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And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself, etc.
Q. WHAT do you here understand by a woman which had a spirit of infirmity?
A. According to the literal sense of the history, by the woman here recorded is meant a woman, possessed with an evil spirit, by reason of which possession her body was bowed down, and unable to raise itself; but according to the spiritual sense of the history, the miracle performed on this woman involves in it a meaning, which respects the lord's church and kingdom, like all the other miracles which have been already explained. Agreeable then to such spiritual interpretation, by the woman here spoken of Is represented the church as to the affection of truth, for it is the affection of truth which is a principal constituent of the church, and affection is always figured in the sacred Scriptures by a woman, as intelligence is by a man. When, therefore, it is said of this woman, that she had a spirit of infirmity, it denotes, according to the spiritual idea, that the affection of truth in the church was in disorder, in consequence of being under the influence of infernal disorderly spirits; and when it is added, eighteen years, it is to denote the full state of trial and suffering which had been endured on this occasion; for by years are signified, not the periods of temporal duration only, but states of spiritual life, whether troublous or peaceable; and by the number eighteen is denoted a fullness of trial and suffering, because it results from the multiplication of the two numbers three and six into each other, and by the number three is spiritually denoted what is full and complete; and by the number six a state of trial and temptation, agreeable to what was observed concerning that number, in the explanation of the miracle of the transfiguration.
Q. But it is added concerning the above woman, that she was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself — how do you understand these words.?
A. According to their literal sense, the words relate to the bowing or bending of the woman's body, in consequence of her infirmity and inability to lift up herself; but according to the spiritual sense, in which the words have reference to the church, by the woman being bowed together, is to be understood that the affection of truth declined downwards, by being disposed to favour earthly loves, in consequence of which declination, the principles of spiritual and natural life were confounded together and mixed, so that they could not be distinguished from each other; and by her not being able to lift up herself, is farther to be understood, that by reason of such declination the affection of truth was incapable of elevating itself to an eternal end, that is to say, to god, His holy word and kingdom. The history, therefore, here recorded, in its internal sense, has relation to that state both of the church, and of the individuals who compose it, in which the affection of truth, through the influence of disorderly spirits, is warped from its proper tendency upwards, by which it was designed to exalt god, His word and kingdom, and at the same time is bent downwards towards selfish and worldly love, by such an impulse, as to be incapable of elevating itself to conjunction with that divine being, whose child it is, and for whose glory it is communicated.
Q. And how do you understand the words which follow, where it is written, And when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him, and said to her, Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity?
A. According to the sense of the letter, these words relate to the miraculous cure of a bodily infirmity, through the word of the great redeemer; but agreeable to the spiritual idea above suggested, they relate to the cure of a spiritual disorder by the same divine word. According, therefore, to this spiritual idea, by Jesus seeing her (the woman), is to be understood His divine inspection into the state of the church immersed in earthly and unclean loves, and therefore figuratively described by the above woman, who was bowed down, and not able to lift up herself; and by His calling and saying to her, Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity, is further to be understood the energy and application of His divine love and wisdom for the removal of the spiritual disorders which He discovered, calling having relation to the exercise of His love, and saying, to the exercise of His wisdom. It is added in the English translation of this passage, that He called her to Him, but these three last expressions do not occur in the original, in which it is only written, that He called and said, agreeable to a mode of expression common in the sacred writings, where two terms are frequently applied, which appear to signify the same thing, when yet one has reference more to the principle of love in the will, and the other more to the principle of truth in the understanding, it being of the utmost importance to point out the interesting and edifying conjunction of those two principles.
Q. But it is added, that He laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified god — what instruction do you learn from these words?
A. By Jesus laying His hands on her, according to the literal sense of the history, is to be understood the application of his bodily hands to the infirmity of a distressed woman.; but according to the spiritual sense, by laying his hand on her, is figured and represented the operation of the omnipotence of His divine humanity in liberating the church from connexion with the powers of darkness, and at the same time from those earthly affections, which bowed her down to the love of temporal things, and prevented her elevation to eternal objects. It therefore follows that immediately she was made straight, and glorified God, because by being made straight, or, as it might be otherwise expressed, being made erect, is spiritually meant the elevation of the will or love to an eternal end, thus to god, His word and kingdom; and by glorifying god is to be further under stood the devout acknowledgment that this elevation was owing solely to a divine power, thus to the omnipotence of the divine humanity of the blessed Jesus.
Q. It is written that in consequence of this miracle, the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath-day, and said to the people, There are six days in which men ought to work; in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath-day. The lord then answered Him, and said, You hypocrite, does not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath-day?. — what further instruction do you derive from this part of the history?
