1 And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city.
2 And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.
3 And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.
4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?
5 For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?
6 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.
7 And he arose, and departed to his house.
8 But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.
9 And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.
10 And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.
11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?
2-7. See Chapter VIII., 8, 10, 13. E. 815.
See Chapter VIII., 10-13. A. 10083.
1 When Jesus, in compliance with the Gergesenes, departed out of their coasts, he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city. Capernaum is now called the Lord’s own city, and was during his public ministry what Nazareth had been during his private life. As a city signifies doctrine, the Lord’s own city is the doctrine which relates personally and immediately to him, and which teaches that he is God manifest, and that in his Divine humanity he is the Redeemer and Saviour of men. This heavenly doctrine in us is the Lord’s own city of habitation, from which he goes forth to carry his saving virtue into every faculty and affection of the mind, and to which he returns with renewed strength, to proceed again and again on his mission of salvation. The Lord can only dwell with man in that which is his own. Divine good can only dwell in divine truth; genuine good must have genuine doctrine for its place of abode. When the Lord’s power brings deliverance to the good and inspires terror into the evil of the external man, he returns into the internal, where there are purer affections and truer thoughts, that can bear his presence, and can recognize him as a benefactor.
2 When he had entered into his own city, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy. This disease represented, as we have seen (viii. 6), the state of one who has the will but not the power to do good, or in whose external there is such a want of conformity and correspondence with the internal as to prevent him from manifesting in and by it the thoughts and intentions of the heart. This man was lying on a bed. A bed signifies the particular religious doctrine or persuasion in which a man confides, and in which he seeks rest for his weary soul. So the Psalmist exhorts, “Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still” (Ps. iv. 4); and declares for himself, “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: when I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate upon thee in the night-watches” (Ps. lxiii. 5, 6). The wicked, on the contrary, “deviseth mischief upon his bed” (Ps. xxxvi. 4). And so the Lord, to teach us that it is not any one’s religious doctrine or persuasion that saves him, tells us that in the last days of the church “there shall be two men in one bed – the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left” (Luke xvii. 34). Two may be in one doctrine, and while to one it may be a living faith, to the other it may be lifeless persuasion. The sick of the palsy was brought on his bed of languishing to Jesus by his friends. The best affections of our hearts prompt us to come, and the best thoughts of our understandings bring us to Jesus, for the removal of our spiritual maladies and our restoration to health. And Jesus, seeing their faith, (the faith no doubt both of the paralytic and his friends), said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, be of good cheer: thy sins be forgiven thee. The man sought health for his body, and the Lord gave him salvation for his soul. This, however, was but preparatory to the restoration of his body also. From this we may learn that there is a connection between sin and disease. We must be careful rightly to understand this doctrine. We must not, like the Jews at the time of our Lord’s incarnation, suppose that every man’s particular maladies are the results of his particular sins. Disease is the general effect of general corruption, but not always the effect of particular sin. The Lord, who sees the connection between causes and effects, knows when a particular natural disease proceeds from a particular spiritual cause; and when this is the case, the removal of the sin is the way to cure the disease. This may have been the case in the present instance. But when we understand the diseases of the body to be types of diseases of the mind, we can see that spiritual disease is invariably the result of spiritual evil. In the spiritual body outward disease is always the effect of inward corruption. Diseased action is the effect of corrupt motive. When these co-exist as cause and effect, the removal of the first is preparatory to the cure of the second. When the Lord, therefore, desired the man to be “of good cheer,” and declared his sins to be forgiven, he uttered words of comfort and assurance to every humble and penitent supplicant for his mercy, that a true and sincere faith is that through which the Lord inspires confidence and gives pardon.
3, 4. In, forgiving the sins of this man, certain of the scribes, knowing that none can forgive sins but God only, said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. The Lord gave these objectors what they ought to have accepted as a proof of his possessing the divinity and power they denied him. Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? In telling them their unuttered thoughts the Lord gave them a proof of his power to forgive sins, and of being God, who only, according to their own faith, could claim the power of forgiveness. But he condescended to give them another proof, in the cure of the disease with which the man was afflicted.
5 Before performing this miracle the Lord demanded of the scribes, Whether is easier to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? The Lord received no answer, and required none. His question implies that he who, with a word, could instantly restore an impotent man to sound and vigorous health, could cure the maladies of the soul, and restore it to a state of righteousness. It was no doubt equally easy to say the words that Jesus uttered, but he showed that it was equally easy to do the works which his words expressed. But in the spiritual sense the connection of these two acts is still more obvious. The spiritual connection between the forgiveness of the man’s sins and his rising up and walking is so intimate that, although distinct, they are not separate or isolated acts, but form two parts of the same divine work. The forgiveness of sins does not consist in pronouncing them pardoned, but in removing from the heart the inclination to commit them. When the Lord said to the palsied man, “Thy sins be forgiven thee,” he intimated the removal of the sinful inclination from the heart, and the communication to it of the love of goodness – and when he further said, “Arise, and walk,” he intimated the deliverance of the external life from the effects of inward evil, and the descent into it of the life and activity of the love of goodness, which had been inspired into the inner man. Thus the Lord first brought the internal into a state of order, and then, as a consequence, restored the external to a state of correspondence with it; so that, in the best sense, the man might have a sound mind in a sound body.
6, 7. The Lord, still addressing the scribes, continues: But that ye that know that the Son of man hath power on earth, to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. And he arose, and departed to his house. We cannot well conceive that such a miracle as this could produce any effect but awe on the minds of impartial spectators. To see a man entirely palsied rise at once from his couch, and stand before them in all the vigour of health, and take up the bed on which, but a moment before, he lay utterly prostrate, and depart with it to his own house, were surely enough to awe men into holy fear, and cause them to bow down in profound reverence before him who had performed so mighty a work. There is no record to tell that these scribes, though utterly silenced, were at all convinced; on the contrary, the relation leaves it to be inferred that they continued in the obduracy of sinful and determined unbelief.
One purpose the Lord had in performing this miracle was, that those who heard him pronounce the man’s sins forgiven might know, by beholding his work, that the Son of man had power on earth to forgive sins. There is a great and consolatory truth involved in this fact. The Lord assumed human nature, and thus became the Son of man, or Divine Truth in its ultimate degree, that he might deliver man from evils which his Divine Truth, such as it was in relation to man on earth, could not reach before the incarnation. Divine Love exercises its saving power by means of Divine Truth; but love has power by truth only so far as it is accommodated to the states of the human mind. The Word, which in the beginning was with God – Eternal Wisdom, as it dwelt in the bosom of Eternal Love, – was all-sufficient for the spiritual generation of unfallen man; but man’s fall rendered it necessary that the Word should be made flesh, and so come down to his level, and accommodate itself to his altered state of affection and perception. By this means the Son of man had power on earth to forgive or to remove sin. But this language expresses still more. For earth, in the purely spiritual sense, means the earthly or natural mind of man. This region of the mind is the seat of all man’s evils. And as the Lord by incarnation took this earthly mind, or this part of man’s organization, upon himself, he thereby brought his Divine Truth down into it, and so dwelt among us as Man among men. And not less, but even more, is he among us now as the Son of man who has been lifted up, or glorified, that he may draw all men unto him. And this he does by removing from our natural man, or earthly mind, the sins which separate us from him as our God.
