INDIFFERENCE TO HEAVENLY LIFE.
16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18″But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ 19″Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ 20″Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ 21″The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ 22” ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ 23″Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. 24I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’ “(LUKE XIV. 16-24.)
Heaven is always open to him who is willing to attain a heavenly character, For heaven is a condition, and not merely a place. No power can force heaven upon a man who does not love heavenly qualities. The man who does not desire heaven, is not willing to receive it, even as a gift. The gates of the holy city are wide open, and yet all the evil men voluntarily remain outside, precisely as a bad man prefers to remain outside of a good character. And all who voluntarily remain outside of any kind of goodness of character, are unwilling to be introduced into that goodness, even at the invitation of the Lord, Himself
Among the Orientals, feasts held a prominent place. Great men were expected to give feasts, according to their wealth and position. Marriage-feasts often lasted seven days. At the inauguration of a king, a great feast was made; for, representatively, it was said that the king was the husband of the country. So, at the coming of the Lord, as He was the Bridegroom; and the Church was the bride, it was appropriate that the regenerate life should be compared to a marriage-feast.
The “great supper” mentioned in the parable, was the principal meal of the day ; not, necessarily, in the evening. In fact; from the nature of the excuses given, there would seem to have been sufficient daylight remaining to enable men to view their land, and to try their oxen. It was appropriate, however, to call this feast a supper, because it was at the evening, or decline, of an old Church, or dispensation. The feast represents the mind’s feast in the things of spiritual good and truth, which feed the heart and the intellect. A great supper, or the principal meal, represents a mental feasting in the things which nourish the spirit in its ruling-love and its rational intelligence. It is “a feast of reason and a flow of soul,” in a good sense.
THE CERTAIN MAN.
The “certain man” who made a “great supper,” is the Lord, the Divine Man, who sets forth that spiritual feast in His holy Word, with all its good and true principles, which “satisfy the hungry soul with good.” “In this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees, well refined.” The Lord keeps His table ever spread, with a feast of heavenly food for all who are willing to accept His gracious invitation. And the fulness of that feast, and the joy of partaking of it, we can know by experience, only. Here, in His holy Word, is everything necessary as food for the human soul. All varieties of good affections and true thoughts sustain the heart and the intellect. This is the feast, at which those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness” “shall be filled.”
In a general way, the Lord invites all men to His heavenly feast, by the teachings of His holy Word : and he who hears the Word may always consider himself as invited. But, when the man is in condition to profit by a nearer approach of truth to his mind, some particular truth, as a servant of the Lord, comes to him, and announces to him the readiness of the heavenly feast, and the special invitation of the Lord, to him. “And the Spirit and the Bride say, come.”
WITH ONE CONSENT.
But, in the parable, the invited guests “all, with one consent, began to make excuse;” not by an agreement, or collusion, but by a common purpose. There was a consensus, a unanimity of purpose, and, therefore, a unanimity of results. All over the world, like causes produce like results. Beasts and birds of the same kind have similar habits. The robin sings the same song, and builds the same kind of nest, wherever it dwells, So, minds with the same kind of ruling-love, though unseen and unknown to each other, speak and act by a consensus, a common purpose. Those who do not love the good and true principles of heaven, do not wish to be united with the Lord, in a spiritual feast.
Self: in its myriad forms, has an inward quality of character, common to all its varieties; and it speaks from a common antagonism to goodness, and a common indifference to truth. The truths of the holy Word may have been planted in the natural mind, but the briars and thorns of sensuous life have sprung up, and have choked the Word, and rendered it unfruitful.
Historically, the feast was spread before the Jews, in the Old Testament Scriptures, which opened a communication between heaven and earth. And the Jews, having the light, should have walked in the light. But, from various worldly and selfish purposes, they almost all begged to be excused from the heavenly feast, which their sensuous souls could not appreciate.
In the parable, only three excuses are given; and yet it is said that all those who were invited wished to be excused. These three excuses are characteristic of the three general states of unregenerate men ; and all particular excuses would be classified under these three general heads; viz., excuses. made by those who are in false doctrines ; by those who are in evil affections; and by those who have conjoined evil and falsity in their bad lives.
THE FIRST EXCUSE.
