4002. Stolen is this by me. That this signifies that it was not his, is evident without explication. In the sense of the letter this expression does indeed sound somewhat harsh; but when it passes toward heaven, it loses its harshness, and becomes gentle and mild. A similar expression occurs in Matthew:
Watch therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord will come. But know this, that if the good man of the house had known in what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken through (Matt. 24:42-43).
And in John:
If thou shalt not watch, I will come upon thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee (Rev. 3:3).
In the same:
Behold I come as a thief, blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments (Rev. 16:15).
These expressions are used concerning the Lord; "as a thief" merely signifies that which is unlooked for and unexpected. In the internal sense "to steal" denotes to claim for self that which is the Lord's, namely, good and truth; and as in the beginning of regeneration all do this, and as this is the first state of innocence (see n. 4001), the expression is milder than it sounds in the letter. Consequently, "stolen is this by me" signifies that it was not his.