saw the beginning of a miracle might never see its end, nor might they be able to distinguish between a miraculous and an ordinary cure. But those instantaneous cures do not represent instantaneous salvation. What is instantaneous in regard to time represents what is certain in regard to state; for the soul is not subject to time. For “immediately” we have only to read “certainly,” and we have the assurance which the spiritual language of revelation expresses, that to those who sincerely desire it, and co-operate with the Lord to receive it, his salvation is sure.
4 And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.
5 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,
6 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.
7 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.
4 It is evident that sometimes the law, and sometimes Moses is named, where such things are treated of as are written in his books. L. 9.
5-13. See Chapter IV., 13. E. 653.
4 After the leper was cleansed Jesus laid on him a double injunction. See thou tell no man; but go thy way, show thyself to the priest. There is something peculiar in the first command. It has been supposed that the man was only required not to tell any one till he had shown himself to the priest. But the same command was given when no such condition existed (ch. ix. 30; Mark v. 43). It appears from the record of the same miracle in Mark (i. 40) that there was a reason entirely separate from this. We there find that the cleansed leper, like others on whom silence had been enjoined, “went out, and began to publish it much, and blaze abroad the matter” the result of which was, that “Jesus could no more enter into the city, but was without in desert places.” It appears, therefore, that it was to prevent the necessity of his withdrawing himself from the chosen scene of his labours that Jesus wished these works of his not to be publicly known.
But how could the public knowledge of a miracle have the effect of driving him, so to speak, from the city into the desert? It would seem that two causes conspired to produce this effect. A report of the miraculous cure would excite the opposition of the rulers on the one hand, and throng him with supplicants for similar favours on the other. It is easy to see how the first of these circumstances might operate as a cause, but the second does not at first sight appear likely to act in the same manner; it would rather, it might seem, have an opposite tendency. We are to remember, however, that these works were not the primary, but the secondary object of the Lord’s ministry. His first object was to teach, his second to cure. Miracles did not produce faith, but faith was necessary to the production of miracles; and faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. It was therefore, it would appear, contrary to order for the miracle to be proclaimed by man before the gospel of the kingdom had been preached by the Lord. John, who was the forerunner of the Lord, did no miracle, doubtless to teach us that instruction must precede regeneration. We may therefore suppose the Lord addressing each cleansed sinner thus: “Go thy way. Live according to the truth. Speak not to men, but act towards God. Turn not thy thoughts earthward, but thy steps heavenward. Before thou go into the world, enter into the sanctuary; give thy heart to the Lord before thou give thy experience to men”. Another reason for silence is given in this Gospel (ch. xii. 17), which we shall consider in its place – that it was to fulfil a prophecy. But the second command which the Lord gave to the leper will still further explain the first: “Show thyself to the priest.” In this command the Lord, as our Prophet, directs us to himself as our Priest – as the Truth he leads us to himself as the Good; as the Human to the Divine. To show ourselves to the Lord as our Priest is to see ourselves as he sees us, and to see his truth from good. As our Priest, the Lord sees us savingly when he gives us to know that he dwells in us, and we in him, by the love we have received from him; for he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. He sees and pronounces us clean when he whispers to us through our conscience that the plague of sin no longer cleaves to us. When the conscience is purified from dead works, we can offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. The gifts and offerings commanded in the Levitical law were types of the purified thoughts and affections that are offered to God, in gratitude for deliverance experienced and mercies received, and which become sanctified to the worshipper by being dedicated to the service of him who gave them. The offering of the cleansed leper consisted of lambs without blemish, fine flour, and oil – symbols of innocence, charity, and love: innocence unblemished by conscious guilt, charity that envieth not, love that is without dissimulation. These are the gifts which the purified soul offers as a testimony to the Lord as the Author of all good, and which are the means of effecting conjunction of life with him as the supreme good.
5, 6. The Lord, having cleansed an Israelite, is now besought to cure a Gentile. When Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, and saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. A servant signifies the natural or external part of the mind, because this serves the internal, as a servant his lord. The word here used is not that which means a bond-servant. In Luke vii. 2, this servant is said to be dear to his master – a fact which may be inferred from his solicitude for his recovery. But this loved servant was sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. Palsy represents a state where there is the will, but not the power to do. The will to do is from good but good has no power of acting but by truth. Truth is in the mind what the muscular system is in the body. Good can no more act spiritually without the ministry of truth, than the will can act naturally without the concurrence of the muscles. Paralysis is the symbol of that state of the mind when, from some opposing influence, truth refuses to obey the behests of goodness or, what is the same, when the external is unable to do what the internal wills to be done. Such a state is described by the apostle, where he says: “To will is present with me but how to perform that which is good, I find not” (Rom. vii. 18). Such a condition of mind is attended with torment; for what can be more afflictive to one who desires to do good than to find that evil is present with him? How pathetically does the apostle lament this state – when he exclaims, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. vii. 24.)
7 The state which this case represents and the apostle describes as one that is not without hope. There is a physician in Israel to whose healing power every disease must yield. So knew the apostle when, turning his thoughts from his own feeble and wretched condition to a powerful and blessed one in whom there was help, he said, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The centurion had learnt where to look for help in his time of need; and this help he found. His prayer was answered before it was expressed. To his simple declaration that his servant was sick, the Lord responded, I will come and heal him. He comes by influx and revelation, and heals by reformation and regeneration. The Lord comes by a knowledge of his truth, and restores by obedience to it.
8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.
9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
8, 10, 13. The reason why the Lord healed this and other persons according to their faith was, because the first and primary principle of the church then to be established was, that they should believe the Lord to be God Almighty, for without this faith no church could have been established. For the Lord was the God of heaven and God of earth, with whom there cannot be given any conjunction, except by the acknowledgment of His Divinity, which acknowledgment is faith. E. 815.
