<< NATHAN’S PARABLE OF THE EWE-LAMB. >>
And Jehovah sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing save one little ewe-Iamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup; and lay in his bosom : and was unto him as a daughter. And there came a traveller unto the rich man : and he spared to take of his own flock, and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him : but he took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come unto him.-II. SAMUEL xii. 1-4.
OUR first efforts to do good are largely adulterated with selfish motives. We indulge many evils, and commit sins, without recognizing such evils and sins as our own, We see evils in the abstract, and doctrinally, but they do not appear to us as our own, until we make further progress in the practical understanding of truth and good. Our minds are in mixed conditions, holding. in our memory some true doctrines, and many false ideas. Our evils are not subdued, even though we have some idea of the ugliness of evils in other persons. Theoretically, we adopt a certain system of religious doctrine; and yet, in the practical application of that doctrine to our daily life, we often falsify its spirit, by mixing it with the false notions that spring from our evil desires.
THE MENTAL CITY.
Thus there are “two men in one city;” i.e., in our minds both truth and falsity exist in connection with the same doctrine.
A city, built up of houses, for the uses of human life, represents a system of doctrine, built up in the human mind, erected in our intellect, and planned for the use of our affections and thoughts.
And, in our unregenerate conditions, and in our mixed conditions, when we have received some truth, and yet have many false ideas, we are, as to our intellectual doctrine, like a large city, in which there dwell men of different characters, some good, some evil; some rich in the knowledge of truth, and some poor in their ignorance of spiritual things.
But it does not follow that the rich are the good, nor that the poor are the evil. It is often the opposite.
SPIRITUAL RICHES AND POVERTY.
“There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.” Literally, the application was to David and Uriah. But the inward, spiritual sense of the parable applies to all. When a man learns the truths of the Lord’s Word. and of the church, he is intellectually rich; he has great possessions, truths which may change his whole character, if he will allow them to do so, by obeying them. In a general sense, the rich are those who are in the church, where the Lord is known, and His Word is read.
And the poor are the Gentiles, and all who are in a Gentile state, not well instructed in spiritual truths, and yet, perhaps, well disposed, in their natural affections.
Thus, David and Uriah, in one sense, represented, respectively, the Church and the Gentiles. Uriah was a Hittite. The Hittites were among the best of the Canaanites. Bathsheba, as a Hittite, represented the beginning of the church among the Gentiles; for a church was raised up among the well-disposed Gentiles, who were in better conditions of spirit than were the Israelites. Bathsheba’s first and disorderly relations with David represented the quality of life in the first conditions of the church, among the Gentiles.
The Gentiles were well disposed towards the truth, but they had no just idea of the distinctions between good and evil, in practical life. With such a state of men, the Lord could not form, at once, a true and heavenly church, but only some approach towards a church, in which many evils would adulterate the good principles.
And so the first child of David and Bathsheba died, representing the fact that when the truth begins to operate upon us, our first states of life are not pure and good, but so adulterated with our natural evils that they do not spiritually and permanently live in a regenerate character.
But Bathsheba as the wife of David, and the mother of Solomon, represents the Gentile Church advanced to higher and spiritual conditions, after trials and temptations. When the good that is in the Gentiles becomes united with Christian truth, through the purifications of temptation, it becomes Christian good. Solomon, noted for his great wisdom, represented the child of the new birth, born of spiritual marriage.
THE SCRIPTURE NARRATIVE IS REPRESENTATIVE.
In considering the narratives of the Scriptures, we should always keep in mind the fact that the Bible is not merely a record of literal facts, but that it is, more especially, a representative record of the development and regeneration of the human soul, in all its conditions, from ignorance and evil, up to wisdom and goodness. The fact of the symbolic and representative character of the Bible, is the great, central point, by which all things of the Scriptures are to be interpreted. Jesus said, ” My words are spirit, and are life.” And, in both the Old and the New Testaments, all the words of the Lord apply primarily to the spiritual life of man.
The degree of regeneration, in every man, is according to the degree in which the spiritual marriage of goodness and truth, or love and wisdom, has been effected in him. And, to illustrate this spiritual marriage by representatives, the parable in our text pictures the conditions of a natural marriage, and of its perversions.
URIAH AND DAVID.
Uriah, the Hittite, as a Gentile, represented a well disposed state of the natural mind. David, as a rich Israelite, represented the interior natural mind, instructed in truth, rich in possession of spiritual flocks and herds of good and true principles.
