Lk 5 Old – New Cloth



36He told them this parable: “No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.’ “(LUKE V.36-39.)


Truth must be expressed in doctrine. And every truth requires an appropriate doctrine to contain it. New truths can not be fully contained and exhibited in and by old doctrine. Therefore, for new truth we must have new doctrine. And, as doctrine teaches men how to live, every new quality of life is accompanied. by a new doctrine. For a new kind of life requires new thought, new feelings and new habits.

The man who remains in the old way of thinking and of feeling, does not see why there should be a new way of living. And hence he does not see the need of new habits. But a new life includes a new internal and a new external. These principles are involved in the circumstances of the parable. The scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus, “Why do the disciples of John fast, often, and make prayers; and like…wise the disciples of the Pharisees; but Thine eat and drink?”


And the parable gives the reason why the disciples of Jesus should have different habits from those of the disciples of the Pharisees. The Pharisees lived in the spirit of the old Jewish dispensation. Their feelings, their thoughts and their habits, were of the character of the dispensation in which they lived. And John the Baptist came to warn, rather than to teach new truth; and so his disciples were not prepared to assume new forms of worship.

But Jesus came to introduce a new dispensation of life; to teach new truth; to bring- a judgment upon the old dispensation; and to make a radical change in men’s ways of feeling, thinking’ and acting. And, naturally, His disciples would change their ways of acting, as a part of their change of character.


Each dispensation of life, among men, has been a re-adjustment of human life, accommodated to the spiritual needs of men. As men declined to lower states of character, the infinite love of the Lord followed them down, and re-adjusted their conditions, to guard them, as far as possible, from the bad results of their own evils; and, at the same time, to keep them open to heavenly blessings, as far as their states of character would permit.

Each dispensation of the Church has thus been an adjustment of all things about men to the character of their ruling-love. Each dispensation has had its own phase of life, its own quality of character: Men in different dispensations, have been different kinds of men; different in their inward quality of character, and different in the outward ways and habits,: which embody and express the character.


In each dispensation, as men retrograded, from higher to lower conditions of spiritual life, a new dispensation was rendered necessary, because men had lost some of the characteristic qualities of the previous dispensations. Because men became different in their central principles, they became different in their outward ways of life.. And, having grown to be different, different phases of spiritual influences were adapted to their spiritual needs.

When men sank below the appreciation of the higher forms of the Divine Love, that infinitely tender Love came to them in lower, or more external forms, such as they could then comprehend.


And, when men had sunk to the lowest possible condition in which human life could be preserved, the Divine Love came to them, in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, to save them from impending destruction, and to open their minds to the appreciation of heavenly life.


Then, under the guidance of the Divine Love, began the ascent of the human race, towards the higher conditions it had formerly lost. As men began to outgrow the characteristic quality of the existing dispensation, and the conditions were ready for a new step upward, to a higher phase of life, a new dispensation was introduced.


And, at every such change, the men who were still imbued with the old spirit and quality of the existing dispensation, and satisfied with its life, failed to comprehend either the need, or the quality, of the new dispensation. And, as the new feelings and new thoughts of the new dispensation necessarily manifested themselves in new ways of life, the men remaining in the old dispensation judged of the new things from the old standards; and, from the old stand-points, they naturally regarded the .evidences of new life as dangerous innovations, and sinful departures from the good old ways.


Such was the condition of things at the first coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ; and such is, to-day, the condition, at the second coming of the Lord, in a new dispensation of spiritual life and light. For the Second Coming of the Lord is not an outward and bodily coming, but an inward and spiritual coming to the hearts and understandings’ of men, to give them anew quality of inward and outward life. And this coming has already begun.


The old condition never understands the new, because the old is not prepared to become the new. The new is a step beyond the old; a new phase of life; a different level of existence; a radical change in the characteristic quality of the life. And the old, not understanding the new, necessarily misjudges the new.

But the new, having outgrown the old, comprehends its own past conditions, and realizes the change; as the man born blind cannot comprehend the conditions of the seeing eye, except by experiencing the change in his own person, when his eyes are opened to sight.


