THE LIVING RECEPTION OF SPIRITUAL AND NATURAL TRUTHS.
51″Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked. “Yes,” they replied. 52He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” (MATTHEW XIII. 51, 52.)
After Jesus had spoken the connected series of parables recorded in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew, He said to His disciples, “Have ye understood all these things?” This question is asked of each of us, in our inward minds. Having read these Divine parables, do we rationally grasp their spirit, hidden within their literal sense? For they will be of use to us, only in so far as we rationally understand them, and can adopt them in practical life. Only thus can a man come into an affirmative state towards the truth. If he does not know what the truth is, or if he understands it indefinitely, he will not have any well-defined and positive truth, that he can affirm and love. His mind will be in doubt, like the man who is uncertain whether he is traveling on the right road. The clearer the man’s understanding of any truth, the more positively and affirmatively he can place his affections upon that truth.
To understand the parables, spiritually speaking, means more than merely to see the truths that are in them; it means, also, to assent to these truths; to affirm them, as principles of practical life, for the government of both the spirit and the conduct. Therefore, when we hear the truth, the Lord, operating in the interiors of our minds, suggests the inquiry,” Have ye understood all these things?”
And how are we to answer our Lord’s question? Our reply should be, “Yea, Lord.” But in what way shall we make our reply? If we answer from our outward thought, we may, like Peter, asserting’ his devotion to the Lord even unto death, find ourselves mistaken when the trial comes. We do not easily recognize the quality of our ruling-love, which is the main-spring of our character, And from our outward thought, we may answer our Lord’s question, without consulting our affection.
But, on the other hand, it will not do to rely upon answering from our affection, because we are, at different times, in very different states of outward affection; and we are apt to speak from this outward affection, only. How, then, shall we answer our Lord’s question? Our daily life is our answer. ” Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” Our life must give an answer, because, in the life, we have the union of our affection and our thought.
If we read the parables of our Lord; and adopt their inward truths as the practical precepts of our daily life; if we allow them to form our affections, thoughts and conduct; then we are in a positive and affirmative state towards these truths. We know they are true, as surely as we know the primary principles of mathematics are true. We understand them, we love them, and we do them.
And when we are in this condition of inward and outward life, our life, itself speaks its answer, ” Yea, Lord.” And it is of no avail for us to answer in any other way, if we do not, at the same time, answer in our daily life. “Why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things that I say?” For the life is the summing up of the whole man. And he who has a positive, affirmative love to the Lord, and to His truth, will necessarily show his love in his conduct.
“A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit.” .. Every scribe, instructed unto the kingdom of heaven, is like unto a man, a householder, who brings forth, out of his treasures, things new and old;” i, e., those who are in an affirmative state towards the Divine Truth, being instructed in that truth, become living images and likenesses of the Lord; building up their life from the Lord, from both the spirit and the letter of the holy Word. The scribes were a body of learned men, who had charge of the Divine Law, and who, therefore, were called lawyers, or doctors of the ecclesiastical Law. They were also the copiers of the Law. And they taught the doctrines of the Law.
In a good sense, the scribe represented intelligence in truth; for he was “learned in the law.” The scribes wrote, or copied, the letter of the Law of the Old Testament, and thus became familiar with it, and stored it up, as a treasure, in their natural memory. And the man of the Christian Church writes the spirit of the Law on his heart, and in his understanding, by living according to it. He is spiritually a scribe; he is a scribe instructed unto [or into] the kingdom of heaven.
The office of the scribe was a good and useful one. But, in time, as the Jews fell into evils, they perverted the Divine Law; and then the “scribes and Pharisees” became “hypocrites,” exercising an evil power over the people. In the parable, the scribe is mentioned in a good sense.
THE INSTRUCTED SCRIBE.
Spiritually, a scribe instructed unto [or into] the kingdom of heaven, is one who is instructed in the spiritual truths and good principles of the Word of the Lord. For the kingdom of heaven is built up in man, by living according to the heavenly truths of the Divine Word, And the more interiorly the man understands these truths, the more interiorly he can live by them, and the more freely the kingdom of heaven can be established within him.
There is a great difference between being instructed unto [or into] the kingdom of heaven, and being instructed about that kingdom, The former is instruction in the rational understanding and acceptance of truth; and the latter is instruction in the knowledge of doctrine. And doctrine becomes truth, to those, only, who see it to be true.
THE MAN AND THE HOUSEHOLDER.
The instructed scribe is “like unto a man, a householder, who bringeth forth, out of his treasures, things new and old.” The “man” represents the truths in the understanding, and the “householder” represents the good in the will. Both are mentioned, to express their union, in the regenerate man. The will is the inmost dwelling-place of the man: it is his private house.
In the supreme inward sense, the householder is the Lord, Himself, whose house, or dwelling-place, is in the heart of the regenerate man, In a lower sense, the house is the Lord’s Church, and heaven; for these are the Lord’s dwelling-places.
The scribe is said to be like the householder. As men love the Lord, and live. by this love, they become like the Lord, or likenesses of the Lord. And as they know the Lord’s truths, and live by them, they become images of the Lord.
