THE DISCOVERY OF SPIRITUAL TRUTH
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (MATTHEW XIII. 4-1.)
Spiritual life is a heavenly joy to regenerate men. In the inwardly open soul, the pleasures of the senses sink to their proper place, as mere externals. The kingdom of heaven is the mental kingdom in which the Divine Truth rules the mind and life.
THE LITERAL SENSE.
A treasure is something known and esteemed as valuable. The literal sense of the parable refers to a custom that was common in ancient times, and in Oriental countries. In such countries, there were no banks, or other places to deposit money. A very small proportion of the wealth of the country could find any investment in trade. Robbers were numerous. Rulers were despotic, and on very slight pretext, ready to seize upon the wealth of the people. Wars might, at any time, change the rulers of the land, and unsettle the conditions of society. For these reasons, treasures were not safe, in the known possession of their owner.
Hence it became common to bury treasures in the earth, for safe keeping. And very often, from sudden death, or from political changes, and absence of the owner, his secret died with him; and his treasure remained hidden, until, in the course of events, the action of the elements, or the work of some laborer, exposed the hidden treasure. The Jewish law declared the treasure to be the property of the owner of the ground in which it was found.
These facts explain the literal sense of the parable. They show why the finder of the treasure had to purchase the field. For his sudden possession of unusual riches would have led to inquiry, and would have revealed the secret of his fortune.
THE MORALITY OF THE FINDER.
The parable presents a representative picture of human life. The Lord does not mean to commend the methods of the finder of the treasure, nor to justify the hiding of the facts from the owner of the Field, any more than He justified the shrewdness of the unjust steward, in another parable. We are not necessarily led to discuss the morality of these supposed acts; we are to take the lesson which the parable representatively teaches.
The treasure represents something valuable and desirable for spiritual life; it is spiritual truth, which, being practised, leads to heavenly good. It is the wisdom of the Divine Word, known and appreciated.
The field in which the treasure was hidden, is the Church, the Church in man, the teachings and principles of the Divine Word, in the Church; not the mere organization, or society. We may say that the field is the Church, or the Word, because the Word, in the Church, constitutes the Church; for it is the Lord’s presence in the Church.
In the parable, the field was seen to be valuable, when the hidden treasure was discovered in it. So is it with the Church, in our minds; it is precious to us, when we see what it contains; when we see the truths of heavenly life that have long been hidden from our sensuous gaze. Those who do not see the truths of spiritual life in the principles of the Church, naturally regard the doctrines of the Church as a common field, of no especial value. The treasure of the Church is the Divine Truth of the Lord, especially in the internal, spiritual sense of the Scriptures. And the man who lives as a true member of the New Church, will see and appreciate the spiritual truths of the Lord’s Word. And so fully will he rejoice in these truths, that he will sell all that he mentally has, all his own notions of the senses, in order to enter into the life of these interior truths, and thus into full possession of them.
THE TREASURE HIDDEN.
In the Church, the treasure is hidden in the field, because the spiritual and interior truth is hidden in the letter of the Scriptures, under all the literal history, prophecy, Psalm and Gospel. Parables and symbols are given, in which the spirit of truth lies hidden, to protect it from profanation.
In the Scriptures, there is, throughout, from Genesis to Revelation, one grandest of themes, hidden under the various teachings of the letter; and this theme is the kingdom of heaven and its Divine King. All things in the whole Scriptures, in the supreme sense, teach of the Lord, Jesus Christ, in His Divine Humanity, the one, only God, in one Divine Person; and of His spiritual kingdom, set up in the hearts and lives of regenerate men.
The kingdom of heaven is, indeed, “a treasure hid in a field;” it is spiritual truth and life, hid in the field of the Church, in the letter of the Scriptures. And a man finds this hidden treasure when he sees the spiritual sense of the Lord’s Word, shining as the light, exposed to his view in the literal sense of the Bible. He sees that this inward and spiritual sense of the Scripture opens to him the door of the kingdom of heaven, and displays what is within the heavens.
HIDING THE TREASURE, AGAIN.