8 But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men. The simple, less spoiled through vain philosophy, and less influenced by intellectual pride, were more ready to draw the proper conclusion which the evidence of their senses justified, and even demanded. They did not, it is true, recognize in Jesus the Supreme Being, clothed, though not entirely concealed, by the frail garment of humanity. They marvelled, or, as some read, were afraid, and glorified God; but they glorified him because he had given such power unto men. They regarded Jesus as a man but, as one who had his power to do these wonderful works immediately from God; and were therefore much better than the scribes and Pharisees, who ascribed the Lord’s power, when they could not deny it, not to the Most High, but to Beelzebub. The science, falsely so called, which leads men to ascribe everything to nature, and the pride of intellect, which persuades them that they can see in secondary causes the beginnings of things, blind them to the perception of the truth, which simplicity of mind, though it be that of comparative ignorance, disposes and prepares men to receive and reverence. Singleness of mind can alone see the Divine in the human of the Lord, which is truly and spiritually to glorify God that gives such power unto men. The Divine gives its power to the human, and that power is manifested by it in the salvation of man. The union of the Divine and the human in the person of the Lord is the source of his saving power.
And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith, unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him. The calling of the twelve apostles, like the birth of the twelve patriarchs, represented the order in which the regenerate acquire the graces of religion. The calling of the first four, as recorded in chap. iv., has already been considered. Peter, we have seen, signifies faith in the understanding, and Andrew, his brother, signifies faith in the will; James signifies charity or love to the neighbour, and John, his brother, signifies love to the Lord, – but love as a practical principle, such as the Lord describes it when he says, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me” (John xiv. 21). As we shall see, when we come to the enumeration of the apostles on their being sent forth to preach the Gospel, as recorded in chap. x., the apostles form three groups of four members each. Matthew belongs to the second group. The first four were fishermen, whose worldly occupation corresponded to the spiritual function they were to exercise – that of being fishers of men Matthew’s occupation at the time of his call was different from that of the four we have named; but, no doubt, had as close an analogy to the special use he was intended to perform as he himself had to the grace he represented. He was a publican, or collector of the tax which the Romans levied on the Jews, which was felt as an oppressive burden; and, what rendered it still more obnoxious, it was an undeniable badge of their subjection to a foreign yoke. The Roman power represented the natural rational principle, and the taxes which they levied from the Jews symbolized the making of spiritual knowledge subservient to the ends of man’s natural reason. The Lord himself recognized it as, a duty to render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; but he declared it at the same time to be a no less imperative duty to render unto God the things which are God’s. When, to avoid giving offence, Jesus consented to pay the tribute money, he so ordered it that the money should be obtained from the mouth of a fish in the sea, to represent that the natural, but not the spiritual principle, should be subject to the rational – that scientific, but not intellectual truth, should be subservient to its uses. When the Lord called Matthew from the service of Caesar to his own, be did representatively what he does spiritually, when he delivers the spiritual principle in man from the dominion of the rational, and brings it into immediate connection with himself. Matthew was obedient to the call: he rose up, and followed Jesus. To obey the Lord when he calls us is a dutiful act and shows a, desire to do his will and make it our own. There is one act recorded of Matthew which teaches us the secret of the willingness of all whom be represented to follow the Lord. “He rose up,” and followed him. If, when we are called, we raise our affections from worldly to heavenly things, and from temporal to eternal ends, we, too, shall, with readiness and cheerfulness, follow the Lord wherever he is pleased to lead us.
10 Jesus, after he had called Matthew, entered into his house. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. No part of the Lord’s character stands out in more beautiful relief from that of the Pharisees of those and of all other times, than the tender regard he manifested for the despised and rejected among men, and his readiness to mix with them even in their feasts. But this compassionate tenderness and divine condescension was one of the very things for which the Pharisees accused and contemned him. The merit of the Lord’s condescension consisted, of course, in the beneficent end he had in view; but this the Pharisees were unable to comprehend. Religion with them was a thing of mere ceremony and ostentation, and in their estimation it would only have been degraded by being brought down to the condition of the poor and miserable. But the religion which the Lord came to establish and to exemplify among men, was one whose very object it was to save the degraded and lost. Jesus, therefore, mingled with men in every condition, and entered into their houses as the means of entering into their hearts. Such was his purpose in coming into the house of Matthew. But to regard this subject spiritually: a house is an emblem of the mind; and Jesus is spoken of as having sat down there, to express the interior reception, by the obedient mind, of the Lord as the truth and the life. His entertainer sat with him, to indicate community of state, which is necessary to make the Lord truly the guest of the humble but willing mind. The Lord sat at meat in the house; because meat for the body is typical of food for the mind, especially of the principle of good, which constitutes man’s spiritual meat. And the Lord sitting at meat is expressive of the Lord’s communion through good with man, and with all the affections and thoughts of his mind. The spiritual affections which the Lord introduces into the mind are meant by his disciples, who (Mark ii. 15) entered and sat down in the house with him. But besides these spiritual affections which the Lord introduces, there are other and natural affections which belong to man. These are the “many publicans and sinners that came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples.” The name sinners is not, we may remark, always used in the New Testament in a moral sense, but frequently indicates no more than that those to whom it was applied were lax in their observance of the numerous ceremonials which the Pharisees had added to the law. The disrepute, too, in which the publicans were held, had no necessary reference to their moral character, but only to their office as tax-gatherers, whom the Jews regarded with extreme abhorrence. Those, therefore, who came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples may have been morally better than the Pharisees who despised them. The publicans represented affections or inclinations of the will – thus the affections and thoughts that belong to the natural mind of man. Spiritually, these are evil in every one by inheritance, for in this respect all men are alike; but when the heart and mind are turned heavenward, these are disposed to meet the Lord as an instructor and a Saviour. They come and sit down with Jesus and his disciples; they are inclined to come under his influence and receive his teaching, that they may be brought into conformity with the laws of his divine truth, as the principles of his kingdom, and have the same mind in them which is also in him.
And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? The self-righteous man shuns “sinners” from contempt; the man of the world for the sake of reputation; the sensual man enters their company for gratification – the spiritual man only as a means of doing them good. Our Lord was a perfect pattern of what every minister of the Word, and every Christian in private life should be. The Christian should seek to save souls, by drawing men away from sin, which he can do only by imitating the Lord in hating the sin and loving the sinner This the self-righteous do not. Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners, is still the demand of the Pharisee. The Lord himself, as we shall see, answers the question. Here we only attend to the spiritual idea in his eating with them. To eat with any one is to enter into communion with him by the reciprocation of goodness. This is expressed by the Lord himself where he says, “If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Rev. iii. 20). The Lord at all times is urgent to enter the hearts, as he was willing to enter the homes, of publicans and sinners, to accept their good and impart his own. Not that men have any good self-derived; but in whatever mind there is anything good which the Lord has already implanted, he desires to draw it forth, and make it the channel of conveying to the mind good of a still higher and purer kind. There is no salvation without reciprocation. If men could be saved by the Lord operating in them and upon them, all would be saved; for he desires the salvation of all. Man’s co-operation is that which brings him salvation. The Lord is in every man, but every man is not in the Lord. In order to be saved, not only must the Lord dwell in us, but we must dwell in him. This is the reason that, in the days of his flesh, the Lord condescended to eat with publicans and sinners. To the spiritual Pharisee this is still a cause of offence. He denies the necessity for man’s co-operation in the business of salvation, and deems it only consistent with the majesty and omnipotence of God that sinners should be saved by irresistible grace, or left by justice as vessels of wrath fitted to destruction. To all such we may say, Hear what the Lord saith.