“No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old.” Garments, clothing and protecting the man, represent truths, which spiritually clothe and protect our good affections. A good impulse, without the protection afforded by an intelligent knowledge of truth, often leads to trouble, being misdirected.

And because of the symbolic signification of garments, so much is said about them, in the Word of the Lord. When it is said to Jerusalem, ,i Put on thy beautiful garments, 0 Jerusalem, the holy city,” the Church, as the spiritual Jerusalem, is told to array herself in the beautiful truths of the Word of the Lord; and to teach these truths, that they may beautify men’s lives.

And the habit of arraying- ourselves in our best garments, on occasions of worship, and in times of social gladness, represents the mental habit of clothing” our minds in the truths of the Word, when we approach the Lord and when we exhibit our gladness for the blessings He has given us. The garments of the priests, in the Jewish worship, were regulated by the Lord, to represent His regulation of the truths which shall clothe our affections, in their different experiences. The pure white garments which arc mentioned in the Revelation, as clothing the redeemed in the spiritual world, represent the pure truths which, by practice, purity men’s lives.


In the old Jewish dispensation, which was representative of spiritual things, the clothing was so regulated as to be appropriate to the conditions of the man, or to his representative character. So, in the spiritual life of the new dispensation, in the Christian Church, every where, the truths that clothe men’s minds are the appropriate garments of the intellect, accompanying the corresponding conditions of the affections, And even to-day, in our social customs, a person’s garments often indicate his condition, occupation, official station, ; etc; And, spiritually, a man’s mental clothing, the truths in which he clothes his mind, indicate his spiritual condition, and the quality of his life.

The Psalmist sings, “Bless the Lord, 0 my Soul, … who covereth Himself with light, as with a garment;” i. e., who displays His character in the light of truth. The believing woman was healed by touching the Lord’s garment, to represent the cleansing” of our affections, by contact with the truth of the Lord’s Word, which regulates our conduct,

Angels were often seen in shining garments. And it is the bright truth which shows us the angelic conditions of human life. And, at the transfiguration of Jesus, His garments were white and brilliant. The letter of the Word is as an outer garment, to protect its inward, spiritual sense.


Garments, then, represent truths, which clothe the mind. Old garments, in need of repair, represent old phases of truth, not in good spiritual order, in the minds of men; old conditions of thought. New garments represent new truths, new phases of truth, new ways of thinking. The literal sense of the Word, as seen by the merely natural mind of man, is, in some respects, an old garment, outgrown and put away, by the man who sees the inward spirit of the Word, and who, from the perception of the spirit of truth, intelligently sees and understands the now illuminated letter of the Scriptures.


The parable illustrates the need of adjusting our doctrine to our spiritual growth. .” No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old;” no man spiritually does so: no man, having outgrown old phases of truth, can rationally expect to make these old ideas serve him in his new conditions, by merely patching them with a few new ideas. New conditions need new truths, suitable to the changed states of the mind.


If we try to patch up our old beliefs, by putting upon them a little of the new light, we do not succeed; for” the new maketh a rent :” the new truth, like new cloth, is elastic, and the old truth, like old cloth, cannot bear the strain of use; and it tears. “And the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old;” there is no harmony between the old views and the new.


The same general principle is taught in the second part of the text: “And no man putteth new wine into old bottles,”etc. Wine corresponds to spiritual truth. For this reason, used in the Lord’s Supper, to represent the reception of spiritual truth from our Lord. In the Scriptures, much is said of wine, and with the inward meaning of spiritual truth, except when the wine is mentioned as bad wine, and then it represents truth perverted and falsified, corrupted in quality.


“Bottles,” as vessels to contain wine, represent doctrines which hold and contain the truth. Doctrine is necessary: in order to understand the truth; to keep the truth in condition to be used .. The bottles mentioned in the text were made of the skins of kids and goats. And, in bct, in the new version of the New Testament, they are called” wineskins,” instead of bottles.