The first man had” bought a piece of ground,” [literally, a field,] and he wanted to “go and see it.” The field, in which the seeds are sown, represents the mind, in which truths are sown. Here, the reference is to the intellectual side of the mind. The man was invited to the grand feast of truth and good, in the Lord’s Word. But he had no appetite for such food. He had already been attracted by some false principle, and he had bought it, adopted it, as his own; and now he wanted to go to it, with his affections, and see it, more fully, in his thoughts, that he might confirm it. He wanted to make it fully his own, He was more interested in it than in the good and true principles of the Lord’s Word. Therefore, he could not go to the Lord’s feast. And when a clear truth, as a servant of the Lord, announced to him his practical duty, he acknowledged his original intention to accept, but begged to be excused, at present, because he was pre-occupied with his own selfish concerns.
THE SECOND EXCUSE.
The second man had bought five yoke of oxen, and wanted to go to prove, or try, them, before -closing the bargain. Oxen were used by the Orientals in all their agricultural labors. And it was important to test oxen on sale, to see if they were well-trained, and strong, and healthy. The ox represents the natural affections, the every-day feelings with which we work our way along through life. In good men the oxen of the mind are the good natural affections; but, in unregenerate men, the oxen would represent evil natural affections, selfish and unregenerate. They are the natural lusts of evil, which are not willing to go to the Lord’s feast.
These oxen were yoked in pairs, or joined together in their work, co-operating, in a common purpose. Five yoke would be tell oxen. Ten here represents all the unregenerate affections of the natural mind, So, our ten fingers, and ten toes, represent all the duties of our natural life, which flow forth from all our affections. To prove these mental oxen, these natural affections, is to operate them, to indulge them, to see how much delight we can secure from them. And when we are indulging our evil natural affections, we beg to be excused from going to the Lord’s heavenly feast.
THE THIRD EXCUSE.
The third man had married : and he thought he ought to be excused from any prior engagements. In fact, he did not ask to be excused, but said plainly, “Therefore I cannot come.” The heavenly marriage is a mental marriage of our good affections with our true thoughts, the union of our regenerate will and understanding, in the grand .purpose of regeneration. But the opposite to this is the infernal marriage of our evil affections and our false thoughts, the union of our unregenerate will and understanding, in the common purposes of selfishness. Those who are in this condition are averse to any heavenly feast; and they plainly say, “I cannot come.” They are pre-occupied. They prefer their own feast.
Now, in the literal sense, these excuses were pretexts, for men who did not desire to attend the feast. The land could have been seen on the next day; and the oxen could have been proven on the morrow. And, if the wife could not have been taken to the feast, there would not have been any difficulty in the husband fulfilling his engagement; for in those days, and in that country, women were regarded as inferior to men, and they had very little to say about what was to be done. None of these excuses would have been offered by men who desired to attend the feast. Or they could have arranged these matters so as not to interfere with the previous engagement of the feast.
But this fact makes these excuses better represent the excuses of the unregenerate man , when called to the heavenly feast of good and truth. These three excuses cover the whole catalogue of our excuses, to-day, in our efforts to justify ourselves in our indifference to spiritual matters; the needs of business, the work for property, and domestic cares. How large these things seem to be, on a Sunday morning, to a man, or woman, whose mind is fixed on external matters. Notice, too, that all these excuses come from our natural inclinations, and not from our judgment; they are not logical, but easily refuted. They are not honest.
THE LITERAL LESSON.
Literally, the parable does not deal with unlawful things. It was right for men to buy new fields, and to see them ; and to buy new oxen, and try them; and to marry. But, in the literal sense, the lesson is against allowing our minds to be so pre-occupied with natural matters, as to make us neglect spiritual things. But, in fact, the temptation is more subtle, because we do not recognize it to be a temptation.
But, after all, what underlies all this pre-occupation of the mind in outward things? Self. Self is what alienates us from the Lord, and makes us either opposed, or indifferent, to the Lord’s feast. There is another way of buying a field, as in the parable of “The Hidden Treasure,” where the man purchased the field of truth because it contained the great treasure of golden goodness. And there is another way to go to the plow, with our oxen, and not to look back to the things of unregenerate life. And there is another way to marry, in which we shall not be drawn away from heaven, but, in the marriage of goodness with truth, be led more and more fully into heaven.
THE SECOND COMPANY INVITED.