12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.
12, 13. This church (the Ancient Church) or they who were of the spiritual church, could not be saved unless the Lord had come into the world. This is meant by the Lord’s words in Matthew. A. 2661.
Healing signifies relieving and also preserving from evils, for, when diseases signify evils, healing signifies relief and preservation from them. A. 8365.
12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. No answer could better meet such an objection. That which the Pharisees blindly considered a reason why Jesus should avoid sinners, was the very reason he had for eating with them. They were sick – he was a physician. They were the objects of whom he was in search, the persons he had come to seek and to save. Do we sufficiently reflect upon this as eminently the work of the Divine Saviour, and of the Christian’s mission? If we despise, or neglect, or shun our degraded brethren of the human race, do we not practically make the same accusing demand as the Pharisees? What we ourselves think it a degradation to do, we must think it a degradation for the Lord to have done. If, on the other hand, we have the Lord’s spirit dwelling within us, we shall desire and act towards sinners as the Lord himself acted, and as he still acts, towards them. The whole family of fallen man are included in the number of the sick who need a physician. Yet our Lord speaks as if there were some who are not in this condition. As we shall see in explaining the words which follow, the distinction is to be understood, not as applicable to fallen men in any age, but to humanity in its primeval and present state.
13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
14 Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?
13 See Chapter III., 8, 9. A. 1017.
See Chapter III., 8, 9. A. 2371.
13 The Lord further exhorts the Pharisees, saying, But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Naturally understood sacrifice is worship offered to God, and mercy is good done to man. The Lord wills mercy, and not sacrifice. Divine worship was instituted not as an end, but as a means. The end of worship is to make the worshipper like the Object of his worship – to make him good and just, merciful and forgiving. These are the things that the Lord wills. Not only does he will mercy in preference to sacrifice, but mercy is the only thing in sacrifice which he either wills or accepts. He can receive nothing from man. The homage he asks is only intended as a means for conveying the riches of his grace to the mind of the worshipper, and to inspire him with and keep him in the desire of doing mercy to his fellow-creatures. The Lord gives a reason for addressing to the Pharisees what had been written in the Word, – for his requiring mercy, and not sacrifice. He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. He therefore, as Man, and the pattern for men, did what the Divine will desires. He showed mercy, and freely admitted into his presence, and entered into communion with, sinners who required it. Mercy is love grieving and forgiving sacrifice is truth demanding and exacting. Had man not fallen, God would not have required mercy. Man would have been the subject and the object of divine love, and would have rendered to the Lord the sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise, and spontaneously paid his vows unto the Most High. But man’s state is changed, and with it the divine economy in relation to him. The men of the first or celestial church are meant by the whole, who need not a physician – the righteous, whom the Lord came not to call. The spiritual, who lived after the time of the primeval church, are the sick whom the Lord came to heal, the sinners whom he came to call to repentance, the lost whom he came to save. When the celestial church ended, a spiritual church began. A miraculous change was then effected in the mental condition of men, – the intellect was separated from the will, and conscience was substituted for perception. A lower standard of duty was consequently introduced. The Lord does not require from his imperfect creatures all that the laws of eternal order required of him in his unfallen state; but he deals with him in conformity with the merciful accommodation of his truth to his fallen condition. That the law teaches more than man can ever realize, is true; that it demands perfect obedience, or the death of the sinner, is not. Nor is it a truth that Jesus came to live a life of holiness, and to offer himself as a sacrifice for sin, in our stead. Jesus came to fulfil the law, as a means of enabling us to fulfil it; and now, with all the aid that a Saviour perfected through suffering, can give us, what we are required to render, the Lord gives us power to perform. We are required to come up to the standard as it is set up in our conscience, formed by the truths contained in the divine law, but the Divine mercy and justice require no more. The Lord will have mercy, and not sacrifice: he desires that men should be not only the objects but the subjects of his mercy, receiving his mercy into their hearts, and exhibiting it in their lives in deeds of mercy and charity to each other.
14 After the Lord had thus gently rebuked and instructed the Pharisees, Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? John’s disciples, strict observers of the ritual law, agreed with the Pharisees on the subject of fasting, and were scandalized at the idea of Jesus and his disciples neglecting to fast. Looking at the subject spiritually, this question contains a deeper meaning. John represented the written Word, especially as to its literal sense, while the Lord was the Word itself, as the Divine Wisdom from which the written Word proceeded, and which it contains. John’s great mission was to preach repentance, as the means of preparing the way of the Lord. His followers are therefore disciples of the letter, and as such are preparing the way, by self-denial, for the Lord’s entrance into their hearts and minds. This work of self- denial is signified in the Word by fasting; and with those who are in this preparatory stage of the regenerate life, spiritual fasting is not only a necessary, but seems to them a paramount duty. The Lord’s work, as succeeding that of John, represented the doing of good rather than the ceasing to do evil, – the supplying of the mind with the principles of goodness and truth, for which fasting from everything evil and false has prepared it.
15 And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.
15 The Lord likewise called those who are of the church sons of the bridechamber. A. 4434.
They are called sons of the marriage who are in the truths of the church and receive good, for the good which is from the Lord is the bridegroom ; the sons of the marriage not mourning so long as the bridegroom is with them, signifies that they are in a blessed and happy state, thus with the Lord, when they are in truths conjoined to their own good. Their fasting when the bridegroom is taken away from them, signifies that they are in an unhappy state, when good is no longer conjoined to truths ; this latter state is the last state of the church, but the former is the first state. A. 9182.
The Lord is the bridegroom. S. 87.
The Lord is called the bridegroom, and the church the bride. R. 797.
That there is a marriage of the church with the Lord may be evident from these passages. R. 812.
That the Lord is the bridegroom may be seen also in Mark ii. 19, 20. T. 252.
That by mother, in this sense, is meant the Lord’s church. T. 307.
That the church is the Lord’s, and that from the spiritual marriage, which is that of good and truth, the Lord is called the bridegroom and husband, and the church the bride and wife, is well known to Christians from the Word, especially from John iii. 29 : Revelation xxi. 2, 9, 10 ; xix. 7, 9. T. 783.
Luke xx. 35. They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world. These latter are also called by the Lord ” sons of nuptials.” M. 41.
The Lord in the Word is called the bridegroom and husband, and the church the bride and wife. See John iii. 29 : Revelation xxi. 2. M. 117.
See Chapter IX., 15, under T. 783 repeated in B. 101.
The Lord calls Himself the bridegroom, and the men of the church He calls the sons of the nuptials, by fasting is signified mourning on account of a deficiency of truth and good. E. 1189.