When the finder discovered the treasure, he hid it, again, until he should buy the field in which he found it. And there is a sense in which the finder of spiritual treasure hides it, until he can make it his own. The literal finder is in danger of loss by others learning his secret, and plotting against him. And so the finder of spiritual treasure is in danger of counter-plots,
He made this discovery, in his clearer and higher states of thought, when he was more than usually open to Divine influences. But, in the practical walk of life, he will have to return to his external states and works. And there is danger that his natural and sensuous mind will seek to prevent him from coming into full possession of his newly-found treasure.
For the discovery of new truth always leads the sincere man to review his life, in the new light. But his natural and sensuous mind does not feel willing to be criticised and set in order. And so every new truth introduced into the mind, finds opposition on the part of the old ways of feeling, thinking, and doing. Thus the man who finds the treasure of
spiritual truth, in the revealed spiritual sense of the Scriptures, does not submit it to the opposition and the jeers of his sensuous thought : he does not let it lie in the open field, to be carried off by the first passer-by.
He hides the new treasure in his interior mind, in the profound depths of his. mind, where it will be safe from the mental dogs and swine, and thieves, that roam through the unregenerate natural mind. He sees that” the kingdom of heaven is within” him, and that he must store up the great treasure in his inward spirit, until he can fully possess it as his own. Then, in gratitude to the Lord, he exclaims, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee.”
He first secures the treasure of spiritual truth in his inward mind, in his heart, so that he may thence bring it out into action, in his external life. For he is to come into full possession of his treasure, only by overcoming the evil tendencies of his natural mind ; by selling, or parting with, all that he has of his own selfish life, anti buying, or procuring, what the Lord has to give him.
When the man finds the treasure, he rejoices. Joy is the delight which comes from his love of the truth. His inward affection for good and truth is aroused, on account of what he has found in the Word of the Lord, and in the teachings of the Church, from the Word!. He gives up all his former possessions, his old feelings and thoughts, that he may secure the greatest treasure. He denies himself, and follows the Lord. He heeds the words of the Lord, “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. “Then he goes his way, to buy the field.
So, the finder of spiritual truth must “go” to buy the field, the principles of the Church, and the letter of the Word. He must go, because going, or making progress, or walking, means living, or doing according to the truth. The man must” go” the way of the Lord’s commandments; for they are the way of life. When we see the great value of spiritual truth, our appreciation of that value does not make the treasure ours. We must go to the owner of the field, and acknowledge his ownership, and buy the field at his price.
The owner is the Lord, for all truth is His. The letter of the Word is His. And, when we see the spiritual truths of the Word, we must acknowledge them to be the Lord’s. If we regard them as our own, by discovery, through our own intelligence, we steal them from the rightful owner. But, as we see the treasure in the field, the spiritual truth lying within the literal truths of the Word of God, .we must acknowledge the Lord’s ownership of the truth. And when we acknowledge the Word to be the Lord’s, we thereby acknowledge all things in the Word to be His.
BUYING THE FIELD.
If we buy the field, we shall have the treasure; not by any secret trickery, but by open right; for, to buy the field, or the truth of the letter, is to acknowledge it as the Lord’s, and to make it ours by practice, by living according to it. And when we do our part of the work at regeneration, by living according to the Lord’s truth, by keeping His commandments, we do all that we can do; and the Lord, then gives us the heavenly treasure of the spiritual truth, to which our good life has opened us. As Jesus said, “He that is washed, hath no need, save to wash his feet;” i. e., to keep his external life clean and pure, according to the commandments; and then his internal life will find a suitable external in his daily conduct.
Thus, in the spiritual meaning of this parable, the finder did not conceal anything from the owner. He bought all that he could buy. And the proof of his readiness to do his part was seen in the fact that he “sold all that he had.”
To sell all that he had, was to give up all his self-love, his self-intelligence, and his self-righteousness, that he might come into possession of heavenly love, spiritual intelligence, and heavenly righteousness. He changed the object of his affections from himself to the Lord. He sold away his evils, by self-denial, in resisting evil inclinations. He bought good, by making it his own, in practice.
