“Twelve years they served Chedarlaomer, and in the thirteenth they rebelled. ” Genesis xiv. 4.
During childhood the evils and falses in a man’s nature are held in check by the laws of ethics and morals impressed upon him by parents and teachers. But presently, as soon as he is able to defend himself, and to know what is assimilable to his character, they are permitted to rise in rebellion against him, and temptations begin.
”At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. ” 2 Kings xxiv. 10.
It is in the natural order of the growth of the church that there should be two sets of minds involved in its formation, those whose life is love and those whose life is faith. When these two sets are working for the good they are called respectively ” Zion ” and ” Jerusalem. ” When they are working for self and the world they are called, again respectively, “Babylon” and “Assyria.” And in some instances ” Babylon,” the love of ruling men’s souls, because one thinks they need such ruling, projects the emissaries into that branch of the church which tries to teach the doctrine of faith fairly and truly, and the servants of Nebuchadnezzar sometimes catch a man of Jerusalem and make him wear a “Babylonish garment,” or whisper to him to hide it and the “gold” and “silver” that came with it, in the earth under the floor of his tent. Whether openly worn or whether deeply hidden under the floor of the man’s character the dweller in Jerusalem is always in danger of the emissaries of Nebuchadnezzar the kings of Babylon.
”Then the men of David swore unto him, saying. Thou shall go no more on out with us to battle, that thou quench not the light of Israel.” 2 Samuel xxi. 17.
It is unwise to apply interior truths or goods without mediation to external conditions. For they suffocate and extinguish the light of the internal man. It is best to do and think natural things in the natural plane and spiritual things in the spiritual plane.
”And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities.” Numb. xxi. 3.
Regenerate life on the spiritual side resembles physical life on the material side to some extent. The boy loses many traits before he becomes a man. His voice, the delicacy of the baby face, the gentler traits of childhood — they all perish before the “hosts of manhood, ” which go marching on toward the attainment of the prime of life. So, too, some of the undesirable habits of childhood die away easily before the over-mastering advance of the dignity and responsibility of manhood. The helplessness, the hobbledehoy, the gracelessness of the boy are overcome with ease by the advancing tide of the man. And so, too, in spiritual manhood. The maternal inheritance, for instance, is slowly but surely set aside with all that belongs to it of life and thought. Israel is said to overcome its Canaanite. It might be almost said, Israel outgrows its Canaanite.
“And God came to Balaam at night,” Numb. xxii. 20.
In the mythologies of the ancients and in the theologies of the heathen there is an obscure revelation of Divine Truth. (Read “God” as Divine Truth, ” Balaam ” the heathen world, ” Night ” an obscure state, and the internal sense follows.)
“And straightway they left their nets and followed Him. ” Matthew iv. 20.
When a man has caught a glimpse of the Divine Truth he immediately forsakes the doctrinal systems which he has woven for himself, and applies him diligently to the truth as he has seen and does see it.
”And they that remained fled to the mountain.” Genesis xiv. 10.
After every struggle through which man passes, and in which he overcomes certain evils, there are still left vague dreams and ambitions and desires to do things which are not right. These come not forth boldly and show themselves, but hide in the inmost recesses of the mind, to reappear presently when man has gained greater strength and larger experience to meet and face them.
”And there were also with him other little ships.” Mark iv. 36.
As soon as the principal tenet of doctrine, that is, the tenet in regard to the Lord, has been established, all lesser doctrines follow as a natural consequence. Get that one right and you have all the others right. Get that one wrong and you have all the others wrong.
“And the vale of Siddim was full of pits of bitumen; and the kings of Sodom and Amorah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountain.” Genesis xiv. 10.
Man in his struggle against the unclean and the imperfect of his unregenerate nature is successful to a certain extent. Some of the leading evils (“rulers,” ” kings,”) fall, but there are always some insidious falses and evils which hide themselves snugly and cunningly away in the deeper mountain recesses of the soul.
”But the birds he divided not.” Genesis xv. 10.
A man may not know what he wants ; he may not know what troubles him ; it is barely possible that he may wish for many things at one time ; but a thought cannot be divided. On no plane of mentality is the statement so true, ” No man can serve two masters,” as in that part of the mechanism of mind that does the thinking.
“And He saw a fig tree afar off, having leaves ; and He came whether perchance He should find anything upon it. And coming to it He found nothing but leaves— for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answering said to it. No one unto eternity shall eat fruit from thee. ” Mark xi. I3, I4.
There are certain traits of natural good in the mind of man which are near to the Lord — that is, they move along the lines of the Divine Love, — and these He suffers to live. But there are other traits of natural good which are afar off, which do not move along the lines of the Divine Love. These He will not suffer to live. Much less will He suffer them to bear fruit. They are to be withered away, before the time of fruit, and it is of the Lord’s mercy that they should do so. False sympathies, unworthy loves, untrue affections, — all “fig trees” of this kind will die away when the real Humanity of the Divine Life strikes them.
“Now there was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David; but David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker.” 2 Samuel iii. 1.
Not only actually, but also potentially, is the law of decrease and increase true. Not only generally, but in particular details is the law true. For application can be made in any single line of thought : — thus, the sense of the letter of the Word and the spiritual sense may be compared, and the law will be true. Or the natural rationality and the spiritual rationality may be compared, and the law will be true. Or in general any lower plane of the mind may be compared with any higher plane or degree of that same mind.
”And He left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side.” Mark viii. i3.
The Lord is not present in falsity, but by doctrine constantly endeavors to lead man to truth.
”They took Him even as He was in the ship.” Mark iv. 56.
Just as is man’s conception of the Lord, so will the Lord appear in man’s doctrines. If he conceives of the Lord as a cruel tyrant every doctrine of His Church will breathe cruelty and tyranny. If he conceive of the Lord as arbitrary and changeable every doctrine he devises whereby to sail over the sea of life will be arbitrary and shifting. If he conceive of the Lord as love and wisdom every doctrine vouchsafed him will be loving and wise. ” Even as He is ” so do men take Him into their ships.
”And when He was entered into a ship His disciples followed Him. ” Matthew viii. 23.
When a Divine Truth has entered into the construction of any doctrinal system all derivative truths will instantly, logically, and naturally follow.
”So Joshua took the whole land (earth), according to all that Jehovah said unto Moses, and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war” Joshua xi. 23.
In the regenerate life all the natural mind becomes subject to the spiritual, according to the Divine Law. That is, man learns to live a natural life from spiritual motives, and each department of life is then under its own faculty. (Thus imagination is subject to faith, memory to thought, association to reason, etc., etc.) And man is conjoined with the Lord.
“And suddenly there was with the angels a multitude of the heavenly host.” Luke ii. I3.
As soon as man has grasped one Divine Truth there will instantly be revealed to him an endless number of truths rising from it and connected with that central truth.
“And He sent them away. ” Mark viii. 9.
When the Lord has fed the soul of man with the food of heaven He desires that man’s individuality should assert itself, that he should act as of himself; and He “sends him away.”
“The angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream.” Matthew i. 20.
When a man has an obscure perception of the Divine operating in his life it is said that the angel of the Lord comes to him ” in a dream.”
“And they washed their garments.” Exodus xix. 14, and passim.
And man purifies the method of his outer thoughts.
Author: A. Roeder (1900)