THE LAW OF USE.
14″Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19″After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ 21″His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ 22″The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’ 23″His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ 24″Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ 26″His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 28″ ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'(MATTHEW xxv, 14-30)
Man lives in the use of what the Lord gives him. And the fulness, the quality, and the degree, of each man’s spiritual life, is measured by the use which he makes of the Lord’s gifts.
In the chapter containing the text, there are two parables and a comparison: “‘The Ten Virgins,” “The Talents,” and” The Sheep and the Goats.” All of these treat of the judgment, at the coming of the Lord. But these accounts are not mere repetitions; they are views taken from different stand-points, and showing different aspects or the judgment, The parable of “The Ten Virgins” illustrates the judgment as it acts upon the affections of the people of the Church. The present parable of “The Talents;” displays, more especially, the operation of the judgment upon the understanding of the man of the Church. And the account of “The Sheep and the Goats” exhibit’s the effects of the Lord’s coming and judgment upon the deeds of men, Thus, in the three accounts, the three departments of man’s life are covered, the will, the understanding, and the action. In Luke xix., there is the parable of “The Pounds,” which, though not identical with the parable of “The Talents,” so greatly resembles it in essential features, that an understanding of the spirit and purpose of either of these parables will enable the reader to comprehend the other.
THE LITERAL SENSE.
In the common translation, the fourteenth verse reads thus, “For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling,” etc. And the words “the kingdom of heaven is” are in italics, to indicate that no such words are found in the Greek original, but that they have been supplied by the translators, to complete the supposed sense. This form is used, probably, because many of the parables begin with words about the kingdom of heaven. But our text follows the account of “The Ten Virgins;” thus: “Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh. For, as a man travelling,” etc. And the sense must be that ” he Son of Man is as a man travelling,” etc.
THE MAN TRAVELLING.
The “man” is the Lord, Jesus Christ, who, as the one God of heaven and earth, gives to men all that they have. But when the Lord has given to them all necessary knowledges of truth, He permits them to apply these knowledges, in their daily life, and as if they could do so by themselves, and in their own power.
The Lord seems to put these things in men’s minds, and then to go away and leave men to work out their own salvation. The Lord does not go away; but it so appears to the man. In the little practical details of everyday natural life, the man has no sensation of the Lord’s presence. If it were not so, the natural man would not feel himself to be in freedom.
Practically, it is the man who goes away from the Lord, because the man, having communed with the Lord, in the understanding of principles, goes out into the sensuous life of the world, to apply his knowledge. But it seems, to him, that the Lord has gone away, to a “far country,” because the man’s sensuous life is far removed from the interior life, in which he sees the Lord’s influence and presence.
The “man travelling” called his “servants.” These servants are all who are in the Church, all who profess to serve the Lord. In fact, all men ought to regard themselves as His servants.
Riches are means of procuring necessary things. The “talents” represent the knowledges of truth and of good, held in the man’s memory, ready to be used in procuring truth and good, as living principles of the heart and life. “Knowledge is power.” So, by means of knowledge, man is able to know and distinguish good from evil, and truth from falsity, and holiness from sin. The accumulations of things known are called knowledges. These are the mental “talents,” or riches of the mind.
The Lord gives these “knowledges” to men, through various means; and He also gives to every man a faculty of perceiving the truths which are in the knowledges. And, if the man loves the Lord, and obeys Him, he will see the truth, as truth, and will know it to be true. But indifference to truth, and opposition to good, and indulgence in evil and falsity, will blind the man’s mind to the light of truth. And then, though the man may have knowledges of truth and good, he will not apply them to his daily life, and will not receive any spiritual benefit from them.
THE COMMON MORAL.
Indirectly, we may draw the common moral from the text, and say that all our abilities and possessions, of all kinds, are entrusted to us, by our Lord, for daily use, in serving Him, in a good, true, useful life; i. e., in performing uses. For serving the Lord is not merely in external worship, but principally in living a life of uses. He who serves the Lord, is he who lives on the principles which the Lord teaches, and whose whole life is a service of the Lord, in uses. The “services” of the Church are merely means of bringing men into condition of heart to serve the Lord in their practical life. But, in the exact meaning, the” talents “are our knowledges, all that we know about good and truth.