These wine-skins, or bottles, when new, were elastic. When new wine was placed in them, the fermentation of the wine expanded them. But, when they were old, they were hard, and had lost their elasticity. If new wine were then put in them, the fermentation of the wine would burst them; and the wine would be spilled, and the bottles would be torn. In the parable, old bottles represent old doctrines old ways of thinking, and old mental conditions. And new bottles represent new doctrines, doctrines adapted to new conditions of mind, teachings of the new states of the Church.

The doctrines of Judaism were old bottles, which could not hold the new wine of the Christian dispensation. And to-day, the doctrines of the First Christian Church, obscure and irrational as they have become, are old bottles, unable to hold, and to bear, the new wine of the New-Church, the grand spiritual truths of the Lord’s Second Coming.


When the mind takes a new step, to advanced phases of spiritual truth, it must adopt new doctrines, as vessels to contain the new truths, for daily use. The regenerate understanding must be of a quality capable of all necessary expansion, to bear the strain which new truths bring upon the mind. For every new truth, after entering the mind, subjects the mind to temptations, spiritual fermentations, that it may purge itself of its impurities, and may hold the truth in a clear, endming condition. The truth is nut fixedly ours, until we have suffered for it, and fought for it, and lived for it.


When we see the truth in its inward sense, its merely apparent literal aspect passes away; the expansive power of the new truth breaks the old bottle, the old literal doctrine, and that bottle perishes. And if we have nothing in place of it, the wine of spiritual truth is spilled. For instance: a man has believed the old ideas of the creation, literally, as given in Genesis. But enlightened instruction and rational thought show him that Genesis does not claim to teach physical science. The new wine of new truth breaks the old bottle of old doctrine. Now, if the man has not any new bottle, new doctrine, ready for use, the wine will be spilled; i. e., he will lose the truth; he will reject Genesis, as not a Divine book. But Genesis is a Divine book.

But, if he puts the new wine of truth into the new-bottle of the doctrine of the spiritual sense of the Word, in which Genesis is seen to treat of the spiritual creation and regeneration of the human mind, he will save both the wine and the bottle, both the truth and the doctrine. Without the bottle of a true doctrine, he will not be able to have his truth in condition for use.


The parable speaks of both the garment and the wine, not as a mere repetition, but because the garment represents the truth in its outward uses, as a clothing of the mind, and the wine represents truth of an inward kind, with inward uses, warming and -enlivening the spirit. And, in agreement with this fact, we find, in the Greek of the text, the word for new is not the same, in the two cases. The old bottles are, in one sense, the rituals of the Jewish Church, and the new wine is the truth or Christianity. Again, the old bottles are the perverted doctrines of the

First Christian Church, and the new wine is the truth of the New-Church. The old and the new do not agree Vainly would we patch up the old doctrine with a piece from the new; or carry the new wine in the old bottles. The Lord said, “Behold, I make all things new;” including doctrines and forms, as well as atTe{tions and tlw\lghts. The old doctrines were adapted to the old ideas, but not to the new truths.


Take, for instance, the old doctrine of regeneration, as an instantaneous operation. As long as a man holds that doctrine, he cannot grasp the New-Church truth, that regeneration is a gradual process of growth. Even the theological terms of the old teachings are different from the new. Minds that are spiritually old are like the old wine bottles; they have expanded to the extent of their ability, and their elasticity has departed. They are ~xed in their ways, and incapable of bearing any further straain: They can hold the old wine, but not the vigorous new wine. Truth gives life to doctrine, and doctrine gives support to the truth.

But the doctrine must be able to expand, with the truth. As men outgrow the clothing of their boyhood, and need garments appropriate to their manhood, so the mind. Outgrows old doctrines, and must be clad in new ones, suitable to its present conditions. Every system of doctrine is adapted to some stage of mental growth; and, outgrowing that state, we outgrow its doctrines,


For instance: to make a New-Churchman, more is needed than merely to secure some little idea of the New Church truths, and then to put that idea as a new patch upon the old doctrines : or to pour the new wine into the old bottles. We must have a new system of doctrine; from centre to circumference, and a new way of life, to embody the new doctrine, And this fact shows the uselessness of trying to muscle New-Church ideas into a man’s mind Without letting him know their distinctive quality. In doing this, you only patch his old garments with a new piece, or put the new wine into his old bottle. He can never make any practical use of the new truth, until he acknowledges it as new truth, in new doctrine,


