SECRESY OR DIVINE OPERATION.
He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” (MARK IV. 36-29.)
THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
The kingdom of God is that condition of man’s mind in which the Lord rules, by His good and truth His love and wisdom. Wherever this condition exists, there is the kingdom of God established. “The kingdom of God is within you:” This kingdom of God is formed in man, by implanting in his mind the truths of the Lord’s Word.
The seed is truth. And every seed of truth carries within it the vitality of good. This vitality causes the seed of truth to sprout, and to spring up, into something living, wherever the conditions of growth are present. Heaven is implanted in all men who receive truth and good; i. e., who receive truth into good ground, into a natural will disposed to love the truth. The ground represents the man’s own mind, whose condition is according to the state of his ruling love: A seed grows, because, as a vessel, it is capable of receiving and using the Inflowing life of the Lord. So it is with the human mind : according to the state of his mind, as a vessel, each man receives one or another degree and quality of human life.
The sower, here, is the man, himself. In some of the parables, the sower represents the Lord, because the Lord’s part of the work is there treated of; but, in this parable, the man’s part of the work is brought into contrast with the Lord’s part. It is the man’s part to prepare the ground, to sow the seed, and to reap the harvest. And it is the Lord’s part to give the secret growth of the seed, as well, as to supply the conditions, and to sustain the man in his labor. It can not be said that the Lord sleeps, nor that He does not know how the seed grows.
Casting the seed into the ground here represents the man’s work of learning truth, from the Lord’s Word, and implanting it in his mind, The springing up of the seed is the reception and operation of the truth in the man’s understanding; and the growing is its reception and operation in his will.
SECRET WORK OF REGENERATION.
The regeneration of the man is accomplished while he is unconscious of its operation and progress. ” The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth; so is everyone that is born of the spirit:” that is, the operation of the Lord’s spirit is known by its results; but the steps of its progress do not come to a man’s consciousness.
SLEEPING AND RISING, ETC.
Sleeping and waking, or rising, and night and day, represent certain states of mind. When a man is in the clear light of truth, and his mind is elevated to see in that light, it is day-time, or daylight, in his mind and life. But when truths are not clear to him, but rather obscure, and he is mentally in the dark, then it is night, in his mental experience. When his mind is active in the light of spiritual truth, he is said to be awake, and to arise, and to go forth to perform uses. But, when he relapses into merely sensuous, natural thoughts and feelings, and loses sight of great spiritual principles, he is said to fall asleep. Thus, briefly, to be asleep is to be in a natural-minded state, and to arise, or be awake, is to be in a spiritual-minded state.
Now, in the course of a man’s life, he alternates between these two states, to a greater or less extent. At times, his mind is open to spiritual light, and spiritual things seem clear and certain. These are times of seeing truths. And these states must be followed by states of doing the truth, in practical things, when the man must come down into the everyday common affairs of life, and carry out his principles. As he practises the truth, he becomes fitted to receive more truth.
And so his life alternates between seasons of exaltation and instruction, and seasons of coming down and embodying instruction in his daily life. A man could not be always in a state of exaltation into the light, because he needs the seasons of application, at each stage of progress. By application of known truth, he brings his heart and life up to the measure of the truth that he knows. And, having advanced a step, that new step enables man to make another advance into the light of truth.
Thus, each truth, known and practised, develops its corresponding good; and each good developed, leads to further truth. Thus, by alternating between arising and sleeping, a man is instructed, step by step, and also enabled to ultimate his principles, and to fix and confirm them in his practical daily life.
If a man merely sees the truth, he becomes a theorizer, only; and if he does not see the truth, he becomes a sensuous man. Regeneration goes on, in the man, while he does good, according to the truth that he knows, And this practice of truth works a change in the man, unconsciously to himself. He experiences the change, when it comes; but he does not recognize its operation, in its coming.