15 In answer to the disciples of John, Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bride chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast. The Lord does not say that the children of the bridechamber do not mourn, but that they cannot mourn so long as the bridegroom is with them. He does not therefore say that his disciples do not fast; he only says that their time of fasting had not yet come, but that, when it did arrive, it would be more severe than that which John’s disciples practised. The Lord delivered his lesson to John’s disciples in a parable beautifully expressive of the truth he intended to convey to them, and to those whom they represented. The heavenly marriage in the Christian mind, which is the union of goodness and truth, is that which is everywhere meant in the Word by nuptials, in the genuine sense, and, as a true internal union. The marriage of the Lord and the church is also included in its signification; but the church consists of those only in whom the marriage of good and truth exists. The children of the bridechamber are those who are in the affection of goodness and truth, and who receive into these affections the joys and delights of love and truth from the Lord’s presence with them. In the state here spoken of, the Lord is with his disciples as a bridegroom, which indicates a state preparatory to marriage, or to the complete and confirmed union of the principles of goodness and truth. But even in this preparatory state the children of the bridechamber cannot mourn, for the bridegroom is with them. They are in the bridechamber, or in the internal affection of truth, and the bridegroom is with them in that affection as the principle of good. Yet this itself is but a state of preparation. The actual conjunction of goodness and truth cannot be effected in the mind without trial and temptation. The, bridegroom in whom they now rejoice must be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days. This taking away of the bridegroom, in reference to the Lord’s disciples, literally refers to his being taken away from them by the death of the cross, which blasted all their cherished hopes of his restoring Israel as a temporal kingdom. But every Christian disciple passes through states corresponding to those which the Lord’s first disciples underwent. Between the joyful reception and the happy union of goodness and truth there is an intervening state of trial and sorrow, in which the Lord seems to be taken away, and in which the disciple fasts indeed. This fast is of a different character, and of much greater severity, than that of the disciples of John: it is not a voluntary abstinence from sinful gratifications, but an involuntary deprivation of the delights of goodness, which the soul has come to esteem as its life. But as the Lord, after his crucifixion, rose in greater glory than that in which he had previously appeared, so is this trial succeeded by a state of higher perfection and greater joy than any which the disciple had previously experienced.
16 No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.
16, 17. A garment signifies truth, therefore the Lord compared the truths of the former church, which was a church representative of spiritual things, to a piece of an old garment, and the truths of the new church, which were spiritual truths themselves, to a piece of a new garment. He likewise compared them to bottles of wine, because by wine in like manner is signified truth, and by bottles the knowledges which contain truth. E. 195.
16, 17. The Lord proceeds by another parable to instruct the disciples of John why his disciples, unlike them and the Pharisees, did not then fast. No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved. The old garment is Judaism, the new piece is Christianity; the old bottles are the rituals of the Jewish church, the new wine is the truth of the Christian dispensation. The entire system of Judaism was alien to the spirit of the Christian religion. The moral law is indeed the same; but what was peculiar to the Jewish church was incapable of being combined with the principles of Christianity. These parables have, however, reference to the church in our day as well as to that which existed when they were first uttered. The principles of the new church cannot be engrafted on the doctrines of the old, as they now are. “The imputation of the former church does not correspond with the new church, not as to the twentieth part.” The name of the Christian doctrines remains, but the reality has ceased to be. But there is a still more practical lesson for us contained in these words of the Lord. It is possible for those who know the true doctrines of the church to fail in the duty which the Lord intended to teach them. The old garment is the righteousness of the old and unregenerate nature – the moral vesture which men put on to cover their spiritual corruption. We cannot become religious by merely inserting a piece of the new into the old, in order to repair this world-made vesture; but we must buy of the Lord new raiment, that the shame of our spiritual nakedness may not appear; we must put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, the white robe, which is the righteousness of saints. Nor must we put the new wine of spiritual truth into the old maxims of moral expediency and worldly prudence; but we must put our new principles into their only suitable receptacles – honesty, integrity, and sincerity – under the conviction, that only by doing so can we have either true morality or true religion, and that only when both are new can both be preserved. But there is an idea expressed in the Lord’s similitudes that we must attend to. The new piece properly means cloth that has come from the loom, but had not yet passed through the hands of the fuller, and symbolizes a righteousness which has been acquired, but is not yet perfected by trial and temptation. It is this kind of righteousness which, when put unto the old garment, takes from it, and makes the rent worse. The other similitude includes the same idea. The danger to old bottles from filling them with new wine arose from the wine fermenting, and so exerting a pressure on the old skin receptacles which they were unable to bear. Fulling and fermenting signify temptation, by which man is purified and perfected. By these two expressive parables we are instructed that temptation tests the soundness of our principles, and that unless our external is made new, and thus a suitable vesture and receptacle of new internal principles, we cannot stand in the day of trial.
17 Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.
17 The new wine is the Divine truth of the New Testament, and thus of a new church, and the old wine is the Divine truth of the Old Testament, and thus of the old church. R. 316.
By vials, plates, cup, and goblets, and by bottles those things are signified which are contained in them. R. 672.
It is in accordance with Divine order that a new heaven should be formed before a new church on earth, for the church is internal and external, and the internal church makes one with the church in heaven, and thus with heaven ; and the internal must be formed before the external, and the external must afterwards be formed by means of the internal. That this is so, is known among the clergy in the world. Just so far as this new heaven, which constitutes the internal of the church with man, grows, so far does the New Jerusalem, that is the New Church, come down from that heaven. This, therefore, cannot take place in a moment, but it takes place as the falsities of the former church are removed, for what is new cannot enter where falsities have been previously in existence, unless these are eradicated, which will take place with the clergy, and so with the laity. T. 784.
All comparisons in the Word are from correspondences. By wine is signified truth, by old wine the truth of the old or Jewish Church, and by bottles those things which contain, by old bottles the statutes and judgments of the Jewish Church, and by new bottles the precepts and commandments of the Lord. That the statutes and judgments of the Jewish Church, which especially related to sacrifices, and to representative worship, were not in agreement with the truths of the Christian church, is understood by the bottles breaking and the wine running out, if new wine be put into old bottles. E. 376.
18 While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live.
19 And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples.
18 That the Lord is called Lord and God is manifest from the fact that they worshipped Him and fell upon their faces before Him. L. 41.
The ruler came and worshipped Jesus. D. P., Page 46.
18, 19, 25. By the laying on of the Lord’s hands, and also by His touch is signified the communication and reception of Divine virtue. A. 10023.
18 While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. This man is an honourable exception to the general class of Jewish dignitaries. Though not so distinguished for his faith as the Roman centurion, he had confidence in the Lord’s power to prevent death, if not to restore life. For although, as appears from Mark vi. 23, the ruler’s daughter was not then actually dead, but was only dying, the case may be regarded as nearly the same. Regarded spiritually, a daughter is a type of an affection for good, as a son is a type of an affection for truth. Thus understood, the dying out of such an affection in the mind, and the apprehension of its total loss, is that which the feeling of this father for the dreaded loss of his daughter is intended to express. But it may be asked, how can a cherished affection die out of the heart? or if it is suffered to die out, how can this be a cause of distress, and how can there be such solicitude for its restoration? In the cases recorded in the Gospel, of disease and death, and of solicitude and prayers to the Lord for their recovery and restoration, two states of mind are represented. Either the mind has become diseased and dead in regard to spiritual things, and has been awakened to a sense of its disordered and lost condition, or it has become the subject of spiritual tribulation, in which state evils and falsities invade the affections and thoughts, and sometimes to such an extent as to cause everything good and true in the mind to languish or die. These conflicts take place in the natural mind, where evils and falsities reside, and where evil and false spirits excite them into opposition to what is good and true. The faith which, in such states, turns to the Lord as the Saviour, is the faith of the inner man, where the Lord himself dwells in the heavenly goods and truths which he has there implanted. Faith, as a living principle, confides in the Lord’s power, and is that through which his power is manifested. The faith of the ruler enabled him to say to Jesus, “Come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live.” The Lord’s hand is the symbol of the power which resides in his humanity, and when laid upon and received by any one, heals spiritual infirmities and restores spiritual life.