When all the invited guests had sent excuses, “that servant came, and showed unto his lord those things. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, Go out, quickly, into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.” These were the classes who were generally beggars, who are very numerous in Oriental lands, The anger of the master is stated, to represent the opposition that exists between good and evil. The Lord is not angry against evil men; He is Love, itself. But the offending natural man naturally imagines that the Lord is angry. At the Oriental feasts, when the invited guests had satisfied themselves, they promptly left the table; and, if any food remained, anyone passing by, or any poor man who came to the neighborhood, being attracted by a knowledge of the feast, would be invited to sit clown, and to partake. And this went on, until all the provisions were consumed. Nothing carried to the table was taken away, again; but even the beggars were called in to consume the remains. And so, the condition of things named in the parable was not at all unusual.
In a certain representative sense, those invited to the feast were the Jews, who had the Lord’s Word; and the others, who came in when the Jews refused, were the Gentiles; whom the Jews regarded as outcasts.
A city, built up for the homes of men, represents a system of doctrines, built up in the mind. The holy city, New Jerusalem, is a system of true doctrine, coming down from God, out of heaven, to the minds of men. The streets and lanes of the city, the ways by which men pass about, represent the mental ways, the truths of doctrine, in their greater and lesser forms, in general and in particular. These truths are in the letter of the Word of the Lord. When the servant of the Lord, the Divine Truth, calls to our natural affections, and announces truth to our natural understanding, and these are so pre-occupied with their own matters that they decline to attend the feast of the Lord; then, in His loving providence, the Lord sends out His servants, again, to call to His feast all who are in Gentile state, uninstructed, but well-disposed. Thus the Word of the Lord goes out to all men, seeking to save all. Wherever there is any knowledge of the Word of God, the truth, as the Lord’s servant; enters into the mind that knows the Word, and calls that mind to the heavenly feast of regenerate life.
THE THIRD COMPANY
Those who are in ” the high-ways and hedges” ate outside of the city, in the suburbs; and these represent those who are out of the Church, and without a knowledge of the Lord’s Word. And at the Lord’s feast, there is room for them all, if they will depart from evil and do good.
And, in an individual sense, our Lord sends the truth, to our ruling-love and its leading thoughts; and when they refuse to go to His heavenly feast, He still sends the truth to our minds, to arouse, if possible, whatever there is, in us, of a Gentile state, disposed to listen to the truth. In our natural self-esteem, we regard the things of our self-hood as the best things within us; but we finally learn that, after all, the things which we have thought to be mere poor, lame, maimed, and blind things, the outcasts of our minds, the simple, childlike, Gentile states of our minds, are the things which attend the feast of the Lord, to take the places rejected by our self-exalting feelings and thoughts.
In our unregenerate state, we despise the beginnings of a better life; and yet our Lord succeeds in saving us from our own evils, not by means of our mental scribes and Pharisees, strutting in their supposed glory, but by the despised things of all humble, gentle, childlike state, which the Lord’s truth finally develops within us.
Of course, the ruling-love must be regenerated; but it will then be a very different quality of love from that which characterized our earlier states of life. Those persons, and those principles in us, which feel poor in their humility; and which are maimed by the adulterated quality of their goodness; and which are halt, or lame, in their ignorance of genuine truth; by which mentally to walk : and which are blind, in their inability to see the truth; these, even in their wretched condition, are more receptive of heavenly help, and more disposed to receive that help, because they know and acknowledge their own ignorance and unworthiness. None are so hard to feed, as those who have no sense of their need.
It is said that the servant was instructed to “compel’ those in the highways and hedges to come in. Evidently, the power used was not physical force, for what could one servant do, to drive into the city, and into the house, a horde of beggars and wanderers mostly disabled? The force used was simply entreaty. They were not compelled against their inclinations, for they would be glad to go. Their disinclination, if any existed, would be because of their confessed unworthiness, or their unpresentable condition. They would need the, gentle compulsion of encouragement, and assurance of welcome.
And does not our Lord, in His holy Word, constantly compel us, in the same gentle way? Does He not compel us to see that His love covers us all? Does He not say to us all, ” Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest?” ” Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out.” The Lord gives men an invitation, by addressing their understandings; and, afterwards, He repeats His invitation, by addressing their hearts.
The parable bears a close resemblance to the parable of “The Marriage of the King’s Son,” but the two accounts were spoken at different times, and are not identical. And there are marked differences between the particulars taught in them.