For the Lord inwardly leads man by love, and flows into his love, in his will, And, from the will, the Lord influences the man’s understanding. The more the man is willing to love good, the more he is disposed to see, and to consider, the truth. And a man does not have anything further than a general sensation of what flows into his love, with its affections. But he has a manifest sensation of what flows into his understanding, because this takes definite form in his thought.
We can see that a man must receive good into his will secretly, because the Lord must lead the man to reconstruct his whole character. The natural man is in a disorderly mental condition; and he regards his own evils as good and delightful. But the Lord desires to lead the man out of disorder, and into all orderly condition, in which he will hate evil and love good.
But the man will not willingly oppose himself at the Lord’s bidding, because he would thus feel himself to be forced by another person. But the Lord permits it to appear to the man that he leads himself, and that he makes changes in his character of his own accord. Then the man feels free, because, in his outward thought, he thinks he is compelling himself and is not forced by another.
Thus, the Lord secretly implants in the man , as far as possible, a disposition to love good, and to seek a change of character. And so the man goes on, and cultivates good affections and true thoughts, without seeing or knowing just how these things are brought about.
It is not necessary to the farmer to know how seeds grow. If he does his part, preparing the ground, planting the seed, and attending to the conditions of growth, so far as they come under his knowledge and ability, and reaping, and caring for the harvest, he can eat the bread, as the result of the growth of the seed.
And so, if a man will learn the truth, and do all that lies in his power to care for the growth of the truth in his mind, attending to the necessary conditions of growth, so far as they fall within his ability, he will secure the practical result of the growth of the truth in his mind and life, even when he does not know just how the Lord makes the implanted truth to sprout and grow to its harvest of practical good.
So, in our physical life, we eat our food, and the food undergoes various operations, until it is digested, assimilated, and converted into blood, etc. But we have no manifest perception or sensation of what is going on within our bodies, during these operations. Yet we live, and secure the results of these operations, without knowing their methods and stages of progress.
So, in spiritual life, the Lord carries on many of our mental operations, without our knowledge. As the farmer plants his seed, and sleeps and rises, night and day, and the seed springs up, and grows, he knows not how: so we learn the truth, and do our work, now in a spiritual state of mind, and now in a natural state; and yet an inward growth is going on, unperceived by us, yet operated by our ever-watchful Lord of love.
The Lord leads and teaches man, through the means of angels and spirits. But the man does not see these ministering spirits, and, generally, has no sensation of their presence about him, nor of his intimate association with them. It is a law of the Divine Providence that a man should not, from any sensation in himself see how good and truth flow in to him, from the Lord, nor how evil and falsity flow into him from the hells. Nor should he see how the Divine Providence secretly operates; within him, in favor of good, and against evil; because, if he saw these things, he would not feel free, and would not be able to act freely, as of himself, according to his reason.
It is enough, if he knows and acknowledges these things, as spiritual principles of human life, taught in the doctrines of the Church, from the Lord’s Word. It would not be helpful to him, to know these things by outward sense, because, then, he would so act as to counteract their good influence.
We can easily imagine how it would be, with us, if we had not only to eat our food, but also to superintend all the processes which the food undergoes, from the eating to the distribution of its chemical elements to their appropriate places in our bodies. And it would be correspondingly hard for us to have to superintend all the inward operations of the Divine Providence, by which our mental food is carried through spiritual digestion, assimilation, and distribution throughout the various planes, degrees and departments of our minds.
SEEN IN ITS RESULTS.
But, while the Lord’s operations within our minds are not plainly seen, as to their methods and steps of progress, yet their finished work is very plainly manifested. When the harvest comes, we see it and know it. When the man is regenerate, then he knows the fact that the Lord has led him through many steps of gradual growth. And, then, he does not oppose the Lord’s leading.
Now, while the farmer cannot produce growth of the seed, and does not know just how the seed grows, yet there is much that he can know and do. He can study the science and art of planting. He can learn to distinguish good seed from poor seed, and one kind of seed from another. He can prepare the land, and care for it; gathering up the weeds and stones, and keeping the fences in order. And so, if he does not harvest a good crop, there may be many things that were the sower’s fault.