We cannot make the Lord’s treasures to be ours, except at the expense of giving up our selfish life, in exchange for them. When we accept our Lord’s will as our will, and live as He commands us to live, He can fill us with His spiritual blessings.
But, if we know these treasures to be in the Lord’s Word, but do not use the truth to live upon, we are as a man who knows where treasure is hidden, but who does not own the field, and cannot possess the treasure.
WHAT MUST BE SOLD.
It is not necessary for a man to give up his natural wealth either in physical or mental riches; but it is necessary for him to give up holding them as his own, selfishly, and to learn to use them as the Lord’s. And a man comes into full possession of spiritual treasure, just in proportion as he sells all that he has, or completely takes up his cross, and denies himself. If he secretly tries to keep something of his selfishness, the purchase will fall through. We cannot economize in journeying to heaven. Only as we put away the evil life of hell can the pure life of heaven flow in, to bless us. We shall procure all of heaven that we spiritually pay for, and no more. We cannot make a shrewd bargain with the Lord. The more unreservedly we receive heaven, the more fully it will come to us.
Those who freely acknowledge the Lord, see the interior truths of the Word ; and then they give up all their unregenerate self-hood, that they may be regenerated: And the more their regeneration progresses, the more clearly they will see the interior truths of the Word, which seem obscure to the natural mind. And as we put away evils, we come into the joy of such good as is opposite to the evils which we shun. And as we resolutely put away an evil, as a sin, the more clearly we see the sinfulness of our evil. As we see glimpses of the beauty of holiness, the glory of the regenerate life, we must put down. our anger, malice, envy, deceit, meanness, and all other forms of self-love; and then we shall own the treasure of spiritual truth, in the love, the patience, the amiability, the consideration for others, the desire for spirituality of character, and all other virtues, into which we live ourselves.
THE SPIRITUAL BLOOD OF THE LORD.
As New-Churchmen, we clearly understand that we cannot buy heaven by the physical blood of the Lord, shed upon Calvary. The doctrine of the” Vicarious Atonement” is one of the ideas based on external and sensuous views of the letter of the Scriptures. And when we see the cloud of the letter open, and the flood of light come forth from the inward and spiritual sense, we find a priceless treasure, hidden in the field of the letter.
And, for joy, we go and sell, or put away, all our old ideas of a “Vicarious Atonement,” that we may enter fully into the grand and glorious truths, that God is infinite Love; that men condemn themselves, by forsaking the Lord; and that the Lord saves all who can be saved; i. e., who are willing to return to Him, by loving Him above all things, and loving their neighbors as themselves; and by living according to His commandments. “He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me.” The blood of the Lord, spiritually means the Divine Truth of the Lord, which saves us from evil, as we love it, and learn it, and do it.
And we cannot instantly buy the field of the Church, or of the Word. We buy it gradually: we pay for it in instalments. Every evil feeling rejected from our life, makes a payment towards possession of our treasure. For as we sell out, or put away, our evils; we enter into good. But it does not follow, because a man cannot instantly pay in full for the treasure, that he must wait until he becomes fully good, before he can begin to take possession of the spiritual life of the Church. The external organization of the Church is for the purpose of aiding men to learn what they need to know of spiritual things, and to live as they ought to live.
And yet we must not imagine that the act of uniting with the church organizations will do the work of regeneration. We know where the truth is; we have come upon the hidden treasure; but it is not yet ours. We must buy the field; we must make the letter of the Word ours, by making the truth our rule of daily life; i. e., by giving up all things in ourselves that are opposed to the truth; and by keeping the commandments. This we do, by shunning evil, and doing good, in the Lord’s name, paying a little every day, as the day brings us opportunity. And “he that endureth to the end shall be saved.”
Evils are clannish; they cling together. But, as we truly loosen our affections from any one evil, we loosen them from all evils; for we put away our disposition to cherish evil.
And, as we do this, we are, to the same extent, lifted out of, and above, the influence of all evils. All evils are forms of self-love. And, if we truly resist any evil, we resist our self-love, which is the root of all evils, And so if we sincerely shun evil in any form, we shall be willing to resist it in any other known form.
