MAN’S RESPONSE TO THE LORD’S INVITATION.
16″To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: 17″ ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge and you did not mourn.’ 18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ‘ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.”(MATTHEW XI. 16-19.)
THE LITERAL SENSE.
In the literal sense, the words “this generation” refer to the Jews. The Lord personally appeared to the Jews, and walked among them as a man. But “though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him.” Especially among the Jews, “He was despised and rejected of men.” At his birth, He was cradled in a manger ,” because there was no room for [Him] in the inn; ” and, in His manhood, though” the foxes [had] holes, and the birds of the air [had] nests, the Son of Man [had] not where to lay His head.” .
Although the Word was given to the Jews, and although Jesus proved His Divine power, yet, when forced to admit, His power, the Jews accused Him of casting out devils by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of the devils. Thus the Jews rejected the Lord, sought to destroy His influence, and finally crucified Him. Though He called them to repentance and reformation, yet they remained in their evils: though He called them to see, and rejoice in, the heavenly treasures He could give to those who would receive them, yet they scorned both His treasures and Himself.
THE INWARD MEANING.
But, in the spiritual sense, the words” this generation” refer to those who are like the Jews, in quality, or character. i. e., who know the teachings of the Word of God, and see their power, and yet reject them, in heart and life. Such minds are called a “generation,” because the interiors of men are born, or generated, from certain principles; which, in this case, were evil. They are, as Jesus told the Jews, of their” father, the devil.” They are, as all others are, naturally born into evils; but they will not repent and reform, that they may be born again, re-generated, from the Lord. The trouble, with them, is not in their ignorance of doctrine, but in their unwillingness to lead the life which the Word teaches.
The” children” are the little ones of the spirit, the principles of the Word of God is the goods and truths of innocence and charity; the states of good and truth laid up in the interiors of man’s mind, by the Lord, even from childhood. In thein the language of the New-Church, these principles and states are called” remains ” they are things of heaven, remaining with the human mind, so that its regeneration may be possible. They are not fully-grown principles of life, matured by love and thought, grown to manhood in the life; they are only little ones, children, needing our watchful care, to develop them to their maturity and usefulness within us. They are not the life-principles in which we have become confirmed; but they seek to become confirmed, fixed in us, by embodiment in our outward life.
And, for this purpose, they call upon their companions, while sitting in the markets. Through them, our Lord calls upon us to become regenerated; and He continues so to call, as long as we have” ears to hear.” By means or these little ones, His children, He seeks to gain a lodgement for His good and truth, within us, where they may grow with our growth, and strengthen with our strength, and become men of maturity, in us, communicating to us the Holy Spirit, from the Divine Humanity of our blessed Lord, Jesus Christ, the one only God.
CALLING TO THEIR COMPANIONS. EXAMPLES.
These children, these” remains,” call “to their fellows ;” they do not appeal to the things of our proprium, or selfhood, which are already fixed in us; because whatever becomes a fully confirmed life-principle in the mind of man, whatever becomes a grown man in the mind, continues there; and, although it may be much modified, or counterbalanced, by other principles, yet it is never removed. It is a thing which the man has lived himself into, and it is a part of him; it is one of the materials of which his house is built; and as he builds, so he lives.
The children, the” remains,” the principles of the Word, in the mind, call” to their companions,” to the other children, the mind; to those principles of the natural mind and life which are now being formed, now growing, not yet fixed, or matured. They appeal to these, because these are yet young, and are in condition to be trained and formed in an orderly way. By means of these “remains,” these spiritual children, the Lord operates, within our minds, upon those natural principles, in us, which are now developing, and which, like the green and tender twig, may be bent, gently, yet firmly, out of its natural inclinations to deformity. The interior things belong to our spiritual mind, but the “companions” are the principles of our natural mind.
The children are said to be “sitting in the markets.” Markets are acknowledged places of trade and traffic, known resorts for those who buy, sell or exchange. The things of natural life correspond to the things necessary to spiritual life, the spiritual principles which feed and clothe the human mind.