And, spiritually, there are many things that we can do, both in putting forth our own abilities, as of ourselves, and in preparing our minds to receive the Divine truth, and the continued influences of the Lord, through His guardian-angels, operating to produce growth in the truth, in our minds. And our failures to receive the results of such growth are our own fault, to the extent in which we have left our part of the work undone.
It is enough for a man to know how to do his part, and to do it; i. e., to keep the Lord’s commandments, shunning evil and doing good. It is useful and delightful to attain great intellectual knowledge of spiritual things; for “Knowledge is power.” But power is not of any use until it is applied. And so, all our intellectual knowledge is of no practical use, except in its actual application to shunning evil and doing good.
We must not expect the Lord to come to us, and, with irresistible influence, fill us with good, and expel our evils. In so far as we are willing to apply our good and truth, in our daily life, our Lord will make them grow, within us: i. e., He will enlarge our love of good and truth, and our capacity to receive good and truth from Him. As we go on, as of ourselves, learning and practising the truth, He will carry on within us, secretly, but surely, all His wonderful works.
THE EARTH BRINGING FORTH.
Yet, practically, it seems to the man, that he does, of himself all that is done. ” For the earth bringeth forth of herself.” This is the appearance. But it is not the actual fact, even literally. For the earth does not act, but is acted upon, Heat, light, the atmosphere, electricity, and other things, operate upon the earth, according to its condition. So, the natural mind of man, which is signified by the earth, seems, to bring forth of itself; and yet it does not do so;· but it is acted upon, by various influences from the Lord. The vitality is not in the earth, but in the seed. So, the mind of man does not bring forth of itself. The vital energy is not in man, but in the seed of truth, from the Lord. But the man’s mind, like the ground, must have the necessary conditions ready.
THE GRADUAL GROWTH.
The seed springs up, and grows, “first, the blade, then the ear; after that, the full corn in the ear.” A man first receives the truth as an idea, a mere sprout, or little blade. He thinks the idea is his own. Then he has received the truth as mere science, or knowledge, deposited in his memory. Afterwards, he sees the truth as a principle; and it is then a truth of faith, which he believes. But his natural thought is not yet in agreement with the truth. The corn is beginning to form, in the ear; but it is not yet ready for use. Afterwards, the man sees the truth in its practical aspect, as something good, which he can do. Then it is a truth of life, the full corn in the ear, ready for practical use. And when it is used, it becomes the good of life, in acts of charity, or love to the neighbor.
Thus, the man’s mind grows, and the truth grows, with him, and within him. The truth first enters into his memory; then into his understanding; then into his will, And this growth proceeds, as the man keeps the commandments in his natural life, from a principle of obedience to the truth of the Lord.
VARIETIES OF RECEPTION.
Men receive the truth differently, because the men, themselves, are different. All through a man’s life, if he is regenerating, he is receiving more and more of truth. And the manner in which each man receives new truth is according to the state of his mind, In all men, good is implanted by means of truth. In celestial men, characterized by the love of good, and who are highly regenerate, good is implanted by truths; but truths do not stop in the memory, to be pondered over, nor in the understanding, to be reasoned about; but they pass at once into the will, the heart, which is in condition to receive them, and to apply them at once to life, in practical good.
But; with the spiritual man, (characterized by the love of truth, rather than by the love of good,) truths pass into the understanding, where they are subjected to reason, and gradually adopted as principles of faith. Thus a conscience (con-science, science with the man) is built up, in the spiritual man, from which he battles against evil and falsity.
But the celestial man, receiving everything as practical good, is not governed by science; like the natural man, nor by conscience like the spiritual man, He is not governed merely by a known standard of right, but by a love of right, a delight in good, from which he is in the perception of good and of truth, which increases as his love increases.
“But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.” The sickle, as a sharp knife, separating the grain from the stubble, represents the truth, especially the letter of the Lord’s Word, in its capacity of cutting apart, or separating, essentials from non-essential things; and of distinguishing good, from evil.