It is said that the Lord “gave five talents to one servant; to another, two, and to another, one; to every man according to his several ability.” Literally, numbers express quantity; but, spiritually, they represent differences in quality, or character. In the parables, numbers are used symbolically, not mathematically. For the parables, like every other part of the Lord’s Word, have an inward, spiritual meaning, treating of spiritual principles, and their application to practical life.
We are not to suppose that the Lord, intentionally and arbitrarily, gives men the knowledges of truth in different quantities, or in different degrees. The differences are in the men, themselves. The Lord gives, as the text says, “to every man according to his several ability;” i. e., his ability to receive knowledges. And his ability depends upon his willingness and his efforts.
Thus, each man practically determines for himself both the quantity and the quality of his spiritual knowledges. The Lord would give all the blessings of heaven to every man, if the man would receive them. So Jesus said, “Ye would not come unto Me, that ye might have life.” And so the Lord can actually give into each man only what the man will take.
The three numbers represent the three classes of men, in the external Church. All in the Church receive some knowledges, by instruction. But their states of reception are very different.
The number five, as a symbol, denotes a few, or some. It is half of ten, which represents completeness, as ten fingers, ten commandments, etc. There were five loaves, from which Jesus once fed the multitude. David took five smooth stones, when he went to fight with Goliath. The pool of Bethesda had five porches. He who had five talents given to him, represents a state of mind in which there is some knowledge of heavenly things, a few knowledges of good and truth, which the man may use in daily life.
Two, as a symbol, represents the joining of one with another; i. e., conjunction, or union. It refers, especially, to the conjunction of affection and thought, of love and faith, of good and truth. The man to whom two talents were given, represents the state of mind in which the knowledge of truth is united to the love of truth.
But the number one, when used in opposition to two, means a state of disjunction. Thus, the man with one talent represents a state of mind in which there is knowledge, but knowledge only, and no love of truth.
FIVE, TWO AND ONE.
In one sense, the five talents represent knowledges stored up in the mind, from infancy, as a few “remains,” or states of good and truth imparted to the child, by the Lord, and laid up, within him, for his future use. And, in this connection, the two talents represent the knowledges received by instruction, in later childhood, and united with a love of truth, by regeneration. And the one talent represents knowledge acquired in youth and manhood, and laid up in the memory only, and not joined with any love of good and truth.
The man who received five talents, “went and traded” with them, and gained “other five talents.” And the man with two talents traded with his, and doubled them. Buying and selling represent procuring knowledges of good and truth, and teaching them. Thus, trading with the talents means increasing them, by using them. Knowledge, properly put to good use, makes more knowledge. This is the case with both those who have five talents, or a few knowledges, and those who have two talents, or who join their knowledges to the love of truth and good.
It is said the man “went and traded;” i. e., he went out into the things of daily life, and there used and applied his knowledges. And such application increased his knowledges, by practice.
DOUBLING THE TALENTS.
Each wise man doubled his number of talents; for each traded with what he had, and made as much more as he began with, Thus, the use of our knowledges doubles them, by application; i, e., we apply them, in practical deeds of natural life; and, to the same extent, they return to us an exact equivalent in spiritual life. From natural, they become spiritual. They are doubled, in quality; because, as we use them in our natural life, they are opened to us, as new things; on the spiritual side of our life, also. And there is no other way to attain the spiritual life of any truth, than to practise the same truth in its natural form, and in our natural life.
And they are doubled in another sense; i. e., they are put forth from our understanding, and then elevated more fully into our will, in the conjunction of our knowledges with our affections.
DIGGING, HIDING, ETC.
“But he who had received one, went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.” He who has knowledges of truth, without love of truth and good, does not put his knowledges to practical good use. To dig, or search into the earth, means to study, to investigate, to try to get at the facts of knowledge, as facts. To hide the talent is to make no use of it.