And the place where natural things are bought, sold and exchanged, represents the state of mind in which a man is procuring to himself the things of spiritual life. He gives one thing for another, as in trade. He gives up his self-trust, and procures, instead, trust in the Lord; he gives up his pride, and, by trials, buys humility; he exchanges his ill-temper for gentleness of spirit; he loosens his love from worldly treasures, and fixes it upon heavenly treasure.
THE MENTAL MARKET.
This state of mind, in which a man is seeking and undergoing these changes, is denoted by a “market,” a place of trade and exchange. This is our rational faculty, in which everything is examined, and in which we seek what we want. In the use of his rational faculty, a man accepts and appropriates, makes his own, the good and true principles which he sees in the Lord’s Word. That the” children” were” in the markets,” then, denotes that the” remains,” the principles of the holy Word, stored up in our interiors by the Lord, seek to operate upon us in our times and states of change; in those states in which we are rationally examining a new principle, to see if we are willing to exchange what we already have for it; in our states of rational thought and reflection upon our life and its spiritual needs; in our states of seeking such spiritual things as we think we need; in our open states, when we are ready to examine and receive.
It is in this sense that our Lord said, “I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed ;” and that He said to the rich young man, “Sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasures in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
And the children are “sitting in the markets.” Sitting is a more permanent position than either walking or standing. Sitting represents a state of the will, or love. The will has taken its place, come into a certain state. But standing represents
a state of the intellect, or understanding, a pause in the train of thought, preparatory to moving on. Therefore, in the spiritual sense, sitting denotes a mental state more permanent. That the children were” sitting in the markets” denotes that.. by means of such “remains,” or principles of the Word, stored up in the will, by the Lord, there is a perpetual opportunity for man to be regenerated, as long as such” remains ” exist within him. By this means the Lord is permanently present with a man, ever ready to operate upon the man’s will, to lead the mind to regeneration.
Naturally, when a man goes out into the mental markets, he desires to procure such things as favor his lusts and falsities ; but the “children sitting in the markets” call “to their fellows;” i. e., the good and truth of the holy Word of God, stored in his interiors, call to those principles of his natural mind which are now developing’, warning. them to resist their inclinations to buy evil and false things, and appealing to them to purchase such things, only, as will develop in them heavenly character. They call to us, when we are hesitating; and they say, “Ho! everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto Me, and eat ye that which is good; and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto Me; hear, and- your soul shall live.”
The spiritual mind is formed in the image of heaven. And the natural mind should be formed ill the image of the spiritual mind, embodying inward principles of good and truth in corresponding natural affections, thoughts and conduct, And our Lord, operating through our spiritual mind, sends down into our natural mind, some news of what is going on in our spirit. But, if we live for the natural life, alone, we shut up ourselves in our natural mind and life, and do not heed the whispering of the spirit, which tells of a higher and lovelier life.
CALLING AND SAYING.
The spirit’s children are represented as “calling’,” and as “saying.” “Calling” with the tones or the voice, denotes an appeal to the will and its affections ; and” saying” indicates an appeal to the intellect and its thoughts. Thus,” calling and saying” denote exerting a combined influence upon both the heart and intellect,
“We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.” Musical instruments are of two classes, stringed and wind instruments. The sounds of stringed instruments are separate and individual, one string sounding at a time. Thus they are like our thoughts, separate and distinct. And so stringed instruments correspond to the things of the spiritual degree of our life, the degree of truth, with the thoughts. But the sounds of wind instruments are continuous, and as one sound, prolonged, and yet varied 1>y the keys. Thus, these sounds are like our affections, flowing forth continuously, and yet varied in tone, by the influences bearing upon them.