A. From the circumstance of its being the sabbath-day, when the blessed Jesus worked this and other miracles, I am led to reflect on the reason of the preference which He gave to that day above others, for the manifestation of His omnipotence, and by such reflection I am led further to the interesting discovery, that He selected that day for the performance of His mighty works on account of its most holy representation, as being figurative of the divine and heavenly marriage of good and truth, thus of the union of the divine and human natures in Himself, of His conjunction thereby with heaven and the church, and lastly of the conjunction of charity and faith in man. For the mighty works which He performed consisted in general in the removal of bodily distemper and infirmity, by which distemper and infirmity was figured some perversion or other of the principles of good and of truth in the church, thus some breach of the heavenly marriage above spoken of, as represented by the sabbath-day. This day, therefore, was selected above the rest by reason of its holy representation, and as involving in it that state of purity and peace, the restoration of which He had principally in view in all the miracles which He performed. Here then may be seen the true ground and reason of the indignation expressed on this occasion by the ruler of the synagogue. For this ruler, who is afterwards called by the lord a hypocrite, was himself a subject of that very perversion of good and truth, which the blessed Jesus came to remove, and the removal of which was represented by the sabbath day, and therefore it was impossible for him to discover the reasonableness of the lord's conduct in this instance. We may perceive at the same time the full force and meaning of the Lord's remonstrance on the occasion, when He says, Does not each of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, etc. for by this remonstrance, and the significant images which it contains, He meant to teach again the instructive lesson, that it is lawful to do good on the sabbath-day; in other words, that the sabbath-day, as being representative of the eternal conjunction of heavenly good and truth, is the fittest of all days for restoring every principle of the life of man to its proper liberty, for the healing of every infirmity, for instruction in the knowledge of natural good and truth, signified by loosing the ox and the ass for watering, and especially for breaking the bands of wickedness, by which the spiritual affection of good and truth, that true daughter of Abraham in the human mind, is tied and bowed down, that it cannot raise itself up to the possession and enjoyment of god and His blessed kingdom.
Q. But it is written in the conclusion, that when He had said these things, all His adversaries were ashamed ; and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him — what do you learn from these words?
A. I learn to note and to adore the double effect of the divine word, as manifested in its operation on its adversaries, and on its friends; on its adversaries, by unveiling to view their evils and their errors, and thus making them ashamed; and on its friends, by discovering to them a mercy and an omnipotence, or a goodness and truth ever near and at hand for the cure of all human infirmity, and thus increasing their joy. In this part of the history, therefore, I am enabled to discover the necessity of His divine word to effect the salvation of mankind, since without it, there is no possibility either that evil or error can be detected, or that any good and truth of heaven can be imparted. Thus I am instructed further, that the word of god commences its salutary operations, first, by making man ashamed of himself and his corruptions, whilst he lives without god, and secondly, by filling him with all joy for all the glorious things done for him, when he becomes a convert to god, and a faithful receiver of His holy word.
Q. What then is the general instruction which you learn from this miracle?
A. I learn again to adore the omnipotence of the great saviour manifested in the cure of bodily infirmity, and in the removal of the evil spirit who caused it. At the same time I am instructed in the exercise of the same divine power for the cure of spiritual infirmity, and particularly of that spiritual depression, by which the human mind, in its captivity to the powers of darkness, is bowed and bended downwards towards the lower things of time and sense, so as to be unable to lift itself up to the contemplation and enjoyment of eternal objects, I learn further to discover the reason why the blessed Jesus dispensed His healing operation so frequently on the sabbath-day, and thus to discern a connexion between that day, according to its representative meaning, and the cure of all spiritual diseases. I am resolved, therefore, from now on to apply to this great saviour whenever I feel my affections declining downwards towards the lower concerns of time and sense, that so I may never be bowed down by the spirit of infirmity in such a manner as to be unable to lift up myself to higher and more substantial objects. I am resolved further to cherish in my mind a devout sense of the sanctity of the sabbath-day, by recollecting at all times its representative meaning, and how it is a perpetual standing figure here below, of the heavenly marriage, from which alone comes all true rest, peace, and deliverance from every spiritual disease and infirmity. I am resolved also frequently to read and meditate on the word of god, until I become ashamed of all those evils and errors in myself, which are in opposition to its purities and its sanctities, and begin to feel a secret joy from the admission of all its heavenly goods and truths. Thus may I humbly hope to experience, like the distressed object in the above history, the power of that divine word, which said of old, Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity; and thus, too, shall I no longer be of the number of the adversaries of the great saviour, but rather rank in the number of those friends, of whom it is written, That they rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him. amen.
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