The earth represents our natural mind, To hide the talent in the earth, is to immerse our knowledges in the things of our outward, sensuous life; to use them for low and external motives, such as mere pleasure, or reputation, or selfish influence. Then, though we have the form of truth, in our knowledges, we have neither its spirit nor its use. We may have a kind of outward faith, but it will be “faith alone,” without love, and without good fruits. And “by their fruits ye shall know them.”
“After a long time, the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.” Times represent states, or conditions of life. When each man’s state is ripe for judgment, the Lord comes to him; not as a matter of punishment, but as fruit becomes ripe, and comes to seed, by filling the measure of its growth. So, when a man’s character is formed, the judgment comes, because the man lives himself into a state of judgment. The judgment ascribes to each man the character which he has formed for himself. What he has made, he can keep. If he makes nothing of spiritual character, he receives nothing; and he loses even the knowlcdges of truth and good which he had, but would not use.
THE COMING OF THE LORD.
Each man brings his gains to the lord, and acknowledges them to be the lord’s. So, every regenerate man acknowledges the Lord as his Master. Having used his knowledges, and procured genuine wisdom and intelligence, he acknowledges his indebtedness to the Lord, for all that he has. He has doubled his talents; they are no longer natural, only, but spiritual, also.
The lord commends the servant, as “good and faithful;” i. e., good, in the will, or heart, and faithful in the understanding, and in the conduct. “Well done,” is the approval of the Lord, communicated to the man’s conscience. The man, by being faithful. in the few things seen in this world, develops a disposition to love good. And then the spiritual part of his mind is opened, and he obtains control over the many passions and thoughts of his natural mind.
The natural idea is, that a man, though in humble circumstances, in this world, shall be exalted, in the next world, to a position of honor and power. But the spiritual sense rises high above this selfish idea, and shows that, in regeneration, the man shall be exalted to a state of mind in which he shall have power over himself, his interiors controlling his exteriors. This is a far greater promise.
ENTERING INTO JOY.
“Enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” Literally, this expression seems to refer to the Oriental custom of making a grand feast, at the return of the lord, or master, from a journey; and of inviting to the feast, those servants who had been faithful to their master’s interests. In such cases, bond-servants were sometimes given their freedom, and placed in authority, to rule over others.
But, spiritually, to enter into the joy of our Lord, is to enter into conjunction with our Lord, by love and obedience, and thus to receive from our Lord the elements of heavenly joy, the joy of loving good and of doing good. Then, in our daily life, every natural affection will be inwardly filled with the inexpressible joy of spiritual affection.
A HARD MAN.
Even the man with one talent, though he does not put that talent to any good use, acknowledges it to be the lord’s. But he calls the lord a “hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strewed.” Faith alone, or knowledge alone, without love, brings no increase, and gives no spiritual joy. Not coming into conjunction with the Lord, the unregenerate natural man does not comprehend the Lord’s character. Those who experience the warmth of love to the Lord, know His love, and love to work in His service. They know, by experience, the truth of His saying, “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” But men who will not receive good from the Lord, regard Him as hard and unfair, demanding that men shall love good, and do good, when, as they say, He did not give them any love for good and truth. They say He is demanding to gather a harvest from men, without having sown any seed of good and truth in them.
The man who hid his one talent did not seem to think he had done anything wrong. He rather seemed to charge the lord with wrong-doing. Evil men think the Lord to be hard, because they see that He is opposed to their evils; and because their character is opposed to His character. It is a hardship to them, to be asked to do good. They do not believe in the Divine providence. They boast that they have kept the letter of the law ; and then they confidently say to the Lord, “We return to you the talent you gave us. Here you have what belongs to you.” Their fear is natural and sensuous fear. They have procured knowledge from the letter of the Word; but they have not examined themselves, to see their own evils, and to avoid sins.
But, as the master replied to the servant, if a man thinks the Lord to be hard and severe, this is increased reason why the man should put his talent, his knowledges to practical use. The Lord requires use, even from the natural man. Even if he worked for reward, he should have done the good, to get the reward.
WICKED AND SLOTHFUL.