The pipe was a wind instrument, made of a reed. It relates, therefore, to our affectional nature, the life of our will. The music of the pipe here represents the interior harmony existing in these children, these” remains ” implanted by the Lord. Such harmony results from the celestial affection, the interior love, contained within these states of good and truth, and stored up in the interiors of. the mind. These things from the holy Word sit” in the markets,” and “pipe)’ to their companions ; i. e., these” remains,” or principles of the Word, abide with man , while his mental character, is forming, developing; and they appeal to the grovvirtg natural principles in the man : as interior things, they express their interior harmony and happiness) and call upon the natural mind to seek and receive such harmony and happiness for itself. They tell of the glories of regenerate life. This is is their” piping,” or making glad music with the pipe.
And they call upon. their fellows, or companions, to “dance” to this music. Dancing is a joyous motion of the body, especially of the lower limbs, It is the bodily response to joyous, buoyant feelings of the mind, aroused by music, or by good news, etc. The lower limbs correspond to the lower parts of the mind ; i, e., the natural mind. Dancing, therefore, corresponds to the joy and active gladness felt in the natural mind, when the interior harmony of the spiritual mind comes down into the natural mind, by influx; when the children of the spirit, the” remains ” stored up in the mind, “ pipe” to their companions, the children, the developing- principles, of the natural mind,
THE RATIONAL MIND.
And the market, where this is done, is in the rational principle of the mind ; i. e., that faculty of the mind which considers, examines and compares the feelings and the thoughts, to accept what it calls good and true, and to reject what it does not approve.
The rational principle, or faculty, is common ground between the spiritual and the natural minds : it is an exchange, a market, into which, from above and within, come the children of the spiritual mind, to meet the children of the natural mind, which come up there from below and without. And when the children of the natural mind heed the voices of the spirit’s children, then there is joy in both, for the spirit’s children rejoice to communicate their joy, and the children of the natural mind rejoice to receive such joy; they dance to the sound of the piping.
The Jews, as a people, had been given the Word of the Old Testament, and our Lord did His miracles before them, but they did not perceive the heavenly harmony of the truths of the Word, nor did they come into orderly and joyous states of the natural mind, from the influx of interior things. They professed to venerate the letter of the Word; but they interpreted it to agree with their own evils; and received little of its spirit.
And it is so with all who belong to the same spiritual “generation,” all who are born into, and remain in, the same evils and falsities. And, indeed, it is too much so with ‘us all. Our natural minds are so full of worldly concerns that they are very slow to catch the inspiration of the spirit. The dear children of the spirit sit in the markets, piping to the principles of our natural minds, calling upon them to see, appreciate and respond to, the heavenly beauties of interior good and truth; asking them to receive these heavenly principles, and to apply them to life; that the grander, freer, more intense, and higher life of the spirit, may come out, and find expression and ultimation, in the life of the body; that the grand harmonies of heaven may beautify the life on earth.
But, naturally, our eyes look downward, and our ears are dull; and, although spiritual principles are taught us, “line upon line, and precept upon precept,” we all know how slow our natural minds are to co-operate with the spirit; to push on, energetically, upon the natural plane, the beautiful things which the voices of angels ever speak to the spirit. We hear the piping, but we do not dance. The same old, rigid, cold, dry exterior covers us, offering little sympathy to each other; walking through the earth with much indifference, gratified by little else than worldly successes.
But, is such the life that embodies the spirit of an angel? Is such the vessel to contain the spiritual harmonies of heaven? Where is the warm, free, fresh, generous manhood, teeming with sympathy and life, joyous and sparkling, rich in its “beauty of holiness,” dancing in the gladness with which the spirit fills the receptive natural mind? If we could, for one moment, see the soft, gentle, beautiful exteriors of an angel, well might we blush for shame that we do no cast off the hard, cold scales of the serpent from our natural minds; that we do not dance to the music of the spirit’s children. . .
In His infinite patience, Jesus stands knocking at the door of our natural mind, seeking to conjoin us to Himself to save and bless us, filling even our natural man with the beauties of heaven. The children are piping; but we are slow to dance. We love our cold, non-receptive proprium, or self-hood, and are slow to give it up, even for a heavenly substitute.
