A STATE OF PREPARATION.
35″Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. 38It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night. 39But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” 41Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?” 42The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? 43It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. 44I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. 46The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. 47″That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.(LUKE XII: 35-48.)
The force of the parable lies in its warning to men, urging them to maintain a state of preparation to receive what the Lord seeks to give; and to avoid falling into evil; false and sinful conditions, which put them into unreceptive states.
GIRDING THE LOINS.
In Oriental countries, men wore long, loose garments, hanging down to their feet. But, when at work, or on a journey, they tightened their girdle, or belt, and drew up the long skirt, letting it hang loosely at the waist, so as to leave the feet and knees in a freer condition. This was “girding the loins.” We notice this habit, in the eating of the passover, as mentioned in Exodus xii. I I: “Thus shall ye eat it; your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand;” i. e., as if prepared for a journey, or for work. The point is, literally, to be in readiness for what is to be done.
But, spiritually, the loins represent the affections, And girding the loins and lifting up the clothing; represent lifting up the truth, from its lower, or natural, aspects; and regarding it from inward affection, and for the good that is in it. Thus, to gird the loins signifies to be in a state of love of good.
And to have our “lights [literally lamps] burning,” is to be in a state of faith in the truth, and in mental illumination, or intelligence. Lamps, as hollow vessels, represent doctrines, which serve to enlighten the mind, when filled with the oil of love. (These things were considered in the parable of “The Ten Virgins.”) Having the lamps burning, is having them in use, and ready for use; i. e., having the truth, in doctrines, well known and in daily use, and ready for any case that may arise.
When truths in the understanding are joined with love in the will, or heart, they shine brightly, and maintain our intelligence. Thus our minds are kept under the influence of heavenly principles of life. Heavenly love, as a sacred fire, is kept perpetually burning upon our mental altar. And, in the practical walk of daily life, we acknowledge to our Lord, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
THE LORD OF THE HOUSE, AND THE SERVANTS.
The men who wait, are the servants of the household. Spiritually, the man of the house, or lord of the place, is the ruling-love. And the servants are the truths, which serve the ruling-love. Our affections use the truths that we know, to serve their purposes. But, in a supreme sense, the man of the house is the Lord, because He is the real Ruler in every. regenerate man’s mind, and the regenerate man’s ruling-love is a love which flows into him from the Lord. Thus, men, or servants, waiting for their Lord, are the truths which dwell in a regenerate man’s mind, ready to serve the Lord.
The wedding is the union of Divine Good, or Love, with Divine Truth, or Wisdom, This union always exists in the Lord; and it begins to be formed in a man, when he begins to be regenerated; and it progresses in the degree in which his regeneration progresses. When the Lord returns from the wedding, is when the Lord comes to a man who is entering this wedded state of spirit, in which his love and his wisdom are united, in his devotion to the Lord.
The Lord’s coming is the approach of the Divine Love to a man’s will. And His knocking is the announcement of His Divine Truth to a man’s understanding. And both together constitute the Lord’s constant presence with a man. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.”
OPENING THE DOOR.
To open unto the Lord, immediately, is to turn the will, or heart, to Him. To open the door, practically, is to remove the obstructions, which stand in the way, and which exclude the Lord. And these obstructions are our own evils and falses, and our sins of life. When these are repented of and removed, we open unto Him immediately, when He comes in His good and in His truth, He finds ready entrance; and thus He blesses the man with spiritual life.
WAITING FOR THE LORD.
It is the man’s work to keep the door open to the Lord. All those are waiting for the Lord, who are doing His will, in a daily life of uses; for the Lord can always come in to such a state of mind: it is always prepared for Him. Waiting for the Lord is not, then, merely a mental state of expectation of some outward phenomena, or of some sudden mental change; but it is a state of obeying the Lord’s commandments, and performing uses. It is not waiting for something to do, but it is doing what we have to do, and thus keeping ourselves prepared to receive greater life. The light of truth and the warmth of love, flow into the active, working mind. Thus, the best way to wait for greater life, is actively to use what we already have.