19 And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples. Spiritually, Jesus arising is the elevation of his divine love in the heart and its affections. But when Jesus arose, he and his disciples followed the ruler. Jesus and his disciples are, spiritually, the Lord’s divine love and the truths derived from it. The Lord’s following the ruler signifies his descent, by the influx of his divine love and truth, into the inferior or natural degree of the mind, where the evil which is to be removed resides.
20 And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment:
21 For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.
22 But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.
23 And when Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise,
24 He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn.
25 But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose.
26 And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land.
20, 21. Because the garments of the Lord signified Divine truth, therefore also they who touched the border of His garment were healed. E. 195.
20-22. By this faith by which the sick were healed is understood no other faith than that which is called historical, which also at that time was miraculous, wherefore by that faith many then performed miracles, the faith was, that the Lord was Almighty because He could do miracles of Himself, wherefore also he allowed Himself to be worshipped, which was not the case with the prophets of the Old Testament, who were not worshipped. But in all cases this historical faith precedes before the same becomes saving. Historical faith then becomes saving with man, when he learns truths from the Word, and lives according to them. E. 815.
20, 22. From the Divine in the extremes or ultimates health went forth. A. 9917.
21. But while Jesus was on his way, before be came to the ruler’s house, Behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: for she said within herself, If I may but touch, his garment, I shall be whole. This case is extremely interesting, not so much from the nature of the woman’s disease, as from her confidence that so great was the healing virtue which proceeded from the person of Jesus that she had only to touch the hem of his garment to be made whole. The issue of blood, with which she had so long been afflicted, signifies natural love separate from spiritual love, and a degree of profanation as the result. The spiritual signification of the disease may be known from its nature, considered in the light of the Scriptures. In the Word the blood is called the life or the soul of the flesh, being the vital fluid from which the substance of the body is derived, and by which it is constantly renewed. The blood therefore signifies truth pervaded by the life of love, from which the good that constitutes the very spiritual body is derived and constantly renewed. A diseased condition of the blood, or a drain of that stream of life, is symbolical of a deficiency of the love which is the life of truth, and a consequent perversion and dissipation of the truth itself by which the soul lives. The period of twelve years, during which the woman was afflicted, is expressive of a full state in relation to the truths of faith, – in the present instance, a habitual condition of the mind in opposition to the truths of faith. But it may again be naturally asked, how it is that such a condition of mind is consistent with the undoubting faith which this woman displayed? The whole of the cases of disease recorded in the Gospel, as brought to the Lord to cure are intended to show the deplorable state of human nature, as it is in itself, and more or less in all by practice, and also, and principally, to impress upon us this great truth, that mere human power is utterly unavailing for the removal of diseases of the soul, and that the Lord alone is able to cure them, what is impossible with man being possible with God. All things, it is true, are possible to him that believeth; but the possible with man is from the power of the Lord, acting through his faith, and delivering him from evil, and gifting him with good, according to the measure of his belief. But that which is peculiar in the present case is the manner of the cure. The woman’s disease was cured simply by her touching the hem of the Lord’s garment. Virtue went out of the Lord and restored her to health. As the woman’s disease was the type of a spiritual malady, so was the Lord’s garment, as the means of her cure, representative of a divine medium of salvation. When the Lord appeared before John the Revelator, be was clothed with a garment down to the feet; and when he was transfigured, he appeared in raiment white as light. This garment with which the Lord, as the Word, clothes himself, is its literal sense, and the hem of this garment is the extremity or lowest part of the letter of the Word – its simplest truths of faith and plainest precepts of life. What, then, do we learn from the present beautiful incident? That he who takes hold of the lowest truths of the Word, if his faith in its divinity be sincere, shall, through that holy medium, receive from the Lord, who dwells within it, saving virtue sufficient to restore him to health and bless him with happiness.
22 After the woman was cured of her disease by touching the hem of his garment, Jesus turned him about. The woman came behind the Lord to touch the hem of his garment. The back signifies the external, and the face the internal. The back also signifies the will, and the face the understanding because in the head, the lesser brain, which is the organ of the will, is behind, and the larger brain, which is the organ of the understanding, is before. In relation to the Lord, the back and the face signify the Divine will and understanding, which are infinite love and wisdom. The woman’s coming behind Jesus is spiritually expressive of a deep sense of unworthiness, and of a feeling that the mind admits of no more than an external and obscure perception of the Lord through his Word. Coming behind the Lord signifies also a desire to come into his presence rather as the object of his love and mercy than of his wisdom and omniscience of his love, which covers, rather than of his wisdom which discovers our sins. This, however, is a state which is preparatory to another and more perfect one. When the woman had touched the Lord, and virtue had gone out of him to heal her, he turned himself toward her, – she received internally what she had previously received externally: and to the influence of the Lord’s love on her heart was now added the perception of his wisdom in her understanding; for the Lord not only turned himself to her, but saw her; and when the Scriptures speak of the Lord’s seeing any one, they spiritually mean that his wisdom or truth enters into the understanding, and gives an internal perception of the good which his love had inspired. An interesting instance of this occurs in Revelation (i. 10). John heard a voice behind him, and he turned to see the voice that spake to him; by which we are instructed that when the Lord’s love, which flows into the will, is heard or obeyed, it turns the understanding to the Lord, to receive a perception of his wisdom. The same truth is expressed in the Lord turning to man, or in man turning to him, and in the present case, of Jesus turning himself about and seeing the woman. When the Lord saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. This endearing salutation contains within it the blessed assurance of being born of God. The Lord’s sons and daughters are they who have become his children by regeneration. The reception of his love gives joy of heart and comfort after affliction, and the reception of his truth into the understanding becomes, through faith, the power of saving health. The actual existence of this state is the hour of restoration, and which is that mentioned by the evangelist: And the woman was made whole from that hour.
23, 24. The history now returns to the ruler’s daughter. We are not to regard the account of the cure of the issue of blood as an interruption to the history of the restoring to life of the ruler’s daughter, or to view it as an incidental and isolated circumstance; for in the spiritual sense everything is connected and in series. And this connection will be seen in the present instance, if we consider the subject in relation to one mind, of which the woman with the issue is an internal affection, and the ruler’s daughter an external affection.