8 But the centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof; but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. A sense of unworthiness is a sign of worth. It is one of the first results of distinguishing in ourselves between what is from the Lord and what is from self; and this feeling deepens as the distinction is more perfectly perceived. This is the ground of true humility. The highest angels are the most humble. Those who are in the deepest humiliation are in the highest exaltation. Those who are farthest from self are nearest to the Lord. Yet true humility among men, as arising not only from a sense of evil and nothingness, but from a conviction of sin, rather deprecates than craves the Lord’s intimate and immediate presence. “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord,” was the prayer of Peter, on a signal manifestation of the Lord’s power, contrasted with his own unavailing labour; and a sudden sense of the Lord’s loving condescension made the centurion feel and declare his unworthiness to receive Jesus under his roof. The mind that has a deep sense of the Lord’s goodness has, at the same time, a deep sense of its own unworthiness: the one is proportioned to the other. It feels itself too mean for such a guest – too disorderly, dark, and impure to endure the presence of him who is order and light and purity itself. Speak the word only, is its language, and my servant shall be healed. Unworthy to receive, and unable to bear thy immediate presence and power, give me thy mediate presence and operation. Come to me through thy Word, out of which virtue goes to heal all manner of sickness and disease.
9 The centurion’s humility and faith were enhanced by his position. I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. The centurion representing the rational man, or the rational faculty, his hundred soldiers are rational truths, existing in adequate fulness, in orderly arrangement, and in due subordination to the ruling principle of the mind. As soldiers, they signify also truths combating, not only, as is too much the case with the natural rational man, against error in others, but against doubt and unbelief in himself. The subordination of all the principles of the mind, born of the will, the understanding, and the outward life, is meant by this one going, another coming and the servant doing. Faith becomes conspicuous in the submission of the mind, with all its powers and possessions, to the Lord.
10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
10-13. It was often said by the Lord when the sick were healed that they should have faith, and that it should be done to them according to their faith. The reason was, because the first principle of all is to acknowledge that the Lord is the Saviour of the world, for without that acknowledgment no one can receive anything of good and of truth from heaven — thus not faith. . . . All healings also of diseases by the Lord, when He was in the world, signified the healings of spiritual life, thus the things which are of salvation. A. 10083.
10 It was when the centurion, after his entreaty, had made this statement of his condition, that the Lord marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. We are not of course to imagine that the Lord was taken by surprise. He who knew what was in man, knew all the centurion told him before he uttered a word. His was an expression of admiration. It expresses the sympathy which existed between the spiritual truth of the Lord and the rational truth in the mind which acknowledges and is desirous to receive the higher light. The Lord’s saying to them that followed him, that he had not found so great faith in Israel, was literally to express to them how much more believing and receptive he found this Gentile than he had found any among the Jews, and how much better disposed towards him were those beyond than those within the pale of the church.
11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.
11 Not that they are to eat with them in the kingdom of God, but that they are to enjoy the heavenly goods, which are signified by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, namely the celestial things of love — not only the inmost which are Abraham, but also the lower which are mediate, as are those of the rational, which are Isaac, and the still lower, that are the celestial natural, such as are in the first heaven, which are meant by Jacob. A. 2187.
As the Lord is represented by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, so love itself and faith itself are signified, consequently those who are in love and faith, and thus those who are in the Lord. A. 2658.
In heaven they know nothing of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and those who are there do not perceive anything else when those words are read by man, than the Lord as to the Divine and the Divine Human. By sitting down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they perceive nothing, but being with the Lord. A. 3305.
Many from the east and the west stand for those who are in the knowledges and the life of good, and those who are in obscurity and ignorance, thus those who are within the church, and those who are without, for states of good are signified by east and west. A. 3708.
Everyone may see that by sitting down in the Lord’s kingdom, eating and drinking, is not signified sitting down, eating and drinking, but something which exists in that kingdom, and that is appropriation of the good of love and the truth of faith, thus it means that which is called spiritual and celestial food. A. 3832.
When therefore it is read (Matthew viii. n) angels percelye the Lord’s presence, and the appropriation of the trutri and the good which proceed from His Divine Human. A. 6804.
Among the ancients were instituted banquets, feasts, dinners, and suppers, that they might be consociated by such things as are of wisdom and intelligence. Hence also feasts, dinners, and suppers in the Word signify consociation as to faith and love, as in Matthew. A. 9412.
By a table is signified a receptacle of things celestial, thus heaven as to the reception of such things as are from the Lord. A. 9527.
To lie down with them means to be in heaven where the Lord is. A. 10442.
That man lives after death, the Word teaches, as where it is said, that God is not the God of the dead but of the living, and that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are in heaven.
To eat of this bread is to be conjoined to Him (the Lord) by love, for to eat signifies to appropriate and be conjoined, and love is spiritual conjunction. E. 146.
By Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Lord is understood
tias to the Divine itself and the Divine Human. Hence to sit down with them signifies to be conjoined with the Lord, and to consociate together by love, and by such conjunction and consociation to enjoy beatitude and felicity eternal, and this from the Lord alone. E. 252,
In this passage mention is made only of the east, and of the west. The reason of this is, that when the east and the west are mentioned, the north and the south are at the same time understood. E. 422.
By Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is understood the Lord, and by shall sit down with them in the kingdom of the heavens, the fruition of celestial good from the Lord.
See Chapter VIIL, n under A. 10597 repeated N. 228,
Sit down daily with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, by whom is meant the Lord as to the Divine celestial, the Divine spiritual, and the Divine natural. T. 724.
The Gentiles acknowledge when instructed, and therefore they are received, according to the Lord’s words, They shall come from the east and from the west. De Dom., Page 8.
11, 12. The lot of those without the church who are idolaters, is much better than the lot of those who are idolaters within the church. Those are external idolaters, but these are internal. That the lot of the former is better, is evident from the words which the Lord spake. A. 1328.
That the Gentiles who are in good, although from ignorance they are in non-truths, are received into-heaven. A. 9192.
Among all the nations in the whole world with whom there is any religion, there are precepts similar to those in the Decalogue, and all who live them from religion are saved, but all who do not live them from religion are condemned. They who live them from religion, when instructed after death by angels, receive truths and acknowledge the Lord. Life 65.
That only those who were born in the church are saved, is an insane heresy . . . also that man has heaven from birth and not from the life. P. 330.