THOSE WHO ACCEPT.
In the text we have noticed that the higher classes rejected the Lord’s invitations; but “the common people heard Him gladly,” for their minds were not pre-occupied with “the” traditions of the elders,” and the love of power and place. The truth was “hidden from the [self-styled] wise and prudent,” and was “revealed unto babes.” The spiritual marriage of regeneration is attainable by those, only, who join good and truth in a good life; and not by those who know the truth, but fail to do it. “He hath filled the hungry with good things, but the rich He hath sent empty away.” “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
Those who are filled and satisfied with self-love” do not know what inward satisfactions are, because they do not read the Word, and look to the Lord ; but they only know what outward things are, in which alone they delight. Of internal satisfactions they are not receptible” (A. E., 1162). The Lord gives, to every man, all that the man will receive of heavenly life.
EXCUSES VS. REASONS.
Of course, we must carefully distinguish between mere excuses and reasons. A man may have a good reason why he cannot do certain things, which he would like to do. Reasons are generally affirmative; they show cause. But excuses are generally negative, showing a lack of interest.
We can see how a pre-occupied state of mind induces men to be indifferent to the truth, as, for instance, it comes to them in the teachings of the New-Church. The mass of men have their minds pre-occupied with their sensuous desires and plans. They feel no hunger for anything spiritual. Others are pre-occupied with their own ideas, prejudices, pride of opinion, lust of originality, etc.; which so fill their minds that they have no room for spiritual truth. Others have so confirmed the prevailing theories of the different sects, that they do not expect any new truth, and are satisfied that no new truth is to come to men. Others are pre-occupied with the theories of natural science, and are contemptuous towards any suggestion of spiritual things.
And so, from various causes, we hear the same old cry, to-day, in the Lord’s Second Coming, that was made in His First Coming, “Have any of the rulers, or of the Pharisees, believed on Him?” Of course not; their minds are pre-occupied. And they are rejecting the Lord, now, as they did then, because He comes in a way unexpected to them.
Does it seem impossible that men should reject the Lord’s invitation? Look at our own lives. Every truth that we know is a standing invitation to the Lord’s feast. And every time we do what is not as good as we know how to do, (and can do, if we will,) we reject the Lord’s invitation, to the extent of our failure. Peter felt sure that he would not deny the Lord; but he did deny Jesus, and repeated his denial. Have we not some habits which we do not want to give up; some so-called small vices? And do we not, sometimes, speak of these habits, as excuses for not fully accepting our Lord’s invitation? Are we not, then, willing to. reject the Lord’s, feast, for our habits? Are we not so pre-occupied with our habits that we neglect the Lord’s feast?
How easily we find excuses for what we do not desire to do. And how the habit of making excuses grows upon us. How often we think we would like to accept the Lord’s invitation to greater spirituality of character, but the invitation seems to come just at the wrong time, when we are so very much pre-occupied with worldly and selfish plans, that it would be especially inconvenient at present, to follow-the Lord very closely. We say to the truth, For this time, we pray thee, have me excused. But it will never be convenient for our self-love, and our love of the world, to lose their control over us. We must go to the Lord, for new impulses, and for a new direction for our feelings and thoughts.
THE GOOD TIME COMING.
Men talk about the” Good Time Coming,” and long for it, instead of working for it, by shunning evils, and going to the Lord, to feast in the things of heaven. The good time is now, if we will to have it so. It is one thing to possess great privileges, and another thing to use them wisely. An invitation is not equivalent to participation in the feast, either socially or spiritually. Many things may occur, to prevent our attendance. Character is what fits a man for the spiritual feast, or excludes him from it. The practical acceptance of the Lord’s invitation is obedience to His commandments. “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” All disobedience to the commandments is a practical rejection of the Divine invitation to heaven.
The Lord’s invitations are always for the present. “Today, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” “Son, go work, to-day, in My vineyard.” Worshipping the Lord does not consist merely in going to church, but in shunning evils, and ill doing good. Sometimes, the popular and elegant church is pleasant to us from merely external reasons. It is as “a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument.” Coming to the Lord is coming out of evils. “Blessed are they that are called to the marriage-supper of the Lamb.” “Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in, through the gates, into the city.” “Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto Me, and eat ye that which is good; and let your soul delight itself in fatness.”
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1887