Spiritual Meaning of
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THE BLIND LEADING THE BLIND.
And he spoke a parable to them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. And why behold you the speck that is in your brother's eye, but perceive not the beam that is in your own eye. Either how can you say to your brother, Brother, let me pull out the speck that is in your eye, when you yourself behold not the beam that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of your own eye, and then shall you see clearly to pull out the speck that is in your brother's eye.
The blind who lead the blind, denote, in general, all those who are without the understanding of truth, and who yet pretend to teach truth, and who, therefore, are called blind; whilst they, who listen to and receive their instruction are also called blind, because they do not admit into their minds the light of truth; but specifically, the words apply to the Scribes and Pharisees of old, who, being void of the understanding of truth, taught things contrary to truth, or things false, and thus misled their hearers, who are, therefore, called blind, as being alike destitute of the understanding of truth.
The signification of the ditch will perhaps best appear from the following passage in the Psalms: Behold, he travails with iniquity, and has conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood. He made a pit and dug it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made (Psalm 7:14, 15). For, from these words, it is plain, that iniquity, mischief, and falsehood, are called a pit, which the ungodly man digs, and the ditch into which he falls; and since those terms involve in them all that is opposite to the truth, therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that whatsoever is opposite to the Eternal Truth, or to the revealed Word of God, in the ideas and imaginations of mankind, is the ditch above spoken of, into which all fall, who either pervert or deny the truth of God.
It is immediately added by Jesus Christ, The disciple is not above his master, but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. The connection between these words and the preceding ones is not discernible if we regard only the letter, but, according to the spirit, or their internal sense, the connection is plain and striking. For by the disciple is here meant one who receives instruction, and by his master one who gives instruction, consequently, the truth itself, since truth is properly the only instructor, whilst the teacher of truth is merely the instrument by which it is administered. When it is said, therefore, The disciple is not above his master, it was intended to teach the edifying and important lesson, that man, in receiving instruction, ought to submit to the light and guidance of the Eternal Truth, so as to suffer it to direct and control all his own thoughts, imaginations, and persuasions. It is, therefore, added, Every one that is perfect shall be as his master, which is the same thing as if it had been said, that all perfection consists in submitting to the guidance of the, Eternal Truth, by bringing every purpose, thought, and imagination of the natural mind into conformity with its light and purity.
The connection, therefore, between these words and the above parable, is manifest, since the parable speaks of the blind, or those who have no understanding of truth, whilst the words here added are intended to teach how that blindness may be removed, and the understanding of truth be attained, namely, by yielding implicit obedience to the dictates of truth, or to the precepts of the Holy Word, so as to suffer them to be exalted to an uppermost place in the mind, and from that exaltation to exercise dominion over, and dispense light to, all the lower principles and persuasions of the human spirit.
It is further added, by Jesus Christ, Why behold you the speck that is in your brother's eye, but perceive not the beam that is in your own eye? These, and the following words, must be regarded as to their internal sense before they will appeal-connected with the foregoing, for, according to the internal sense of the words, Jesus Christ is here speaking of the eye of the mind, which is the understanding; and by the speck in this eye, He figures by the most apt similitude, the erroneous persuasions which have place in the understanding; whilst by the beam He meant, further, to express the principle of evil, in which those erroneous persuasions originate. For, by a beam is meant a piece of wood, or timber, and, by wood, or timber, when the expression occurs in the word of God, is always figured in a good sense, the principle of good, or the principle of heavenly love and charity, and, therefore, when applied in an opposite, or bad sense, it always denotes the principles of evil, or that principle which is opposite to heavenly love and charity.
The reasoning, therefore, of Jesus Christ, on this occasion, is to this effect, that man, in order to admit, and be qualified to teach, the Eternal Truth, ought to attend diligently to the source of evil and corrupt love in his own mind, so as to cast it out by a rigorous repentance, rather than to notice the erroneous persuasions which prevail in his understanding, since error can never be removed, only so far as its defiled source is discovered, with a sincere purpose to remove it. It is, therefore, said, You hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of your own eye, and then shall you see clearly to pull out the speck that is in your brother's eye, to denote that, when evil is repented of and forsaken, then the light of truth presently begins to shine bright in the understanding, to the correction and removal of all erroneous persuasions and imaginations whatsoever. The connection, therefore, between these words and the parable is again manifest, since, as the parable relates to the want of the understanding of truth, and to the terrible effects of that deprivation, so these words teach, again, how that understanding may be restored, namely, by the spirit of sincere repentance in exploring and rejecting all the principles of evil in the will.
We learn, from this parable, that there is such a thing as spiritual blindness, as well as natural blindness, and that spiritual blindness consists in the want of the understanding of truth, or of the revealed wisdom of the Most High, since nothing can properly be called truth but that wisdom. We learn, further, that they who teach, and they who are taught, are alike spiritually blind, if the understanding of truth be wanting. Again, we learn what is the terrible consequence of such spiritual blindness, because, sooner or later, it never fails to plunge its unhappy subjects into a ditch; in other words, into the defiled miserable abode of all false and mistaken persuasions, which being in opposition to the Eternal Truth, exclude for ever its blessed light and comfort. Lastly, we are taught, by the application of this parable, that the only effectual method of acquiring the understanding of truth, is to submit to its authority, so as to bring all the principles of the mind and life into obedience to its dictates, this being the true source and ground of all human perfection; and that, with this view, man ought to regard in himself the principle of evil in his will, more than of error in his understanding, and, accordingly, to labour by sincere repentance to remove the former, as the most effectual method of securing the removal of the latter.
Let us resolve, therefore, from now on, through the Divine grace and mercy, to endeavour to guard against the terrible mischief of spiritual blindness, and, with this view, to attend well to our daily conduct, until all our purposes, thoughts, words, and works are brought into conformity with the Eternal Truth. Let us further resolve to watch well against all the motions of evil in the will, arising; either from an inordinate self-love, or love of the world, that so, having purified our hearts from till defiled affections, we may be in a better state to discern the speck that is in our brother's eye, and so to pull it out. Thus may we hope, through the Divine blessing, no longer to be of the number of the blind leaders of the blind, who both fall into the ditch, but rather to be of the happy number of those of whom it is written, Blessed are your eyes for they see; and again, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Amen.