11, 12. From the case of the Gentile centurion whose faith surpassed any he had found in Israel, the Lord proceeds to speak of the state of the Gentile world, as compared with that of the Jews. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with, Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The subject is not limited to any particular people or time. The contrast is between those who are in good without truth, and those who are in truth without good. The first are spiritually meant in the Word by the Gentiles, and may be found within as well as out of the church; the second is the state of all who have been unfaithful to the knowledge they possessed. Of those spiritual Gentiles it is said that “many shall come from the east and west,” because east and west signify states of good, as south and north signify states of truth. East is a state of interior good, is it begins in the heart; and west is a state of exterior good, where it ends in the life. East and west, therefore, are expressive of all states of good, internal and external. But these are states of natural good, having in it, like all sincere good, the desire to receive truth, by which it becomes spiritual. This truth is meant by the term “kingdom;” for a kingdom is under the government of laws, and these laws are truths. But that here spoken of is the kingdom of heaven, which is heavenly or spiritual truth. For Gentiles to come into the kingdom of heaven, therefore, is for those who are in natural good to come into spiritual truth. This, in fact, is the same as coming into heaven itself. All who are principled in good, who live and die without the truth, receive it in the other life, and so enter heaven; nor can they come into heaven till their good receives and is united to truth; for heaven is the conjunction of good and truth. But heaven is a state as well as a, place; and being in man, it can exist in this world as well as in the other. All true members of the church are in the kingdom of heaven while they yet live on earth. The Lord, therefore, taught, and commanded his disciples to teach, that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. All the good, when they receive the truth, enter the church, and all who enter the church enter the kingdom of heaven. But it is said of those who come from the east and from the west, that they sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. There are three degrees of perfection to which the good are capable of attaining, which are called celestial, spiritual, and natural; and there are three heavens formed respectively of those who are in these states. These are meant in the Word by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who represented the Lord himself as he is present with men and angels in his Divine Humanity. To sit down with these patriarchs is to sit down with the Lord in his kingdom, as he accommodates his attributes to the states of his people. To sit, we have seen, is expressive of a confirmed and permanent state of life, and includes the idea of serenity and peace. Such is the blessed end of those who cherish affections of goodness, however they may be deficient in the knowledge of the truth.
The children of the kingdom are those who have been born and nurtured in the church, but who have sinned against the light of truth. These shall be cast out into outer darkness. As truth is the symbol of light, darkness is the symbol of falsity. The degree of falsity into which the evil ultimately come is proportioned to the degree of truth against which they have sinned. Outer darkness is expressive of that degree of falsity which is opposed to the clearest light of truth; and those who are cast, or whose evils cast them into it, are such as have extinguished all truth in their minds, and confirmed themselves in that falsity which is grounded in evil. The weeping and gnashing of teeth which prevail in the region into which they are cast are no doubt expressive of the misery they endure; but they also signify active states of the affections and thoughts, weeping being expressive of the absence of all true satisfaction of heart, and gnashing of teeth, of sensual reasonings and disputations, by which they confirm themselves in the evils they love.
12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.
12 Outer darkness stands for the more direful falsities of those who are in the church, for they darken the light, and introduce falsities against the truth, which Gentiles cannot do. A. 1839.
In the other life, when he is among the infernals, he is in the fire or heat of his lusts ; but when he approaches heaven heat is turned into cold, the more intense the nearer he approaches, with an increase of torment in like degree. This cold is what is meant by the gnashing of teeth which is ascribed to those who are in hell.A. 4175.
The sons of the kingdom are those who are in the vastated church, the darkness is falsities ; for they are in darkness when they are in the thick cloud mentioned above (inundation see A. 4423). The gnashing of teeth is the collision of falsities with truths therein. A. 4424.
See Chapter VI., 23. A. 7688.
By the gnashing of teeth of those who are in hell is meant the collision of falsities with the truths of faith. A. 9052.
Gnashing of teeth is the continual dispute and combat of falsities with each other, consequently of those who are in falsities, joined likewise with contempt of others with enmity, mockery, ridicule, blaspheming, which evils burst forth in quarrels of various kinds. H. 575.
See Chapter V., 45. R. 20.
By darkness is signified falsity arising from ignorance of the truth, or from a false principle of religion, or from a life of evil. Of them who are in falsities of religion, and thence in evils of life, the Lord says, that they are to be cast out into outer darkness. R. 413.
See Chapter III., 2. R. 749.
Since sensual men do not see any truth in its light, but argue and wrangle about everything as to whether it is so, these altercations in the hells are heard out of them as gnashings of teeth, which in themselves are the collisions of falsity and truth. R. 435.
The sons of the kingdom there mentioned, are those of the church where truths do not reign, but falsities. E. 48.
The reason why kingdom signifies church, is because the kingdom of the Lord is where the church is, wherefore they who are of the church are called children of the kingdom. E. 373.
As the Divine truth is the light in the heavens, it follows that the falsity of evil, which is prevalent in the hells, is darkness. E. 526.
By gnashing of teeth in the hells is understood the continual disputations and combating of falsities among themselves, and against truths. These disputations and combats are heard out of those hells as gnashings of teeth, and are also turned into gnashings of teeth, when truth flows in thither out of heaven. E. 556.
13 When the Lord had concluded his address to those who followed him, he said unto the Centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. This often-repeated command, “Go thy way,” is an injunction to live as the Lord directs – to order our lives according to the dictates of his truth. Thus our faith becomes practical, being exemplified in our life, and conversation. When we have thus believed, so will it be done unto us. Although salvation is in goodness, it comes through truth; although it is in love, it is received through faith, not through faith alone, which is dead, but through faith in conjunction with love, which is living. Faith is the medium through which the Lord’s power becomes operative – for truth is the power by which the Lord works, and truth is the object of faith. Therefore faith was a common condition of salvation, and of the Lord’s miraculous cures, which represented it. According to our faith in the Lord as the Saviour, so is the saving virtue we receive from him. Such was the centurion’s faith that his servant was healed without the Lord’s personal presence, and in the moment of his declaring the cure. The self-same hour in which the cure was effected was symbolical of the state of the centurion’s faith, which secured the blessing, for time is the symbol of state.
14 And when Jesus was come into Peter’s house, he saw his wife’s mother laid, and sick of a fever.
15 And he touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them.
14, 15. See Chapter VIII., 3. A. 10130.
See Chapter VIII., 3. E. 79.
16 Because the life of man varies according to his state, therefore by spirit is meant the varying affection of life with man, also the infernal spirits themselves, by whom men have been troubled. L. 48.