Practically, to watch is to watch the formation of our character; it is to restrain our tendencies to evil, and to do good, and thus to keep ourselves in a state to know of the approach of our Lord; for the Lord comes to us in every truth that is made known to us, and in every good that is suggested. And then the Lord can find ready entrance into our minds, and can bless us with more and higher spiritual life.
While we are serving Him, He serves us; while we are open to Him, He flows into us, with all that we are ready to receive. “Verily, I say unto you, that He shall gird Himself and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.” And the servants, or truths; in our minds, are blessed, when they are united with good, or love.
The Lord finds us watching, when we are spiritually awake, in intelligent appreciation of spiritual principles, and not asleep in the things of sensuous life. “These things have I said unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” We notice that the duty of watching, or being prepared, is an element in several of the Lord’s parables.
THE LORD SERVING MEN.
The Lord girds Himself, because His Divine Love is always making itself ready to serve men. He makes us sit down to meat, by preparing us to receive the spiritual food of good affections. And He serves us, by implanting His truths in our minds, and by giving us spiritual intelligence.
THE WATCHES, ETC.
The first watch of the night represents a state of instruction in truth. The second watch is a second state, of joining the known truth with our affections. And the third watch is a third state, of carrying out our good affections and true thoughts, in our good conduct. And if the Lord comes to us in either of the latter two watches, His corning will bless us; for, in either, we are prepared to receive Him.
“If the good-man of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through” (literally, dug under, or undermined, as if the thief dug up, from below). “The good-man of the house is the ruling-love. If the ruling-love is good, it will be watchful, and on its guard against the subtle schemes of evil spirits, who seek to undermine it by insinuating false suggestions. Every falsity is a thief; coming to steal away our good and true things.
And evil spirits, like thieves, do not boldly come to us in our clear states of rational and spiritual daylight, but in our natural-minded states, our darker mental periods. They attack us in our weaker states; and they attack us secretly. And, to be prepared for them, we need to be on our guard, and to keep always in mind the spiritual principles of regenerate life.
As the man of the house must retire to sleep, at night, so we must go down into the external uses of our daily life; but, spiritually, if we carry our spiritual principles into our outward work, we shall be on the watch against spiritual thieves. In the parable of “The Tares,” the enemy who sowed the tares, did so at night; but, on the other hand, in the parable
of “The Seed Growing Secretly,” the good seed grew, both day and night. We are, then, to be ready, always, for the coming of the Son of Man, the Divine Truth, by keeping the truth of the Lord’s commandments always before our minds, and thus keeping a watch against the secret influence of false doctrines and sensuous persuasions.
For, if we are unprepared, we cannot tell in what hour, or state, of mental darkness, and of spiritual and moral weakness, we may be overcome by evils and falses. There is no safety, except in always submitting ourselves to the guidance of the Lord’s good and truth, as revealed in His holy Word.
THE STEWARD, ETC.
In reply to the question of Peter, who represents our faith, the Lord stated that the truths in this parable are applicable to us all, and to our mental conditions. The wise steward, made ruler over all, is the regenerate natural mind, which is given control over all natural duties and works, because it does the will of its master, the spirit.
But if the natural mind relapses into evils and falses, and abuses the men-servants, the truths which serve with it, and the maidens, the natural affections of the mind, the Divine Truth will come to it in judgment, and will cut it asunder, or separate it from good, and allow it to sink into its congenial hell. And then, the mind that sins against light, shall sink itself into a deeper hell, while the less the mind perverts its knowledge, the less will be the degree of its self-inflicted misery.
We are warned, therefore, to watch the influences which seek to operate upon us; to see that we love good things, only; and to cherish the truth, to the exclusion of all falses, and to the rejection of all sins of conduct. Thus, guided by the Lord, our natural mind can do its natural work, as the wise steward of our regenerate spirit.