There is danger in superficially adopting new ideas of truth, and then trying to go on, with them, with our old ideas of life and our old habits. But the new life cannot be held in old habits, or in old ways of thinking. We need not merely to be conformed to the world’s standards, but transformed by the Spirit of Truth. The truth for the New-Church is interior truth, truth for the interior mind; but the truth of the old theology is external truth; or, often, mere appearance of truth, to the natural mind.


Take, for instance, the doctrine of the Lord. How do men think of God, by the old doctrine? He seems to be angry, partial and vindictive, in character, and mysteriously divided, in person. Contrast such views with the clear truths of the New-Church, teaching the infinite goodness and love of the one God, in one Person, the Lord, Jesus Christ. Contrast the old doctrine of a “vicarious atonement,” and “justification by faith alone,” with the New-Church doctrine of an at-one-ment, or agreement, between God and man, as man shuns evils, and does good, in love, faith and obedience to the Lord; and in which the man is saved from the evil that he rejects from his whole life, in feeling, thought and conduct. Look at the old doctrine of the literal truth of all

the Sacred Scriptures, regarded as Divine because the Lord guided the writers to be accurate in statement; and contrast this with the New-Church truths of the literal and spiritual senses of the Scriptures, the body and the spirit of the Word, related by correspondence. Take the old doctrine of life, depending upon piety, and having little practical relation to men’s actual evils; and contrast that doctrine with the new doctrine of life, in which a man is shown to be good, just in so far as he does good, and shuns evils, in all things of his two-fold life, acting as of himself: and yet sustained by the Lord.


Now, clearly it is of no use to try to hold these old doctrines, and to patch them with pieces from the New-Church, nor to use them as old bottles for new wine. “For the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old,” and “new wine must be put into new bottles.” ‘vVe can not hold the new truths as living principles, while our actual states of life, and our conduct, are governed by the old ideas of our natural mind. A New-Churchman must form his whole life in the light of the New-Church, and give it the distinctive quality of the New-Church.


“No man also having drunk old wine, straightway desireth new; for he saith, The old is better.” Those who are satisfied with the old life, do not feel drawn to the new. It requires time to produce a New-Churchman; to grow out of the old, and into the new. And all who are fixed in the old quality of life, are unwilling to change. Being in the spirit of the old, they reject the new. Those who live in externals, can not be brought, at once, to see and appreciate internals. Natural-minded men do not see the realness of spiritual life. But the intelligent New-Churchman sees that the spiritual life is the real life, governing and forming the outward life.


Before a New-Church could be raised up, on the earth, a new heaven had to be formed. And, as the new heaven increases, its influence will increase, and the New-Church upon the earth will increase accordingly; for the New Jerusalem must find the right conditions ready for it, before it can descend from the heavens. The New-Jerusalem, the New-Church, can not descend from heaven, at once, and by compulsion, but only as men are prepared to receive it And this will be as the falses of the old theology are removed. For what is new can not gain admittance where falses have been implanted, unless the falses be removed. The question of the descent of the New-Jerusalem is, then, a question of the readiness and preparation of men to receive the new quality of life, by means of the new doctrine of truth. You cannot Christianize a thorough Jew, who is confirmed in the spirit and life of the Jewish dispensation; nor can you make a New-Churchman out of one who is confirmed in the spirit and life of the old-church quality of good and truth. The old conditions are not fit receptacles for new life.


We see a connection between the parable last considered, and the one now under consideration; The parable of “The House on the Rock and the House on the Sand,” taught the need of living on the truths that we know. And the parable about the garments and the wine, teaches us that the old doctrines and states of life are not able to hold the new truth and new life; and that, in order actually to receive new truths into our lives, we, ourselves, must be made new, in the regeneration. We must be lifted up to the level of the new truths. ” If ye know these things, happy are ye, if ye do them.”

Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1887