14, 15. A third miraculous cure was that performed on Peter’s wife’s mother. And when Jesus was come into Peter’s house, he saw his wife’s mother laid, and sick of a fever. The Lord’s coming into Capernaum represented his presence with man in doctrine, which a city signifies; his coming into Peter’s house represented a further progression, and his presence with man in the good of faith; for Peter represented faith, and a house signifies good, and Peter’s house, the good in which faith dwells. As Peter represented faith, his wife signifies the affection of faith, which is charity, or neighbourly love. The mother of Peter’s wife represented the affection of love. to the Lord; for love to the Lord is the parent of love to the neighbor. But Peter’s wife’s mother was laid, and sick of a fever. A fever is expressive of the burning lust of evil. The evil of self-love is the opposite of love to the Lord; and a state like that of a burning fever is produced in the mind when the evil of self-love rises up in the heart in opposition to the good of love to the Lord. The state here described is not one in which the evil of self-love predominates in the mind, but is one in which that hereditary affection is excited by evil spirits, giving rise to a state of temptation. The two expressions “laid” and “sick” indicate the operation of this temptation as active both in the will and the understanding. When the Lord saw her, he touched her hand, and the fever left her. This teaches us not only that the Lord’s divine power is that by which deliverance from the influence of evil love is effected, and love to him is restored to health and established in its supremacy in the heart, but also how this deliverance is effected. The hand is the emblem of power, because it is that member of the body by which power is manifested. The hand also signifies, therefore, the natural principle, which is the instrument by which the spiritual acts. The Lord’s touching the hand was emblematical of his power flowing into and restoring to order the natural principle, so that the spiritual could act in an orderly manner through it. The natural mind is the seat of evil; and when the evil that resides therein is excited into activity, the natural mind reacts against the spiritual, which produces spiritual disorder and disease, one form of which is here meant by a fever. When Jesus touched her hand the fever left her. Here again was an instantaneous cure, intended to teach us the certainty of restoration when the Lord’s power is invoked or received. The completeness of the cure is indicated by the circumstance that she arose, and ministered unto them – indicating the return of complete health and strength. But this represents that when opposing lusts are removed, the oppressed and diseased affection of love to the Lord is elevated to a still higher place in the heart, and thence proceeds into act in ministering to the Lord and men in works of piety, charity, and mercy.
16 When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick:
17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.
18 Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side.
19 And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
16, 17, 28. See Chapter IV., 24. E. 1001.
16, 28. The demons which the Lord cast out were such lusts of evil, arising from the love of the world, when they lived in the world. R. 458.
By the demons cast out by the Lord, by which many were then obsessed, are signified falsities of every kind, with which the church was infested, and from which it was liberated by the Lord. E. 586.
16 After the Lord had performed these three miracles on individual persons, When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick. The demoniacal possessions so common at the time of our Lord’s manifestation in the flesh were the result of the dominion which the kingdom of darkness had then acquired over mankind, – a dominion so complete that evil spirits ruled not only the minds but the bodies of men. And had not the Lord in this crisis come into the world, by assuming our nature and receiving the assaults of evil spirits into his own humanity, and by overcoming in temptation, conquered the hells, no flesh could have been saved. His casting out demons was a part of his work of redemption. But these deliverances of men from external possessions represented deliverance from internal possessions, to which all men are subject. For evil spirits still dwell in our impure affections, and possess our souls as truly as demons then possessed the bodies of men. It is said that they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils. The many here mentioned are spiritually the numerous affections of the natural mind or external man, and those who brought them are the affections and perceptions of the spiritual mind or internal man. When the Lord gives us internally to see the real state of the natural mind as it is by nature, and to know him as our Saviour, we may draw near to him with our sufferings and sorrows, with the hope and even the certainty of having them removed. When the possessed ones were brought to him, he cast out the spirits with, his word, and healed all that were sick. How does he cast out with his Word the evils in our minds, in which evil spirits dwell? By his Word, which is divine truth, being received by us and loved and obeyed. No word of the Lord can deliver us except by our active co-operation with it in affection and thought, by word and deed. In all who become workers together with him the Lord works effectually in casting out the spirits of evil from our hearts, and healing all the sicknesses of our understandings.
These last miracles were done when even was come, both to indicate an obscure state of the mind, and to mark completion of the general state of the regenerate mind, meant by the day in which the several works were performed, of which these were the last.
17 These last works were performed, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses. This important prophecy has been interpreted to mean that Jesus, as our surety and substitute, assumed the guilt of our moral infirmities, and suffered the punishment due to our sins. In the practical exposition which the evangelist gives of this prediction no such idea is expressed, or even alluded to. It is a great truth delivered by the prophet, where he says, “The Lord hath laid on him (or, as expressed in the margin, hath made to meet on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. lii. 6). But how did our iniquities meet upon him? Not certainly by God imputing to him the guilt of our sins, and punishing him in our stead, but by his taking upon himself our fallen nature, with all its hereditary evils, or its moral infirmities and sicknesses.
The Lord took our evils upon him, that he might have in his humanity the common ground of human temptation, and be able, by overcoming those temptations, to subdue the powers of darkness, and glorify his humanity. Thence he is able to succour us in our temptations, and to effect our regeneration. The casting out of devils from the minds and bodies of others was the result of his having first overcome them in their attempts to possess humanity as he had taken it upon himself. The Gospel, therefore in this case gives an instance of the effect of the Lord’s work of glorification, and of his having himself taken our infirmities and borne our sicknesses.
18 Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side. This commandment indicates a purpose to extend his saving operations to another sphere of the human mind, one which may be understood by the place to which he proposed to repair. The other side of the sea of Galilee was out of Palestine, being on “the other side Jordan.” In the original settlement of the Israelites two tribes and a half received their inheritance on the farther side of the river. Under this division Canaan represented the internal man, and the land beyond the river the external. The tribes that dwelt in Canaan represented the spiritual principles that reside in the internal man, and those beyond the river represented the natural principles that reside in the external man; while the tribe of Manasseh, half of which dwelt on either side the river, represented the principle of goodness which unites them. The Lord’s commandment, to depart unto the other side expresses his desire to proceed from the internal to the external of the mind, that he may there manifest the power of his truth to deliver, and the virtue of his love to save, even unto the uttermost.
20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
20 The Son of Man stands for Divine truth ; not having where to lay his head, signifies that Divine truth had no place anywhere, or with any man at that time. A. 9807.
By this is meant, that the Word had no place with the Jews. L. 27.
See Chapter VIII., 20 under A. 9807 repeated. E. 63.