The obstruction to the Divine influx being removed by the cure he had performed on his way to the ruler’s house, the life of his love and truth can now descend into the external, to restore life to the affection of good which is therein. And when Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, he said unto them, Give place. The house is a symbol of the mind – in the present case, of the natural mind, to which the affection of good which Jesus had come to restore to life belongs. The minstrels and the people making a noise, whom the Lord saw when he entered the house, and who were the professional mourners, piping their requiem over the dead maiden, and the crowd of professional wailers and others who attended on such occasions, represent the crowd of natural and worldly affections and thoughts that obstruct the operation of the divine life of love and truth in the soul. The Lord’s seeing them denotes the discovery by the mind itself, from the light of divine truth, of the true character of such affections and thoughts and the necessity of their being removed before his divine life can be received into the good affection thus surrounded and obscured. When the Lord commanded the crowd to give place, he gave as a reason, for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. We need hardly say that the distinction which the Lord makes between death and sleep is for the sake of a higher than the literal sense. It is evident from what Jesus said to his disciples respecting Lazarus – first intimating that he was asleep, and then telling them plainly that he was dead – that by sleep he meant death. But there are two kinds or degrees of spiritual death, – the extinction of the life of faith and the extinction of the life of love; or, what is the same, the extinction of the affection of truth in the understanding and the extinction of the affection of good in the will. The first is meant by the sleep of death, the second by death itself. The first is like suspended animation, when, though the lungs no longer move, the heart continues to beat; the second is like the complete cessation of life, when the motion of both these organs has ceased. What, therefore, the Lord calls sleep is a more external and less confirmed state than that which be calls death. He did not therefore mean that the maid was not dead, but that her state represented a spiritual death which has not entirely extinguished the life of love in the soul – that the affection itself of good in the heart is not dead, but asleep. When the Lord had said to the crowd that the maid was not dead, but asleep, they laughed him to scorn – implying that the mere natural and worldly affections and thoughts not only deny, but deride the declarations of divine wisdom, and reject both and the idea and the hope of resurrection. For the merely natural affections, while they mourn over the death of better affections in the mind, do not desire their resuscitation into a newer and higher life.
25 But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose. The putting forth of the people is the removal of those tumultuous and worldly feelings that indispose the mind for the reception of the peaceful influences of the Lord’s spirit, with its restoring and renewing power. That these merely natural affections and worldly thoughts occupy a lower place in the mind than the affection of spiritual good, represented by the maid, appears from the relation itself; for when the people were put forth, the Lord went in: having removed the crowd from the outer apartment, he went into the inner room where the maiden lay. He then took her by the hand, indicating again the communication from the Lord of new life by the power of his Divine Humanity, in which all saving virtue dwells. And this virtue is communicated through the hand of the maiden, which signifies the ultimate degree of the mind, where its faculties manifest themselves in power. The efficacy of this mode of operation arises from the circumstance that the influx of the Lord’s love and truth from his Humanity is his divine life accommodated or brought down to the lowest degree of the human mind. Life and action were the result of the Lord’s touch. The maid arose. This does not imply merely that the spiritually dead are raised by the Lord to their former life, but to a new and higher one. They arise, as the Lord himself rose, into a degree of perfection and glory far exceeding all they, had previously known, or that had entered into their heart to conceive.
26 And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land. The fame of the Lord’s wonderful work goes abroad into all the land when the whole mind is brought under his influence, and acknowledges his goodness and power in raising up into new and spiritual life the affection of good in the will, and the consequent perception of truth in the understanding which had, by the prevalence of those evils and errors that belong to the corrupt selfhood, been cast into a dead sleep. Considered in reference to the regenerate, this death, like that of the body, is not to be considered as anything more than an apparent evil; for it represents, in their case, the putting off of something that is old, preparatory to the putting on of something that is new, – the laying down of their life, that they may take it again; giving up a lower and viler life for one higher and more glorious.
27 And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou son of David, have mercy on us.
28 And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord.
27-29. To open the eyes of the blind, is to instruct those who as yet are ignorant of truths, but who nevertheless desire them, these are signified by the Gentiles. Similar things are signified by the Lord healing the blind. E. 152.
See Chapter IX., 20-22. E. 815.
27-31. By the blind in the Word are also signified the nations which live in ignorance of the truth of faith, because out of the church, but who when instructed receive faith. The same are also signified by the blind whom the Lord healed. A. 6990.
By all the blind whom the Lord restored to sight are understood those who are in ignorance, and yet receive Him, and are enlightened by the Word from Him. E. 239.
From the raising of the dead to life, the Lord next proceeds to restore the blind to sight. And when, Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou son of David, have mercy on us. Mental, or rather spiritual blindness, is that which is spoken of in the Scripture in reference to men as immortal beings. There are, however, several kinds and degrees of spiritual blindness, – as the blindness of ignorance, the blindness of error, and the blindness of falsity. The blindness of ignorance is represented by that with which these two men were afflicted. Simple ignorance is without sin,- but in those who have reached mature years, ignorance is never unaccompanied with error, and with evil as a consequence. As there are two distinct objects of knowledge, ignorance is twofold – ignorance of truth and ignorance of good. These were represented by the two blind men. Considered in connection with the previous miracle, the opening of the understanding to the perception of truth, after the awakening of the affection of good in the will, is represented by this opening of the eyes of the blind. This miracle was an exhibition, in a representative form, of one of the great objects for which the Lord came into the world – to give man power to understand spiritual truth. By the prevalence of evil, the human understanding had been closed to the perception of Divine truth, as their hearts had become closed to the reception of his Divine love; and the Lord’s coming was to unseal the eyes as well as to open the hearts of men. Those mighty works which the Lord performed on the bodies of men were but the outworks and the symbols of still mightier and more beneficent works, which he, as the Saviour, performed, and will continue to perform, in the souls of all who come to him. Truth is to the intellect what light is to the eye; and the bestowal of spiritual sight is a blessing as much greater than the giving of natural sight, as eternal life is greater than temporal.
In the account of this miracle there are some particulars that demand our attention. The blind men follow the Lord, which spiritually means to follow his teaching and example. The perseverance of these men proved the means of their obtaining the object of their prayer, and teaches us the necessity of following on to do the Lord’s will, that we may know of his doctrine, or have a knowledge and perception of his truth. While they followed the Lord, they kept crying, and saying “Thou Son of David, have mercy on us.” Crying is expressive of affection, and saying of thought; teaching us that both must be directed to the Lord when we desire his mercy. Their addressing the Lord as the Son of David shows that they acknowledged him as the Messiah; but in the spiritual sense the Son of David signifies the Lord as Divine Truth; and the blind appropriately address him by this name, it being their desire to receive from him the power of seeing, that is, of understanding. They crave his mercy, for mercy is love grieving and brought down to the aid of the fallen and helpless. The celestial ask for mercy, the spiritual for grace; thus the prayer for mercy is expressive of a deeper sense of imperfection and a stronger desire for the needed salvation.
28 And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him. It would appear that the Lord did not comply with the blind men’s petition; nor does it seem that be even attended to it while he was on the way. Although the Lord generally granted the prayers of the afflicted at once, yet on several occasions he either seemed unwilling to listen to their petitions or delayed compliance with them. We cannot suppose that this arose from any want of compassionate tenderness towards these suffering and helpless supplicants, much less from anything like disregard to their wants and entreaties. Such cases teach us an important lesson. The Lord’s seeming neglect of our petitions, or his slowness to grant them, does not proceed from his unwillingness to give, but from our unpreparedness to receive. How many of those who follow the Lord, confessing their blindness and praying him in mercy to open their eyes, would be startled by the question, Believe ye that I am able to do this? If they were required to answer it in the presence of him who knows the heart, how few would be able to say, with the blind men, Yea, Lord. The purpose of the Lord’s inquiry is to enable us to know whether we are able, in the sincerity of our hearts to make this affirmation before him. If we do not receive an answer to our prayer for enlightenment – to have our eyes opened to see the wondrous things contained in his Divine law, and to see him as the Divine Lawgiver – it is because we do not truly believe that he is able to do this for us and in us. But it was not till Jesus came into the house, and the blind came to him there, that the question was asked, and was affirmatively answered. The Lord’s coming into the house with us is his coming into the mind, and specifically into the will, or into the good which has its dwelling there – and our coming to him is our entering into communion with him through the good in which he is present with us.