This servant was addressed as a “wicked and slothful servant;” i. e., one who is both false in thought, and evil in will. He should have put the talent “to the exchangers ;” i, e., he should have brought his knowledge to his rational thought, which, under the Lord’ s guidance, would have added spiritual knowledge to his outward knowledge, Then he would have acknowledged the Lord, both naturally and spiritually, in a good and joyful life.
But, by making no good use of his knowledge, he has not made it a part of his mind, And, entering the spiritual world, he will not desire any knowledge of good and truth; and, hence, he will reject from his mind, even the form of knowledge, Not being grounded in his will, or in his conduct, it will not be in his character.
Every man, by his will and his life, procures to himself a certain quality of character. He has a certain measure of willingness to receive good and truth, or evil and falsity. This measure is his own. In the other life, he will fill it up to its fulness. If, here, he makes no use of truth known, he will drop it even from his memory, in the other world, Such knowledges of good and truth would be against his ruling-love, and, hence, he would reject them.
GIVING TO THOSE WHO HAVE.
But the knowledges of evil men may be of use to good men; because evil men can teach these knowledges, Thus .they can be given to those who have ten talents, even though spiritually taken from evil men, “Unto everyone that hath, shall be given,” because the disposition to acquire knowledges, from love of good and of truth, fits the man to grow more and more able to receive heavenly things. And a man carries into the spiritual world all knowledges of good and truth which he has, while in this world, put to good use. Faith with love is like light with heat, in summer, when vegetation grows and flourishes; but faith without love is like light without heat, in winter, when vegetation dies.
Thus, a man receives intelligence and wisdom according to the quantity and quality of his love for good and truth. And, if he has not acquired such love then in the next world, his own character will take away even that knowledge which he superficially had, on earth; or, as it is said in Luke, “From him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have;” for he does not really and inwardly have it.
“And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. ” The literal reference is to the servants shut out from the feast, on the return of the master. But, spiritually, the darkness is in the man’s own mind, the falsity which shuts out truth. Darkness may be ignorance of truth; but outer darkness is rejection of truth. “If the light that is In thee be darkness, how great is that darkness.” Evil men ” love [spiritual] darkness, their deeds being evil.”
WEEPING, AND GNASHING OF TEETH.
Weeping is the sorrow induced by the rejection of good and truth. Gnashing of teeth is the clashing of false principles against the truth. Evil men, confirmed in false principles, would delight to destroy all good and true things, if possible, like a chained and angry dog, gnashing his teeth in impotent rage.
The teeth, used to prepare food for the stomach, represent the external, sensuous thought, which prepares various things for mental digestion. Sensuous men do not see truth, as truth, but dispute about it. Such disputes have raged in the churches, when theology was discussed by men who had no insight into spiritual truth. Such disputes are going on in the hells. Representatively, they are called the “gnashing of teeth.”
SPIRITUAL LIFE IN NATURAL LIFE.
This parable teaches us that spiritual life it not separated from natural life, but within it, as the soul within the body. And our spiritual life is to be built up, in and by a good natural life, applying known truths to our conduct. And we sin not only by what we do that is wrong, but also by what we fail to do, of right and good things.
We have no spiritual light, no knowledge, that we cannot use, if we will. And our failure to use it, will result in our loss of it, and of its possible blessing.
Men are different, in mind and in education. And we cannot avoid such differences; nor are we necessarily responsible for them, We are not responsible for our inherited capacities, but for our use of them, And use will greatly increase and open our capacities. There will be, in heaven, a home for every sincere man, who will make good use of his capacities, and of his knowledge, in shunning evil, and in doing good; and that home will be a heavenly home to him, the kind of a home which he personally desires and needs. In the New-Church, much has ‘been given to us, in the knowledge of the spiritual sense of the Lord’s Word, as well as in the letter; and it behooves us to watch our mental states, and to avoid parading our knowledges, without putting them to practical use, in regeneration. And, especially, it behooves us to avoid feeling contempt for others, who, though they have not our quantity of knowledges, may have a much better quality of love for good and truth, and more beautiful and useful lives.
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1887