19, 20. But this purpose operates as a test and trial in two ways. First, it brings to a decision what affections in the mind are disposed to adhere to and follow the Lord through the self-denying labours of the Christian life – what good affections and thoughts, which his teaching has awakened and his works have strengthened, are ready to leave the things that are behind, and press onward to the things that are before. One comes to the Lord with the noble profession, – Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And now the Lord discloses to him the kind of experience that awaits every one who undertakes so serious a duty. The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay HIS HEAD. True as this was naturally at the time, not less true will every one find it spiritually who follows the Lord in the regeneration. The natural mind of man, in its yet unregenerate state, is the den of every wild beast, and the cage of every unclean and hateful bird. Its affections and thoughts are only evil, and that continually. But not only are evils there by nature, which no one can help, but that which is to be mourned over is, that they are more or less cherished in every heart and mind. Here the foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, where they live in security and increase. The foxes are the types of all evil affections, the birds of all false thoughts. And when these are cherished, to the exclusion of good affection and right thoughts, the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. The Lord’s sacred head should be pillowed on every heart – his truth should find a place in our best affections. We lament the state of the world that produced the necessity for the Lord’s declaration, and sympathize with the Son of man. Let us look within; and then may we remedy, if we will, the corresponding state in ourselves, and so render our sorrow and sympathy practical and availing.
But the point of this declaration consists in its being addressed to a would-be-disciple, as a test of his sincerity, whether he was disposed to follow a Master who bad nothing in the meantime to promise but hardship and privation. Though this test may no longer exist naturally, it still exists spiritually; for the disciple must follow his Lord “Withersoever he goeth” – through privation and suffering, as well as in doing.
21 And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
22 But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.
21, 22. A father on earth, in respect to the Father in heaven, or to the Lord, is as the dead to the living. Thus the law itself concerning honouring parents is, as it were, dead, unless in it there is honour, worship, and love to the Lord, for that law descends from this Divine law, and hence comes that which is really living in the law, wherefore the Lord said (verse 22). A. 3703. Total submission is also signified by the Lord’s words in Matthew. A. 6138.
See Chapter IV., 16. A. 7494. They are dead who are destitute of the life of heaven, consequently who are in evils, and thence in falsities. E. 186.
21, 22. When the Lord had addressed these words to the first who offered to follow him, another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, follow me; and let the dead bury their dead. This is one of those passages which Christians intuitively perceive have a deeper sense than that which lies on the surface. This they perceive from the Lord’s answer, rather than from the man’s request. For there seems nothing either extraordinary or unreasonable in the desire which the disciple expressed; and some objectors have assumed that the request was more humane than the answer. But we are to reflect that the soul and eternity, not the body and the world, were ever in the Lord’s thoughts, and were really the subjects of his discourse on all occasions, the temporal events of which others spoke being made by him images and the vehicles of corresponding spiritual truths. Thus in the Lord’s mind the body was an image of the soul, and natural were, images of spiritual death and burial. In the spiritual sense, a father signifies, in relation to man in his natural state, the principle of self-love, this being the origin of the affections of our unrenewed nature; and this is the father we are required in the Gospel love and hate. But when this love dies within us, should it be wrong to desire to bury it? One reason is, burial signifies resurrection, or rising again into new life. The disciple’s request to be allowed to bury his father involved the existence of a lingering desire to restore, rather than to reject, this principle of self-love, now dead within him. And this was more especially the case as he desired to “go” and do it, which was spiritually a desire to turn away from the living to the dead. The singular phrase, “let the dead bury their dead,” is instructive; for Jesus never spake without a solemn and important meaning. In the work of regenerating evil spirits are made the instruments of removing evil. They excite evil in the human mind, and when their assaults are resisted, and the temptation is overcome, the evil is removed along with those who excited it. Nay, they themselves remove it. The spirits of darkness cling to the evil which they excite in our hearts, and they never leave us till we let the evil go. Then they go with it to their own dark abode, and become the dead that bury the dead. When, therefore, the Lord said, “Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead,” he inculcated the Divine lesson, that it is the duty of the disciple to walk onward with Him who is the life, and not turn back to dead principles and works, but leave them to return to the regions of darkness from whence they came.
23 And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.
24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.
25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.
23-26. By these things was represented the state of the men of the church, when they are natural, and not yet spiritual, in which state the natural affections, which are various cupidities originating in the loves of self and the world, rise up, and cause various emotions in the mind. In this state the Lord appears as absent, and this apparent absence is signified by sleeping. But when they come out of a natural into a spiritual state, then those emotions cease, and tranquillity of mind succeeds, for the tempestuous emotions of the natural man are allayed by the Lord, when the spiritual mind is opened, and the Lord thereby flows into the natural. E. 514.