The treasures of the Lord, as a householder, are all the heavenly good and true principles which are in the spirit of His Word. And these heavenly treasures are brought out . in the letter of the Word, in the good and true principles, which apply to man’S natural conduct.
NEW AND OLD.
And these treasures, “which are brought out, are called “things new and old.” The “new ” things are the things of the interior, spiritual life, from the spiritual sense of the Word, which are momentarily filled with new life, from the Lord. And the “old” things are the things of the outward life, the precepts of the external conduct, which are from the letter of the Word. These literal things are called older because they are more distant from the interior and Divine Source of all good, truth and life.
Paul speaks of the spirit and the letter of the Scriptures as new and old, when he says, “we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” Man’s will is the treasury of his love, with its affections; and his understanding is the treasury of his wisdom, with its thoughts; and his life is the treasury of his practical goodness, or holiness. Thus the Lord fulfils His promise, “I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts.”
FULFILLING THE LAW
Observe that both the new and the old things are brought out from the treasure. The Old Testament Law is not to be taken away by the New Testament. Calvinists say, “We are not under the Law, but are under grace; i. e., we are not held by the Law; and we do not have to live by it, for the Lord, Jesus Christ, has fulfilled the law, for us.” But the Lord could not fulfil the Law in our stead. But, in His Humanity, He fulfilled it, to make it possible for us to fulfil it. And we must fulfil it for ourselves; i. e., we must obey the Law, and thus fulfil it, or fill it full of life and love. Jesus restored to men the opportunity to fulfil the law, when He reinstated men in the liberty to choose between good and evil.
And we must keep the Law of the Commandments, as much as the Jew had to keep it; and even more; for, while the Jew kept it in its letter, only, we have to keep it in both its letter and its spirit. We must bring out both the new and the old; and we must bring them out in our lire.
The “grace and truth” that “came by Jesus Christ” did not do away with” the law [that] was given through Moses ;” the opening of the spiritual sense or the Word of God did not do away with the letter of that Word; just as the opening of man’s spiritual mind does not make it unnecessary for him to regard the truth in his natural mind.
The Lord said, “I[ thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” And; if there could be any doubt about what commandments were meant, the context settles the question; for when the young man asked which commandments, Jesus quoted the commandments of the Decalogue, given through Moses. Old things, relating to the letter of the Word, are suited to the natural mind ; and the new things, from the spirit of the Word, are adapted to the spiritual mind. Both are necessary to a full human life. But the spirit of the Lord’s Word properly explains the letter, as the knowledge of man’s spiritual nature is the key to the proper understanding of his outward life, All the Divine laws are given to us, that we may obey them, each in its own degree, and on its own plane, and by that part of our manhood to which it applies.
ALL TRUTHS PRACTICAL.
Thus this parable affirms that all truths are practical, and for our use; that, when we receive truths from our Lord, we should receive them in both their spiritual and natural senses; and that we should not separate these senses, because they make one, as a man’s soul and his body make one, by correspondence; that, as the Lord, Himself, unites the spirit and the letter of His holy Word, so we must unite them, in our affections, thoughts and conduct; for “what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
We should love, understand and do the good and the truth, in all their degrees, from inmost to outmost, from centre to circumference of our conscious manhood. For spiritual good and truth, without natural good and truth, would be without form, or fulness, or power; and natural good and truth, without the spiritual, would be without inward spirit and life.
As the interior truth of the Word finds, in the letter, its suitable expression, and its adaptation to man’s natural wants, so, in our minds, the interior goods and truths will find ultimation and embodiment in our daily conduct.
Thus, in every plane and degree of our life, and in every stage of our mental progress, we may know that our idea of the truth is the right one, if it makes one in the spirit and in the letter, and is inwardly and outwardly consistent. And we may always know that we have a wrong idea, if the apparent spiritual truth yields no corresponding rule for our outward conduct.
And so, in all our association with others, we need to make our influence good, both spiritually and naturally. The world does not love the new things of the spirit. It does not acknowledge the New-Church, in which spiritual things are made plain, and in which our spiritual mind is to be made into a new heaven, and our natural mind into a new earth.
The world loves the old things or outward life. And the world calls men good and generous, when they give to others of their outward treasures, the old things of the natural man. And yet we do men more good, and a higher kind of good, when we open our treasures, and give them the new things of spiritual life. The bread that feeds their immortal souls is far more valuable than that which feeds their temporary bodies. But, in this world, both are necessary; and it is right for us to give them both.
We, too, are scribes; we are daily and deeply inscribing upon our own hearts the principles we love, and on which we live. By and in our lives, we are writing our books of life. And we shall be judged by the things that are written in our books; not by the things that we expect, some time, to write, when we feel more like doing so; not by our mere
sentimental attachment to good principles; but by the principles which we have actually written into our own daily life. We can bring out, in the next world, only what we have put into the books, in this world. If we desire and work for, outward things, only, we shall lay up treasures on earth, and remain poor towards heaven; but, if we lay up spiritual treasures for spiritual uses, and for good natural uses, which make one with spiritual uses, then we shall lay up treasures in the heaven of our spirit, and also upon the earth of our natural mind.
And, in such a life, we can daily bring forth, out of our “treasures, things new and old.”
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1887