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And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind, etc.
Q. WHAT do you here understand by a man blind from his birth?
A. According to the sense of the letter of this history, by a man blind from his birth, is meant one who was born blind, or without the use and enjoyment of die organs of bodily sight; but according to the spiritual sense involved in this and all the other miracles worked by the blessed Jesus, by the blind man here recorded, are figured and represented those who are spiritually blind, or those who are destitute of the saving knowledge of heavenly truth; and by being blind from his birth, is further figured and represented the state of the Gentiles, or of- those, who, when they have the faculty of receiving instruction in the knowledge either of moral or religious truth, never receive it, and who consequently are mere sensual men, believing only the testimony of their senses, and acknowledging nothing to be true but what they can confirm by their senses.
Q. And how do you understand the reply which the blessed Jesus here makes to the question proposed by His disciples, when He says, Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God should be made manifest in him?
A. It appears from the mode of expression here adopted, as if the blessed Jesus pronounced both the man and his parents free from sin, and thus that He contradicts the testimony of His apostles, one of whom says, All have sinned, (Romans iii, 23), whilst another says, If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us, (1 John 1:8), but this appearance arises from separating the 'former part of the above words from the latter, instead of reading them in the connection in which they stand. For if they be read in connection, their combined sense will then be this, Neither has this man sinned, or his parents, (in such a manner or degree), but that the works of god may be made manifest in him, which is the same thing as if He had said, Both this man and his parents may have sinned, but still they are not out of the reach of divine mercy and operation, and therefore their sin may tend to manifest more fully the works of that mercy, in effecting their purification and regeneration, which effects are in an eminent sense the works of God. A similar mode of expression occurs in another evangelist, where the blessed Jesus replies to the mother of Zebedee's children, "To sit on my right-handy and on my left is not mine to give, but (it shall be given to those) for whom it is prepared of my Father, (Matt. 20:23), and this mode of expression has led many into the error of supposing, that to sit on His right-hand and on His left is not His to give, whereas if the former part of the words be connected with the latter, no such declaration is made. For in a connected series, the import of the above words, when read without the interpolation made by the translators, is to this effect, To sit on my right-hand and on my left is not mine to give, but (or except) to those for whom it is prepared of my Father; thus the declaration of the blessed Jesus amounts only to this, that He cannot confer the joys of heaven on those, who are not in a state of purification and preparation to receive them, but only on those who are prepared, and whose preparation is of the Father ; in other words, of what is signified by the Father, namely. the divine good of the divine love; for when the father and the son are spoken of distinctly, by the former is to be understood the divine good of the divine love, and by the latter the divine truth of the divine wisdom.
Q. But the blessed Jesus immediately adds, I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day; the night comes when no man can work — can you see any connection between these words and those of the preceding verse?
A. Yes; the blessed Jesus, in the preceding verse, had been speaking of the works of god, and now He declares in the present verse, that these works must be worked by Himself in the day, and not in the night; in other words, they must be wrought when the principles of goodness and truth are admitted by man, and not when they are rejected. For the principal works of god consist in the purification and regeneration of human minds, and these works cannot be accomplished where evil and error, which constitute spiritual night, abound, but only in the day of the dawning of heavenly goodness and truth. Jesus Christ accordingly teaches in the succeeding verse, that this day comes from Himself, and that consequently He is the god who performs the mighty works of man's purification and regeneration, for He declares, While I am in the world, I am the light of the world; in other words, I am that divine truth from which and by which all purification and regeneration is effected, for divine truth is light, and by divine truth and life according to it, man is purified and regenerated.
Q. And how do you understand the words which next follow, When He had thus spoken, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle ; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, and said to Him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam (which is, by interpretation, Sent).
A. These words, like the foregoing, have both a literal and a spiritual meaning, and according to their literal meaning, they are to be understood as they are expressed; but according to their spiritual meaning, they are to be understood in relation to the recovery of spiritual sight, which is the understanding of truth, amongst those who are signified by the man in this history, who was blind from his birth. Agreeable to this meaning, by Jesus thus speaking, is to be understood the declaration which He had just made of His supreme divinity, consequently of His divine humanity, as being the only source of all divine faith; and by His spitting on the ground and making clay of the spittle, and anointing the eyes of the blind man with the clay, is further to be understood the preparation and application of a lower order of truth in His holy word, called sensual truth, or truth adapted to the apprehension of sensual men, or minds, such as have been above described; for by clay made of spittle, such an order of truth is signified and represented. It is remarkable therefore, that, on this occasion, the blessed Jesus does not address this blind man as, on two former occasions, He had addressed other blind men, saying, in one instance, Believe you that I am able to do this? (Matt. 9:28), and in another instance, What will you that I should do to you? (Matt. 20:32), neither does He touch the eyes, as in the two other cases, but He makes clay with spittle, and anoints the eyes, bidding the blind man Go, and wash in the pool of Siloam, from all which circumstances it is evident that another and distinct kind of blindness is here described, consequently another and distinct kind of restored sight. It is evident also that the blindness here described is of a grosser and more external kind than in the former cases, because in the first place it did not admit of immediate communication with the divine healing power by the touch, and in the second place, it required for its cure a medium of a grosser and more external nature. Such a medium is the clay here described, and which is figurative of that order of truth in the holy word, which may be called sensual truth, because adapted to the sensual mind, and best fitted for its restoration to the blessing of spiritual sight. Of this order of truth are all those passages in the holy word, where divine and heavenly things are described under figures most striking to the senses, as under the figures of crowns, thrones, feasts, music, dancing, etc. The man in the above history is accordingly bidden by his saviour to Go, and wash in the pool of Siloam, because by going, is to be understood living, and by washing in the pool of Siloam, is further to be understood purification from evil by means of the above order of truth, which is called Siloam, or sent, to denote that it proceeds from the divine source of truth the divine humanity of the blessed Jesus, which humanity for the same reason is said to be sent (verse 4), because it proceeded or came forth from the eternal father, (see John 16:28).