29 Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you.
30 And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it.
31 But they, when they were departed, spread abroad his fame in all that country.
- See Chapter VIII., 3. A. 10130.
See Chapter VIII., 3. E. 79.
29, 30. Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. And their eyes were opened. The Lord’s touching their eyes signifies his communicating the power of understanding and seeing the truth. If the giving of natural sight opens the gateway that admits the blessed light of this world, which reveals so many scenes of beauty and sources of instruction and delight, unknown and therefore unappreciated before, how immeasurably greater the beauty, instruction, and delight that are disclosed to us by the opening of the understanding to admit the light of spiritual and eternal truth! How impressive and even sublime are the words, “And their eyes were opened!” The natural sublimity of the command, “Let there be light,” has often been dwelt upon. These words express the same spiritual idea, and describe the same spiritual state, as the less striking words in which is described the restoration of sight to the two blind men. When he had opened their eyes, Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it. Here, again, the Lord imposes silence on those on whom he had bestowed one of his most precious blessings. We have already (ch. viii. 4) considered the sense and meaning of this often-repeated command. There is, however, we confess, some obscurity in it, or rather in our apprehension of its spiritual meaning. Why the injunction should have been laid upon some, and not upon others – why persons, on whom silence had been solemnly enjoined by one who had conferred on them so great a boon, should, when they were departed, spread abroad his fame in all that country, – and why this should be recorded by the evangelist without any expression of disapproval, are points that do not appear to us perfectly clear. We can well understand how strong the impulse to publish the matter must have been in the hearts of those who had received such extraordinary cures, and how it must have contributed to the fame of Jesus as a healer in Israel. We can comprehend also how the experience of his divine mercy, in the cure of our spiritual maladies, should incite us to extend, through our whole hearts and minds, with all their affections and thoughts, the fame of his great goodness.
32 As they went out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil.
33 And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake: and the multitudes marvelled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel.
34 But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils.
32, 33. By the dumb who were restored by the Lord were also signified the nations, which by His coming into the world were delivered from falsities and evils thence derived. A. 6988.
See Chapter VIII., 16, 28. R. 458.
See Chapter VIII., 16, 28. E. 586.
See Chapter IV., 24. E. 1001.
After the Lord restored the blind to sight, As they went out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil. Dumbness is usually the result of deafness. In the New Testament cases are mentioned of persons being deprived of the power of speech, apparently without their hearing being taken away; and this appears to be one of these. Whether they are found together or separately, there is a distinction between deafness and dumbness, which it is important to attend to as the symbols of spiritual conditions of mind. Deafness closes the channel of influx, dumbness closes the channel of efflux. Receiving and giving are the two great functions of life. One cannot exist in perfection without the other. Dumbness signifies a state of obstructed efflux, in which the understanding is prevented from going forth in the performance of us use, in glorifying God and imparting of us gifts to men. This dumb man was possessed with a devil, who seems to have been what is called elsewhere a dumb spirit, which is indeed plainly declared in Luke xi. 14, where the same miracle is recorded. This case is appropriately recorded after the case of the blind men. Nor is it without a meaning that the blind men followed Jesus into the house, where they were restored to sight, and that this man was brought to him, and that he cured him as he went out of the house; for this cure restored that faculty by which man is enabled to give utterance to the thoughts of his heart, and was symbolical of the casting out of the dumb spirit which sometimes possesses us, under the pressure of some severe trial or temptation; a state described so accurately by the Psalmist: “I was dumb with silence – I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred. I was dumb, I opened not my month: because thou didst it” (Ps. xxxix. 2, 9). Zacharias was made dumb because he believed not the words of Gabriel, when the angel promised him a son in his old age, and remained so till the promise had been fulfilled; for how can we praise God, and proclaim the power of his name, when we disbelieve his sacred promises on our behalf? Therefore it was that, in the time of the Lord’s natural presence, faith was so essential a condition of deliverance even from physical ills. How much more so for the curb of spiritual evils!
33 But how is spiritual dumbness to be cured? By the Lord casting out the spirit which had produced it. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake. But bow does the Lord cast him out? His alone is the power to deliver from this and every other spiritual affliction; but our free will and active concurrence are indispensably necessary to bring his power to work effectually for our deliverance. We only require to come with our afflictions to him, having faith in his mercy and omnipotence, and nothing will prevent his casting out the spirit of evil from our hearts And then shall we experience the benefit of our restoration to a sound condition of mind, as expressed in the present case – the dumb spake. If, with the Psalmist, we pray, “O Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth thy praise” (Ps. li. 15), our prayer shall be answered, and we shall be enabled to praise the Lord with joyful lips. Like Zacharias, too, when his month was opened, and his tongue loosed, we shall speak, and praise God. The spirit of unbelief and distrust being cast out, the Holy Spirit will enter into us, and prompt us to show forth the goodness of the Lord, and to rejoice in the power of blessing and serving him. Another result of such a manifestation of the power of our Saviour is expressed in that which followed the dumb being enabled to speak: and the multitudes marvelled, saying, “It was never so seen in Israel. This, spiritually, is expressive of the recognition and acknowledgment of the Lord’s wonder-working power by the whole of the affections and thoughts of the natural mind, now brought under the influence of the Divine Love, and gifted with a perception of his wisdom, as exhibited in the superior faculties of the mind being restored to order. The declaration of the marvelling multitude, that “it was never so seen in Israel,” teaches also a spiritual lesson. The Lord came to do in his spiritual Israel what had never been done before.
He came to open the blind eyes, to unstop the ears of the deaf, and cause the dumb to shout for joy. In his humanity he brought his saving power down to men, and it was to them nearer than, in their fallen and marred condition, it had ever been or could be brought before. And the same may he said now of and from individual experience. Never before could the Lord’s regenerating power be manifested so fully and beneficently as since his incarnation. And never was spiritual truth itself so enlightening as now, when the light of the moon has become as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun has become sevenfold, as the light of seven days.
34 But there is a dark side to this picture. This ready and hearty acknowledgment of the Lord’s marvellous and benevolent works by the multitude was met by the Pharisees saying, He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils. It may not be unjust to class with this Pharisaical theory of a demoniacal origin of the Lord’s miracles the philosophical one of tracing them to natural causes. The natural man avails himself of any argument to evade their force and enable him to deny their divinity, and to bring the most marvellous operations of Divine power down to the level of ordinary natural phenomena, that the claim of Jesus to divine, or even to supernatural power, may be rejected, and his religion deprived of us high claims and of us beneficent character. While the learned are often, on these high questions, spoiled through vain philosophy, the multitude, who judge of plain facts and simple testimony by common sense, are often right. No answer of the Lord to this accusation is here mentioned but on another occasion be refuted it by simply saying, “If Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself – how then shall his kingdom stand?” But this objection, as a suggestion from Satan, may enter into our own hearts; for the Pharisees have their representatives there. And whenever a heavenly influence awakens our good affections to an acknowledgment of the Lord’s power and goodness, an opposite influence from the kingdom of darkness is sure to excite some suggestions against it.