But the poor Gentile had one possession, only, a little ewe-lamb, a state of innocence in the natural mind the innocence of ignorance, such as there is in children; innocence which may be developed by instruction and discipline, until it becomes the innocence of wisdom.
Such innocence may, for instance, be in moral goodness, an orderly life in externals, accompanied by a good moral disposition.
The Gentile state of mind regards this moral good as the one great good; for it is not instructed as to spiritual good. A man in such a state mentally buys, or procures, this moral good, by giving up disorderly states of affection, for the sake of being moral. He nourishes such moral good; and it grows up in his mind, as one of his mental family. It lies in his bosom ; i.e., in his heart, in his affection. Such moral good eats and drinks with him; that is, it partakes of the same quality as his general affections and thoughts.
THE TWO MEN IN ONE MIND.
Thus, the parable pictures the states of life of one rnan, for David and Uriah here represent the different principles in the same mind. They live in the same city; there is a common doctrine in the memory and thought.
But, after the beginning of regeneration, there are two men, and very different men, in every man’s mind.One man is especially intellectual, and full of knowledge of the truths of the Word and the church. And yet, , in the same mind, there may be a Gentile state of well-disposed moral life. But the intellectual side may be joined with the hereditary tendencies to evil. And these tendencies may employ the intellect to advance their desires. Intellectually, the mind may be full of knowledge of good and true principles, and yet the mind does not use such knowledge in the daily life.
A traveller, in a good sense, is one who is progressing in living, mentally journeying in the truth. The truth journeys through our minds, from our outward memory, through our thought, into our affections; and then into our daily life. But, in the opposite sense, a traveller is a false principle, drawn out of the memory, and journeying through our thought, seeking to enter into our affection, and to come out in our conduct. The spirit of the parable shows that, in our text, the traveller is used in a bad sense, as a false principle, wandering through the mind of David, and of every man actuated by similar principles.
COMPLETE THE PICTURE.
The intellectual man. is rich in abundance of knowledge. The moral goodness in the mind is not instructed, but possesses simple innocence, a little ewe-lamb. In this condition, a false principle comes travelling through the mind, seeking entertainment. It is set in motion by some evil lust. What should the mind do, in such a case? The intellectual side of the mind should draw upon its riches of knowledge, and should apply to that travelling falsity, the true and good principles known in the memory. But, being urged by an evil lust, it does not do this; it does not instruct, or rebuke, the false principle; but it goes out and kills the little ewe-lamb of Uriah, the simple principle of rnoral good. It seizes upon this and kills it. It mixes up the idea of moral good with the false principle, till the former has ceased to retain its vitality.
As an illustration, see the moral good of marriage, seized upon, and destroyed, by the spirit of Mormonism, urged on by the lusts of the sensuous mind, to entertain the travelling falsity of polygamy.
A man’s interior idea of marriage is the test of his spirituality.
David, unlawfully looking upon Bathsheba, and planning to kill, her husband, to obtain her, is a representative picture of the natural mind, urged on by some evil passion, and seeking to make selfish use of some natural state of innocence, but divorcing it from its proper truth, on its own plane, in its own degree.
So, as men descend into sin, against their knowledge of good and evil, they begin to covet the state of moral good; to justify their evils and sins, and to separate the idea of moral good from its lawful husband; its accompanying literal truth. They admit that moral good, like Bathsheba, is a beautiful woman. And they desire her for themselves. But they would profess moral good, for sorne selfish purpose. They would violate the purity of innocent good, by perverting it to evil ends. What the libertine does, literally, in perverting innocent good, so does every evil principle, in the mind, perverting and adulterating every good and innocent tendency, by employing it for evil purposes.
And this sin includes murder, the killing of every true principle that stands in the way of the natural man’s purpose.
For instance; a man has been in the habit of attending church. He feels that it is good and right for him to worship, the Lord, and to receive instruction from His Holy Word. This external state of worship, well disposed towards God and man, is a form of moral good, a state of outward innocence. It may be ignorant, not knowing that genuine worship is in the heart, and in the daily life. Now, suppose this man’s unholy personal ambition should come travelling through his mind, to satisfy its desires. He should feed it with rebuke and instruction. But suppose, instead of doing so, he lets it seize upon his outward affection for worship. Suppose he adulterates his innocent moral good of worship with his false principle of self-exaltation. Then, figuratively, he seizes upon Bathsheba; and he kills Uriah, her husband, who stands in his way; i.e., he rejects every literal truth which arises to rebuke his false principle.