23, 24. There are trials before us in the onward path of regeneration which require the energies we are often disposed to waste on things and states that are past. The incident we now come to consider teaches us this. And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. A ship signifies the knowledge of goodness and truth: for knowledge is not truth, much less is it in itself goodness, but is only the vessel which contains them, and conveys them to the understanding, and thence to the will of the mind. The Lord’s entering into a ship, and his disciples following him, represented his entering into, and his presence in, the knowledge of good and truth which we have derived outwardly from his Word. The sea on which the Lord and his disciples were now embarked was an expansion of the Jordan, through which Israel passed on their way to Canaan, and has a similar signification. In relation to man, both signify the natural mind, or more strictly, perhaps, the natural rational, which is intermediate between the spiritual and natural degrees of the mind, as Jordan and the sea were between Canaan and the region on the east. Here the disciples experienced tribulation, which is the symbol of temptation. For, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea. The tempest produced by the stormy wind was a type of the tumult of evil passions excited in the natural mind by influx from the kingdom of darkness. But in the midst of all this agitation and alarm Jesus is asleep, – in a state of tranquil and peaceful repose while the tempest rages. So in the mind of the tempted one there is inward peace while there is outward tribulation; for the Lord is in the inmost of the soul as its peace and security. We may be unconscious for the moment of the inward secret peace which we possess. These tribulations arise partly from our too great attention to and immersion in outward things, so that the inward principle is laid asleep, and seems as if it were not. A natural state of the mind is also called sleep, compared with a spiritual state, which is called wakefulness. This of course is still more the case when we fall into tribulation, which indeed can only happen when the spiritual principle is less active than the natural. But these tribulations are permitted in order to lead us to a sense of our danger and of our weakness, and to prompt us to flee for succour to Him who only has power to control and subdue the angry passions of the human heart, and to awaken within us the Divine love and truth that our own carelessness and carnality have cast into a deep sleep. The disciples, when they awoke the Lord, exclaimed, Lord, save us; we perish. It is only when we feel ourselves to be perishing sinners that we truly feel the need of a Saviour. It is not that we are without the Saviour’s presence; but these times of peril awaken up the slumbering consciousness of his indwelling life into activity, and bring the preciousness of his mercy home to our hearts. So is it with us in regard to every object of our love. In ordinary circumstances there may be little sensible emotion in regard to our most loved ones; but bring us into the fear of losing them, and the deepest solicitude is excited for securing what we now doubly feel we so greatly prize and cherish. Yet our fear originates in a want of faith. Every temptation indicates the weakness of our principles, and the use of the trial is to strengthen them. Temptation is an overshadowing of our convictions, a deadening of our love. It is the temporary ascendency of the natural over the spiritual principles within us. Fear is the offspring of doubt – the want of perfect confidence in our reliance on the Lord’s providence. Why are ye fearful? is a question the Saviour asks every trembling heart. Were we in every time of trial able confidingly to say, “The Lord is my strength,” we should be able also to say, “Of whom shall I be afraid?” The Lord, who asked the question, gave the answer when he said, O ye of little faith. Yet the threatening of the tempest, gave distinctness and direction to the faith of the disciples, since it led them to Jesus, to allay the storm which their lack of faith had produced, and which it disclosed. Then the Lord arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea. How sublime is this spectacle of Jesus speaking peace to the raging elements, manifested in the result – and there was a great calm! We should let no occasion pass of recognizing the wonder-working power of the Divine Saviour. And hardly any one more strikingly presents evidences of his superhuman Power- than the rebuking of the storm, and causing the raging tempest to subside at once into a profound calm. But great as that work undoubtedly was, still greater and infinitely more blessed in its results is the power which the Lord exercises over the spirit of man when tossed upon a sea of spiritual trouble, when the tempest and the whirlwind are such as threaten to engulf the soul in spiritual evils, and finally in hell itself. The rebuking the wind and the calming of the storm in the soul is the result, not only of the Lord’s awaking, but of his arising that is his elevation in our hearts and minds, by which he acquires the power to bring the lower thoughts and affections into subordination and submission to himself, and thereby into the tranquillity of spiritual repose. That which our Lord produced was called a great calm, because greatness is predicated of a state of love and goodness, from which all true peace exists.
26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.
27 But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!
26 The reason why the Lord called the disciples men of little faith, when they could not do miracles in His name, and why He could not do miracles in His own country on account of their unbelief, was because the disciples did indeed believe the Lord to be the Messiah or Christ, likewise the Son of God, and the prophet of whom it was written in the Word, but still they did not yet believe in Him as God Omnipotent, and that Jehovah, the Father, was in Him. And yet in proportion as they believed Him to be a man, and not at the same time God, His Divine to which omnipotence belonged, could not become present with them by faith, for faith causes the Lord to be present. E. 815.
They who are in no faith are signified by the fearful.
The subjugation of hell by the Lord is also meant by His calming the sea. T. 123.
27 When the Lord had quelled the, tempest, the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him! And must not spiritual deliverance from such tribulation and peril lead the devout mind to marvel and say, What manner of man is this? Must he not be a, divine man? To be a divine man, his manhood must be divine for in no other way can divinity be possessed by a man than by his being divine as man. Every act of his saving mercy and power which we experience should lead us to adore the Lord in his divine humanity; for it is by his humanity being divine, and having been made divine through tribulation, that he is able to enter into our human trials and tribulations, and bring us out of them with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. It is by this also that he can rule the kingdom of darkness, and that he can tranquillize the mind in its greatest temptations. Even the winds and the sea obey him. The thoughts and affections of the mind, although, when excited by the influence of evil spirits, they may be beyond our own control, art, completely under the power of him who rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.
28 And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.
28 et seq. They who obsessed, whilst they lived in the world were in falses from evil, or in knowledges from the Word which they made dead by applying them to confirm evils, and likewise to destroy the genuine truths of the church, especially the truths concerning the Lord, concerning the Word, concerning the life after death, which dead knowledges in the Word are called traditions. E. 659.
28-34. And when, he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, &c. This is so extraordinary a case of demoniacal possession, and discloses so much the nature of the connection between the spiritual and the natural worlds, that it deserves a few words in its simply historical sense. The spiritual and the natural worlds are as closely connected with each other as the soul and the body. The ordinary connection of men with the inhabitants of the spiritual world, though intimate, is not, however, sensible. The two worlds, like the spiritual and the material parts of man, have nothing in common: they are united by correspondence; and such a union, however close, is not sensible either to men or to spirits. The only circumstance that was peculiar in the possessions mentioned in the New Testament was, that the ordinary laws of spiritual intercourse were overborne, and spirits entered not only into the affections of men’s minds, but into the sensories and organs of their bodies. This arose from the prevalence of evil in the world, and the grossly sensual state into which men had fallen, which enabled wicked and sensual spirits to descend into the very ultimates of human nature. Such was evidently the case in the possession here recorded. The men did not speak as free agents under the influence of the evil spirits, but the evil spirits spoke through the men as passive instruments, showing that they had possession of their physical organs, and used them at their pleasure. But this singular narrative shows that spirits were not only able to possess human beings, but the inferior creatures. Animals as well as men live by virtue of their connection with the spiritual world; for the souls of beasts are spiritual, though not immortal, and they are capable, like men, of being the subjects of an extraordinary as well as of an ordinary influx from the spiritual world, or through it from the Divine and only Fountain of life. Animals and the animal nature of man are, by the ordinary laws, governed by a common or general influx from the spiritual world. Gentle and clean animals, like regenerate men, receive their life through heaven, while ferocious and unclean animals, like wicked men, receive their life through hell. In the present instance it is evident that the swine became the subjects of an extraordinary spiritual influx, the devils being permitted to possess them and use them as the involuntary instruments of their will.