35 And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
- See Chapter IV., 23. A. 8364.
See Chapter IV., 23. L. 42.
See Chapter IV., 23. R. 478.
See Chapter III., 2. R. 553.
See Chapter IV., 23. R. 664.
See Chapter IV., 23. R. 749.
See Chapter III., 2. R. 839.
See Chapter III., 2. T. 113.
See Chapter IV., 23. E. 120.
See Chapter IV., 23. E. 612.
35 After this Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. We cannot realize an idea of this simple fact without a deep sense of our Saviour’s love for his creatures, which prompted him to come to seek and to save that which was lost. The Divine Author of their existence himself labouring to turn them from sin unto righteousness, and healing every malady to which their frail bodies bad become subject, as a symbol and promise of the spiritual health that he above all things desired to impart to their souls, is truly a matter of wonder and admiration. Spiritually significant and instructive as these circumstances are, they are not on that account less deserving of our devout attention and adoring gratitude as simple historical facts. This reverence for the historical circumstances helps us to enter more profitably into their spiritual meaning, which again sheds its purer light back upon the great facts of the letter.
The Lord, in this higher sense, is still going into all our towns and villages preaching the gospel. He is still spreading, by his Spirit and through his Word, throughout every receptive mind, the glad tidings of his great salvation. He goes about our cities and villages, when divine truth, proceeding immediately from himself, enters into the truths, both internal and external, which we have acquired from the literal sense of the Word, and built up into systems of doctrine; and he enters into our synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, when his divine truth flows into the truths we have acquired from the Word, and have understood with some degree of spiritual light, and communicates through them a perception of the gospel of the kingdom, which is the good of spiritual and heavenly truth – thus bringing to the mind glad tidings of great joy. When the Lord, as the Saviour, has thus been received into the things that are in some degree of order in the interior of the mind, he can, with his divine truth, flow down into, and bring into order the things that are in disorder in the exterior of the mind – thus healing every sickness and every disease among the people, or removing everything evil and false, as the cause of spiritual disease, from the more external and common affections and thoughts meant by the people, especially those of an intellectual kind.
36 But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
36 By the bowels are signified the interiors of the thought, and these are what are affected with grief. Therefore such grief is expressed in the Word by the moving of the bowels. E. 622.
See Chapter VII., 15. E. 1154.
37 But wherever the Lord went there was a numerous class of objects to whom his mercy was intensely directed. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
The multitudes are descriptive of man himself as to his natural state and condition – and more particularly still, they denote the innumerable principles of affection and thought, all confused and unarranged, which occupy his will and understanding. This their unarranged and disordered state is expressed by their “fainting” more strictly unloosed – “and scattered abroad.” In the spiritual sense the first has reference more particularly to the affections of the will, and the second to the persuasions thence derived in the understanding: thus they imply, that while man remains yet in his natural state, regardless of divine things, and unsolicitous of obtaining conjunction of life with the great Source of life and love of a spiritual and truly human nature, his affections and desires, unloosed from any connection with eternal goodness as their proper object, wander at random, in dissolution and disorder, towards anything, however unworthy, that offers them gratification, whilst his opinions and thoughts, underived from eternal truth as their proper source, are in like manner scattered abroad, and espouse every idle fallacy that the senses suggest. Still, we are capable of better things. Even in our natural state we are capable of feelings of humanity and some regard for others, the fault being, not that we are wholly insensible to such emotions, but that they are not strong enough to act with sufficient force to counteract the impulses of our selfish propensities, the good dispositions only making themselves attended to when the selfish are for the moment asleep, and in all cases yielding when these require it. It is on this account that we are here compared to sheep; for sheep in the Word properly signify the principle of charity, or love to our neighbour; but when, as here, the sheep are presented as undirected by a shepherd, they signify the good natural affections which, for want of being united with genuine principles of truth, are not yet in connection with their proper centre, and are easily perverted and led astray. But we find, for our consolation, that notwithstanding, in our natural state, we are loosed and scattered abroad, if we are desirous to escape from the defilements of our selfhood, and to become the real subjects of the Lord’s kingdom, his divine compassion, by which such desire is first implanted, immediately becomes operative in our behalf. The proper exciting cause of compassion is wretchedness and whenever we become sensible of our wretched condition, the Divine compassion is excited, not towards us, but in us. This state is what is here described by its being said that the Lord was moved with compassion: for he who is compassion itself cannot be the subject of emotion. In Scripture divine emotion means human emotion from the Divine. When we become sensible of the divine compassion working in us, then is the state signified by Jesus being moved with pity.
37 Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;
38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.
37, 38. By a harvest the state of the church as to Divine truth is signified. This is because from the harvest comes the grain of which bread is made, and by grain and bread the good of the church is signified, and this is procured by truths. R. 645.
By the harvest are signified all things which spiritually nourish man, which have reference to truths of doctrine and goods of life, therefore by harvest is signified the church in general and in particular. In general, in these words of Matthew, and in Luke x. 2. E, 911.
37 Then, too, we become sensible of the value of heavenly blessedness, and affected with the spiritual things in which that blessedness resides, which is implied by the Lord’s saying, The harvest truly is plenteous. The disciples represent all the truths of the Word taken collectively; and as it is only by means of the truths of his Word that the Lord imparts spiritual instruction to man, therefore it is here stated that the Lord said to his disciples, “the harvest truly is plenteous,” to denote that it is by means of the truths of the Word that man receives a conviction of the value of heavenly attainments. The harvest also signifies that completion of the regenerate state when a judgment is performed within us, and a separation is finally made between the principles of heavenly life and love and the opposite principles of infernal life and love, and when man becomes fixed in goodness and truth, and is liberated from evil and falsity. To effect this, much labour and combat is requisite. And this labour is to be carried on by means of truths derived from the Word, which are meant by the labourers; and these truths, so long as they are only learnt and stored up in the memory, have not the power to accomplish the work; therefore it is said of this state, that the labourers are few. Truths are said also to be few, and thus inadequate to the work of gathering in the harvest, because as yet the mind in acquiring them has acted too much under the influence of self, and has used them too much in reliance on us own power.
38 Therefore the Lord says, Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest. We are thus instructed to turn from ourselves to the Lord, to recognize the harvest as his, and the labourers as his, and to pray him to send them forth. We are thus instructed that the truths of the Word, by which the harvest is to be reaped and the wheat separated from the tares, are from the Lord alone, and are to be acknowledged as his. Only when this is the case are his Spirit and his power in the truths of our faith; and then only are they sufficient for the important work of gathering in the abundant harvest which his bounty provides. To this end the interiors of the mind must be continually directed to him, and thus kept open to the reception of influences from him. A devout acknowledgment must be impressed on the inmost of the soul, that he is the Lord of the harvest, that all the blessedness of heaven is from him, and that the work of separating between good and evil in the human mind, and confirming the one and casting out the other, is his alone. This is the internal prayer of the true disciple – a prayer which the Lord himself inspires and answers.
If we keep the interiors of our minds continually turned to the Lord, which is to obey the Scripture injunction, to pray without ceasing – always to pray, and not to faint – at the same time learning truths from the Word, and making them our own by loving and obeying them, they will prove efficient labourers in the Lord’s harvest, will root out everything that offends, gather the wheat into his garner, and constitute in us the felicity of his kingdom for ever.
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