The grain is cut for use. And the threshing follows the cutting. So, in our minds, armed with the truths of the letter of the Divine Word, especially the Ten Commandments, we cut apart, or separate, truths from appearances; and, by rational thought, we mentally thresh out the practical good, for daily use.
As the harvest is the good for which the farmer works, from the preparation of the ground, and through the planting; weeding, etc.; so, in the Lord’s Providence, the practical good of life is the end in view, through all the operations and leadings of the Lord. And as the farmer, at each stage of his work, rejoices to see things moving on, in the right, way, towards the harvest, so the Lord and His angels rejoice to see our minds attaining, at each stage of progress, a good and orderly condition, preparing for the harvest to come.
So we rejoice to see our children progressing in an orderly way, towards regeneration. At each step, we rejoice to see the ground ready for the seed of truth, and bringing the seed on towards maturity and harvest. So, our Lord and His angels are watching us, rejoicing to see us shunning evil and doing good. They delight in every good impulse of our love, every true thought, and every useful deed. They are doing all they can, to lead us to wisdom, and to turn us away from folly.
DOING OUR PART.
But we must do our part, planting the seed, or learning the truth, and gathering the ripened grain in the harvest of practical good, in the daily life of love and usefulness. And we must make the bread, and eat it. We must make the good our own, or we do not fix it in our manhood, There is much that we cannot do, and which our Lord does for us, in the secret recesses of our hearts. And for these things we must trust, as the farmer trusts for the growth of the planted seed. “The secret things belong unto the Lord, our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us, and to our children, for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” But there is much that we can do; and for this we are responsible. We can shun evils, in our affections, in our thoughts, and in our conduct.
SPIRITUAL AND NATURAL STATES.
A practical point arises just here: we need not worry ourselves because we are not always in a profound and spiritual state of mind. It is not so intended. This is the radical mistake of the hermit, who seeks to rise above the world, by flying from it. But the Lord intended us to learn the truth, and to put that truth into practice, in the world, He intended us to sleep and rise, night and day; i. e., to alternate between natural and spiritual states, so that we can learn the truth, in our more exalted states, and practise it in our natural states. But, while we can not be always in a spiritual state, but must often be in natural states, we shall never need to be in evil natural states. The real danger does not arise from the world outside of us, but from the world within us. Thus, we recognize the great practical importance of learning simply to go on, in a good natural life, keeping the commandments, without worry, without display, and without fear; not seeking ambitiously, to do some great thing, but contented to do the plain, simple things of a quiet and useful life; knowing that, in all these things, the Lord is bringing to harvest every truth that we carry into our practical life.
And this, should be an encouraging thought, to us, because we can all do these things. We are not required to have great natural intellects, or learning, or riches, or social position, or beauty, or fine clothing, or any other merely natural conditions ; but we are all required to keep the commandments, shunning evil, and doing good. And when we do this, our Lord is giving us an inward growth which shall, in the world to come, make all our conditions and surroundings in keeping with our character, and, hence, with all our unselfish longings and aspirations.
This world is but the school-house and the world to come is the real life. Very few externals are essential to a truly happy life on earth. And no abundance of externals will produce happiness, in the mind which has not attained the elements of regenerate spiritual life.
The parable suggests our duty to our children, to bring them up for the spiritual world, and not merely for the natural world; to teach them genuine truth ; and to set them a good example; to prepare their minds for the Lord’s work of regeneration; remembering that, while the growth of the seed is secret, some failure to grow is secret. We must not infer that, because we, can not see what is going on in our own mind; or our child’s mind, therefore it must be doing well. It may be doing very badly. The seeds of evil weeds may be secretly growing underneath the surface. Under a smooth exterior, there may be very bad conditions. That depends upon whether we have well prepared the ground, planted good and well-selected seed, kept out the weeds and stones, kept the necessary fences in good order; and in all other things, have done our part, wisely and well. “If ye know these things, blessed are ye, if ye do them.”
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1887