We keep our “loins girded” by keeping our affections lifted up to the Lord, and to spiritual ends and purposes. And we keep our lamps burning, by keeping before our thought the truths of the Lord’s Word, taught in the doctrines of our Church.
TRUTH IS AS A SYSTEM.
And one of the most important points, in the intelligent consideration of truth, is that we must keep in mind the truth as a complete system, Thus we can retain the application of truth to all things of our life, in a connected plan.
A man, seeking to understand the human physical body, does not begin by. studying the organization of a finger-nail; but he first acquires a general idea of the whole body, as a whole, and then studies its individual parts, in their relations to each other, and to the whole system. And, even when a man studies the human physical body as a connected whole, he does not understand man, as a complete being, until he comprehends the human spirit, also.
But, when he understands the spiritual constitution of man, and his physical body, also, then he comprehends what a man is, and sees the relation and connection between his various mental and physical parts.
So, in the study of truth, we must aim to acquire an understanding of the truth, as a connected system, with its various relations and connections. No individual truth exists, independent of its connections and relations with other truths, as no living finger exists, apart from its connections, with the body, as a whole. Nothing is intelligently seen as an unconnected fact, or idea, but as the embodiment of some principle. And every principle should be seen, not merely in its natural form but also pointing to its spiritual counterpart and cause, and finally, to its relation with the Lord.
THE LIGHT OF TRUTH.
To keep our lights burning, we need not merely to memorize a doctrine, but also to know and understand it as a living truth, applicable to our daily life. What we memorize, we may forget; but what we know by experience, as a principle, we do not forget. Axioms, or self-evident truths, we do not forget, because we see the principle that lies within them, But every truth is an axiom, to the mind that sees in the light of that truth. Every truth is self-evident, in its own degree, and on its own plane of life, and to the mind that is prepared for it.
Spiritual truth, being spiritual light, is intelligible in its own light, only. And if our minds are not in such light, they see the truth in such aspects, only, as present themselves to our plane and degree of thought. And the higher, or more interior, the degree in which we see the truth, the more comprehensive will be our view of it; and the more brightly our mental lights will be burning.
The principles which we work into our life, are clear to us. Therefore, to keep our lights burning, we are to take hold of a doctrine, not merely to know it, but also to use it, in practical life; to make it a part of our thought, embodied in our conduct, because loved in our heart, Then we shall have confidence in a truth: we shall see it to be true, as a principle; and we shall keep it before our thought, even in our external states, because we shall be in the practice of the good that is involved in that truth.
On some beautiful golden morning, when the sun is bright, and the air is clear, you look from your chamber window, and you see, before you, far away on the horizon, the lofty summit of a distant mountain. You know that mountain : its existence is, to you, a certainty. But, there may come many cloudy, foggy days, when you will not be able to see that distant mountain from your chamber window. But will you, on that account, looking from your window, on a cloudy day, doubt, or deny, the existence of that lofty mountain? You cannot now see it; but you have seen it; and know it to be there.
Why, then, should you, in your cloudy states of mind, doubt, or deny, the existence of a spiritual principle, which, in your clearest mental states, you have clearly seen and known? Why not keep your loins girded, and your lights burning, even in the darkest of mental nights? Why not keep clearly before your rational thought, all the good and the truth which your Lord has revealed to you, in your best and highest states?
Why not, like Moses upon the mountain, see the heavenly pattern of the temple of human life, and come down into the level plain. Of natural life, to build according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain? Having, on the clearest morning, seen the distant mountain, you know the direction from your home to that mountain ; and you would. confidently journey to it, even on the cloudiest day, when its noble form was obscured to your vision.
Why not, then, in the cloudy states of your mental life, cling to the fact of the certain existence of the Lord’s good and true principles, revealed in the light of His holy Word? And why not confidently journey towards the good taught you by the Lord, even when you are in darker mental days? You may always remember the direction of your journey.
Your Lord has said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” And His commandments will always point out the way.