Q. But it is said of the blind man at the conclusion of the verse, that he went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing — how do you understand these words?
A. In agreement with the spiritual sense of this history, as above described, these words are to be understood spiritually, whilst according to the literal sense they are to be understood literally, and were literally accomplished; and in agreement with the spiritual sense, by the man going his way, is to be understood obedience to the divine counsel, amongst those who are represented by the man; and by washing, is denoted purification from evil in consequence of such obedience; and by coming seeing, is further denoted that they afterwards live according to the understanding of truth, to which their minds were opened. Thus the words taken collectively, denote the full effect produced by that order of sensual truth which had been provided and recommended.
Q. In the succeeding part of this history, a long account is given of the agitation and disturbance which this miracle occasioned amongst the Pharisees, and how finally they cast the blind man out (of the synagogue) — what instruction do you learn from this part of the history?
A. From the perverseness of the Pharisees on this occasion, I am taught the instructive lesson, that there is no blindness so terrible, and so difficult to cure, as that which arises from a corrupt will, especially if hypocrisy, or an external sanctity, be added to that corruption. The blessed Jesus therefore, at the conclusion of this history, makes the following interesting declaration, For judgement am I come into this world, that they which see not might see, and that they who see might be made blind, from which words I learn that they, who are out of the pale of the church, and are not in possession of the oracles of divine truth, are in a better state to admit the truth, and thus recover intellectual sight, than those within the church, who enjoy the benefit of instruction from the word of god, and who nevertheless do not form their lives according to the purity of such instruction. The truly seeing, therefore, are they, who acknowledge all their wisdom, together with its affection, to come from the god of heaven, whilst the truly blind are they, who believe their wisdom and its affection to be derived from themselves.
Q. But it is lastly written, that Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him. He said to him, Do you believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is He, Lord, that I might believe on Him? And Jesus said to him, You have both seen Him, and it is He that talketh with you. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped Him —— what do you conceive to be the import and meaning of these words?
A. According to the sense of the letter, these words relate to the blind man, whose history is here recorded; but according to the spiritual sense, they relate to those who are represented by this blind man, namely. the Gentiles, who are without the holy word, and therefore uninstructed, but who afterwards receive instruction, and have the eyes of their understandings opened by the sense of the letter of the Word. In reference, therefore, to these Gentiles, by Jesus finding the blind man, and saying to him, Do you believe on the Son of God, is to be understood divine inquisition into the quality of their faith, and whether it was directed to the lord in His divine humanity; and by the man answering and saying, Who is He, lord, that I might believe on Him? is to be understood inquiry on the part of the Gentiles, concerning the divine humanity ; and by Jesus saying unto him, You have both seen Him, and it is He that talketh with you, is further to be understood that the divine humanity of the incarnate god is discoverable in every truth of the holy word, because the holy word throughout treats of His glorification; and lastly, by the blind man saying, lord, i believe, and afterwards worshiping Him, is to be understood that the Gentiles, when instructed from the holy word, acknowledge the divine humanity of the lord, and adore Him in that humanity as the only god of heaven and earth.
Q. In the gospel according to St. Mark, a miracle is recorded, which bears some resemblance to the one here treated of, for it is there written, that they brought a blind man to Jesus, and besought Him to touch him. And He took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when He had spit on his eyes, and put His hands upon him, He asked him if he saw aught. And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. And after that, He put His hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up; and he was restored, and saw every man clearly. And He sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town, (Mark 8:22-27). — can you briefly explain to me the spiritual sense of this miracle in reference to the particular circumstances which distinguish it from the miracle above treated of?
A. By leading the blind man out of the town, in the present instance, is to be understood removal from former opinions and doctrines of truth; and by the man looking up, and saying, I see men as trees, walking, is further to be understood obscure and general perception of truth, such as is derived from the letter of the sacred Scriptures; and by his being restored, and seeing every man clearly, after that he was touched a second time by the great saviour, is denoted, that the understanding was then opened to the discernment of truth in its internal form or spirit, as well as in its external appearance; lastly, by Jesus sending him away to his house, and saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town, is further to be understood, that the interior perceptions of truth, which had been communicated, should be interiorly cherished and obeyed, and likewise that they should be kept separate from the influence and operation of former persuasions and opinions.
Q. What then is the general instruction which you learn from the above miracle?
A. From the letter or literal sense of this history, I am again taught to adore the divine omnipotence of my god and saviour, exerted in the cure of a man blind from his birth; and from the spiritual sense, I am taught several weighty lessons of instruction relative to spiritual blindness, and to its cure by the same omnipotence. For respecting spiritual blindness, I am taught by the above history, that there is a blindness arising from the want of early instruction, such as is that of the Gentiles, who are out of the church, and consequently receive no instruction from the holy word, and who on this account are sensual men, and believe nothing but what is in agreement with the evidence of the senses. And in regard to the cure of this blindness, I am taught that it is provided in the holy word, and is there to be found in the letter, under the form of sensual truth, which is the clay made of spittle in the above history, and is accommodated to the apprehension of sensual minds, leading them finally to the acknowledgement and worship of the incarnate god in His divine humanity. I am resolved, therefore, from now on to attend carefully to all the sources and consequent qualities of spiritual blindness in my own mind, and to go and wash in the pool of Siloam, whenever I find that the sensual mind prevails, so as to darken in me the light of the eternal truth. Thus may I humbly hope, like the blind man in the above history, to come seeing; and finally, like him, to be enabled to say, lord, I believe, and by believing become a true worshiper of the living god in His divine humanity. AMEN.
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