Spiritual Meaning of
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NOT THAT WHICH GOES INTO THE MOUTH DEFILES.
Matt. 15:10, 11.
And He called the multitude, and said to them. Hear and under stand: not that which goes into the mouth defiles a man, but that which comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.
Of the two expressions called and said, the first has relation to the divine love, the second to the divine wisdom; and, therefore, both expressions are used, in order to mark the heavenly marriage of love and wisdom, or of goodness and truth, which pervades every part of the Word of God, and from, and according to which, the Blessed Jesus on all occasions spoke.
Again, the term hear has more respect to the will, or love of man, as the term understand has more respect to the intellectual principle, or the understanding of man, and, therefore, the two terms, like called and said, are applied in reference to the heavenly marriage above spoken of, and to point out the necessity, on the part of man, of receiving and cherishing the Eternal Truth, both in his will and understanding, or with his affection and thought, before he can fully comprehend, and rightly profit by it.
By those things which enter into the mouth, in the sense of the letter, are meant foods of every kind, which, after use in the body, pass off through the stomach into the drain; but in the spiritual sense, by those things which enter into the mouth are signified all things, which, from the memory, and also from the world, enter into the thought; these things also correspond to food, and those which enter into the thought, and not at the same time into the will, do not render man unclean, for the memory, and hence the thought, are to man only as an entrance to him, inasmuch as the will is the man himself; those things which only enter into the thought, and no further, are rejected, as it were, through the belly into the drain; from which considerations it is evident, that by that which enters into the mouth, in the spiritual sense, is signified what enters into the thought from the memory and from the world; but by that which goes forth out of the mouth, in the spiritual sense, is signified thought derived from the will, or from the love; for by the heart, from which it goes forth from the mouth, and out of the mouth, is signified the will and love of man; and inasmuch as the love, or will, constitute the whole man, hence those things which go forth from the mouth, and out of the mouth, render man unclean.
In the Gospel according to St. Mark, where this same parable is recorded, we read, that what enters into the belly, and goes out into the drain, purges all meats (Mark 7:19).
The reason why the belly is said to purge all meats is, because by the belly is signified the thought of the understanding, as was said above; and by meats are signified all spiritual nourishments, and the thought of the understanding is what separates unclean things from clean, and thereby purges.
It is also added, for out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies, - by which we are to understand not only natural evils, but the spiritual evils which they signify; thus, by evil thoughts, or, as it might be better expressed, evil reasonings, are to be understood all oppositions in will and understanding to heavenly truth and good, whence come, first, murders, or the different modes of destroying charity; secondly, adulteries, or the perversions of good; thirdly, fornications, or the perversions of truth; fourthly, thefts, or the persuasions that life is self-derived; fifthly, false witness, or the confounding of good with evil, and of what is true with what is false; sixthly, blasphemies, or denials of the Lord's Divinity, and, thus, of all Divine Influence.
By the words which follow, and which conclude this parable, these are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands defiles not the man; Jesus Christ would teach, that man cannot desist from thinking evil, but from doing it; and that as soon as he receives evil from the thought into the will, in this case it does not go forth, but enters into him, and this is said to enter into the heart, and the things which thence go forth render him unclean, because what a man wills, this goes forth into speech and into act, so far as external restraints do not forbid; this, therefore, defiles, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile, because to eat with unwashed hands, according to the spiritual idea, is to receive and cherish heavenly good, before purification has been effected by means of heavenly truth.
In the relation of this parable, as it is given in the Gospel according to St. Mark, the evils enumerated, as proceeding from the heart, are not only more numerous, but also stand in a different order from those enumerated in the Gospel according to St. Matthew; for thus it is written, in the former Gospel, on the occasion, for from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. Thus, in the Gospel according to St. Mark, thirteen different classes of evils are enumerated, and the evil of murder is reckoned after the evils of adultery and fornication; whereas, in the Gospel according to St. Matthew, only seven classes of evils are enumerated, whilst the evil of murder precedes the evils of adultery and fornication.