It is remarkable that these evil spirits knew and acknowledged Jesus to be the Son of God and the Redeemer, at a time, when even his disciples had but an obscure perception of his true character, and of his object in becoming incarnate. This is not surprising. The nature and purpose of the Incarnation were, at that particular time, better known in the spiritual than in the natural world. The Lord’s redeeming work had more immediate relation to the spiritual than to the natural world. Redemption consisted in the subjugation of hell, and in the performance of a judgment in the world of spirits, or intermediate state, on those who had lived in the world from the time of the Noetic dispensation, as well as in the establishment of a new church on earth. Subjugation and judgment in the spiritual world were even then in progress; and therefore spirits know more of the Lord and of his work than men upon earth as yet knew. The language of these spirits bespeaks some knowledge and dread of the approaching day of decision. Judgment is effected by the Lord’s more immediate presence, or by an extraordinary influx of his divine truth, which lays open the interior states of those who are subjected to it, and which, by divesting them, or rather by inducing them to divest themselves, of everything that is opposite or extraneous to their true character, consigns them to their final and everlasting abode. To the evil this is attended with torment; not because it is the nature of the Lords truth, or the will of the Lord himself, to cause pain or misery even to the worst of devils, but because their corrupt and perverted state is in direct opposition to the purity and order of his truth, which acts upon their deranged spiritual organism as light does upon a diseased eye. Such was the torment which these demons experienced from the presence and words of Jesus. This teaches us the important truth, that those only whose state of life is in harmony with the Divine life; which is pure love, can enjoy happiness in his presence, and that to those whose ruling love is opposite to his, the Lord’s presence can only be productive of torment.
We now come to consider this miracle according to its spiritual meaning.
28 And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. In this simple relation we have a true but awful picture of the state of man as to his natural mind, signified by Gergesenes, at the time our Lord came into the world, and at the time of his first coming to every man as his Redeemer and Saviour. The two possessed with devils are the will and the understanding of the natural mind, as, in every unregenerate man, they are possessed and ruled by evils, and by the false persuasions connected with them. Although at this day evil spirits do not possess the bodies of men, they possess their minds; and in this way they may possess and rule men as completely as they did at the time of the Lord’s incarnation. This kind of possession makes men even more culpable than the demoniacs of old. The possessed with devils, like lunatics, ceased for the time to be responsible beings; but those who give their minds to demons, while they retain their liberty and reason, are responsible for their actions. According to the ordinary law, spirits dwell in the affections of men. They are not allowed to enter directly into men’s thoughts, and can only influence their thoughts through their affections so that every man is left free to think, and therefore to decide and choose between good and evil. Although less obvious, possessions at this day are not less real or deplorable than they were of old. Every evil man is possessed with devils; nay, every evil passion in every man is a body which some wicked spirit inhabits, and every depraved appetite is a tomb in which some unclean spirit dwells. Every evil man inwardly cherishes hatred and breathes destruction against all who are not his slaves; and is exceeding fierce, so that no man may safely pass by the way, or cross the path of his interest or ambition. But in the spiritual sense, “man” is the expression of what is truly human, which is the image of God in man; and the fierce hatred against men by these dwellers in the tombs is expressive of the direful hatred that is in all evil against what is truly human, or what is good and true, whether in themselves or in others. This hatred against men must have been still more intense against Jesus, as Man in the highest and holiest sense, but be came to moderate the fierce hatred of evil spirits against mankind, or at least to deprive them of the power to possess and destroy them. His great and beneficent power was exemplified on the present occasion. The men, under the control of the devils who possessed them, came out of the tombs when Jesus approached them, and, according to Mark v. 6, ran and worshipped him. This abject submission of the demons to the power of Jesus exemplifies the complete subjugation of the powers of darkness by the Lord as man’s Redeemer. Redemption itself, as the great work of the Lord in the flesh, is well represented in this case. The Lord redeemed mankind by delivering them from the overwhelming power of hell, and restoring them to a state of spiritual freedom. Such was then the ascendancy of the power of hell over the power of heaven that men were in a state of bondage, which deprived them of spiritual liberty. They had, like the demoniacs, become to some extent the involuntary subjects of demoniacal power. It was not to cast off all communication between men and evil spirits that the Lord entered into conflict with the powers of darkness, but only to remove their ascendancy over mankind, which deprived them of their freewill; and to restore the equilibrium between heaven and hell, on which the freedom of the human will depends.
29 And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?
30 And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding.
29 See Chapter III., 17. L. 19.
See Chapter III., 16, 17. T. 342.
29 When Jesus came near these demoniacs, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time? This cry, though uttered by the men, was really that of the devils who possessed them. But the words are attributed to the possessed, to describe spiritually the exquisite torment experienced by those who are being regenerated, when the Divine and the diabolic power come into actual conflict within them. Evil spirits suffer torment on such occasions, but their torment is communicated to those in whose evils they dwell, and which they defend with all their power. The kind of temptation is also indicated by the names of those engaged in it. The demoniacs address the Lord as “Jesus, thou Son of God.” Both these divine names are expressive, not only of the Lord in his humanity, by which he is our Saviour, but specifically of the Lord in respect to his essential attribute of goodness, as the Son of Man is expressive of the Lord, not only as the Word, but in respect to his essential attribute of truth. The principle of evil, and the class of infernal spirits that are directly opposed to the Lord’s goodness, are also expressed in the Word by the devil, the name by which the evil spirits who possessed the men are designated; while false principles, and spirits that are directly opposed to the Lord’s truth, are named Satan. Temptation conflicts between good and evil are attended with much greater torment than those between truth and falsity; is all mental trials which have relation to love are more afflictive than those which have relation to faith: for truth and faith are means, and belong to the understanding, but goodness and love are ends, and belong to the will. In addressing Jesus the demoniacs say, “art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” Time signifies state, and the state here alluded to, as the anticipated time of torment, is the climax of temptation, when suffering is so direful that it induces something or despair as to the result. It was when looking to the extremity of his temptation, in the passion of the cross, that Jesus prayed that the cup might pass from him, and that, when the hour of his conflict came, he uttered the despairing cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!” The cry of the demoniacs was of the same character, though far inferior in degree, to that of the Lord himself to consider the subject more precisely. “Before,” in regard to time, means principal in regard to state. Torment before the time signifies, therefore, suffering arising from temptation as it acts upon the principal or ruling affections of the mind, and not on those of an inferior degree; and the more interior temptation is, the more exquisite is the torment with which it is attended.