We know our way about our own house even in the dark. And, if we live in our Lord’s house, we shall know our way about it, even in the night. We always know our way about a principle that we love, and which is a home to our spirit. For, then, we shall understand a truth as a law of life, upon which we spiritually live, as a plant lives by its laws of life.
LAWS OF LIFE.
Men spend much time and effort in studying the principles applying to the breeding of animals, and the raising of crops. And breeders and farmers know that, to succeed, they must know something of the laws of animal and vegetable life. How much more, then, we need to know the laws of spiritual life, by which men are grown, as spiritual and immortal beings. If laws of heredity are important in raising cattle and crops, they are, surely, more important in developing human beings. And he who would seek spiritual life, must keep his loins girded, and his lights burning, while he watches and works for the coming of the Lord, in every revealed truth. He must love the truth, and the good that is in it. And he must be watchful to maintain the truth in its uncorrupted life, and not twisted and perverted by his natural and sensuous tastes and opinions.
Men may wrest truth from its proper relations and connections, and thus make it appear to be very different from its heavenly condition; as you might have a beautiful mosaic portrait of the Lord, wrought by a very skilful artist, placing each little stone in its right place; but, if you should break up the artist’s arrangement of the stones, and should rearrange them to form the portrait of Judas, though the stones would be the same, they would present a very different face. In breaking up their original relation and connection, the image of the Lord would be gone from them, and they would be perverted to the expression of an opposite character. So is it, always, of the utmost importance, to preserve truths in their integrity, and as a connected system, as revealed to us by our Lord. Then they will always preserve and present His Divine image; and they will lead us to grow into His image and His likeness. And a competent knowledge of truth as a system, is our protection against the opposite system of falsity.
As a man, by the study of the human body in health, knows the conditions, and thus readily detects disease in a disordered body, so the man who understands the human mind, in its health, and as a system, detects the presence of evil and falsity, and is thus enabled to reject the whole system of falsity. This is meant by binding the tares of the field into bundles, and burning them; i, e., classifying, arranging and rejecting falsities.
Take, for instance, the evil of anger. Everyone knows that it is evil, and that it is a sin, to fly into a passion, whenever one’s self-love is wounded. And why do we not keep this fact before our mental eyes, as a spiritual principle? If we would always do this, we should detect the infernal quality of our tendency to anger, and we could put it down, as soon as it arises, and before it could come out into our conduct.
With our loins girded, and our lights burning, we are always prepared for whatever the Lord provides, or permits. We are ready to meet the expected and the unexpected. We do not know what the Lord has for us, until it comes. But we ought to do well, whatever we do. A desirable thing may be done so badly as to make it undesirable; as a friendly shore awaits a ship-wrecked mariner; but the method of his landing often changes the shore from a friend to a destroyer. An obscure man at an important post, may do very important work; as a humble switch-tender on a rail-road, may, with one turn of his arm, send a passing train in the right way, or plunge it to destruction. Much depends upon his mind being kept in a state of preparation for his work.
And so is it, in all the uses of our life, however apparently ordinary; we cannot tell when any emergency may arise; and when it does arise, the man who is prepared to do his duty intelligently and bravely, is the one who will meet the case wisely.
And his state of preparation depends upon his intelligent knowledge of his duty; and, spiritually, upon his comprehensive knowledge of the truth as a system, in its various connections. “A good man shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord. … He will guide his affairs with discretion.”
EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL.
Those who live in their externals, looking at the natural side, only, of human life, are often surprised, and sometimes confused, by sudden changes of externals; but those whose interiors are open to spiritual light, and who view human life from its inward side, are prepared for anything that may arise.
They cannot, of course, foresee future facts in outward things; and they do not desire to do so, knowing that such knowledge would take away their freedom : but “they know the certainty of spiritual principles; and knowing that everything, both natural and spiritual, must “bring forth after its kind,” they know, to a certainty, what must be the outcome of any given principle of life, embodied in the conduct.
They know the certainty of the fulfilment of the Lord’s gracious promise, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land; and verily, thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1887