But the children also say, “We have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. “These children, these” remains” stored in the mind, “mourn,” when to man’s rational perception and understanding they turn the sad side of the picture, showing him his evil and false natural states, and calling him to “lament,” to repent of his evils. Through these” remains,” our Lord seeks to reveal to us our natural states, that the companions, the developing principles of the natural mind, may shun and resist all evil inclinations.
When the natural mind hears this mourning, it should “lament” it should come into a slate of contrite humility, acknowledging its evils, and looking’ to the Lord, through His holy Word, for help and safety. ‘The Jews did not so lament. John, the Baptist, preached repentance, and Jesus offered salvation; yet both were rejected, and put to death. John mourned to the Jews, but they did not lament; Jesus piped to them, but they did not dance. John represented, in one sense, the letter of the Word which calls us to repentance, to a fast, and to a struggle out of the spiritual Egypt, and through the wilderness.
But Jesus, in the same sense, represented the spirit of the Word, which comes to introduce men into the promised land of heavenly states of life, full of the riches of love and wisdom, and furnishing a feast to the soul. John came, like the literal law, to tell us, especially, what: we must NOT do, and to call our attention to all the regulations which must be made precepts of our daily life, to bring us into spiritual order. But Jesus came to show us what we may do, if we are prepared to enter into the life which He indicates. He came to show us what heaven is, and to lead us into it. And only in so far as we undergo John’s baptism of repentance, can we be ready to follow Jesus into the new life. In so far as we fast, and give up feeding our disorderly lower nature, can we cultivate an appetite for the feast, the higher life to which Jesus calls us, “that bread which came down from heaven, to give life unto the world.”
HEAVEN OPEN TO ALL.
In this beautiful parable, we see the great truth that the Lord does not withhold heaven from men, but that He pours into our hearts, understanding and lives, all the love, the wisdom, and the active joy, that we are willing to live for; and that, even when we neglect our opportunities, and refuse His gracious offers, He still keeps the subject before us, in all times, and by a thousand ways; in His infinite economy, using every opportunity to warn us from our evils, and to win us to heaven. He gives free grace for all; but those, alone, can enjoy it, who are willing to live themselves into heaven, by living themselves out of evil and sin. Heaven is not in making a man’s circumstances agreeable to his desires, but in leading him to make his desires conform to a heavenly quality of life.
” But wisdom is justified of her children.” The children of wisdom are those principles of life which are born of wisdom. These are justified, made just, or righteous. And these good and true principles, being out-births of spiritual wisdom, justify, or prove the quality of, regenerate wisdom, by their fruits. We are created for heaven; we can attain heaven, if we will. There are undeveloped capacities in our minds, unexplored heights in our spirits, into which our Lord is, in many ways, seeking consciously to lead us. We know but the beginnings of what human nature may be. All the heavens are opened to us, and reaching down to greet us, and to win us to “taste, and see that God is good.”
As it is natural for the little child to leap and dance with delight, when moved by a very great pleasure, so it is the way of the natural mind, to express its delight, when it finds intense satisfaction in the higher life of love which penetrates it from its inmost recesses. Have we not often heard the sweet voices of the spirit’s children, sitting in the marketplace of our rational thought, and calling us to personal repentance and reformation? Every Divine Truth that reaches us from the Sacred Scriptures, “pipes” to us of the glories of a heavenly life, while it “mourns,” to us, over our lower condition. Every such truth is a messenger of our Lord, sent to call us to the knowledge and appreciation of what is laid up for those who love the Lord, and who live with Him.
No man is without these warnings, and these invitations. And if any man fails to be regenerated, it must be because he neglects both these warnings and these inducements. And, in fact, all the permitted disciplines of our life are opportunities for regeneration, when we may turn from our self-seeking, and listen to the voices of the Spirit’s children, calling us to repentance and to heaven. If we have not done the things which our Lord says, we may call” Lord, Lord,” in vain, for we shall not be known, in heaven, as children of the kingdom; but our judgment shall be by the truths of the holy Word, which we knew, and yet neglected ; and these shall say, “We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.”
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1887