30 And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding. As, in the spiritual sense, the relation has reference to one person, and to every person in a particular stage of the regenerate life the “men” represent the rational, and the “swine” the sensual part or principle of man’s nature. The sensual part of man’s nature being the lowest and grossest, it is “a good way off” from the rational, which, though not a spiritual, is an interior natural principle. The sensual affections and appetites, with all the impressions and ideas that have been acquired through the medium of the senses, which form the sensual principle, are “many,” and form a “herd,” being drawn and held together by a common bond that is rather animal than human. But the swine were feeding at the time the devils entreated to be sent away, or suffered to go into them; for the state here described is one in which man is as yet living in the indulgence of his sensual appetites. We cannot but call to mind in this connection that beautifully expressive description of the sinner’s descent into the lowest state of spiritual degradation, in the prodigal’s being reduced to the last degree of destitution, when he hired himself to a citizen of the far country in which he had wasted his substance with riotous living, and who sent him into his fields to feed swine. It was here, however, that the prodigal came to himself, and resolved to return as a penitent to his father. It is here, too, in the spiritual sense of the present narrative, that the men’s deliverance from demoniacal possession was effected, the swine serving as the channels, so to speak, through which the devils were sent to their own congenial abodes.
31 So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.
32 And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.
33 And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils.
34 And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts.
31-33.Those who were possessed by demons, were in the sepulchres, and the demons themselves were afterwards cast out into the swine, who precipitated themselves into the sea, the reason whereof was, because they had lived in the world in sordid avarice, which swine correspond to. The reason why they precipitated themselves into the sea, was because the sea here signified hell. E. 659.
32 By the depth of the sea and by the deep is signified the hell where are the falsities of evil, and whence they arise. E. 538.
31, 32. So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine. When evil spirits are expelled from the inner or rational part of the mind, they still seek and find a refuge in the lower or sensual part. Their own desire, and the divine permission, though diametrically opposite in end and purpose, nevertheless work together to produce the same beneficent result. The spirits of darkness can only operate upon man by Divine permission. But we must remember that, in the government of the Divine Providence, the permission of evil is regulated by this principle, that the Lord only permits a less evil to prevent a greater, and, as far as possible, to bring ultimately some good out of the evil permitted. Evil spirits are allowed to enter into men’s evil affections, not only because man in his present state could not live and act as a free agent without connection with the spirits of hell as well as with the angels of heaven, but because evil spirits excite men’s evils, so as to bring them to his knowledge, as a necessary means of his being induced and led to remove them, or rather to consent to their removal. When we consider that evil spirits are permitted to enter into man’s evils that they may excite them, and so be made the negative instruments of removing them, we can see the divine wisdom and goodness of the Lord in suffering the devils to go away into the herd of swine when cast out from the men they had so completely possessed. Regeneration, too, proceeds from higher to lower. The interior of the mind is first regenerated, and the exterior afterwards and through it. The lower evils are therefore excited last; and when these are removed regeneration is completed. With this purpose and order of the Lord’s saving operation the very inclinations and purposes of the spirits of darkness are made to conspire, to work out the final cause of temptation. The tenacity with which evil spirits cling to the lusts and phantasies of the human mind is such, that they never relinquish their hold, and can only be cast out by the evil itself, in which they dwell, being renounced and removed. Thus are the evils of the human heart and mind removed by the evil spirits who dwelt within them, and carried away to the kingdom of darkness, to which they belong This kingdom is meant by the sea, in the waters of which the swine perished. The whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, to express the downward inclination of evil and evil spirits, and the avidity with which they plunge into the lowest depths of iniquity, and, as a consequence, into the abyss where all evil has its ultimate and endless abode. Those who live and die in a state of impenitence are dragged, with their cherished evils, down into the regions of eternal woe. The penitent have a far different end. Repentance and amendment separate their evils and evil spirits from them, so that what is intended and expected to be their destruction proves their salvation; for the devils carry away their evils, while they themselves, delivered by the Lord’s power, are restored to their right mind, and after having witnessed the Lord’s mercy and goodness here, enter into his kingdom of peace and blessedness hereafter.
33 When the herd of swine had rushed into the sea, and perished in the waters, they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told everything, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils. It is not said of these, as it is of the prodigal, that they fed the swine, but that they kept them. The swine-herds, too, although terror-stricken at the catastrophe, were awed into wonder by the miracle. They fled from the scene of the disaster, but they entered the city in a calmer mood, and were not so entirely occupied with their own loss as to forget to relate what had befallen to the possessed of the devils. Spiritually understood, the possessors and the keepers of these unclean animals are related to each other as affection and thought. It is the affections that possess, and the thoughts that keep watch over the mind’s possessions, whatever they may be. When man is merely sensual, his affections are lusts, and his thoughts are devices to secure the means of their gratification. This is not exactly the state described in the present narrative. It represents man as alive, indeed, to sensual gratification, but not dead to a sense of higher things. It describes the state of one whose thoughts have been directed to the Lord as the Redeemer, come to destroy the works of the devil by the subjugation of hell, not only as it is in itself, but as it is in man, thereby restoring the rational mind to a sound state. The conveyance of this to the affections is meant by the keepers relating everything, and that which had befallen to the possessed of the devils, to those in the city.
34 On hearing the tidings, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts. The citizens, like their informants, seem to have regarded Jesus with mingled feelings of fear and wonder. Although they desired him to depart from their coasts, they did not offer to employ force, but used entreaty. They quailed before one who had given them so severe a proof of his power; but there was no manifestation of rage or enmity. The Lord also complied with their petition, and departed. Personally, they represent those who see in the Lord a Being of power rather than of goodness, and who worship him from fear, rather than from love, and are more distressed than comforted by the idea of his near presence. This is characteristic of those who are in an external state in regard to religion. They see in God, even as revealed in the Word, an angry and vindictive Being, and tremble at his presence, believing that no man can see him and live. In more particular sense, the circumstances describe a state in which the whole affections, suddenly brought under a powerful Divine influence, are moved to separate themselves from the dogmas of their sensuous faith to meet the Lord at his coming. Yet this very state, which brings man’s evils more vividly to his mind, makes him unable to bear the nearer presence of the Lord, or makes the clear light of truth terrible to him. The case and the language of these Gentiles may be compared with those of the Gentile woman whose son died while she nourished Elijah, and who said unto him, “What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? Art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son” (I Ki. xvii. 18).
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