Perhaps it is impossible for any finite intelligence to discover, and still more so to comprehend, all the depths of the divine wisdom involved in the difference here alluded to. Yet, if we are not allowed to see and apprehend the whole, it may still be granted us to investigate a part of the hidden treasures, at least, to form some conjecture concerning their nature and their value. May we not, therefore, without presumption, suggest the following query, namely: Whether the two distinct classes of evils, as above enumerated by the two Evangelists, may not be referred to the two grand, but distinct, fountains of all evil, namely, self-love, and the love of the world? Certain it is, that all evils originate in those two polluted fountains; and it is equally certain that, according to their origin, they take rank in a different order, which may account for the difference, in this respect, in the Evangelical history. It is remarkable, too, that in the relation of the parable given by both Evangelists, evil thoughts, or, more properly, evil reasonings, are placed at the head of the catalogue; by which is plainly implied, that all evils have their birth from perverse love in the will, confirmed by perverse thought in the understanding. But the term evil, here annexed to thought, is differently expressed in the original Greek of the two Evangelists; for, in St. Matthew, it is expressed by the adjective poneroi, and, in St. Mark, by the adjective kacoi, which is a further proof that the perverse love in the will is of a different quality, and from a different source in the two cases. But, whatever uncertainty there may be in the above conjecture, there can be no doubt of this, that all evils originate in perverse love, confirmed by perverse thought; and that whether this perverse love be the love of self, or the love of the world, the progeny derived from its conjunction with its favourite false reasonings and persuasions is both numerous and frightful, closing either in blasphemy or in foolishness, thus, either in the total denial of all divine influence, or in a total blindness, as to all the certainties and consolations of the divine wisdom.
We learn, then, from this parable, that there is a correspondence, or agreement, between the body and the spirit of man, and all the parts and principles of each, for in speaking of the thought and understanding of man, Jesus Christ expresses it by the mouth; and, again, in speaking of the will, or love, of man. He expresses it by the heart, which is a manifest proof that there is an agreement, or correspondence, between those bodily organs and those mental principles; so that what is true of the former, in regard to the body, is true of the latter, in regard to the spirit. We learn, further, that the evil which enters into man's thought, and is there rejected, so as not to be allowed admission into the will, or love, does not defile him, and that it only acquires the faculty of defiling- when it is cherished in his will, or love, and is suffered to proceed thence into act or operation. We learn, lastly, that there are several distinct genera, or species, of spiritual evil, which have all of them their origin from a perverse will and a perverse understanding, and which may be reduced to two distinct classes, namely, those which are derived from the love of self, and those which are derived from the love of the world, when those loves become predominant loves.
Let us resolve, therefore, to profit by all this divine instruction, and, for this purpose, to beg of Jesus Christ the illumination of His Holy Spirit, to enable us to discern, not only that the body of man is in perpetual connection with his spirit, and derives from it all its life, but likewise that all the parts of In's body are exact representative figures of the several principles in his spirit from which they proceed, and which they are intended to express. Let us resolve, further, to supplicate His divine grace, to enable us to discern the true and only source of all human defilement, until we discover clearly that this source is not in the thought or understanding, but in the will, or love; and to enable us farther to take heed, lest at any time we be found cherishing evil in this latter principle of mind and life, since in such case it must of necessity burst forth into manifestation, and cause defilement. Lastly, let us resolve to refer all evils to their two grand fountains, self-love, and the love of the world, and, especially to guard against the thoughts, or reasonings, derived from those two corrupt sources, when they become predominant; since from such thoughts, or reasonings, all evils are generated, which either defile or destroy mankind. Thus may we humbly hope, that the mind, or spirit, with which we have been gifted, instead of becoming the filthy den of the unclean affections of murder, of adultery, of fornication, of theft, of false witness, and of blasphemy, will become the clean and consecrated abode of charity, of purity, both in will and thought; of justice, of truth, and of devout acknowledgement that Jesus Christ, in His Divine Humanity, is the Father and Fountain of all life, love, peace, and benediction. Amen.