THE STATE OF CHRISTENDOM.
In the present state of Christendom, the internal, spiritual sense of the Lord’s Word is a hidden treasure. Few know of its existence; and few would appreciate it as a treasure, if they should see it in the doctrines of the New Church. See how the majority of men, even in the churches, regard the Old Testament, as a book “out-dated, like last year’s almanac,” and of no practical use to the present age. And how are men to find the inward treasure of the Lord’s Word? It does not lie on the surface, where every careless passer-by may see it.
CULTIVATING THE FIELD.
The Greek word for field, in the parable, means a cultivated field. The man who found the hidden treasure was working in the field, doing some manual labor, for the owner of the field.
And, spiritually, it is when we are at work, in the Church truths, in the letter of the Word, seeking to do some good, to perform some use with the literal truth, that the truth opens to us, and displays its inward contents, its spiritual treasure. “If thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.”
In the parable, the man was not knowingly seeking the hidden treasure; but he was doing useful work, for proper compensation. And the treasure that came to him was greater than he expected. So is it in our life; if we do our outward duties patiently, and in the love of being useful, we shall come upon greater treasures than we expected. And we shall find joy in the treasure. And it will enrich us: and it will change the character of our subsequent life.
PUTTING AWAY EVILS.
Few of us know how much we have, in our natural minds, that we ought to sell out, or put away. Because we do not break out into grievous forms of sin, we may forget that the disposition to sin is in us, and perhaps only checked by some form of policy, or of fear.
The first point is to know evils to be evils. Then we need to know them to be our evils. Then we need to resolve to put them away, as sins against God. Then we must resist them, whenever they come up, and give us wrong inclinations. And then we must do the good which is opposite to the evil that we were inclined to do.
Only thus do we buy the field with the hidden treasure. Thus, we make the spiritual sense of the Lord’s Word our own, in the measure in which we make the literal commandments our own, by practice. The true way to regard our riches, is to ask, not What have I, in possessions? but What am I, in actual character, judged by the standard of the Lord’s commandments?
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
The parable emphasizes the importance of knowledge. “Knowledge is power,” both physically and spiritually: The treasures of spiritual and heavenly life are all about us; and yet how little we know of their existence. For centuries the gold fields of California and Australia were trodden by men who knew nothing of the vast amounts of treasure hidden under their feet. How often, mentally, we heedlessly tramp over the things which contain spiritual wealth, utterly unconcious of the possibilities about us. How often men may have died in poverty, lying upon ground containing wealth enough to ensure them immense fortunes. Farmers in Pennsylvania may have lost, under unpaid mortgages farms which contained oil enough to make millionaires of their owners.
So, indeed, we die of spiritual poverty, even on the very ground in which our bountiful Lord has stored the treasures of eternal life. Sometimes, like the farmers of Pennsylvania, we have seen something of the oil, but have not known its value. The teachings of the Bible, and of the Church, are familiar to us, and yet we are blind to the treasures which dwell within them, ready for him who has eyes to see.
THE COMING OF THE LORD
The Lord, Himself, came before men, in the incarnation. The treasures of the Divine character were in Him; and yet men knew Him not. ” He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” And, to-day, the revelation of the inward, spiritual sense of the Divine Word, in which the Divine character of the Lord, Jesus Christ, is plainly demonstrated, constitutes the Second Coming of Christ; for this coming is not to be an outward, bodily coming, in the physical “clouds,” but an inward, spiritual coming, in the” clouds” of the literal sense of the Word, which are parted before the eyes of spiritual-minded men, that they may see the greater glory of the inward and spiritual sense, in which the Lord, Jesus Christ, is plainly manifested, as the one God, in one Person, coming to the minds and lives of regenerate men.
The Divine character is hidden in Jesus Christ; hidden to the world, but known to those who love Him. “Truly, Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, O God of Israel, the Savior.” And, today even in His Church, we are talking about Him, and reading His teachings, but seeing not a millionth part of the treasure that lies hid in His holy Word. ” Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of Me.” “And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places.”
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1887