Spiritually, we kill a man, when we destroy his faith and love towards the Lord, in which is his spiritual life. Murder is the spirit of hell, destroying everything that looks towards heaven. You kill a truth, in your own mind, or in another’s, when you pervert and falsify it, to make it justify evils and sins. And, as all malice, anger and ill-will are but forms of the spirit of murder, so all falsity tends to destroy the life of truth. As adultery and murder are the most serious crimes against civil society, so spiritual adultery and murder are the most destructive crimes against spiritual life.
MARRIAGE AS IN THE LORD.
The principle of marriage is in the Lord, Himself, in the union of His Love and Wisdom, The principle of marriage pervades all creation, being most perfect in the highest forms of created life. And in the heavens, the highest angels are in the most perfect marriage, And, on earth, sincere marriage is a protection against evil influences, as all persons know, by experience, who have been in that state of life. But confirmed adultery is a surrender to the hells, followed by the perversion and murder of all good and truth in the mind.
HOW DAVID REPRESENTS THE LORD.
It has often been asked how it can be that David represented the Lord, Jesus Christ, and yet committed such crimes as those narrated in the context. Here we must recognize a principle of representation. The actions of a representative man (representing the assumed humanity of the Lord) do not represent the acts of the Lord, but the inherited tendencies of the assumed humanity of Jesus, born from the natural mother, but never indulged in conduct. By means of these inherited tendencies to evil, in the assumed humanity, “He was tempted in all points, like as we are, yet without sin,” because He always resisted these tendencies, and overcame them. David’s crimes of adultery and murder represented the profoundest mental temptations of the assumed hurnanity ; but the Lord never committed any sin.
In considering David’s crimes, we must remember that, in David’s time, and among polygamists, though his sins were forbidden by the Decalogue, men had not then any spiritual discernment of the real quality of such evils. Men were often killed, on very small provocation, or even without any excuse. Of course, David understood something of the foulness of his sins. We can learn something of his feeling from the 51st Psalm, written just after these crimes, David was both king and judge; and so his decision against the supposed criminal was a legal judgment. His anger was strong, against the evil-doer.
The moral of this parable is a warning against theoretical virtue, expressed in indignation against the evils of other persons. When men will not see their own evils, being too conceited, or too over-sensitive to criticism, to receive direct warning, they are often taught indirectly, until they see themselves as others see them. When we are in a calm, judicial state of mind, sitting in judgment upon others, it is easy to see right and wrong in the abstract. And, as the apostle says, “He that judgeth another, judgeth himself, when he doeth these things.” It is one thing to see a sin to be a sin, abstractly; and it is another thing to see it to be our sin. In our own case, we are apt to lay the censure upon circumstances, or upon the conduct and influence of others, or upon inherited tendencies, or upon mere impulse, without serious intention.
But we are not generally so anxious to find excuses for the doings of others, especially if their evils annoy us.
You notice that David was very indignant against the sinner in the parable. But it did not occur to him that he was the sinner. And only when the practical application was made to his own case, did he open his eyes to the real state of, the case. And here we may see the important fact, that truth is of no practical importance to us, as long as it is only an abstract case. It becomes of use to us, in the degree in which it plainly says to us, ” Thou art the man.”
As soon as David saw the application of the parable to himself, he admitted his evil, and acknowledged the sin as his own. And, bad as he was, he would have been worse, if he had resisted the truth when applied to himself. When a man is fond of discussing truth theoretically, and is in the habit of criticising others with it, but is impatient when he is criticised, he is not sincere in his regard for the truth. A sincerely good man hates evils, especially in himself ; and he is glad to have his evil tendencies pointed out.
Many a noble lover of his fellow-men feels called upon to criticise, and to condemn, the evils of others, as well as his own evils; but he does not enjoy such criticism of others; and he does not do it with any malignant motive.
Suppose a minister, in preaching, had to be very careful not to say anything which anyone in the audience could apply to himself; of what use would such preaching be? A minister preaches best, when he recognizes his own evil tendencies, and applies the Divine Truth to them. Men are much alike in their natural tendencies.
Sin is evil; it is not merely chance, or circumstances, or fate, or misfortune : it is our own evil tendency, allowed to come out into our conduct. Therefore let us be able to say, ” I have kept myself from mine iniquity.”(Psalm xviii, 23.)
Author: Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1903